Baseball is a game of constant adjustments and one of the most promising Oakland A’s prospects on the Beloit Snappers' roster this season, shortstop Yairo Munoz, has already made his fair share of alterations to his game.
After a rough opening week and a half of the 2015 season, Munoz made some adjustments and proceeded to hit safely in nine of his next 10 games. The Dominican Republic native added a four-hit game at Quad Cities on May 12th, but has since struggled with just three hits in his past 23 at-bats.
For the 20-year old infielder, it’s just a matter of staying within himself and not trying to become someone he’s not.
"He’s a very smart hitter," Beloit hitting coach Lloyd Turner said. "There are times when he will go up to the plate and maybe waste an at-bat because he wants to do too much. When minor-leaguers get in trouble, it’s because they’re trying to do too much and put too much pressure on themselves. But he’s also the type of guy that doesn’t like to fail and takes failure very hard."
Through his first 36 games at the Low-A level, Munoz has posted a modest .252/.291/.356 slash line. He has struck out 22 times and managed just eight walks in 149 plate appearances.
Munoz’s initial adjustment helped get him back on track with the aforementioned hitting streak.
“I was getting out of my approach at the beginning and trying to hit home runs and do too much with the ball,” said Munoz, speaking through interpreter and Beloit starting pitcher Junior Mendez. “I’ve been watching a lot of video and making sure my load is not leaking forward in different things. I’m watching my mechanics and just thinking about hitting line drives up the middle.”
The four-hit night against the River Bandits was a prime example of how Munoz has put those changes into action.
“Those were a couple of breaking balls and if I would have had the approach I had before, I would have been way out front of it and not able to drive it,” he said. “Since I have a better approach of staying back and driving it up the middle, I’ve been able to see the ball better and hit it hard.”
The opening month of the Midwest League season is always a difficult time for Latin American players, so it should come as no surprise that Munoz, a native of the Dominican Republic, has dealt with his fair share of ups and downs. Although he is young for the league, he makes no excuses and holds himself to a high standard.
“It doesn’t really matter about the age in this league,” Munoz said. “They see the talent and if you’re here, then you have the talent and can play here. I like being able to play up and with older guys, because I’m not always going to play with guys the same age. It’s all about the talent to play at this level. I feel comfortable being here.”
Munoz put himself in position to play at Beloit after gradually climbing the ladder at short-season Vermont in 2014 and in Arizona Rookie League in 2013. The shortstop posted a slash line of .298/.319/.448 in 66 games with the Lake Monsters last summer, which was a big improvement over a 25-game rookie ball stretch in which he hit just .194.
The A’s organization has noticed the baby steps Munoz has made in all facets of his game, and the A's front office is excited about his potential to keep rising through the system.
“He makes adjustments and recognizes when pitchers aren’t going to throw him fastballs like he wants,” Turner said. “He’s made a lot of strides from year to year. He’s been a guy in the past that chased a lot of breaking balls down and out of the zone. He’s gotten better at that. He recognizes and has been through it. At times he can be better, but he’s learning from his mistakes.”
On the defensive side of the equation, Munoz said he has actually become a better shortstop simply because he knows more of what to expect when he steps on the field.
“It’s been a lot easier playing up here than at the lower levels, because at the lower levels you don’t have the consistency within the batter and having reports,” he said. “You have the reports of ‘this guy pulls, this guy hits up the middle, this guy hits it hard, this guy is a pull hitter’ and I know where to play them. It makes it easier getting to balls and being better prepared.”
Munoz said he hopes to put it all together for a long stretch this season to put himself in position for a promotion to High-A Stockton.
“I want to play hard every day and do the right things, so by the end of the year I’ll have a shot of playing at a higher level or higher league,” he said. “I want to keep playing the game the right way.”
Munoz and the Snappers began a seven-game home-stand on Tuesday night, and will face Kane County on Wednesday at 6:30pm Central in game two.