Coach's Corner is a regular premium piece where we sit down with an Indians minor league coach and delve into the players on their roster and talk about some of the philosophies surrounding the development of players.
Q: When we talk about hitting on this RubberDucks team, the first name that comes to mind is Francisco Mejia. While I don't want to use the phrase 'natural hitter' too loosely, it's hard not to when you look at his consistency over the last couple years. What have you seen in your experience working with him?
Johnny Narron (JN): He is a natural hitter and he knows how to get the bat to the ball. The biggest thing I look for is for our hitters to be on time. And a lot of people misunderstand that and they think that a hitter matches a particular pitch with his bat speed and say that was good timing. That's not what we look for. What we look for is for them to be grounded and their hands to be in a strong hitting position, set and ready to fire before the ball is just beyond halfway from the pitcher. He does that really well, so therefore he gets excellent pitch recognition, it helps his plate discipline and he gets a better swing off because he's prepared to get a swing off and he's not trying to fight against a pitch that's already on him before it gets to him. So the biggest thing for Frankie is he's on time and that's going to play really well for him.
Q: After the 50-game hit streak last season, you would think that would put added pressure on him to produce this year, but that hasn't seemed to have affected him at all. What have you seen as far as his confidence that has made him so successful?
JN: He's a very confident young man, he's confident in what he does and he comes in every single day and he works hard. He's always trying to get better, so he's never really satisfied with his work and he's never really content to just have another day at the ballpark. He's getting better every single day and his confidence is there because he knows he can hit. It's not a cockiness. It's not an arrogance. It's a confidence that he knows he can hit. He's on time, he gets good pitch recognition and he puts the bat on the ball.
Q: Another guy who's hit really well for Akron to start the year, and is actually now in Columbus because of it is Mike Papi. I know he's had issues finding consistency throughout his career to this point, so what has clicked for him this season?
JN: Well we've done the same thing with Papi that we do with the rest of our players here in Akron and that's making sure they have a consistent plan, have a plan that's simple, but specific and ask them to execute that every at-bat one pitch at a time and the pitch that's coming to them. Not the pitch prior, not the pitch that's going to come after this one, but this pitch. And Papi's done a great job of executing that plan.
Q: Papi's always had good plate discipline. It's just been a matter of him putting the bat to the ball consistently. What has helped him bridge that gap this season?
JN: His timing. Again, another young man that just needed to get on time and, for Papi, it's getting his hands on time. Once his hands get on time, he's able to execute his swing well. He does really well with the pitch middle-away, but we've worked really hard on him executing a good swing on that inside pitch so he can not only have good at-bats, but so he can be consistent on both sides of the plate, which has helped him a lot.
Q: I know Greg Allen is on the disabled list right now, but he's another impressive all-around player. What have you seen from him when he's been healthy?
JN: We've worked really hard at his rhyhthm and his timing, but a lot of it has to do with his timing and his rhythm together. He's a great athlete, he's a very strong young man and we wanted to make sure that we kept him loose at the plate and not get too mechanical and too stiff. He's done a great job of bridging that gap between being mechanical and having that rhythm and timing throughout that swing.
Q: When you look at a guy like Yu-Cheng Chang, the power is clearly there, but he also has a low batting average and a lot of strikeouts. What will it take, in your opinion, to make him a more complete hitter?
JN: Well, he's a young man that obviously has a different culture and has a language...not a barrier, but it's just not as easy for us impart information. But we have some great resources here within the Cleveland Indians and we're working towards getting him that information, he's applying it and we're very confident that he's going to move forward and become a very good big league player.
Stay tuned for part two of this conversation...