This March, Sean Henry used his time to demonstrate how his switch to the outfield, and his improvement at the plate, has helped him round into an even more valuable prospect. He underwent a shaky season in 2006 as he adapted to centerfield and more mature opponents. He came back to camp fired up to build upon the positive signs he accumulated. Though he still possesses some struggles at the plate and in the field, he exits Port. St. Lucie with positive feelings.
"I thought my spring was pretty strong. I started off slow, but back came my rhythm and timing as it went on. Now, it's getting better and better. My hitting came around, my glove came around and I it capped off with two hits off Dontrelle Willis today which was great. My legs got very fatigued yesterday but after a month of running hard, it's not too bad. It will pay off in the long run," he said.
Although he has captured the demands of the position, he detailed exactly what aspects still need work. He still fights to read the ball's flight off the bat and battles with his mechanics and timing when it comes to playmaking from the position. Charging, striding and throwing require one extended fluid motion which he repeated countless times to perfect.
"The coaches and I worked on cleaning that all up. Shortening my steps, having a faster release, basically cutting down the time much as possible from when I react to the ball to when I get it back in. Playing the ball cleanly every time is so important," he said.
He understands that becoming a Major League quality centerfielder is no small task. Thankfully for him, and his team, centerfield is not alien territory despite being drafted as a shortstop.
"Shortstop and center is how I came up, it's what I played in high school. So center is like second nature to me. When I first when out there, it didn't take me too long to get used to it. But there are a lot more little things I have to know and react to. I have to play it professionally because everyone else's game is up to par," he explained.
At the plate, Henry still has much room to grow. His average and on-base percentage have dipped the past two seasons, a troublesome sign for a young hitter, especially an outfielder. He has struck out once in just under four at-bats for his career. He knows how important patience and two-strike hitting is for his progression. As he masters control of the strike zone, his whiff totals should decrease as he watches his averages climb.
He continues to improve his opposite field hitting and his ability to recognize and react to breaking pitches. He admitted he was a victim of too many third strike breaking balls last season.
"I need to see more pitches and be a more mature hitter. When I first started out I went to the plate and swung at everything I saw. It's more than just swinging at the first pitch. I need to extend at bats. The more I can do that the better I can develop my game at the plate," he detailed.
The more Henry can drive the ball to the gaps, the more lethal a player he will become. Blessed with tremendous speed, if he can get the outfielders running, there is no stopping him on the base paths. As well, because of his speed, his patience is even more necessary. A greater command of the strike zone will undoubtedly lead to more embattled base hits and walks. Doing so will allow him to exercise the part of his game in which he is most confident.
Henry is a natural base stealer who can affect the pitcher, the defense and possibly the larger picture of the game itself. As he continues to work on offense and defense, he knows how this area of his game helps his team win and his chances of moving up.
"I'm going to steal my bases, that is just part of my game. I believe it's the surest part of my game. There aren't many guys who just like to go out and run, which I like to do. I just want to grab every bag I can and get as many as at-bats as I can and hit my doubles and triples." he confidently stated.
With his speed, centerfielder will not be too tall an order for Henry. Though his management of the position still demands more precision, given the time he can eventually reign over the outfield. Hitting, as with most young ballplayers, is a delicate art. He is confident that once he has his position under wraps, his offensive production will increase as he moves up through the system. At his age, and the opportunities afforded to him, there is little doubt the expectations can be fulfilled.
Spring Report: Sean Henry
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