Tornicasa on Fort Wayne TinCaps prospects

Fort Wayne, IN: Hitting coach Tom Tornicasa has helped lead the San Diego Padres Low-A affiliate to fantastic season. Seeing the promotion of three of his top sluggers, Sawyer Carroll, James Darnell, and Matt Clark, he has kept the offense rolling with Drew Cumberland, Blake Tekotte, Dan Robertson, and Jaff Decker picking up the slack.

Let's talk about the guys who have moved up at the All-Star break first. Sawyer Carroll, who was here and struggled some last year, had a very solid performance this season.

Tom Tornicasa: Last year, if we talk about that first – he actually had a tough schedule. We were facing Lansing and 10 out of the 13 pitchers they had were left-handed. Some of those guys had great stuff. He (A left-handed batter) didn't really get a fair shake.

We went over some of the things that he had to work on while he was here. He worked hard over the winter to accomplish those changes and looked great in spring. He started off well here and had a good idea of what he needed to do. We stayed on track with that and polished some things up along the way. He did a real nice job from start to finish.

James Darnell – another All-Star with patience, power. He had some trouble with the breaking ball last year but seemed to overcome that this season.

Tom Tornicasa: I didn't have him last year but from what I saw in spring – I guess he wasn't able to elevate the ball. When he got here, he had a tendency to roll over on contact.

What was happening was the barrel ends up flipping over the top of the ball and he ended up hitting a lot of ground balls. We spent time with him and he understood the concept. A little bit of work and he improved.

All of these guys have talent. I am not some guru. They all have talent. Working with them and trying to get them to do a couple of things that all good hitters do – those that accomplish that will move up and the ones who don't stay for more time here and over the course of the year, hopefully, they get the concept too.

Matt Clark – it had to be tough to keep him short to the ball. He is such a big man with a lot of power but keeping that compact stroke has to be the key to his ultimate success.

Tom Tornicasa: No doubt about that. His approach can get a little out in front and a little bit quick. That is one thing we tried to keep in check. Like you said, he is such a big guy that if he starts to leak forward with his hips, the bat is going to drag and he is not going to get to the ball. That was the first step.

Also, we tried to get him to take a more direct path to the ball. He does have long arms and when he gets out of whack, he starts dropping his hands and getting underneath everything. Taking a more direct path worked out for him. At the time, he was leading the Midwest League in RBI. He had a nice time here.

Allan Dykstra appears to be scuffling a little bit with his confidence because of the changes he has gone through. That likely spawns even more changes where he is telling himself, ‘I have to change more. I have to go back to my old ways.' It gets in his head a little bit.

Tom Tornicasa: I will tell you what – for where he was picked, there is a lot of pressure. He gets off to a bad start. I thought he handled that extremely well. I have seen other guys who weren't top picks go through what he has and he is above them all with his understanding and work ethic. He knows how to play this game.

It is just trying to get the little adjustments – he shows it to you. He hit a pitch that was going away into left field for a hard line drive and then hits a double. He shows it to you. The consistency isn't there right now. He knows it. That is why it gets a little frustrating from time to time, like anyone going through it.

He knows what he needs to do; he also knows he is not consistent doing it from day-to-day. That is where his frustrations come, especially now that we are in the second half and he is trying to put a good second half together.

The strides he has made from the beginning to where he is now is pretty noticeable. The results aren't there yet. He is still working through the little corrections we are straightening out. I really do think that seeing it from time to time – ‘there it is' – means he will be more consistent by the end of the season.

He works his tail off. He is not a guy who just collects his money and says, ‘Hey, I am a number one pick.' That is not him. He goes after it.

A guy who seemed to show drastic improvement from the beginning of the season until now is Blake Tekotte. The wrap in his swing seems to have calmed some and he is driving the ball.

Tom Tornicasa: He was actually like Clark. He had that longish swing at times and we looked to shorten him up. The big thing with him was his approach. He was always starting when the ball was halfway between the pitcher and home. That is way too late.

When you start that late, it creates a lot of things in your swing because your body is saying I have to catch up, I have to catch up. You are never going to catch up.

That is why you fly off, your hands are under the ball. He hit a ton of fly balls when he got here. He was never able to get on top of the ball to drive it because half the problem was he was starting too late.

He is getting his front foot down in time; he is getting a better look at the baseball. The past month and a half, his walks are way up, his on-base percentage is way up – at one time he was about .250 with his on-base percentage. He started driving the ball and is leading the team in home runs.

We are trying to keep him where he is at. We did the work that needed to be done to get him in position to hit. Now it is just maintenance and keeping it moving in the right direction.

Dan Robertson is a guy who doesn't need a whole lot of attention, as long as he isn't swinging for the fences.

Tom Tornicasa: D-Rob – when he came up he was hitting .200 because he was trying to do too much. He was pressing to drive the ball.

We kind of went, ‘Hey, let the barrel hit the ball and you will get your hits.' He wasn't very patient at the beginning of the year and that hurt him. Pitch selection is key. He doesn't swing and miss a lot so it was weak contact.

He has settled in and is a big part of our offense, especially losing the other guys.

When Drew Cumberland is in the lineup, he is electric. I know he had some struggles with the pitch away.

Tom Tornicasa: We work on that and there was a time when he got into pull mode – but that was mainly because he was in the lineup and then on the DL. He couldn't get into any rhythm. The downtime took away from some of his progress.

We are back working on those things again. He hit his first homer – which was a great sign. He was really pulling off those inside balls and jamming himself. He finally started to let the hands do the work. He is coming along. He has some work to do but with the speed he has, he can always keep his average up with infield hits. I like Cumberland. He is a good player.

Jaff Decker – a .444 OBP here. Kind of ridiculous for a 19-year-old.

Tom Tornicasa: And I yell at him every day. He has a tendency to want to overswing at everything. I have to remind him and he gives me the ‘OK' nod.

Good hitter – but he is a young hitter that doesn't know how to hit yet. He is figuring it out and getting better as he goes along. He is going to be some player.

There was talk about changing his stance around because it is unique but when you look at it, by the time the pitch is coming, he is in pretty good position to hit.

Tom Tornicasa: That is what we talk about. I don't know what is going to happen down the road for him and whether or not he will have to change his style. We talk about it a lot. For me, and even the higher ups, say, ‘Let's just see what happens and go from there.'

I told him, ‘I don't care how you start, where you carry your hands, that you are open. I do prefer you are square to your target and that your hands are in good position just because it is easier to get into that hitting position.'

‘Guys do different things but the most important thing is all good hitters get into a good position to hit. Some guys have an unorthodox way of getting there but they still get in a good position to hit.'

You need to be able to give yourself a chance to see the pitch as the ball is coming out of the hand. You need to make that click when you have to pull the trigger. Everyone is thinking, ‘I am hitting. I am hitting and this will be the pitch I am looking for.' You always have the positive attitude that he will throw a fastball where I want it and I am hitting it until something tells me otherwise.

He is going to be a good player.

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