Tornicasa on Fort Wayne hitting prospects

San Diego Padres minor league hitting coach Tom Tornicasa saw a lot of players come through Fort Wayne last year. He worked hard to correct issues with names like Allan Dykstra, Blake Tekotte, and Adam Zornes while helping to maintain success for Dan Robertson, Cole Figueroa and many others. We discussed those names and more.

Allan Dykstra – was the month of August and into September the culmination of all the work put in during the first half of the season and finally finding a comfort zone with the adjustments?

Tom Tornicasa: As the first round pick, he started off in Elsinore last year, there was a lot of pressure on him. A lot of pressure on him because he's a big kid to be hitting a bunch of home runs. Kind of like you heard he should be just tearing up that Midwest league. It's not a joke that league. If you hit around .300 in that league, you had a really good season.

I think he made some adjustments in what he had to do and actually cut down on his stride and straightened out his approach a little bit better. I mean the guy had a 104 walks for the year. He definitely understands the strike zone, but he just needed to shorten up a little bit and cut down on a little bit of his movement and start driving the ball the way he was capable of doing.

I thought he showed that in the month of August. He had a real good August and then kept it going through the playoffs for us.

I told him I don't now when it was, maybe in the beginning of July or something like that, I said, ‘Listen,' because he was getting a little disappointed about what was going on. The second half had already started and he was still basically doing what he did in the first half, and he was getting a little frustrated with it.

I said, ‘Listen, you know what, we're more than halfway through the season. You're not going to hit .300. You've got too many at-bats. What you need to focus on a little more is driving the ball a little more, using some of your power. But just making sure that when the playoffs start,' because we were already in it, ‘Just make sure that you're ready when the playoffs start because we're definitely going to need you there. If we don't get you going by then then not only you, but the whole team is going to be in trouble because we need your bat in the line up.'

What we think he's capable of doing, he actually started showing it in August. I thought he really drove a lot of balls. He got into some bad luck too. He went through a period just before that where he was hitting a lot of balls hard, and they were either hit right at him or the wind was blowing in real hard and it held it up, and he ended up getting a double instead of a homer.

Things didn't really go real well for him, and then it seemed like it started evening back out a little bit in August where things started dropping in for him and he ended up doing real well.

Cole Figueroa seems like a guy with a plan. He executes the at-bat and was your MVP hitting wise in the playoffs. Is that a fair assessment?

Tom Tornicasa: Yeah, he understands what's going on. Figgie's a nice player. I like him. He's clutch too. I'll tell you that. That guy's got a ton, that I can remember, he's got a ton of big hits for us where he drove in runs when our backs were against the wall. Dykster did, too, towards the end there.

Throughout that whole time Figgie was there, he got a lot of clutch hits. He came through. He had a real nice year. Obviously, I don't think we would have made it without him.

Is Robert Lara a guy that needs constant plate appearances? He seemed to get down on himself when he was playing every third or fourth game.

Tom Tornicasa: Right, it's hard for him. You've got a kid that wants to play every day, which you should want to. He got a little frustrated with it, and then the times when he was playing, he tried to do so much where it would change his position of where he was by getting more games and stuff. I think he ended up trying to do too much and it actually affected him, especially hitting-wise.

Behind the plate, I thought he was pretty solid all year.

Hitting-wise he just put too much pressure on himself, and I don't think he was capable of showing what he thought he could do and what we thought he could possibly do. But he's another guy, he ended up hitting pretty well in the playoffs for us. Besides the game winning homer, he had a triple in that one game, scored three runs in the other game, he actually had some confidence going there for a while because he was like 0-for-15 or something and then he pulled out of it and ended up swinging the bat pretty well and driving it. That was probably the best I've seen him all year, and if that's what he's capable of doing, then you he's going to be alright.

Dan Robertson is another guy who seems to have a solid approach at the plate for you. He led your team in RBI as well.

Tom Tornicasa: Right, he did a nice job for us, especially defensively. When he started playing after a few injuries, because he kind of started out as the fourth outfielder, really, and then things worked out where he started playing everyday.

He led the team in RBIs and probably was at the top for games played for us too. He did a real nice job. He can hit. He's another guy that can hit. He's got a little bit more power than people think. I know he only hit like five home runs and didn't really hit any towards the end, but he's got a little bit of juice, and he's always hitting the ball hard somewhere and always battling at the plate. I thought he had a real good year. He ended up hitting .290.

Blake Tekotte had a significant wrap and it seemed to take quite a while for him to get the timing down as he began to cut down on the wrap.

Tom Tornicasa: Yeah, that's exactly right. He had some things going on during, the year and we finally started figuring things out. Speaking of his timing, even all through towards the end of season and through the playoffs, I had to keep reminding him about it, ‘Hey, you're late. You've got to get it started sooner.'

When he's doing that, then he's not wrapping that bat, and he's staying on top like he did the second half of the season. He's got surprising power too. He had a double figure homers. It's just going to get better for him.

Adam Zornes is a guy that worked a large part of the season in getting that stride a little straighter and not diving into the plate. I imagine everyone just pitched him in with some success?

Tom Tornicasa: Yeah, that was one thing that we tried to straighten out was really his approach in general and his swing plane. He got real loopy there, especially at the beginning of the year where his hands – after he made his approach they didn't go forward to the ball they actually dropped down and came down and around and then went to the ball. He worked pretty hard on that all season to get a more direct path to that ball with his hands.

Then, like you mentioned his stride, he was diving in towards the plate and tried to just straighten that out a bit more, which I thought he did a pretty good job of. He's got some big league power there. When he squares balls up, they can go out of any park.

What was it like for you as the hitting to win the Midwest League championship?

Tom Tornicasa: It was a thrill. Anytime you win a championship, even two years, what was it '07 in San Antonio. Those guys I was with, a lot of those guys I was with two, three years and even like Drew Maias – four years – but it really doesn't matter where you're at when you win because it's exciting the whole time. It's always a thrill.

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