Calderon Refining His Game

TAMPA, FL - Yeicok Calderon is a hitter who's knocked around Dominican Summer League pitching for the past two seasons. He's sported a .331 average with 71 RBI in 124 games. But he isn't a player who is satisfied with his performance, nor should he be.

Coming into the season he's been looked at as an outfielder with below average speed and a horrible defensive skill set. In eleven games in left field in 2009, he accumulated an embarrassing 79 percent fielding percentage.

Calderon explains that he didn't know all the aspects to the game when he joined the Yankees organization as a 17-year-old.

"The first season I came in new," he said through an interpreter, "pretty much all knew was to hit. And I thought that was it."

Coming into his first spring training, Calderon, now nineteen, is taking things in for the first time.

"The first week or so was a little strange," Calderon said. "I didn't know what to expect. But then I started getting comfortable and I had a good spring training."

He said he worked numerous parts of his game, most notably defense. This is his Achilles heel. His past two seasons have been littered with misjudged line drives and fly balls.

Calderon says it's a simple fix and involves improving the angles he takes on balls and not drifting when fielding. Most importantly, he's improving the first two or three steps he takes, ensuring that he stays "quick to the ball".

This spring and last season have also seen noticeable improvements in his speed, as he's been seen legging a few triples out. He recorded six last season, up from the two he hit in 2009.

Although the defense remains a question mark, Calderon is first and foremost a hitter. He can clear fences, shown by his eleven homers in the past two seasons, but his real power is to the gaps. He knocked 16 doubles last year to go along with his six triples and drove in 44 runs. He had an on-base plus slugging percentage of .990. Pretty good numbers for an 18-year-old.

His hitting coach this season, Edwar Gonzalez, says Calderon's plate discipline is what leads to his good fortune. He is a patient two-strike hitter who has a very mature eye for a hitter his age. Gonzalez says it might be a case of pure ignorance.

"He's a great hitter. It's just natural," Gonzalez said. "Sometimes he doesn't even know what count he's in. He's just looking for a pitch to hit."

Calderon hasn't gotten caught up in his batting success at the lower levels and understands that there are flaws in his hitting game as well. He says most notably is his breaking ball recognition.

Coach Gonzalez agrees. It's important that Calderon recognize when a breaking ball is going to be a ball or strike before the pitch has reached him. If it starts below the hip, then chances are, it's going to finish out of the strike-zone. Better breaking ball recognition will not only cut down Calderon's strike-out numbers (56 in 2010) but also will curtail his groundball rate (he grounded into seven double plays in 2010).

That promotion, and the success he may see in the future rest more-so on his defense than anything else. If he hopes to see significant playing time, he will have to become a more adept outfielder.

His coaching staff see that he has the work ethic to improve his fielding and he says he's tried to do that every day this spring. After all, you never know who's in the stands.

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\r\n \r\n\r\nComing into the season he's been looked at as an outfielder with below average speed and a horrible defensive skill set. In eleven games in left field in 2009, he accumulated an embarrassing 79 percent fielding percentage.
\r\n
\r\nCalderon explains that he didn't know all the aspects to the game when he joined the Yankees organization as a 17-year-old.
\r\n
\r\n\"The first season I came in new,\" he said through an interpreter, \"pretty much all knew was to hit. And I thought that was it.\"
\r\n
\r\nComing into his first spring training, Calderon, now nineteen, is taking things in for the first time.
\r\n
\r\n\"The first week or so was a little strange,\" Calderon said. \"I didn't know what to expect. But then I started getting comfortable and I had a good spring training.\"
\r\n
\r\nHe said he worked numerous parts of his game, most notably defense. This is his Achilles heel. His past two seasons have been littered with misjudged line drives and fly balls.
\r\n
\r\nCalderon says it's a simple fix and involves improving the angles he takes on balls and not drifting when fielding. Most importantly, he's improving the first two or three steps he takes, ensuring that he stays \"quick to the ball\".
\r\n
\r\nThis spring and last season have also seen noticeable improvements in his speed, as he's been seen legging a few triples out. He recorded six last season, up from the two he hit in 2009.
\r\n
\r\nAlthough the defense remains a question mark, Calderon is first and foremost a hitter. He can clear fences, shown by his eleven homers in the past two seasons, but his real power is to the gaps. He knocked 16 doubles last year to go along with his six triples and drove in 44 runs. He had an on-base plus slugging percentage of .990. Pretty good numbers for an 18-year-old.
\r\n
\r\nHis hitting coach this season, Edwar Gonzalez, says Calderon's plate discipline is what leads to his good fortune. He is a patient two-strike hitter who has a very mature eye for a hitter his age. Gonzalez says it might be a case of pure ignorance.
\r\n
\r\n\"He's a great hitter. It's just natural,\" Gonzalez said. \"Sometimes he doesn't even know what count he's in. He's just looking for a pitch to hit.\"
\r\n
\r\nCalderon hasn't gotten caught up in his batting success at the lower levels and understands that there are flaws in his hitting game as well. He says most notably is his breaking ball recognition.
\r\n
\r\nCoach Gonzalez agrees. It's important that Calderon recognize when a breaking ball is going to be a ball or strike before the pitch has reached him. If it starts below the hip, then chances are, it's going to finish out of the strike-zone. Better breaking ball recognition will not only cut down Calderon's strike-out numbers (56 in 2010) but also will curtail his groundball rate (he grounded into seven double plays in 2010).
\r\n\r\n
\r\nThat promotion, and the success he may see in the future rest more-so on his defense than anything else. If he hopes to see significant playing time, he will have to become a more adept outfielder.
\r\n
\r\nHis coaching staff see that he has the work ethic to improve his fielding and he says he's tried to do that every day this spring. After all, you never know who's in the stands.
\r\n\r\n
\r\n

\r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n\r\n
\r\n

Are you a monthly or 3-month subscriber to PinstripesPlus.com? Why not get two months free AND get 4 issues of our PinstripesPlus Magazine included by becoming an annual subscriber? Upgrade today to get the most out of your subscription.

\r\n

\r\n

Become an annual subscriber today!

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