Gittens Coming Together

Chris Gittens was considered a 'sleeper' prospect after his 12th round selection out of junior college last season but an immediate injury upon signing put his coming out party on hold. It turned out to be ever so briefly though as he hit a robust .363 with eight home runs in the Gulf Coast League this season and he says his game is coming together for him down at Instructs.

He amassed just 35 at-bats in eleven Gulf Coast League games last season after he fouled a ball off his foot and missed more than a month with bad bone bruise. The swelling just wouldn't stop and it was the main reason he missed Instructs last year too.

Starting a career off like that is never easy, even just from a standpoint of being immediately buried on the depth chart. It also puts one behind schedule in receiving instruction from the coaches and because of his time missed last season it took Gittens a little while to find his swing.

"It really started off slow for me getting my swing back," he admitted. "I was really trying with the hitting coaches to figure out the best swing for me with my stance and everything, and we came together and found a way for me to keep my balance and find my pitch to hit. Out of nowhere everything clicked for me."

Gittens said his game started to come together more for him in the middle of Extended Spring Training after shaking off the rust and going through a bit of a trial and error period finding swing mechanics that worked for him, but the end result was pretty dramatic from a numbers standpoint in his return trip to the Gulf Coast League.

He didn't have enough at-bats to quality for the GCL batting title -- he collected just 124 -- but he slugged a ridiculous .645 after amassing nine doubles and eight home runs in those 41 games.

"That had a lot to do with it. My big change was being quiet," he said of his swing. "I was a little bit rushed getting my foot down [in Extended]. I have a leg-kick so I was starting my leg-kick way late and then have to rush to get it down. They were like 'take your time, make sure you start early, but go slow with it to drive it through [the ball]'.

The plan worked. Not only was he driving through the ball with supreme authority but he was also laying off of pitches outside of the zone, something he had been a little susceptible to prior to his swing changes.

"The biggest thing was laying off of the sliders and outside pitches," he continued. "It made me realize I could take my time and still read pitches, outside pitches and outside sliders, and if I'm looking for my pitch I'm looking for a good count to hit in. Really, during the season I was in a good count most of the at-bats."

Despite being 21 years old and having his game come together for him towards the end of Extended Spring Training, Gittens insists that he wasn't disappointed not being assigned to a higher short-season league team at the conclusion of camp. He knew all along that he was destined to go back to the Gulf Coast League after his injury a year ago.

"No I expected to be there because in my first year I only had 40 or 50 ABs," he recognized. "If was going somewhere I told myself 'if I do, I do, and if I don't, I don't, no big deal, I still have to hit my way out of wherever else I'm at'.

He feels he did just that this season though, hitting his way out of the Gulf Coast League, and he also believes his defensive game is coming together for him too.

"I really do. I think everything came together for me. Defense went well, it went real good. I don't know how many errors I had but it's all coming together. Then here at Instructs this year all of the stuff the coordinators are teaching us I'm like 'dang, I didn't even know all of this'."

Extremely confident in his bat, he would like to further refine his defensive game at first base and to do so he admits will require a bit more conditioning on his part. Standing 6-foot-4 and reportedly weighing 260 pounds, he would like lose ten pounds or so this offseason, report to camp next season in better shape, and continue the momentum he started building up this season.

"I'm very excited next season to see how it goes and where I'll be next year. I feel like I opened up some eyes this year, I really do," he concluded.

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