A Conversation With San Francisco Giants Prospect Hunter Bishop

© Patrick Breen/The Republic

Hunter Bishop has barely gotten started. Drafted 10th overall by the San Francisco Giants in 2019 out of Arizona State University, the 23-year-old outfielder has logged just 202 professional plate appearances due to a COVID-canceled 2020 minor-league campaign and a shoulder injury that shelved him for much of last season. He’s done his best to make up for lost time. Shaking off some of the rust in the Arizona Fall League, the left-handed hitting Palo Alto, California native put up a .754 OPS in 51 plate appearances with the Scottsdale Scorpions.

Bishop — No. 8 on our newly-released Giants Top Prospects list — talked about his evolution as a hitter, and the challenges of coming back from two lost seasons, toward the tail end of his AFL stint.


David Laurila: You were drafted out of ASU in 2019. How much have you changed since that time?

Hunter Bishop: “A lot. There were some things I did in college that were really good, but the college program is so different. How they pitch you is different. For one, you’re going from metal to wood. So, I would say that I’ve changed a lot as a hitter, and more than anything it’s the mental part of the game. It’s understanding what pitchers are trying to do to you, more than the actual mechanics of hitting.”

Laurila: That said, have your mechanics changed at all? If I compared video of you in college to now, would I see the same guy?

Bishop: “I’d say that mechanically it’s the same. The only thing I’ve changed is that in college, my hands were like this — the bat was pointing straight up; it was off my shoulder. Now I start it on my shoulder. But I get to the same exact position.”

Laurila: Why, and when, did you make that change?

Bishop: “I did it at the alternate site, last summer. So, like August and September of 2020. It was more of a comfort thing; I couldn’t really find a comfortable place for my hands. I kind of suddenly, slowly would get away from what I was doing in college. Putting it on my shoulder was something the Giants and I thought would calm me down a little bit in the box, and it has. It’s made me more comfortable, timing-wise. But again, as soon as I take my bat off the shoulder, my mechanics are the exact same.”

Laurila: What is your timing mechanism?

Bishop: “What I’ll do is use the bat on my shoulder as a timing mechanism with the pitcher. I’m kind of trying to dance with the pitcher’s rhythm. When he starts to take the ball out of his glove and move forward to throw is when I’ll take the bat off my shoulder and get into my legs. I don’t really think about anything other than sinking into my legs.”

Laurila: I haven’t had a chance to see you hit. Do you have a leg kick or a toe tap?

Bishop: “If you watch, it looks like I have a little leg kick, but I don’t try to have a little leg kick. I’m thinking about my back leg more than anything. I don’t really try to time anything with a leg kick or a toe tap.”

Laurila: The movement with your front leg is almost unconscious…

Bishop: “Totally. I’ve seen pictures, and it looks like my front leg is like a little leg kick, but yeah, it’s unconscious.”

Laurila: What about how your body works, and where you’re looking to hit the ball?

Bishop: “I would say that I’m directionally more toward center field. Usually, when I try to hit balls to right field, I’ll miss the changeup, or any off-speed pitch. My timing on a fastball is pull side, so I’ll be way too early on off-speed if I think that way. I really try to look center field, and just use my hands, work with my hands. I don’t think about things like ‘swing up’ or ‘swing down,’ I just try to throw my hands to the ball.”

Laurila: Are you basically looking to drive the ball back through the middle?

Bishop: “Approach-wise, it’s definitely going to center field, but that doesn’t mean I’m necessarily going to hit the ball to center field. I can still turn on a fastball. It’s more so my thought. If he does throw an off-speed pitch, I can turn on it and hit it to right field, whereas if I’m aiming pull — if I’m thinking pull — then I’m going to be too far in front. Thinking middle makes me directionally better.”

Laurila: What is the key to good pitch recognition? Is it mostly a matter of getting your foot down early?

Bishop: “To be honest, I would say it’s just more at-bats. Everybody’s swing is different. You see guys with huge leg kicks. You see guys with toe taps. You have guys just putting their foot down. So, more than anything, it’s just getting at-bats and seeing pitch after pitch after pitch. For me, I was out all season with an injury. Being here in the Arizona Fall League, I have to focus hard on my at-bats, because I haven’t seen this caliber of pitching in a while.”

Laurila: You did play a handful of games earlier this year, right?

Bishop: “I played three games at the start of the season, got hurt, made a comeback and played two games, then got hurt again with the same injury. It was my front shoulder. My throwing was actually fine, but when I would swing, it would feel very uncomfortable. But now it’s healthy and feeling good.”

Laurila: Did you have surgery?

Bishop: “No, just a cortisone shot.”

Laurila: With the injury coming on the heels of the COVID season, you’ve definitely missed a good deal of time. Has stepping back into a batter’s box been akin to riding a bicycle, or are you almost relearning how to hit?

Bishop: “I would say relearn, man. Let’s be honest, I’m not a superhuman. I’d like to believe that I am, but I’m not. So yeah, some parts of the game, like my defense and my athleticism, are like riding a bicycle. But hitting a baseball is really hard when you’re playing every single day. Coming out and facing this competition when you haven’t been playing… I mean, it’s tough. But in due time, it’s going to come together. I’m excited about where it’s heading.”

David Laurila grew up in Michigan's Upper Peninsula and now writes about baseball from his home in Cambridge, Mass. He authored the Prospectus Q&A series at Baseball Prospectus from December 2006-May 2011 before being claimed off waivers by FanGraphs. He can be followed on Twitter @DavidLaurilaQA.

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