His Swing Remade, Tigers Prospect Ryan Kreidler Is Now Dangerous in the Box

Ryan Kreidler isn’t the same hitter that Eric Longenhagen and Kevin Goldstein described when they put together our Detroit Tigers Top Prospects List last spring. The 24-year-old (as of last month) shortstop no longer possesses a “conservative, contact-oriented approach coupled with limited raw power.” Thanks to remaking his mindset and mechanics, Kreidler crushed 22 home runs this season while slashing a solid .270/.349/.454. Making those numbers all the more impressive is that the 2019 fourth-rounder out of UCLA put them up between Double-A Erie and Triple-A Toledo in his first full professional season.

His collegiate and short-season output had been that of a contact-oriented hitter. Kreider went deep 16 times in his three years as a Bruin, and just twice in 257 plate appearances with the New York Penn-League’s Connecticut Tigers in 2019. Dissatisfied with the dismal level of production, he went back to the drawing board.

“I wasn’t hitting the ball in the air very much,” said Kreidler, who according to Longenhagen and Goldstein lacked athleticism in the batter’s box. “I made some changes over [the 2019] offseason, then got a chance to work on them when I was home during COVID.”

The Davis, California native turned to Los Angeles-based hitting instructor Doug Latta for guidance.

“I felt like I was really sitting and spinning, and Doug helped me get on my backside and hit the ball in the air a little bit more,” explained Kreidler, whose 2021 output included a 148 wRC+ in 41 games following a mid-August promotion to Toledo. “I hadn’t been taking advantage of my frame. I’m a taller guy with longer limbs, and I wasn’t allowing my athleticism to come out with my old swing. Mechanically, it’s all about balance and moving in sequence. Now that I’m moving freely in the box, I’m able to do more damage on more pitches.”

The 6-foot-4 infielder is now more upright and less spread out in the batter’s box, and while that allows him to better “gain ground” and drive the ball with more authority, it doesn’t benefit his ability to make contact. Kreidler had a 28.7% K rate this year, striking out 158 times in 550 plate appearances. But while improving that area of his game is a primary goal, he has no intention of going back to a contact-oriented approach when behind in the count. Rather, he intends to be more aggressive.

“I’d like to strike out less,” said Kreidler. “It’s important to the Tigers, and it’s important to me, and in turn, that means I need to be making contact earlier in the count. Once you get to two strikes, man, it’s a tough game. So I’d like to get to two strikes less often, and not foul off those pitches I should hit.”

Triston Casas, one of the top prospects in the Boston Red Sox system, typically widens his stance and chokes up on the bat when he gets to two strikes. Asked about the approach employed by his Arizona Fall League contemporary, Kreidler was equal parts respectful and disinterested.

“I don’t change anything mechanically with two strikes,” said Kreidler, who played with the AFL’s Salt River Rafters but saw just a smattering of action due to a calf strain. “It’s two different swings when you do that. Credit to Triston — he does a great job with it — but the way I see it, I’ve practiced my A-swing over and over, so when I get to two strikes — the most important time of the at-bat — making a change doesn’t really make sense to me. I’m going to continue to… again, I don’t think it’s a two-strike problem. I think I’ve just gotten to two strikes a little too often.”

How soon might Kriedler get to the big leagues, and what will his role be once he does? Moreover, which uniform will he be wearing? The Tigers signed Javier Báez to a reported six-year, $140 million contract on Tuesday, and GM Al Avila recently told reporters that Kreidler has been mentioned in trade discussions. Through a confluence of circumstances — this year’s breakout among them — Kreidler’s Detroit days could well very be numbered.

Which brings us back to the numbers he put up in Erie and Toledo. Along with being fully cognizant that his skills require further refinement, the young infielder is quite pleased with his 2021 season.

“It was a great year,” opined Kreidler, who is viewed as a solid defender. “I accomplished what I wanted to do, which was to get to Triple-A. I didn’t set out statistical goals for myself, although I did want to hit 20 homers; that was in the back of my mind, and I was able to do it. I felt like it was in the tank for me, and I want to do that every year. So yeah, super-satisfied. I try to not pay attention to stats during the season, but it’s satisfying to look at them after you’ve turned in a good offensive year.”





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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Kevbot034
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Kevbot034

He’s got a 45/50 grade defensively and a 40 speed and FV. Obviously all that sounds changed – at his size, would Tigers be better off holding and playing 3B? Or would it be a “sell high” opportunity?

retrokryptonite
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Member
retrokryptonite

Relevant to that discussion, the organization is high on Candelario. Of course such problems are good ones to have, but may be a finger on the sell high side of the scale re: Kreidler.