Red Sox Prospect Devlin Granberg Talks Hitting

Devlin Granberg is an under-the-radar prospect enjoying a breakout season. Boston’s sixth-round pick in 2018 out of Dallas Baptist University, the 25-year-old first baseman/outfielder — unranked on our 2021 Red Sox Top Prospects list — is slashing .315/.379/.573 between High-A Greenville and Double-A Portland. Swinging from the right side, the Hudson, Colorado native has slugged eight home runs while putting up a healthy 155 wRC+.

Granberg talked hitting prior to a recent game at Portland’s Hadlock Field.

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David Laurila: How much have you changed since coming to pro ball?

Devlin Granberg: “I’ve had a very similar swing since probably my sophomore year in college. I’ve got a very immobile body — I have tight hips and tight shoulders — but that helps me stay more consistent. It’s kind of what has allowed me to stay with a very similar swing.

“I think the biggest change for me has been the routine. It’s the same thing every single day, whereas in college you’re able to split it up. [College] is similar day-to-day, sure, but you also have different midweek games and practices, plus you get days off. Here, you have to get into a good routine and put yourself in the same state of mind each day in order to hit 95 [mph], or whatever it is the minor leagues throws at you.”

Laurila: Is a strict routine ever a negative? For instance, if you’re scuffling at the plate and doing the same thing day after day…

Granberg: “That’s actually one thing I learned this offseason. In my routine, I have different routines — I have two or three different drill sets that I do in the cage, and I never do the same thing on repeated days. Does that make sense? So, back-to-back days, I never do things exactly the same. I started implementing that in quarantine and I think it’s actually helped me stay a little bit more consistent. I think you have to keep the body guessing. If you stick to the same routine over and over, at some point the body is going to compensate, and then it’s going to overcompensate.

“A routine that is very positive could be maybe neutral, or maybe slightly negative, if you continuously do it every single day. That’s why I try to keep it fresh and mix it up. I’ll go BP, machine work, different things like that.”

Laurila: What was your routine today?

Granberg: “Today was fewer flips and more machine work. It was only one or two rounds of flips — one round over the top — and then machine. And it was challenging. It was fastballs pretty much, and I was stepping up on the machine — a Junior Hack Attack — trying to challenge myself. That was three or four rounds, and the bulk of my swings today.”

Laurila: Do you favor that over, say, BP on the field?

Granberg: “Yes. I came from a program at Dallas Baptist where we had a machine in every single cage, and those things would roll up to 90-95 [mph]. We’d hit those all day long, pretty much — overload, underload bats, breaking balls, 87 mph sliders. So that’s what I prefer, for sure. You can get a little stagnant with flips at times, plus you need a little bit of challenge for your swing to tighten up. That’s what you’re going to see in the game, right? — challenging velocities. You can do weird stuff in a flip and still make good contact, but when you’re facing 95-96, you have to be as efficient as possible.”

Laurila: Do you do a lot of offseason cage work where you’re basically hitting into a net?

Granberg: “I do. I work out down at [Dallas Baptist]. They open it up for all the pro guys and we have a group of five, six, seven of us.”

Laurila: Are you pretty keyed in to the analytics, like the launch angles and the exit velocities?

Granberg: “I do pay attention to those. I’m a big exit-velocity guy, because I’m obviously trying to hit the ball as hard as I can. I’m trying to get my A-swing off pretty much every single time, unless it’s two strikes. Launch angle… I’m not a big launch-angle guy and never really have been. I try to be more of a complete hitter.

“A lot of different approaches work for guys. Some guys try to hit groundballs, but end up hitting fly balls anyway. If they would try to hit fly balls, maybe they would fly out instead of hitting those doubles and home runs. So I think it just differs, guy to guy, to what you’re trying to do.”

Laurila: When you say, “try to hit groundballs,” I assume you mean thought process as opposed to actual intent…

Granberg: “Yes. Some guys, in their minds, think ‘swing down.’ Sometimes I think ‘swing down,’ because I have a natural uppercut. So it just depends on the hitter, and it depends on the swing. In college, we had one guy who tried to hit an infield pop up, and that worked for him; he hit line drives and doubles. Another guy tried to hit a groundball to shortstop every time, and those were line drives and doubles. It’s whatever thought process works for you.”

Laurila: I’ve had a few hitters tell me that they used to try to hit a line drive over the pitcher’s head, and now they’re trying to hit a line drive over the center fielder’s head.

Granberg: “That would be part of their adjustment, opening their sights up a little bit. My hunch would be that they are more lower-attack-angle guys, and thinking that would help their attack angle be more of a natural attack angle.”

Laurila: You mentioned your ‘A-swing’ earlier. Is that something you always want, or are there certain situations and/or pitchers where you need a different swing?

Granberg: “With two strikes, you battle. It’s ‘ball-in-play’ no matter what. If you’ve got to flail at it to touch it… obviously, you want to take all the balls, but sometimes you’re not going to be that good, so you just want to touch it. But with less than two strikes… that’s something that was drilled into me in college: Take your A-swing.

“There are also guys who might say, ‘Oh, I’m putting a B-swing on,’ and if you look at their bat speed and exit velocity when they hit a double or a home run, it would be very similar to when they were gearing up and taking their A-swing. That’s what I would be willing to guess, although I don’t have any data to back that up.

“We do the Blast Motion knobs, and there was this slider I hit really well to right center, and I thought I’d just kind of flicked at it. It was one of my best bat speeds of the year. So the A and B… I don’t know. I’m just trying to go up there and swing hard.”

Laurila: Why did you feel the ball you hit well was on your B-swing?

Granberg: “Probably because the pitch came a little bit slower and I felt like I was kind of flicking and trying to keep a better direction. But at the end of the day, it wasn’t a B-swing. The analytics showed different.”

Laurila: How would you describe your usual swing?

Granberg: “I’ve got one of the more interesting swings out there. It’s not very conventional. I would say it’s pretty rotational, yet not totally rotational. It’s kind of like those combo swings — not too crouched, maybe a little bit open, and then I stride into it. I’m trying to hit the ball middle/opposite field most of the time.”

Laurila: So, different, but not exactly Hunter Pence

Granberg: “Yeah, it doesn’t look that funky, but it’s definitely… I mean, you have guys with really good swings, like [Nick] Castellanos, with the really cool hand pump. I don’t like a lot of movement. I try to be loose, but I tend to be a little stiffer looking in the box. It’s just the swing I’ve always had.”

Laurila: Any final thoughts?

Granberg: “Hitting is so individual. It’s based on different hitters’ bodies and different hitters’ natural moves. If you were to tell me, ‘Hit like Mookie Betts,’ I could never do that. Mookie is a very mobile athlete. If you watch his swing, he separates a lot. I have a tight T spine — thoracic spine — so I’m not going to separate like Mookie Betts. If I tried to hit like him, I would do terribly. So hitting is very individualistic, which is why it’s so hard to teach. You have all these different body types, different swing mechanics, different swing planes. And then you’re trying to hit a ball going 100 mph. It’s not easy.”

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Earlier “Talks Hitting” interviews can found through these links: Greg Allen, Nolan Arenado, Aaron Bates, Cavan Biggio, JJ Bleday, Jay Bruce, Matt Chapman, Michael Chavis, Jacob Cruz, Nelson Cruz, Paul DeJong, Rick Eckstein, Drew Ferguson, Justin Foscue, Joey Gallo, Andy Haines, Mitch Haniger, Tim Hyers, Trevor Larnach, Evan Longoria, Michael Lorenzen, Gavin Lux, Dave Magadan, Trey Mancini, Edgar Martinez, Daniel Murphy, Drew Saylor, Fernando Tatis Jr., Justin Turner, Mark Trumbo, Zac Veen, Luke Voit, Jordan Westburg, Jesse Winker, Nick Yorke.





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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I played summer ball with Devlin for a year. Really nice, smart dude. Wish him the best of luck!