Rockies Prospect Zac Veen Talks Hitting

“Already a physical presence as a teenager, Veen has big power potential and a pretty left-handed swing to go with a plus arm that should serve him well in right field.”

Those words, written by Eric Longenhagen, lead Zac Veen’s profile in our recently-released 2021 Top 100 Prospects list. The 19-year-old outfielder came in at No. 70, which is especially impressive when you consider that he’s yet to play a game — Fall Instructional League notwithstanding — at the professional level. A Port Orange, Florida native, Veen was drafted ninth overall last year by the Colorado Rockies.

Another quote from Longenhagen’s writeup bears noting: “His in-the-box actions are quiet and smooth up until the moment he decides to unleash hell on the baseball.” In short, the 6-foot-5, 210-pound Veen profiles as a middle-of-the-order slugger if he approaches his full potential.

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David Laurila: I’ll start with a question I’ve asked several hitters over the years: Do you see hitting as more of an art, or more of a science?

Zac Veen: “For me, it’s more of an art. I’m more of a feel hitter and don’t really get into a lot of the analytics. Guys who look at a lot of video… I’d say it’s more of a science to them, but I like to stay away from a lot of that stuff. It can be helpful, but for the most part I’m more of a feel, see how the ball comes off the bat kind of guy.”

Laurila: It’s pretty common for young hitters to go into a cage and use technology when working to fine-tune their swings. Have you done that at all?

Veen: “I’ve tried it, my junior year of high school, but that caused me to overthink things a little bit. I’d take a really good swing, then I’d look at the video and be like, ‘Oh, wow, I can do this differently,’ instead of just being happy with a line drive to centerfield. That’s not something I want to do. When I take a good swing, I want to just be happy with it, and not be too picky about anything.”

Laurila: Is the swing you have right now, at age 19, essentially the same swing you had a few years ago, or has it evolved?

Veen: “Mostly it’s the same swing. There are a couple things I’ve worked on, and am trying to be more consistent at, to help me hit better pitching and kind of stay on off-speed a little better. But I’ve always had the same feels in my swing, so I’d say it’s pretty similar.”

Laurila: However subtle, what are the adjustments you’ve made?

Veen: “I’d say it’s standing up a little bit taller. When I was younger, I liked to be low to the ground, really in my legs, trying to be as athletic as I could. But at that time — my freshman and sophomore years — I was smaller and didn’t really hit for any power. I was just trying to just hit barrels and be a guy that sprays line drives everywhere. When I got a little taller and stronger, I learned to use my body a lot more. I really learned to stay in my legs while standing upright, to get leverage on the ball.”

Laurila: When did your growth and strength spurt take place?

Veen: “I’d say my junior year. Freshman year, I was about 5-foot-9 or 5-foot-10, then I went up to 6-foot in my sophomore year. Junior year, I went all the way to 6-foot-3. Senior year, I was a good 6-foot-4, 6-foot-5. So every year I’ve gotten a little bit bigger and stronger.”

Laurila: Growing several inches in fairly short order can impact a person’s coordination. Was that an issue for you, or did your swing remain natural throughout?

Veen: “You do have to learn your body as you keep growing. When I got bigger and started to gain more strength… I mean, you definitely have to learn how to control your body a little bit more, especially to stay athletic and loose. My swing is whippy, and just really relaxed. Sometimes when I don’t think I have as much power as I do, I’ll tighten up a little bit and swing harder. That’s something I’ve learned to control.”

Laurila: I’ve never seen your swing, but I get the impression that it’s not what might be referred to as “handsy.”

Veen: “It isn’t. I try to not really even use my hands, as crazy as that sounds. I kind of use everything else but my my arms. I think that’s where a lot of the bat speed comes from — from just really learning how to use my whole body.”

Laurila: Hitting coaches often preach being short and direct to the ball. Is that a message you’ve gotten since signing last summer?

Veen: “It’s more of a mindset thing that I’ve talked with them about. I think I’ve performed pretty well against the professional pitching I’ve seen so far. If I did run into any trouble, it was from just kind of over-swinging, and not really having the right mindset. It’s also a little different when guys shift on you. You want to keep that same mindset when you see three guys on the right side of the infield. That’s a big thing they’ve helped with.”

Laurila: What is your approach to the shift? Do you even pay attention to where the fielders positioned?

Veen: Not really, but it does kind of depend on where the runners are. I usually try to hit the ball over the shift. I try to hit the ball on a line out to right-center every time. When you smoke a ball in the four-hole… you can’t really control that, so I’m mostly trying to hit it hard, wherever it’s pitched. I’m trying to find barrels.”

Laurila: Are you trying to hit the ball in the air?

Veen: “That’s always come naturally for me. When my swing is right, the ball is going in the air. But I don’t try to do that. If I’m trying to hit the ball in the air, the ball’s not going in the air.”

Laurila: “It’s often said that hitting is the hardest thing to do in sports. As confident as you are, there’s some truth to that.

Veen: “It’s definitely challenging, especially with the pitchers you see these days. You’ve got Jacob deGrom. You’ve got Chris Sale, basically throwing a ball right at you that comes back over, across the plate. Guys like that are really good — they’re definitely a hard at-bat — but at the same time, the guys in the batter’s box are pretty good, too. So it’s tough, but everybody out there is getting paid to do what they do. Everybody is pretty good.”

Laurila: Another talented young hitter recently told me that good pitching doesn’t always beat good hitting.

Veen: “I’d say that. Guys like Mike Trout and Cody Bellinger are facing the best pitchers every single day, and they’re outperforming them most of the time. It just goes to show… I mean, the best hitters are just as good.”

Laurila: You’ve been compared to Bellinger. I know that players tend to shy away from comps, but do you see similarities?

Veen: “I do. We’re both tall left-handed hitters, and I think we have pretty easy power. I’ll watch video on him, and on Christian Yelich. They both have good swings for me to look at, especially when I’m struggling, or even if I just want to work on something.”

Laurila: Any final thoughts?

Veen: “I don’t consider myself just a power hitter. I think a lot of people see me as having a lot of power projection, but I’m confident that I’ll put up a good average, too. I’m not going to strike out as easily as a lot of the other power hitters out there. That’s a big part of my game a lot of people maybe tend to overlook.”

Laurila: Even so, everyone agrees that you’ve got plus power.

Veen: “I’d say that’s probably true. If I touch the ball, I feel pretty confident that it’s got a shot at going out. I just need to get my barrel to it.”

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Earlier “Talks Hitting” interviews can found through these links: Greg Allen, Nolan Arenado, Aaron Bates, Cavan Biggio, 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, Daniel Murphy, Drew Saylor, Fernando Tatis Jr., Justin Turner, Mark Trumbo, Luke Voit, Jesse Winker.





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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martyvan90
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martyvan90

Interesting. I wonder if his feel approach will alter as he progresses through the Rockies system?

mariodegenzgz
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mariodegenzgz

Doubt it. The Rockies tend to encourage guys to swing and be aggressive at the plate (look at basically any hitter to come from their farm from Arenado onwards) and they aren’t exactly the most forward thinking organization in the Majors.

r24j
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r24j

Yeah, the Rockies are about as aimless as it gets, philosophy-wise with Player Development

Smiling Politely
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Smiling Politely

If I had 70 power at age 19 as a 1st rd draft pick, I could understand being confident 😛

Richard Bergstrom
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Richard Bergstrom

The Rockies, as an organization, are all about “feel”