Kody Hoese exploded last season at Tulane. In a breakout junior campaign that saw him shoot up draft charts, the right-handed-hitting third baseman slashed a preposterous .391/.486/.779, bashing 23 home runs along the way. Duly impressed, the Los Angeles Dodgers selected Hoese with the 25th pick of the first round.
He proceeded to acclimate well to pro ball. The numbers weren’t nearly as loud as they were with the Green Wave, but his .299/.380/.483 line between rookie-level Arizona and the low-A Great Lakes Loons was more than adequate. In terms of getting his feet wet, Hoese did just fine.
Asking Hoese about the sudden-rise path he took from Tulane to top-shelf prospect unearthed no great revelations. The 22-year-old Griffith, Indiana native feels that he simply matured and grew into having a more-advanced approach at the plate. “There weren’t really any mechanical changes, or anything like that.”
Hoese’s setup and stroke are anything but complicated. He presents with a “little-lower-hands slot” and a simple load where he “kind of gets into [his] back side, and then strides.” He tries to stay balanced — “centered through my body, upright” — with minimal head movement. His primary objectives are a consistent swing path and focusing on driving the ball up the middle and to the opposite-field gap.
Aaron Bates, who tutors hitters in the Dodgers system, offered a similar take when queried about Hoese’s M.O.
“He creates a ton of leverage in his swing with his bigger frame,” Bates said of the 6’4″, 200 lb. former finance major. “He doesn’t have a lot of wasted movement at the plate, which allows him to wait longer and recognize pitches. Kody can really drive the ball to the opposite field. He showed an advanced approach in the limited at bats he got last season.”
Hoese’s power profile is intriguing, in part because of what bookended the aforementioned 23-dinger explosion. He’d hit just five collegiate home runs going into his junior year, and then five more in his first forays against professional pitching. Great Lakes skipper John Shoemaker sounded cautiously bullish, observing last August that while Hoese “hasn’t yet demonstrated power in our games, you do see that he’s got bat speed and can put the barrel on the ball. He just needs to learn more about the professional game.”
One thing the youngster has already learned is that when pitchers aren’t spinning him away, they’re often busting him inside with fastballs, “trying to get inside my bat a little bit, because I’ve kind of got more of a leverage… long arms, and stuff like that.”
A tall third baseman has been one of his role models.
“Growing up, I watched Kris Bryant a lot,” said Hoese. “We have somewhat similar body types, and I like how he plays. He’s very calm with everything he does. He has a relaxed approach, and that’s a big thing for me, too — remaining calm in the box and not thinking too much, just trusting my approach. There’s also the smoothness of [Bryant’s] glove, his reactions in the field.”
Hoese played shortstop in high school, and continued to see time there in his freshman and sophomore years at Tulane. He then made a full transition to third base, where he has the potential to be above average at the highest level. He cited improved first-step quickness as a goal, adding that he needs to become accustomed to shifting, which he anticipates doing more frequently in pro ball.
Bates has little doubt that Hoese will continue to make major strides in all areas of his game.
“He’s a great kid who goes about his business and prepares like a professional every day,” Bates expressed over email earlier this week. “Kody asks great questions and is always trying to get better. He’s a very intriguing player. I’m excited to see what he can do over the course of a full season.”
Roger Clemens came into pro ball with a plus fastball and a quality curveball. He subsequently learned his slider from longtime Red Sox pitching coach Bill Fischer. The splitter, which became one o the Hall of Fame right-hander’s best weapons? Clemens learned that from Mike Scott, and as he explained during a recent charity event in Boston, the way he used it evolved shortly thereafter.
“I broke it out, and ESPN with all their highlights would show how I punched out 12 guys and eight were with my split-finger,” Clemens explained. “All the hitters would see that, so I would have to pay attention to the hitting coaches, like Walt Hriniak in Chicago. I knew he was telling his hitters to go after me early, so they wouldn’t get the split. They were over-aggressive, so I would still throw a quality fastball, strike one, but then I would go split-split to slow them down.”
RANDOM HITTER-PITCHER MATCHUPS
Eric Longenhagen and I were chewing the fat with Jerry Dipoto at November’s GM Meetings when the subject turned to pitching prospects. Not surprisingly, the Mariners executive sounded particularly bullish on several within Seattle’s system. In capsule form, here is what Dipoto said about three who were drafted last June:
* “George Kirby, despite the fact that he was the 20th pick in the country, has just scratched the surface of what he’s capable of. His stuff is on par with elite-level pitchers, and our pitching-development program can potentially turn the screws for him.”
A 22-year-old (as of a few weeks ago) right-hander out of Elon University, Kirby debuted with the Northwest League’s Everett AquaSox. He fanned 25, and walked none, in 23 innings. His ERA was a tidy 2.35.
* “Brandon Williamson, our second-round pick, wasn’t widely seen in that light going into the draft by most prognosticators, but we think he has huge upside.”
A 21-year-old left-hander out of Texas Christian University, Williamson had 25 strikeouts and five walks in 15.1 innings with the AquaSox. He likewise had a 2.35 ERA.
* “Tim Elliott, our fourth-round pick, is another guy, through our Gas Camp program, that we think has a chance to make a really big step forward… in part because of all the other elements.”
A 22-year-old right-hander out of the University of Georgia, Elliott had 35 strikeouts and 13 walks in 30-.1 innings with the AquaSox. His ERA was 3.86.
Left on the cutting room floor from my recent Ethan Hankins interview was his response when I asked who his biggest pitching influences have been since entering pro ball. The 19-year-old Cleveland Indians prospect didn’t want to single anyone out on the coaching side — “There have been a ton” — but he did namecheck a pair of higher-level hurlers that he’s especially enjoyed talking shop with.
“Player-wise, I’d say James Karinchak and Kirk McCarty,” Hankins told me. “There are also a bunch of guys in other organizations, who work out with me in the off-season. We talk about baseball. We’re talking to talk, just making conversation. You learn from that when it’s guys who know the game, know pitching.”
Melanie Newman has been added to the Baltimore Orioles broadcast team as an analyst. Newman formed part of baseball’s first all-female broadcast booth last year — her partner was Suzie Cool — with the Carolina League’s Salem Red Sox.
Ruben Amaro will reportedly join NBC Sports Philadelphia as a pre- and postgame analyst for Phillies’ games. Formerly the NL team’s GM, and a coach with the Red Sox, Amaro spent last season as a special advisor with the Mets.
The Oakland A’s won’t be broadcasting games over the radio in the Bay Area this year. Local audio broadcasts will be available only through the streaming platform TuneIn. In related news, fans north of the border will no longer be able to watch Canada’s baseball team on MLB.TV. In order to stream Blue Jays games they’ll need to subscribe to Sportsnet NOW, the streaming arm of the network that broadcasts Jays games on TV.
If you haven’t seen it, the schedule for this year’s SABR Analytics Conference — March 13-15 in Phoenix — can be found here.
Numerous players excelled while flying well below the radar last season. Here are statistical snapshots of four:
Andy Pages, a 19-year-old (as of two months ago) outfielder in the Los Angeles Dodgers system, slashed .298/.398/.651, with 19 home runs in 279 plate appearances, for the Pioneer League’s Ogden Raptors. The native of the Dominican Republic was reportedly going to be included in the multi-player deal with the Angels that fell through earlier this month.
Victor Bericoto slashed .344/.472/.485 in 284 plate appearances for the San Francisco Giants’ Dominican Summer League squad. The 18-year-old (as of two months ago) first baseman/outfielder drew 53 free passes and struck out 56 times.
Max Lazar, a 20-year-old right-hander in the Milwaukee Brewers system, fanned 109 batters in 79 innings with the low-A Wisconsin Timber Rattlers. The 2017 11th-round pick allowed 67 hits, walked just 15, and fashioned a 2.39 ERA.
Andrew Click, a 24-year-old right-hander out of Davenport University, went 6-0 with a 1.67 ERA and 10 saves between two independent league stops. Twenty of Click’s 24 appearances came with the Pecos League’s Alpine Cowboys.
I recently pulled a copy of the 2013 Hardball Times Baseball Annual off my bookshelf and paged through the table of contents. Truth be told, I was borderline surprised to see my own name. While I recalled putting together the piece, I’d forgotten that it was published within those particular pages.
Echoing the Brian Eno song Golden Hours — a fantastically-penned paean to aging — “The passage of time is flicking up dimly on the screen. I can’t see the lines I used to think I could read between.”
The article was titled “Optimizing the Batting Order,” and comprised nine MLB players, coaches, and managers weighing in on five related questions. Sam Fuld, at the time an outfielder for the Tampa Bay Rays, was among those quoted. Here are two of his responses:
“Generally speaking, you want your best hitters to get the most at bats. I believe in the data that shows that, but each player is different, so it’s also hard to make blanket statements. But I do like good hitters at the top. Given that the significance of the bunt has dwindled, I think it’s important to have a high-OBP guy in the two-hole as well as leadoff.”
“If I was a manager, I wouldn’t bunt much. There are instances where you need to play for one run, they’re just few and far between. I don’t think you need to until you get to at least the eighth inning, or most likely the ninth inning. But it also depends on the hitter. A run-probability table doesn’t tell you who’s hitting.”
Fuld is now the Major League Player Information Coordinator for the Philadelphia Phillies. The Stanford University grad has had his name bandied about when managerial openings occur.
LINKS YOU’LL LIKE
The Baltimore Sun’s Jon Meoli wrote about how Eve Rosenbaum, now the Orioles Director of Baseball Development, vowed to be the first girl at Ripken baseball camp at six years old, then became a SABR member when she was 13. (Link via SABR, as Baltimore Sun articles aren’t currently accessible in Europe, and this week’s Notes column is being constructed in Austria, where I’m on vacation.)
At Forbes, Tony Blengino took a look at MLB’s best cutters and splitters.
Bleacher Report’s Scott Miller wrote about the not-so-secret hangout of baseball’s tightest fraternity, which exists at Vanderbilt University.
Writing for SABR’s Games Project, Bruce Harris chronicled a 1951 matchup between the Detroit Tigers and Philadelphia A’s that saw a Jewish pitcher pitching to a Jewish batter, with a Jewish catcher behind the plate. Per Harris, it had never before happened in an MLB game, and hasn’t since.
RANDOM FACTS AND STATS
Cleveland Indians and Minnesota Twins batters each faced changeups 12.7% of the time last year, the highest rate in MLB. The San Diego Padres saw the lowest percentage of changeups, 9.5%.
In 1986, Bert Blyleven allowed 50 home runs in 271.2 innings. Mike Scott allowed 17 home runs in 275.1 innings.
Players born on this date include Elston Howard, who caught in nine World Series with the New York Yankees, and another with the Boston Red Sox. A nine-time All-Star, Howard captured A.L. MVP honors in 1963.
Tony Conigliaro died on February 24, 1990 at age 45. A few decades earlier, the Boston Red Sox slugger had seen his career path forever altered by a beaning when he was just 22 years old. Conigliaro had 104 home runs and a 132 wRC+ when a Jack Hamilton fastball fractured his left cheekbone, and damaged one of his retinas, in August 1967.
On February 25, 1965, MLB owners rejected a request to raise the minimum player salary to $7,000 annually.
Klondike Smith, who played for the New York Highlanders in 1912, was born in London, England.
MLB history includes four players born in Austria: Joe Hovlik played for the Washington Senators and Chicago White Sox from 1909-1911, Joe Koukalik for the Brooklyn Superbas in 1904, Kurt Krieger for the St. Louis Cardinals in 1949 and 1951, and Dutch Ulrich for the Philadelphia Phillies from 1925-1927.
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.