Will Brennan Has Been on a Tear

Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

Will Brennan is a hot hitter on a Cleveland Guardians team that has struggled to produce at the plate. Over his last eight games, the 25-year-old rookie outfielder is 14-for-29 with four doubles and a home run. Rebounding from a slow start, he is now slashing .261/.298/.380 with an 88 wRC+ on the season.

How good of a hitter Brennan will be at the big league level remains to be seen. An eighth-round pick in 2019 out of Kansas State University, he debuted last September and slashed .357/.400/.500 in 45 plate appearances, this after posting a .314/.371/.479 line between Double-A Akron and Triple-A Columbus. Currently no. 7 on our Guardians top prospects list, he was described by our lead prospect analyst Eric Longenhagen as a hitter who generates “doubles power with a compact swing and all-fields approach to contact.”

Brennan sat down to talk hitting when the Guardians visited Fenway Park at the end of April.

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David Laurila: How would you describe yourself as a hitter? What is your approach at the plate?

Will Brennan: “I kind of developed that throughout my years in college and early on in pro ball. I’m pretty much going up there looking fastball — being on fastball timing — and then being able to adjust off anything else. I’m swinging at strikes. Picking a lane that the pitcher is throwing in is really important. Obviously, being able to battle with two strikes is important. I’ll continue to do that.”

Laurila: Elaborate on picking a lane.

Brennan: “Guys in the big leagues are really good, so it’s hard to protect both sides of the plate. If a mistake shows up on the outer half, which is where I’ll be looking, then that’s the time to pull the trigger and put the barrel on the ball. I might change based on what the pitcher has — whatever his weapons are — but for the most part, I’m definitely looking out and reacting in.”

Laurila: How much of a hitting nerd are you? Do you look at a lot of data?

Brennan: “Yeah. I would say I do. But I look more at what pitchers have and prepare myself for that — whatever their data is. I think that to be a complete hitter, and to be a smart hitter, you have to understand what the pitchers do and what their metrics are.”

Laurila: Is it possible to focus too much on that, and get away from what works for you?

Brennan: “Absolutely. Sometimes the best thing is to just simplify and dumb it down. But again, you have to… like right now, I’ve never faced the Red Sox before — I’ve never faced these pitchers — so I’ll have to go out there and have a few at-bats to understand how they’re going to attack me. Then I’ll kind of adjust from there. That’s the name of the game.”

Laurila: Nick Pivetta is pitching tonight, so what he throws and how he attacks different hitters in different counts will be covered in the hitters’ meeting you have coming up in 15 minutes or so. At the same time, until you’re actually standing in the box, that information only means so much. Is that accurate?

Brennan: “Correct. That is pretty accurate. There’s the old saying, ‘The whole plan goes out the door once you get punched in the face.’ You’re kind of going off of preparation and routine, and whatever your approach is at the plate that day, but from there it’s what you see in the game.”

Laurila: That said, most pitchers with similar profiles aren’t going to be markedly different, right?

Brennan: “I mean, the ability to bucket pitchers based upon their metrics is huge. You want to have an understanding of, say, what a ride guy does. You can bucket all those guys. Same with sinker-slider guys and triangle-attack guys. That’s especially the case when you’re a rookie and haven’t really faced anybody. You can go off of that prior information and hopefully have success.”

Laurila: What about your stance and swing? Do individual pitchers impact either of those?

Brennan: “I would say it’s pretty much all the same. The timing changes based upon who is on the mound, though.”

Laurila: What is your timing mechanism?

Brennan: “So, I have like a crunch, kind of a Christian Yelich type of core crunch into a leg lift. Then I fire from there. I’ve had that for about a year and a half, two years. It’s completely different from when I was in college and my first year in pro ball.”

Laurila: What was behind the change?

Brennan: “It was Cleveland driven, but it was also myself. It was to impact the ball more, have more impact quality. As an organization, we try to take guys from contact-first and transition them into having more power.”

Laurila: Do you look at yourself as contact-first?

Brennan: “Absolutely.”

Laurila: You’ve mentioned making adjustments since college. What kind of hitter were you at Kansas State?

Brennan: “I was pretty much a slap hitter. I hit the ball in the six-hole and put the ball in the middle. That’s about it.”

Laurila: Why was that? It sounds a little like you were limiting yourself.

Brennan: “I would just say that maybe I didn’t have the direction? But they also probably didn’t want to change me because I was successful. You have to evolve as a hitter, and a player, and I got to this point where [the Guardians] taught me some things to evolve.”

Laurila: Do you watch other hitters very much? If so, which ones?

Brennan: “Absolutely. Some of the best learning comes from watching other guys. I look at contact-oriented guys who are going to hit for a high average but are also able to impact the ball. [Andrew] Benintendi. [Steven] Kwan. I’ll look at how they’re approaching pitchers, and how the pitchers are attacking them. I’ll look at how their bodies work.”

Laurila: Which of your numbers do you care about when assessing your performance?

Brennan: “I care about exit velo. The amount of pitches I’m seeing. I care about in-zone swing percentage and out-of-zone percentage. Basically, things I can control.”

Laurila: What about numbers you don’t look at or care about?

Brennan: “There are plenty of metrics I don’t look at. For example, Blast comes out with a lot of data that can help guys. There are 50 different metrics, and you might only need to look at two or three of them to change what you need to change.”

Laurila: Any final thoughts?

Brennan: “I would say that which metrics you value is very important. It’s a cool question to ask. I’d love to see what other guys would say to that question.”

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Earlier “Talks Hitting” interviews can found through these links: Jo Adell, Jeff Albert, Greg Allen, Nolan Arenado, Aaron Bates, Alex Bregman, Bo Bichette, Cavan Biggio, JJ Bleday, Bobby Bradley, Jay Bruce, Matt Chapman, Michael Chavis, Gavin Cross, Jacob Cruz, Nelson Cruz, Paul DeJong, Josh Donaldson, Brendan Donovan, Donnie Ecker, Rick Eckstein, Drew Ferguson, Justin Foscue, Michael Fransoso, Ryan Fuller, Joey Gallo, Paul Goldschmidt, Devlin Granberg, Andy Haines, Mitch Haniger, Robert Hassell III, Nico Hoerner, Rhys Hoskins, Eric Hosmer, Tim Hyers, Connor Joe, Josh Jung, Jimmy Kerr, Heston Kjerstad, Steven Kwan, Trevor Larnach, Doug Latta, Evan Longoria, Michael Lorenzen, Gavin Lux, Dave Magadan, Trey Mancini, Edgar Martinez, Don Mattingly, Hunter Mense, Owen Miller, Ryan Mountcastle, Cedric Mullins, Daniel Murphy, Lars Nootbaar, Logan O’Hoppe, Vinnie Pasquantino, Brent Rooker, Drew Saylor, Spencer Steer, Trevor Story, Fernando Tatis Jr., Spencer Torkelson, Mark Trumbo, Justin Turner, Trea Turner, Josh VanMeter, Robert Van Scoyoc, Chris Valaika, Zac Veen, Alex Verdugo, Mark Vientos, Matt Vierling, Luke Voit, Anthony Volpe, Joey Votto, Christian Walker, Jared Walsh, Jordan Westburg, Jesse Winker, Mike Yastrzemski, Nick Yorke, Kevin Youkilis





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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sandwiches4evermember
10 months ago

As an organization, we try to take guys from contact-first and transition them into having more power.

That, uh, does not seem to be working out too well this year.

Left of Centerfield
10 months ago

Now, now….last year Steven Kwan only had one home run in the first half. This year he already has two. Progress!!!