Kyle Waldrop was drafted out of high school in the 12th round of the 2010 Draft. He signed late and didn’t play much that first season, getting into just seven games before the season ended. Over the next three seasons he spent time playing in Billings, Dayton and Bakersfield where his OPS was .776, .767 and .766. This season he has split his time between Bakersfield and Pensacola where he’s hit a combined .338/.388/.510 with a career high 36 doubles, four triples and 12 home runs. He’s also set a career high in walks. While in Pensacola earlier this month I had a chance to talk with him about his season and some of the reasons this season has been a breakout year for him.

RML: You started off the year back in Bakersfield, the first time you’ve gone back to repeat a level. You’ve always been a guy who has seemingly done a lot better in the second halves, do you think going back to Bakersfield is one of the reasons you started off so well this year since you had already made some of those adjustments the year before and were able to carry those forward and continue making more this season?

Kyle Waldrop: Yeah, last year no one wants to hit .215 in the first half, for me it was a blessing to go through that. I learned a lot about myself, I learned how to fail. This year I wanted to carry the second half (from last year) into the first half. The thing that has been working for me is just being relaxed and in control of my at bats. It’s really what I’ve been working on and it seems to be making a difference.

RML: I’m glad you brought that up, it leads into the next question. It doesn’t seem like from the numbers side of things that you’ve made a big leap forward in any one area, but you’ve made smaller improvements in several areas. You are walking a little bit more, striking out a little bit less and using the entire field more than you have in the past. Has that been a change in approach, maturity, simply taking what the pitchers are giving you a little more?

Kyle Waldrop: I would say it is a little bit of everything. Working with Ryan Jackson (Cincinnati Reds minor league hitting coordinator) this offseason, we got a lot of work in together. I think it’s also a maturity thing. Every year I feel like I’m getting better. Especially here in Double-A, the pitchers know what their doing. It seems to be a repetitive pattern that they are trying to get me out with pitches away-away-away. So I had to force myself to hit the ball away and force them to try and bust me in as well. This year it’s just been being relax and trying to get away from hitting a lot of home runs. I think that has helped me become more of an all around hitter and someone who uses the whole field.

Improvements in Plate Discipline

Prior to the 2014 season Waldrop had a 6.1% walk rate, 20.4% strikeout rate and a 3.4 strikeout-to-walk rate for his career. Let’s take a quick look at how those rates compare to the ones he has posted in the 2014 season:

Before 2014 6.1% 20.4% 3.4
Bakersfield 2014 7.6% 19.4% 2.5
Pensacola 2014 7.4% 16.9% 2.3
Total 2014 7.5% 18.3% 2.4

The walk rate is up at both levels and the strikeout rate is down at both levels. The strikeout rate is significantly down at the Double-A level as well compared to where his career rate was coming into the season. The strikeout-to-walk ratio has dropped from a 3.4 to a 2.3. Prior to the season the career rate was concerning, over the benchmark of 3.0 that is usually a “break-even” point for hitters. The 2.3 mark falls well into the category of that can work just fine in the big leagues.

The Power

As noted above, the outfielder says he has stopped trying to hit a lot of home runs. While the home run total is down from the 2013 season where he hit 21 for Bakersfield he has nearly the same number of extra-base hits in 2014 as he had in 2013. When judging power, I like to look at Isolated Power, which is a players batting average subtracted from a players slugging percentage. Like above, let’s look at the career rates versus the 2014 season:

Before 2014 .176
Bakersfield 2014 .157
Pensacola 2014 .189
Total 2014 .172

Compared to the rest of his career the isolated power is the same as it has always been. That does ignore that he had a breakout power season in 2013 where his isolated power was at .202. Still, the current season mark of .172 isn’t far off from that and he’s actually done better in Pensacola with a .189 mark. It’s also worth noting that Pensacola does no favors for power to right field.

Using the entire field

Another thing that Waldrop noted was that he has had to force himself to use the entire field more, to go the other way. He isn’t just saying that though, it’s actually happening. Here is his 2013 spray chart compared with one from 2014:

2014 0.3% 3.4% 9.7% 14.7% 4.7% 8.9% 13.9% 23.1% 21.5%
2013 0.3% 2.6% 15.3% 16.4% 4.9% 9.4% 11.2% 18.2% 21.8%
Difference 0.0% 0.8% -5.6% -1.7% -0.2% -0.5% 2.7% 4.9% -0.3%

In 2014 the ball is going to center and left field a bit more often and it seems that it’s coming at the expense of the ball being pulled to first and second base.

Overall Improvements

With the improvements for Waldrop in 2014 there hasn’t been one big reason for why he’s performed better. He hasn’t begun walking at a very high clip. He hasn’t found big time power that he didn’t have before. He hasn’t cut his strikeout rate in half. What he has done is make minor improvements to his offensive game nearly across the board and when combined they have made for a big improvement overall.

11 Responses

  1. Alan Horn

    He has put himself in the mix for a future Reds OF spot. He is one to watch going forward. Winker and Yorman are 2 to watch also.

  2. Doug Gray

    I wrote this yesterday, before Waldrop hit his 13th homer of the season and thus changed the numbers a little bit in the article.

  3. Jay Cee

    When a pitcher is pitching you away-away-away as he stated, when you are trying to pull that outside pitch, a LH hitter rolls over on it grounds it to 2B and 1B. That’s a very nice adjustment he has made to take that pitch and line it to LF now. I saw him play in Tennessee and he plays good defense too. Hustles in the field and on the base paths. He smacked a nice double to LCF and a single to LF.
    If only Jay Bruce could learn that. I wonder if Bruce would spend some time this winter with Ryan Jackson and Kyle? It couldn’t hurt.

    • Alan Horn

      I agree. Hitters that don’t learn to hit the ball where it is pitched are usually under the pitcher’s control. You can wait for your pitch but most times it is not coming.
      Most ML pitchers can put the ball close to where they want to. Some hitters can afford to wait until they get a strike or even two, but most can’t afford to get into that deep a hole.

    • Doug Gray

      Bruce gets it and can do it. You can see it at times over the years. I think it’s more of a plan of action rather than something he isn’t able to do.

  4. lollipopcurve

    Bruce uses the whole field very inconsistently. Too often he goes back to trying to hook that outside pitch. At this point, I don’t see him growing into becoming a complete hitter.

    Very excited about the AA trio of OFs though.

    • Doug Gray

      Pulling everything works for some guys, but you need to be able to lay off of the breaking ball on the outside for that to work.

  5. charliefunny

    Agree with JC, Alan and Doug, Bruce CAN do it but not consistently, which leads to his slumps like now. Without Votto and only half of Bruce, the Reds will need to manufacture runs to win with pitching. For example, in the Thu first inning, Billy was on 2nd with 0 outs, Frazier tried to bunt and struck out, Phillips didnt hit the ball to the right side, but tried to muscle the ball by pulling it and it bounced to 3rd. Billy sitting on 2nd with 2 outs. Bruce tries to pull every outside pitch and K’s, 1 of FIVE K’s on the day! If he doesn’t want to hit, he needs to sit and put someone in that WANTS to hit. Like Strother Martin said in Cool Hand Luke, “He needs to get his mind right!” If they call up YRod maybe he can play right with his arm. Lutz might not have the arm for RF.

    Can Waldrop play right? Bruce’s contract is up after 2016, 2 yrs away. We’re paying $10M for a .3 WAR, where his historic WAR is about 2.5. Competition breeds performance.

    • Doug Gray

      I’m sure Bruce wants to hit, it’s just a matter of doing it. Baseball is freaking hard, as they say. The other guys are paid quite handsomely to get you out and even the best guys in the game get out a lot more than they don’t.

      Waldrop could play right, but I think he profiles better as a left fielder than as a right fielder. But he could play there and it wouldn’t be an issue in my mind.

  6. DaveCT

    Bruce is just a complete mess right now. Two things stick out for me. In a spring training interview he stated he did not do anything special as far as conditioning in the offseason. That got my attention, as his best seasons came when he worked out intensively and cut down bulk. The other statement he made was that he was working to become a hitter more like Votto, meaning high OPS etc. which I support. If that was true, I’d say he has severely struggled not with taking more pitches and bb’s, but the actual hitting that goes with being more patient. In fact, I see no method when he bats right now.