Zach Vincej’s new approach to hitting Doug Gray January 12, 2017 11 Comments Zach Vincej had one heck of a year in the Arizona Fall League in 2016. The Cincinnati Reds shortstop prospect hit .352/.425/.676 in 21 games for Peoria. His 1.101 OPS ranked second in the league. So did his four home runs and seven doubles. That was much better than he hit during the regular season with Double-A Pensacola. For the Wahoos he hit .281/.329/.378 with three home runs. His solid performance in Double-A, plus his torrid performance in Arizona led some to believe he had a chance to be selected in the Rule 5 draft in December. That didn’t happen and he remained with the Reds. William Boor spoke with Zach Vincej for MLB.com about his season. I changed my mentality to always think aggressive, hitting and defensively,” Vincej said. “I tinkered with a few things mechanically and once everything started to click, my confidence grew and grew. Vincej had the best offensive season of his career (full season) in 2016 with Pensacola. The numbers line up with his words, though. His walk rate plummeted to 5.7% (ranged from 8.5%-13.0% in past seasons). The strikeout rate was also the highest of his career at 19.4% (14.2%-17.5% in past seasons). His power was the best of his career, but at least before heading to Arizona, wasn’t really out of the normal range for him. Being aggressive can both help and hurt. Obviously, lower walk rates aren’t good. But, if the walk rate is lowered because you’re making more contact, that can be good if the contact is solid and not just contact. Let’s take a quick look at Zach Vincej’s batted ball rates over the last four years: Year GB LD FB PU 2016 41.2% 26.8% 26.2% 5.8% 2015 50.2% 18.5% 26.2% 5.2% 2014 51.4% 14.4% 29.0% 5.3% 2013 49.0% 14.6% 28.2% 8.1% Now, let me preface this all by saying that batted ball types are done by stringers. They are simply a guy in the press box deciding what a ball is. That’s going to leave some wiggle room in the rates. Still, there was a big decline in ground balls and a big increase in line drives. More line drives is always a good thing and for Vincej, it showed up in the numbers. It could explain his career best BABIP of .346 (full season best). Both his fly ball and pop up rates remained right in line with his career rates. If being more aggressive is going to lead to high line drive rates – perhaps due to swinging at pitches earlier in counts, this new approach could help moving forward. You’d like to see the walk rate tick back up some. In Arizona it was 11.3%, double the rate he had in the regular season. If he can find a way to up the walk rate a little bit and continue to hit line drives at a high rate he could really become a guy to keep an eye on. 11 Responses DaveCT January 12, 2017 Let’s see if he can handle all of the breaking balls he’ll see at AAA. MK January 12, 2017 It is unfortunate that he plays the middle infield where there are so many highly regarded prospects ahead of him. He is probably not going to get much of a shot, regardless of his approach. The Duke January 12, 2017 Hit enough, and he’ll get a shot. There is no guarantee Dilson Herrera knocks the cover off the ball in AAA. If Billy Hamilton regressed again you can move Peraza to CF. Injuries always happen. He could carve out a career as a utility infielder. Lots of scenarios where Vincej gets a chance. Just have to keep grinding. RedsKoolAidDrinker January 12, 2017 Doug, Is he blocked at AAA or do you think he’ll start the season there? Also, what do you think is his ceiling? Doug Gray January 12, 2017 He’s not blocked unless somehow Peraza winds up back in Triple-A. Ceiling is a fringy starter. Realistic – possibly utility guy/shuttle type that goes back and forth from Triple-A and the Majors. Krozley January 12, 2017 We know he can play shortstop so I would have him get some experience at other positions this year to prepare for a possible career as a utility guy off the bench. scottya January 12, 2017 This guys defense is enough to get him a shot .991 fielding percentage at Short! That will be 1.5 war ish, depending on range. If he can ops 650 he is equal to or better than cozart. I hope we can keep him next year, he’ll have to be added to the 40 man roster likely to not be lost in the rule 5, if he continues to progress. Perfect backup for peraza if peraza falters. Matthew O'Neal January 12, 2017 Hope he can hit enough in AAA this year to work out as some sort of super utility. Or make him the future SS if Peraza’s defense doesn’t play out. Peraza could easily fulfill the role of a Zobrist super utility. cinvenfan January 12, 2017 I know it doesn’t belong here, but I wanted to post it anyway. Interesting take on Luiz Gohara at Rosenthal’s column today: “The would-be Zack Cozart trade from this past trade deadline fell apart due to the Reds’ concerns over Gohara’s shoulder, Rosenthal hears. So, after all, the “trade” didn’t fall apart because of the Reds “didn’t have time” argument … Nice to know after some fans and some writers -casual writers I might say- who love to jump on the Reds front office without REALLY having the whole information went on their daily gospel… Doug Gray January 12, 2017 I was literally writing about this as you replied here about it. I’ve posted about it now. I’ll let you read it and you can comment over there, but I still think the Reds look a little bad on this whole trade front (not because they apparently didn’t like the medicals, but because of what they said after the Mariners made their comments). cinvenfan January 12, 2017 Let me be clear here. First, when I mentioned “writers” I didn’t mean you as I consider you are perfectly fair with the team, criticizing and praising when it’s due. Second, you know what people I’m talking about. If Marty’s detractors say his negativity on Votto and old school approach is bad for business, much so can be said about these people that alienate fans against the team just to prove their point. Sure enough I’ll wait for your post to comment. Thanks!