Where Stephen Piscotty Got the Power

Going into the season, Stephen Piscotty was projected to be a contact and patience guy because that’s what he’d been in the minor leagues for the most part. But this offseason, he had a plan, and he changed his approach and mechanics in order to be a better player. Perhaps the projections going forward are a little light, given the changes he’s made.

Preseason Steamer projections had Piscotty with a .114 isolated slugging percentage, on par with Logan Forsythe and Ryan Sweeney. After a power surge in Triple-A for 370 plate appearances, and four major league homers, the rest of season projection is now up to a .133 level, or Coco Crisp and Desmond Jennings level.

That’s improvement, but what if he’s fundamentally changed and the projections are still light?

“In the offseason I made an attempt to tap into more power, that was a big offseason goal,” the outfielder said before a game with the Giants. In order to do that, the outfielder tried to get a “flatter bat path, not so much down to the ball.” The elbows turned out to be a big key. “I worked on getting my back elbow a little closer to my body to get more extension. The whole thing was about getting more extension.”

Here’s video of his swing in 2013:

Here is Piscotty in 2015:

It does look like Piscotty is trying to get the bat down to the hitting zone first in order to have a flatter path through the zone. It’s hard to see the tucked in elbow from this angle, but there is a difference.

Particularly at one moment, it seems that Piscotty is doing a better job maximizing his leverage. Look at these freeze frames from 2013 and 2015 next to each other.

Piscotty201315
Piscotty near the moment of impact in 2013 (left) and 2015 (right).

On the right, Piscotty’s body is angled better to produce a fly ball. His left shoulder is a little higher, and maybe his right shoulder is more tucked in, and all of this creates a different swing plane. A swing plane more conducive to power.

Beyond the changes Piscotty has made, there are two things that are different about the major leagues that may aid in his attempt to retain these power gains.

For one, the major league ball goes further, on average, in controlled experiments. Piscotty is now hitting more fly balls — his minor league average was 1.74 ground balls per every outfield fly ball, and he changed that to 1.18 in Memphis this year. He’s hitting 1.6 ground balls per outfield fly ball right now, but batters usually hit more fly balls as they age, and the hitter himself said that his 140 major league plate appearances are still “a small sample size.” Each additional fly ball should help take him advantage of the livelier major league ball.

Major league velocity is also higher than in the minor leagues. Nate Stoltz showed that 36% of the pitchers in High-A averaged less than 90 mph on their fastball. 17% of qualified major league starters this year average less than 90, and it’s even less if you start counting relievers. Bat speed is roughly six times more important to batted ball exit velocity than the incoming velocity, but that means that incoming velocity is still important. And if we can assume that Piscotty’s bat speed is the same now as it was in the minors, we could expect a small boost in exit velocity due to the pitchers he’s facing.

Especially since he likes fastballs — he’s top ten in work per 100 fastballs so far. “I’ve always liked hitting velocity, I like hitting fastballs, I like when the pitchers supply the power,” Piscotty said of hitting the hard stuff.

It’s true that the added velocity and different major league ball are factors that are equally true for all young players, and so the projections account for them, in essence. But Stephen Piscotty may be uniquely suited to take advantage of them. Particularly with the adjustments he’s made to his swing.

We hoped you liked reading Where Stephen Piscotty Got the Power by Eno Sarris!

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With a phone full of pictures of pitchers' fingers, strange beers, and his two toddler sons, Eno Sarris can be found at the ballpark or a brewery most days. Read him here, writing about the A's or Giants at The Athletic, or about beer at October. Follow him on Twitter @enosarris if you can handle the sandwiches and inanity.

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BigDaddyCool
Guest
BigDaddyCool

I do not believe in this swing change. Piscotty is a mediocre player who would not be talked about if he were a Cubs’ prospect. He would be burried behind a flood of better prospects. Kiley give 50 FV at best. Cameron has seen him and says he’s a fourth outfielder.

No reason to think he is any good. Maybe 1 win player at best over a full season. Certainly nothing to write home about.

ceee
Guest
ceee

I guess scouts have never been wrong before?
A rookie 36 games into his career and has a .944 OPS & 1.5 War.
yeah, you’re right lets not talk about it. He sucks.

BigDaddyCool
Guest
BigDaddyCool

I will trust Kiley and Dave over any other scout any day of the week.

deez nutz
Guest
deez nutz

if you want a site to orgasm over your team, try ESPN. they love the cubs

Matt Carpenter, Allen Craig and Matt Adams
Guest
Matt Carpenter, Allen Craig and Matt Adams

No Cardinals non-prospect has ever emerged into a solid major league hitter.

Ben Cherington
Guest
Ben Cherington

haha Allen Craig.

Cmart's cups
Guest
Cmart's cups

The problem here is that Piscotty is very much a real prospect and has been highly rated by many respected places like BA and BP. For whatever reason Kiley does not think that much of him, which is fine – each scout has his own perspective. And Cameron is a good writer but is not a scout nor a prospect guy. Not to pick on Dave because he generally does great work, but he said Carlos Martinez was only a reliever when everybody else was seeing a starter with three plus pitches.

Piscotty may not be a super star and yes the babip will come down, but he is a very good prospect who looks like he will be a very good player.

Za
Guest
Za

Kiley misses far more often than the average scout from what I’ve seen. Much of what he writes is borderline nonsense.

K
Guest
K

Sounds objective and evidence-based.

Cmart's cups
Guest
Cmart's cups

I wouldn’t say that about Kiley. He’s a good analyst who puts out a good product.

Za
Guest
Za

You’re forgetting a certain first ballot HoF 13th rounder…

BigDaddyCool
Guest
BigDaddyCool

ESPN has an article about the cubs and their airline pajamas if you prefer.

WachaWachaWacha
Guest
WachaWachaWacha

A waaaaaahmbulance has been dispatched to your location to soothe your inferiority complex.

Famous Mortimer
Member

“Cameron has seen him”. I like how you make out that’s in any way impressive. In other words, he’s gone to mlb.tv and made three clicks?

Bill
Guest
Bill

Betting against the Cardinals player development process is a losing game. I’m not a Cards fan, but their prowess in this area is difficult to deny. It seems even their most mediocre prospects become successful big leaguers. They have the best record in the league with a nearly entirely homegrown team. This isn’t the result of years of high draft picks like in Chicago or Houston. Most of these guys were panned by other talent evaluaters. I would have bet against Carpenter, Adams, Lynn, Wacha, Garcia, Miller (turned in to Heyward), and Grichuk, yet they hit on all of these guys. This can’t be dumb luck.

Lanidrac
Guest
Lanidrac

Grichuk was drafted by the Angels and traded to St. Louis while still in the minors (as with Wainwright and the Braves), but otherwise you make an excellent point. Even if you just consider all the guys they draft in the second half of the first round or the supplemental round (Colby Rasmus, Chris Perez, Miller, Lynn, Wong, Wacha, Piscotty, etc.), they hit on solid MLB players more often than most teams.

DJ
Guest
DJ

hurr durrr

It sure doesn’t sound like you have any inherent bias towards any particular team.