Top Prospect Series with JK Whited

Check out the MLB Prospect Series. Learn what these top prospects do well and what they can improve on as they head into the 2020 baseball season.

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Top 5 Ways Player's Get Worse From Team Practice

With the season about to kick off here in the southern states. We wanted to highlight a few things about team practice.

The way team hitting / batting practice is organized, and the culture that is created during practice can be either very helpful or damaging to your baseball/softball player's ability to take quality swings and not feel afraid to take them.

How Do They Get Worse in Practice?

Here are just a handful of situations or batting routines that might be happening to your player at practice. If you are a coach, let's take some time to perhaps rethink how your baseball/softball team's hitting time is being used.

1. Too Much Defensive Work

Yes, this does happen! Before I get too critical on coaches and their practice plans here, it should be said that I love defense. I was a catcher my whole career and loved making defensive plays and stopping runs from scoring.

It's crucial for the outfield and infield to be able to communicate and work well together, but do we really need to skip hitting so that there can be 3 hours of bunt coverage? Especially on a play that gets ran once a year! Every baseball and softball player in the lineup will get at least two at-bats in a game. The one secret play, that never works, is not worth the time. Do the math, get some swings in.

Practice Solution
Practice solution

If you have to have entire practices dedicated to defense, just be sure to do the same for hitting. Even if a player has what might be considered a "bad swing," at least they can develop timing with their bad swing and have more of a chance for success.

2. Throwing Bad BP or Front Toss

One of the more frustrating things for us to see is a player that has a good swing but gets worse because his coach can't throw front toss or batting practice. It is even more frustrating when the coach who just bounced five balls in a row gets mad at the hitter for not swinging. Most young players are afraid of their coaches already and don't want to"talk back."

What Happens Next?

The player will undoubtedly start taking awful swings at awful pitches just to appease the coach. Which ruins his own practice time. Every time the coach throws a bad pitch, the player should take it. Which can even be used to the hitter and coaches benefit. If the coach continues to throw poorly, the player should then be allowed to go work off the tee. Or they can go through dry swings where they can practice good movements.

Practice Solution
Practice Solution

Coaches should practice throwing strikes overhand and front toss. Before any us at Baseball Rebellion became a full-time instructor, we had to become great at front toss and BP. Not to say we don't make mistakes. But hitters, especially ones learning new movements, have to have a certain level of consistency with each pitch. That way they can focus more on their swing.

If one of your responsibilities as a coach is to front toss or throw batting practice, you need to be somewhat good at it. Or you will only make your team worse.

3. Batting / Pitching Machines

If you are not currently an in-person or online client of the Baseball Rebellion, it's challenging to visualize practicing a baseball/softball swing without hitting a ball. All of our clients know how to train at home with no bat, and no-ball. While having huge gains in their swing. Taking your team or player to a batting cage or even bringing in a "portable" batting machine to practice seems like a good idea in theory.

The Machine Problem

The problem with certain machines and creating a good swing occurs in the timing of the pitch. Especially if your swing has a good loading phase.  For the hitter to properly execute the start of this move, they must use the load phase of the pitcher as a visual to know when to start. Since most pitching machines have zero to very little pre-release action, the hitter can struggle at getting started. Therefore throwing off their entire swing pattern. This is especially difficult for baseball and softball hitters who have just started to learn this type of movement.

Bad Baseball / Softball batting or pitching machine

We have talked about pitching machines that we like and the best ways to use them in training. Any machine that shoots the ball out without any warning is one to watch out for. These can be extremely frustrating to a hitter with movement. The ball will suddenly appear which gives it the perception as fast. However, the speed of the ball is normal to slow, causing the hitter to suddenly jump forward but then realize they are super early getting their front foot down. Unless you are very in-tuned with your body and timing, there is very little hope for consistent or powerful contact.

Keep it Simple

No baseball or softball player out there wants to look bad in front of his teammates and coaches. So they will begin to strip away movement from their swing. Ultimately the once good swing is now sliced down to a panic-induced wrist snap. Months of training and money has been wasted.

Practice Solution
Practice Solution

This is a tough one because I do understand the need to take swings with a moving ball. And as mentioned earlier good throwers can be hard to come by. For players, if you can't work on good timing with a negative to positive move forward, then my advice would be to start with your front foot already down.

If your mechanics are already good, you can still work on lots of other parts of the swing like hip rotation, front and back leg action, and barrel path, just to name a few. However, if the hitter's mechanics are already bad, I am afraid these types of machines can only cause more frustration and negativity.

4. Situational Batting Practice ONLY

A lot like bunt coverage practice, there is a definite time and place for situation hitting practice. But often baseball and softball teams spend countless hours of hitting/batting practice time on nothing but hit-and-runs, slashes, bunting, two-strike approaches, etc. Again these are times that may only happen one or two times a game, hence the name situational.

STOP slash bunting in Baseball or Softball

Now if you are dedicating the opening round of batting practice to a few bunts and one or two hit-and-runs. That is one thing, but making entire rounds dedicated to hitting the ball backside on the ground can be detrimental to a good swing.

The 'Backside' Approach

In rounds like those, the hitter is forced by the demands of the coach to hit every pitch, even inside pitches, to the backside of the field. Again, the hitter, being afraid to disappoint the coach, will adopt a weak backside mentality. This is creating a slower delayed turn of the barrel to flick the ball that way. Then when the game comes around, the coach wonders why his team can't drive the ball.

The "backside approach" round can work for very specific cases of timing issues but usually not for the whole team.

If you want a solid batting practice plan, click here. 

Practice Solution
Practice Solution

Immediately after a brief situational round, allow your hitters to "let it fly." Get them ready to do what they will most likely have to do in the game, Hit! I think a lot of coaches out there would be surprised in the performance of their hitters if they introduced more power rounds in their practice or even dedicated one to a home run round.

Not only would the players have ready their aggressive mindsets, but they would also have a lot more fun knowing they have the freedom to go for it. Less fear and more aggressive hitters should be what any baseball or softball coach should strive for. Don't be afraid to see how a player can develop over time with this kind of practice.

The baseball and softball players that we work with everyday start to learn how to hit doubles on purpose and their mishits become hard singles.  As a hitter, it feels great knowing you can make mistakes and still get on base.

5.  Quick Pitching the Hitter

I chose this topic to close because it seems to be what all of my clients have in common. We spend months before the season getting their swings to be powerful and consistent. During this process, they are allowed to move freely through the entire swing then reset before the next pitch.

In this resetting time, they have they can regain their composure, think about and make adjustments, and then take another good swing. 

Coaches have to remember that practice time is the hitter's time to get better. Not their time to see how many swings they can take in two minutes.

Too many of our hitters will see us during the season, after months of training, and all of a sudden they have a shorter yet weaker swings with no finish. Before they even finish their swing, they are slowing down and hopping back into their stances.

They cut out their rhythm, their forward motion, and their finish to get ready for the next pitch. Time and time again they fall victim to the "practice culture" in baseball and softball.

When they finally do take a full and aggressive swing at practice, the coach will already be throwing the next pitch before the player has a chance to reset. So when the player decides not to swing because they are not ready, they get yelled at. Now fear has been installed in the young player, and they cut down their swing to make the coach happy.

Practice Solution
Practice Solution

Take less, but better swings. The old saying goes "quality over quantity," and nothing could be more true for baseball and softball swings and practice. With every quick restart with zero time to think, your hitters are getting worse.

If you have a limited time for hitting at practice, then use the time wisely. Cut each round down by three or four swings and let the hitters focus on their swing and training, whatever it might be. If you're a player with this issue, don't be afraid to let a pitch go by from time to time or ask the coach to slow down.

All players should be able to speak to their coaches and ask for time. It is the player's practice after all.

It's the Players Career, Not the Coaches

To sum it all up, I understand how difficult it is to be a coach at any level. Every level of baseball and softball has its obstacles to hurdle when it comes to practice.

Things like field time, coaching assistance, even balls can be hard to come by. I don't want this article to bash on all coaches, everywhere, who try hard to do it right. But trying hard and not knowing, are two different things. We have tons of FREE articles on here that can help you become a better coach. If more coaches took the time to improve upon some of this issue, everybody and the sports of baseball and softball would benefit.

Lastly, if one of your parents is taking a player on your team to see a professional instructor, please respect their choice to outsource their information and invest their money. Let their players focus on his or her specific goals and work on their swing regardless if you think it's right.

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3 Tee Drill

Get Consistent Hard Contact with the 3 Tee Drill

If your hitter struggled to make contact to all fields last season check out our version of the 3 tee drill series & how it can help them develop a consistent bat path

UPPER BODY ISOLATION Drill

Upper Body Isolation Drill

Learn how isolating your upper body during hitting drills can help improve your hitters side bend and make them more consistent hard contact hitters.

The front leg serves as the break so the back hip can quickly pull forward to the spine. Without it, a sudden acceleration of the barrel is nearly impossible.

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Check out this simple drill that can be done indoors to help improve hitters' head position during their stride which allows them to swing the bat faster.

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Need a drill to do indoors? Check out the lastest BR Winter Series for a drill on how to work on keeping a bent front arm throughout the swing.
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Stride to Separation- Baseball Rebellion's Indoor Training Winter Series

This week's installment of my Winter Series is brought to you by a good question that I received on my last post. Last week I did a video about isolating the coil and then feeling the separation created out from the coil.  Here is the question that I got from Mike about that video about the stride and separation.

article question

Separation

This was a good question and a good opportunity to show you how it works with a stride and separation. I choose to film this from the behind the plate view so that you can see the coil followed by the separation that occurs when the hitter "goes".  I think it's important to understand that max separation should only occur if the hitter decides to swing.

The coil and the stride however, should always occur. I will say that there might be some separation on a taken pitch because the hitter should always assume they will swing but max separation will only happen for a full commitment to the pitch.

I hope this answers the questions that came up and I would love to answer any other questions that you guys might have.

Remote Training for Hitters

No Place to Train this Off-Season? Check Out How Remote Training Lessons Can Work For You!

At Baseball Rebellion we have been doing remote training hitting lessons (as well as pitching lessons) for over six years and have worked with over 500 online clients from all around the country and the world!

We wanted to give Baseball Rebellion readers inside access to what our remote training is all about. In the video below, I highlight the improvements that can be made to hitters over time using the Baseball Rebellion methodology and how we utilize Hudl Technique to make it happen.

This video highlights one of my online client's improvements over a six-month period. He has been one of my hardest working clients online and continues to improve! Enjoy!

Highlights of the 6 Month Swing Improvement from Remote Training

Front Foot, Leg, and Hip

Before
Closed Front Side
Closed Front Side
After
Open Front Side
Open Front Side

Head Position

Before
Head Forward
Head Forward
After
Head Back
Head Back

Back & Balanced on Finish

Before
Upright Finish
Upright Finish
After
Back and Balanced Finish
Back and Balanced Finish
Stuck indoors hitting for the Winter? JK's Winter Series will give you drills you can do almost anywhere in your home. Check out this week's new drill!

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Can't get outside this winter to train? JK Whited's Winter Series will give you drills you can do almost anywhere in your home. Drill #1- The Doorway Stride

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Learn 3 ways that your hitters can learn to swing at better pitches and a few drills to help them lock in on how to read pitches vs just see pitches.

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Confidence: A feeling or consciousness of one's powers or reliance on one's circumstances.

Have you ever met a professional athlete at the highest level?  If you have, you've probably noticed their presence, their swagger, their aura.  There is a way about them that sometimes is hard to quantify. It's a trait they all seem to carry with them in and out of the arena. That trait is simply confidence.

I want to share with you today a concept that we want all our athletes to obtain.  That is the concept of baseline confidence.  An ability to always believe their potential to do damage at the plate, no matter what their stat line might be.  Baseball is a hard game.

As we all know, a good hitter will usually have a batting average near or over .300.  Which also means their "failing" 70% of the time.  There isn't another endeavor in the world that can say a success rate of 30% is high level. Because of this, it can be very easy to perceive "failure" as not batting .300 on the year, month, or weekend.  Believe me, there is a way to go hitless for the weekend and still feel great about what you're doing. Let's look at where achieving high baseline confidence starts.

Your Work

High School Sophomore Working on His Stride at BRHQ
High School Sophomore Working on His Stride at BRHQ

It goes without saying, the time that you put into your craft will directly relate to the height of your success.  Now, that also depends heavily on working smart during that time.  Having a good understanding of your swing is crucial to having high baseline confidence.

One of the best things for me as a professional instructor is when I see a student of any age, self-correct.  They just know.  They can feel the flaw and immediately change something in their swing to get the desired result.  It is important here to make sure the information you are receiving and paying for is correct.

If it's not, you can work really hard at something that is completely incorrect.  I myself am a great example of this.  Be sure to ask questions and make sure you know exactly what you are doing every single time you swing the bat.

Having Goals

Sounds simple right? You would be amazed how many new clients come it with absolutely no idea what they want to do at the plate.

Chas Going Over HitTrax Numbers with New Clients
Chas Going Over HitTrax Numbers with New Clients
Eric Discussing Swing Mechanics to New Client
Eric Discussing Swing Mechanics to New Client

Usually, the answers we get are some sort of regurgitated version of cultural baseball nonsense.  These things include things like "hit the ball", "put it in play", "get a hit", and so on and so forth.  I mean what are those?  Does Javy Baez, Christian Yelich, or Mookie Betts look like that's all they're trying to do at the plate?

Let's get one thing clear, those guys are up there looking to do damage.  Train accordingly.  I've found that the more a player trains to do damage the better the results are in games, the more fun they have, the higher their confidence gets.  Even if they are 0-4 one game, they are fully aware of their abilities.  One at-bat, one game, one weekend doesn't define who they are.  Their baseline confidence doesn't allow them to think any less than what they are fully capable of.

Short Term Memory

Like I have said already, baseball is hard.  There are days where everything is feeling great and balls are jumping off the bat.  Other days, not so much.  The key here is to learn and move on.  Too many players take one at-bat, swing, or game into their next one.  Once this happens, the issues seem to get worse.  If you've put in the work and can correctly identify the issue the only thing left is a slight adjustment.  Could be just timing but if it's a swing adjustment, time in front of the mirror or cage work could be the only thing you need.  Don't let small sample sizes freak you out and think your swing needs a major overhaul.

By creating a high baseline confidence level a player can quickly overcome poor performance and feel excited about the next opportunity to play.  There is nothing worse than fearing your next at-bat due to feelings of uncertainty about what you can do.

Re-define Failure

The word "fail" always carries a negative undertone when it doesn't have to.  Change that today.  A great example of this is my daughter.  She just celebrated her first birthday last month and has begun trying to walk more.  In her attempts to walk from point A to point B she ultimately falls down.  Would you look at an infant and say she is failing?  No, you would say she's learning.  The same goes with your swing.  No matter how much progress you have made so far, there will always be a new period of "failing".  If you look at is a learning opportunity or simply the fact your actually doing something different, the tone is positive and much easier for growth.  Too many kids feel as if they let their team, coaches, and family down in a major way if they "mess up".  This could be anything from striking out in a game or mis-hitting a ball in practice.  The negativity just oozes from their body and growth cannot happen.

Learn to use these learning opportunities to get better and your confidence will not waiver because of the simple positive view you are taking.  You know that you'll figure out whatever your working on, you just know it takes time.  Trust your process and good things can happen.

Understanding Mishits

I thought I'd leave you with a very applicable baseball idea.  We have written many times about good vs bad mishits.  Understanding this can help you develop and raise your baseline confidence to a new level.

As we've discussed already 0-4 never looks good in the stat books right?  While statistically, that is correct, the confidence lies in the details.  Below we will discuss low baseline confidence remarks from both the player and the parent perspective:

Player Response

Example 1: Hitless Game

Low baseline confidence response:

"I really struggled today, man I hope I do better tomorrow."

High baseline confidence response:

"Man, I was all over the pitcher today, just have to get my timing a little better.  I'll get'em tomorrow"

Example 2:  Fly ball caught by the left fielder.

Low baseline confidence reaction:

"I just can't seem to buy a hit!"

High baseline confidence reaction:

"Wow, that pitcher was lucky I just got under it.  That swing felt great!"

Example 3.  Strikeout

Low baseline confidence reaction:

"Striking out is so bad, I can't believe I did it again"

High baseline confidence reaction:

"I struck out, but I took my hacks early and just missed my fastball opportunity.  He better not throw that again"

Parent Response

Example 1: Hitless Game

Low baseline confidence response:

"You really didn't play well today. We're going home to practice until we get it right"

High baseline confidence response:

"You really played hard today. I know that you didn't do as well as you wanted but I'm proud of your effort"

Example 2:  Fly ball caught by the left fielder.

Low baseline confidence reaction:

"He/She hasn't gotten a hit in forever I'm done watching these games"

High baseline confidence reaction:

"Oh what a hit! You were so close to getting that over the fence. Keep swing hard!"

Example 3.  Strikeout

Low baseline confidence reaction:

"I can't believe they just struck out for the fourth time this weekend. What a waste of money"

High baseline confidence reaction:

"Even though you struck out you really looked like you were swinging hard today, the hits will come if you keep swinging like that."

A Visual Understanding of Baseline Confidence
A Visual Understanding of Baseline Confidence

This concept might be new to you or maybe you already practice these types of things to make sure you or your player is always feeling on top of their game. Either way, as baseball gets harder, it becomes even more important to believe in yourself.

Baseline confidence can be a sliding scale.  Hopefully, the better you get at using these techniques, your lowest point of confidence will still be higher than it was a month before.  Therefore not stunting your growth for too long.  When used correctly, these techniques will become a habit, and you won't even know your using them.  Do this, and you've mastered the concept.

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Coaches and Parents: Learn What You Need To Be Looking For In Your Hitter's Swing

Evaluating Hitters

When evaluating hitters what are you looking for? Do you even know what is important or vital for hitters to be doing? We want to help make it easier for you to breakdown your hitter's swings. There are certain mechanics that are a MUST when it comes to being an elite hitter. We're here to show you what those are.

By now you guys know me and have a pretty good handle on how I explain ideas and concepts at Baseball Rebellion Headquarters or here in my articles.

I'm a huge analogy guy.  The reason for this is because I really enjoy simplifying movements to their core and getting rid of the grey area.  For players of all ages but especially younger players, analogies do a great job of cleaning things up inside their heads.

The Important vs. Vital Analogy For Hitters

The important vs. vital concept is no different than anything else.  Like the human body, there are parts of us that are vital to our health and therefore living.  These things are measured as "vitals" in the medical world.

The four main ones are body temperature, heart rate or pulse, respiratory rate, and blood pressure.  Anything other than those four vitals would be listed as important.

In hitting, vitals are concepts or movements that can not be compensated for. Without them, players can "stay alive" in baseball but will ultimately not last.

Important aspects of the swing are things that are nice to have and can really help, but are necessities to be great long term.

I'm sure at this point you're wondering how this relates to hitting.  Well, here it goes.

NOTE: All GIF's are courtesy of and credited to Craig Hyatt (@HyattCraig)

Important Mechanics To Look For When Evaluating Hitters

1. Proper Footwork

Now don't' get me wrong here.  We teach footwork until it's really good but you can find tons of examples in the big leagues of guys doing all sorts of things with their feet in games.

Strong Positioning

It's important to have a solid base of footwork but at the end of the day, if the bat is fast and going up pitch plane, you'll do damage.  Proper footwork will, however, allow hitters to get the most out of what their hips are trying to do. Proper footwork can help you maintain a strong balance throughout your stride and your swing.

2. Back Foot Movement

As stated above, if you look at a few of your favorite big league players you'll notice a variety of back foot movement.  Generally, they all rotate to some degree but the distance forward can really vary, and for some, it may even go behind them.  For the hips to fully clear it is important that the back foot is allowed to move not forced improperly.  The bigger you are the less it may need to move.  For little guys, letting the back foot move can really open up your hip turn and speed.

3. Variation of Leg Kick/Stride

I'm listing this because people often combine the aggressive look of a high leg kick (Donaldson) with a player's power production.  It's important that a hitter find what variation of a leg kick works for them but not everybody has to have their knee in their face.

Prepare

Leg kicks give hitter time to prepare more and therefore give them more power at contact.  Plenty of players have hit the ball really well their whole careers with subtle front leg moves.

4. Perfect Upper Body Mechanics

While perfect upper body mechanics can really be beneficial, we know it can vary.  Ken Griffey Jr. played his whole career with an armbar.  Every game you can see guys adjusting their arms and hands to get to certain pitch locations.  Again, if the bat is fast and on plane, that's all that matters and sometimes a hitter must do something at the moment to just stay alive.

5. The Perfect Stance

I don't believe there is such a thing.  Watch a game and you'll see a variety of stance players use.  Sometimes a player might have multiple stances throughout a season or career.  It is important however to have a stance that fits your own personal tempo and ability.  Don't be afraid to try different things and mimic your favorite hitters.  Just be athletic and you might stumble across who you were meant to be.

Which One Are You?

Big leaguers have had thousands of different batting stances, check out this cool article here on "The Batting Stance Guy."

Vital Mechanics To Look For When Evaluating Hitters

1. Intent

Nothing new here.  If the player does not want to do damage mentally and emotionally at the plate, no mechanical fixes will matter.  They MUST shed any fear or doubt before mechanical adjustments can really help them in games.  Intent starts at practice and reveals itself in games.

2. Vision

The idea of seeing the ball well is a simple one but is widely not worked on.  Hitters must be aware that good vision is a move.  The head must turn inward as the body rotates out. 

Using Vision

Most hitters lose the ball as it approaches them and therefore power and consistency are negatively affected.

3. General Body Awareness

Body Awareness

Hitters will spend the majority of their time away from their instructors.  They have to be able to self adjust quickly at practice and games.  It is the instructor's job to help their hitter's get to a point where they can get themselves out of slumps or stay out of them altogether.

4. Load/Gather/Coil/Separation

Pick whichever one of these words you like, they all mean the same thing.  The body must prepare to fire in some way(there are better ways than others).  If this never happens, hitting the ball hard can't happen.  Be sure you understand to prepare properly and that you know what body parts really swing the bat.

 

5. Angles

Getting the body and specifically the upper body into the proper angle during the load is crucial.  This determines the quality of the previously stated vitals. 

The Angles Game

If a hitter can create the proper angle and spacing they will see vision increase, barrel depth, barrel acceleration, barrel path, and time all go up. 

So yes, get good at this.  I will write a more detailed article on this very soon. For now, check out my Hitters and Angles article to learn more!

Learn how striding with your front hip sets up the body to be in better positions.

Key Takeaways When Evaluating Hitters

The key thing to take away from this is that "vitals" should not be compensated for what might be only "important".  For example, if your back foot is moving so far that it changes your angles/posture than eliminate your back foot move or lessen it.  If you like your stance but cannot load your body properly, change your stance and make it easier to prepare. If trying to have "perfect footwork" keeps you from being explosive then stop worrying about being perfect and smash the ball!

Understand what is vital and what is important and it can really clarify your thoughts when you might be struggling to find answers.

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