After struggling for two straight seasons with the Frederick Keys of the Carolina League, O’s minor leaguer Billy Rowell is making a change.
He made some adjustments with his swing during instructional league workouts in September and October.
“I went back to my old swing from high school. You have to stick with what works. There are a lot of ideas but at the end of the day it’s what works for you. This swing is the most consistent and most natural.
“I had more power at instructional league. My weight transfer was better and I was getting to pitches easier and freer. I was able to get to all pitches and hit them all over the field.
“This was the swing I had early in high school and the swing that got me drafted. I don’t know why I ever changed, but I used this swing my first two years in pro ball, short season and Delmarva. (Oriole) Coaches agreed and everyone is on the same page.”
Rowell, the 9th pick in the 2006 draft, had initial success with the Orioles, hitting .328 between Bluefield and Aberdeen in 2006 and then he hit .273 with Delmarva a year later.
But then came two tough seasons in the Carolina League.
Rowell w-Fred, 2008: .248-7-50....315 OBP.....368 slug......104 K’s
Rowell w-Fred, 2009 .225-9-39....284 OBP......336 slug.......122 K’s
“I changed my swing during struggles at Frederick. When you struggle, you want to find an answer, but sometimes there is no answer in baseball. A lot of times in baseball one plus one doesn’t equal two. Sometimes just putting in hard work and staying focused isn’t enough.
“Now, my weight transfer is better. When you have a weight transfer without a lunge, you have more power. Easy power, not generated power from your legs. Also, you can load your hands, but doing it purposely will not get you to the ball as fast as you want. The hands should load automatically.
“If you are not in the right position with your hands when your foot gets down, you don’t get to the ball. When a fastball is coming you can’t be thinking about your swing. It has to be second nature and this swing feels more natural.”
While some fans have gotten down on Rowell, he remains upbeat. In fact, he has spent the past two months working out near Naples, Florida and plans to report early to spring training.
He’s added some weight (up to 225) and has just seven percent body fat. Among his work, he’s been taking some live batting practice off former Keys pitcher Jake Stevens.
“At Frederick, I had high and low points. You have to be consistent and I wasn’t. That is part of playing the game and being a big league player, consistency. The numbers were not there last year, but I think mentally and physically I took another step closer to the big leagues.”
Rowell was drafted in large part due to his power potential. But he hit just two homers after the All-Star break last season and has hit 28 in 1,345 minor league at bats over four seasons.
He has heard the rumblings that he will start the 2010 season at Double-A Bowie, although no one has told him that yet. He realizes a change of scenery might be best for him this year.
“It would be good. But I have no control over that. Moving up, some guys do better in Double-A than they did in Frederick. From league to league there is a little difference. If I am consistent next season, the numbers will be there.”
Rowell was drafted out of a New Jersey high school in 2006 and he just turned 21 September 10th. He has been one of the youngest players in the Carolina League for two years running.
Some have expressed concern over his attitude and work ethic. I asked last year’s Frederick manager Richie Hebner, what he thought about Rowell.
“He could work a little harder. I don’t think he learned a lot of baseball in high school. When you hit .600, you bat third and that’s it. I’m not sure how much he learned.
“But you don’t see too many 21-year-old kids with a body like that. When he hits the ball, it goes a long way. I’m not going to throw the towel in on Billy.”
Billy Rowell, OPS by season:
.929 - 2006 at Bluefield
.876 - 2006 at Aberdeen
.761 - 2007 at Delmarva
.683 - 2008 at Frederick
.620 - 2009 at Frederick
Click here to see what Andy MacPhail said about Rowell in a December interview.