A couple of weeks ago, we got an update on shortstop Jackson Cluff and how much he valued his time this summer at the alternate training site in Fredericksburg. Cluff, 23, appreciated the opportunity to stand in against big league pitchers and learned a great deal about what it takes to be a professional baseball player and how to maintain at this level from veteran Brandon Snyder.
“That was a great experience for him to be around veteran guys and see how they work and see how they go about their business, their routines,” said Nationals hitting coordinator Troy Gingrich, who worked with Cluff this month at fall instructional league in South Florida.
The No. 20 Nats prospect struggled at times in 2019 at low Single-A Hagerstown, hitting .229 in 62 games with 63 strikeouts. Gingrich believes moving on from playing a full season of 53 games at BYU straight to pro ball took its toll physically on Cluff. But this late into 2020, Gingrich sees a much improved hitter.
“He was kind of wore out,” Gingrich said. “By the end of the year, he was kind of spent. This year, he’s stronger, he’s fresher. We worked on making sure he was able to keep his hands above the ball all the time and not dropping his hands. I’m big in believing a guy’s hands work up to work down and his hands kind of dropped as he hit. So he has improved that.
“Another thing that he has improved is being able to stay down in his legs throughout his swing. When you get those two combinations better, along with how quick his bat is and how much his strike zone knowledge is improved, all those things go hand in hand.”
Gingrich said he can see with the naked eye what was happening to Cluff in his swing and diagnosed a plan to remedy his swing and the buildup of his approach.
“I’ve seen it for a long time now,” Gingrich said. “I will use video and that stuff to help me with some adjustments I think they need to make. Seeing him and watching his hands drop as he goes where he comes up out of his legs throughout his swing. I go and look at video that confirms to me that’s what’s going on.”
Gingrich then provided examples of where he wanted Cluff to start his approach by showing stills and videos of Nats hitters as they begin their swing. Just as he did with Drew Mendoza, Gingrich helped Cluff put together hitting drills to repeat for the offseason as he prepares for 2021.
“He’s someone that’s pretty exciting to watch for how quick-twitched he is as a player,” Gingrich said.