Nationals fall instructional league workouts wrap up over the weekend. Players now prepare for offseason conditioning and some will get extra at-bats in winter league competition.
Rain has prevented the Nats from playing the intended full schedule, with over 20 inches of rain falling on South Florida during this month.
I got the opportunity to check in with Nats hitting coordinator Troy Gingrich this week and we ran down a few of the hitters he worked with in West Palm Beach, Fla. Gingrich estimated because of the rainy weather, they played only six or seven of the 12 games scheduled against the Marlins.
“The big thing last year was he was kind of long and uphill with his swing,” Gingrich said. “Within a year, he has done a really good job of shortening his path down. The big focus this year while we were down here was now being explosive with his legs and kind of hitting into his front side, and not sitting back and retreating. He has gotten better. This offseason is going to be big for him to continue to work on that. Once that happens - I call it impacting the baseball - you will start to see some of the power that he possesses.”
Gingrich said by emphasizing where Mendoza impacts the baseball will generate the most power, and that begins in his lower half. They changed that mindset and saw results.
“Using his legs in a different way than how he thought about using his legs,” Gingrich said. “I want him hitting into his front side and he would kind of retreat when he hit.”
Last season, Mendoza played in 55 games for low Single-A Hagerstown, slashing .264/.377/.383 with 12 doubles, four homers and 25 RBIs. The 2020 season was wiped out due to the global pandemic, but Mendoza got some time at the alternate training site in Fredericksburg, Va., starting Aug. 28.
After a month of instructional league, comparing what the 23-year-old Mendoza did last year, Gingrich saw that the change the Nats had wanted to implement has started to bear fruit in his swing.
“Bat speed improved,” Gingrich said. “He started being able to drive the ball without having to overswing to try to drive the ball. Now it’s just kind of getting it to where it’s a normal thing for him, where he doesn’t have to think about it, and then taking that into the games. That will be the next step for him. Hopefully, it picks up quick next year and he is able to able to get off to a hot start and move a little bit.”
On defense, Gingrich said Mendoza has made a very nice transition from third base to first base. And at 6-foot-4 and 228 lbs., it’s easy for infielders to spot his glove when throwing in that direction.
“He has very good hands, so all that has been a fairly smooth transition from going from third to first,” Gingrich said. “Plus, he is a nice target over there for a guy to throw to, and if they throw stuff in the dirt, he’s already picked up real quick on being able to take the ball. Nice to have that size target over at first base for your infielders.”
Gingrich said the former Florida State star will now practice his new swing in drills the staff has put together as he prepares for hopefully a closer to normal 2021 season.