Gose reworks his swing to add some pop
Blue Jays instruct prospect to look for pitches to drive
DUNEDIN, Fla. -- When it comes to Anthony Gose and his new approach at the plate, one year has made all the difference in the world.
Toronto's second-best prospect according to MLB.com, spent the past 12 months overhauling his mechanics in an effort to become a more dangerous hitter.
Gose was previously known as a slap hitter but is starting to develop some power that many scouts didn't believe was possible earlier in his career.
"I feel like a whole new person," Gose said. "I feel like everything is coming together and I'm a lot more comfortable, confident, with what I'm doing. So now if I can just keep doing what I'm doing, continue to get better, I feel like I'll be ready soon."
Gose joined the Blue Jays in the summer of 2010 following a trade with Houston for fellow prospect Brett Wallace. He arrived with the reputation of providing excellent defense in center and possessing game-changing speed on the basepaths, but his performance at the plate was a question mark.
Gose, who was originally selected in the second round of the 2008 First-Year Player Draft by Philadelphia, came up through the Phillies' system. Because of his jaw-dropping speed, he was told by that organization to just put the ball in play to get on base any way possible.
But the Blue Jays always felt there was much more to Gose's game than just speed. The scouting department held the belief that Gose also had the ability to hit for some power, and he was doing a disservice to his overall skill set by not tapping into that potential.
That led Toronto to begin changing his approach at the plate. The club looked for Gose to start picking the right pitch to hit and driving it with authority. It was a completely different approach and one that didn't occur without at least some level of difficulty.
"It was pretty drastic for me at the beginning," said Gose, who was named an Eastern League postseason All-Star in 2011. "I knew I was supposed to swing harder but I didn't know the mechanics to it, staying behind the ball, driving down, things like that. As time went on it became a little bit more natural and I kept working on it day in and day out. Now I'm feeling really confident with it."
The changes resulted in a drastic jump in power during the past calendar year. Gose finished the season in Double-A New Hampshire with 16 home runs after having a grand total of nine during his previous three years in the Minors. In addition to the homers, Gose also recorded career highs in extra-base hits (43), walks (62), RBIs (59), total bases (211) and on-base percentage (.349).
The downside is that Gose also recorded a career high in strikeouts with 154 and a career-low batting average of .253. Those could be considered negatives, but with all the changes Gose had to make with his swing, the results took a backseat to the overall process.
The Blue Jays didn't allow Gose to bunt in 2011 and didn't force him to worry about having a consistent two-strike approach at the plate. Instead, he was tasked with maintaining the swing and looking to drive the ball. The team doesn't envision Gose becoming a 40 home run hitter, but they wanted to completely eliminate the tendency to settle for trying to slap the ball around the infield.
There's a time and a place for that type of defensive swing but not early in the count -- maybe something to be used with two strikes.
"We just turned him loose and let him go out there and get as many plate appearances as we could and just worry about hitting and getting his swing down," Blue Jays assistant GM Tony LaCava said. "This year, the approach is to finish him off before he goes onto the big leagues at some point.
"If he puts some of those balls in play that were strikeouts, then I think the numbers are really going to show and we're also going to reintroduce bunting. That's something he's always been able to do since he was an amateur but we're going to bring bunting back, and we think that will also help as he gets closer to the big leagues."
Gose is expected to spend a full season at Triple-A Las Vegas in 2012 before there's any talk of a promotion to the Majors. That should enable him to combine a mix of the new approach at the plate with some of the old elements as well, in order to become a well-rounded leadoff man.
He will enter the year having played almost nonstop baseball over the past 12 months. When he finished the championship season with New Hampshire, he then moved onto the Arizona Fall League before continuing his work in the Venezuelan Winter League.
It was a grueling schedule, but one that Gose wouldn't trade because it all comes down to repetition in the batter's box to perfect his ability to drive the ball.
"I had about three weeks off but it was great because I got to go out to Venezuela and play," said Gose, who also finished the 2011 season with 70 stolen bases -- second most in the Minor Leagues. "That was the most fun baseball I've ever had playing in my life, being able to experience that, continuing to play and see some better pitching and guys that are going to throw a lot more breaking pitches.
"I feel it's just continue to get reps and go through it every day. Just keep battling, the more I see, the better I get, hopefully."