Brewers first baseman Jake Gatewood has been well-known in prospect circles for some time now. He won the high school home run derby at the Futures Game at Citi Field in 2013 and vaulted himself onto the radar screens of the casual fan. The Brewers made him a supplemental first-round selection in 2014, and he put up modest numbers throughout the next two seasons in the minor leagues.
This year, with high Class A Carolina, Gatewood is experiencing a breakout. He’s hitting .299/.377/.511 with seven home runs and 28 RBIs through the season’s first two months. He got contact lenses to correct his vision, and has worked tirelessly with Carolina hitting coach Dave Joppie and Brewers hitting coordinator Kenny Graham to remake his swing.
On Sunday, Baseball America took a clip of Gatewood from the 2015 instructional league and another from a single he hit on Saturday in Carolina, and asked him to tell us what had changed. Here’s what he said.
Gatewood: First, you could see the difference. I’m not as bent at the waist (in 2015), my posture is a little bit better at the plate (now). My elbow is up a little too high here (in 2015), I’m a little stiff. My elbow being up that high, some guys can do it, but for me and the way my body is, my hands work better a little bit lower. Not too much lower, but a little bit.
Gatewood: You can see here (in 2015), my back knee is a little bit too far over my back foot. This one (this year) is at more of an angle. And two is my hips, turned in here (in 2017), allowing me to stay through the ball and not start off open with that hip. I couldn’t stay on anything. I was more vulnerable outside, anything away. I just crowded the plate, tried to get on the plate and pull everything.
That (change in approach) comes with maturity. Some guys mature quicker than others, and some guys have a better overall understanding earlier. It just took me a little longer. Here (in 2017) you can just tell how much stronger I look here and I’m in a better position to hit, completely.
Gatewood: My load is a lot deeper (in 2017). See my hands? I have more of a stretch here, creating a rubber-band effect. Over here (in 2015), there’s absolutely no rubber band. So what I’m doing here is I’m trying to do here (in 2017) is I’m trying to pull my hands back and get that scap load. I think about just pulling my hands back.
Another thing, too, is my front foot (in 2015) is not in a great position. I’m striding a little open (in 2015) because I was so close to the the plate that I couldn’t get my hips to clear. A lot of the times, people were just busting me inside. I’ve got long arms and long legs, so I’ve got to give myself time. So I’m a little off the plate here and my foot is in a better position to strike.
Gatewood: My bat’s in a better position to hit now. Because I got myself in a better position to hit in the previous picture with my tilt and everything, and my body’s in a better position. My bat is going to be a little flatter through the zone, as compared to (2015) where it’s behind me and lagging and is going to end up going underneath the ball (he popped the ball up in the video). I was late on the fastball, early on the curveball.
Here (in 2017) you can see my head’s in there more, whereas (in 2015) my head’s kind of flying open and my posture isn’t very good there.
Gatewood: This isn’t a terrible position (in 2015). Yeah, not much has changed, actually. I feel that your swing is your swing, and once it gets to impact it’s usually the same.
Here is the full video of those two swings, side by side.