Hip Tweak Rotates Tim Wheeler's Career
DENVER—In his first two professional seasons, Rockies outfielder Tim Wheeler hit a combined 17 home runs in 783 at-bats, none above the Class A level.
At Double-A Tulsa this year, Wheeler had 29 home runs in 405 at-bats.
In other words, the lefthanded hitter homered once every 13.9 at-bats, or three three times as often, while facing more experienced pitchers. Tulsa hitting coach Dave Hajek said Wheeler has tremendous flexibility and looseness in his hips, and his hip rotation has contributed to his power surge this season.
Wheeler, 23, was hitting .306/.391/.607 with 77 RBIs and 15 stolen bases in 25 attempts.
"What he's really worked really hard at is connecting those hips with the upper body, with the hands," Hajek said. "In spring training, he was driving a lot of balls to the opposite field and wasn't getting the barrel out in front as much."
As a result of several tips and drills, some from Hajek, Wheeler's "hands are working with that lower-half rotation," Hajek said, "and he's driving it all over the field. More so to the pull side, because the quickness of those hips is getting the hands out front and he's turning on balls."
Wheeler, a first-round pick in the 2009 draft, is playing center field this season but profiles as a corner outfielder in the majors. He said in past seasons, his hips have been too much a part of his swing, to the point they took over, causing him to lose sight of the ball and lose his hand speed.
"When you're locked in or when you're especially good, your hands can fly a little bit," he said. "Being at a point where I can control my hips and kind of use them to my advantage quiets everything down and lets me see the ball a little bit longer and lets me give my best bat speed."
• Lefthander Edwar Cabrera was 1-0, 2.41 in three starts for high Class A Modesto with three walks and 25 strikeouts in 19 innings, after going 4-2, 3.14 for low Class A Asheville with 18 walks and 110 strikeouts in 86 innings. Cabrera, 23, signed with the Rockies out of the Dominican Republic in 2008 and has stood out for his advanced changeup and his ability to throw an average fastball for strikes.
• Righthander Dan Houston was 2-0, 2.25 in three starts for Tulsa after going 7-1, 2.53 in 10 starts at Modesto. Houston, 24, was a seventh-round pick out of Boston College in 2008.