SEE ALSO: Standouts From Day One Of Diamond Club
LAKELAND, Fla.--While one of major league baseball’s top shortstops was busy hitting a walkoff for the Astros in game two of the American League Championship Series, one of the top shortstops in the 2018 MLB Draft class was watching--and studying.
Florida shortstop Nander De Sedas doesn’t model his game after any one specific player in the big leagues, but Houston shortstop Carlos Correa is one of the players he watches most. He particularly likes to watch Correa hit; how he manages to get his hands extended and how he stays behind the ball and drives it with force to the opposite field.
But De Sedas was doing more than just watching Saturday. He was on the back fields behind Joker Merchant Stadium, hitting anything and everything that came his way on the second day of Florida Diamond Club’s annual showcase.
De Sedas, the No. 6 prospect in the 2018 high school draft class, went 4-for-4 at the plate, with two singles from the right side and a triple and another single from the left side. Four hits is impressive enough, but moreso considering that he’s only been hitting lefthanded for about a year and a half.
Make it 4-4 for Nander De Sedas after this single: pic.twitter.com/QZiHPGw9uL
-- Carlos Collazo (@CarlosACollazo) October 14, 2017
“It started at the beginning of my sophomore year,” De Sedas said. “I really wanted to do it. I really wanted to be a switch-hitter, because I think that's a plus . . . I saw a lot of major leaguers and a lot of people talked to me about switch-hitting. It's a plus tool, you get the advantage every time with the pitcher, all these details. And so I was like, 'Ok let's try it.'”
De Sedas didn’t find success immediately from the left side and he got frustrated in the beginning. But now, with fewer than eight months away from the 2018 Draft and fewer than two years hitting with his right hand on the knob instead of his left, it’s hard to tell the swings apart.
Although for De Sedas, there’s still a different approach depending on which batter’s box he’s in.
“I'd say righty I am more staying line drive,” he said. “Stay in the gaps, don't try to pull the ball, just react where the pitch is coming. If it's an outside pitch, go that way. Inside pitch, throw your hands in. That's more my approach when I'm hitting righty because I know I have that natural ability to stay on top of the ball.
“While lefty, I still tend to go a little bit too much under the ball. When I'm hitting I really think about staying on top of the ball, hitting line drives to the other side of the field. Opposite-field approach so I can get the ball deeper to me. It makes it easier to stay on top of the ball, so I can drive the ball to the other field.”
De Sedas pulled the ball in three of his four at-bats Saturday, with his most impactful stroke came from the left side--his unnatural side--when he burned the opposing centerfielder to deep right-center with excellent backspin and carry.
And while his offensive performance was impressive, it might not have even been the most notable part of his game. That might go to his chatter and charisma on and off the field, which is unusual for showcase environments. De Sedas Constantly encouraged teammates at the plate, cheered when someone did something well or picked someone up when they might have needed it--always with a wide grin on his face.
“I try to give the positive vibes to everybody on the team. I really care about how my team is doing . . . I really try to help everybody. Kind of always being like that, always having a positive attitude, always trying to push everybody, trying to be a leader on the field all the time. Today I just felt like it was another day. Just have fun. Even though there was 100 or I don't even know how many scouts were there. Just another day, have fun, go play, see the ball and everything was fine.”
That disposition, especially when combined with De Sedas’ growing aptitude as a switch hitter, might make him a better comparison to the one other player De Sedas watches as much as possible: Indians superstar Francisco Lindor, who was drafted in the first round of the 2011 MLB Draft out of Montverde (Fla.) High--coincidentally the school De Sedas plays for now.
“I like how Francisco Lindor manages himself on and off of the field,” De Sedas said. “He's always happy, always trying to help his teammates. It doesn't matter if he goes 0-and-4, he still has the same face, same attitude . . .
“And of course I love the way he handles himself on the defensive side, it's crazy how good it is. I really try to get myself to have the same ability. I'm taller, heavier, (but) I'm trying to really stick at short. That's the position I love, that's the position I want to play at the next level--college level or wherever God takes me. I really want to stick there, so I really try to get my defensive game to (Lindor's).
With an above-average arm, quick hands and impressive footwork despite being an average runner at best, De Sedas has all the tools he needs to make it happen. Still, his focus moving forward comes back to hitting. De Sedas was happy with most of his at-bats this summer. He felt good at the plate, he took good swings and he saw pitches well. But the results weren’t what he wanted to see.
“What I think I want to improve way more is my hitting,” he said. “I’m really trying to improve my hitting throughout this fall and then of course the spring of next year. Keep up the work and then keep on showing a hit tool that can carry me throughout my career.”
Saturday was a good start.