Balentien Sets Goal To Cut K’s

Mariners outfielder Wladimir Balentien has above-average power, but his long swing and inability to resist swinging at off-speed pitches out of the strike zone have been red flags in his development.

"I’m trying to be a better contact hitter," said Balentien, who went down swinging in a pinch-hit appearance in Seattle’s 3-3 tie in 10 innings with the San Francisco Giants on Thursday at Peoria Stadium.

"Every year, it’s getting a little better. Last year, I stuck out 105 times and it was the lowest I’ve ever had. This year, my goal is to have less than 100."

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"When I’m working on my soft toss, I can work on my plate discipline," said Balentien, who has struck out five times in 34 spring at-bats. "To know which kind of balls I can hit and which kind I can’t."

Criticisms of Balentien’s pitch recognition and control of the strike zone have followed him throughout his professional career, but he’s shown that he’s making some improvements to make more consistent contact.

2005 Hi A 160 539 29.7%
2006 AA 140 522 26.8%
2007 AAA 105 544 19.3%

The trend is a good one for Balentien, especially considering that he’s striking out less frequently even while facing more advanced competition. He still chases too many balls out of the strike zone, so whether 2007 was an aberration and he regresses this year to his previously established marks remains to be seen.