Seitzer sees plenty of offensive potential in Goins
Speedy infielder works with Blue Jays hitting coach to improve approach
TORONTO -- There are plenty of skeptics surrounding Ryan Goins' ability to hit at the big league level, but Blue Jays hitting coach Kevin Seitzer isn't among them.
Goins likely will be one of Seitzer's top priorities this spring, and the pair scheduled a three-day trip to get an early start on the season. Goins recently traveled to Seitzer's home in Kansas City for a personalized minicamp.
There was only a limited amount of work that could be done in a short period of time, but the groundwork has been laid, and Goins now has a few items to work on before the club's mandatory Feb. 20 reporting date.
"Very impressive kid, but even more impressive were the adjustments he made," Seitzer recently said. "I'm really excited and he's really excited about it, and that's even more important.
"I picked him up the airport, I fed him, kept him at my house, took him to work out and watched movies with him just to get to know him."
Goins has emerged as a potentially key component of this year's 25-man roster. The initial belief was that the Blue Jays would look to add a starting second baseman, but as the start of Spring Training draws closer, that scenario is rapidly losing momentum.
The lack of offseason changes could mean that Goins will start the season as Toronto's second baseman. He'll likely at least share that role with veteran utilityman Maicer Izturis, but the bulk of the workload would fall on the shoulders of the soon-to-be 26-year-old middle infielder.
There's never been any doubt about Goins' work in the field -- he's a plus defender at both shortstop and second base -- but the same can't be said about his bat. The native of Texas hit just .257 with a .311 on-base percentage in 111 games last year for Triple-A Buffalo, which would seem to indicate a relatively low upside.
Seitzer is aware of the concerns, but he believes he found at least a couple of areas where Goins should be able to make some strides.
"I felt like he needed to kind of simplify some things with his stance, his setup, keeping his legs underneath him a little bit more and letting his hands work in a little better position, staying inside the ball," Seitzer said. "He had a little tendency to get out and around on pitches that were in. We did some drill work and I showed him a couple of techniques he can do with his hands that got him pretty excited.
"For me, it's about being able to hit the pitch that's middle-in, to middle inside, being able to hit it up the middle as well as pull it. If you have that confidence, and all it is is just a little technique move that you can do to give yourself a chance."
Seitzer talked at length about how a lot of players need to change their mental approach at the plate. He doesn't care where the ball goes, but he cautions that stepping into the batter's box with the sole intention of trying to pull the pitch often leads to a lot of wasted at-bats.
It increases the number of strikeouts and can result in weak fly balls when perhaps the pitch could have been driven up the middle or to the opposite field. In Seitzer's words, it's about "being a complete hitter, being able to add more tools to your toolbox to where you have the ability to use the whole field when need be."
That approach also applies to Goins, who occasionally became a little too pull happy during a 34-game stint with the Blue Jays in 2013. Goins is never going to hit for a lot of power, but Seitzer believes the ability to find the gaps and hit for a better average is certainly feasible.
Seitzer compared Goins' situation to the one Kansas City's Alcides Escobar encountered a few years ago. The pair worked together when Seitzer was the hitting coach with the Royals, and there were very similar concerns about Escobar's ability to hit for a solid average.
Escobar made a few key adjustments with his approach and went from being a .254 hitter in 2011 to a .293 hitter the following year under Seitzer's tutelage. The hope is that Goins will experience a similar uptick in production, even if it's not quite as drastic.
"Alcides Escobar hit [low .200s] in Kansas City and they were like, 'What do you think he can hit?'" Seitzer said. "I said .280-.290. They said, 'If you can get him to hit even .250, that would be huge.' I was like, 'I'm telling you, he has special hands. He just has a thing where he loops and collapses [his swing], but if I can get him down and through, get that loop out of his swing, he's going to have a chance to hit .280, .290, because he has great hands.'
"He went out and hit [.293] the very next year. I see Ryan Goins having that potential. Seeing him apply in a game has yet to be seen, but the adjustments that he made and the drills that I put him through last weekend when he hadn't seen any live pitching very much impressed me."