GLENDALE, Ariz. — One of the challenges for a hitting coach is funneling the right information to a young position player, with the goal to not allow him to be overwhelmed by the reams of scouting reports and hours of video suddenly available to them at the major league level.
And sometimes that information isn't always a good thing, as White Sox hitting coach Todd Steverson explained.
"As it relates to all the statistics I get, I cannot inundate them with all of those," Steverson said. "I have to personally decipher what's relevant to each different guy. It's not all the same for everybody. … Hypothetically speaking, I could tell a guy every 2-1 count (the pitcher throws) 73 percent fastballs, and that guy gets a curveball. Well, right then and there, he's like ‘Gee, what happened?' Well, 73 percent ain't 100 percent. There's always some gray area there."
Shortstop Tim Anderson described himself as "old school," and said he will only turn to scouting reports and videos when he needs it. Anderson specifically mentioned using video to look at a pitcher's pickoff move.
For catcher Omar Narvaez, though, the information has been a boon to his burgeoning major league career. He hit .267/.350/.337 in 2016, and with the 25-year-old in line to be the White Sox No. 1 catcher this year, he'll have the opportunity to use video and scouting reports over the course of a full season.
"I kind of know what the zone is and I try to bring it with me," Narvaez said. "Every time I go to the plate, I'm like okay, this is my zone so I'm going to establish everything that's in my zone so I can hit it."
Narvaez displayed an excellent feel for the major league strike zone last year, drawing the same number of walks as strikeouts (14) in 117 plate appearances last year. He said he looks at scouting reports the night before every game and can adjust his "zone" to a specific area based on where the opposing pitcher frequently works.
The detailed information Narvaez can look at in the majors wasn't available at the minor league level, which could explain why his on-base percentage was 59 points higher with the White Sox than it was in 205 plate appearances at the Double-A and Triple-A levels. Narvaez, though, does have a .353 on-base percentage across all minor league levels.
"We know what the pitcher has and how they move the ball," Narvaez said. "We don't have that in the minor leagues."
There's no "right" approach to utilizing all the information and statistics available at the major league level. Plenty of players will succeed without diving deep into scouting reports, and plenty of players will stick in the major leagues by pouring over that stuff.
Count Narvaez in the latter group of players.
"We can go with a plan into an at-bat," Narvaez said. "That's a huge thing I'm looking for when I see the videos."