Through the end of July last season, Brent Morel had walked three times in 241 trips to the plate. His offense continued to lag as he tried to swing his way out of his season-long struggles.
But in August, Morel finally began to exercise more patience. He took four walks in the month, and while the results weren't there -- he posted a .273 OBP -- the pieces began to fall into place for success. When September rolled around, that success came with Morel taking 15 walks and hitting eight home runs.
A walk rate of 14.5 percent probably isn't sustainable for someone who wasn't big on free passes in the minor leagues. But Morel needs to carry that mindset he had in September over to 2012: It's far more important to make good contact than it is harmful not to make contact.
On the flip side, Dayan Viciedo showed a drastic improvement in his plate discipline across the entire 2011 season. His walk rate with Triple-A Charlotte was 8.9 percent (45 in 505 PA), almost three times higher than his 2010 Triple-A walk rate of three percent. And perhaps more encouragingly, Viciedo had an 8 percent walk rate in the majors last year, signaling his pitch recognition improvements did carry over to the majors.
Both players will have a new hitting coach in their respective ears, though, although Jeff Manto has spent time working with both in the minor leagues. For Morel and Viciedo to reach their full offensive ceilings, their pitch recognition and selection abilities can't take a step backward.
And while the small sample size of spring training isn't the best area to make these determinations, it's important for these two free-swingers to start 2012 off right with good plate discipline.