In the first part of our interview with Yankees minor league hitting coach Joe Migliaccio, he discussed entering coaching, his path to the Yankees organization, and transitioning from college to professional baseball. You can read that here. Below Joe discusses some players who stood out during the 2019 season, including one of the Yankees’ top prospects.
Dan Kelly - Is there any one player that stood out last year, in terms of going through that process, struggling through it, then seeing results in the games?
Joe Migliaccio - You have a catcher, Donnie Sands, who had an unbelievable second half of the season, just making some adjustments to his training. A guy like Dermis Garcia who ended up getting hurt later in the year, but was putting up really good numbers, Oswaldo Cabrera, Diego Castillo ... we are not talking about just plain old batting average or anything like that, we are talking about this guy had career highs on in-zone swings, a career low in chase percentage, across the board it’s like this player had 12 career highs this year.
Being able to sit down and show guys, hey this is awesome, all the work you put in, you’ve absolutely crushed this level and we are so excited to see what happens as you continue moving forward and up to Double-A and Triple-A and ultimately up to the big leagues. So to pick one player, I would feel bad picking just one player because of the amount of players over the course of the season, but if I had to pick one, looking at Donnie Sands, first half to second half, he went through a mechanical change and was able to hit the ball on a line in the air, hit the ball harder, and just produced way better.
DK - Oswaldo Cabrera is a name in there that I noticed and I wrote about the big second half that he had during a few months ago.
JM- Such a good player, he is younger than league average, but he is incredibly mature for his age. I have him pulled up right now, his 2018 vs. 2019, one, two, three—I don’t have everything, but right here I see 17 highs from 2018 to 2019. He just hit the ball harder, he hit the ball more consistently hard, he hit it higher, fewer ground balls, he made better swing decisions. Because it comes down to “Can you swing at strikes?” If you can swing at strikes we just ask that you, hit it hard, and preferably in the air, that would be ideal. He did such a good job.
DK - One more player from the roster he missed part of last season, but he was able to make his major-league debut this year, Estevan Florial. Can you tell us a little bit about Estevan the person the player and what we might see moving forward?
JM - He is a phenomenal person. He’s truly sincere and honest with his communication. He came to Tampa after his injury during spring training. Everybody knows he’s an incredible player. We talked about everything he does really well and mentioned a few things to add to his training that could make him even better. All the credit goes to Estevan for taking on some of those new ideas and running with it. Month over month he started to see legitimate development during the game in those specific areas of focus. A year later, he’s making his MLB debut. I’m not sure you could put a limit on what he could ultimately become.
DK - What tools are you using to stay in touch with the players as they are off training on their own?
JM - So from the beginning we had a solid plan of how we wanted to attack communication with the players, remote training with the players. I think back to college when you go from the fall to the spring, you have that winter period where the players go home and we would send a training plan and we would talk several times per week. Personally that made this period a lot easier then it could have been because I was used to that. Each coach had a group of players and we were responsible for keeping in touch with them.
What equipment do they have available? If we are going to make a training plan based of the equipment we have available in our player development complex, then you are setting yourself up for failure, thinking that these players are going to have this equipment and technology available back in their home town.
We’ve had some players make some awesome strides in the last couple of months and I think when we get back it will be really obvious to see the hard work that guys have put in... The constant communication was vital, but I think what’s really important is that before everything got shutdown we able to build awesome relationships with our players and able to take that to a remote standpoint, whether a player was back home in Texas, California or the Dominican Republic.
DK - As far as the training goes, going back to your college philosophies of “Can you Prove it?” Are you looking at turning this into a long-term research project? Are there some theories going around about who will come back looking better or worse?
JM - I think when you are talking about the players that we have, they are professional baseball players and incredible athletes. They respond incredibly quick, they adjust incredibly quick. Some guys have access to machines and some guys don’t. Is that going to mean that some guys are head of certain player, probably. But again you are talking about professional athletes, they don’t need six months to come back and be the person they were, I don’t think we are worried about how far guys are behind and how far guys are ahead. I think they are going to come back in a lot better position that most people are going to assume.
DK - If someone is coming up through either the high school or college ranks and wants to be on top of the best research or data that matters, is there a book or even a place to go on the internet to find the information on hitting, hitting data, and the stuff that has been proven now?
JM- I think that is what’s really interesting about hitting. When compared to pitching it’s been behind for so long, and continues to be behind. I think sometimes you don’t need 10 pieces of technology in a cage or on a field, to have all this success with a player. Sometimes you just need two things, but can you use those things to their full advantage and get everything you need out it. Simple enough, just be able to go on Google and type in “pitch recognition training” or “swing decision training”, and anything like that to find research studies. I think if you go into it with the door wide open and you continue to filter it for yourself, as in this makes sense I want to take it a step further, or I don’t. Can you find something that really relates to what you want to do, can you apply it to baseball, can you apply it to your training,