Throughout his minor league career, it’s been the same scouting report for Ji-Hwan Bae: Elite speed and contact ability, but questions of whether he will hit for enough power to make an impact at the major league level.
Entering the 2021 season, Bae had yet to hit a professional home run, but after returning from a mid-season injury he went on to hit eight in total (seven with Altoona, one in the complex league).
The power surge that Bae experienced carried over into this season, with the left-handed hitter nearly tying his home run total from 2021 over the first two months of this year. With that kind of start, the only thing that should prevent Bae from thoroughly beating out his power numbers from a year ago is a call to the majors.
When a player goes through this kind of offensive renaissance, it’s usually attributed to a new swing, or approach, and some extra time in the weight room.
That isn’t always the case. Sometimes, it’s as simple as a changed mindset to unlock a tool that has been there all along. Bae himself previously said he was focused on hitting more home runs this year, which he is on pace to throughly surpass.
All of that while admittedly not looking to make too many changes at the plate.
“He has those [speed-contact] elements, but also has the power. For a lot of athletes, tapping into that power isn’t necessarily a mechanical thing, but is a belief in one’s self,” Pirates Minor League Hitting Coordinator Jonny Tucker told Pirates Prospects during Spring Training.
“Ichiro was the same thing,” He continued. “Not to make the Asian comp, but you see players from that style who are really good at coordination and hand-eye coordination, they can get to more pop if they want.”
We’ve certainly seen that from Bae the last two seasons. He’s always had the contact skills, winning the batting title in Low-A while with Greensboro in 2019, it was just unlocking some power that was the missing piece.
Ji-Hwan Bae is at it again folks! 3rd pitch of the game and he has another homer. @indyindians leads it 1-0 pic.twitter.com/PoSTeBq0F7
— Cody Potanko (@2HG013) May 1, 2022
He’s done so enough to where the Indians have even experimented with Bae batting in the three-hole, trying to take advantage of his bat in a more run producing role. There still be more from Bae, who sees himself more of a second half hitter than anything else, and has the numbers to back that claim up.
Bae is a good example who gradually gets better, and improves, the further he moves up the ladder. The game is every bit mental as it is physical, and it looks like with the right mindset Bae has been able to unlock a hidden tool in his belt.
Anthony began writing over 10 years ago, starting a personal blog to cover the 2011 MLB draft, where the Pirates selected first overall. After bouncing around many websites covering hockey, he refocused his attention to baseball, his first love when it comes to sports. He eventually found himself here at Pirates Prospects in late 2021, where he covers the team’s four full season minor league affiliates.
I remember reading an interview where Ted Williams made the same comment or advise to Tony Gwynn. Telling him that if he wanted to, he could hit 20-25 home runs a year.
Can Bae play short? If so , get him to the Burg.
The arm is the issue, fielding is fine but not much of an arm.
He’s played it a handful of times in the last week for Indy
Bae and Cruz should be up in Pgh!
I hope so, but Tim put into words some of my uneasiness about Cruz’ future in Pittsburgh. Might HE become the MI that gets traded for pitching? (ugh)