INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – Aaron Shackelford is a power hitter. The long ball drives his value as a prospect.
However, through most of April, the slugger was in a career-worst blackout. With that, the pressure was beginning to create a mental battle.
On April 28, things changed. Shackelford hit his first home run of the season.
“It was a relief,“ Shackelford said. “I was really thankful for it. It had been a lot of at bats since the last one, so I’m just thankful…I think I had a similar drought in September, so that is part of the mental battle. I finished the year on kind of a drought, and to start the year.”
According to Shackelford, the plan was to be faithful to the work put in each day. With that work came a large change with his approach.
“My swing has changed a lot from last year,” Shackelford said. “With the better talent, I have to clean things up. That’s just natural progression. You have to get better as the competition gets better. I think that’s why there was a drought in home runs, because I was trying to clean up my swing.”
Last season, Shackelford stood a lot more upright prior to the pitch, and held his bat along his back shoulder. This year, he holds the bat in front of him more vertically. He also starts in slightly more of a relaxed crouch.
While power has always been a major part of his game, Shackelford knows an adjustment in approach is always necessary to reach the highest level.
“In college I hit for power a lot,” Shackelford said. “That has always been a part of my game. I think now the shift has been, the power is there, let’s clean up the swing in order to get a more consistent contact rate and less strikeouts.”
Shackelford has never walked more than 40 times in a season, and he currently sits at 28 walks through only 46 games this year. Additionally, his 48 strikeouts have him at a 27-percent pace. This would mark a career-low since rookie leagues in 2019.
During the drought, Shackelford had seen an uptick in exit velocity, but no tangible results. That has quite obviously changed, as he hit seven more homeruns during the month of May, which saw the tangible results in a 1.069 OPS.
It is the mental battle for a power hitter to not try to hit a homerun, while really wanting to, according Shackelford. He has now overcome this and then some, with his new, natural approach.+ posts
Ryan has been following Indianapolis baseball for most of his life, and the Pirates since they became the affiliate in 2005. He began writing for Pirates Prospects in 2013, in a stint that ran through 2016 (with no service time manipulation played in). Ryan rejoined the team in 2022, covering Indianapolis once again. He has covered the Pirates in four different big league stadiums. Ryan was also fortunate enough to cover the 2015 Futures Game in Cincinnati.