Steven Kwan is having an impressive rookie season with the Cleveland Guardians. The 24-year-old outfielder is slashing .297/.370/.382 with a 118 wRC+, and he’s doing so with elite plate self-discipline and call abilities. Kwan’s 8.8% strikeout price ranks second to Luis Arraez’s 8.3% amongst certified hitters, whereas his 22.6% O-Swing% is tied for sixth-best. Furthermore, he’s one among solely a handful of hitters with extra walks (36) than strikeouts (34). As Ben Clemens wrote again in April, “Kwan’s phenomenal bat management is as actual because it will get.”
A 2018 fifth-round pick of Oregon State College, Kwan got here into the present marketing campaign having emerged as one of many sport’s most intriguing younger gamers. No. 57 on our preseason Top 100 Prospects list, the slight-of-build left-handed hitter was described as having “brief levers and wonderful hand-eye coordination.” Brett Gardner was cited as his closest comp.
Within the newest installment of our Talks Hitting collection, Kwan discusses his innate capacity to place the bat on the baseball and sneeze at pitches that aren’t within the strike zone.
David Laurila: You bought lots of consideration early within the season, nearly solely on your elite contact abilities. What does that imply to you?
Steven Kwan: “It’s a praise, if something. I believe hitter success is immediately correlated to strike zone administration — to swinging at strikes and never chasing out of the zone. I undoubtedly see that as a praise.”
Laurila: To what diploma are these qualities innate versus discovered?
Kwan: “They’re fairly innate. I believe it’s exhausting to show that type of self-discipline. Within the minors, it was informed to me that plate self-discipline is type of mounted, however that energy rankings — energy numbers — can go up. Principally, you may type of educate energy, however you may’t actually educate strike zone administration and call price.”
Laurila: On the similar time, I’m certain the group works with hitters to assist them enhance in that space…
Kwan: “Oh, yeah. I imply, there’s lane coaching, and all these sorts of issues. However for me, it’s one thing I’ve at all times type of had a step up on. I knew at an early age that I wasn’t going to hit the ball out of the park, so I needed to discover other ways to affect the sport.”
Laurila: Whereas not chasing is clearly essential, a hitting coach just lately informed me that good plate self-discipline is extra about ready for, and attacking, pitches that you are able to do harm on.
Kwan: “For certain. I’m going to swing on the pitches that I might do one thing with. The way in which I understand baseball… like, the balls that I can’t affect effectively are going to be balls, perhaps simply the size of my arm. If I’ve to achieve out of the zone — if I’ve to contort my torso to get to a ball — it’s not one thing I need to swing at. I need one thing the place I can keep tight, and thru the zone. These are the pitches that I need to hunt.”
Laurila: Not all strikes are created equal. Some pitches within the zone are more durable to sq. up than others…
Kwan: “Little doubt. The place I’m searching for a pitch… I’m at all times making an attempt to remain on the fastball. I can regulate on off-speed afterward. I imply, for those who’re behind schedule for the fastball, you’re simply beat, usually. If I’m sitting on say, a slider, after which a fastball comes, it’s over. At greatest I’m going to foul it off. Conversely, if I’m prepared for a fastball and a slider or a curveball comes, I can land, preserve my arms again, and nonetheless get prolonged on the pitch.”
Laurila: Self-discipline and call abilities apart, to what extent are you a pure hitter versus a discovered hitter? Does that query make sense?
Kwan: “Sure. I’ve gone via completely different stances my complete life. Out of faculty, my first yr, I needed to change it. By way of school, for 2 years I type of had a toe faucet. Within the minors, I went to type of like a set stance. Final yr, I added a leg raise.
“So, it’s principally a bit little bit of each. The attention-to-ball stuff is principally innate or self-taught — it’s type of hitter-esque for me — whereas manifesting that energy, type of getting some extra pop, has undoubtedly been discovered.”
Laurila: Are you able to elaborate on the leg raise?
Kwan: “It’s how I really feel most effective in my physique. In spring coaching of final yr I used to be in a seize cage, connected to a few machines, and we type of simply tried some stuff out. It’s one thing I felt snug with, so I took it into some spring coaching video games and a few backfield stuff. I discovered success with it.”
Laurila: What’s it like working with [Guardians hitting coach] Chris Valaika?
Kwan: “Val is superior. I believe it’s essential to have a hitting coach who’s type of like your homie. He’ll type of chat it up with you, however on the similar time, for those who want one thing from him, he’s acquired the information to again it up. He’s nice in each of these areas.”
Laurila: Are you a lot into hitting analytics?
Kwan: “Not a lot. I actually simply attempt to dumb it down. For me, see-ball-hit-ball is one of the best ways to method hitting. That’s what I discover works greatest.”
Laurila: You talked about “manifesting your energy” earlier. Is that one thing you’re working to do?
Kwan: “My method proper now could be to not be too fearful about it. I’m 5-foot-8, 170 kilos, and being a leadoff hitter, my job is to get on base. Energy numbers are clearly very nice, however I’ve our greatest hitters behind me. [Josh] Naylor, [José] Ramírez, [Amed] Rosario… I imply, they’re going to hit doubles, triples, and residential runs. All I’ve acquired to do is be on base in entrance of them. That’s my primary precedence.”
Laurila: Any ultimate ideas on hitting?
Kwan: “Probably not. I’m not a really loud man with that type of stuff. I’ll at all times reply any type of questions, however actually, I’m simply preserving my head down and going on the market grinding. For me, hitting is simply hitting.”
Earlier “Talks Hitting” interviews can discovered via these hyperlinks: Jo Adell, Jeff Albert, Greg Allen, Nolan Arenado, Aaron Bates, Alex Bregman, Bo Bichette, Cavan Biggio, JJ Bleday, Bobby Bradley, Jay Bruce, Matt Chapman, Michael Chavis, Jacob Cruz, Nelson Cruz, Paul DeJong, Josh Donaldson, Brendan Donovan, Rick Eckstein, Drew Ferguson, Justin Foscue, Michael Fransoso, Ryan Fuller, Joey Gallo, Devlin Granberg, Andy Haines, Mitch Haniger, Robert Hassell III, Rhys Hoskins, Eric Hosmer, Tim Hyers, Josh Jung, Jimmy Kerr, Trevor Larnach, Doug Latta, Evan Longoria, Michael Lorenzen, Gavin Lux, Dave Magadan, Trey Mancini, Edgar Martinez, Don Mattingly, Hunter Mense, Ryan Mountcastle, Cedric Mullins, Daniel Murphy, Brent Rooker, Drew Saylor, Trevor Story, Fernando Tatis Jr., Justin Turner, Mark Trumbo, Josh VanMeter, Robert Van Scoyoc, Zac Veen, Mark Vientos, Matt Vierling, Luke Voit, Jared Walsh, Jordan Westburg, Jesse Winker, Nick Yorke, Kevin Youkilis.