It don’t mean a thing if he ain’t got that swing.
The Mets selected Michael Paez in the fourth round of the 2016 Major League Baseball Draft, but the converted second baseman has struggled at the plate this season and Cyclones skipper Tom Gamboa knows why.
“Paez is struggling strictly because his college program teaches a hitting approach that I’ve never heard of before,” Gamboa said. “Collapse your backside and uppercut the baseball. I was told that their college program accepts strikeouts, but they led the nation in home runs.”
It’s an at-plate approach that surprised Gamboa the first time he saw it. He’s never seen someone take a swing like Paez.
“I don’t think I’ve ever seen, in all my years, a player come into pro ball that hits more balls in the air than on the ground or a line,” Gamboa said.
Paez — who played shortstop on Coastal Carolina’s national championship team this spring — boasted a meager .152 average after the Cyclones’ loss to Lowell on Aug. 22. Gamboa and the Brooklyn coaching staff have been doing their best to help break Paez of the swinging habit, but that’s been easier said than done.
As far as the Clones skipper is concerned, however, this swing doesn’t belong in pro ball.
“The hitting style that Paez brought into pro ball is something that, to me, would only work in slow-pitch softball, where the ball is coming down at you so you have to swing up in order to square it up,” Gamboa said.
Paez is “very frustrated” according to Gamboa, but the Clones skipper added, “We don’t think anything of it because we knew when we signed him he was going to struggle.”
To his credit, Paez is trying to keep his head up in tough times.
“If you’re a ballplayer, you get frustrated coming back to the dugout so often, but you have to look at it, I’m hitting the ball hard, getting barrel,” Paez said. “I can’t control where it goes.”
Fans who watched him in college — or even in his early at bats in Brooklyn — might be able to notice a change in Paez’s form. He’s done his best to evolve in the box this summer and Paez is confident that he’ll see his average go up sooner rather than later. It’s simply a matter of staying patient.
“You could see my swing transform completely already,” Paez said. “It’s only up from here and I’m going to have this offseason coming up and keep working on it from there.”
Gamboa and the organization understand that changing the swing can be a long process, but the squad is willing to put in the work. The Mets organization liked what it saw of Paez at Coastal Carolina — where he was named a preseason All-American and preseason Big South Player of the Year — this season and a few whiffs at the plate aren’t going to change that.
He’s just got to keep swinging.
“We told him at the beginning that in three years in that program, this is going to be something that takes you 500 to 1,000 at-bats to get rid of,” Gamboa said.