by Matthew de Marte – January 4th, 2018
“If you hit any singles today, I will not speak to you the rest of the day.” This is the message Braves catching prospect, Drew Lugbauer, heard from eleven year MLB veteran Adam Everett on a daily basis during Braves Instructs this fall. After spending the day with Drew and getting the chance to watch him take swings, it was obvious that he took this message to heart. From his tee work to his progression of hitting a moving baseball, Drew’s swing was ruled by one thing: intent to drive the baseball.
Getting the chance to watch a professional hitter go about his work is a rare opportunity. Throughout the course of the day, I received valuable insight from Lugbauer. To begin his hitting session, Drew set up a tee and moved it around home plate. He started the tee middle, moved it to the outside part of the plate, and finally the inside corner. Even when the tee was set up on the outside corner of the plate, Drew took each swing with the intent to drive the baseball. Each swing resulted in a ball that was elevated and crushed to the top of the cage. In the video below, you can see Drew hitting a ball off the tee.
Drew gets on plane extremely early and his barrel stays in the hitting zone for a very long time. You can also see how Drew catches this baseball out in front. This is something that is important to take note of. A common misconception in baseball is that you want to see the ball deep and hit it deep. While this verbal cue of “seeing the ball deep” might resonate with some hitters and help them, it is simply not reality. The best hit baseballs are hit out in front of the plate, regardless of the location. Drew demonstrates this in the swing above, hitting the ball out in front of the plate and driving it.
Drew does not have any big moves in his swing. When talking with Drew about his movements, he said that he has never really had to make a noteworthy swing overhaul and has always had a consistent and similar swing. When it comes to hitting a baseball, intent rules all. Pitchers are often told to, “throw with intent.” Similarly, hitters must also, “swing with intent” in order to achieve success at the plate. Drew took every single swing as hard as he could. This intent in his swing allows him to have a more natural swing path. When intent is the ruling guide in the swing, it allows the body to organize itself in a much better sequence. A hitter’s body must organize as fast and efficiently as possible, so there must not be any wasted movements.
The next set of videos are Drew hitting a moving baseball. Notice how the approach stays the same as Drew tries to elevate each pitch. One thing I really like about Drew’s swing is how his upper and lower body work together in perfect harmony. His upper body starts to load at the same time his leg lift begins. At the peak of his leg lift, his bat is at its tipping point. Then, Drew’s barrel reaches “peak stretch” and snaps. “Peak stretch” refers to when the upper body tilts and creates a posture that allows the hitter to get on plane against the coiling of the back hip. Drew creates barrel acceleration on a very deep plane, which is one of the many reasons why Drew is able to generate so much power. That “snap” is what allows elite hitters to get on plane early and enables them to do damage against high level pitching. I plan on writing a piece with some drills to explain this part of the swing more in the future, so stay tuned!
Overall, the biggest takeaway I had from watching Drew hit is the importance of intent. Drew showed commitment to drive the baseball, swung as hard as he could, and displayed a consistent approach. My advice to hitters and what they can learn from Drew and this post is to approach every swing as consistently and deliberately as Drew displayed, and of course, utilize INTENT. I say this because intent simply works and it is truly a beautiful thing when executed correctly. I would like to thank Drew for giving me the opportunity to watch him hit and hopefully I have helped some readers out there learn something about their own swing.