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Hundley hopes for continued success at plate

Catcher found himself offensively with Rockies in '15, says that was 'just scratching the surface'
MLB.com @harding_at_mlb

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Catcher Nick Hundley arrived in Colorado last year and found his identity as a hitter.

The Rockies had seen flashes of offense from him when he opposed them with the Padres earlier in his career. But before signing a two-year, $6.25 million contract with Colorado, Hundley had a career .238 batting average with a .294 on-base percentage and a .386 slugging percentage -- a guy primarily making his mark with intangibles in handling a pitching staff.

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Catcher Nick Hundley arrived in Colorado last year and found his identity as a hitter.

The Rockies had seen flashes of offense from him when he opposed them with the Padres earlier in his career. But before signing a two-year, $6.25 million contract with Colorado, Hundley had a career .238 batting average with a .294 on-base percentage and a .386 slugging percentage -- a guy primarily making his mark with intangibles in handling a pitching staff.

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Last year, though, Hundley elevated his slash line to .301/.339/.467. Among National League catchers with enough plate appearances to be listed among league leaders, Hundley's .807 OPS in 387 plate appearances (he also had two pinch-hit plate appearances) was second only to the Giants' Buster Posey's .825 in his 444 plate appearances as a catcher. (Posey saw time at first base as well).

"There were some goals for what I wanted to accomplish, but that was just scratching the surface of what I can do," Hundley said.

It's important to point out that Hundley, 32, was notably better at home (.355/.395/.563) than away (.237/.275/.355) in 2015. But the magic in Hundley's season wasn't that he was a consistent offensive force. It was that, through work with hitting coach Blake Doyle, he was solid enough fundamentally to find his way back after slumps.

If not for the solid foundation, it would have been hard to imagine him being able to take advantage of his home park.

If Hundley benefited from Coors, the opposing hitters did, too. That meant Hundley spent many long evenings squatted as the Rockies' pitching staff struggled. He finished the season with the second-most games played and plate appearances of his career despite not playing after Sept. 6 because of a cervical neck strain.

"We did a really good job of finding a home base of who I wanted to be as a hitter, and you make adjustments off that," Hundley said. "In the past, I really didn't have a good enough home base to know what to get back to when I made adjustments and feel right. Getting that solid foundation of what I'm trying to do on a daily basis was really important."

"Nick did an outstanding job at the plate last year, was a tough out, a productive hitter," manager Walt Weiss said. "He takes a lot of pride in it."

Weiss also praised Hundley's work with the pitchers, even though the staff struggled and Hundley ended up not faring well in defensive metrics (minus-3 Defensive Runs Saved, according to The Fielding Bible, and minus-14.8 runs above average in pitch-framing, according to Stat Corner). Weiss said Hundley's intangibles, such as holding teammates to high standards yet being a well-liked teammate, are important.

"I don't put a lot of stock in catchers' defensive metrics to begin with -- there are so many other variables that are factors when you talk about a catchers' defensive metrics," Weiss said. "I do think the young pitching staff we had was a factor, because Nick has a great ability to control the game, control the staff. Encouraging the staff, challenging the staff -- he does all those things very well. It comes naturally."

Thomas Harding is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @harding_at_mlb, listen to podcasts and like his Facebook page.

 

Colorado Rockies, Nick Hundley