After 17 games, Langford reflects on adjustments to Majors

April 17th, 2024

DETROIT -- Rangers rookie is finding his way as a Major League hitter only 10 months after becoming the fourth overall selection in the 2023 Draft out of the University of Florida. He’s working behind the scenes on tweaking his mechanics and adjusting to facing the best pitchers in the game.

Langford, who has been hitting in the middle of the batting order for the defending World Series champions, walked in the first inning but had a four-game hitting streak snapped in Wednesday afternoon’s 5-4 win over the Tigers at Comerica Park.

Langford, who is Texas' No. 2 prospect and MLB's No. 6 overall prospect, is batting .254 with one double, one triple and eight RBIs over 17 games, and has been the designated hitter except for six starts in left field.

“He’s been good about everything thrown at him -- hitting him third, fourth, wherever,” said Texas manager Bruce Bochy. “The biggest adjustment he’s having to make is the DH thing. He only did that a couple times in college. He’s young [at 22], has a lot of energy and you’re more involved when you’re playing the game.

“So, I think he’s getting adjusted. You don’t have too many DHs at his age. So, I’m trying to get him out there as much as I can.”

Rangers offensive coordinator and bench coach Donnie Ecker talked about his hitting education and growth.

“Wyatt Langford’s a really good example,” said Ecker. “He came from college and regularly has not faced breaking balls that are breaking 18 to 20 inches. So, some of the body position he was in in college is now starting to evolve.

“If you look where the pressure is at, maybe in college it was on his back side. All of the best hitters in the big leagues, their pressure, when they land [on swings], is in the middle of their body. So, he’s slowly evolving from a guy that’s back, to having to get over the center that’s in the middle of our body.”

“We’re working on getting back to that center mass, and not staying back too much," Langford said. "It’s caused me to swing a little more up than I wanted, and I’m leveling out my swing. That’s helping me see the ball better.”

And as for adjusting to the big breaking balls?

“That hasn’t been too overwhelming, really,” said Langford. “It’s been more about the mix and getting used to how people are pitching me.”

He wasn’t drafted out of Trenton (Fla.) High School and received just four at-bats as a freshman for the Gators, but then developed into a monster. He led the Southeastern Conference with 26 homers in 2022, and topped all major college hitters with 28 doubles and 52 extra-base hits while batting .373 in 2023.

Langford played 44 games in the Minors after signing a franchise-record $8 million bonus, and hit the ground running, slashing .360/.480/.677 with 10 homers and 12 steals between Rookie-level, High-A, Double-A and Triple-A. He then made the Rangers' Opening Day roster out of Spring Training.

“He’s special,” said Ecker. “It’s hard to do what he’s doing. He’s navigating the three-hole for a defending World Series team. This is all new. And he’s not scared at all.”

Ecker equated his challenge to that of a rookie NFL quarterback:

“How do we take him on his journey to read defenses better, to move better, to make better decisions. It’s not just ‘see ball, hit ball.’ You’ve got to understand what pitching is doing, and we don’t do ‘see ball, hit ball’ here. We do education.”

Langford’s enjoyed working with Ecker, hitting coach Tim Hyers and assistant hitting coach Seth Connor.

“They’ve all been really good for me,” said Langford. “I’ve never had a hitting coach, and so being able to talk about things is a work in progress.”

What’s his biggest challenge been?

“Just getting acclimated and getting adjusted to being teammates with all the guys -- building the relationships,” said Langford. “Getting the hang of things, kind of.”

Langford batted behind Corey Seager and ahead of Adolis García -- both superstars -- on Wednesday.

“It’s been really good because it’s a lot easier to hit in a lineup like this,” said Langford. “There are so many guys that hit the ball out of the ballpark and get on base and do everything. And all the guys have been good about talking to me. I probably talk to Travis Jankowski the most, being an outfielder. He’s helped me a lot.”

One at-bat that showed his progress came in the ninth inning Tuesday against Tigers closer Jason Foley, whose batting average against is .167. Langford singled to right field against a pitcher who is the 96th percentile on his fastball velocity, according to Statcast, and features plenty of movement on pitches, including a slider, which is the pitch Langford served to right.

“That’s a pretty good piece of hitting,” Andy Dirks, radio analyst for Detroit and a former Tiger, told listeners. “He stayed back on that slider.”

Langford said of the at-bat: “I feel really good. I mean, [Foley is] a tough pitcher. It's their closer who came in and just got that slider over the plate.”

Good hitters don’t miss that kind of opportunity, and Langford cashed in.

The Tigers considered Wyatt at the No. 3 pick, but chose outfielder Max Clark of Franklin Community High in Indiana, leaving Wyatt for the Rangers.

Has Langford thought about that during this four-game series at Comerica Park?

“A little bit,” said Langford, “but not really. Everything kind of played out for a reason, and I wouldn’t change anything.”