Twins prospect Steer -- a twin! -- developing power

February 5th, 2022

MINNEAPOLIS -- If Spencer Steer eventually gets the call to the Major Leagues, there can't ever have been a more fitting player to wear the Twins' logo across his chest -- and there might not be one again.

You see, not only does Steer have a twin brother, but his two older brothers are also a pair of twins. A twin set of twin brothers. He might as well have been destined for selection by the Minnesota Twins in the 2019 MLB Draft from the moment of his birth.

"You could say that," Steer said. "Twins definitely run in the family, for sure."

The quirks of the Steer family tree -- apt as they may be -- likely won't do much to convince president of baseball operations Derek Falvey and general manager Thad Levine to give the infield prospect his chance in The Show. On the other hand, all the newfound power in Steer's bat might.

Steer totaled 16 homers across three seasons at the University of Oregon from 2017-19 and his first professional season at Rookie-level Elizabethton and then-Class A Cedar Rapids in '19. Coming out of the canceled 2020 season, the Twins' No. 23 prospect blew past that total with 24 home runs in '21 as he rose steadily up the system from High-A Cedar Rapids to Double-A Wichita, setting himself up for a big jump across prospect rankings entering 2022.

Had he ever been a 20-homer hitter at any point in his life?

"No," Steer said immediately. "Not even close to that. So, yeah. Definitely a new thing for me.

"In Little League, I was a little bigger than most kids," he said. "At 12 years old, I was a pretty big kid. I'm not going to lie to you, I was probably a little heavyset. So, you know, 200-foot fences were probably a little small for me at the time, but ever since Little League, I have not hit for much power until this past year."

But here he is, integrating that element so crucial to modern hitting instruction as a 24-year-old facing professional pitchers. As he describes it, though, there wasn't much of a big tweak to his swing, nor was there a big alteration to his approach -- and considering what Steer's hitting profile looked like before his transformation, sweeping changes might not have been a good thing.

He'd always done a good job of squaring up the baseball, controlling the strike zone and getting on base, but the Twins approached him about adding some extra-base pop ahead of instructional league action in '19. They just hoped the power wouldn't come at the cost of a lot more swing-and-miss.

So, as Steer hit in a 30-foot-long pop-up batting cage in a friend's backyard and lifted weights in a friend's garage during the COVID-19 shutdown, he worked closely with the Twins' hitting instructors on a handful of tweaks.

Steer said the focus was on getting his body to move and transfer force from the ground through his body into his bat speed more efficiently by loading less on his quad and more into his hips during his swing. He complemented that with breathing and stretching work with Minor League reconditioning specialist Dennis Colon -- things that he hadn't seen before, like laying on his side with a foam roller between his legs, holding a ball and just focusing on his breathing.

Coming into the new season, Steer didn't change his approach much -- but as he saw it, the ball simply started carrying over the fence. After 10 homers in 45 games with Cedar Rapids, he hit 14 more in 65 games for Wichita, though the strikeouts went up and the walks went down, which he'll work to normalize with additional exposure to the high Minors.

His final line across 110 games: 24 homers, 18 doubles, eight steals and a .254/.348/.484 slash line.

"I don't know if you can ever say what you totally expect," said Bryce Berg, the Twins' new Minor League hitting coordinator, who coached Steer in Cedar Rapids. "You know, we were hoping for some growth there. And I think that Spencer exceeded expectations there. He was just great to work with, and it was really a cool team effort across our entire Minor League group."

Steer can play some shortstop, but there's also been plenty of focus on second and third base, highlighting the versatility that the Twins love in their infielders. He's working alongside three Twins big leaguers in Denver this offseason, continuing his mobility work with Colon.

All this pop may be new to him, but his goal is to continue tapping into the results more consistently in '22 -- and the Twins are already quite pleased with the group effort that led to this big leap forward.

"This is an additive thing for him, and he's still doing a lot of good things offensively, still can grind at-bats, still can battle with two strikes," Twins farm director Alex Hassan said. "But we thought this was something that could add another weapon and another tool in his toolbox to help him be a complete hitter."

Perhaps that's what will eventually help him become a Twin. (You know, with a capital T.)