Huff working on simplifying swing this spring
Rangers catcher also looking to increase power at plate in battle for Opening Day job
SURPRISE, Ariz. -- As a prospect, Rangers catcher Sam Huff was known for his large 6-foot-5, 240-pound frame and hitting 500-foot homers throughout his time in Double-A Frisco and Triple-A Round Rock.
According to MLB Pipeline in 2021, Huff “may have more raw power than any catching prospect and as much as any player in the Minors.” But at the time, that evaluation also said that “he may need a more disciplined approach to succeed against upper-level pitching.”
Rangers offensive coordinator Donnie Ecker is looking to remedy that. Huff spent parts of the entire offseason working with Ecker and hitting coach Tim Hyers via FaceTime in order to cut down on his swing-and-miss and make more consistent contact against quality pitching at the big league level.
“We're kind of cleaning up how I entered the zone and how I can stay in the zone longer,” Huff said. “So I was sending videos, and then one day kind of just working on my own, I FaceTimed Tim and he watched me hit. It started clicking a little more and now it's getting more consistent where all I got to do is just put myself in a position to take out all the moving parts to make everything more simple and not as complicated in my head. It's been really positive personally.”
For Huff, he embraced the simplification of his swing, finding that it makes it easier to be more consistent to the ball every time. It also prevents him from overcomplicating anything and everything while at the plate.
Early returns from live batting practice have shown improvements for Huff at the plate.
“With how busy baseball is and how hard it is and the pitchers are really good, it's good to put yourself in a better position and maybe simplify some things,” Huff said. “You just do what you know you need to do and put a good swing on a good pitch. This should help me see the ball better. It feels better. It feels like I'm seeing pitches longer. It's not as difficult to put myself in a position to do it. I'm excited. It's awesome to work with Donnie and Tim, and I'm excited to see what it brings this year and the future.”
With a large frame and a loud swing, when Huff makes contact, the ball flies. It's the highlight of his game. According to Ecker, the change in Huff’s swing shouldn't take away from his power either.
“We actually want to increase his ability to feature his power in games,” Ecker said. “So it's really about the story of how we can increase the frequency that he is continuing to hit the baseball squarely. So we simplify the movement side of that to increase that ability and we hope that [the power] shows up with greater output.”
Huff is hoping to use his newly remade swing to earn a spot on the Opening Day roster, whether that’s as a third catcher or a designated hitter.
He thrived in a 10-game stint in the big leagues in 2020, slashing .355/.394/.742, but injuries slowed him down in the following seasons. In ‘22, he appeared in 44 MLB games, but hit just .240 with a .675 OPS. The swing changes he made with Ecker and Hyers this offseason should allow Huff to repeat his ‘20 stint over a longer period of time, and do so more consistently.
“[Sam’s got] a plus engine,” Ecker said. “So just putting that puzzle together is a journey. Last year was really his first season in the big leagues. So we're just putting it together. We're going on the journey to help him be more efficient and that journey really never stops.”