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Grullon learning to use the whole field

July 6, 2014 - Mitch Rupert
Deivi Grullon has never hit better than .273 for any professional team he's played for. To be honest though, the 18-year old's calling card isn't what he does with the bat.

He is without question the best Phillies catching prospect. With all due respect to an advanced hitter like Andrew Knapp, or maybe the best defensive catcher in the system Logan Moore, Deivi Grullon is the prospect who is going to turn people's head.

He's a top 10 prospect who is starting to show some growth as a hitter for the Williamsport Crosscutters. Grullon has recorded five hits in his last six games and has watched his average fall … Yes, fall … to .295 entering Sunday's season finale against Auburn.

Grullon has begun to use the entire field making him a tough player to defend. Sure, he still gets stuck some time bailing and wailing, but Cutters hitting coach Eddie Dennis said that's part of the process when you're dealing with the second-youngest player in the New York-Penn League.

“He's young, and you know you're going to have to have patience with him,” Dennis said following batting practice Sunday. “Even good hitters are going to go through a couple game slump, and I think that's what happened with him the last couple games. We've been working him early in the cage and hopefully he can get back to the player we know he is.”

Grullon hit a season high batting average of .342 after a 4 for 4 day against State College on June 26. That slump Dennis talked about began following that four-hit day. He's 5 for 23 (.217) in the six games since with just one extra-base hit.

But there's a conscious effort, it seems, from Grullon to start working the baseball to the opposite field. The four-hit game from Grullon was a perfect example of what Dennis has been working on with Grullon. All his hits at that either went to the right side of the field or back through the middle.

“Anytime you're able to use the whole field it works to your advantage,” Dennis said. “That's one of our philosophies and he's a good hitter going to the opposite field. He's been right around .300 all year since we've been doing that.”

The use of the entire field has made Grullon one of the most dangerous hitters on the team with runners in scoring position, a scenario the Crosscutters have struggled with over the last week. He's hitting .467 with runners in scoring position this year, better than everyone on the team except Chase Harris who has just two at-bats in that scenario. His .407 batting average with runners on base is best on the team, and his .295 batting average is bettered by only Matt Shortall (.350), Emmanuel Marrero (.321), Cord Sandberg (.316) and Jiandido Tromp (.263).

About the only knock against Grullon's improve hitting – he was a .256 career hitter in the minors prior to joining Williamsport – is his noticeable lack of power. His impressive on-base percentage of .348 is nearly as high as his .377 slugging percentage. Of his 18 hits with Williamsport, five are doubles, and they're his only extra-base hits. He had one home run in the Gulf Coast League a year ago as a 17-year old, but that is his only professional home run since signing as a 16-year old out of the Dominican Republic in 2012.

But Dennis said his new approach to hitting is the first step in seeing his power materialize. Once he becomes confident using the entire field, he'll begin to deliver hits with more authority.

“The kid is only 18 years old and as he gets older and gets more mature, he's going to be able to drive the ball and develop more power,” Dennis said. “This is going to make him a good hitter, a good .300 hitter. And a good defensive catcher who can hit .300 is a big plus. The big thing for him is to stay consistent and stay positive. He's very coachable and I think he has a great future ahead of him.”

FINDING CONSISTENCY

It would have been understandable if Alejandro Arteaga sulked just a bit coming to Williamsport. He was hit around pretty good in his time with Lakewood earlier this spring. But Crosscutters manager Shawn Williams said he's not surprised Arteaga has shown some mental toughness in his time in Williamsport.

“He's a tough kid,” Williams said Saturday night. “He's one that doesn't need success to be confident. He goes out there and he's going to give it his all every night and it's all you can ask for.”

That comment came after Arteaga's best start of the season Saturday night when he allowed just one run and five hits in seven innings of brilliant work in a 2-1 loss to Auburn. It was the second consecutive seven-inning outing for Arteaga and his third consecutive outing of at least six innings.

Arteaga has a penchant for finishing off his outings with a flair. Saturday Williams saw something which really made him happy which was a strong start from the 20-year old Venezuelan right-hander. He retired the side in order in the first two innings, and a one-out single in the third inning caused no damage. He faced more than four batters in an inning just one in his seven innings.

He threw 66 of his 94 pitches (70 percent) for strikes, and he struck out four and walked none.

“The biggest thing was he was keeping the ball down,” Williams said. “Even the run they got, he left a couple pitches up, but he was right back to working down. He's been successful at keeping it down, and his slider was a lot better. And his last three innings were really impressive using all three of his pitches.”

 
 

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