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Prospects Walker and Winn both felt their swings were off during spring training, teammate helped fix that

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St. Louis Cardinals start day 4 of team workouts in Jupiter

St. Louis Cardinals non-roster infielder Jordan Walker takes batting practice on the fourth day of team workouts on Thursday, March 17, 2022, at the Cardinals spring training facility in Jupiter, Fla. Photo by Laurie Skrivan, lskrivan@post-dispatch.com

During a spring-training batting practice session at the Cardinals’ complex in Jupiter, Fla., infield prospect Masyn Winn stepped out of the cage feeling out of sorts.

“I wasn't feeling too comfortable with my swing, and I mean, just in general, not just that day,” Winn said.

As he walked out of the batting cage, a group of other Cardinals minor-leaguers, including infielder Chandler Redmond, were together having a conversation about hitting. Winn joined in and in doing so found the change he was looking for after consulting with Redmond.

The two talked about hitting, Winn asked if Redmond would observe his next session in the cage, and Redmond later suggested some hitting drills for Winn.

The changes were noticed by the 20-year-old infielder almost instantly.

“That day, I think I hit two home runs,” Winn said in a phone interview.

Those changes were also noticed by fellow Cardinals infield prospect Jordan Walker — who also looked to fix his own mechanical issues at the plate.

“I talked to Jordan and I said, 'Hey man, this is the most comfortable I've felt since high school. … I think if you have anything to talk hitting-wise — if you're wondering — just go ask Chandler, because he seems to really understand the details of your swing and how to make minor adjustments pretty quickly,” Winn said.

Walker followed Winn’s advice. 

The 19-year-old went up to Redmond with a request of his own.

“Walker came up to me the next day (and said), ‘Hey, I heard you helped Masyn. You mind looking at my swing? I’m feeling like I'm pulling off the ball a little bit. Can you help me get right?’ So I just threw out a couple of pointers,” Redmond said.

Redmond’s help in Jupiter has carried over into the regular season for the Cardinals’ first two picks from the 2020 draft.

Winn, the club’s second-round pick in 2020, is batting .393 and with an 1.114 OPS in 16 games with High-A Peoria. Walker, a first-round pick by St. Louis in 2020, is hitting .329 with an .877 OPS in his first 18 games of Double-A.

“Having a teammate that I can really put faith in (who is) always there telling me, 'Oh, yeah, you were doing this on this swing,' has really helped me focus and be more consistent with my mechanics in hitting,” Walker said of Redmond, who was a 29th round draft pick by the Cardinals in 2019.

Redmond said he already had an idea of what Walker’s swing looked like before he was asked for advice. He began to pay closer attention to his teammate’s swing and took notice of some mechanical issues after their initial conversation.

“It was kind of with his sequencing,” Redmond said of Walker’s swing. “His back heel was coming up a little bit too early and his back knee was going into the plate. I was just telling him to try and feel like he's sinking into the ground.”

Throughout both processes, there was no video or data-driven technology involved in analyzing Walker or Winn’s swings.

It all came through what Redmond could see for himself and how the two infield prospects felt when swinging.

“He looked at my (swing) and he said, 'If you cut that out, you'll be more direct to the ball. Just based on that.' He kind of just helped me instead of getting real low with my swing, he really helped me be direct to it,” Walker said.

What Redmond did use to help Walker, however, was a post by the Cardinals’ Instagram account that showed a video clip and a still photo of left fielder Tyler O’Neill hitting a home run.

Redmond sent the post to Walker as an example of how O’Neill kept his back toe down and drove his back knee into the ground on his swing.

Both of which were mechanical tweaks that Redmond said were crucial.  

“What that does is that's going to keep our hips back behind us, so now my chest can be over the plate, and so I'll stay on the ball more,” Redmond explained. “If that back foot comes up too early, now I'm going to open up with my spine angle. My spine angle is going to come out and I'm going to pull off towards the pull side.”

Walker said he “struggled” this past spring training. He doesn’t feel like his swing is where it was a year ago when he hit .317 with 14 home runs, 25 doubles and had a .936 OPS in 82 games across Low-A Palm Beach and High-A Peoria. But with Redmond’s help, the 19-year-old feels better than he did during spring camp.

“I didn't feel the rotation that I had to do, but when he physically showed me what I should be doing, and what I look like, it was an adjustment I needed to make if I wanted to start hitting,” Walker said. “I feel a bit more comfortable and there's still adjustments that I need to make. But as of right now, I feel more comfortable than I did in spring training.”

Redmond credits his background of analyzing swings to his experience playing four years of college baseball at Gardner-Webb University.

His depth in the science of hitting evolved during conversations with Ross Steedley, who was the hitting coach at the time of Redmond’s playing days as a Runnin’ Bulldog.

Redmond, who played four years at Gardner-Webb University, said he and Steedley spent countless hours together in the batting cages. The time spent working together led the duo to talk a lot about the 25-year-old’s swing.

Then, a point came when Redmond realized there was only so much you could say about one player’s offensive mechanics. He decided to adjust their conversations, and the two began talking about the swings of Redmond’s college teammates.

“I’d say, ‘Hey coach, what if he did this and this, how do you think that would affect his swing?’ And he'd say, ‘I think it would hurt it,’ or ‘yeah, that's really good. I think it would help them,’” Redmond recalls.

His experience has helped some of his teammates this season, though Redmond does not take credit for their success.

“It's all credit to him, like he's the one up there swinging it,” Redmond said of Walker. “I was just trying to get him back to staying through the middle.”

But that is what brought them to him for advice.

“I love his swing,” Winn said. “He's really good at hitting, so I wanted to go talk to him about that.

“I've been feeling pretty good, but I know as soon as I start slumping, I'm going to give (Redmond) a call.”

Daniel Guerrero

@TheDanielGuerrero on Twitter

dguerrerro@post-dispatch.com

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