When Kyle Stowers poured through the video, looking for an explanation for his rut, he found no cause for concern from his swing. The place of his hands is as usual, like a burden. But once she turned her attention down – looking to her legs – she found the answer.
So much of the swing is dictated by how the hands and arms move the bat through the zone, body parts directly related to making contact with the ball. But when Stowers, hit coordinator Cody Asche, Triple -A Norfolk manager Buck Britton and the Tides hit coach Tim Gibbons pulled up an old video, they realized the legs – where the swing all began – were a major problem.
“It’s a small change,” Stowers said Monday on a video call. “Nothing too big.”
Except for the same results.
Once Stowers began to stand more upright, returning to a position he had used in his career, the outfielder stepped out, earning the International League Player of the Week award after clubbing five races at home with an OPS of 1,767. This is part of a leap that has 2019 second -round draft picks knocking at the Orioles ’door – even though there isn’t yet a place for them in Baltimore.
“All I can do is take stuff every day,” Stowers said. “Keep getting closer to the ideal player that I see myself one day. And if I get closer every day, then I’m happy with how I’m doing today.
Stowers has turned a slump at .129 over a 20-game stretch between mid-April and early May, but the crowded outfield in Baltimore leaves little obvious place for promotion.
Cedric Mullins, Austin Hays and Anthony Santander are matches – although Santander, above all else, could be an interesting trade -deadline acquisition for a competing club. Ryan McKenna has a role as a fourth outfielder, primarily as a defensive replacement or pinch runner.
It’s not the role Stowers will take on; The Orioles want the top prospect to receive a near-daily at-bat. So Stowers, now, finds himself in a waiting game, looking for a suitable spot on a field full of young talent.
He didn’t let that stop him. During the torrent week for Norfolk, Stowers suffered three homers in one game and hit 10 RBIs. This season, his strikeout rate is down to 26%. He beat 38% of the bat last year.
Crouching is more part of the solution. He feels his bat-to-ball skills increase as he becomes more compact. He calls it the “low hanging fruit,” Band-Aid’s solution to the occasional tendency to chase. But it resulted in weaker contact, so he returned to a more upright position to “get athletic again.”
“Ultimately, it’s not me and the type of hitter I am,” Stowers said. “This is the thing that finally got away from me as a hitter.”
The production of Stowers this season is not surprising. The 24-year-old led the Orioles minor league with 27 homers last season, playing in High-A, Double-A and Triple-A. He shared Baltimore’s Brooks Robinson Minor League Player of the Year Award with top prospect Adley Rutschman, the only hitter to qualify on the system with a higher OPS.
The left bat is a plus, too, for the Orioles lineup without many lefties. But how to match him in those ranks – in the future and beyond – is more cloudy. It may require injuries or trades to free up space inadvertently.
So, in the meantime, Stowers isn’t concerned with the outfield display in Baltimore.
“I really believe if I take care of my business and play the best baseball I can play, then I’ll be OK,” Stowers said. “This allows me to really, really root for the players that I’m in theory competing with, even if for me it doesn’t feel like that.”