Ryan Sweeney Took an Interesting Approach This Off Season to Hit for More Power
When the Red Sox signed Ryan Sweeney last off season, they hoped he could add a little bit of left handed pop from the bench. Sweeney has the build of a power hitter, 6'4", 225 lbs, but has only 14 career home runs in 535 major league games. He played in 63 games for Boston in 2012 before ending his season with a broken hand, and managed to hit 19 doubles (he has averaged 31 doubles per 162 games in his career). I recall most of his doubles being gappers, not long fly balls over an outfielder's reach. This might suggest that Sweeney has never really tried to hit home runs, or never been able to harness the raw power that seems to be there.
Sure enough, Sweeney was able to work with Hall of Famer Rod Carew for two weeks this winter, and believes that this might help him put more charge into his at bats. According to the outfielder, "I basically changed my swing...I changed my lower half and how I'm getting to balls. I just feel like I'm ready to hit every pitch and I"m taking good swings and I have a good bat path to the baseball. I just feel like I can put better swings on the ball...I just feel like what [Carew] taught me will put me in a better position to drive the ball more." While I am all for getting the help of a Hall of Famer, could he have chosen someone who hit more than 92 home runs?
Taking a look at Sweeney's swing while in Oakland (props to Over the Monster for the link), we can see that Sweeney's upper and lower half look...off.
Compare this to some of the swings from last year's home run derby contestants, and it becomes even more clear that Sweeney is not generating the power that his large frame could provide. Mark Trumbo, who is listed at the same height and weight as Sweeney is a good frame of reference:
Sweeney is not even guaranteed a spot on the roster right now, so all of this could be moot. However, if he can utilize the Hall of Fame teaching he got this off season, a strong Spring Training could plant him in a platoon with Jonny Gomes in left.