It didn’t take long into competition for Adam Haseley to begin to make his case for the starting center fielder job. Only two pitches into the Phillies’ opener on Sunday in Lakeland, he smacked an opposite field home run.
Now, it is Spring Training and the results do not matter as much as the process. Spring Training is not about winning the game but rather about the players getting work in on the field while getting in shape for the season. So, in the same way that the final score of the game does not matter (I’m looking at you, Phillies Facebook & Twitter), the home run itself does not matter much. What does matter, however, is what it represents.
What it Means for Adam Haseley
Haseley’s home run had a launch angle of 32 degrees. In his career, Haseley has hit for a meager 3.7-degree launch angle (versus the average 11.9 across all of Major League Baseball). He additionally has only hit five home runs over only 334 plate appearances.
If Haseley can continue this trend and get the barrel onto the ball a bit more, Haseley could become a much more valuable offensive component. Currently, 55.9% of his career batted balls have been ground balls, along with a below-average 32.1% hard-hit rate. If he can show that his offseason adjustments have resulted in a more even swing rather than his top-down results from previous years, then he just may have an edge on the others for the job.
What it Means for the Rest of the Competition
Haseley also sent a message to his fellow teammates looking for the starting center fielder job:
It’s gonna be a battle.
By leading off, Haseley was in a position to set the pace for the rest of the competition. Two pitches in, he certainly did so with an opposite-field home run for a ground-ball-hitting lefty. Scott Kingery, Travis Jankowski, and Mickey Moniak did also started the game for the Phillies. The only thing of note from them, however, is a double from Mickey Moniak. Moniak barreled up for a 103.3 MPH that went 396 feet.
The starting center fielder on Opening Day will not necessarily be the one with the most home runs, the most times on base, or the best Spring Training OPS. It will be the player who puts the most time into the process and improves his game the most who starts on Opening Day. Today, Haseley demonstrated that he has put work in over the offseason.
While Haseley and Moniak appeared in the box score today, Kingery, Jankowski, and Quinn are far from out. There is still plenty of competition to go, but there is one thing for certain above all others:
Baseball. Is. Back.