Early in Spring Training, Bryson Stott told The Athletic’s Matt Gelb that he rewatched every game from the Phillies postseason run. While doing so, Stott realized that he struggled to hit fastballs, particularly up in the zone. The young lefty faced 64% fastballs last season and hit just .209 against heaters and swung and missed at 16.5% of them. In that excellent piece in The Athletic, Stott mentioned that one part of his plan was to not swing at so many of those pitches.
Through the first two series of the season, he has stuck to that plan, and it has shown results.
The 25-year-old second baseman is 10-23 (.435) with three doubles and has reached base safely in all six of the team’s games this season. He has multiple hits in four of those games.
Yes, it’s a small sample size. But through the first week of the season, Stott is seeing almost an identical percentage of fastballs, yet has slashed his whiff rate in half to 8%, down from 16.5% in 2022. With that change has come better numbers, as he was 7-14 with two doubles and an expected slugging percentage of .395 off heaters entering Wednesday’s game against the Yankees. In that game, Stott added two more hits off fastballs, including a ground-rule double off of a 96 MPH Gerrit Cole fastball up and away.
That’s now 9 of Stott’s 10 hits on the year coming off fastballs.
All but three of Stott’s hits this season have gone the opposite way. That is partly because the majority of pitches he’s seen in the zone have been low and away.
Stott is proving early on that he can lay off those high fastballs out of the zone and that he can let the ones in the zone get deep and drive them the other way. Pitchers will soon adjust and start throwing more heaters inside, daring Stott to get his bat around to them quicker and pull the ball.
Last season, Stott showed that he has pull power, as all ten of his home runs went to right field. However, he did not consistently do it, as he had just one home run in each of August, September, and October. This is not to say that Stott is and should ever become a dead-pull hitter, but rather that he should have more opportunities to hit for power if he continues his current approach and must take advantage.
The Phillies are starving for power to begin the year, as they have just four total home runs through six games without Bryce Harper and Rhys Hoskins. Now with Darick Hall possibly missing time with a thumb injury, they need all the pop they can get.
Stott has shown in his young career that he is willing and able to make necessary adjustments. Just look to last season when he hit .188 and was demoted in the first half only to return and hit .276 with a .735 OPS in the second half. There’s no reason to believe that Stott, with the additional tutelage of hitting coach Kevin Long, can’t continue to evolve into a more well-rounded hitter that has the ability to drive the ball to all fields as well as destroy pitch counts with pesky at-bats and numerous foul balls.
Perhaps more of those type of at-bats will end with a walk or a base hit with continued discipline in regard to fastballs up and out of the zone.