Cord Sandberg was the Phillies 3rd Round pick in the 2013 draft, many scouts had him as a late first, early second round talent, but he fell due to a college scholarship to play quarterback. After a hot start in the GCL last year he hit .207/.313/.272 on the season with poor contact. In 2014 the Phillies held him back in Extended Spring Training before sending him to Williamsport, where he once again got off to a good start hitting .297/.348/.453 in June and seemed poised to join the upper echelon of Phillies prospects. However in July, he is hitting .194/.227/.290 and in his last 10 games he is hitting .132/.132/.184 with 0 walks and 13 strikeouts.
So whats up?
He is making crappy contact again*. In June he hit ground balls at 40% rate while hitting fly balls at a 38.5% rate. In July those numbers are 60% and 26% respectively. For some context here is Ian Catherine who covers the Crosscutters
Now there are a couple of things to dissect here, but lets start with the swing. For that we turn to Crashburn Alley’s Eric Longenhagen who broke down Sandberg’s swing after watching some batting practice video. One of the most important parts of Eric’s analysis is this:
Next, notice the bat path. Sandberg loads his hands parallel with his ear, which is about the highest I consider acceptable. What this causes is an exaggerated downward path to the ball which keeps Sandberg’s bat out of the hitting zone for quite a while. If Sandberg is late on a pitch, most of the contact he makes the other way will be on the ground because his bat is still one its way down at the point of contact. This also means that, since Sandberg’s swing doesn’t really start to exhibit loft until the bat has passed his body, the only authoritative contact he’s going to make is going to be to his pull side.
We can see this bearing out in Sandberg’s stats, so far this year Sandberg has only hit 5 balls in the air to left field, which is good for 4.9% of the balls he has put in play this year, or less than he has hit to any position but catcher.
The other part of Ian’s comment is that pitchers are starting to pitch Sandberg backwards and it is making him uncomfortable at the plate and in his swing. It is important to remember that this is the first year Sandberg has been 100% committed to baseball. He is lacking overall reps just seeing pitches and pitchers. Eric also notes that Sandberg’s swing may not be the best for making in swing adjustments right now, which is also part of the problem.
So that is the bad news, there are some real problems in the swing that are going to cause some problems for Cord.
On to the good news.
He is still young, he won’t turn 20 until next January, nothing is set in stone for him, there is a lot of development ahead of him. The swing itself is already better than last year, last year it was stiff and mechanical, this year it is a bit more athletic, this is a learning process, the coaches will be working with him on this in both Fall Instructs and Spring Training. Which, brings us to adjustments, I have heard nothing but rave reviews about Sandberg’s makeup and work ethic. Despite being a two sport athlete in high school, he has always identified as a baseball player and is fully committed to playing baseball going forward. In the field he is a great defender in RF, he still needs to work on his routes, but he should be at least a plus defender with a plus arm out there.
There is plenty to like here, don’t panic, be concerned if it doesn’t change going forward into following years.
*All batted ball data presented here is small sample size and is not meant to have stabilized or show a permanent trend of development, it is just another part of the context.