Coming into the 2017 season, Altoona Curve manager Michael Ryan had said he did not expect there to be much power throughout the lineup for his squad. Outfielder Jordan Luplow seems to have never gotten that message.
The first-year Curve player has had no ill effects of advancing to Double-A this season as Luplow leads the Curve in home runs with 8 dingers so far this season. What’s fascinating about Luplow’s power surge is that it’s nearly unexpected as the 2014 third round pick had hit no more than 12 home runs in a single season since being drafted.
Luplow hit 12 home runs in 2015 while playing for the Single-A West Virginia Power in 106 games while the Fresno State product hit 10 round-trippers in 104 games last season in Advanced Single-A Bradenton. It’s taken only 42 games for the left fielder to hit the eight home run total this season.
What’s caused the power surge? Both Ryan and Luplow chimed in on what has been the difference maker early in the 2017 season.
The key to being a successful hitter at any level stems from having great hands, getting those hands to and through the baseball. According to Ryan, one of the main difference makers for Luplow at the plate this season has been his hands.
“The guys got electric hands, man, I tell ya,” Ryan said of Luplow. “He’s got quick hands. When he trusts in them, the ball goes a long way.”
While Luplow’s electric hands have helped his power numbers surge, they’ve also helped his other hitting statistics continue to grow. Luplow is hitting .285 on the season following a 2016 campaign where he hit .254 for the Marauders. His on-base percentage is right on par with his career numbers with a .362 OBP while his career OBP sits at .363. The biggest change statistically and by no surprise has been his slugging percentage which sits 107 points higher than his 2016 slugging of .421 and is currently .528.
There’s no doubt his slugging percentage has been boosted by his eight home runs, but also by his 11 doubles, which puts Luplow in third on the team in doubles. The goal for Luplow at the plate all season has not to hit for power, but to be confident and trust his hands, something not lost on his manager.
“We don’t want by no means, Jordan Luplow to hit home runs every at bat.” Ryan said. “When he stays within himself and he’s balanced the ball can go along way because his hands are so quick. He just has to trust them and use them.”
Total team approach at the plate
Advancing level to level in minor league baseball provides an intense mental and physical battle with each advancement as with each new level, the challenges get harder and failure is more imminent. Luplow’s ability to stay above the Double-A learning curve has been in large part to the help teammate Edwin Espinal has given him this season.
“Along with a couple of other teammates, (Edwin) Espinal, who’s been here since last year, he’s helped me out a lot. Just with confidence level and knowing what pitchers are going to throw, just watching the game, studying the pitchers,” Luplow said about the lessons he’s been learning from Espinal.
Consistency has played a major role in Luplow approaching career highs in home runs this season but also with the steady climb of his batting average. To maintain that level of consistency, Luplow has found himself sticking with his individual game plans going in to each game and pitcher.
“Riggsy (hitting coach Kevin Riggs) has done a great job working with me and keeping me on whatever game plan i have going that night against the other pitchers,” Luplow said.
As Ryan said above, the goal is not for Luplow to hit home runs each at bat, but to stay within himself and his game plan each and every time the left fielder steps to the plate. When Luplow does just that good things happen, but Luplow is solely focused on doing whatever necessary for him to help the Curve win games.
“Whatever is going to help the team win, that’s what I’m going to go for. If that involves me putting down a bunt, or moving a guy over or driving a guy in from third with less than two outs, you know, I’m going to do that.” Luplow said of his approach. “That’s really my approach every at bat, just get on base and help the team win.”