De Leon Maturing

De Leon had 72 K's this time a year ago

Kelvin De Leon is starting to pick it up. He had a decent season in 2011, leading the RiverDogs with 60 RBIs while racking up 100 hits — but 147 strikeouts plagued his average down to .221, raising concerns about his ability to perform consistently. Now, the 6-foot-2 right-fielder is focused on eliminating those strikeouts and making that phase a thing of the past.

"He's a lot more mature this year," RiverDogs' manager Carlos Mendoza said. "You can tell he knows what he needs to do to prepare himself to play the game. He's putting good at-bats together and not chasing pitches out of the strike zone."

"Kelvin learned a lot last year," hitting coach Greg Colbrunn said. "Last year at the break he had quite a few home runs, but then he also had a ton of strikeouts.

"The second half of last year he cut his swing stance down and became more of a professional hitter with a much better approach. He grew a lot last year and it has carried over into this year."

De Leon currently has a .270 average, with 20 hits and 36 strikeouts, which the coaches attribute to his hard work during the offseason and Spring Training.

"He worked his butt off during the offseason and came to Spring Training focused, which allowed him to put together a good spring and first part of this year," Colbrunn said. "He just needs to keep shortening up his swing and getting his lower half more involved to have quality at-bats."

"I worked really hard during Spring Training and I'm happy with with how it turned out," De Leon said through the help of a translator. "I'm making better contact and I'm trying to avoid those strikeouts."

The coaches have been working with the Dominican Republic native on specific things, which has been a key to making him a more consistent hitter.

"We just want him to keep that swing shorter and he's been doing it. As you can see, he's having a pretty good year," Mendoza said. "He's seeing the ball better, and now he doesn't have to rush at the plate. He's been working with Colby on judging the ball once it's released out of the pitcher's hands which has helped a lot."

The coaches enjoy watching De Leon's progress, and while they aren't surprised by it, they hope he can keep it up.

"We expected this from him because he has all the tools," Mendoza added. "It was only a matter of time. I am very pleased with his overall performance this year and I give him a lot of credit too because he's worked very hard."

"Kelvin is a very intelligent kid and he's come a long way since he's been in the organization," Colbrunn said. "It's fun to watch him mature."

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