Spencer was sent directly to Class-A Staten Island after the draft and has proven he belongs here, if not at a higher level already. This season he’s batting .364 with 15 runs scored and ten doubles. He’s second on the team with 51 hits despite playing 15 fewer games than the only man above him [Ty McFarland has 57 hits in 52 games]
“He’s done nothing but hit,” manager Mario Garza said. “He got here and he was a little tardy on fastballs – obviously the velocity difference between college and what you see every day in professional ball is a little bit different but he’s made a nice adjustment. The hands work, he’s got a very handsy swing, he has a good feel for the barrel.”
However, there is a caveat with Spencer. Neither his power numbers and nor his walks are there this season. And while the casual fans may worry, neither Spencer nor his coaches see anything wrong with what he’s doing at the plate.
“I feel it’s going well, just going out there trying to relax and have fun,” Spencer said. “It’s just like I played in college, take it day to day and have fun so I think it’s gone well.
"I think I’m showing these scouts who I think I am as a hitter – [someone] who’s going to work the opposite field, a guy who’s going to hit. I’m just going out there, having fun, relaxing and enjoying playing.”
In college, Spencer played at a large home field at UC Irvine so he expected his home run total to increase once he arrived here. But he has yet to hit a home run this season. Combine that with the fact that he’s a left-handed first baseman and some might wonder if he truly profiles as a stereotypical Major League first baseman.
Both Garza and Spencer feel the power will be coming soon enough, however.
“We’ve seen him get the head out a little more recently,” Garza said. “He’s hit a few balls of the wall the last few days – he hit a couple off the wall on the road trip. In one of our last games here he hit a changeup off the right center field wall.
"Another thing, again, it’s just a timing thing for him – it’s getting the head out a little more. He’s a very strong kid – it’s showing in BP, his raw power, so I expect it to come.”
So far this season, Spencer has found success hitting the ball with authority the other way – another great attribute in a hitter, and something far more difficult to teach. He’s 6-feet-2-inches and weighs 215 pounds. He’s a big kid and it’s just a matter of time before he’s turning those gappers into round-trippers.
“I definitely feel [my power] coming around,” Spencer said. "It’s funny because in batting practice I’m having no problem putting the ball out of the yard. But at the same time in the game, I don’t really want to change my approach at all to try and pull the ball.
"It seems like every time I’ve walked up to the plate and tried to change my approach a little bit to pull the ball it seems to not work out for me.
"So the power to right side is going to have to come naturally. I’m going to have to stick with my approach and get my hands out on one and pull it to the left side instead of pushing it to the left side. All I can say is I’m having no problem putting it out in batting practice, so my lack of [home run] power this year isn’t scaring me.”
The other knock – if you will call it that – on Spencer is he has drawn only five walks all season. But according to his manager, that number can be a bit misleading.
“If you can hit it, we’d rather you hit it,” he said. “If you can hit it like he does there’s nothing wrong with that. I don’t think he’s a big chaser, either.
"He’s aggressive so he’s going to hit earlier in the count, which therefore you’re going to have a guy who’s not going to walk as much. But no, I don’t see that being an issue at all because he’s not missing pitches.”
However, it should be noted that Spencer said he would personally like to see more pitches and take a few more walks going forward.
With this upcoming offseason Spencer plans to spend a lot of time working by himself to improve his game, and he’s really looking forward to it.
“In this offseason, it’s going to be the first time in a long time where I’ve had this much time off to myself, and this much time to work on things," Spencer said. "I’ve never had this many months in a row to do my own work before.
"With high school baseball and college baseball, you have maybe a month off but besides that you’re back with the team doing the daily routines. This offseason, it’s going to pay dividends being able to work by myself and getting my work in. I think that my work ethic is unparalleled and so being able to work on my own is going to do some special things this offseason.”
But before Spencer can get to the offseason, he does have a few challenges he must take on during the season. For one the Yankees want to see Spencer become more defensively versatile, which means they’re occasionally moving him into left field from his native first base.
“He’s a good athlete,” Garza said. “He’s a big body guy. He doesn’t look like he’s going to be a burner but he gets down the line really well. He’s athletic enough where we put him in left field also, so that kind of shows his versatility and athleticism.”
“They want me to play more left field instead of first base, as told by my coach,” Spencer said. “So this offseason I’m really going to be, of course, focusing on first base and keeping things fine-tuned but I think I’m a pretty solid defensive player at first base, and there’s a lot of work to be done in left field and so the majority of the offseason will probably be getting faster in left field, getting better reads, just trying to be a more well-rounded defensive player out there.”
Spencer said first base is still his “baby” but he’s really looking forward to spending some time in the outfield. If all turns out well, the Yankees will have a versatile fielder who’s already proven himself to be a strong hitter with the promise of some power down the line.
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With their 8th Round selection in this year’s draft the Yankees selected first baseman Connor Spencer out of UC Irvine. Spencer shows promise as a good first baseman. He can handle himself around the bag and has shown so this season, but that’s not the primary reason why they drafted him. Long story short - this kid can hit.
Connor Spencer may not have hit a homer yet or drawn a lot of walks, but he can really hit.