KANSAS CITY — If Royals fans have paid attention to the organization’s farm system for the past two years, they’ve no doubt heard the name Alec Zumwalt.
Zumwalt, the club’s director of player development and batting performance, has been a major factor in overhauling the minor league batting department over the past two years – a department that has seen significant improvement with batting. at all levels of the system in their offensive approach and production.
Now he’s the Royals’ new hitting coach.
Kansas City fired Terry Bradshaw ahead of Monday Night’s 5-3 10-inning loss to the White Sox and assigned Zumwalt to oversee all hitting efforts. Assistant hitting coach Keoni DeRenne remains with the team after the Royals promoted him this offseason; he was also integral to the improvements seen in the minors in 2021. Major League coach John Mabry, who works closely with the hitters, also remains, and special hitters coach Mike Tosar will also be in uniform.
“We’ve felt for some time that we need to tackle, whether it’s on-base percentage, hard-hit rates, chase rates,” general manager JJ Picollo said. “And Alec, Mike Tosar, John Mabry, they’ve all worked together and will continue to work together to make improvements every day.”
Zumwalt, 41, played 10 years in the Minors as an outfielder and reliever. The Braves selected him in the fourth round of the 1999 MLB Draft, a year when Picollo and Royals president of baseball operations Dayton Moore were front office executives in Atlanta.
Moore hired Zumwalt as a scout in 2011, and he won the Art Stewart Scout of the Year award for his efforts during the 2015 World Series season, including advanced scouting for every series during the 2014-15 playoffs of the club.
The Royals see the value of having Zumwalt in the front office, but also on the pitch with the players, as evidenced by the improvements seen with prospects like Nick Pratto, MJ Melendez, Vinnie Pasquantino, Michael Massey and many more. in the system.
And Zumwalt could return to this role at the end of the season. Picollo said the Royals will reassess at the end of the season whether he will return to supervising the batting department or continue as a big league coach.
“Alec is a valued member of our staff,” Picollo said. “It’s not an audition for him. When you make a change mid-season, you have to take a lot of things into consideration. And camaraderie and compatibility are a big part of that. [Manager] Mike [Matheny] has a lot of respect for Alec, and they’ll work well together, so right now he’s the best person for the job.
The Royals would like to see the game planning and approach that Zumwalt and others have implemented in the Minors at Major League level, which is why they have created Zumwalt’s 2020 Striking Performance Role: Roster between all levels. That’s especially true now that Kansas City is seeing more young hitters making the transition to the big leagues.
Baseball’s No. 1 prospect by MLB Pipeline, Bobby Witt Jr., made his opening day debut and he’s only missed one game this season, Melendez is now with the club from the big league, and the Royals expect Pratto and Pasquantino to debut at some point in 2022.
“We are not worried about Salvador Perez. [who is hitting .203]”, Picollo said. “Not worried about Whit Merrifield. It’s really more worried about how to get some of these other guys, some of the younger guys, on the right track, stay on the right track. that they were in a pretty good place when they got here. And then transfer that into the future. The point isn’t to come in here and blow it all up, and Alec understands that.
Changes won’t happen overnight, nor will a complete overhaul of offensive philosophy in the middle of a season. But the Royals will hope the offense gets back on track with Zumwalt in charge.
“You don’t implant a philosophy,” Matheny said. “It Goes Slow: Here are some things to consider. It’s really as much about the processes as anything else, some of the different exercises. And I think we’ve all experienced, too, that the same message shared in different ways is sometimes perceived differently. So there’s a different vocabulary, a different focus sometimes when you bring other people here.
Zumwalt is highly regarded in the Royals organization – by managers and players alike. Several prospects said Monday how thrilled they were that Zumwalt had a major league opportunity. Batters rave about his energy and knowledge, and executives have seen the way players respond to Zumwalt when working in groups or individually.
The challenge will be to create those same relationships with veteran players.
“A guy with high energy and character,” Picollo said. “The players like to engage with him, like to be around him. When I look at our hitting culture in the minor leagues, I think his energy and positivity add as much to that environment as what he does with his hitting knowledge.