Javier Baez announced his return to the Pacific Coast League with authority. He homered in the second inning of Iowa’s win last night, and then homered again in the ninth. And in the videos of the two homers, we get a pretty good look at his new and improved swing. Personally, I like what I’m seeing.

In particular, pay attention to Baez’s front foot in the first video:

That pitch came on an 0-2 count, and his front toe never actually leaves the dirt. The leg kick, in essence, is just gone.

In the second video (2-1 count) the front leg stays very low, but there is a bit of a step in there:

All in all, though, both swings look more balanced, more controlled, and contain less extraneous movement. And that painful-looking roll of the left foot at the end of the swing is somewhat reduced, as well.

Now, just to prove that we’re not making a big deal out of a minor change, take a look at this video of Baez in action in spring training this year. See the that front leg come way up? See the large stride? See the near loss of balance from the violence of the swing?

Now watch yesterday’s videos again. See any of that? Me either. Even the two-strike swing in the Spring Training video, which features a reduced leg kick, appears unbalanced.

Baez has a new, quieter, more direct swing that he is willing to use even when there are not two strikes in the count, and I can’t wait to see what he can do with it in the majors. Old habits die hard, so I won’t be surprised to see the old approach creep back from time to time, but there is no doubt he has put a ton of work into this transformation. Major League success is not guaranteed – swing mechanics are only one part of the battle to increase contact (there’s also pitch recognition) – but I like his odds more now than I ever have before.

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