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Wa Po: Weird Story About Span Leaving the Twins

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#1 John Bonnes

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Posted 09 February 2013 - 02:27 AM

Kind of a weird story by Adam Kilgore about Denard Span starting fresh with the Nationals. There are a lot of Twins references, stuff that sounds like grumbling that could only come from Span, but it falls short of following through. Like this:

After the Twins selected him in the first round in 2002, the hitting instruction he received felt like a barrage. They wanted to change the way he hit, the swing he had taught himself.


The Twins altered his mechanics, taking away his natural athleticism and trying to give him a more traditional approach. He had never thought much about his swing, and the tinkering wore on him. He wanted to follow every instruction, to make his coaches happy, and he thought too much.


"I had a hard time," Span said. "My natural ability wasn't doing what it needed to be doing, because I'm thinking too much. I'm thinking about everything that I've never thought about."


And then....nothing. The story moves on to his concussion. Did he reject those changes? Did he modify those suggestions when he broke through in AAA? Is he still doing that? Is he looking forward to ditching them? It references them and doesn't tell us what happened.

He also talks candidly about the impact of the concussion on his emotions:

"I'm just sitting in my chair feeling worthless," Span said. "When you go through concussions, I later found your emotions change. I feel like I had estrogen in me or something. Every little thing bothered me. I was moody all the time. There were just a lot of components that had entered into my body I had never felt."


Yeah, certainly seemed to be the case. The article suggests that yoga has helped with that, but it isn't clear that is what is has done. Like I said, weird story....

Former Twin Denard Span visualizing a fresh start with Nationals - TwinCities.com

#2 glunn

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Posted 09 February 2013 - 03:25 AM

This article makes me wonder whether the minor league coaches are ruining some of the young hitters.

#3 lightfoot789

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Posted 09 February 2013 - 05:12 AM

This article makes me wonder whether the minor league coaches are ruining some of the young hitters.


The Twins have 5 Hitters in the MLB Top 100 Prospects - The instructors may mess up 1 guys swing along the way, but I would say that the overall results are positive. I'm sure Span put a mixture to his swing as well (his and Twins way). Worked out either way for him.

#4 Riverbrian

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Posted 09 February 2013 - 07:38 AM

No stride Span. It works for him. Sounds like he must have been no striding walking into the system...

I could see a coach saying "what'd you doing? No no no... lets start from the basics and rework this swing".

I can see a kid like Span listening to the coach and getting screwed up in the process.

Edited by Riverbrian, 09 February 2013 - 07:54 AM.


#5 silverslugger

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Posted 09 February 2013 - 08:05 AM

I would imagine that the level of instruction any 18 year old experiences going from high school ball to professional minor league instruction would feel like a "barrage". Here's my take. If a hitter is hitting successfully for whatever his skill set is at his level of competence, chances are, the hitting instructor isn't doing much to change his approach. If I remember correctly, Span's numbers in the lower minors weren't overwhelming and those numbers didn't necessarily suggest MLB success until he hit AAA. I agree though John, the article does a disservice by not going further and answering those questions you bring up.

#6 minn55441

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Posted 09 February 2013 - 08:28 AM

I would imagine that the level of instruction any 18 year old experiences going from high school ball to professional minor league instruction would feel like a "barrage". Here's my take. If a hitter is hitting successfully for whatever his skill set is at his level of competence, chances are, the hitting instructor isn't doing much to change his approach. If I remember correctly, Span's numbers in the lower minors weren't overwhelming and those numbers didn't necessarily suggest MLB success until he hit AAA. I agree though John, the article does a disservice by not going further and answering those questions you bring up.


I agree, as 17 or 18 year old the world looks different. Denard was also a little different, very well spoken and a little more cerebral than most. I can see him sitting back and thinking about his days as a young player in the system and questioning the instruction he received.

#7 drjim

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Posted 09 February 2013 - 08:34 AM

This article makes me wonder whether the minor league coaches are ruining some of the young hitters.


I would look at it the other way. This article might help explain why Twins hitting prospects often seem to take a dip in the low minors and then start to emerge as they get to AA. Instead of letting them have success in the low minors on natural talent that will be exposed as they climb the ladder, the Twins force them to change mechanics that will lead to some initial struggles but will ultimately lead to longer term success at higher levels.
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#8 Thrylos

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Posted 09 February 2013 - 09:31 AM

Span was either a very good Span (getting on bases, stealing bases, getting to balls in CF) or a very bad Span (looking at strike 3, getting picked off 1B, not getting to balls etc etc.) I think that this article really hits the nail on the head about what had been wrong with bad Span, but one has to read between the lines (emphasis mine) :

[quote]
He had never thought much about his swing, and the tinkering wore on him. He wanted to follow every instruction, to make his coaches happy, and he thought too much. [/quote]

[quote]"I had a hard time," Span said. "My natural ability wasn't doing what it needed to be doing, because I'm thinking too much. I'm thinking about everything that I've never thought about." [/quote]
[quote]I later found your emotions change. I feel like I had estrogen in me or something. Every little thing bothered me. I was moody all the time. There were just a lot of components that had entered into my body I had never felt."[/quote]
[quote]"When you have a concussion, mentally everything is distraught," Span said. "Your mind is psychologically, mentally, you're all over the place. It was good for me last year to find yoga, just to bring all that back to that centered place." [/quote]
[quote]"It's almost like the season is fast-forwarding in my mind," Span said. "I want to be the best I can be. I want to be an all-star."[/quote]

I think that the "bad Span" has been "thinking too much" or try to figure ways to make himself better. The "good Span" just went out there and played... And the difference was obvious on the field, on the bases and at bats.
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#9 johnnydakota

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Posted 09 February 2013 - 09:38 AM

The Twins have 5 Hitters in the MLB Top 100 Prospects - The instructors may mess up 1 guys swing along the way, but I would say that the overall results are positive. I'm sure Span put a mixture to his swing as well (his and Twins way). Worked out either way for him.


Im guessing the instructor they have is trying to pigeon hole all hitters into the Twins way...
Instead of trying bring out a new draftys best attributes
Hopefuly this has changed and they now see and know there are several approaches .

#10 jorgenswest

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Posted 09 February 2013 - 10:09 AM

Why have instruction at all if not to change and improve approach? Wouldn't almost any 18 year old have parts of their approach and swing that they would need change to progress through the minors? With that change will come struggle and set back as Denard encountered in the minors.

Of the 41 players drafted in the first round + supplemental that year Span ranks 6th in career WAR while being picked 20th. Wouldn't that suggest that the Twins did a reasonably good job of selecting and developing his talent?

#11 nicksaviking

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Posted 09 February 2013 - 10:24 AM

Span was drafted a decade ago, changes have been made at every level since. That being said, at the time the Twins were riding with low contact, low OBP Jacque Jones in the leadoff spot and few other options in the pipeline. It would not be out of the question that there was an organizational mandate to ensure Span's approach at the plate would be more like a traditional leadoff hitter.

Edited by nicksaviking, 09 February 2013 - 10:26 AM.


#12 Jim H

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Posted 09 February 2013 - 10:31 AM

Many years ago now, a guy from my home town was selected in the late rounds of the draft by the Cinncinati Reds. He had had a 4 year career at a small college and was sent to a short season league. He proceeded to win the batting title that summer, so they sent him to winter instructionals in Florida. The hitting instructor decided to change his swing. Naturally, he struggled with that for the next 2 years and then was released.

There is 2 ways to look at this. Changing someone's natural swing isn't likely to be an easy thing and has a good chance of not working very well. On the other hand, if you don't have much chance of getting to the majors with your natural swing, there isn't a lot to lose.

#13 Twins Twerp

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Posted 09 February 2013 - 11:02 AM

This article makes me wonder whether the minor league coaches are ruining some of the young hitters.


Ya poor Span and how the hitting instructors ruined his swing. The guy is a staring mlb centerfielder. Span is a stubborn child so of course he thougjt as a kid they were ruining his swing. Now the guy is making bank and it is because the twins instructors changed the swing he found. Newsflash: these guys have been developing the best young centerfielder s for decades. Puckett, hunter, span, revere, hicks, and soon buxton. Sounds like span should be grateful that the twins drafted him and took time to develop him. Other organizations wouldnt have been as patient with him.

#14 one_eyed_jack

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Posted 09 February 2013 - 11:42 AM

I don't think we can necessarily infer that just because they tried to change his swing, they were wrong. I mean if the best thing to do is just leave guys alone to rely on their "natural talent", then everyone should just fire their hitting coaches.

However, here's a piece from a couple of years ago where Denard basically accuses the Twins of trying to turn him from a guy who drove the ball into a slap hitter, something he had never been before:
Twins' Span recalls Class A days - SweetSpot Blog - ESPN

#15 Riverbrian

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Posted 09 February 2013 - 12:02 PM

A hitting coach can help you and a hitting coach can hurt you and a hitting coach can have little to no influence at all.

I have no idea if Span's swing was over tinkered or under tinkered.

I will say this... Not many baseball players use the no-stride swing that Denard Span has and he uses the it very well. This makes him a bit of an oddity and hopefully all of our instructors understood this and worked with it... Instead of a cookie cutter approach.

I have no idea how Span was handled even after reading the articles but I assume that the Twins and every organazation have made mistakes over the years in player development.

#16 twinsnorth49

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Posted 09 February 2013 - 12:31 PM

Getting by with your "natural ability" is easier in high school and college, you need to develop actual technique and discipline in the upper minors and especially in the big leagues. Sounds like a bit of ego as well.

#17 Nick Nelson

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Posted 09 February 2013 - 01:11 PM

I heard from people close the organization that Span took the publicized trade rumors in 2011 very personally and some days wouldn't even come out to the ballpark late in the year. I was always sort of perplexed by this – doesn't Span understand the business of baseball? – but if his emotions were screwy due to the recent concussion, it would make a lot of sense.

#18 Willihammer

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Posted 09 February 2013 - 01:17 PM

Span also holds the bat with a small gap between his hands. One of a kind type swing.

#19 Top Gun

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Posted 09 February 2013 - 01:21 PM

Who was the hitting coach? Coaches are suppose to be helpful not forceful. Concussions are bad. They change your life forever. Maybe that is what he is trying to say and still trying to over come. Moody, the blame game, worthlessness, grumbling, estrogen. every little thing bother him, that is hard to over come. He is dreaming of being a hero for the Nats to try to over come theses feelings. Concussions are hard to over come and to explain, from happiness to just a sadness.

#20 Badsmerf

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Posted 09 February 2013 - 01:29 PM

I think the Twins are doing a pretty good job with their minor league hitters. They haven't had many high profile prospects flop and the ones that do never make it elsewhere.
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#21 Brock Beauchamp

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Posted 09 February 2013 - 02:23 PM

I think the Twins are doing a pretty good job with their minor league hitters. They haven't had many high profile prospects flop and the ones that do never make it elsewhere.


This. Over the past decade, it's hard to label the Twins hitters as the problem for the team's lack of success in the regular season and postseason. They've been churning out decent hitters for quite some time and the offense seemed to improve quite a bit once they kicked Swing Like A Man out of the "hitting coach" role, changed his named to Windmill, and inserted him as "third base coach".

#22 SpiritofVodkaDave

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Posted 09 February 2013 - 02:31 PM

Yeah I can't think of one real "bust" that the Twins drafted high, I guess Plouffe was a bust for a bit, but even last year he showed some promise, Morales has fallen off the map but that may be more due to injury then anything else. The guys who did struggle were developed by other organizations where it was to late to fix: Gomez and Delmon.

Anyone that tries to turn Span's comments into a negative is high IMO, the dude ended up becoming one of the better lead off hitters in the game, it's not like he was oozing with Bryce Harper talent when he came out as well, he was chosen in the same spot as a guy like Hicks, I think if Hicks mirrored Span's career none of us would be real upset.

#23 Riverbrian

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Posted 09 February 2013 - 04:41 PM

I'm not knocking the Twins minor or major league coaches... I wouldnt dream of it... I'm saying its possible that someone took a young Span and tried to make him do something he isn't comfortable with especially when youmconsider his unique no stride style and I'm pretty sure that every organization will take the wrong approach with someone along the way so no reason to knock the Twins.

It happens and Span survived if it was the case. Who knows if its the case.

#24 ThePuck

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Posted 09 February 2013 - 04:59 PM

Yeah I can't think of one real "bust" that the Twins drafted high, I guess Plouffe was a bust for a bit, but even last year he showed some promise, Morales has fallen off the map but that may be more due to injury then anything else. The guys who did struggle were developed by other organizations where it was to late to fix: Gomez and Delmon.


That would depend on your definition of 'drafted high' and/or 'bust'

#25 FrodaddyG

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Posted 09 February 2013 - 05:32 PM

Yeah I can't think of one real "bust" that the Twins drafted high, I guess Plouffe was a bust for a bit, but even last year he showed some promise, Morales has fallen off the map but that may be more due to injury then anything else. The guys who did struggle were developed by other organizations where it was to late to fix: Gomez and Delmon.

Twins hitters taken in top 5 rounds since 2000:
2000: Tag Bozied, Edgardo Lebron
2001: Mauer, Jose Morales
2002: Span, Michael Thomas
2003: Matt Moses, John Woodard, Brandon McArthur
2004: Plouffe, Mark Robinson
2005: Henry Sanchez, Andrew Thompson, Paul Kelly, Michael Moore, Steve Tolleson
2006: Parmelee, Benson, Garrett Olson, Whit Robbins, Devin Shepherd
2007: Revere, Danny Rams, Angel Morales
2008: Hicks, Tyler Ladendorf, Daniel Ortiz, Nicholas Romero
2009: Derek McCallum, Tobias Streich
2010: Niko Goodrum, Eddie Rosario, Nate Roberts
2011: Levi Michael, Travis Harrison, Tyler Grimes
2012: Buxton, Adam Walker

I cut it off at first 5 rounds, but the line could be drawn anywhere depending on your preference. I'm not sure that I'd say it's primarily guys from other organizations that have struggled. In the span of 2000-2007 (2008 class now just rolling into the big leagues with Hicks) the Twins only got, by my count, 7 hitters at the top of the draft who ever saw big league ABs. Of the seven, four of them are Plouffe, Parmelee, Benson, and Jose Morales, who are either still relatively unknown commodities or known non-commodity Jose Morales.

Minus the jackpot of taking Mauer at #1, they have gotten two guys who profile as MLB regulars, and one of them is Ben Revere, whose ideal position would probably be a 4th OF on a good team. That's out of 23 non-Mauer hitters taken. None of the ones I see on the list ever went on to do anything with a different organization, either. I'm not sure how you'd define "bust", but "being out of baseball without ever sniffing the high minors" would be a good start, and many, many of these guys fit that bill.

#26 drjim

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Posted 09 February 2013 - 05:57 PM

Twins hitters taken in top 5 rounds since 2000:
2000: Tag Bozied, Edgardo Lebron
2001: Mauer, Jose Morales
2002: Span, Michael Thomas
2003: Matt Moses, John Woodard, Brandon McArthur
2004: Plouffe, Mark Robinson
2005: Henry Sanchez, Andrew Thompson, Paul Kelly, Michael Moore, Steve Tolleson
2006: Parmelee, Benson, Garrett Olson, Whit Robbins, Devin Shepherd
2007: Revere, Danny Rams, Angel Morales
2008: Hicks, Tyler Ladendorf, Daniel Ortiz, Nicholas Romero
2009: Derek McCallum, Tobias Streich
2010: Niko Goodrum, Eddie Rosario, Nate Roberts
2011: Levi Michael, Travis Harrison, Tyler Grimes
2012: Buxton, Adam Walker

I cut it off at first 5 rounds, but the line could be drawn anywhere depending on your preference. I'm not sure that I'd say it's primarily guys from other organizations that have struggled. In the span of 2000-2007 (2008 class now just rolling into the big leagues with Hicks) the Twins only got, by my count, 7 hitters at the top of the draft who ever saw big league ABs. Of the seven, four of them are Plouffe, Parmelee, Benson, and Jose Morales, who are either still relatively unknown commodities or known non-commodity Jose Morales.

Minus the jackpot of taking Mauer at #1, they have gotten two guys who profile as MLB regulars, and one of them is Ben Revere, whose ideal position would probably be a 4th OF on a good team. That's out of 23 non-Mauer hitters taken. None of the ones I see on the list ever went on to do anything with a different organization, either. I'm not sure how you'd define "bust", but "being out of baseball without ever sniffing the high minors" would be a good start, and many, many of these guys fit that bill.


I think it is pretty unfair to count anyone drafted after 2007 (especially HS player) as of yet, and I wouldn't think too much of anyone drafted after the second round, as the hit rates on those picks are pretty low across the majors. A couple of those guys didn't sign (notably Bozied), and a couple of them were lost because of injury instead of performance (notably Thompson and Kelly).

The two big busts are Moses and Sanchez. I never really knew the story on Moses - just never made it, Sanchez was the classic slugger who could never figure out a breaking ball.
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#27 Riverbrian

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Posted 09 February 2013 - 06:04 PM

For total fairness... A similiar list of draft choices should be compiled for the other 29 clubs... I just looked thru the Rangers... It didn't look very impressive either. I don't know for sure but Im guessing that all the teams will have a similiar list of busts or question marks.

#28 The Greatest Poster Alive

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Posted 09 February 2013 - 06:10 PM

I heard from people close the organization that Span took the publicized trade rumors in 2011 very personally and some days wouldn't even come out to the ballpark late in the year. I was always sort of perplexed by this – doesn't Span understand the business of baseball? – but if his emotions were screwy due to the recent concussion, it would make a lot of sense.


I think Span being upset with the trade rumors is very justified. He signed a team-friendly deal because he wanted to play here, and the Twins start shopping him fairly early in that deal despite him performing well. On top of all that, it was the fact that he had such a team-friendly deal that his trade value was as high as it was. I think he was well within his rights to be upset.

#29 ThePuck

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Posted 09 February 2013 - 06:12 PM

Twins hitters taken in top 5 rounds since 2000:
2000: Tag Bozied, Edgardo Lebron
2001: Mauer, Jose Morales
2002: Span, Michael Thomas
2003: Matt Moses, John Woodard, Brandon McArthur
2004: Plouffe, Mark Robinson
2005: Henry Sanchez, Andrew Thompson, Paul Kelly, Michael Moore, Steve Tolleson
2006: Parmelee, Benson, Garrett Olson, Whit Robbins, Devin Shepherd
2007: Revere, Danny Rams, Angel Morales
2008: Hicks, Tyler Ladendorf, Daniel Ortiz, Nicholas Romero
2009: Derek McCallum, Tobias Streich
2010: Niko Goodrum, Eddie Rosario, Nate Roberts
2011: Levi Michael, Travis Harrison, Tyler Grimes
2012: Buxton, Adam Walker

I cut it off at first 5 rounds, but the line could be drawn anywhere depending on your preference. I'm not sure that I'd say it's primarily guys from other organizations that have struggled. In the span of 2000-2007 (2008 class now just rolling into the big leagues with Hicks) the Twins only got, by my count, 7 hitters at the top of the draft who ever saw big league ABs. Of the seven, four of them are Plouffe, Parmelee, Benson, and Jose Morales, who are either still relatively unknown commodities or known non-commodity Jose Morales.

Minus the jackpot of taking Mauer at #1, they have gotten two guys who profile as MLB regulars, and one of them is Ben Revere, whose ideal position would probably be a 4th OF on a good team. That's out of 23 non-Mauer hitters taken. None of the ones I see on the list ever went on to do anything with a different organization, either. I'm not sure how you'd define "bust", but "being out of baseball without ever sniffing the high minors" would be a good start, and many, many of these guys fit that bill.



And those are just the hitters...was his comment just about hitters or high draft picks in general?

#30 FrodaddyG

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Posted 09 February 2013 - 06:15 PM

I think it is pretty unfair to count anyone drafted after 2007 (especially HS player) as of yet,.

And that's why I didn't include anyone from 2008 on in the stats I threw together. It seemed plenty bleak just using through 2007.