BRADENTON, Fla. – Mitchell Tolman has been one of the hottest hitters for the Bradenton Marauders lately, and arguably has been one of the hottest hitters in the entire system. Tolman has had some up-and-down results this season, but things seem to be clicking for him lately, and this hot stretch seems different from previous stretches.
In his last 12 games, Tolman is hitting for a 1.096 OPS, with six doubles, a triple, and a home run. That seems like an arbitrary endpoint, since it started right when he went 8-for-8 in a two game stretch. However, Tolman noted some changes with his approach lately.
“Just working on being on time with everything,” Tolman said of the recent stretch at the start of July. “Kind of starting my load slow and early has been my thought process so far the last five games. I’ve felt good. I’ve been seeing the ball well, and just trying not to miss pitches when I get fastballs middle of the plate or anything just pushed toward the middle of the plate.”
Tolman had a good stretch in May during the first half, but also had a rough April and a rough start to June. He was moved down in the order at one point, going from batting leadoff to hitting in the bottom half of the order. He has since moved back up, and entered the second half looking to put the first half issues behind him.
“I think towards the second half, we talked a few times about a new half, make it a new you thought process,” Tolman said. “That’s kind of where I’ve been. Instead of dwelling on previous at-bats, or previous plays, trying to do my best mentally to move on and be ready for the next one.”
The biggest difference I’ve seen with Tolman is that he’s been more aggressive earlier in counts in recent games. I’ve drawn a comparison between Tolman and Max Moroff in their developments, specifically in terms of plate patience. Tolman is like Moroff in that he has excellent plate patience, but can be too selective at times. Moroff found success when he started getting aggressive earlier in the count. Tolman has been taking the same approach lately.
“Instead of hunting the perfect pitch, it’s more the perfect zone,” Tolman said. “Just kind of expanding out a little bit. Early in the season, I felt like I was looking for one pitch, and one pitch only, and not in hitter’s counts sometimes. It was getting me to take pitches that were strikes that were hittable pitches. I just tried to open it up a little bit, and tried to look for zones of the plate instead of exact balls.”
Tolman has been working in the batting cages with Bradenton hitting coach Keoni De Renne, focusing on different zones. Earlier in the year he was just swinging at pitches and making contact, since batting cage fastballs are much easier to hit. Now, he’s working on focusing on a specific zone, while De Renne mixes his pitches to different parts of the plate, with Tolman only swinging if it’s in the zone he wants.
“Training my body to look for a zone and attack it when I get it has kind of been the main focus,” Tolman said.
Defensively, Tolman has looked good in his move to second base over the last two years, although he still has things to improve on. He mentioned that double play turns are still big, and typical approaches like getting reads off the bat and improving his coverage to his left and right are a focus.
“I’d say just more consistent all around,” Tolman said. “You get up to the big leagues, that’s why they’re big leaguers is they do it every single day. That’s what I’m trying to get to.”
To reach the big leagues, Tolman will need to continue the current focus at the plate, being more aggressive early in counts, and being less selective. That worked to get Moroff to the upper levels, and he’s getting his first shots to see if he can eventually adjust to the majors. Tolman could put himself on the same path in a few years by continuing this same approach.