BRADENTON, Fla. — Jordan Luplow is going to be given a chance this spring to prove that his 2017 wasn’t a fluke.
The Pirates outfielder played all of 2016 at High-A Bradenton, where he played 104 games and posted a .254/.363/.421 line and hit 10 home runs as a 22-year-old. Those aren’t terrible offensive figures, but he was a pretty average age for that level and his defensive prowess seemed to limit him to a corner outfield, where his lack of power would certainly be a hindrance to him moving up.
It didn’t look like Luplow had much of a future as a starter and probably projected to be a fourth outfielder at best.
In 2017, all of that changed. Luplow started out in Altoona, and started hitting for power. In 73 games with the Curve, he hit 16 home runs and had another 15 doubles in 254 at-bats. He posted a .535 slugging percentage and a .248 ISO. For some context, Josh Bell slugged .403 with a .100 ISO in his 120 games in Altoona.
Luplow carried the hot hitting into his 44 games with Indianapolis, where he hit seven homers and seven doubles in 160 at-bats for a .513 slugging percentage and a .188 ISO. Things cooled off a bit at the big-league level, mostly because he batting average fell to .205, but his ISO was still .185.
At 6-foot-1 and 195 pounds, Luplow isn’t the biggest guy, but he’s shown the bat speed and strength to be able to hit the ball into the gap and over the fence. His focus this offseason has been making sure that he’s ready physically for the grind of a 162-game major-league schedule.
“Strength is always a big one for me and then just making sure my body is right,” he said. “I did some extra yoga this offseason and tried to dabble with that. Just making sure my body is ready for that long season.”
Luplow got the inspiration to try yoga from Bell and he thinks it’ll help with flexibility and injury prevention through the course of the year.
“I’ve always done it a little bit in the offseason, but I heard Josh Bell did it last season or the season before,” Luplow said. “I was like man, I’m going to try. There’s one right down the street from my new place in Arizona. So I just started going and it was good. I liked it. I thought it was helping me out, so I just stuck with it. … It’s just keeping your body flexible and hopefully, preventing injuries.”
Now strengthened and stretched out, it’s Luplow’s focus this spring to prove that he can do what he did in 2017, and even more.
“I’ve just got to keep building on last year,” he said. “Honestly, these guys in here, they don’t care about what happened last year. Baseball is a game where it’s ‘What have you done for me lately?’ That’s how I’m going to approach this Spring Training and season. Last year was good. I had a good time. It was productive. But nobody really cares about what happened last year. It’s about what I can do this year and what I’m going to do today. That’s how I’m approaching this year.”
Luplow does feel that while he still has a lot a to prove before he becomes a major-league regular, he learned a lot from his 45 games with the Pirates last year that he can use as a building block moving froward.
“Absolutely, I just took little bits here and there, things that happened and learned from them,” he said. “If I failed in this, what can I do to not do that next time around. I’m just learning everything from these guys and them helping me out all year.”
He’s also gained some confidence in being more familiar with the members of the major-league clubhouse and what’s expected by the coaches and staff.
“Getting to know all these guys on a personal level was big for me because I like to build relationships like that,” he said. “I like to know people and their families and how they tick. Knowing them on that level is huge and just getting comfortable around them is a big thing.”
All of that has Luplow feeling that he’s well-prepared for the eight-month grind of the upcoming season.
“I just have a daily battle with myself and a competition against myself trying to make myself better,” he said.