Carolina notes: Gatewood raising his game

Brewers prospect breaks out after studying Machado, Cabrera

Jake Gatewood is batting .300 with seven homers and a league-leading 21 doubles for the Mudcats. (Chris Robertson/MiLB.com)

By Damien Sordelett / Special to MiLB.com | June 7, 2017 10:30 AM ET

Jake Gatewood experienced success during his first three professional seasons, but it wasn't the sustained success he was hoping to achieve.

The 6-foot-5, 190-pound corner infielder enjoyed the occasional four-hit or three-RBI performance, but those highs were often followed by hitless games as he found himself unable to maintain the momentum he built for one night.

Those ups and downs sent Gatewood to the video room as he rigorously watched footage of himself in the offseason and studied big league hitters he could emulate. This dedication has produced rewards in his Class A Advanced debut with the Mudcats -- he leads the Carolina League with 21 doubles and ranks in the top 12 in average (.300), home runs (seven), RBIs (30) and on-base percentage (.377).

"I had a really good offseason just focusing on the things that made me successful," Gatewood said, "and how I was going to help them come out more consistently and allow myself and my talents to play in the game."

Milwaukee's No. 25 prospect hit safely in 23 consecutive games as his batting average peaked at .341 following a 2-for-5 performance on May 14. The streak -- which smashed his previous best of 13 set in 2014 during his rookie season in the Arizona League -- was the product of offseason work that also included adding strength so he could more easily reproduce quality at-bats. 

Video: Jake Gatewood plates two more for the Mudcats

"It was more of looking at my strengths and just trying to help them come out a little more," said Gatewood, a first-round pick in the 2014 Draft. "Whether that was little tweaks and little things, because I had some points in my career where I was doing really well, I tried to look at all those moments and figure out how I was doing well."

Gatewood's film study also included watching hours of at-bats by Manny Machado and Miguel Cabrera. Machado's 6-foot-3 frame is similar to Gatewood's, and he focused on how Cabrera got into position in each at-bat.

"I've watched a ton of Miguel Cabrera and Manny Machado, guys who I felt were in similar positions to hit and had somewhat similar body movements," said Gatewood, a right-handed hitter. "Manny being pretty lengthy and tall and lanky, and obviously you can't watch enough Miguel Cabrera -- he's the best hitter in the game. He's doing a few things right."

The 21-year-old Clovis, California native estimated that no fewer than 20 people helped him during the offseason, and the Brewers put a plan in motion to help his talents emerge in his fourth season in the Minors. (His current .300 batting average would set a career high, shattering the mark of .244 he set in 2015.)

"It was our hitting coach, Dave Joppie, our new hitting coordinator Kenny [Graham] just holding me accountable as well and helping me keep all the good work I did this offseason and stay consistent with it," Gatewood said.

In brief

Taking two: Frederick shortstop Ryan Mountcastle hasn't been settling for one-hit games this season. Baltimore's No. 4 prospect and the Orioles' first-round selection in 2015 has hit safely in 41 of his 56 games, and he's recorded at least two hits in more than half those contests. He has 22 multi-hit performances this season, including four in his past six games, and his .328 batting average ranks second in the Carolina League.

Surging in Salem: Chad De La Guerra did not hit many homers or drive in a ton of runs during his first two professional seasons after Boston selected him in the 17th round of the 2015 Draft. However, the 24-year-old second baseman has found his swing with Class A Advanced Salem. De La Guerra has already set career highs in home runs (four) and RBIs (32), and his .322 batting average would smash his previous best of .265 set in 2015 with Class A Short Season Lowell.

On the winning track: Shao-Ching Chiang was used sparingly during his first four seasons in Cleveland's farm system, then threw more than 152 innings and posted an 8-12 record last year with Class A Lake County. The 23-year-old is building on that performance this season with Class A Advanced Lynchburg. The native of Taiwan leads the league with seven victories and has pitched at least five innings in each of his 10 starts for the Hillcats.

Damien Sordelett is a contributor to MiLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.

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