Piscotty breaks out, homers twice

Cardinals No. 18 prospect gets three hits, surges out of slump

By Jake Seiner / Special to MLB.com | May 10, 2013 6:42 PM ET

Over the past week and a half, Stephen Piscotty has had trouble hitting the ball.

His solution? Just stop swinging.

That's what Piscotty did in batting practice this week. And on Friday, the strategy paid dividends as the 2012 first-round Draft pick hit a pair of homers in Palm Beach's 7-3 road win over St. Lucie.

"I went into BP and just started taking pitches, not swinging," he said. "I felt my timing was off and I wasn't getting ready soon enough.

"In BP, I was really focusing on getting my foot down and getting in a good position to hit and not focusing so much on my mechanics. Once I got that base under me, I was able to get that swing path back and go from there."

Piscotty, the Cardinals' No. 16 prospect, hit .348 with five homers in his first 18 Florida State League games this season. The hot streak fizzled as Piscotty batted .200 over his next nine contests. He felt he wasn't seeing the ball well and that his hands were lagging in his setup. His unique solution helped him make a relatively quick fix.

The Stanford product said he actually began to feel better at the plate on Thursday, when he went 1-for-4 but hit a few balls hard and felt more comfortable in the box.

It wasn't the first time he's employed the batting practice strategy to snap out of a funk. Brock Ungricht, a volunteer coach at Stanford, had suggested it to Piscotty a few years ago, and it's one he occasionally uses to quickly dig himself out of a mechanical hole.

"He stressed that to me in college and that worked pretty good," Piscotty said. "As a junior, I got a lot more off-speed pitches and that really helped me see those pitches better."

Piscotty's first homer was a leadoff blast in the fourth inning that put Palm Beach ahead, 2-0. The Cardinals protected the lead until Dustin Lawley's homer in the sixth put the Mets in front, 3-2.

Palm Beach tied it in the seventh and Piscotty scored the go-ahead run after leading off the eighth with a double. He provided insurance with another solo shot in the ninth.

The Pleasanton, Calif., native posted a .295 average and .823 OPS in 55 games in the Class A Midwest League last summer, but hit only four homers. A third baseman in college, he moved to right field last year. And while there are few doubters about his contact potential, his ultimate role likely will depend on how much power he can generate.

That power seemingly has arrived this year -- he ranks second in the FSL with seven homers, three behind Fort Myers' Miguel Sano.

Piscotty said he's heard that chatter but has tried to avoid adjusting his approach just to hit more homers. He spent the offseason working out with Stanford's strength and conditioning coach and Sparta Science, a Bay Area-based training center, and thinks the biggest key is that he's stronger than he's ever been.

"A lot of those balls that had been landing at the base of the wall, now they're going out," he said. "It's that more than anything else.

"I've increased my weights, I'm more flexible, healthier and I had some knee problems last year, but they feel great this year. I had a really good offseason, and that's been huge."

Scott Gorgen started for Palm Beach, striking out seven and allowing three runs on four hits over six innings. Lee Stoppelman (2-0) earned the win with two perfect frames.

Lawley, who also doubled, tied Piscotty with his seventh homer.

Jake Seiner is a contributor to MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @Jake_Seiner. This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.

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