Threshers Spotlight: Cornelius Randolph

2017 is a season of adjustments for the former 1st round pick

By Kirsten Karbach / Clearwater Threshers | July 9, 2017 10:40 AM ET

Cornelius Randolph is catching on.

Randolph hit just .203 as a 19-year-old in the month of April. He upped his output to a .239 clip in May, when he led the Threshers with 17 RBIs in 24 games.

"Just better pitching," Randolph says of the level of competition in the Florida State League. "I mean, guys can work in and out, throw their offspeed for strikes. The game speeds up a little bit, but not too much. The main thing is pitching, better pitching."

Halfway through the season, the now 20-year-old is rising to the challenge.

Drafted 10th overall out of Griffin High School in Griffin, Georgia just two years ago, Randolph had played only 121 professional games prior to joining the Clearwater Threshers.

He was scouted as Griffin's best prospect since Tim Beckham, according to MLB.com, and said to profile as more of an impact hitter, with the tools and approach to hit for power and average.

Randolph is the youngest player in the Florida State League midway through the season. He appeared in just 68 games last year between low-A Lakewood and the Gulf Coast League after battling a shoulder injury.

His first year in the Florida State League has been a series of adjustments.

"He's fighting habits that he's had forever," Threshers hitting coach Rob Ducey says. "Finding out that some of the things that he's done in the past are very difficult to do against the competition that he's facing."

The results are beginning to show. Randolph put up a solid .260 average while reaching base at a .372 rate in June. In 15 games in the second half, he has drawn 12 walks and boasts an impressive .469 on-base percentage while batting .320.

His 35 RBIs through 75 games are second on the team to only Wilson Garcia, and his 39 walks are the most on the team. Randolph has also blasted eight home runs, a career-high, after knocking just three homers total in his first two seasons.

"I just made my swing simple," Randolph says. "I feel like I was doing a little bit too much earlier."

One of the most obvious alterations the young outfielder has made is an increased tendency to pull the ball.

"I've been focusing on that since spring training," Randolph says. "Just working on getting something that I can hit middle-in. Driving it and just hitting it hard, instead of just trying to hit the ball the other way. I'm just trying to actually make an impact."

Although he had found success in going the opposite way, Randolph's development hinges on learning to hit to the right side.

"As a left-handed hitter, it's very difficult to play at the highest levels if you can not pull the baseball," Ducey says. "If a left-handed hitter has trouble pulling the ball, it's going to be hard for him to be a good situational hitter."

Randolph's adjustments go beyond the mechanical. More than simply possessing the ability to pull the ball, it's the awareness to know when to do so.

"I want them to be able to say 'Ok, this (pitcher's) tendencies are away, I'm going to drive a ball the other way. Or this guy's tendencies are in, I'm going to get the (bat) head out and pull the ball," Ducey explains.

Another factor is plate discipline. Randolph has drawn 39 walks, but struck out 83 times in 75 games.

"Swing discipline, as far as chasing balls down," Ducey says. "Attacking balls in your zone, and recognizing 'that ball is down,' or 'that ball is up.' They have to recognize that pitch is not their friend."

For Randolph, this season is a process. Ducey believes his willingness to learn will allow Randolph to maximize the natural abilities that made him a first round draft pick in 2015.

"I think he's not afraid to make adjustments," Ducey says. "I think he's a tremendous worker, his aptitude is excellent."

"A lot of young hitters are afraid to step out of their comfort zone. And that's what I kind of like about him. He has the ability to go out and say, 'You know what, I'm going to try this because this may put me over the hump.'

"That's why I think you're seeing a different swing. You're seeing kind of a surge in his offense, where he's now having the ability to decipher what approaches and what swings are more beneficial."

This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.

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