Dylan Beavers already had a few hits. He still decided he’d had enough.
Aberdeen was playing at home, more than two months into his first full pro season. It was one that had been defined by near-constant changes to his swing intended to iron out some movement deficiencies and allow the Orioles’ prospect to get the most out of his power potential and plate discipline.
That work began the moment he arrived in the organization, was advanced in an offseason motion-capture assessment, and continued through the first two months of the season in Aberdeen. But all that, he was finding out, was the domain of the long hours spent in the cage and under the turtle shell before the game — not the game itself.
So, midgame, he decided to forget all of his swing cues and be as early on the fastball as possible, just to see what would happen. He homered and doubled in his last two at-bats that day and hasn’t cooled off; since that June 13 game against Brooklyn, Beavers has a .983 OPS with 23 extra-base hits and 34 walks against 40 strikeouts in 224 plate appearances — a stretch that included him being named the organizational player of the month for July and earning a promotion to Double-A Bowie.
“I’d say I was just tired of taking at-bats where I’m not really even concentrated on the task at hand,” Beavers said. “I was not having success, but more so that I wasn’t even really giving myself a chance to have any success because I was not locked in and focused on kind of competing and hitting what I’m given. … I just kind of decided, I’m going to pick an approach and a process and stick to that throughout all of my at-bats, see how it goes. It definitely has given me the opportunity to have more success.”
This run of strong performance has helped Beavers to an .833 OPS over two levels in his age-21 season, a debut representative of the talent the Orioles acquired with the 33rd pick of last year’s draft out of Cal. He could have performed this way in the minors without the work he did since that selection, but given his perfectionist bent and willingness to overhaul his swing to maximize his major league potential, this last year has been an uneven one for him.
He saw immediate results last year upon joining the organization by changing his set-up in the box, adding some hinge in his hips, and changing how he held the bat before his swing. This offseason, a biomechanical assessment gave some significant development goals in how his hips moved in his swing and the overall direction of his weight transfer. The season revealed further areas to work on, and while Beavers spent the pregame cage time allotted to Orioles players doing that, he struggled to let muscle memory take over in games, and was thinking about everything but how he was meaning to compete in that at-bat.
Beavers started well at Aberdeen, buoyed by the changes he made in the offseason and honed throughout spring training. He had an. 886 OPS in April, but May brought struggles. Beavers had a .569 OPS with 41 strikeouts in 32 games from the start of May to the middle of June, his ongoing adjustments making it difficult for him to perform as well as he wanted in games.
Brooklyn was in town in mid-June when Beavers decided, essentially midgame, to try and change that. He’d had a couple of poor at-bats and decided to experiment.
“That was kind of when it started to turn for me, and I realized that maybe I should just go out and compete, and not think about mechanical stuff,” Beavers said. “If I’m on time, more often than not I’m going to have success.”
Beavers hasn’t given up on any of the changes or adjustments he’s worked on for the last year. He’s just reserving that work for, and thinking about it before, the games. He said some coaches were curious about why he had changed some things so abruptly, but ultimately supported him when he explained his thinking.
“We kind of found a balance of, ‘OK, this is when I want to work on certain things mechanically, and once I get to the game, I don’t want to think about any of that,’” Beavers said. “‘I just want to get in there and compete. They were cool with that, and I got results, so it was hard to argue with that.”
He believes those results, which are some of the most impressive in the organization in that span, are still coming because of all the work he’s put in under the Orioles’ direction in the last year-plus. He wasn’t concerned by what amounted to a six-week slump in the early part of the season, believing things would click eventually.
That he’s continued to produce after his promotion to Double-A has helped boost Beavers’ mindset as the end of the season nears as well. He has an .840 OPS in Double-A through 15 games.
“I’m just excited to be here and be a part of the higher level of baseball,” he said. “I believe that the more time you spend at any level, the better you’ll get, the more comfortable you’ll get in the box, more comfortable you’ll get on defense. So I think it’s important that I’m here and playing at a more challenging level, because there’s definitely a little bit of a step up from Aberdeen to here. I’ve seen it immediately after two weeks. … But it’s nice to see the improvement that I’ve made, especially as I continue up facing better arms. I don’t think I would have been able to do that without making certain adjustments.”