Wabick hit .352 after the All-Star Break
The Savannah outfielder kept battling through every game during his first year with a long-season squad. He started of slow, including the worst month of his career, but D.J. Wabick got hot during the summer with increasing power and confidence that has carried him into the off-season. Yet even through late success, he knows there is more work to be done.
In his third season, Savannah leftfielder D.J. Wabick got off to a respectable start with his highest club yet, hitting .288 (23-for-80) in 22 April games. He did not display much power during the month—one home run, two doubles—but his swing was coming around and he felt his game would naturally progress from there. However, his averaged crashed in May, when he hit a meager .183, striking out 17 times and knocking in only nine runs from the heart of the order. He knew then that something had to be done to turn his season around.
From that point forward, Wabick decided to keep things simple. He quieted down his swing, trusted his hands and went on the attack against fastballs.
“One of the main things was to get my timing back. The coaches really harped on hitting the fastball and not missing my pitch, and I was making sure that when I did get my fastball, I was putting a good swing on it.
“I need to make sure my swing stays closed and use more of my hands so that I’m not out in front, I’m not sliding open on fastballs, and I’m ready for the breaking ball when one does get thrown to me,” he explained.
Starting in June, Wabick rode a hot streak right to the season’s conclusion. The power did not come about quite yet as he knocked only home run with nine RBI despite hitting .364 for in June, but as the pieces came together, his production shot up.
In his last 56 games, he hit .336, smacked six home runs and drove in 36 runs, surpassing his RBI total from the season’s first three months combined. He hit 15 of his 32 doubles in August alone, slugging .600% for the month with an OPS% nearing 1.000. As an outfielder, that surge was critical in order to shake the perception that, although he could hit for average, he could not get enough drive and lift on the ball.
“Increasing my power is going to be very important because as I keep moving up, it’s going to show that I can hit, drive in runs, and continue to become a better hitter in general. I’m going to be a corner outfielder for sure and I want to show that I can hit in the middle of the order,” he said.
For his offense to keep progressing, Wabick needs to develop greater plate discipline and patience. He struck out 86 times in 118 games against just 27 walks, rather disconcerting statistics for a hitter who stayed in his team’s three-hole for most of the season.
“My strikeouts definitely need to come down. I struck too much because my swing was all screwed up during the first half. I need to stay stable in the batter’s box and I just can’t swing at bad pitches. At times I was simply chasing too many of them,” he said.
“Seeing more pitches, not being afraid to take a curveball, and not chasing breaking balls down in the zone will all probably lead to more walks.”
He still struggles with left-handed pitching (.245 v. LHP in 94 AB), has trouble with changeups away from left-handers as well as hard sliders in on his hands from righties.
That is a sizeable list for a left-hander that needs a power increase to really elevate his standing, but Wabick believes when his swing stabilizes those holes should be filled.
His work during the off-season will primarily focus on his defense. He saw time at both first base and left field this season, but it is the latter where he projects. For Wabick, his winter will be spent working on his speed to the ball and return throws.
“I want to work on my explosion in the outfield, getting good jumps to the ball and running down balls as quickly as possible,” he said. “I just need to keep really working on routes, cutting balls off and making sure I’m making my throws. That’s really going to make my defense that much better,” he said.
2007 battled tested Wabick coming off the previous season in which he hit .306 between in 60 games between Kingsport and Brooklyn. However, those rocky times proved to be an eye opener and a message of what he needs to do to keep growing.
“I learned to overcome adversity this season,” he said. “I learned that it’s a long year, and I cannot jump the gun early and abandon ship. No problem is solved that quickly, I’ve just got to keep my composure and keep on playing,” he closed.