Paul DeJong has worked hard this offseason to overcome a brutal two-year stretch, and a few tweaks to his swing may have given DeJong hope for a better season and future.
Paul DeJong has struggled to reclaim what brought him great success at the plate. After seasons that included getting different opinions on what he could do to simplify things and get back to being an effective presence at the plate.
Jeff Albert quit as the Cardinals hitting coach due to criticism from outside sources. He's now a hitting consultant in the New York Mets organization. Turner Ward is the primary hitting coach. Brandon Allen is the assistant hitting, who had been a coach at Memphis last season, where many, including DeJong, found success. Dan Nicolaisen is also an assistant hitting coach.
It may seem like several different voices could become problematic. But these three voices may be interesting after key hitters, notably DeJong, not finding success or being able to see what is going on with their swings.
While speaking with media at the Winter Warm Up in St. Louis, DeJong said he's been working with Nicolaisen.
It's easy to see how removing that simple leg kick could drastically improve his focus and ability to keep his head steady in preparation to hit. It's good to know he's worked for several months with the coach, that he's been reviewing videos, and has seemingly focused on improving. It has been frustrating to see him struggle and be unable to find a permanent fix.
It will be essential to see what happens when he arrives at Spring Training in Jupiter next month. Will he be able to show that he has fixed the problem in an in-game situation, and will he be able to show that he has improved it consistently?
It will create another set of questions if he can show consistent improvement. Would DeJong reclaim the shortstop position or share it with Tommy Edman? Would Edman slide over to second base allowing Brendan Donovan to be the super-utility player and help with other needs in the field? What would it mean for Nolan Gorman? Would he become a primary designated hitter and help infield as needed? Would DeJong become a designated hitter?
After waiting two seasons for him to improve, it would be hard to imagine Cardinals president of baseball operations John Mozeliak using it as an opportunity to flip him in a trade. Mozeliak has given DeJong many opportunities to improve and earn a shot to compete with his team. It would seem cruel to see him get shipped off to another team via trade. That team would lack the appreciation the Cardinals would have for his improvement.
A consistent improvement at the plate for DeJong will be an intriguing storyline to watch for this spring. After all of his struggles, it will be good to see him regain the success he had and reclaim his role at shortstop and in the line-up.