Josh Donaldson became the poster boy for the fly ball revolution when he rode a revamped, uppercut swing to an MVP season in 2015, in which he clubbed 41 homers and led the American League with 123 RBI. The Blue Jays third baseman has maintained a more than satisfactory level of production ever since, before injuries derailed his 2018 season.
But another element Donaldson added to his swing was a leg kick, a tip he himself learned from teammate and fellow slugger Jose Bautista. After working with it and talking to expert hitting instructors, Donaldson learned how to harness the leg kick and what it could do for him. Soon, other Blue Jays were giving it a try.
Around Major League Baseball, the leg kick has become both a panacea and a pariah. It can provide a boost in power for players struggling with the long ball or simplify a swing when a player has too much going on. There’s also the “toe tap,” a slight lift and tap with the front foot that has helped certain hitters get on top of the ball sooner.
While obviously it’s not the solution for every player, is it something a young hitter should experiment with? Is there such a thing as an ideal stride?
What’s your take?
Take 1: If it feels comfortable, do it
A player need not force a leg kick into his swing simply because he’s seen Major Leaguers do it. But if the leg kick develops naturally and doesn’t cause the swing to go awry elsewhere, then let him run with it. Leg kicks often get eliminated for simplicity or with the mind that it will cure all the ails of a swing. However a player can have an effective stride but still have issues in the hands. Players should have the freedom to experiment with one that works for them. Just add the kick in the offseason, and work on it in the cage until it’s a natural part of the swing.
Take 2: Leg kicks aren’t effective for young hitters
Major Leaguers get a boost from leg kicks because they have the upper body strength to take advantage of the increased weight shift. With a young player, all it is going to do is add another element that can go wrong. Simplicity works for young hitters. Once he’s old enough to have bad tendencies, then some elements can be critiqued to see what the best solution might be. Maybe that’s adding a leg kick. But that’s unlikely to be a magic cure.
So should players kick away if that’s what they feel like? Or should they save it until they’re older? Have your say in the comments below.
From GameChanger and Todd Kortemeier
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