Fueled By Changes and Alternative, Luke Raley is Raking With the Rays

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Luke Raley
Katie Stratman-USA TODAY Sports activities

Luke Raley has been the most effective hitters on baseball’s greatest staff this yr. Enjoying primarily towards right-handed pitchers, the 28-year-old left-handed-hitting outfielder has ten two-baggers and 11 house runs to associate with a .258/.343/.570 slash line and a 154 wRC+ in 172 plate appearances, An impressive athlete for his measurement — he’s listed at 6-foot-4, 235 kilos — he’s legged out a pair of triples and stolen eight bases in ten makes an attempt.

It wouldn’t be honest to say that he’s come out of nowhere, however the Hinckley, Ohio native did enter this season with a meager resume. Chosen within the seventh spherical of the 2016 draft out of Division II Lake Erie Faculty by the Los Angeles Dodgers, Raley had a .538 OPS in 72 plate appearances with the NL West membership in 2021; he had a .584 OPS in the identical variety of plate appearances with the Rays final season. He was something however a positive wager to make the Opening Day roster when he reported to spring coaching.

How has Raley, whom Tampa Bay acquired final March in trade for Tanner Dodson, emerged as a productive hitter on the large league stage in his ninth skilled season? I sat down with him not too long ago to search out out.

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David Laurila: How a lot of your success this yr is a matter of alternative, and the way a lot is from enhancements you’ve made to your sport?

Luke Raley: “I believe it’s a mix of each, truthfully. I type of knew what I wanted to work on going into the offseason, and I centered laborious on them. After which, clearly, the extra alternatives you will have, the simpler it’s to get right into a groove. So it was changes, and the chance definitely helped.”

Laurila: What have been the wanted changes?

Raley: “I wanted to be extra environment friendly to the ball, so I did every part I may to attenuate actions on the plate. I introduced my fingers nearer to my physique, extra into my launch place, as a substitute of getting them away from my physique after which having to get them there. I additionally banged my leg kick and went to only a straight stride, which I felt may assist me preserve preserve my head extra nonetheless and acknowledge pitches earlier. These are the 2 large ones, my hand placement and minimizing my leg motion.”

Laurila: Edgar Martinez talked about having the fingers near the set off place after I talked hitting with him a couple of years in the past. It simplifies the motion.

Raley: “That was type of our thought course of. It’s one thing that we even talked about final season, however we felt that was an enormous adjustment to make midseason. We determined that going into the offseason it was going to be my purpose to type of slot my fingers in a greater place. That may make me just a little bit faster to the ball.”

Laurila: Have you ever tinkered together with your hand place through the years?


Raley: “Lots of of instances. I imply, it’s an ever-evolving factor. Totally different leg actions make totally different hand actions as nicely. I felt like with the leg kick, to get every part synched up, my fingers wanted to be additional away from my physique. By minimizing my leg motion, I used to be capable of decrease the motion of my fingers.”

Laurila: When had the leg kick been launched?

Raley: “Proper after I obtained drafted by the Dodgers, in 2016. Mainly, I got here into the little mini spring coaching they’ve for the brand new draft guys, they usually stated, ‘We would like you to start out utilizing a leg kick.’ I stated ‘OK,’ and began going from there.”

Laurila: Does what you’re doing now really feel pure?

Raley: “Yeah. I might say that it feels extra pure. It’s one thing I’d carried out since I used to be just a little child. All through school, I used to be extra of a only a straight stride. Going again to it was a neater transition than going to a leg kick, which was one thing I had by no means carried out earlier than.”

Laurila: One factor a leg kick does is act as a timing mechanism. What’s your timing mechanism now that you just don’t have one?

Raley: “So my first transfer, what begins every part, is principally pounding my left heel into the bottom. That retains me grounded. It’s a small transfer, however for those who watch, you possibly can see that I nearly faucet my left heel down into the bottom. That begins my complete motion.”

Laurila: How did that come about?

Raley: “I felt that I used to be getting too far on the balls of my ft and never in the perfect base place that I could be. I began doing it as a drill and was like, ‘Wow, this feels good.’ From there, it type of simply transitioned into the beginning of my timing for my swing.”

Laurila: Has your swing path modified in any respect?

Raley: “Not likely. I imply, that’s one thing that… you don’t essentially say, ‘OK, I’m going to vary my swing path.’ It extra comes with the place you’re beginning, the place you’re throwing your swing from, basically. So it’s undoubtedly not one thing I centered on. It could be just a little totally different, although.”

Laurila: Watching you in BP, I wasn’t seeing line drives a lot as I used to be seeing moonshots. Is driving balls excessive within the air what you’re trying to do in video games?

Raley: “That’s extra of a BP factor. On the similar time, after I first obtained drafted, I used to be a heavy floor ball man, and that’s one thing I wanted to vary. I might fairly miss underneath the ball than miss on prime of the ball. That’s my thought course of. In BP, I’d fairly hit one tremendous excessive within the air and barely get it out of the infield than hit a tough floor ball. As soon as the sport begins it’s a must to simply go on the market and compete, however that’s what’s going to translate greatest into the sport.”

Laurila: Any last ideas?

Raley: “I might say that confidence is an enormous a part of hitting. And also you construct confidence with alternative. The extra alternative you get… even for those who’re struggling, you possibly can nonetheless construct confidence by taking good issues away from every at-bat. I’ve modified my mindset into pondering that making an out isn’t all the time damaging. Yow will discover a constructive in your at-bat and develop from that.”

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Earlier “Talks Hitting” interviews can discovered by these hyperlinks: Jo Adell, Jeff Albert, Greg Allen, Nolan Arenado, Aaron Bates, Alex Bregman, Bo Bichette, Cavan Biggio, JJ Bleday, Bobby Bradley, Will Brennan, Jay Bruce, Matt Chapman, Michael Chavis, Gavin Cross, Jacob Cruz, Nelson Cruz, Paul DeJong, Josh Donaldson, Brendan Donovan, Donnie Ecker, Rick Eckstein, Drew Ferguson, Justin Foscue, Michael Fransoso, Ryan Fuller, Joey Gallo, Paul Goldschmidt, Devlin Granberg, Andy Haines, Mitch Haniger, Robert Hassell III, Nico Hoerner, Rhys Hoskins, Eric Hosmer, Tim Hyers, Connor Joe, Josh Jung, Jimmy Kerr, Heston Kjerstad, Steven Kwan, Trevor Larnach, Doug Latta, Evan Longoria, Michael Lorenzen, Gavin Lux, Dave Magadan, Trey Mancini, Edgar Martinez, Don Mattingly, Hunter Mense, Owen Miller, Ryan Mountcastle, Cedric Mullins, Daniel Murphy, Lars Nootbaar, Logan O’Hoppe, Vinnie Pasquantino, Brent Rooker, Drew Saylor, Spencer Steer, Trevor Story, Fernando Tatis Jr., Spencer Torkelson, Mark Trumbo, Justin Turner, Trea Turner, Josh VanMeter, Robert Van Scoyoc, Chris Valaika, Zac Veen, Alex Verdugo, Mark Vientos, Matt Vierling, Luke Voit, Anthony Volpe, Joey Votto, Christian Walker, Jared Walsh, Jordan Westburg, Jesse Winker, Mike Yastrzemski, Nick Yorke, Kevin Youkilis

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