Thursday, July 17, 2014

In Focus: Dawel Lugo

The Lugnuts did everything right in an 8-4 win over Kane County last night.  At least that was how it felt.  They didn't actually do everything right -- Roberto Espinosa was shaky, for instance.  But Shane Dawson fired six scoreless innings, impressively holding the Cougars offense off-balance, and the Lugs' offense built an 8-0 lead against the talented Juan Paniagua, and that was all she wrote.
The hitting hero last night was Dawel Lugo, and it's with Lugo that I wish to spend my words this morning.
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Lugo
Portrait of a 19-year-old hitter
Who is Dawel Lugo?
He's a shortstop, he's from lower-income Bani (Dominican Republic), and he was signed by the Blue Jays as an international free agent when he was 16, three years ago.  He also loves dancing, loves smiling, and seems to greatly amuse his teammates -- at least, when he's not bemusing them.
Lugo has had an interesting season. To go through some fun stats:
1.  He's batting nearly exactly the same at home (.289, 44-152) as he is on the road (.289, 50-173).
2.  He's crushing lefties (.406, 28-69, 10 doubles, 2 homers) and is just fair against righties (.258, 66-256, 5 doubles, 2 triples, 1 homer).
3.  He was terrible in April (.224), great in May (.327), perfectly fine in June (.270) and is lighting up July (.340).
4.  He doesn't walk (10 BB), but he doesn't really strike out, either (43 K in 80 games).  Very few of his at-bats last longer than four pitches.
5.  He committed exactly one error between May 3rd and June 11th -- and it was on May 23rd.  Then he started getting careless.  He's had 11 errors since June 12th.
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Dawel Lugo has lightning-quick hands and hits with a snap of his wrists.  A Lugnuts teammate, wondering aloud, related this to Lugo's unorthodox style of curling his hands in toward his body as he waits for the pitch.  A young batter would never be taught to emulate such a form.  In many years of hitting in this fashion, it's quite possible that Lugo's technique has built the potential for uncommon torque.
In batting practice, Lugo's hitting style is a joy to watch.  He blasts line drive after line drive, and it's as easy and carefree as his off-field demeanor.
The problem was (and I use the past tense both purposefully and hopefully) that Lugo's ability to crack wicked line drives had been limited mainly to batting practice, rarely showing up in a game.  He had 35 base hits in May, most on the team, but only four of those hits went for extra bases.
Perhaps something has changed, however.
On July 6th, Lugo lashed a triple in Great Lakes.  On July 8th, he doubled twice in a 4-RBI game Lake County, following up with a third double the next day.  On July 14th, he sent a laser of a home run to left in a 5-RBI game at Bowling Green... and he followed up with another home run (and a double) in his very next game, a 4-for-4 performance vs. Kane County on July 16th.
Lugo's base running is adventurous.  His fielding requires focus, though his glove is excellent and his arm is strong.
But it's Dawel Lugo's bat that has the potential to be his truly exceptional tool, and that means great things for an already explosive Lugnuts offense.

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