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SoxProspects News

March 26, 2012 at 12:30 PM

Hissey turning heads in spring training

Peter Hissey (Kelly O'Connor)
FORT MYERS, Fla. – In the world of minor league baseball, a player and his biggest critics sometimes share a clubhouse. With little else to do between at bats or starts but watch and appraise, teammates often gain an understanding of one another’s strengths and weaknesses, and given dearth of roster places, have no problem pointing out flaws in their peers.

That makes it all the more meaningful when a player is singled out by his teammates for on-field performance. This spring, Peter Hissey is among a handful of standout performers who some teammates are buzzing about in minor league camp.

Hissey, a 22-year-old outfielder who was drafted in the fourth round of the 2008 MLB Draft out of Unionville High School (Penn.), has struggled with consistency at the plate since his debut that year. This spring, however, Hissey looks to be a different player than the one who hit .241 with a .636 OPS last season with High A Salem. He credits his time spent in Fort Myers in the Fall Instructional League last year for propelling him through the off-season and into his impressive spring training.

“I came back to Instructional League last year, worked with (minor league hitting coordinator) Victor (Rodriguez) and the staff here, and really just got a lot more consistent this year,” Hissey said last week on the back fields at JetBlue Park. “I’m just going back to the approach from when I was drafted. Now, I’m just a little bigger, more mature, and able to control the barrel a little better. I’m just really trusting my ability this year, and so far, it’s paying dividends.”

That approach, which was one of many factors that warranted Boston buying him out of his commitment to the University of Virginia with a $1 million bonus, has been a constant throughout his career. He also has above-average speed, logging 22 stolen bases in his full-season debut with Low A Greenville in 2009 before swiping 25 with Salem in 2010 and 27 last season. He's handled himself well on the bases and the stolen base totals speak to his consistency in this aspect of the game.

His swing, however, has been anything but static. SoxProspects.com Director of Scouting Chris Mellen said Hissey possessed a level swing coming out of high school, but last spring, began to show more upward swing path and lift. While playing with Salem last season, Hissey experimented with hitting out of a deep crouch, and though he still sits deeper in his stance than in years past, Hissey has largely returned to his original stance.

Rodriguez said Hissey was “a little taller” in his stance when he came to the Red Sox, but the current stance allows him to see the ball better and hone his approach. “With the adjustments he made (last season), he lost the ability to control the strike zone as he used to do it,” Rodriguez said. “Right now, he’s more in his legs. He’s using his lower half better, and his hands are in a good position, staying short and through the ball.”

This spring, Mellen said Hissey has been producing more powerful swings and driving the ball more consistently than in years past. Where he used to try to push balls, he’s turning on them and driving them.

“I’ve gone through a couple different swing changes, but where I am right now just gives me a chance to be balanced, see the ball, and lets (me) just trust my ability,” Hissey said.

After spending the off-season working out with the Penn State baseball team, a bulkier Hissey carried his stronger frame and revamped stroke into a strong spring. On Wednesday, March 21, he followed a lined base hit up the middle by driving a fastball away to the opposite field for a home run. On Friday, he pulled a double down the right-field line, turning on a pitch that he previously might have slashed at.

Hissey is glad to have been able to sustain his development and perform well this spring, something Rodriguez said will only bode well for Hissey when camp breaks next week. “When you put together good at-bats, the confidence usually goes up,” he said. “That’s the main thing. He’s sticking with it, and in the offseason we did a lot of work. He came to spring training and he’s still working, staying consistent with it. Right now, we’re seeing the result.”

As he enters his Rule 5 draft year, the developments since last fall have restored Hissey’s faith in himself and his abilities.

“It wasn’t that I didn’t have confidence in myself,” he said. “It was just a lot of times, I’d just go back to what I was doing wrong instead of realizing that I’m a good player, I can do this. I’ve always been a confident guy. It was just that I didn’t have the trust in what I was doing. Now, I feel like I’m trusting what I’m doing, and it’s also nice when everyone’s saying ‘hey, you’re doing a great job.’ Everyone around me really believes in what I’m doing, so it’s really positive.”

Jon Meoli is a Senior Columnist for SoxProspects.com. Follow him on Twitter @JonMeoli.