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Prospect Q&A: Jordan Luplow brings the thunder

Pittsburgh Pirates v Baltimore Orioles - Game One Photo by Mitchell Layton/Getty Images

With Kevin Kramer injured (and maybe not even considering that), Jordan Luplow is the main hype guy in Double-A Altoona this year. While the 2014 third-round pick out of Fresno State has shown some power in the past (12 home runs in 2015, 10 in the Florida State League in 2016), he’s gotten to a new level with the Curve, with 16 homers and a .293/.375/.556 line through Sunday.

I was able to catch up with him before his game on Sunday.

I’m sure a lot of people have been asking you: What’s behind your power this year?

It’s the approach I’ve taken at the plate, knowing what the pitcher’s going to throw and trying to do my best with that, and I’m just attacking balls in the zone.

What is that approach, and was there a change to it?

It’s getting a ball over the plate, something I can drive instead of swinging at stuff a little out of the zone or a good pitcher’s pitch.

Is that just something that develops over a few years in pro ball, being able to better select a pitch?

Yeah, I think it’s that. My teammates, like Edwin Espinal and a couple of the guys that have been here the last couple years, they’ve told me, “This is how it is; this is how they throw.” I’ve been talking to Aaron Judge a lot, my teammate at Fresno State. Little things like that. His advice and these guys’ advice and Riggsy (Kevin Riggs), our hitting coach, his advice, it all helped me a lot.

People say power comes along later. Is that a function of getting comfortable with pro pitching until you’re able to be more aggressive?

I’m not trying to do too much out at the plate. I’m trying to stay within myself, and I think doing that has allowed me to set up the right pitches to hit. That’s led to harder contact, and sometimes I catch it a little under it and sometimes it goes out. That’s pretty much all it is.

What goes into making harder contact? I know that's being monitored a lot more; are you able to look at that?

They’ve got all that data. They’ve got everything, how many times you pick your nose during a game, all that stuff. They have everything. Whatever you want to see, you can see, but for myself, I’m a feel guy. If it felt good, I’m going to keep going with it. I go a lot off feel and I try not to get too much into the data. That’s really what I’m doing. If it feels good at the plate and I feel comfortable and I feel like I’ve got a good pitch to hit, then I’m going to go for it.

What about fielding? You were back and forth at one point, playing some third; does playing outfield full time help?

I’m just going wherever they want me, honestly. We tried third out a couple years ago, and we’ve got some really talented guys there. They wanted to put me back in the outfield and let me swing the bat and whatnot

Is outfield where you’ve played most of your life?

All up to high school I was an infielder, third-base kind of guy, then I hurt my shoulder my senior year in high school. I had right labrum surgery. So, when I went to Fresno State they put me in the outfield. I was going to go back to third base there, but they liked me in the outfield. So, they just left me out there in right, and (the outfield) is where I’ve been ever since, other than a stint in Low-A.

So, at this point, you’ve been playing there long enough, there’s not much of a learning curve there?

Yeah, I’m just staying on things in batting practice, getting the reads. These new fields we go to, just knowing the bounces and how the grass plays, how it bounces off the walls, a hard wall or soft wall. Some of these stadiums have two or three levels and some of them only have one level, so the depth perception is going to be different. It’s little things like that I’ve picked up from Mikey Ryan, our manager. He was an outfielder, and he’s helped me a lot with that.

Is there anything else you’re learning at Double-A or is it, as you kind of put it, things that are coming together from earlier work?

These pitchers at this level, they definitely know how to pitch. They know what they’re doing. They wouldn’t be here if they didn’t. Just knowing the right spots and situations, what they’re going to do. These guys aren’t dumb. They know your weaknesses. They’ve got all the data you can choose from. They know what you do well, what you don’t. They’re going to pitch to that and their strengths. You’ve got to go up there with a plan and be convicted in it.

It looked like they made a point to pitch you inside last night (one walk, one HBP). Is that somewhere they might be trying to get you now?

It’s day by day. That was the first night they really came in there. But, how many guys can really hit that inside corner three times in a row? I’m going to tip my cap if you can do that, honestly, because there aren’t many big leaguers that do it. It’s really hard to do. There’s not a lot of space. Last night they missed and they hit me. That’s why a lot of guys like to stay away, because there’s so much more room on the outside of the plate to miss. If they miss, they’re not going to get hurt. It’s just going to be a ball. If they miss inside it’s a hit-by-pitch, or if they miss on the other side, trying to go inside, it’s going to be right over the plate and get whacked. I’m just going to adjust to how they’re pitching me. If they want to go there, good luck to them, because I’m going to turn around on it.

Are inside pitches something you’ve had success on before?

I’ve been working a lot this year with Riggsy at staying away, staying opposite field. I’ve always had a pretty good feel pulling the ball, but oppo is sometimes where I just miss pitches. I’ve been working with him and he’s helped me a ton. I’m just trying to be a complete hitter up there.