Ryan Vilade know what he is doing best with a bat in his hands. He also knows what he needs to do better. The son of a longtime coach – James Vilade has taught batsmen at both the college and minor league level – the 22-year-old outfield prospect has a smooth right-hander, even though one who has driven fewer balls over fences than his size would suggest. Since being selected 48th overall from Stillwater High School, Oklahoma in 2017, the 6-foot-2, 225-pound Vilade has gone just 29 times in 1,783 professional record appearances.
But he can pick up a baseball. By playing at Triple-A Albuquerque last season – his first action above High-A – Vilade cut a solid .284 / .339 / .410 and earned himself a late-September cup of coffee in Colorado. Prior to the 2020 COVID shutdown, Vilade drafted a .303 / .367 / .466 slant for the California League’s Lancaster JetHawks.
Vilade – No. 3 in our newly released Rockies Top Prospects List – discussed his hitting approach, and the adjustment that should lead to more things late in the Arizona Fall League season.
David Laurila: To begin with, who are you as a butcher? What are you doing well?
Ryan Vilade: “If I had to give a reconnaissance report about myself, I would say I drive the ball very well the other way around. This is my strength. One thing I keep working on is pulling ball in the air. I can do it well with down-speed; this is the speed ball i’m going [opposite field] with. It does not really bother me because I feel like pulling the speed ball is something you just react to. But yes, to stay the other way and react to adversity. That’s kind of who I am. ”
Laurila: Why is your swing conducive to driving the ball the other way?
At ease: “It’s just kind of how I came up as a butcher. I was taught to drive fast balls to the other side, pull from speed and have gap-to-gap power. One thing I believe in is that if you hit balls along the line, it’s insurance. You do not want to try to hit balls along the line. If you can stay in the gaps – be in midfield and that right center gap with the fast ball – you will be able to handle anything else. ”
Laurila: Butchers told me they were trying to drive the ball over the midfielder’s head. Is this more or less your approach?
At ease: “Absolutely. I think this is the best thing you can do: stay in the middle of the field and can respond to an off-speed pitch. If you are a little late, you still have room on the right side of the field to drive the ball. ”
Laurila: Are you looking to get the ball rolling?
At ease: “I would not say that. I try to get the ball up front. This is more where the pitch is located, and catching it too deep can lead to flare well to the right. That, or to hook well on the left side of the field. ”
Laurila: How does a goal scorer go about catching the ball in front and driving to the gap from the opposite field? Is it mostly about the bottom half?
At ease: “It definitely has something to do with the bottom half. It’s about having that good direction. Skip is all about straight lines. You want everything to go in a straight line. Once it goes from that straight line, everything becomes rotation. If you ask any butcher, he will tell you that you want to stay away from rotation. And I really believe in feeling your swing. You can feel the flight of the ball whether you are rotating, or if your direction was good. ”
Laurila: And again, pulling more balls in the air – fast balls in the air – is a goal …
At ease: “I worked on catching the ball more up front, because if you catch it deep, your launch angle is not going to be big. Capturing it is when the launch angle starts to show. This is something I want to keep working on and get better at, but again, this is nothing to really worry about. The power will come. ”
Laurila: I was surprised to see that you only hit seven home runs this year. Are you disappointed by that number?
At ease: “No, because I hit .280 to .300 all year. The power will come. I’m first hit, and throwers throw runs home – beaters do not hit them. When they give me a pitch to do damage, whether it’s doubles … I had 28 doubles and five triples this year. So, I’m not worried about the homers. Everyone is different, but I’m not worried. ”
Laurila: Your father is a coach. I assume he played a big role in shaping who you are as a butcher.
At ease: “My father is the guy I really go to, and to whom I have gone my whole life. He knows my swing better than anyone, and I trust him. I have also had success with the way my swing works. But of course we have good coaches at the Rockies. They understand me too. It is very useful to have very good guys to check for feedback. ”
Laurila: You got a handful of batsmen with the Rockies in September. How did it feel to stand in a big league batsman’s box?
At ease: “It was really cool. After the first pitch, I was back to normal. That first pitch, of Patrick Corbin, was as if everything happened very quickly. And it was 95 [mph] with sink, so it came out very quickly. But after that… I mean, baseball is baseball, no matter where it is played. There’s going to be build-up, and there’s going to be some nerves for that debut, but then you slow down the game. It does not take long to realize that it is the same game. ”