Trevor Larnach projects as an impact bat at the big league level. Ranked second on our Minnesota Twins Top Prospect list, and 55th on our 2020 Top 100 Prospects list, the 23-year-old Oregon State University product has, in the words of our own Eric Longenhagen, “titanic raw power… and a refined approach.” Moreover, he makes consistent hard contact. Last season, 51.9% of Larnach’s batted balls were hit 95 mph or higher.
Larnach worked to further fine-tune his left-handed stroke over the offseason, and he continues to do so during the current pandemic-necessitated hiatus. He has a specific objective in mind. Larnach slashed .309/.384/.458 last year between High-A Fort Myers and Double-A Pensacola — heady enough numbers to merit an invitation to big-league camp — but an inefficiency has stuck in his craw. The extent to which he can conquer it remains unknown, but given that he draws much of his inspiration from the preparedness of Navy Seals, there’s a pretty good chance that he will.
David Laurila: To start, how are you preparing while the season is on hold?
Trevor Larnach: “I’m hitting every day. I’m working with the hitting guy I’ve been with for quite a few years now, Tyler Graham. He recently went from Oregon State’s baseball staff over to the [Texas] Rangers’ staff, where he’s working with their Triple-A team. We’re basically taking what I learned from spring training into kind of an offseason format. I’m pretty much doing everything I did in the offseason, but incorporating a couple of things into my routine that got exposed in big-league camp.“
Laurila: What got exposed?
Larnach: “In big league spring training you’re facing big leaguers and upper level minor league guys. Of course, early on they’re still trying to work out the kinks — just as the hitters are — but putting that aside, I was experiencing big league level pitching: the stuff, the speed, the consistency. It kind of shapes your frame of mind to where you need to be to put yourself in the best position to succeed.
“A big positive for me was getting to talk to Nelson Cruz, Torii Hunter, Justin Morneau, Josh Donaldson, Marwin Gonzalez, and all these different guys. I was picking different things that each one had to say, and incorporating them into my game. Spring training is a perfect time to test things out. I was putting what I worked on in the offseason to test, while at the same time taking in things I took from those guys.”
Laurila: How does the pitching you were facing tie into that?
Larnach: “They weren’t throwing to scouting reports — they were throwing to what they need to do to get right for the season — but that alone teaches you the mindset you need to have. It will also expose any type of mechanical issues you’ve got going on, which were evident for a couple of at-bats I could name. So it was really about keeping the mentality for who I need to be to be successful at that level, while maintaining my mechanics, my approach, and my preparation.”
Laurila: Can you be more specific about the mechanical issues?
Larnach: “I think I should probably start with the previous season. I played my first full season, and was in the Florida State League for about three quarters of it. The ball doesn’t fly that well there, although that really doesn’t matter. What I was more keeping note of was the ball-flight I had.
“It seemed pretty obvious that my ball-flight from just right of center field, all the way to the left field foul pole, was nice true backspin. There was some slice here and there, but most of it was backspin, which is what I want. But from right center to right field, it was mostly topspin.
“Generally, this whole offseason was about getting that down. It involved a couple of things. It involved a little lower-half adjustment; I was doing a couple of different things during the season, for timing purposes, and I kind of combined both into one lower-half load, move, whatever you want to call it.
“Part of it was the load I had with my hands, being more fluid and getting the barrel moving. Instead of forcing the barrel to get to the ball… from a relaxed standpoint is kind of what I need to tell myself. I can just let it work naturally, and go through the ball as opposed to being pushy to the ball.”
Laurila: I’m not sure I’ve ever talked to a hitter who’s had issues with topspin solely to the pull side. Do you feel you’ve adequately corrected that?
Larnach: “I don’t know that I’ll ever completely fix it. Each player has their own issues that always pop up, from the big leagues on down. You’ve got to make adjustments in this game. You’re not going to get to a swing where it’s just there for the rest of your life; it’s always going to kind of change on you. But for the most part, timing was one of the key things to that. If you’re a little late, you’re going to react in a way to where your hands get kind of pushy, and want to get to the ball. It will create this kind of forcing effect, of contact and ball-flight, which results either in topspin or maybe some slicing.
“For me, working on the load with the lower half was big for timing purposes. And I’m still working on it every day, because one of the biggest things to being a consistent hitter is being on time. But like I said, it’s also my [upper half]. One of the biggest things is holding the bat a little… no, I should say ‘a lot more’ loosely than I was, and letting the barrel kind of load itself — that instead of being really handsy and forcefully pushing the barrel, or forcefully swinging the bat. That’s something we were touching on throughout the whole last offseason, and are even now. It’s still a work in progress, and probably always will be.”
Laurila: Do you know what your home-run spray chart was last year?
Larnach: “Of my 13 home runs, I think I only had two or three to the pull side. Most of them were center to left.”
Laurila: While the Florida State League suppresses power, you’re 6-foot-4, 225 pounds and profile as bat-first corner outfielder. How concerning was your home run output?
Larnach: “I knew that it was [a tough hitters’ league], but I don’t necessarily take into account the Florida State League and how the ball flies there. I look at how I was hitting the balls throughout the whole year. Even in the Southern League it doesn’t fly all that well. That being said, whether it flies or not, I was hitting the ball hard. It’s just that the ball-flight was more topspin to right field. If I wasn’t doing that, my home run numbers probably would have been higher. That’s why I want to work on improving that.
“As far as the consistency of hitting the ball hard, I think I did a pretty good job. In this game, that’s really all you can do. But when it comes to controlling the ball flight, you can do something about that, as well.”
Laurila: Circling back to your conversations with Nelson Cruz and the others, did you talk specifically about getting more backspin, pull-side?
Larnach: “Oh, yeah. And I actually got to talk to Cruz last year when he was rehabbing with us for a couple of games. He was standing out in left field and I couldn’t help but ask him a million questions. I asked him if he had any topspin issues earlier in his career, and for him it was swinging too far up. He needed to swing further down, just a little bit, or at least think that. That’s what helped him, but for me it’s not the issue. That said, it helps you cross something off when you try it.
“Like I said, for me it was holding the bat looser and letting the barrel work naturally instead of forcing the barrel. But talking to all of those guys about hitting… a lot of it was mental. You need the right kind of mindset to be successful more consistently. Especially at the big-league level, because everybody is on top of their mental game.”
Laurila: I’ve heard that you’re extremely routine-oriented. I’ve also been told that you’re very interested in Navy Seals, particularly their training regiments and mental discipline.
Larnach: “I got into that at Oregon State. I came in as a freshman and failed about 100% of the time, which was kind of a wakeup call. I got to my sophomore year having learned from that a little bit, and then in my junior year a couple of Navy Seals came out to talk to our team and run us through a little workout session. They talked about how their teams are, and how their culture is.
“I started looking into different books about them. A lot of the training they go through is mental — obviously there’s a physical aspect to it, too — but what these guys do is ultimately life or death, and how they prepare allows them to work in those situations. Baseball isn’t life or death, but you can still take things from them. Ultimately, they will teach you how to be disciplined, and what you need to do mentally to put yourself in the best position for success, both as a team and individually.”
Laurila: What Navy Seals do obviously tops sports in terms of importance.
Larnach: “Absolutely. It gives you perspective, and gratitude to what these guys have done for the country, what they do for all of us. It’s a huge life lesson on more than just baseball. But again, you can apply much of how they prepare, and how they’re disciplined, towards baseball. I think everybody should be learning from these guys, because they’re some of the most badass guys on the face of the planet. I can’t stress enough what they teach.”
Laurila: If you’re one day standing at the plate in Game 7 of the World Series, ninth inning, bases loaded, you’ll be in the baseball equivalent of a life-and-death situation. You’ll need to be calm and focused.
Larnach: “Exactly. A lot of it has to do with the process of how you develop, how you better yourself, and how you stay consistent. When you break it down… I think Anthony Rendon was told that he looks like he’s sleeping at the plate. A reporter asked him why, and he was like, ‘Well, there are troops in the Middle East, fighting for their lives, and fighting for this country; I’m getting paid to play game, so what is there to be nervous about?’ And that couldn’t be more true. When it comes to performing, you have your routine that get you right, mentally and physically, and that’s what puts you in the best position for success. That’s what being prepared is.”
Earlier “Talks Hitting” interviews can found through these links: Greg Allen, Nolan Arenado, Aaron Bates, Cavan Biggio, Jay Bruce, Matt Chapman, Michael Chavis, Nelson Cruz, Paul DeJong, Rick Eckstein, Drew Ferguson, Joey Gallo, Mitch Haniger, Tim Hyers, Evan Longoria, Michael Lorenzen, Gavin Lux, Trey Mancini, Daniel Murphy, Drew Saylor, Fernando Tatis Jr., Justin Turner, Mark Trumbo, Luke Voit, Jesse Winker.