Jason Vosler's career power production mirrors what we're starting to see more and more in today's game, as players make huge adjustments and tap into more pop as they get older.
Vosler hit 11 total homers in three years at Northeastern and then had 10 and three in his first two full seasons as a minor leaguer. But the infielder broke out with 21 in Double-A in 2017, and followed that with 43 more the next two seasons. Asked about the surge, Vosler didn't point to offseason work at a facility or specific swing changes. He said he changed his mindset four years ago, in part by spending hundreds of hours watching Twitter and YouTube clips of current and former big league stars, including Barry Bonds.
"It was just taking little things from each of them," Vosler said Wednesday. "It kind of became a little obsessive, just watching their movements. I would even try to find YouTube videos of their batting practice and see what they did there."
Vosler said he watched hundreds of players, but he mostly focused on Bonds, Albert Pujols, Mike Trout and Miguel Cabrera. He was drawn to Bonds not just for the power, but the way he managed to walk 200-plus times a year while hitting all those homers.
"I'm sure there's more to it than just the mechanics of the swing. He probably had the best batter's eye of anybody in history -- he was swinging at strikes," Vosler said. "It's cool not just to watch his swing mechanics, but his approach, too. You can go to YouTube and find hundreds of at-bats where he's taking pitches just off the black of the corners, no problem. It doesn't even look like he flinches at them, and then he gets that one pitch in the zone and it seems like he could hit it out every time. He might have hit 100 home runs if they threw him more strikes."
The Giants went hard after Vosler in November because of two of those traits that stood out in his 2019 Triple-A season for the Padres. Vosler showed a good eye at the plate, posting a .367 OBP, and continued to improve his power production, slugging a career-best .523.
Vosler said the end result of all that research was a change to his approach in batting practice. He used to hit grounders for the first couple of rounds, trying to find holes, but before 2017 he started to work on always elevating the ball and hitting more line drives over outfielders' heads.
"I think it just kind of organized my swing in a way that produced that (power) more consistently and then more balls started going over," he said.
Vosler doesn't have a homer this spring, but he has four doubles and a triple among his 12 hits in 36 at-bats, and he has put himself in a good position to make his big league debut, particularly if Brandon Belt starts the season on the injured list. Vosler primarily is a corner infielder but also has played second and left field this spring. At some point this season, he could find himself standing in the same Oracle Park left field that was Bonds' home for so many years, or even working with the organization's special advisor in person.
Vosler grew up in New Jersey, so he hasn't seen Bonds at Oracle Park. He did, however, get a chance to watch him at Yankee Stadium when he was nine years old. Now 27, he continues to study that famous swing and approach any chance he gets.
"Any time I see (a Bonds highlight) on my Twitter timeline I'll stop and watch it for sure," he said.