José Bautista: A New Training Regimen
Bautista evolved from a solid player to a perennial All-Star by educating himself on the functionality of his body as it relates to the biomechanics of his swing.
The Toronto Blue Jays slugger scrapped his previous training regimen of high-intensity power lifts and focused on developing core strength to maximize his ability to generate bat speed and power through the hitting zone.
He says, "I'm aware of what my body is doing and is engaged with the core. That way I can be more explosive."
Bautista's workouts also include a healthy dose of corrective exercises designed to address muscular imbalances and reduce the risk of injury. Of this corrective work, Bautista says, "I think I would've prevented a couple of injuries that have happened throughout the years. I wish I would've found all this out when I was 20 [years old]."
Scott Kazmir: Refining His Pitching Mechanics
Kazmir nearly bounced out of the Big Leagues in 2011, but he didn't go back to the farm system. Instead, the former first-rounder returned home to the Houston area to train at the Texas Baseball Ranch, working on strengthening his core and performing drills to loosen his hips and increase his leg drive.
He says, "Being able to address certain things in my delivery was the first step to getting back."
The next step was proving to scouts that he had regained his old form. Pitching for the independent league Sugar Land Skeeters, Kazmir boosted his velocity tack up into the 90s, and he was commanding the ball better than ever.
After earning a spot in the Cleveland Indians starting rotation in 2013 as a non-roster spring training invitee, he posted a 10-9 record in 29 starts.
The following off-season he signed a two-year, $22 million contract with the Oakland Athletics and recorded 15 wins, best among the A's starting pitchers.
C.J. Wilson: Straying Outside the Zone
In 2014, Wilson posted a career-high ERA and recorded the fewest strikeouts since he became a starting pitcher in 2010, yet he still managed to finish the season with a 13-10 record.
Some baseball folks attribute the decline to his age (34), but Wilson believes he's just starting to reach his peak. He says, "People say that you're supposed to peak at 30 years old, but I feel like I keep getting better because I'm on such a developmental mindset."
For Wilson, every day of the off-season presents an opportunity to improve his pitching skills. He takes it upon himself to make every workout and throwing session as difficult as possible to ease the grind of the 162-game regular season.
Whether he's throwing in the park, running the beaches of Southern California or driving one of his exotic cars, Wilson is always on the move. He says, "One of the keys to success in life is being productive with the time you put in and taking advantage of the opportunities that are there."
Capitalizing on the opportunity to solidify his place at the front of the Los Angeles Angels starting rotation, Wilson is poised to bounce back in 2015.
Evan Longoria: Patience at the Plate
One of baseball's best hitters struggled in 2014, posting career lows across the triple-slash categories.
The notoriously patient Longoria was more aggressive at the plate, most likely to trying to compensate for an underachieving Tampa Bay Rays lineup, which finished 27th in the Major Leagues in runs scored.
This off-season, Longoria is returning to what he does best—driving the ball across the entire field. He says, "I try not to take too many swings, and the amount of swings that I do take, I try to take good ones in order to create good muscle memory."
A disciplined approach at the dish should produce more hitter-friendly counts for Longoria, which in turn should result in an improved quality of contact rate and a return to the upper tier of baseball's premier hitters.
For the full stories of José Bautista, Scott Kazmir, C. J. Wilson and Evan Longoria, visit New Balance Unlaced.