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d’Arnaud reinvents approach to take advantage of untapped power

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The sixth organization of Chase d’Arnaud’s career called him up to the bigs last week after he spent the first two months of the 2018 season with Triple-A Sacramento showing off the fruits of hard work he put in this offseason.

He made the 45-minute drive to Valencia from his home in Westlake Village (outside of Los Angeles) four days a week to work with swing doctors Craig Wallenbrock, Robert Van Scoyoc and Brad Boyer in an effort to find the power that had been missing from his game.

In the past he had been known for his speed and versatility — he carries three fielding gloves around with him — which is certainly an asset the Giants liked in him, but power was never his game.

He said: 

“With other teams that I’ve been on, I think they saw me run and wanted my push to be [a] ground balls up the middle [guy], and so that’s what I focused on because I wanted to be a good little boy and follow directions. But my brother [Travis d’Arnaud], who plays with the Mets, has always told me, ‘You know, you’re bigger and faster and stronger than me you should have more pop than me.’”

When he was with the Padres in 2017, d’Arnaud was exposed to what he called “the new modern swing” with a focus toward getting underneath the ball more effectively. And San Diego hitting coach Jay Washington mentioned Wallenbrock, a hitting guru known for working with the likes of J.D. Martinez and Chris Taylor.

He tried to incorporate some of the Padres new ideas into his swing right away, but in retrospect he wishes he had waited because making changes like that doesn’t always translate to immediate results and he was ultimately demoted, making it through waivers and ending up with Triple-A El Paso.

There, he reverted to his normal swing in an effort to finish out the season with numbers that gave him a shot at catching on with another team.

He said:

“I did well in El Paso, because you know I have a son now [and] I have to do what I have to do to provide. I just told myself, as soon as the season’s over I’m gonna go meet up with these guys and show them where my swing is.”

He finished off the season in Triple-A with a .297/.363/.424 slash, and did exactly that:

“I decided to just buy into [Wallenbrock’s] approach 100 percent, so it’s been a road full of adjustments, but I feel like now I’m taking advantage of all of the power that was always there. My head’s a lot more still, which has resulted in more walks, more power numbers.”

While d‘Arnaud spent the winter reinventing his swing, his agent went about finding a team interested in signing him:

“This offseason one of the first things I told my agent when we were talking about which teams I wanted him to approach, I told him that I wanted to be with a team that wanted to win more than anything. The Giants are always gonna put the right pieces in place to win a championship.”

At 31-years-old, he’s been around the block, so perhaps it’s no surprise that many in the San Francisco clubhouse may have greeted him with, “Nice to see you,” not, “Nice to meet you,” when he reported to Giants Spring Training in Scottsdale as a non-roster invitee.

In Pittsburgh, he played with Mark Melancon, Andrew McCutchen, Gorkys Hernández and Tony Watson. In the minors he played with Joe Panik, Buster Posey and Brandon Crawford:

“I have plenty of memories with them, very fond ones.”

He didn’t make the 25-man roster despite a strong showing in spring. By the time he got the call from the Giants on July 6, he’d hit 12 homers with Sacramento, five more than his season-high in the Pittsburgh minor league system in 2009, and had a .915 OPS, with 15 stolen bases.

“It feels amazing [to be called up]. When I got the news I felt calm, [but] I think that’s because of past experiences… I’ve been through this before. I’m just grateful for the opportunity to help the team when the division is so close right now.”

It’s an opportunity he put a lot of work and preparation into earning, perhaps more than ever before.

“I feel like I’ve gotten a lot of opportunities [in the past] but I don’t think I’ve been ready for them. I don’t think that I’ve put in the right kind of time that I needed [to], to be to be ready for a season. This offseason, hitting with those guys is one of the best things offensively that I ever could have done. I wish that I had talked to them before I made my debut in 2011 with the Pirates, if I could go back in time [I would].”

The Giants got a taste of d’Arnaud’s newly tapped power Wednesday as he hit his first career leadoff homer, and more importantly, his first in a Giants uniform. He will be filling in against lefties at second base as the Giants await the return of everyday second baseman Joe Panik (groin), but he is also available to give Crawford or Pablo Sandoval days off, and he can play first base or outfield in a pinch as well.

He said:

“I’ve been around the game [and] enough teams that the game’s humbled me, I just am thankful for every opportunity that I have. I know not to take the game for granted ‘cause I know that I have in the past. I just want to do well for my teammates and San Fran.”

 

Notes

d’Arnaud also plays music in his free time in the Chase d’Arnaud Band (he played Bonaroo in 2016), and recently released the following music video, “Fatherhood Bling” in which Johnny Cueto makes a cameo.


Julie Parker is SFBay’s San Francisco Giants beat writer. Follow @SFBay and @InsideThePark3r on Twitter and at SFBay.ca for full coverage of Giants baseball.

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