Hitting strategist Van Scoyoc joins Dodgers staff

LOS ANGELES — Robert Van Scoyoc, the 32-year-old cutting-edge hitting instructor who helped turn J.D. Martinez into a superstar, was announced as the Los Angeles Dodgers‘ new hitting coach on Wednesday.

The Dodgers have hired four new coaches to work under manager Dave Roberts, who is currently under contract for only the 2019 season. Dino Ebel will be the new third-base coach, a role he handled with the crosstown Los Angeles Angels for nine seasons. Chris Gimenez, fresh off a 10-year career as a big league catcher, will be the new game-planning coach. And Aaron Bates will be the assistant hitting coach after spending the past four seasons working with Dodgers minor leaguers.

But the Van Scoyoc hire commands the most intrigue.

Van Scoyoc didn’t play baseball beyond college and spent several years working with hitters alongside Craig Wallenbrock in Santa Clarita, California, which resides about 30 miles northwest of Dodger Stadium. Van Scoyoc and Wallenbrock harped on the importance of launch angle before it became vogue throughout the industry. Van Scoyoc preached keeping swing paths through the strike zone as long as possible and lifting the ball in the air, concepts the Dodgers — and most of Major League Baseball — ardently adhered to this past season.

Martinez began working with Van Scoyoc after the 2013 season. Van Scoyoc repositioned Martinez’s hands, put him in a more athletic stance and introduced him to the benefits of launch angle, helping Martinez go from a middling fourth outfielder to a menacing middle-of-the-order bat. The Dodgers hired Van Scoyoc and Wallenbrock as consultants from 2016 to 2017, at which point the duo also helped launch the career of Chris Taylor.

In 2018, the Arizona Diamondbacks hired Van Scoyoc to the newly created position of hitting strategist, which, according to the Arizona Republic, entailed providing “individualized, data-centric strategies on how to attack opposing pitchers.” The D-backs ultimately underperformed offensively and fired hitting coach Dave Magadan.

With the Dodgers, Van Scoyoc will work alongside Bates and Brant Brown, who will transition from assistant hitting coach to hitting strategist. Van Scoyoc is replacing the more conventional Turner Ward, who took the same job with the Cincinnati Reds shortly after the World Series.

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