The Columbus Dispatch
Steer gives old-school approach to Reds’ lineup
Cincinnati Reds infielder Spencer Steer honed his approach at the plate in college.
Batting practice at Oregon was a bit different. Most days, assistant coach Jay Uhlman stood about 30 feet away from the plate and threw as hard as he could while mixing in a few sliders. Whenever he struck out, Steer had to do a sprint. The result was a 20-minute rotation of running, Steer catching his breath for a quick second and then stepping back into the batter’s box knowing he had to put the ball in play.
“Jay stressed all the little nuances of the game,” Steer said. “If there’s a runner on second, you’ve got to get them over any way you can. Whether it’s a bunt, a fly ball to right or a ground ball to second. Small stuff wins ballgames.”
Among qualified rookies this season, Steer has the eighth-highest on-baseplus-slugging percentage (OPS) in baseball. He hit his team-high sixth home run of the season on Monday, and Steer bats in the middle of the Reds’ lineup every night.
He’s good at all the little things that modern-day rookies typically aren’t good at. Steer tracks breaking balls as well as any of his teammates. His strike zone judgment is rare for someone who has fewer than 300 MLB plate appearances. Steer is one of the best hitters in baseball at not chasing pitches out of the strike zone.
In a season that’s all about identifying key pieces in the Reds’ young core, Steer has proven that he’s a well-rounded hitter who can be a staple in the Reds’ lineup for as long as he’s with the team.
“There is a toughness to him,” manager David Bell said, “where it’s just like he knows who he is. He knows what he needs to do, he doesn’t let too much affect his confidence.”
What’s perhaps ironic is that Oregon initially recruited Steer as a pitcher. “On the visit, I said, ‘Hey, I play infield too,’” Steer said.
It was because he led the Ducks with a .349 batting average and set a school record with 129 career RBIS that the Minnesota Twins selected him in the third round of the 2019 MLB draft.
“I came up as a ‘put the ball in play’ kind of guy,” Steer said. “With the Twins,
I made a huge adjustment in my swing to hit for more power. I did hit for more power, but I struck out more. I’m still in that transition back into combining the two and finding the best of both worlds to put the ball in play and also produce some power. I’ve come full circle.”