Athlete Highlight – Nick Cimillo with the Pirates, Batting .289 with 3 HRs

Nick Cimillo recently concluded an outstanding spring training with the Pittsburgh Pirates with a .289 cumulative BA, 11 hits including two 2B, one 3B and three HRs. His three HRs had an average exit velo over 100 mph with 2 of them carrying over 400 feet. How did he do it?

He started his off-season training this past September immediately after the conclusion of his Rookie Ball season with the Pirates. His training began with a thorough upfront evaluation and assessment, which included a movement screen, strength and power testing, blast motion (swing analysis), K-vest (posture and sequencing assessment) and a comprehensive video analysis. Following his assessment, we put together a plan, some of which was for the weight room and some for inside the nets. Below is a brief summary of his program.

Movement Screen

His movement screen highlighted insufficient internal hip rotation on both his right and left, which is quite common for catchers due to the extended amount of time they spend in a deep squat position behind the plate. Mobility work was specifically designed to open up his hips, which should also help his closed hips at foot plant.

Strength and Power Testing

Nick already possessed fairly high levels of Absolute / Max strength when he started in September, he just needed to apply that strength faster. So, most of our work in the weight room was focused on improving Nick’s rate of force development with the overall goal being to increase power development. We utilized band assisted and resisted work using moderate loads in order to train both ends of the power curve. We also focused on improving his rotational power through various exercises on the Proteus Motion machine.

Blast Motion

Nick’s Blast data highlighted several strengths and potential areas for improvement. His bat speed is already within the professional range, while his rotational acceleration was and is quite excellent. The plan revolved around improving his slightly high early connection angle and slightly low on-plane efficiency percentage so that he could improve his swing plane for better contact. This was generally addressed by improving his posture through med ball work, training on Proteus and constant feedback from the Blast Motion sensor during at bats. The table below provides a summary of his improvements.

K-vest Assessment

K-vest is a motion capture technology which allows you to measure your posture and movement patterns of the upper body throughout the swing from first move, to heel strike through to contact. Nick’s results, although generally on target, highlighted an excessive counter rotation at heel strike more than likely due to his negative weight shift mentioned earlier. This could likely hinder his ability to utilize his already high rotational acceleration during at bats as well.

Video Analysis

The interesting thing about combining video analysis with data collected from various tech like Blast Motion and K-vest, is that often we can visually see postural issues through video that many times will give us some clues as to what the data will tell us. It can also give us some insight in relation to some things we can do in the gym combined with drill work in the nets to better address these issues.

In regard to Nicks’ baseline video, we saw an excessive negative weight shift that was causing an inefficient shift of his COM and in turn was also affecting the timing of his lower half and his ability to better block with his lead leg. We believed that cleaning these issues up a bit would help improve his K-vest numbers for torso bend and rotation at heel strike as well as improving his on-plane efficiency by creating better hip rotation. So, the first plan of attack was once again getting back some back hip mobility to help him get a better coil and better stability to move on.

As far as the upper half , he was losing the barrel a bit which may have contributed to his on plane efficiency and early connection scores we found with Blast motion.

Spring Training Update

Nick’s commitment to his craft this past off-season has definitely transferred to on-field performance this spring.  Below is a frontal view of one of his HRs.

As highlighted earlier, Nick just finished an outstanding spring training, batting .289 (vs. 214 LY), with 6 of his hits for extra bases with three HRs averaging over 100 mph in exit velo. Next stop is the Bradenton Marauders, Pirates’ Single A affiliate! #LFG

By Zach Kollar and Andrew Pezzuto (RPP Baseball)

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