Why the Blue Jays think they can unleash Zack Collins’ full potential

The Blue Jays’ trade to the White Sox for wide receiver Zack Collins wasn’t exactly a stunning deal.

Brought to Toronto in exchange for Reese McGuire, the acquisition of Collins was more about roster flexibility than anything else. But below the surface there’s a bit more for the 27-year-old, and the Blue Jays are pretty high on how Collins, a left-handed hitter, is lining up at home plate.

“He can come off the bench at any time and be a threat at home plate,” Jays hitting coach Guillermo Martinez said of the club’s third receiver. “Obviously he could also be an everyday guy, so he’s just another asset to our team.”

The Blue Jays are banking on Collins’ potential at home plate. His career OPS of .645 doesn’t scream hitting ability, and Collins said he didn’t break through because he constantly tinkered with his swing.

“I have a little problem in my swing,” he said. “And a lot of people are trying to get rid of it, so it’s always been a big problem. But I hit it off in college; I’ve been banging with it all my life, so it’s here with me. He is here to stay.

The little fuss in Collins’ hands before he swung has been with him his entire baseball career. With the Blue Jays, he’ll embrace it.

The hitch, a slight movement of the hands before a batter progresses, can derail a batter’s approach, often lengthening the swing and subsequently making it difficult to catch major league fastballs.

Scroll to continue

Recommended items

For some hitters, however, the hitch works — and Martinez wants Collins to stop wrestling with this mechanical imperfection.

“That was our conversation – embrace what he does,” Martinez said.

Former Rangers and Angels slugger Josh Hamilton had a successful hitch, Martinez said, and while Collins isn’t as big or strong as Hamilton, he could see him working with similar success.

“[The hitch] is something he’s been doing for a long time, since high school, college,” Martinez said. “He played it down but it’s in his genes so might as well embrace him and maybe just make sure you start on time and make sure he’s in the right positions when he shoots .”

Collins has been on the Jays’ roster for just over a week, but he’s already receptive to ideas from Martinez, which date back to the pair’s shared history at the minor league level.

Martinez crossed paths with Collins when he was minor league coordinator in the Cubs organization and Collins was a player with the Birmingham Barons, the Double A team of the White Sox. Both guys are from Miami, so they connected on social media before Collins joined the team this season.

Given that Martinez has been so familiar with Collins’ swing from when the capture prospect was tearing up the minor league level, they already have a very understanding relationship.

“You could be the smartest coach in the world, if you don’t have that relationship with a player it doesn’t matter,” Martinez said.

With a bit of tutelage, some newfound confidence and a change of scenery, Collins has solid expectations for his Blue Jays career – and if Toronto maintains its right-handed heavy roster, he’ll have plenty of chances to prove himself.