Victor Roache is ready to go back to college.
Not in the literal sense, but mentally.
The former first-round draft pick of the Milwaukee Brewers has had varying levels of success since being drafted out of Georgia Southern in 2012.
His rookie year he clobbered 22 homers with Class-A Wisconsin to tie the team record — he homered in his first professional at-bat — and followed it up by hitting another 18 homers in 2014 with High-A Brevard County.
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Since then, however, Roach, 25, has seen the pendulum of his career swing back and forth for several reasons.
Injuries have been an unfortunate constant with Roache. During his draft year, Roache broke his wrist while diving for a ball and missed the remainder of his junior season.
Once promoted to the Biloxi Shuckers in 2015, Roache had some success early, hitting .247 with eight homers, 35 RBIs and a .430 slugging percentage in 67 games. But he was limited to just 51 games a year ago due to fracturing his left fibula. It was a tough blow just when Roache felt he was just starting to heat up. He finished the year with a .243 average, four homers, 15 RBIs, a .412 slugging percentage and a .749 OPS — numbers well below what made him the 28th overall selection four years prior.
In an attempt to continue his ascension through the Brewers’ farm system, the power-hitting left fielder has watched more film from his Georgia Southern days. During the subsequent film study, Roache noticed he’s gotten away from the 30-homer sophomore who was drafted 28th overall by Milwaukee.
“I looked at video from when I was in the Cape Cod League and when I was in school,” Roache said before the season. “I was spread out a little bit. I had a pretty wide base and it was very simple. I’m just trying to get back to that — be short to the ball and whatever happens after that happens.”
Roache didn’t have any sort of epiphany that a change was needed. It was more of a gradual realization.
“I think when you come out of college or high school and don’t have immediate success, you might think something is wrong: Something’s wrong with my mechanics, I have to change something,” he said. “Usually it’s your approach or your mindset. After a couple of years of doubting what I’ve been doing, my natural swing and stance, I’ve just been like, ‘I have to get back to the basics.’
“... It’s one of those things where, if I’m going to go down, I’ve got to go down doing it my way.”
The 6-foot-2, 235-pound Roache said his ideal batting stance is a little bit wider than in recent seasons and certainly more quiet, meaning less extraneous motion.
At times in the past, Roache has combined swaying in his hands or body with a toe tap. The combo proved to be too much.
“It throws my timing off,” he said. “I don’t want to be moving around too much because when it’s time to get your foot down and get ready you kind of get caught in the middle.”
In addition to a more simplistic stance — with a wide base and letting his natural movement dictate his swing — Roache plans to be more aggressive in his approach.
“I can’t be passive and timid and hope for stuff,” he said. “I have to go in there with an aggressive mindset.”
His changes seem to be paying off early in the 2017 season. Rotating with fellow outfielders Clint Coulter, Johnny Davis and Michael Reed in the outfield, plus others at designated hitter, Roache played in four of the Biloxi Shuckers five games at Montgomery last week. In 16 at-bats, he hit .313 with two doubles, two RBIs, a .353 OBP and .438 slugging percentage.