WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. -- There has never been a question about Jake Marisnick's defensive ability and baserunning, both of which are at elite levels. His swing continues to be a "work in progress," Astros manager A.J. Hinch said, and the 25-year-old outfielder admitted Sunday he spent more time refining his swing this winter than ever before.
Despite the offseason additions of outfielders Josh Reddick, Norichika Aoki and Carlos Beltran, who will get most of his at-bats at designated hitter, Marisnick remains a key piece for the Astros. He's their best defensive outfielder, and if he can come around at the plate, it will be hard to keep him off the field.
"I worked on it a lot," Marisnick said about his swing. "It's probably the most I worked on my swing and hitting and studying hitting and doing all that. There's plenty to improve on, so I spent a good majority of my offseason doing it. I'm pretty excited for the year."
Marisnick hit .209 with five homers, 21 RBIs and 10 steals (15 attempts) in 118 games last year. With his speed and athleticism, he continues to be an asset in the field and on the bases and ranked seventh in American League outfielders in defensive runs saved while having nine assists.
"He's always fought pretty hard to find a consistent swing path, to find a consistent swing," Hinch said. "That's really where it starts. I know he's worked all offseason to try to maximize his offensive ability. He knows coming into camp he has an integral role on our team, but he also knows he has to fight for some playing time, so he's going to make some adjustments."
Marisnick has talked hitting with teammate Jose Altuve, a two-time AL batting champion, and studied his own spray charts, which showed he pulls the ball on the ground a lot. He wants to start hitting the ball in the air more, getting more line drives.
'The work part, that's always there, especially with [George Springer] and Reddick and [Preston Tucker] and all these guys," Marisnick said. "We compete every day against each other and we're pushing each other. The work part will be there. I'm just excited to get out there and play with this team."
Hinch said pitch selection will be key with Marisnick, along with the efficiency of his swing path. He's getting some extension in his arms to get more leverage, Hinch said, and trying to cut down on some of the unnecessary movement in his swing that created timing issues.
"He's got long arms, long limbs," Hinch said. "He's as athletic as anybody on our team, so you try to make sure he takes that athleticism to the box, and that's been sort of the mental grind for him over the last couple of years, but he still finds a way to create havoc."
Brian McTaggart has covered the Astros since 2004, and for MLB.com since 2009. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.