Hitting the ball late not only causes poor shots but increases your chance of injuries.
When you make contact on side of your body, the wrist, elbow and shoulder take the load of the shot, doing this over and over again can and does cause serious wrist, elbow and shoulder injuries.
Imagine that you hit the ball on side of you, now instead of the ball imagine a heavy object or someone trying to push your racket backwards from that position.
The muscles, joints and tendons of the wrist, elbow and shoulder would be working very hard to hold your racket in that position.
Now imagine making contact out in front of the body, now that same heavy object becomes much easier to handle as you have the whole body supporting the racket, not just the arm.
That is the image to keep in your head, imagine that extra added support from the whole body when you make contact out in front.