SURPRISE, Ariz.—Braves prospect Joe Terdoslavich was getting his first chance to appear in an MLB Network telecast at the recent Arizona Fall League Rising Stars game. He stepped to the plate in the bottom of the first inning to bat against Gerrit Cole, the No. 1 pick in the 2011 draft and one of the marquee names in the annual prospect showcase.
After working the count to 2 and 2, the switch-hitting Terdoslavich sent a 99 mph fastball sailing over the center field fence for a three-run homer, giving the AFL West squad an early 5-0 lead.
“I had heard from a few people that he likes to try to blow the fastball past guys late in the count for his strikeout pitch,” Terdoslavich said of Cole, “so I was sitting on his fastball . . . He just left it over the plate and I got the good part of the bat on it.”
But Terdoslavich wasn’t done. Making the most of his time on national television, he followed with a double in the third inning, a single in the fourth and a walk in the sixth inning to wrap up a perfect night as the West squad went on to capture an easy 11-2 win.
Terdoslavich’s coming out party in the Rising Stars game wasn’t a surprise to anyone who has been watching him play this fall. With one week left in the season, he’s hitting .338/.427/.584 for the Surprise Saguaros, the league’s top team.
The Florida native’s big fall comes on the heels of a solid regular season, his first full year since being taken by the Braves out of Long Beach State in the sixth round of the 2010 draft. Playing for high Class A Lynchburg, the 23-year-old Terdoslavich batted .286/.341/.526, breaking a 65-year-old Carolina League record for doubles in a season with 52. That also led the minor leagues.
Accumulating lots of doubles is indicative of his approach at the plate, a style he learned from his father at a young age. “Ever since I was younger, my dad always taught me to hit low line drives into the gaps,” Terdoslavich said. “I got a lot of good pitches to hit and a lot of low line drives this year that happened to carry into the gaps.”
Terdoslavich’s father is also responsible for making him a switch hitter very early in his baseball career.
“I couldn’t even tell you which side he put me on first,” Terdoslavich said. “Back before I can remember I hit from both sides of the plate—through little league, high school, college—everything. I’ve switch-hit my whole life.”
The persistent rap from scouts is that he may not have enough power to play first base at the big league level. After hitting only two balls out of the park in his debut season, Terdoslavich hit 20 homers this season, good for third in the league. Terdoslavich believes that while he’s always going to be more of a line drive, gap-to gap-hitter, he’ll get the opportunity to yank a few balls out of the park.
“I think a home run is a mistake,” Terdoslavich said. “The year before I hit a lot of low line drives that didn’t get up in the air. This year, playing a full season . . . I had more mistakes this year that I just got under the ball here and there.”
Saguaros hitting coach Corey Hart, who filled the same role for the Marlins’ Double-A Jacksonville team this past season, believes the potential is there for Terdoslavich to hit home runs.
“He’s got some pretty nice power,” Hart said. “When he tries to do too much, sometimes those will turn into doubles. But I think there’s some power and potential to hit some homers.”
Whether or not his over-the-fence power develops may be a moot point. With the younger Freddie Freeman already stationed at first base for the big league club, Terdoslavich is likely targeted for a position change as he moves through the Braves farm system. He’s played third base and outfield in the past and frequently took ground balls at the hot corner during pre-game infield practice this fall.
Terdoslavich played just three games at third this season for Lynchburg, and scouts generally consider him just average at first base. While there are doubts whether he could play a major league caliber defense at third, Terdoslavich believes otherwise.
“No matter where they want me to play, I’m going to work,” Terdoslavich said. “I’m going to work very hard in the offseason this year to get better defensively. It’s the one tool, the one part of my game that I need to work on, because I used to be a good defender at third base and I still feel like I can do it. It’s just going to take time and reps and hard work this offseason.”
Working hard is certainly not an issue for Terdoslavich. He considers himself to be a “dirtbag,” a name often associated with his alma mater. Terdoslavich credits his two years at Long Beach State, one year as a redshirt transfer and a second year on the active roster, with making him what he is now.
“They taught me the game and made me better,” Terdoslavich said about his time at Long Beach, “and made me more into a professional.”
• Surprise Saguaros third baseman Mike Olt slammed four home runs last week, including a pair in the Friday game against Peoria, to increase his league-leading total to 12. With four regular season games remaining, the Rangers prospect is just two homers shy of the season record set by Brandon Wood in 2005. Olt, who has homered twice in a game four times this fall, also leads the AFL in RBIs with 39 and in slugging percentage at .774.
• Olt’s Saguaros and the Salt River Rafters will square off in the annual Arizona Fall League championship game on Saturday. The game will be televised on the MLB Network beginning at 3:10 EST.