SURPRISE, Ariz.—Despite his offensive struggles during his first two professional seasons, center fielder Brett Eibner is convinced he can hit. The Royals are too.
A series of injuries limited Eibner to 196 games since the Royals drafted him in the second round in 2010 out of Arkansas. He has hit just .203/.315/.396 during that span and led the Carolina League with 165 strikeouts in 2012. But he has also struggled to overcome hand, thumb and shoulder injuries during that span.
“I think that’s factored into a lot of it,” the 24-year-old Eibner said. “With the injuries and what-not for some reason I’ve let it creep in about self-doubt, but I feel like this year I’m in such a good state of mind and feel strong and able to put on weight on. I feel very comfortable with what I’m doing now.”
A Drew Promeranz pitch broke two bones in Eibner’s right hand during his junior year at Arkansas. He remained in the game and homered off Promeranz and played the final two months of the Razorbacks’ season, but the Royals shut him down after drafting him to let the hand heal properly. He homered in his first at-bat with low Class A Kane County in 2011, but in his second game he tore a ligament in his left thumb and missed three months. In spring training last year, Eibner jammed his left shoulder diving for a ball and missed the early part of the season.
Eibner, recently named the team’s minor league defensive player of the year in 2012, has spent the spring working with roving hitting instructor Terry Bradshaw to limit the moving parts in his swing and “to keep everything simple.”
“I do take some big swings,” Eibner said. “This year I’ve been able to shorten my swing up. I’ve always had leverage in my swing. I need to learn how to control that. I’ve been able to hit the ball more on a line because if I hit a ball square it’s going to go. I know that.”
• The Royals honored several individuals with awards for the 2012 season in March. Shortstop Alex McClure won the Mike Sweeney award, recognizing a player who best represents the organization on and off the field.
• Victor Baez, the Royals’ Dominican Academy coordinator, received the Dick Howser player development person of the year award. He was instrumental in helping the Royals move into a new complex in Mojarra.