Image credit: Nate Pearson (Getty Images)
We gathered a lot from conversations with minor league players at the Prospect Pad, which was held the day before the Futures Game in Cleveland.
As players climb the ladder, the level of scouting detail and preparation required both increase along with the quality of competition. Players at higher level are older, more experienced, stronger and have a better idea of their strengths and weaknesses.
As a result, preparation is key.
Jake Rogers, C, Tigers: “You’ve got to focus on doing scouting reports before the game. You’ve got to go over it with the pitcher before the game starts. We’re constantly learning hitters, focusing on pitchers, how to get the pitchers better. And it really is a grind. But I love it.”
Deivi Garcia, RHP, Yankees: “I do to listen to our reports and study that, but I also try to be myself, and I understand who I am. I understand that I can control the things that I can control and what I can’t. So be it. So I understand that it’s a game, and that’s how I take it.”
Injuries require a transition, both physically and mentally.
A period of time on the sidelines can be a mental battle, and one that can trigger a level of self-reflection.
Devin Williams, RHP, Brewers: “I think it’s more mentally challenging than anything. The workouts are tedious, but definitely just going and doing the same thing every day really wears on you. So I’m glad that that’s over with.” (Note: Williams had Tommy John surgery in 2017.)
Ben Bowden, LHP, Rockies: “I was on my last bullpen (session) when I blew out my back. That was pretty discouraging. I got sent back to Arizona and had surgery. I was in a back brace, sleeping on one of those zero gravity lawn chairs, and I was questioning some things, like anyone would. It got frustrating. And I was wondering if my body could take it. If I’m breaking down this early, what’s it going to be like when I’m 30. I was a little freaked out.”
Small mechanical tweaks can make a big impact.
For some prospects, a steadfast commitment to a small mechanical change can help unlock their potential.
Nate Pearson, RHP, Blue Jays: “I stopped pitching out of the windup. I just do the stretch now, and I think that’s helped my command of all my pitches. I’m still trying to get my slider a lot better, but my changeup and curveball are coming come along well. They just continue to progress, and I couldn’t be more happy with it.”
Hitters are conscious of shrinking the strike zone as they advance to new levels.
Hitters work hard to manage the strike zone, while not playing into a pitcher’s strength.
Jake Rogers, C, Tigers: “I really wanted to focus on recognizing pitches and recognizing pitches early to get into a better position. And that’s how it was this year, and it’s paid off a little bit.”
Cristian Pache, OF, Braves: “Pitch recognition has been key. I’m much better at that. Also, patience and getting my walks in, as well. That’s what I want to continue doing.”
Pitchers make plans for how to attack hitters, and hitters are certainly aware of it.
Gone are the days of pitchers just throwing the ball over the plate. Even pitchers in the low minors are using information to help them navigate a lineup.
Taylor Trammell, OF, Reds: “Yes, I see guys—they have a plan. They’re not up there just throwing pitches. They actually remember at-bats. They actually study film.”
Isaac Paredes, 3B, Tigers: “With the reports that teams carry, they know what your weak point is, and understanding that. And I need to understand how pitchers plan to attack me.”
Players don’t rise through the minors without the help of those around them.
Every minor leaguer has a story to tell about a coach, family member or friend who was pivotal to his success.
Nolan Jones, 3B, Indians: “My dad played up until high school, but he’s been my coach my whole life. So he always knows I can call him, tell what I did that day. He’ll tell me what I did wrong. He’s my guy who I go to for all that.”
Miguel Amaya, C, Cubs: “I really appreciate Ricardo Molina, who was my hitting coach last year. He’s from Panama, too. I appreciate him because he’s a good guy, always talking to me. And I was always listening and paying attention and learning.”
At the Futures Game, age is just a number.
Will Craig, 1B, Pirates: “Well, my wife’s first reaction was, ‘Aren’t you a little old to do that?’ And I was like, ‘No, I don’t I think so.’ ”