AJ Vukovich has high expectations for himself—and his experience at instructional league managed to both validate those expectations and help him realize what more he needs to do to reach them.
Vukovich, a 6-foot-5, 230-pound third baseman, turned in a strong performance at instructs, showing power to all fields and an impressive ability to square up balls with consistency.
In the eyes of coaches and executives, Vukovich looked far more advanced as a hitter than would be expected from the 2020 fourth-rounder from East Troy (Wis.) High who had never taken a professional at-bat.
“I was confident going into it because I know how much I prepared and have worked to get to that point,” Vukovich said. “I was trying to hit the ground running and show the organization and all the coaches and players what I was there to do and what I’m about as a player.”
The 19-year-old’s performance had some wondering if the Diamondbacks were fortunate that predraft looks were limited during the spring, the thought being that if clubs had more opportunities to scout him he never would have lasted until the fourth round.
The counter to that argument lies in the work Vukovich was able to put in during quarantine. If he wasn’t in the weight room or at a local hitting facility, he and his father were powering a pitching machine off a generator at their neighborhood park.
“I told myself I wanted to come out of it and I wanted to open people’s eyes with how much I improved,” he said. “I wanted to take advantage of it. I didn’t waste a second of it.”
Vukovich’s defense remains in question. He bounced between first base, third base and the corner outfield over the past several years. The D-backs have him focused on third base, and while he has a long way to go to show he can stick at the position, the club was encouraged by the progress he made in the fall.
The organization is betting that his athleticism—he was a finalist for Wisconsin’s Mr. Basketball award—allows him to make major strides.