Q and A With Jacob Gatewood

Jacob Gatewood was drafted by the Brewers in the 1st round of the 2014 draft, after batting .349 with 2 home runs his senior year at Clovis High School in California.

But despite hitting just two homers his final season of high school, it’s Gatewood’s power that is seen by many as his most impactful tool. Wisconsin Timber Rattlers

Gatewood first put that power on display at the national level back in 2013 before he was even drafted, blasting mammoth home runs at Citi Field in front of thousands of people in the junior Home Run Derby, and subsequently made his power-hitting abilities known to a vast portion of the baseball world. With the kind of power Gatewood displayed, it was no true wonder why the Brewers thought so highly of him in the draft.

However, Gatewood has seen his share of ups and downs since beginning his professional career, not posting the power stats many had anticipated he would. But even so, Gatewood still managed to have his best season thus far in 2016, hitting .240 with 14 home runs and 64 RBI’s, with many seeing even better things to come from Gatewood in 2017 and beyond.

Making the transition from his long-time position of shortstop to the unfamiliar third base spot last season, the Brewers are seemingly doing everything they can to help clear Gatewood’s path and get him to the majors as quickly as possible. If Gatewood can continue to tap into the immense power he possesses moving forward, Gatewood should be showing off his talents in the big leagues in the not too distant future.

Jacob Gatewood — top prospect in the Brewers’ organization — took the time recently to answer some of my questions:

1.) At what age did you first become interested in baseball? Who was your biggest baseball influence growing up?

For me you could say baseball was love at first sight. I started playing when I was 8, and once I put the batting gloves on it was over — baseball was all I wanted to do. Growing up, I had a ton of different favorite players, but the one who influenced me the most was my dad. He played some minor league baseball with the Dodgers, Twins, and Cubs. He supported me through it all, and I couldn’t be more thankful for him.

2.) Who was your favorite baseball player growing up? Why?

My first favorite player growing up was actually Troy Tulowitzki. I always liked the way he played and how physical he was on the field. I was lucky enough to meet him a few years ago, and it was a great experience to be able to talk to someone I looked up to so much as a kid.

3.) You were drafted by the Brewers in the 1st round of the 2014 draft. What was that process like for you? Did being present at the MLB Network studio (where the names were being announced live) make the experience all the more memorable?

The process of being drafted is a unique one in a sense; you have to grow up very quickly. You go into your senior year at 18 with a lot of pressure on you, but all the added pressure made it fun for me. My dad has always told me pressure is a privilege, so I really took that to heart my senior year and just tried to soak the whole thing in. Being present at the draft was truly a blessing! They took great care of us, and it was awesome seeing all my friends names called; and of course when mine was called.

4.) Before being drafted, you won the 2013 junior Home Run Derby at Citi Field in front of thousands of people at the stadium and millions more on TV:

Is that the moment you feel your name became ultra synonymous for power with people around the baseball world?

The home run derby at Citi Field was another great blessing. It was the first year they started doing the junior portion of the derby so it was all kind of last minute. One day I was in Georgia, the next I was in New York with my parents getting ready to hit in front of over 50,000 people. It definitely helped get my name out there, and I’m very thankful for USA baseball for giving me that opportunity.

5.) On the negative side of that, do you feel that your home run display on such a national stage led to unfair expectations being placed upon you to hit a mammoth number of home runs right out of the gate in professional baseball as you began your career?

I would say no. I have always been confident in my abilities, so regardless, if I would’ve hit in the home run derby or not I would’ve expected myself to hit a lot of home runs my first couple of years. Now I realize that I’m not the one in control. All I can do is prepare as well as I possible can and play every game like it’s my last. God will do the rest for me.

6.) As with many power hitters, your strikeout numbers have remained very high, with you whiffing more total times than number of games played in each of your first three seasons. What are some of the things you continue to work on to improve your overall approach at the plate?

For me it’s always been pitch selection, so I’ve been working on my vision and really focusing on the mental game of hitting rather than mechanics. I recently visited an eye doctor and realized I needed glasses so that could help a bit as well.

7.) Just this past season, the Brewers worked on converting you from shortstop to third base in order to give you a clearer path to the majors. How difficult did you find it to adjust to a new position you had never previously played?

It was tough the first two months of the season, but the Brewers were awesome with me, being very patient and building up my confidence at third. I had to learn how to be comfortable being uncomfortable, and once I adjusted to that I really started to enjoy playing third.

8.) What do you feel went well in 2016? What are your goals for 2017?

I feel I started to understand how important the mental side of baseball is in 2016, and I can’t wait to put all the things I’ve learned to use in 2017. I have a lot of individual goals for 2017, but most importantly, I want to win a championship. It’s been way too long since I’ve been in a dog pile!

9.) Favorite TV show? Favorite food?

I’m actually not a big TV guy, but I really enjoy the real estate shows on HGTV. My Dad is a general contractor, so we like to watch all the real estate shows together as a family. My favorite food is mac and cheese. It’s literally one of the first things I look for on any menu at any restaurant, but nothing beats the home made stuff.

10.) Lastly, what advice would you give to kids who are just starting out that dream of playing professional baseball one day?

I would tell them success lies in your preparation. When you are prepared it takes all the pressure off of you. It’s like taking a test. When you are prepared you can’t wait to take the test because you know you’ll do good on it, and when you’re unprepared for the test we know we are gonna struggle with it. Baseball is similar in the fact that if we prepare the best we can we are setting ourselves up to perform at our best more consistently! If we do not prepare we may have a few good games in a row but overall we will be less consistent. The difference in a good player compared to a great player is consistency, and in baseball that is an extra hit or two a week than the other guy. It may seem small but over a 162 game season all the little things will eventually add up. But more importantly, I would also tell the kids to trust in God with everything they do. He knew what each and everyone of us were gonna be before He even created the earth, so trust in Him even through the tough times, because He knows what He’s doing and everything is a part of His plan. Give all the glory to Him, live your life for Him, and He will reward you with eternal life in heaven, which is better than any baseball game or anything we can conceive on this earth.

————————————————————————

Big thanks to Jacob Gatewood for taking the time to answer my questions.

You can follow him on Twitter: @Jake_Gatewood2

Advertisements

Q and A With Alex Kirilloff

Alex Kirilloff was drafted by the Twins in the 1st round of the 2016 draft, after hitting .540 with 3 homers and 24 RBI’s over the course of his senior year at Plum High School in Pennsylvania. alex

But Kirilloff wasn’t your typical high school draft pick. Although he played for his local high school team, Kirilloff took classes online throughout his entire four years there, making him just the second home schooled player to ever be drafted in the first round.

However, despite having never attended classes on campus, the Twins saw great potential in Kirilloff, and he certainly didn’t disappoint. In his first partial season of pro ball this past year, Kirilloff hit .306 with 7 home runs and 33 RBI’s in just 55 games played, winning the Appalachian League Player of the Year.

Although only time will tell if those numbers will continue to translate into the upper levels of the minors, if Kirilloff can keep his hitting going into the coming years, he could be playing in Minnesota in the not so distant future.

Alex Kirilloff — top prospect in the Twins’ organization — took the time recently to answer some of my questions:

1.) At what age did you first become interested in baseball? Who was your biggest baseball influence growing up?

My father was my biggest baseball influence growing up. He always tells me about how the first day I was able to stand up and walk he was already showing me how to hit off a tee. I’ve always had an interest for baseball growing up for as long as I can remember, really. Being surrounded by it kinda led me in that direction.

2.) Who was your favorite baseball player growing up? Why?

Josh Hamilton was probably my favorite baseball player growing up. He captivated me — watching him hit 28 homers in a single round of the 2008 Homerun Derby at Yankee Stadium. I also have read his book. His story is a great example of how even Christians are not perfect. His battle with alcohol and drugs just goes to show what the devil can do to us if we aren’t always careful. Josh’s testimony is tremendous, and I would suggest reading his book Beyond Belief to anyone.

3.) You were drafted by the Twins in the 1st round of the 2016 draft. What was that process like for you? Where were you when you first found out? Initial thoughts?

Being drafted by the Twins is truly a blessing. The process throughout high school was long and tedious at some points, but it was all worth it. When I first found out, my teammates, friends and family were all at a local restaurant watching the draft. My initial thoughts were how excited, honored and blessed I was to get selected by them.

4.) In 2015, before you were drafted, you won the Perfect Game All-American Classic Home Run Challenge in San Diego, hitting 34 home runs over the course of the competition. With the power you possess, how important do you consider power-hitting to be in regards to your overall gameplay?

I think the power is a growing part of my overall gameplay. I would hope that the older I get and the more I mature, I hope the power will become more and more relevant. Overall, though, it’s a huge part of hitting to be able to hit doubles and home runs, so I hope to continue to do that.

5.) You were the first high school player since Joe Mauer the Twins immediately sent to Elizabethton to begin their professional career, completely skipping the Gulf Coast League. What type of changes did you find yourself having to make to adjust to the differences between high school and professional baseball?

There are a lot of adjustments to be made from high school to pro ball. The game speeds up a lot; you are getting challenged every at-bat; you are playing every single day; you have to take care of your body better; and you have to be mentally focused everyday.

6.) Despite being sent straight to the Appalachian League, you immediately excelled, going on to win the Appy League Player of the Year for 2016. What did it mean to you to have such a successful start to your pro career?

It meant a lot to get my career started on a good note. I felt that it was reassurance from the Lord that this truly is His plan for me and the avenue that He would like me to impact people through.

7.) Talk a little bit about life on the road: What’s the most difficult aspect of it? What do you do to pass the time?

Bus rides are usually not exactly the highlight of going on a road trip. Most of your down time is eating and sleeping, to be honest. Again, that’s just another adjustment that has to be made playing pro ball.

8.) Although you had time after signing to play in just 55 games, what do you feel went well in 2016? What are your goals for 2017?

I just think my adjustments to the whole situation went pretty well in 2016. I am always looking to improve though and, Lord willing, do better in 2017.

9.) Favorite TV show? Favorite food?

Favorite TV show is ‘Intentional Talk’. Favorite food is steak.

10.) Lastly, what advice would you give to kids who are just starting out that dream of playing professional baseball one day?

My advice would be that if you are serious about your dream of playing baseball, and that it is what you feel the Lord wants you to do, it takes a lot of work. Training, discipline and motivation are all big keys along the way. Putting yourself in different opportunities to be seen by people is important as well, believe it or not.

————————————————————————

Big thanks to Alex Kirilloff for taking the time to answer my questions.

You can follow him on Twitter: @AKirilloff19

Gary Sanchez: The American League’s Trevor Story

When Trevor Story came up with the Rockies on Opening Day and proceeded to set the baseball world on fire by blasting a homer in his first four career games (six total over than span), he accomplished something that had never been done in the history of Major League Baseball. You had to figure it’d be awhile before we saw anything quite like that again.Sanchez

But then Gary Sanchez was called up by the Yankees.

Despite getting two at-bats towards the end of the 2015 season, Sanchez performed poorly in Spring Training and was assigned to Triple-A to begin 2016. However, once he proved himself at Scranton, the Yankees decided to move him back up to the big league squad, and Sanchez has not disappointed.

In 20 games this season, Sanchez has batted a scorching .403 with ten homers — the same number he hit in 71 games this year at Triple-A. To put things in perspective, Sanchez has also recorded seven doubles, leading to 17 of his 31 hits this season being for extra bases and an unheard of .883 slugging percentage. To say Sanchez has been good would be a huge understatement.

Sanchez has in fact been historic, much in the way Trevor Story was performing before his season-ending injury earlier this season. With Sanchez’s first 10 homers coming over just 22 career games (counting the 2 from last season), he sits behind just Trevor Story and George Scott for the fewest number of games to ten career home runs (Story and Scott did it in 21 games). In addition, Sanchez’s 20 RBI’s joins him with the likes of Joe DiMaggio and Hideki Matsui as the only Yankees to ever reach that mark in their first 22 games in the pinstripes.

With Sanchez showing now signs of cooling off anytime soon, the Yankees look to be in a good spot heading forward. Having won their last three games, they now sit 3.5 games back of a Wild Card spot and 5.5 back of the division lead. While they will have to continue to beat good teams to stay in the race, and hold a small chance at the playoffs by all accounts, anything is possible in the game of baseball.

Gary Sanchez has already proven that.

Bartolo Colon Shocks the World With a Home Run

Going into Saturday night, Bartolo Colon was a career .089 hitter with no home runs and just 9 RBI’s in 225 career at-bats. He was by no means a threat at the plate. But Colon did something he’s never done before in the Mets’ game Colonagainst the Padres — something no one really felt he was capable of. Bartolo Colon hit a home run.

As a pitcher, Colon wouldn’t necessarily be expected to be a slugger, as most pitchers aren’t very good hitters. However, Colon has been worst than most over his career, and almost laughable at times in some of his at-bats. But he changed all that (at least until his next game’s set of swings) when he pulled a 365 foot home run just over the wall at Petco Park.

Colon’s home run came off of Padres standout pitcher, James Shields, who has been a solid pitcher over the course of his career, posting an ERA below 4.00 since the 2011 season.

In addition, the homer by Colon made him the fifth oldest pitcher since 1913 to ever hit a home run (Colon is just under three weeks shy of his 43rd birthday), with Jack Quinn (age 46) being the oldest.

Despite being 10 for 129 at the plate as a Met up through his home run on Saturday evening, Colon has been a fairly effective pitcher over his career, and has continued that success into this season. A three-time All-Star and 2005 Cy Young award winner, Colon holds a career ERA just below 4.00 over the course of his 19-season career, but still won’t be viewed as much of an offensive machine despite his display of power.

Even so, picking up the win against the Padres on Saturday night, Bartolo Colon’s career statistics now stand at 221 wins, 2,270 strikeouts, and, most surprisingly, one home run.

Home Run Milestones that Should Occur in 2016

Below you’ll find a list of the home run milestones that should occur in 2016. I say should because there’s no guarantee that any given player on the list will actually reach the listed milestone. They could get injured, have a bad season, or whatever. I’ve made the same type of list the past four seasons, and they have been well-received, so I figured I’d post another one for this year.

A few of the players on the list are a tad of a stretch, as the number of homers they are away from a milestone is more than they’ve ever hit or have hit in quite some time. But overall, the players listed are a rough idea of which players to watch closely this season. In order to make the list a player has to meet the following criteria:

  1. You can’t be a pitcher. Although there are some pitchers who can hit home runs, you won’t find any on my list. Reason being is that they’re not everyday players.
  2. You have to have hit at least one home run in the major leagues. There are several dozen players going into 2016 that haven’t hit an MLB home run, but adding them to the below list just didn’t make sense.
  3. You have to be closing in on an even milestone, like 100, 200, 300, etc. I didn’t include anyone that’s a few homers away from number 50, 75, 125, etc. It just didn’t seem necessary.

With that said, the list is organized by player name, team, milestone they’re going for, and how many home runs they are from that particular milestone:

2016 Home Run Milestones

James Loney, Rays — Home Run Number 100 (1 home run away)

Jarrod Saltalamacchia, Tigers — Home Run Number 100 (2 home runs away)

Bryce Harper, Nationals — Home Run Number 100 (3 home runs away)

Jason Heyward, Cubs — Home Run Number 100 (3 home runs away)

Seth Smith, Mariners — Home Run Number 100 (3 home runs away)

David Ross, Cubs — Home Run Number 100 (4 home runs away)

Kyle Seager, Mariners — Home Run Number 100 (4 home runs away)

Matt Joyce, Pirates — Home Run Number 100 (7 home runs away)

Neil Walker, Mets — Home Run Number 100 (7 home runs away)

Jacoby Ellsbury, Yankees — Home Run Number 100 (12 home runs away)

Mitch Moreland, Rangers — Home Run Number 100 (12 home runs away)

Josh Reddick, Athletics — Home Run Number 100 (14 home runs away)

J.D. Martinez, Tigers — Home Run Number 100 (15 home runs away)

Eric Hosmer, Royals — Home Run Number 100 (23 home runs away)

Nolan Arenado, Rockies — Home Run Number 100 (30 home runs away)

Manny Machado, Orioles — Home Run Number 100 (32 home runs away)

Jose Abreu, White Sox — Home Run Number 100 (34 home runs away)

Jayson Werth, Nationals — Home Run Number 200 (2 home runs away)

Adam Jones, Orioles — Home Run Number 200 (4 home runs away)

Hunter Pence, Giants — Home Run Number 200 (6 home runs away)

Jhonny Peralta, Cardinals — Home Run Number 200 (6 home runs away)

Troy Tulowitzki, Blue Jays — Home Run Number 200 (7 home runs away)

Juan Uribe, Indians — Home Run Number 200 (8 home runs away)

Joey Votto, Reds — Home Run Number 200 (8 home runs away)

Justin Upton, Tigers — Home Run Number 200 (10 home runs away)

Brandon Phillips, Reds — Home Run Number 200 (14 home runs away)

Ian Kinsler, Tigers — Home Run Number 200 (16 home runs away)

Giancarlo Stanton, Marlins — Home Run Number 200 (19 home runs away)

Carlos Gonzalez, Rockies — Home Run Number 200 (24 home runs away)

Adrian Gonzalez, Dodgers — Home Run Number 300 (10 home runs away)

Jose Bautista, Blue Jays — Home Run Number 300 (16 home runs away)

Matt Holliday, Cardinals — Home Run Number 300 (25 home runs away)

Edwin Encarnacion, Blue Jays — Home Run Number 300 (32 home runs away)

Mark Teixeira, Yankees — Home Run Number 400 (6 home runs away)

Carlos Beltran, Yankees — Home Run Number 400 (8 home runs away)

Alex Rodriguez, Yankees — Home Run Number 700 (13 home runs away)

Could We See Multiple 50-Homer Players in 2016?

Ever since Babe Ruth burst onto the scene in 1919 with his single-season record breaking year of 29 home runs (more than some entire teams back then) — subsequently leading to his many superstar seasons that included 60 home runs in 1927 — baseball has been in love with the long ball. In fact, ever since 1983 there has been at least one player each and every season to hit 40 or more home runs, showing just how much baseball has come to depend on the big fly.Ruth

With 40 home runs no longer being quite the extraordinary feat that it was back when Ruth was in the middle of his Hall of Fame career — nine total players hit 40+ in 2015 — the new number of astonishment has risen to 50 or more homers in a season, which hasn’t been done in the past two seasons.

The most recent player with 50 or more homers in a season was Chris Davis in 2013, when he hit 53 with the Orioles. But I feel that there is a good chance of at least one player basting 50 homers in 2016, with the slightest of chances that multiple players accomplish the feat.

While more than one player hitting 50+ home runs would seem somewhat unlikely, it’s not as rare as you might think. Sure it’s tough to do, but it was done as recently as 2007 when Alex Rodriguez (54 homers) and Prince Fielder (50 homers) did just that. It was also done in 2006, 2002, 2001, 1999-1996, 1961, 1947 and 1938, with four players hitting 50 or more in both 1998 and 2001.

I don’t see another 1998 or 2001 on our hands, but I do feel that 2016 could become the 12th season in MLB history with two or more players hitting over 50 home runs in a single season.

Of all of the player in baseball, there are three who I feel stand the best shot at 50 this season: Giancarlo Stanton, Chris Davis and Bryce Harper.

Giancarlo Stanton was injured for most of the 2015 season, but as history has shown, he has just as much power as anyone in baseball right now, and is right up there with the all time great power hitters. In the 74 games he did play in 2015, Stanton blasted 27 home runs. If you were simply to double those numbers, Stanton would’ve theoretically hit 54 home runs in 148 games played. While those numbers can’t be taken literally, due to them being mere projections, Stanton undoubtedly has 50+ home run potential, and with the Marlins moving in the fences, I think 2016 will finally be his year if he can stay healthy.

50HomersBut even though Stanton has the best shot at 50, I think Chris Davis, who is no stranger to big production numbers, has a good chance as well. In 2015, Davis hit 47 home runs, but had 4-5 additional homers robbed by fantastic plays in the outfield over the season. Even so, Davis actually has a 50-homer season under his belt, as previously stated, hitting 53 in 2013. Returning to the Orioles for the next seven seasons, Davis is likely to hit well over 200 home runs over the course of that contract, and I could easily see him popping 50 of them in 2016 alone.

The last of the players on my top three 50 homer candidates list is Bryce Harper. He’s still extremely young, at just 23 years old, but having hit 42 home runs last season, I could envision 50 from him in 2016. His power is undeniable, and with him taking a fantastic approach at the plate last year — either drawing a walk or waiting for his pitch and crushing it — I think Harper will continue to produce MVP caliber numbers for the next several seasons. Whether or not he surpasses 50 homers in 2016 is yet to be seen, but it is certainly not out of the question.

Despite the fact that Spring Training hasn’t even begun, it’s never too early to glance towards the regular season, and I have the feeling that 2016 is going to be an unbelievable year around Major League Baseball. Although there’s the chance that my prediction is way off and no players at all hit 50 or more home runs this coming season, the potential for it to occur is there. That’s more than enough reason to get people around the baseball world excited for the regular season to get underway in less than two months.

Joey Gallo Shines In Big League Debut

Any time a top ten prospect in all of baseball makes his major league debut, fans are likely to take note. But unfortunately, more often than not, an extremely hyped prospect usually fails to live up to the high expectations — at least early on — and underperforms in their debut. Gallo

A recent example of that being Kris Bryant, who after hitting 43 homers in the minors last year was expected by Cubs fans to catch on immediately as the Cubs’ biggest power threat. Instead, he went hitless with three strikeouts in his debut. (Given, he’s found his groove now.)

But underperformance isn’t always the case in a player’s debut.

Rangers’ top prospect, Joey Gallo, received the call up from Double-A for Tuesday’s game to take the place at third base of the injured Adrian Beltre. Following his 42 home run minor league performance in 2014, Gallo had picked up right where he left off in the minors this season (coming after a missed month due to ankle surgery), having hit .314 with 9 homers and 31 RBI’s in the minors so far in 2015.

But unlike some players who fail to have their minor league success translate right away, Gallo’s success immediately carried over to the majors, as in his very first career at-bat on Tuesday against the White Sox, Gallo rocketed a two-run single into left field. Following that, he proceeded to blast a moonshot homer into the second deck in his next at-bat, giving him four RBI’s for the game — the most in Rangers’ franchise history for a player’s debut.

However, Gallo wasn’t finished yet. In his third time at the plate, Gallo hit a long double to center field that hit off the wall, giving him a perfect 3-3 record for the game. While he would later strike out with the bases loaded, and draw a walk in his fifth plate appearance, Gallo’s presence was definitely made known in the Rangers’ 15-2 blowout win over the White Sox.

GalloThough it’s an extremely small sample size, Joey Gallo performing so well in his debut is extremely promising, both for him and the Rangers. Gallo is set to remain in the bigs just until Adrian Beltre returns to take his spot at third. But if Gallo can keep up his hot hitting, it may be tough for the Rangers to send him back down.

Still, Gallo will get his chance to prove himself, as Beltre is expected to be out for roughly two weeks. That’s a lot of games for Gallo to either keep standing out or show that he still needs seasoning down on the farm. But whatever happens in the coming weeks, Gallo certainly didn’t disappoint on Tuesday night.

At just 21 years old, a lot of people made statements regarding the fact that they felt Gallo was being rushed to the majors, and that he wasn’t ready yet. While I agreed with that somewhat, I’ve seen Gallo in person and saw first hand that he is a special talent. And there is now no denying that he can handle the pitching that comes at the major league level.

After blasting 40 homers in 2013 and 42 last season, Gallo looks to be heading for a long career as one of baseball’s most promising future left handed power hitters. Although the Rangers are struggling at the moment for the most part, with a lineup that includes Prince Fielder, Josh Hamilton and now Joey Gallo, the Rangers seem to have a lot of power hitting lefties on their hands.

That’s always a good problem to have.