Oakland's third-round pick in the 2010 draft was called up from extended spring training in mid-April and has become a regular part of the Burlington Bees' lineup. The outfielder managed just six hits in his first 40 at-bats, but improved slightly during May by hitting .276 over 25 games. He's closing out the month on a high note, hitting safely in 10 of his last 11 games.
"It's been a slow process for me getting adjusted," said Aaron Shipman, who signed with the A's out of Brooks County High School in Quitman, Ga.
"The competition is obviously a little better. The past couple weeks I've been coming around and having some good ABs, so that's all I can ask for. Every guy doesn't throw the same, so it's all about preparation and having a good routine. Then it's pitch selection and recognizing strikes and balls."
Injuries have seemed to be the major detriment to Shipman advancing even further in the early stages of his professional career. Just as he was primed to open 2012 with a full-season affiliate, Shipman was shelved with a left hip flexor strain. Minor leg injuries hampered him early in his run with Vermont last summer and a broken hand would ultimately end his season one week early.
Shipman feels he will benefit from a healthy, prolonged run in Burlington's lineup.
"I like to try to generate power from my hips, so (the hip flexor has) hampered me slightly," he said. "I got 35 at-bats in Arizona, so I saw some pitching and got back to game ready by the time I got here. When I came here, I played a double-header both games so they threw me right into it."
Now that he's gotten 120 at-bats under his belt in a full-season league, Shipman is gaining a better understanding of what it takes to be successful at the next level.
"I'm definitely getting enough at-bats to be comfortable," Shipman said.
"There's always an amount of work you need in order to get ready for games. The only thing they've wanted me to do was be more aggressive. They preach selective aggressiveness. They've always been a believer in my path, the way I swing and the things I do at the plate. They want me to be more aggressive and get into my legs."
The A's persuaded Shipman to sign out of high school and pass up a college scholarship to Mercy University after drafting the athletic outfielder in the third round two years ago.
A trip to Oakland's minor-league complex in Arizona sealed the deal for an excellent student who appeared to be leaning towards college.
"It was a tough decision," Shipman said.
"Coming out of high school, I was a big school guy. I was an honors grad and enjoyed going to school. I actually ended up going to summer school where I was committed, Mercy University, and did well. I was pretty set in going to school and as we got late into negotiations, I went to Arizona, saw all the work they put in and decided this was what I wanted to do."
Shipman signed late and only played in four games – mustering just two hits in 17 at-bats – for the Arizona Rookie League team that summer.
Instead of sending the youngster to Burlington last year, the A's kept him at extended spring training for more work before sending him out to short-season Vermont. Shipman posted a line of .254/.385/.303 with the Lake Monsters and flashed some speed on the base paths, swiping 17 bases on 20 attempts. He posted more walks than strikeouts (42-39) over 201 at-bats.
"Back in high school you might get one or two guys who throw 90," he said. "When you come up here, everybody throws 90. I had to get used to seeing that on a regular basis and learning how to be prepared to hit and ready to hit early. Probably the biggest adjustment was just to be more aggressive coming into professional baseball."
Ranked as the A's 17th-ranked prospect by OaklandClubhouse, Shipman, who just turned 20 in January, will likely be afforded a whole season to develop with the Bees. Assuming he can remain healthy, Shipman should continue to show the same improvement he had late last summer with Vermont.