Oakland A's 2012 top pick Addison Russell has received most of the preseason hype surrounding the opening day Stockton Ports' roster, but there is another member of the 2012 draft class on that roster that Ports' fans should keep a close eye on. First baseman Max Muncy joins Russell as the only members of the A's 2012 class to start the year above the Low-A level. The Baylor alum and fifth-round pick had a strong professional debut in 2012 with the Low-A Burlington Bees and, if Opening Night is any indication, he could be in for a big season for the Ports.
At 6'0'', 190, Muncy isn't physically imposing, but the left-handed hitter has always swung a potent bat. In three years at Baylor, Muncy was one of the Big 12's top hitters. He was a three-year starter for the Bears and was named a Freshman All-American in 2010 and an All-Big 12 performer in 2011 and 2012.
In 2012, Muncy led the Bears to a 49-17 record and a trip to the Super Regionals. He had a 912 OPS and seven homers in 66 games for Baylor last season and he walked more than he struck-out. After signing with the A's, Muncy was sent immediately to the Midwest League, making him the first member of the A's draft class to reach a full-season league.
Muncy more than held his own in his first taste of full-season baseball. In his 64 games with the Bees, Muncy was arguably their top hitter, posting a .275/.383/.432 line in 229 at-bats. He walked 41 times against 37 strike-outs and collected 26 extra-base hits.
Muncy's emergence last season may have played into the A's decision to include prospect A.J. Kirby-Jones in a trade with the San Diego Padres over the offseason, as the A's wanted to find a way to get Muncy regular at-bats at first base at the High-A level. Muncy made a splash in his first game for the Ports on Thursday night, going 3-for-4 with a homer and two runs scored.
We spoke with Muncy on Tuesday about his expectations for the 2013 season, the jump from college to the pros, his experience at Baylor and more…
OaklandClubhouse: How are you feeling about your first full pro season? What is your mindset coming into the year?
Max Muncy: I'm feeling pretty good. Spring got a little long towards the end there, but I enjoyed it. It was my first time there and I got to see how everyone goes about their business. I enjoyed it. It's a little bit different. Being in college, there are always coaches there saying that you have to do this, you have to do that. Here, it's all on your own. I actually really enjoy that because there's not constantly people breathing down your neck and, to me, it makes it a lot easier to go out there and do your work.
After that, I'm really excited to be here. I feel like I had a pretty good spring. Not as good as I hoped, but it was still decent. Being my first spring training, I wasn't exactly sure how to come in prepared. I did a lot of hitting [in the offseason], but I didn't do a lot of hitting off of pitchers. Next year I know probably to do a little bit more of that. Try to get some guys to throw to me or something. But I'm feeling pretty prepared for the season.
OC: Was it a pretty long season for you last year? You guys [at Baylor] made the college post-season and then you went right to full-season ball after signing with the A's. Were you pretty worn out by the end of the year?
MM: It was definitely a long year. I was feeling good at the end, but it was definitely a long year. The way I tell it to people is that in the college game, there is a lot of emotion in each game. The school is behind you. You've got a lot of fans. Each game means a ton. Then you come to pro ball and you play everyday and if you lose one, everyone is kind of like, ‘well, let's go to the next game.'
But, yeah, last year was a long year, especially after how we lost out [in the NCAA Super Regionals] and everything. But I really enjoyed it.
OC: What was the biggest adjustment for you coming from college to playing in the Midwest League?
MM: To be honest, just learning how to take care of myself. In college, especially the one I went to, we got pretty good treatment there. We were chartered everywhere we went on planes. We had first-class hotels. We had food. Everything was just given to us, basically. We come here and you have to learn how to take care of yourself a little bit. You have to get your own food, take care of your own living arrangements and find ways to do that.
OC: Baylor is obviously a school with a lot of big time athletic programs. You were there when RGIII was the quarterback for the team and there is generally a lot of interest in all of the sports. Did playing at a school where sports were so high-profile prepare you for pro ball, do you think?
MM: Oh, I think it prepares you. My first two years there, we had a lot of good fans, but it wasn't anything ridiculous. But my junior year, we had that unbelievable year and even from the start, we had fans coming out to games that didn't mean anything. We were selling out a ton of games and it was kind of unbelievable how it was. We had football environments at a baseball game. We had people chanting and doing all sorts of crazy stuff. We had tailgating going on. It was really awesome. I enjoyed it a bunch.
Going through that, you have so much pressure put on you from the fans. Coming here and they're are just here to watch a game, I feel like that makes the transition a whole lot easier.
OC: You have played exclusively at first base as a pro. Did you play any other positions growing up?
MM: I actually had never played first base until I got to college. I had played second, short, third, even outfield. I played all of that. Then I got to college and they wanted me in the line-up as a freshman and the only spot they had was first base, so they put me over there. As it turned out, the next couple of years, they tried to move me over, but they didn't have anyone else who could catch the ball at first base. So that's really kind of how I stuck there.
So I've played a lot of other positions in my life, but not the past couple of years. It's been awhile since I played anywhere else.
OC: What is your mindset when you are at the plate? Do you consider yourself sort of a grinder, trying to see a lot of pitches, or are you up there looking for the first good pitch to hit?
MM: I feel like it is more the mood I am in at the time. I have some at-bats where I go full count and I am fouling a bunch of pitches off. Then I'll have a lot of at-bats where I swing first pitch because it is right there. I think really that all depends on how I have been swinging lately and on how my mood is that day. Some days, for some reason I feel like I want to take a lot of pitches and see it. Other days, I feel like, ‘hey, I'm aggressive, let's get after it.' I can't really say I have a set approach for each game.
OC: Have you made any mechanical adjustments with your swing since you turned pro, or are you using the same swing that you had when you were at Baylor?
MM: I can honestly say that I haven't changed much of my swing my entire life. It's been the same since my dad taught me. Maybe a few things with my hands or things like that, but for the most part, it has been the same my entire life.
OC: You and Addison Russell are the only two members of your draft class up here at this level. Do you feel like that is a big challenge for you?
MM: It's a little bit of a challenge. It's a step-up in competition, but I don't feel like it's anything I haven't seen before. I think there are a lot of guys in this league that I played against in college. I'm excited for it. I'm really ready.