Higley happy to stay local

Call it cliché, but every child growing up playing baseball dreams of getting the big hit for their hometown team. When the A's drafted Sacramento native Justin Higley in the 13th round, it was his first step toward getting that chance - almost.

"I was actually a Giants fan," he said.

The Sacramento State outfielder starred at Jesuit High school and hit .365 with six home runs in his senior season before walking on to Hornets as a freshman and later earning a scholarship. His best collegiate season came as a sophomore, when he .274/.364/.447 with four homers and 26 RBIs.

But he had a far better season for power his next year when he hit 10 home runs – tying the team lead - in 210 at-bats. He showed good power to all fields and has above-average speed, despite being listed at 6'4" and 200 pounds.

"For my first few years we didn't really do any power lifts and this year we did some power lifts. I think that really helped out," he said.

As a freshman, Higley made 22 of his 31 starts at designated hitter while still learning the outfield. He has a good arm that projects to center field, although like any 20-year-old he is still learning the nuances of getting good breaks and taking the right routes to fly balls. His speed is a plus, but he still needs to work on base stealing technique after getting thrown out in five of his nine attempts this season.

Higley was one of the youngest collegiate hitters in the draft and projects better than his career .257/.341/.438 stat line suggests.

"His numbers haven't really borne out the kind of ability that we think he has," A's scouting director Eric Kubota told Oakland Clubhouse following the draft. "He can really run and he has power potential. We think his best days are ahead of him as he gets more instruction under his belt. We were less concerned about the numbers. Certainly it is something to consider, but we just loved the tool package with him."

Strikeouts remain a hurdle for Higley, although he's likely to benefit from more advanced coaching in the professional ranks. Reports on Higley suggest his swing remains long with two strikes and he struggled to make adjustments throughout his college career. He sees pitches; evident by leading his club in walks his last two seasons while also leading in strikeouts.

Oddly enough, Higley didn't have any scholarship offers after high school despite showing good power, balanced swing and speed. But walking on to the Sacramento State team looks like it was the right decision.

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