Going down with an injury a few weeks into the 2013 season wasn't what Beloit Snappers' outfielder Aaron Shipman wanted to open his third full professional year, but the setback also allowed him some time to retool his offensive game while getting healthy.
A third-round selection in the 2010 draft that had yet to translate his immense tools and potential into on-field performance, Shipman played just 17 games in April and posted a .140 average before going down with ulnar neuritis in his throwing arm.
"It was a pretty painful injury and started in this cold weather we had at the beginning of the year," Shipman said. "I couldn't get loose. We took infield and outfield, and it was just bugging me. It's always tougher on me to play in colder weather, because I'm from Georgia. It gets cold, but it doesn't get this cold. If you hit one off the bat and get jammed, you can't feel your hands for another five innings.
"I needed some warmer weather, went down to Arizona and it was just like home. I had a better atmosphere to work things out and take more swings. I had time to figure things out."
Shipman began his road back with the AZL A's and posted a .421 average over eight games before being summoned back to Beloit in late-June.
It's been an entirely different story for Shipman since he returned to the Snappers' lineup. Thanks in large part to a breakout July during which he hit .362 with a .474 on-base percentage, Shipman has righted the ship and might finally be ready to get out of Low-A ball and into the more favorable hitting conditions of the California League.
"I'm impressed with what he's done since he got back," Beloit manager Ryan Christensen said. "He's getting on base at a great clip and is hitting at the top of our order. I see some more aggression in his swing and the ball is jumping off his bat because of it. I really like the changes they made in Arizona. I know aggression was the main thing and his attacking pitches and the baseball."
Shipman has been able to balance his increased aggression while not sacrificing much in his always-stellar K:BB ratio. Since returning from Arizona, Shipman has drawn 30 walks, while striking out just 27 times in 191 plate appearances. This comes one season after he struck out (86) more than he walked (60) with Low-A Burlington.
"I'm having better at-bats and am being more aggressive early in the count," Shipman said. "I'm seeing the ball a little better and my swings have been more consistent. It's all about consistency. I need to maintain a good eye and barreling the ball at a higher consistency.
"When I played in Vermont, I did pretty well and my walk-to-strikeout ratio was always pretty good. Being able to maintain that is a huge plus for me now. I had a lot of struggles last year, but this year I feel like I'm back on track."
Shipman is also taking advantage of a better knowledge of opposing Midwest League teams and the pitching tendencies, as he should as a second-year guy.
"This is a tough league to hit in," he said. "I wouldn't necessarily say it's a pitcher's league, either. But this league will weed out a bunch of guys. This being my second go-around, I've gotten to know some tendency of teams. It's a big advantage to be here again. And this is the first time I've really felt like I'm at 100 percent."
Hampered by injuries at the end of his 2011 and 2012 campaigns, Shipman looks forward to returning to the A's Instructional League camp for the first time since 2010.