Beloit's Midwest League playoff-bound lineup was filled with good underdog stories this season, especially the performance of unheralded low-round draft picks John Wooten (37th round, 2012) and Chris Bostick (44th round, 2011).
If not for a final-week rainout that wasn't rescheduled, Wooten would have tied for the league lead in games played (he finished second with 133).
The super utility man was especially valuable on defense, seeing action in the outfield as well as at both corner infield positions for manager Ryan Christensen. He was also no slouch with the bat, hitting 20 homers (fourth in the MWL) and driving in 69 runs during his first full professional season. Not bad for a college junior drafted 1,129th overall in 2012.
"He's been a big part of our lineup," Christensen said. "He's batting in the middle and being a productive RBI guy. Having a potential power threat is always nice. He showed himself to be even more valuable the last half of the season, spelling [Matt] Olson and [Renato] Nunez at first and third. He was a corner guy coming out and played mostly in the outfield, but to be able to do that has been a big help for us.
"A versatile player like himself that can play multiple positions is a benefit and value he brings to the table. [The A's] really just wanted to see him be a productive offensive player, find out where the holes are and where he best fits on the field to get at-bats."
Wooten finished up his regular season with four hits in nine September at-bats and will be a main cog in Beloit's lineup when it takes the field Wednesday night in Clinton for a first-round playoff game. The East Carolina University product posted a slash line of .257/.330/.430 as a first-year pro.
Wooten prided himself on doing what it took to be a part of the Snappers' everyday lineup.
"I try to go play every day and kind of be the constant," he said. "I've been there when someone needs a day off – I can go play first or third. I've caught bullpens when catchers have been worn out a little bit. I'm there everyday ready to rock and roll, hitting in the middle of the order ready to knock some runs in."
The utility man's approach at the plate has been a simple one that hasn't changed much since the season began.
"I've really tried to just take every day and try to find a mistake," Wooten said. "At this level, guys are more susceptible to making mistakes. Even if you're 0-for-3 or 0-for-4, you've got to want to have that fourth at-bat or fifth at-bat. I've tried to be in the moment and not worry about what happened yesterday or in my last at-bat."
As a 37th-round selection, Wooten has already out-performed several players drafted around him and is poised to move up the organizational ladder to Stockton in 2014.
"I almost look at [my draft position] as an advantage, because I want people to look at me like ‘where is this guy coming from?'" Wooten said. "I had two solid summers in the Cape [Cod League] in college and had a solid college career. When I got drafted in the 37th round, it was kind of a surprise.
"A lot of people say they expected to do better in the draft, but that's just the way it goes. That's life. I'm just excited to have the opportunity. There's no symbol hanging over everybody's head that says first round, second round, fifth round or 25th round. When you're on the field, everybody's a player."
Wooten hasn't dwelled on the draft experience and would like to continue proving people wrong, no matter where he is next spring.
"That's the past and nothing I'm really worried about now," Wooten said. "I feel like I've proven myself as a player over the past year and a half in this organization. I'm going to keep trying to move forward and improving.
"[My assignment] decision hasn't been made yet. If it does turn out that I go to Stockton, I'll be super excited. I'm going to do is play as hard as I can and help the team I'm on."
In light of his season-long success playing a variety of roles, Wooten will spend the off-season sharpening his skills at different defensive positions.
"I'm focused on playing multiple positions," he said. "A couple guys higher up in the organization have told me they like the way I can play a legit third, first and right field. I'm going to continue getting better at all those positions, as well as improving myself as a hitter with my approach."