Goebbert Making A Name For Himself

WEST SACRAMENTO, CA - The Sacramento River Cats are off to a solid start to their 2014 season and much of that success is due to a group of relatively low-profile prospects. Jake Goebbert is leading the way offensively, as he has a team-best 1020 OPS through the River Cats' first 24 games. Now in his second year with the Oakland A's organization, Goebbert is making a bid for a big league promotion

There are more well-known names on the current Sacramento River Cats' roster, but through the team's first 24 games, no player has had a bigger impact offensively than outfielder Jake Goebbert.

In 19 games for Sacramento, Goebbert has a .324/.400/.620 line with a team-leading four homeruns, two triples and 17 RBI. Goebbert has also played well defensively in left field for Sacramento, picking up two outfield assists already and showing surprising range for a player not known for his blazing speed.

Goebbert has been drawing notice since joining the A's in a trade with the Houston Astros just before the start of the 2013 minor league regular season. Acquired for reliever Travis Blackley, Goebbert spent the bulk of the 2013 season with Double-A Midland before finishing the year on the River Cats' roster. He hit 18 homers in 105 games with Midland and posted an 831 OPS. With Sacramento, Goebbert hit four homers in 21 games and had a 15:16 BB:K. He finished the year with career-highs in several categories, including homeruns (22), walks (62) and SLG (.474).

Although Goebbert was part of the A's organization for nearly the entire 2013 regular season, this spring was his first with Oakland. He was invited to the A's minor league spring mini-camp and was called up to big league camp as an extra player frequently. Goebbert appeared in 19 big league spring games with the A's. Having an entire spring training with Oakland has given Goebbert an extra level of comfort heading into this season.

"It's a lot more fun to get to know the guys [during spring training] and to have a little more of a personal relationship with your team and the organization in general," Goebbert said. "To get to know the coaching staff, it was all a really big thing for me. In Houston, I was drafted by them and I felt like I had a family. Now I feel that same way with the Oakland A's organization as a whole."

Goebbert admits that it took some time to adjust to his new club.

"It really was a big adjustment, especially it being the first time changing organizations," Goebbert said. "The one advantage is that baseball is kind of a fraternity. Everybody knows everybody. The higher levels you get to, the more that becomes apparent. It's a wonderful opportunity and it's a chance to turn the page and have a fresh outlook on your career and on your game."

A 13th-round pick out of Northwestern University in 2009, Goebbert spent three-and-a-half seasons in the Houston chain. He moved up the ladder quickly, reaching Triple-A towards the end of his 2011 season. During his time with the Houston organization, Goebbert developed a reputation for being a very tough out and a player who got the most of out his talent. In 2010, he collected 98 RBI in Low-A Lexington and he was named a MiLB.com organization All-Star for that season. He would earn that same honor with the A's last year.

The 2011 season saw Goebbert jump three levels. He started the year with High-A Lancaster, spent the bulk of the season with Double-A Corpus Christi and got his first exposure to the Triple-A Pacific Coast League with Oklahoma City. After the season concluded, Goebbert was one of the Astros' representatives at the Arizona Fall League. Goebbert learned a lot from his time with the Salt River Rafters.

"[The Arizona Fall League] was my first real taste of how much of a fraternity this league is," Goebbert said. "It's a wonderful experience for everybody. It's one of those things you wish everyone got a taste of. It's a really laid-back, but really serious at the same time. It gives you a taste of a big league atmosphere with the caliber of play everyday."

In five-plus minor league seasons, Goebbert has a .362 career on-base percentage. A contact hitter who is capable of running up a pitch count by spoiling off pitcher's pitches, Goebbert has never struck-out 100 times or more in any one season. His current K% of 13.8% with Sacramento is significantly lower than the current PCL average (20.1%). Goebbert views every at-bat as a chess match and sees every pitch as an opportunity to alter the outcome of the game.

"A lot of [my approach] depends on the situation and the player that I am facing, but baseball is a fun game because every at-bat and every pitch changes everything," Goebbert said. "To the common fan, every at-bat may look the same, but to a player or someone who likes to watch the game closely, it's fun to make those adjustments during the at-bat."

Goebbert was never known as a power hitter before joining the A's organization, but he was third among A's minor leaguers in homeruns last season. Goebbert points to minor adjustments he made to his approach as the reason for his 2013 power surge.

"I think a lot of [the increase in power] is development as a player," Goebbert said. "I was a little more aggressive approach in hitter's counts, trying to do more damage when I had opportunities, and refining my two-strike approach has helped, as well. Mainly, just development and getting more at-bats and experience."

One of the main reasons for Goebbert's early success this season has been his ability to hit left-handed pitching. Last season, the left-handed hitter batted just .211/.326/.358 in 130 at-bats versus southpaws. This year, Goebbert has a .308/.400/.615 line in 26 at-bats versus southpaws. Goebbert says regular exposure to left-handed pitching has helped him get good looks early versus southpaws.

"[Success against lefties] comes and goes. Sometimes when you are seeing the ball well, it helps to face a couple of lefties to get comfortable," Goebbert said. "I feel like for most lefties, it's a mental challenge. Right now, I have been able to take advantage of seeing the ball well. It's something that I work on. I'm lucky to have a left-handed hitting coach [Greg Sparks] so I get to see a lot of left-handed pitching every day. That is a major factor, just the repetitions."

Goebbert also points to the time he spent with Sacramento last season as one of the reasons he is off to a good start.

"It was truly a great opportunity [to play with Sacramento towards the end of last year], especially to get to know the coaching staff because I hadn't had a chance to spend a spring training with them at all," Goebbert said. "It gave me a head start on this year. In Triple-A, guys change, rosters change everyday and that happens, but just getting a chance to play here everyday is something that I look forward to."

As a former Northwestern athlete, Goebbert has paid close attention to the union fight that has surrounded the NU football team. Goebbert admits he doesn't know as much about the details of the union decision as he would like, but he hopes that regardless of how the vote goes, it will be a positive step for collegiate athletics.

"Being able to play in college is what gave me the opportunity here and I'm grateful to the university to be able to be playing here now," Goebbert said.

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