Not known for his plate discipline in the months following his selection in the 17th round of last June's draft, outfielder Jaycob Brugman's approach to hitting has helped him become one of the top hitters in Beloit's lineup through the first two months of the season.
The product of Brigham Young University mustered just a 48:7 K:BB rate in 49 games at short-season Vermont, but his slash line of .261/.301/.382 gave some sense for optimism.
"I work hard. I'm not going to cheat myself out of an opportunity" - Jaycob Brugman
The 6-foot corner outfielder refined his approach during Instructional League and has put it to good use with the Snappers. Heading into play Thursday night, Brugman had hit safely in 10 of 11 games while slashing .400/.543/.714. Perhaps the most telling stat is that Brugman has drawn more walks (10) than strikeouts (seven) during this hot stretch. On Wednesday night, Brugman punctuated his hot streak by connecting on two homers and walking once.
The hot streak has enabled Brugman to raise his batting average to .290 and his OPS above the 800 threshold (863). Through 39 games with the Snappers, Brugman has a much-improved K:BB rate of 30:21.
"I just try to keep the same routine every day," Brugman said. "Throughout the last couple weeks, I've messed around with a couple routines before games. If I do something and start getting hot, then I'll do the same thing. If I go cold, I work with our hitting coach and he always has a good routine for me to get into.
"It's all about adjustments and a lot has to do with your mindset, approach and daily routine before the game starts."
Much of the "routine" Brugman speaks of is an organizational approach to pitch recognition and plate discipline.
"We were swinging at bad pitches in the dirt and have focused more on seeing pitches and had more incentive to not swing at certain pitches," Brugman said. "I was that guy swinging in the dirt and I've started to spit on a lot of curveballs that I would have swung at. It's challenged me."
After coaching Brugman last summer in the New York-Penn League, Beloit manager Rick Magnante has noticed big changes in the outfielder's play.
"We've been working a lot with him," Magnante said. "He was an Instructional League invitee last year, so he went down there and they made some adjustments with his swing and mechanics. He's taken that information, applied it and made the necessary adjustments.
"He started off a little slowly and was on the DL, but once he got into the games and started getting regular playing time, you could see that his at-bats have improved. He has very good makeup and work ethic."
Even as he is going well, Brugman said he is not afraid to alter his approach throughout the game in different situations.
"I have one, but it may change throughout the game or even between counts," Brugman said. "I'm committed to the approach I have at that time and that's the biggest key. Everything is different. If runners are in scoring position, they may throw off-speed, so your approach changes. But if nobody is on and there's a hitter's count, your approach is different."
After being selected in the 39th round by the New York Yankees in 2010, Brugman improved his draft situation considerably by going 22 rounds earlier last June. Still, as a 17th-rounder he knows that he needs to perform at every stop along the way to remain a prospect in the organization.
"I like to think that every day I come to the field early and I leave late," Brugman said. "I work hard. I'm not going to cheat myself out of an opportunity. My whole life has been like that. Coaches have really drilled me on determination and hard work.
"If you work hard, people are going to notice and will want you on their team. I try to do the things I need to do to put myself in a good position."