Name: Aaron Shipman
Height/Weight: 6’0’’, 175
How Acquired: Drafted in the 3rd round 2010
In some ways, the 2014 season was a breakout year for Aaron Shipman. In other ways, it was a continuation in a frustrating history of injuries that have sidetracked a promising career.
Since being selected in the third round of the 2010 draft out of a high school in Georgia, Shipman has been one of the more physically gifted players in the A’s system. However, Shipman’s progress was stalled by injuries. He appeared in only 63 games in 2011, 108 games in 2012 and 74 games in 2013.
Shipman’s progress was also hampered by his approach at the plate. Although his walk totals were always excellent his first couple of seasons, Shipman had trouble hitting for average or for much authority, in large part because he was often more focused on swinging only at strikes rather than swinging at pitches he could drive.
Shipman began employing a more aggressive approach during a rehab stint in Arizona midway through the 2013 season. That change produced immediate results. After returning from his rehab stint in Arizona, Shipman hit .314/.417/.361 in 51 games with Low-A Beloit. He continued to swing the bat well during fall Instructs that off-season and came into the 2014 campaign with some momentum.
"[Shipman] has asserted himself more on the field to the point where he understood that there is a time and a place to go 3-2 and get 10-pitch at-bats, and there is also a time to ambush the pitch." - Oakland A's Director of Player Personnel Billy Owens
After spring training, Shipman was assigned to High-A Stockton for his first stint above the Low-A level. He shared time with an outfield that included Billy McKinney, Bobby Crocker and Dusty Robinson at the start of the season. Shipman got off to a bit of a slow start, but he found his rhythm again in late April and was in the middle of his best season as a pro when an oblique injury sidelined him late May. He missed most of June and returned at the end of the month, only to re-aggravate the injury in early July. Shipman would miss the rest of the season.
The time missed due to injury was discouraging, but there was a lot to like about Shipman’s season otherwise. His overall line with Stockton was .292/.414/.410. He showed a better understanding of pitch selection, using his good eye at the plate to his advantage to spot pitches to hit rather than to look simply for balls and strikes. Shipman also drove the ball better than he has in previous seasons. His base-running improved, as well. He worked a lot during the 2013 Instructional League season on reading pitchers and that work paid off. He was 13-for-15 in stolen bases. Defensively, Shipman covered a lot of ground. He played mostly the corner spots because McKinney and Crocker were in center, but Shipman has plenty of range for centerfield.
"Ship is a kid who has always had a good strike-zone," Oakland A’s Director of Player Personnel Billy Owens said. "He needed to get stronger at some point and he has bought into going into the weight room and improving his nutrition, so he has gotten stronger. He has asserted himself more on the field to the point where he understood that there is a time and a place to go 3-2 and get 10-pitch at-bats, and there is also a time to ambush the pitch. I think he has been able to balance that out to the point where if the pitchers are going to lay it in there, he’s going to take a swing at it, versus always trying to go too deep into the count on every opportunity."
Despite Shipman’s gradual development, he is still young. Shipman won’t turn 23 until later this month and he is just starting to come into his own physically. He needs to be able to prove he can stay healthy, but if he can, he now has the approach to go along with the tools to succeed. Shipman profiles as a prototypical top-of-the-order hitter. He isn’t likely to hit for homerun power at any stage in his career, although he should add doubles power as he matures. Shipman should be able to hit for average, get on-base at an above-average clip and take extra bases once he reaches first with his speed. Defensively, he has the tools to cover any of the three outfield spots.
The 2015 season will be a big one for Shipman. Although he is still relatively young, Shipman would ideally log some time at the Double-A level before his 24th birthday to stay on-track. He could make the jump to Double-A at the start of the season, although he will be competing with Crocker, Jaycob Brugman, Tyler Marincov and Boog Powell, among others, for spots with Midland. If Shipman can stay healthy and get some time in Double-A next year, it would be a big boost for his development.