The former University of Arizona standout is leading the team with a .307 batting average across 59 games and has settled in nicely into the three-hole of the Snappers' lineup. Gilbert, a 2014 15th-round selection, has done it with a relatively simple approach that focuses on preparation.
“It’s been a pretty good year so far,” Gilbert said. “This whole year in general I have improved as a player and have gotten real confident up there and have a good idea of what I’m trying to do. I want to keep that going.
“I’m not thinking too much mechanically, so it’s knowing the pitcher and that it varies day to day. It’s having an idea of what the pitcher is trying to throw, how he’ll attack me and going off of that to have four solid at-bats a day.”
As is expected with many playing in the Midwest League for the first time, Gilbert struggled through the initial few weeks of the 2015 season. He was batting just .247 on May 11th when he went 3-for-5 with a double and two runs scored at Quad Cities. He posted another three-hit game three days later, and was off and running.
Although different MWL pitchers have now seen Gilbert multiple times, he has still managed to get the upper-hand.
“I’ve noticed of late some teams trying to pitch me more backwards and I’ve been able to adjust to that,” he said. “If it takes sitting off-speed for a couple at-bats to get a curveball and put a good swing on it, I’ve been able to do that. If you can recognize that and know it’s coming, then you take advantage of it.”
After signing with Oakland following the 2014 draft, Gilbert played in just 11 games with the AZL A’s and slashed .327/.377/.449 before being assigned to short-season Vermont. However, it wasn’t such smooth sailing with the Lake Monsters, as the second baseman struggled to a .212 batting average and 543 OPS.
Ready to put the New York-Penn League struggles behind him, Gilbert came to Fitch Park in Arizona with a purpose in February and thrived against more advanced competition.
“My first spring training, I enjoyed it a lot and they gave me a lot of reps to get up to speed and get ready for the season,” he said. “I faced good competition and guys from higher levels, so that had me ready for the season.”
The 22-year-old, who was selected by the Marlins in the 40th round of the 2011 draft out of Torrance (Calif.) High School, said he made the right choice by going to Arizona and coming out as a junior.
“I went late to the Marlins and they offered me decent money, so there was a decision to be made,” Gilbert said. “I almost signed even then because it was always my plan to play pro ball. I passed out of high school and I knew once my junior year came, wherever I went, it was time to get going.
“I think I made the right decision, because coming out of high school I don’t think I would have been sure of what I was getting into. I’m glad I went to school and it helped me develop physically and mentally. I got to face that good competition to work my way up to pro ball.”
Just as a simple approach has carried him this far in his first full professional season, Gilbert is taking the same motto with the second half of the season.
“It’s just constant adjustments and trying to get better,” he said. “I want to better my complete game.”