CEDAR RAPIDS, IA - After acting as a placeholder in Stockton for the first month of the season while injured third base prospect Matt Chapman rehabbed in Arizona, Jose Brizuela has found a comfort zone in the Midwest League after joining the Beloit Snappers in early May.
The 2014 16th-rounder out of Florida State was planning on opening his first full professional season with the Snappers, but Chapman’s injuries meant an aggressive early assignment for Brizuela out of spring camp.
“I was in Stockton and have been [with Beloit] for about two-and-a-half months,” Brizuela said. “Coming back here wasn’t too bad. I played with these guys in spring training and it was good to finally get back to playing every day. I was there just to hold a spot down because Chapman was hurt. Once he got up there, I came back down to here.
“This is where I had envisioned starting the season before he got hurt. I’m getting my timing back, because I wasn’t playing up there too much. Now I’m back here playing every day at third, so I’m getting ready to play every day. I’m glad it’s happened.”
The Snappers’ every-day third baseman is slashing at a .260/.353/.415 clip in 754 games and has hit safely in nine of his last 11 games. Brizuela has shown a knack for extra-base hits with 24, including 15 doubles, and has driven in 33 runs.
Moving down a level to gain some confidence has been just what Brizuela needed to get his season on track, after he managed just nine hits in 34 at-bats across nine games with Stockton.
“I’ve got my plan together for the whole entire game and it’s going pretty well and hopefully I keep it up,” Brizuela said. “Guys are trying to get ahead of me early in the count by throwing off-speed for strikes. As a hitter, you’ve just got to stay to your approach and stick to your pitch and don’t change.”
Brizuela said he hasn’t noticed a sizeable contrast in the opposing pitchers from one league to another, but says it’s the consistent playing time that has helped him get into a comfort zone.
“I don’t really notice a difference [in pitchers from the California League], except there are some relievers that are a little better,” he said. “Other than that, everyone is pretty much the same. There may be nights where guys here are probably better than guys up there.”
After being drafted out of college, Brizuela opened his professional career with a brief four-game stint in Arizona where he recorded six hits in 14 at-bats, including three that went for extra bases. However, things got a little more difficult in the New York/Penn League as he struggled to a .241/.310/.380 clip in 55 games with short-season Vermont.
Having the experience of competing on a big stage in college has helped prepare Brizuela for the level of pitching he has seen at the pro level.
“There are your pitchers that are advanced and at Florida State I faced a bunch of them, including some that are already in the bigs,” he said. “I don’t see that much of a difference. I feel like pitchers that were there on Friday or Saturday night are just as good as the guys that are throwing now. We’re in professional baseball now.”
With around five weeks left to go in the season, Brizuela said he would like another crack at High-A ball but won’t be disappointed if that doesn’t happen until next spring.
“I would love to end in Stockton, but we’ll see what happens,” he said. “I’m not really worried about anything but winning games.”