No matter where he is, Jaycob Brugman just hits. And fields. And runs.
Brugman, an outfielder for the Nashville Sounds who was drafted as a 17th round pick by the Oakland A’s out of Brigham Young in 2013, has produced nearly identical numbers at every level of his minor league career.
The 6’0” 195 lbs 24-year-old has always hit in the .260-.280 range and produced an OPS of better than 700 – often into the 800’s.
“That’s what a pride myself on – trying to be consistent at every level,” Brugman said. “That’s key to helping any team win and if I’m the lineup every day, you’ve got to be consistent and produce.”
Brugman was a key member of the 2015 Midland RockHounds squad, which won the Texas League championship. Despite a solid 2015 season, Brugman started out with the same club this year before being promoted to Nashville after 38 games in Midland. A strong start with the RockHounds earned Brugman an early season promotion to Nashville, and he has been a key member of the Sounds’ line-up ever since.
After his promotion, there was more of a difference on the diamond than off of it, he said.
“It was an easier transition than most because I had some friends on the team already,” Brugman said. “I’ve played with a handful of them for a couple of years now.”
Brugman admits that adjusting to the level of competition was the hardest part, although one would never know it from Brugman’s numbers. Through Monday, Brugman had a .290/.337/.440 line in 70 Triple-A games.
“It was tough at first,” he said. “I struggled for a couple of weeks, but as a baseball player you make the adjustments you need, but there are still always ups and downs. You’re never perfect, but the transition is going well.”
Fielding is pretty much the same at all levels of baseball; the adjustment comes in facing better pitchers and advancing one’s approach at the plate, Brugman said.
“Being able to recognize different pitches in different counts [has been a learning experience],” he said. “Pitchers [at this level] are able to throw their best pitches at any point, and they do really well in setting up their pitches. In Double-A and in A-ball, they didn’t really do that much.
“It was difficult being able to trust myself to hit those pitches. It just comes over time and getting at-bats – you just kind of figure it out slowly and hope for the best.”
With his healthy diversity of a good average and decent pop – and a little running – Brugman has found himself penciled into both the front and the bottom of the line-up.
“Last year in Double-A, I was at the top a good amount,” he said. “But the majority of the time I was in the seven hole last year [because] our line-up was so good – we won the championship. I hit well in the seven hole, and I think that was a really good fit.”
Some hitters feel a particular comfort with the role they are in the lineup; Brugman is not among them.
“I don’t really care too much where I hit in the lineup – you just do the job wherever you are in the lineup,” he said.
But he said his approach can be influenced based on where he scheduled in the batting order.
“It can change sometimes; a lot of times you just have to go with the flow of the game and just see what’s going on,” Brugman said. “If I’m the lead-off hitter and the first hitter of the game, I’m going to try to see some pitches, work the count, and give my teammates a chance to see what [the pitcher] has and how he’s going to go about his business that day. So there’s a little difference there. In the seven hole or at the bottom of the lineup, I can be more aggressive on fastballs early in the count and things like that.”
Brugman is just as adaptable in the field, having floated around to all outfield positions, but he likes centerfield the best.
“It’s awesome,” he said. “Even in Double-A, when I started there this year, I played center. Pretty much after the [Arizona] Fall league I played mostly center. I love center. I grew up playing it pretty much my entire life, so I enjoy it, but I also can play anywhere [in the outfield]. I’ve been mixed, too, up here – left and right, so it’s not a big deal – I just like playing all the outfield [positions]. It gives me a little more versatility.”
While it might seem easy to chase down fly balls, there is a difference between the outfield positions because of the spin of the ball and how it either sails or trails.
“There is,” Brugman said, adding he has to study it based on which position he plays. “Before the game, in [batting practice], if you just go to that position and see a few balls off the bat, it comes back really quick. Being that I’ve played all of them a lot in low ball, it makes it easier and you have a quicker adjustment period. But it is very different from left to right.”
While Brugman is adaptable to where he is in the lineup and where he is in the outfield, he has one clear focus, and that is the success of the Nashville Sounds.
“Just trying to produce runs and help my team win,” Brugman said, when asked about his goals for the rest of the season. “At this point late in the season, we’re going for a championship. We’re in a race right now and we have a very good chance – I think our team is really, really good.
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“So right now, I’m just going to do what I can to bring a run in. If it’s sacrificing an out, that’s fine. We’re just trying play sound baseball and win games.”