Oakland A's Spring Training Q&A: Jeff Baisley

Third baseman Jeff Baisley is coming off of an outstanding first full season as a professional. The University of South Florida alum was the Kane County Cougars' offensive leader throughout the 2006 season. For his efforts, he was awarded the Midwest League Most Valuable Player award. We caught up with Baisley to find out what he has planned for an encore.

Jeff Baisley racked up a collection of awards in 2006. He was a starter at the Midwest League All-Star Game, was twice the Midwest League Player of the Week, and was eventually named the Midwest League Most Valuable Player. He was only the third player in Kane County Cougars' history to win the award (the previous two were Jason Stokes and Adrian Gonzalez). Baisley finished the 2006 season with a .298 batting average, 22 homers and 110 RBIs. During the off-season, Baisley was named Scout.com's Oakland A's Minor League Player of the Year.

Often when a player posts great numbers, he is promoted a level or two during the season. Unfortunately for Baisley, a backlog of A's third basemen at High-A and Double-A kept him at Low-A for the entire season. However, there has been some speculation that Baisley will jump directly to Double-A in 2007.

The South Florida alum was the A's 12th round pick in 2005. He comes from a family of baseball players, as his older brother and his twin brother both have minor league baseball playing experience. We caught-up with Baisley as he was preparing for the start of minor league camp in Arizona.

OaklandClubhouse: Congratulations on an outstanding 2006 season. What did it mean to you to win the Midwest League MVP award?

Jeff Baisley: It is always nice to be recognized. It was a really big honor because there were so many good prospects in our league. I felt like I exceeded my expectations for the year, so it was really nice to come home with that.

OC: Did you work on anything in particular last off-season or at the beginning of the year in Kane County that got you swinging the bat so well?

JB: I started in Instructs last year after my first season. The hitting coordinator sat down with me and we worked on a bunch of different things and it just sort of carried over and translated into good numbers.

OC: Did you guys work on anything different this Instructs that you think you will carry over this season?

JB: It was pretty much more of the same. It didn't change that much, but it was still really helpful to attend.

OC: You hit for more homerun power last season than you had in college and in your first year at Vancouver. Was there more of a conscious effort on your part to pull the ball more this past year or was it just you growing and maturing as a player?

JB: I think that was most of it. The first Instructs I went to, we really worked on hitting the inside pitch and focusing on that. In college and in high school and in my first season at Vancouver, I wasn't really able to hit the inside pitch consistently and with power, but after Instructs and spring training, it seems like I figured out the secret to it a little bit. [laughing]

OC: Kane County made it all the way to the Midwest League finals last season. What was that experience like for you?

JB: It was fun. The atmosphere is a lot different than the regular season. Every game counts so much more. We made the playoffs in Vancouver, but it wasn't really a long playoff season, it just was the best teams from division play [meeting in a title series]. When the first playoff game came around last year, everyone was totally focused. It was a bummer that we didn't win the whole thing, but we had a lot of fun.

OC: I heard that pitchers started pitching around you during the second half of the season last year. Was it hard to approach your at-bats when pitchers weren't challenging you anymore?

JB: Yeah, you always want to get up there and do your fair share of damage at the plate and when pitchers are walking you, it's kind of hard to do that. It takes you out of your game. You start chasing pitches and trying to do too much. I think that is what I started to do towards the end of the season. They had me working on that in Instructs this year, picking one pitch and waiting until I got it.

OC: Were you discouraged at all that you weren't promoted during the season?

JB: At first it was discouraging. It is always nice to get promoted. All of these pitchers kept getting promoted and every time they were going to announce that someone was going somewhere, I was hoping it would be me, and it wasn't. Finally, I just said, ‘to heck with it' and figured that I might as well do my best where I am. I can't control that process, I can't promote myself, so it really wasn't that big of a deal towards the end of the season once I figured I was going to stay [in Kane County].

OC: Are you hoping for a two-level jump to Double-A this year?

JB: Hoping to. [laughing] I don't know what is going to happen, but I'll sit back and wait until we hear something at spring training.

OC: What has your off-season preparation been like this year?

JB: Same as last year. I have a twin brother at home, so we throw and hit and do what we need to do to get ready for the season. I'm actually in Arizona right now, going to the A's complex every day, doing pretty much the same stuff I was doing back home with some of the guys.

OC: Your twin brother is in the Yankees chain, right?

JB: Yep.

OC: Did you guys compare notes about the two organizations after the season was over? Is it easier to have a brother going through the same steps that you are in baseball?

JB: Yeah, it is helpful. My older brother played minor league baseball as well, so from the start I kind of knew what to expect. It is a lot of help. I helped [his twin brother] out during his first season, as well. [Jeff's twin brother, Brian, took a fifth year at University of South Florida and was drafted in 2006.] It is always nice to have someone to talk to who knows what the system is like.

OC: Do you keep in touch with your college teammate and fellow A's farmhand Myron Leslie? Did you follow his move from third base to the outfield this season?

JB: Yeah, I followed it a little. We talk every now and then. I don't know how the outfield will work for him, but he is a big guy and it seemed like he started hitting better once he got out there. I'm sure he doesn't mind as long as he gets to play.

OC: Scouts have always had good things to say about your defense. How much work do you put into that and how much pride do you take in the defensive-side of your game?

JB: I take defense very seriously. It goes unnoticed a lot, but that doesn't bother me. Mostly, I have been working a lot with the minor league fielding instructors at the A's complex. I have a ways to go to get as good as I want to be, but I have made a lot of progress since I came to the A's.

OC: Is there anything in particular that you've worked on defensively since you came to the pros? Is the footwork different or the reaction time from playing against wooden bats as opposed to aluminum ones?

JB: The footwork is the same. A groundball is a groundball at any level, but they have helped me to be ready for every pitch and to get a quicker first step and better angles and all of the little stuff that people don't necessarily notice when you are out there that make all of the difference.

OC: What are your expectations heading into spring training this year?

JB: To repeat. I guess that people might be paying more attention to me and might know who I am a bit more because of last year. Hopefully I can put up the same kind of numbers, but at a higher level.

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