Sellers Energizing Ports' Line-Up

Ask many scouts and coaches who their favorite player to watch play in the Midwest League was last year, and many would answer Justin Sellers. Sellers may not be the biggest player, but he plays the game with an enthusiasm few can match. Sellers has brought that enthusiasm to Stockton this season, where he has seen time at the top of the Ports line-up and the middle of their infield.

Stockton Ports shortstop Justin Sellers might model his game after New York Yankees star Derek Jeter, but his fun-loving personality more closely resembles his favorite player, Boston Red Sox star Manny Ramirez. Before most Ports games, Sellers can be seen bouncing around outside the batting cages, dancing and entertaining his teammates in-between his turns in the cage. He wears his uniform baggy, in a style similar to Ramirez, whom he admits "idolizing a little bit."

Sellers is only listed at 5'10'', 160, but he carries himself like a much bigger player. At times, Sellers has had a tendency to swing like a slugger rather than a top-of-the-order hitter. That approach was a contributing factor in why Sellers got off to a rough start this season, batting only .213 with one extra-base hit in 61 April at-bats. Since that time, Sellers has made adjustments and has raised his average more than 40 points. He is currently batting .342 with an 885 OPS in the month of July and .258 overall for the season.

"The first half of the year, Sellers was really trying to learn how to handle himself at a higher level. He's done a great job of learning how to play, adjusting to the level, adjusting at the plate and as well as on defense," Stockon Ports Manager Darren Bush said.

Sellers credits a lot of hard work with the Ports' coaching staff for his improvements at the plate and in the field.

"It has been pretty tough [to make the adjustment to High-A], but I have been fortunate to have worked hard and to have adjusted to the pitchers. Me and our hitting coach Timmy Garland have been working really hard on my hitting. Our manager Darren Bush has been working with me a lot in the cage and out in the field," Sellers said.

"We have been working on getting my hands in the right spot and making sure that my feet have good separation and stuff like that. I'm just trying to stay consistent and do my job and they have definitely been working hard with me."

Before this season, Sellers had spent his professional career at shortstop, where he had earned praise from scouts for his soft hands and his strong throwing arm. At the start of this season, Sellers was shifted over to second base to make room for Cliff Pennington, who saw most of the starts at short for the Ports during the first half of the season. Although the position was new to Sellers, he indicated that felt comfortable there and he credits Pennington for helping him make that transition to second.

"Absolutely, I felt comfortable at second. Playing second with Pennington there at shortstop, he kind of got me used to [playing second]. I think I played something like 70 games there, so I kind of got used to it," Sellers said.

During the California League All-Star break, Pennington was promoted to Double-A Midland, freeing up the shortstop spot for Sellers. He is happy to be back at short.

"After the first groundball, I felt right back at home. I'm kind of glad to be back at shortstop. I feel way more comfortable at short to my right and to my left," Sellers said.

In 119 games last season, Sellers swiped 17 bases for the Kane County Cougars. This season, Sellers hasn't been running quite as often. In 81 games, Sellers has swiped eight bases in 11 chances, a number he indicated was due to the hitters who have been behind him in the line-up.

"I have been picking my spots [to run]. I have a couple of lefties hitting behind me, so I like to keep that first baseman holding me on to keep that hole open on the right-side," Sellers said.

Before the start of the season, Baseball America reported that the A's were considering making Sellers a switch-hitter. That hasn't materialized, and Sellers' splits this season (.272 against right-handers and .184 against left-handers) would indicate that Sellers is likely better off sticking as a right-handed hitter.

"Actually, it's funny because when I read that in Baseball America, I was surprised. I can hit left-handed a little bit, but I am really just thinking about hitting right-handed. I haven't taken any swings left-handed this season," Sellers said.

Sellers has spent a lot of time in the top of third of the Ports' order for much of the season and with Pennington's departure, Sellers has been moved up to the lead-off spot. He has 176 at-bats as either a first or second hitter this season. Sellers embraces the role of being a top-of-the-order hitter.

"I'm just trying to see more pitches and get on-base. That's the A's philosophy is to see a lot of pitches and get on-base and if you get a pitch to hit, take a rip at it. I'm just trying to see pitches and get on-base and score some runs," Sellers said.

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