Oakland A's Spring Q&A: Jeff Baisley, 3B

Once the Oakland A's made it clear that they were rebuilding for the future by trading Dan Haren, Nick Swisher and Mark Kotsay, many wondered if long-time third baseman Eric Chavez would be next. Chavez has been a fixture at third for the A's since 1999 and is signed through 2010. If Chavez is dealt, Jeff Baisley could be Chavez's replacement. We spoke to Baisley from his first big league camp.

Late in the 2006 season when Jeff Baisley was crushing Midwest League pitching en route to the league's MVP award, some pundits wondered when the Oakland A's would challenge Baisley with harder competition. The A's answered that question emphatically in 2007, as they had the hard-hitting third baseman skip over High-A completely and go right to Double-A. Baisley responded well to the challenge of playing against stiffer competition, posting an 823 OPS for the first half of the season with the Double-A Midland Rockhounds.

A knee injury at the midpoint of the season caused Baisley to miss nearly a month and it affected his swing the rest of the season. The injury was a big reason why his OPS fell more than 100 points during the second half of the season. Despite the rough second half, Baisley is still highly regarded by Oakland. The A's sent him to the Arizona Fall League after the season and he was named as a participant in the AFL's Rising Stars game. His knee continued to bother him during the AFL, however, and he hit only .203 with three homers in 21 games.

After an off-season of rehabbing the knee, Baisley is healthy and participating in his first big league camp. We spoke to the A's top third base prospect about his recovery from injury, his AFL experience, his first impressions of big league camp and more…

OaklandClubhouse: How is big league camp going for you thus far?

Jeff Baisley was the Midwest League MVP in 2006 with Kane County.
Jeff Baisley: Good. Really good. It has been a lot of fun. Being together with all of the big leaguers and all of the coaches, it's been good thus far.

OC: How different is it from minor league camp?

JB: I would say it is a lot different. It's not as technical as far as hitting and all of the little drills. Basically, you come in, get your work done and go home, so it's a lot more fun.

OC: Is there something that you are looking forward to most about big league camp? Picking the brains of veterans like Eric Chavez?

JB: Yeah, definitely. It will be good to watch Chavez at third. He's obviously one of the best third basemen in the league. I'm hoping to pick his brain and try to see what he does.

OC: Is taking batting practice with big leaguers a different experience? Is there any one-upmanship between players to see who can hit the ball further?

JB: Actually, we don't really interact with them too much, hitting-wise. We have four different BP groups, and the guys in my split are all minor league guys right now. Basically, if we do hit with the big leaguers, it's in the cage or during early work. My main focus is watching them play in the field and seeing what they do and trying to pick up on the little things that they do.

Jeff Baisley is a strong defensive third baseman. He played some first base during the AFL season, in addition to third, increasing his versatility.
OC: Your knee was still bothering you when we spoke early in the AFL season. How is it feeling now? Is it 100 percent?

JB: I wouldn't say it's 100 percent, but it's to the point where it doesn't bother me on the field at all. It bothers me sometimes at home, but on the baseball field it doesn't bother me at all.

OC: How was the entire AFL experience for you?

JB: The competition was probably the best part. The competition was a lot better than in Double-A and where I have played before. It was fun to meet all of the guys from different teams. Overall, it was a good experience.

OC: How was the AFL Championship game? I guess the Phoenix Desert Dogs have built a little bit of a dynasty down there even though the team has different players every year. [Phoenix has won four consecutive AFL titles.]

JB: [laughs] Apparently so. Winning the championship was a lot of fun. I didn't get to play in the [championship] game because I tweaked my knee about a week-and-a-half before the end of the season, so I didn't play the last 10 games. But it was a great experience to watch the game and it was even better that we came out on top. [laughs]

OC: Was it a good thing for you during the AFL to have access to coaches from different organizations to pick their brains and get a little bit of a different perspective?

JB: Yeah, definitely. Every organization does things differently, so it was good to see what other organizations are doing and to find out how the players like their organizations and stuff like that.

OC: I know the second half of your season was affected by the knee injury, but you played well at Double-A when you were healthy during the first half of the season. Was the jump from Low-A in 2006 to Double-A in 2007 difficult for you?

JB: It had its ups and downs. Overall, I was pleased with the way that I played when I was healthy. Coming from Low-A, you think that there are going to be a dramatic amount of differences in the skill levels in Double-A. There was a little bit of that, but it wasn't that much. It was more that there were guys who were throwing cutters and two-seamers and pitching backwards, things like that. The higher you go in the minor leagues, the more that guys know how to pitch better and know themselves better. The competition is a lot better.

OC: What was your off-season like once the AFL was over? Did you modify your workouts because you had less time-off than normal?

JB: I rehabbed my knee three days a week. That was a pain in the butt [laughs], but it has paid off so far so that was worth it. Other than that, I did the same things as last year. I worked out with my brother [New York Yankees prospect Brian Baisley]. My dad is a high school coach, so we went out to his field for hitting and stuff like that.

OC: How much do you and your brother compare notes about the two different organizations?

JB: It's more the situation that we'll talk to our buddies and find out the things that are going on in the other organization through them. There is a big difference between the Yankees and the A's organizations with the budget and everything. It's interesting to see everything that they do for their players. But I like the A's and I like the way that they treat their players and the coaches are awesome. I wouldn't trade it. The A's are a great organization to be with.

OC: Have you set any goals for this season? Are you hoping to start the year out in Triple-A?

JB: Definitely. That would be the best result for me [to start in Triple-A]. But I know that even if I do everything right, I might not necessarily start there. Hopefully, I'll get a fair amount of at-bats at Triple-A this year.

OC: Is your main goal this Spring Training to make an impression on the major league coaching staff?

JB: Yeah, definitely. That is the best thing that can happen out here. The best thing that you can hope for in your first big league camp is to go out and have them recognize you and remember you and think positively about you.

OC: Are you guys anxious to get out there and actually play a game now that you have been practicing for a little while?

JB: We've faced a couple of live pitchers, but we probably need a little more practice. I believe we open on Friday, and that should be fun. I'm looking forward to it.

OC: Did you appear in any big league spring games last year?

JB: I appeared in two of them, I believe. I got two at-bats pretty much in mop-up duty. That was fun too.

OC: I don't know if they have even talked to you at all about this, but do you think you'll be seeing a lot of time at third early this spring while Chavez continues his recovery from his surgeries?

JB: They haven't really said. Hopefully I'll get some time early. He hasn't really done a whole lot yet, but I don't really know. Come Friday, we'll see what happens.

OC: Are you taking any groundballs at first this spring, or was playing at first in the AFL just something that you did during that season to get into the line-up more frequently?

JB: I think it was mostly an AFL-thing. I haven't taken any groundballs there yet. We've talked about it a little. It's always good to be able to play a couple of positions, so I'd be open to it.

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