While lead-off man Harrison Bader is stealing the majority of the headlines for his breakout start at Double-Springfield through the first quarter of the season, Bruce Caldwell has been an under the radar offensive standout for skipper Dann Bilardello this year.
Caldwell, 24, is on pace to have his most productive season yet, swinging a consistent bat in the middle of the S-Cards batting order. The middle infielder with a sweet stroke from the left side has a reputation for being able just to rake, but last summer and so far this year, in particular, he has improved in the average department and across the board while becoming a well-rounded hitter.
Since being promoted from High-A Palm Beach on May 29, 2015, Caldwell has compiled a .284 average with 16 home runs, 26 doubles, and 78 RBI over 121 Texas League games. In 436 at-bats, the former 15th round draft pick has fanned a relatively high 123 times, but his 66 base-on-balls over that span compensates for a happy medium in the plate discipline regard.
Despite being drafted out of a small JUCO with an enrollment of 800-some, Caldwell's slash line of .289/.377/.472/.849 sits among Texas League leaders in those categories and he has belted seven home runs and 28 RBI, including a key game-tying shot last Tuesday against Midland. Caldwell has been on a steady rise through the Cardinals organization, and he is just two calls away from an elusive debut at the major-league level.
If that happens, he would join fellow Spartanburg Methodist College notable alumni Orlando Hudson and former Cardinal standout Reggie Sanders to reach the game’s highest level.
Ultimately, it appears Caldwell's future role is in a utility capacity because he is obviously not going to take away regular playing time from Kolten Wong and Aledmys Diaz. He has spent most of his career at second base, but has previously shown the capability of moving around to the left side - short and third base. Left-handed bats with versatility and pop can always find niches.
In the exclusive interview below, Caldwell reflects on 2015 from offensive and defensive standpoint, talks his simplistic approach for this year, and goals going forward.
Derek Shore: With 2015 being your fourth season with Cardinals organization, you probably had your most productive one to date. At the plate, you notched career highs virtually across the board. Right now, how do you look back on 2015 from a pure offensive standpoint?
Bruce Caldwell: “Definitely just tried to get better, get better at everything. It was definitely just trying to get detailed with everything. Try to get better, learn from last year, and into this year for sure.”
DS: In the field, you spent most of your time at second base while mixing in at different positions at times. What improvements did you make from the defensive side?
BC: “I would say more of reading hitters where they might hit the ball according to their swings and just try to position myself better in order to get myself in the best position.”
DS: Did you do anything differently as far as a training regimen over the winter?
BC: “No, I just kind of stuck to the same plan. Just tried to better and more consistent with my swing.”
DS: Now that you have a full season's worth of games at Double-A level in Texas League, what can you draw from your experiences at this level?
BC: “I would definitely say you learn what kind of player you are at this level. Pitchers do a lot of the same things, but you learn what you can, cannot do, and you have to stay within yourself. I would say that I have learned what kind of hitter I am.”
DS: You have had one of the most live bats in Springfield’s batting order so far this year. What has made you so successful through the first quarter of the season with the bat?
BC: “Just getting my pitch, knowing the situation every time I come up, what I need to do, or just trying never give an at-bat way. Every at-bat, just try to give it all and try not to give any at-bats away."
DS: What has it been like to hit behind Harrison Bader at the top of the order?
BC: "Oh my, it’s definitely very fun to watch. For a first-year guy, he’s come right out of the gates just killin’ it and it’s really fun to watch him hit."
DS: You’ve shown gap power and the occasional home run power at this level. What do you consider yourself as a hitter?
BC: “I consider myself a gap-to-gap guy and mistakenly hit a ball out of the park sometimes. More or less, I consider myself gap-to-gap for sure.”
DS: As far as plate discipline, you have struck out at a reasonably high rate while drawing your fair share of walks. Obviously, you’ve found that hppy medium, but how you can continue to improve on those numbers?
BC: “Just not giving at-bats away. That would probably be the best way (to improve on those numbers). Just going after every at-bat and try not to let the pitcher get me.”
DS: While you continue to be Springfield’s stalwart at second base this year, how comfortable do you feel on the left side of the infield to increase that versatility?
BC: “I actually feel pretty good (on the left side). A little bit different from playing a lot of right side, but on the left when you get more reps you start feeling a little better. I definitely feel pretty good.”
DS: The first half of the Texas League season is winding down. Do you have any goals set for the rest of the season?
BC: “Just continue to get better and try to get after it every day.”
Follow Derek Shore on Twitter @D_Shore23.
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