Patterson Surprises Even Himself

Each year in the month of September, the Cubs announce their annual Minor League Player and Pitcher of the Year awards. Second baseman Eric Patterson, an eighth round draft pick in the year 2004 and the Class-A Peoria Chiefs team MVP this season, is a strong candidate for one of those awards this season.

At age 22 and in his first full-season of minor league activity, Patterson hit .333 in 110 games with Peoria, leading the Midwest League and the Cubs' farm system in batting average. He was fourth in the system with 73 RBIs and third in stolen bases with 43.

Patterson, one a number of Cub organizational products from Georgia Tech, was a noticeable selection on draft day a season ago. His namesake alone was enough to catch the attention of the Cub nation, especially considering his .316 batting average in three seasons with the Yellow Jackets.

This year, the younger brother of Chicago's Corey Patterson earned a promotion late in the year to Double-A West Tenn. He hit .200 (6-for-30) in nine regular season games with the Diamond Jaxx, all as the team's leadoff hitter, and sparked the club's offense in the opening round of Southern League playoffs against Carolina. The Jaxx swept the series 3-0 and Patterson finished his first professional playoff series 5-for-11--the second best mark of any player on the four teams competing in the post-season.

The promotion directly from Peoria, a Class Mid-A team, to Double-A was a surprise to even the Midwest League's best hitter and best defensive second baseman. Patterson posted a .982 fielding percentage with just nine errors in 507 chances at Peoria. He had 315 assists and 183 putouts.

"You never know what's going to happen in baseball," said Patterson, who totaled 164 RBIs at Georgia Tech. "I was definitely surprised. The way things ended up (with Felix Pie), they needed someone at the top to provide and spark. Hopefully I can do that."

Patterson's recent numbers at West Tenn can put those hopes to rest for now. The Jaxx had been looking to find a true leadoff hitter at the top of their order since Pie went down for the year in June with a misdiagnosed ankle injury and bone bruise.

Patterson was more than happy to step in.

"From a hitting standpoint, the pitchers are definitely better at executing what they do at this level," he said. "They're able to throw a lot more pitches for strikes. Really, you have to slow the game down and not be too anxious or aggressive. I try to take that approach with me each game."

Even once the Jaxx season ends, Patterson's will only continue. He was selected as one of seven players to represent the Cubs in this year's Arizona Fall League, an annual event that pits top prospects from each organization against one another beginning in October and lasting into late November.

Most of the other Cub prospects headed to the Fall League are now teammates of Patterson's at West Tenn. Those include OF/1B Brandon Sing, SS Buck Coats and RHP David Aardsma. RHP Angel Guzman and former Jaxx all-star and Cubs left fielder Matt Murton will also be present in Arizona, as will one more pitching prospect. Patterson and Murton, also a Tech product, are the frontrunners for Cubs Player of the Year in 2005.

"Eric has had a great season from start to finish," said Director of Player Development Oneri Fleita. "He is three wins away from placing an exclamation point on a heck of a year. He has a feel for what he is capable of doing. He makes contact; hits to all sides of the field; can bunt; fields his position well; runs the bases well; and plays hard. He's a true gamer."

Fall League play is scheduled to begin Oct. 3. Cub prospects will again play for the Mesa Solar Sox, who also house players from the St. Louis Cardinals, Chicago White Sox, San Francisco Giants, Colorado Rockies and Tampa Bay Devil Rays.

"I'm not really sure what to expect," Patterson said of the six-team league. "I try to take the same approach either way. I've been playing this game long enough to know you have to stay yourself through it all. Wherever you're at, it doesn't matter who is on the rubber, you're in control most of the time. Keep the same approach and keep on working."

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