FutureBacks Q&A: 3B Brandon Burgess

Brandon Burgess made the switch from outfield to third base last season, and is now considered one of the better third base power prospects in all of baseball. Burgess spoke with FutureBacks about his oblique injury in April, switch hitting, hitting home runs and striking out, and his improved defense at the hot corner.

FutureBacks: Was it difficult coming back from your injury?

Brandon Burgess: It was really tough.  I found some things that I liked that I was doing well a couple of weeks before the injury.  It was tough sitting there when they wouldn't let me play.  I felt good the last couple of weeks, but they said I could re-injure it if I didn't get enough rest. You play a little cautious, and I think that hurt me a little bit.  It was a struggle, but I learned a lot of things about my swing and just the daily process of getting better.

FB: Tell me about your hit-by-pitch totals; do you ever worry about maybe breaking a bone in your hand or something as often as you get plunked?

BB: Yeah, it's funny you say that; my coaches hate it when I get hit by a pitch.  The guys in the middle of the order are there to drive runs in.   So when you get hit by a pitch you're leaving a guy at third base or second base, you're not doing yourself any good over at first. 

I've always stood right on top of the plate.  It's just where I've felt comfortable.  Even though I've started backing off the plate a little bit, I'm still getting hit by pitches.  I think it's that guys are trying to challenge me and show me that they can pitch that pitch in, because I don't really get a lot of pitches in for strikes being a left-handed power hitter.  I also think at this level, you've got guys who don't have as much control over their stuff.  So I think that total will go down as guys get a little more control, but I don't really go up there thinking I'm going to wear a pitch or go up there thinking I'm going to jump out of the way.

FB: What is your approach at the plate?  Do you try to hit home runs, or is that something that just sort of happens?

BB: I think that's just something that happens.  When I try to hit home runs, that's when the numbers go down. Being a switch-hitting power hitter, that's what I'm supposed to do well.  If I don't do that well, then I don't have a spot in this game.  It's something the organization has put upon me to do, but the day that I try to do it, I don't do it, and the day that I just stay up the middle and swing easy is the day that it happens.                  

FB: So Brandon, do your coaches ever try to get you to cut down on your strikeouts or do they pretty much realize that it's gong to be a part of who you are as a power hitter?

BB: A little bit of both.  The organization wants me to cut down on my strikeouts because it gives me more chances to put the ball out of the ballpark.  You always want to cut down your strikeouts and raise your walks.  It's something that I'm going to have to continue to work on.  I'm always going to have a lot of strikeouts being a power guy - that's just the nature of the game.  But knowing which situations to put your A-swing on and knowing which situations to just put the ball in play is just something that's going to come as I have more at bats.    

FB: Is that part of what was going well for you during your incredible month of July?

BB: I think so.  It was more so that I stopped worrying about stance, where your hands are, putting your foot down, and that kind of stuff, and I just looked for a pitch I could drive according to the count.  I had a lot of success with it.  I wish I could have stayed with it more often in August, but baseball's kind of up-and-down.  You get a couple of games where you don't get those pitches, and all of a sudden you want to push the panic button; you change your approach according to what the pitcher is doing instead of sticking with the approach that works for you.  Like I said, getting more at bats, being in the lineup every day, playing a full season, staying healthy will help all of that stuff fall in place.

FB: Being a switch hitter, is it even more important to get those repetitions so that you can get comfortable from both sides of the plate?    

BB: Yeah, definitely.  Last year I had a tough time right-handed.  I didn't get as many looks.  This year I don't know if I have more at bats [from the right side], but it felt like there were a few weeks where we would face four or five lefties in a week.  That was huge for my right-handed at bats and the way I feel at the plate.  I feel like I can put the ball in play a little more right handed; left handed, I feel like I have a little more power.  It depends on how you feel at the ballpark that day, but I think that repetition is huge for switch-hitters. 

FB: How long have you been switch hitting?

BB: I was a left-handed hitter in Little League, the every once in a while in high school I'd turn around and hit right-handed. I didn't try it in any tryouts or scout workouts.  But I think in college my freshmen year, I was talking to a friend, and he said that being a switch-hitting power guy would be a big plus.  My first game of the year against left handed hitter I said I was going to try to switch hit, and my coach said, "What are you doing?  If you don't get a hit, you're sitting out."  I got two hits that game, so it kind of just took off from there.  Having that confidence hitting right handed has always helped me at the plate, it being my natural side.

FB: How has your defense progressed this year?

BB: I feel like I've made some huge strides.  Last year as an outfielder in an organization just stacked full of huge outfield prospects - not to say I couldn't make it there; I think I could - it's just given me some other avenues to pursue, being able to play the infield.  Even when I was drafted, I mentioned to different coaches and front office guys that I want to play infield; I think I could play infield.  They let me take ground balls there every once in a while, but it was never in a game.  Last year, we had a third baseman get hurt, they said they'd give me a chance over there at third. 

I guess I opened some eyes. I had a chance to learn some things working in instructs with the infield coordinator.  This season's been huge.  Our manager's Hector de la Cruz, and he spent a lot of his career playing third base.  He knows a lot about the third base position.  It's been great working with him every day, and I feel a lot more confident in the field than I was last year.    

FB: How often does infield coordinator Tony Perezchica come by Visalia and work with you?

BB: He's been by two or three times this year.  He was probably fed up with me in instructional ball.  His job is to mold young infielders, taking ground balls every day and correcting the things I'm doing wrong. At the end of the season last year I was tired and overall mostly frustrated, and I think it showed in instructional ball.  But this year was a fresh start, I have the attitude that this is the position they're going to give me a shot at, so I need to prove that I can play here.  And I think I've done that.       

Tony's helped out a lot, but like I said, Hector de la Cruz has been huge, giving me early work. working a lot on footwork and throwing.  It's been a good season defensively for me. 


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