Side celebrates with a
teammate during the CWS
Robert J. Side III
Draft: 6th Round, 2006
Position: Center Fielder
Weight: 190 lbs
History: The Georgia Bulldogs loved having Joey Side patrol center field, and not just because of the terrific offensive numbers he put up there. His all-out hustle rallied and motivated his teammates, leading them to the College World Series in 2006. That same aggressive style of play also endeared him to Bulldogs fans, and his body-banging catches routinely made Sportscenter highlights that June.
Unfortunately, Side's style of play is what's getting him into trouble at the professional level. Crashing into walls and diving into grass takes its toll on the body. Through his first 28 professional games in 2006, Side hit .283. Playing in far more games than ever before, plus suffering from a tired body, Side batted just .250 in his final 28 games, the last seven of which were spent as a designated hitter to give him more rest.
"Last year at Yakima, I was a little bit worn out," Side admitted. "The bat was feeling heavier than it usually does."
By the 2007 All-Star break, Side appeared as though he had overcome any fatigue issues. He was batting .321, not having hit lower than .318 in any of the first three months of the season. We asked him at the time how he had remained so consistent.
"As long as you stay consistent in the [batting] cage, those average numbers are going to stay with you," he explained. "You've got to stay in that cage to make sure you stay in that groove."
There's no doubting Side's work ethic, as he continued to take as many swings in the batting cage as he could. He again wore down, however, batting .267 last July and just .191 last August. Side needs to learn to pace himself for full season ball, according to Mark Haley, his manager at South Bend.
"Does that intensity help, or does it hurt at times?" questioned Haley. "I think he's understanding that you have to play intense, but there's also a time to sit back and evaluate. You've got to sometimes pull back."
Despite obviously playing with some fatigue during the final months of the season, Side was selected to play Instructional ball in the fall. The organization still regards him very highly, and if he can learn to maintain his early season success for a full five months, he's going to turn quite a few heads.
Statistics Courtesy of The Baseball Cube
Batting and Power: As you might expect, Side brings an intensity to every at bat he takes. "Mentality-wise, I get pissed off when I get out," he told us.
Even when he struggled late in the season, Side never gave up any at bats. He still made consistent contact and took his fair share of walks. The trouble was that the ball just wasn't shooting off his bat as solidly as it was earlier in the season. Side never projects to hit a ton of home runs, but he should be able to maintain line drive power throughout the season.
Another reason Side might have worn down last year: he wasn't afraid to take one for the team. He got plunked 15 times, or once every eight or nine games. If Side ever suffered a serious injury from one of these beanings, or any of his hard-nosed catches in the outfield, he played through them.
Base Running and Speed: Side possesses above-average speed, and often looks faster than he is due to his hustle and aggressiveness. Right now, he's running into as many outs as he is taking extra bases, whether it's getting caught stealing, being thrown out stretching a single into a double, or getting doubled off a base on a fly ball.
Side hustles at the MWL All-Star Game
"That's one thing that I love about the Diamondbacks organization," noted Side. "They said in spring training that, 'we want you to be so aggressive that sometimes you even make a stupid mistake.' I'm really aggressive on the bases. That's just my mentality. I want to take that extra base, and that's the Diamondbacks' philosophy. That's good for me, because that's the way I am. I'm not sure if that played a role when they were deciding on whether to draft me or not, but that's the philosophy, and I love it."
The idea is that prospects learn their limitations from making aggressive mistakes, whereas if they play passively, they might never reach their true potential. Side is one player we don't need to worry about squeezing every ounce out of his natural talents.
Defense: An excellent defender, Side has enough range to play center and a strong enough arm to play right. He's gunned down a dozen runners so far at the professional level, and made countless diving and sliding catches already. A slump at the plate doesn't affect Side's defense, as he takes a lot of pride in tracking down fly balls.
He was part of a fantastic defensive outfield at South Bend, with Daniel Perales and Gerardo Parra both considering themselves natural center fielders. Side nevertheless received the bulk of the playing time there.
Side (left) prepares for infield practice with his teammates
Prediction: Even with the departures of Carlos Gonzalez and Aaron Cunningham, the Diamondbacks outfield situation remains very competitive. Side's future with the organization probably remains as a role player rather than as a starter. He can provide great late-inning defense and work well as a pinch runner once he learns to channel his aggressiveness better. His ability to make consistent contact also makes him ideal in a pinch-hit role.
Major League Clone: Aaron Rowand
ETA: Side will begin the year at Visalia as a 24-year old. It will be paramount for his prospect status for Side to make Double-A by the end of the season. If he can do that, we may see Side as the Diamondbacks' fourth outfielder in 2010.
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