Justis Is Served at Inland Empire

It is frequently the case when someone is promoted to the next level in minor league ball, that another comes up from even further below to replace him. Not so when Blake DeWitt was moved from Inland Empire to Jacksonville. No, then they stayed right with the 66ers roster for his replacement at third base.

The opportunity was given to Shane Justis, who had been playing here, there and everywhere in the infield and hitting quite well while he did that. He did enough that they want to see how he produces as an everyday player.

Making the most of opportunities is something that Justis has been doing ever since he signed his first contract in 2005. He was only a 21st round draft pick then out of Towson State in Maryland. That's the kind of player in whom not much more than a handshake and a smile is invested so if he doesn't do well, hey, that's the way it goes.

But Justis hasn't gone away; rather he's played second, short and third in a steady fashion and, while he's been doing that, he's also hit more than enough to be valuable.

In his first year at Ogden, he hit .273. Hardly eye-popping but it earned him an invitation to the Instructional League that fall where he showed just about everybody that he was a better ball player than they thought they were getting.

The next season, he started at Columbus and improved to .289 there. That got him a late-season callup to Vero Beach where he averaged a most presentable .278.

He was hitting over .300 as a sometimes player for Inland Empire, again moving around the infield as needed. In the field, he's rock-steady not flashy but the kind that can field a two-hopper and throw it with accuracy to first. Over a season, pitchers and managers in particular tend to appreciate that type of player.

He's not a long ball threat (only three home runs thus far) but he does a lot of little things that helps teams win games. For instance, while not particularly known for his speed, he gets an excellent read and jump on the bases and so far has stolen nine in 10 tries.

His average has declined a bit since he's been installed fulltime. Yet, he's hitting .289 and if he can keep it around there, he'll get plenty of work.

There are all kinds of glittering prospects in the organization and you won't hear Justis' name mentioned with them. Yet, he's one that makes himself valuable enough that when others more touted have come and gone, he'll still be here.

And if you'll pardon the pun, there's justice in that.

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