McCraw Takes His Game to Hawaii

The St. Lucie catcher made a large leap this season, earning his first trip to the Florida State League. Although he was relegated to a back up role to start the year in Savannah, his defense bloomed and his bat became more productive which led to the promotion. Now, McCraw is off to Hawaii where he hopes to keep his momentum going.

Sean McCraw started the season in Savannah, backing up a much younger Francisco Pena, but through the course of his time there, his tools continued to take shape, earning the trust of his coaches and thus more playing time. By the end his 50-game tenure with the Sand Gnats, he demonstrated above-average defense, a strong knowledge of how to handle the pitching staff, while showing offensive progression with a .272 average and a .427 on-base percentage.

Yet it was the July deadline trade of catcher Drew Butera that really opened doors for McCraw. Butera, who spent most of the season in St. Lucie and Binghamton before the trade that sent him to the Minnesota Twins organization, was the ranking backstop in the lower levels of the system; McCraw knew his exit was a sign to step up his performance.

"Drew Butera's trade was a big factor into what's going on with my career right now," he said. "The fact that he was traded while I was playing well meant that I had to be real patient, but I think the maturity I showed, even while I wasn't playing often, stood out more than anything."

He left Savannah with his confidence riding high. But, while in St. Lucie, McCraw admits that he overextended himself. He tried to do too much, and was rattled as he tried to impress his coaches and observers, aiming to show that he could provide the same efficiency at the next level.

"I was disappointed how I handled certain situations," he said. "Trying to do too much affected my game in certain elements. That was for the first two or three weeks, but I think I settled down towards the end. I didn't let failure get to me, but I do think I put too much pressure on myself when I got there."

At the plate, the largest difference was his patience. His strong on-base percentage in Savannah dropped to .340 with St. Lucie. The sharp decrease was attributed to his strike zone expansion, but also because he was simply fooled in hitter's counts in which he historically felt comfortable.

When ahead in a 2-0 count or a 3-1 count, waiting for a fastball, changeups or sliders would catch him off guard, frustrating him. However, he remains positive, anticipating that the corrections will come with more experience at that level.

"I feel like I held my own against the pitching there. I never really felt overmatched. The biggest challenges were hitting pitcher's pitches in hitter's counts," he said. "Getting a pitcher's pitch in a hitter's count wasn't something that I was expecting hitting from the six or seven-hole. I keep that in the back of my head and I have to make adjustments."

"Before I went up there, I told myself that I would stay with the same approach at the plate, but of course I didn't, and I think that really hurt me. My numbers weren't bad, but they certainly weren't what I expected," he continued.

Yet McCraw found comfort in his defense, which continued to improve as the season went on. He was able to progress his ability to call games while working with the St. Lucie staff. Yet, his largest trouble spot remains throwing out baserunners.

During the winter season, his focus will remain entirely on this practice. As he uses the time in Hawaii to keep working, he knows that the concentration he puts into his defense will pay off come March, more than attempting to impress from the batter's box.

"It'll be all about my defense here," he said. "I don't think hitting .300 here will have any effect on what I do going into spring training."

"Most of my focus is going to be on throwing runners out, that's the biggest part of my defense that I need to work. I'm real streaky when it comes to throwing to the bases. Not that I have a lot of throwing errors, but I'll go 0-for-7 on baserunners, and then I'll throw six runners out in a row," he explained.

Now a member of the Waikiki Beachboys, McCraw knows that the privilege of participating in the Hawaiian Winter League is opportunity that comes to so few.

"I wasn't even home yet when I got the call. I was still driving to Savannah to pick up a few things. I wanted to go to Hawaii, or even just get an invitation to play somewhere this fall, but I didn't think they [the organization] thought that highly of me. It really was a big surprise," he said.

For McCraw, his success should start to come more frequently as his confidence builds at the higher levels. Going into next season, he should receive a starting job, and his skills set will come around with the added repetition. For now, McCraw is going to enjoy the "winter" ball.

"I think most guys obviously work towards getting a winter invite," he said. "But, to get a spot out here, getting to play baseball in this atmosphere, you gotta have fun with it."


Amazin Clubhouse Top Stories

\r\n \r\n\r\nSean McCraw started the season in Savannah, backing up a much younger Francisco Pena, but through the course of his time there, his tools continued to take shape, earning the trust of his coaches and thus more playing time. By the end his 50-game tenure with the Sand Gnats, he demonstrated above-average defense, a strong knowledge of how to handle the pitching staff, while showing offensive progression with a .272 average and a .427 on-base percentage.
\r\n
\r\nYet it was the July deadline trade of catcher Drew Butera that really opened doors for McCraw. Butera, who spent most of the season in St. Lucie and Binghamton before the trade that sent him to the Minnesota Twins organization, was the ranking backstop in the lower levels of the system; McCraw knew his exit was a sign to step up his performance.
\r\n
\r\n\"Drew Butera's trade was a big factor into what's going on with my career right now,\" he said. \"The fact that he was traded while I was playing well meant that I had to be real patient, but I think the maturity I showed, even while I wasn't playing often, stood out more than anything.\"
\r\n
\r\nHe left Savannah with his confidence riding high. But, while in St. Lucie, McCraw admits that he overextended himself. He tried to do too much, and was rattled as he tried to impress his coaches and observers, aiming to show that he could provide the same efficiency at the next level.
\r\n
\r\n\"I was disappointed how I handled certain situations,\" he said. \"Trying to do too much affected my game in certain elements. That was for the first two or three weeks, but I think I settled down towards the end. I didn't let failure get to me, but I do think I put too much pressure on myself when I got there.\"
\r\n
\r\nAt the plate, the largest difference was his patience. His strong on-base percentage in Savannah dropped to .340 with St. Lucie. The sharp decrease was attributed to his strike zone expansion, but also because he was simply fooled in hitter's counts in which he historically felt comfortable.
\r\n
\r\nWhen ahead in a 2-0 count or a 3-1 count, waiting for a fastball, changeups or sliders would catch him off guard, frustrating him. However, he remains positive, anticipating that the corrections will come with more experience at that level.
\r\n
\r\n\"I feel like I held my own against the pitching there. I never really felt overmatched. The biggest challenges were hitting pitcher's pitches in hitter's counts,\" he said. \"Getting a pitcher's pitch in a hitter's count wasn't something that I was expecting hitting from the six or seven-hole. I keep that in the back of my head and I have to make adjustments.\"
\r\n
\r\n\"Before I went up there, I told myself that I would stay with the same approach at the plate, but of course I didn't, and I think that really hurt me. My numbers weren't bad, but they certainly weren't what I expected,\" he continued.
\r\n
\r\nYet McCraw found comfort in his defense, which continued to improve as the season went on. He was able to progress his ability to call games while working with the St. Lucie staff. Yet, his largest trouble spot remains throwing out baserunners.
\r\n
\r\nDuring the winter season, his focus will remain entirely on this practice. As he uses the time in Hawaii to keep working, he knows that the concentration he puts into his defense will pay off come March, more than attempting to impress from the batter's box.
\r\n
\r\n\"It'll be all about my defense here,\" he said. \"I don't think hitting .300 here will have any effect on what I do going into spring training.\"
\r\n
\r\n\"Most of my focus is going to be on throwing runners out, that's the biggest part of my defense that I need to work. I'm real streaky when it comes to throwing to the bases. Not that I have a lot of throwing errors, but I'll go 0-for-7 on baserunners, and then I'll throw six runners out in a row,\" he explained.
\r\n
\r\nNow a member of the Waikiki Beachboys, McCraw knows that the privilege of participating in the Hawaiian Winter League is opportunity that comes to so few.
\r\n
\r\n\"I wasn't even home yet when I got the call. I was still driving to Savannah to pick up a few things. I wanted to go to Hawaii, or even just get an invitation to play somewhere this fall, but I didn't think they [the organization] thought that highly of me. It really was a big surprise,\" he said.
\r\n
\r\nFor McCraw, his success should start to come more frequently as his confidence builds at the higher levels. Going into next season, he should receive a starting job, and his skills set will come around with the added repetition. For now, McCraw is going to enjoy the \"winter\" ball.
\r\n
\r\n\"I think most guys obviously work towards getting a winter invite,\" he said. \"But, to get a spot out here, getting to play baseball in this atmosphere, you gotta have fun with it.\"
\r\n
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