Reggie Abercrombie rocketed up the Dodgers food chain, going from the Pioneer Rookie League to the Double-A Southern League in just three years after signing in 2000, but stalled there.
Like fellow Arizona Fall League invitee Bill Murphy, Abercrombie changed teams as part of the Steve Finley deal in July of 2004, and made his Arizona Fall League debut with the Diamondbacks that season, and went to the Florida Marlins after that season. He's back in the AFL as part of the Marlins representatives in 2005, and is working on plate discipline, just as he was last year.
"I've had some injuries, and it's been frustrating, but God has a plan for me," Abercrombie says from the dugout before a recent AFL game, "I know what I need to do to get better, and I'm in a place where I have a lot of people helping me with it."
What he needs to do is make more contact. Abercrombie has power, he's hit 15 home runs in two different minor league seasons, but he's also stuck out more than 150 times in three minor league seasons. The Marlins, like the Dodgers and Diamondbacks before them, would like to see Abercrombie cut down on his long swing and use his speed.
"It feels like a fresh start for me in Florida," Abercrombie says, "I don't look back, I'm always trying to look forward. I know what I can do, and now that I'm healthy, and I'm learning some things, and I think I'm ready to take a big step forward."
Some have questioned Abercrombie's work ethic, but in the AFL, coaches have praised both his work and his demeanor. He keeps some of the other players loose, joking and imitating. In fact, it becomes tough to interview other players on his team, because they often have to stop the interview because they are doubled over with laughter from Abercrombie jokes.
"I'm down here having fun. There are a lot of talented players here, and you have to be able to joke around with them. I'm a little older than some of the guys here [Abercrombie turned 25 July 15th] and I've been through this before, so I try and keep everybody loose."
Thus far Abercrombie has shown more of the same. Though he's hit in 13 of the 14 games in which he's appeared, and carries a .357 average in the Arizona Fall League, he's also struck out in 20 of his 57 at bats. It's an ongoing problem for Abercrombie, and by all accounts the only one holding him back from becoming a Major Leaguer. Though he's not worried, he also knows that changes have to be made.
"I know I need to make more contact, and the coaches here are helping me, especially John Mallee."
Mallee is the roving hitting instructor for the Marlins, and virtually every hitter on Abercrombie's AFL team, the Rafters, has praised his work. While it's rare for an instructor to be sent to the AFL, usually minor league managers and coaches make up the staff for each team, but his expertise has Abercrombie at least recognizing what he's doing wrong, even if he's yet to figure out how to fix it.
"He's been working with me on getting to the ball quicker, but it's a big change. He's definitely given me things that I can work on going into the offseason. We work everyday in the cage before games, and I'm listening to everything he says."
For Abercrombie, the Marlins may be a fresh start, but it's also getting toward the time when he might be on his last chance. Nobody denies his talent, but at 25, he'll need to make his adjustments soon. He's the third oldest position player on the Rafters roster, but the Marlins didn't send him to the AFL for kicks, in an organization that likes to stay young and inexpensive if he can start making more contact he should get his shot.