No questions, no doubts.
Headley has always been considered a good player; steady on defense, hitting in the .290-.310 range, taking his walks with limited power. So far this year a few things have changed.
By the end of April Headley, 23, was either first or second in the Texas League in batting average, on-base and slugging percentages, extra base hits, RBIs and run scored. He hit .360/.444/.651 with five home runs and 17 RBIs, which was good enough to make him the Madfriars.com Player of the Month.
Not only did he significantly improve upon his career batting average and on-base percentages, but he has vastly improved the one aspect of his game that was thought to hold him back from being an everyday third baseman in the major leagues, power.
So far he's kept it up, going into Thursday night's game he was hitting .365/.448/.617. The switch-hitting Headley has played a solid third base defensively, and with little above him and David Freese in Lake Elsinore, we should see him in Portland by mid-season.
Next spring he could be in the mix for an everyday job in San Diego.
Last year you pretty much went straight from Eugene in the Northwest League to Lake Elsinore, skipping the Midwest League. You struggled for the first month and then really turned it on to end up being the most valuable player on the Storm. What was the big turning point for you?
Chase Headley: Really just confidence and getting used to the surroundings. There was a little bit better pitching, but it was really just getting that comfort level. Once I got comfortable and got back to doing what I used to do and not worrying about a lot of other things I was fine. I worked with Tommy [Tournincasa, the hitting coach at Lake Elsinore last year, and this year's hitting coach with San Antonio] a lot and made some slight mechanical adjustments. More than anything it was just getting comfortable. When you skip a level it will take some time.
Did some of the increased expectations have an effect on you? After your first year you were fairly high in most of the prospect ranking charts?
Chase Headley: I think it's one of those things where there are a lot of other things going on, Baseball America hype..
Hey, we had you pretty high, too.
Chase Headley: Yeah that's right I remember [laughs], but it doesn't really mean anything until you go out and do it in the major leagues. You know about it and you hear about it, but you try not to let it affect you very much. Maybe it was somewhere in the back of my head that I was trying to do more than I was capable off. Once I just got back to playing ball I was fine.
We thought you did pretty well defensively at third base in Lake Elsinore, which is the toughest infield in the system because of the rock hard infields from the desert and we know third base is where the motocross jump is at the Diamond. How did you handle that defensively?
Chase Headley: It was definitely a fast infield. It's one of those places where you have to be real aggressive or the ball is going to eat you up. What I tried to do was come in as much as possible and get the ball in-between hops. If I booted a ball, I booted a ball, but if you sit back you are going to run into a lot of problems.
You had a very good year at Lake Elsinore; you were our Player of the Year. I think the only two knocks against you was that you didn't hit left-handers well and didn't hit with as much power as you would like a third baseman too. Obviously on the power side this year you seem to have corrected that. One, how did you increase you power numbers and two what are you doing to improve from the right side?
Chase Headley: The power thing, well last year was really kind of a result of a long season for me. It was my first full season of pro ball and I don't think I was in the type of shape that I needed to be in. I lost a lot of weight that I had put on in the off-season. I had nine or 10 home runs before the All-Star break and only three or four afterwards [Chase had 9ninehome runs in May and June, three in July and August].
This year I worked really hard in the weight room. I put on about 10 or 15 pounds and tried to focus more on explosive work so I could hold the weight better. As far as that side goes, it's been going pretty well, but we'll see what happens when the hot summer comes.
The hitting from the right side was just kind of a fluke. It's my natural side and in college I always hit better right-handed and it just kind of got into my head last year. I didn't see a lot of left-handed pitching at the beginning of the year and I just got into a funk and never really came out of it. This year I've seen some more left-handed pitching so that has helped. I really worked on it this off-season and kind of got comfortable with my swing again.
How did you put on 15 pounds of weight in the off-season?
Chase Headley: I played in the Fall League and got together with the organization's strength coach. He had me eating every three hours to try to put five meals a day into me. I would wake up at 7:00 AM eat, then 10, 1 and so on. Once I put on the weight I was around 227, then I kind of cut back because I was getting a little too big. Right now I'm around 220 and feel really good.
When you talk about pounding the ball, nearly half of your hits have gone for extra bases. Is the increased strength the reason behind that or are you recognizing pitches better this year?
Chase Headley: It's really a combination of both. Some of it is the extra weight because I always had a big frame, but most of the weight was in my legs – so I just feel stronger all over with the increased upper body strength. Right now, I feel a little bit quicker to the baseball.
It's still very early in the season and some balls find the gap and others don't. I don't want to say or feel like I've accomplished any of my goals yet.
Last question, what has been the biggest jump for you. So many people say it's the jump to Double-A. Do you believe that?
Chase Headley: Going to the Arizona Fall League helped me so much, I feel like I got a jump on the competition. I saw some of the guys, you just kind of adjust. The more you are around it, the more it isn't that big of a deal. There is definitely some good competition, but I haven't been overwhelmed by the competition yet.
..but I'll let you know at the end of the year if I still think that [laughing].