Name: Eric Sogard
DOB: May 22, 1986
The Arizona native is a scrappy player that thrives on the little things. He is an excellent at executing the hit-and-run, going the other way to move a runner over and working the count into his favor.
"Sogard – great makeup," 2007 Eugene hitting coach Jose Flores said. "An old school kind of player that will always give you 100 percent, whatever is in his tank."
"Eric is what we call in baseball ‘a player'," 2007 Fort Wayne hitting coach Bob Skube said. "He is just a guy that has a lot of instinct. He is not a big bruising guy but is going through an adjustment in his hitting. He was down at Instructs and absolutely had a spectacular Instructional League."
After hitting .256 with short-season Eugene over 31 games, the infielder was shipped to Low-A Fort Wayne. He batted .253 with the Wizards over 22 games.
Sogard had a three at-bat stint with the Portland Beavers, striking out each time he came to the dish. He looked at it as a positive experience, despite the negative stats.
For the year, Sogard drew 25 walks while fanning 32 times across three leagues.
A contact hitter that has good pitch recognition and can stay back on the ball, Sogard thrives when he keeps things simple and puts his swing-effort at less than maximum effort.
Sogard had trouble with ball on the outer half of the plate, overextending his arms rather than keeping a smooth stroke and maintaining balance by keeping his body square. With his balance off-center, and leaning out over the middle of the plate, Sogard's bat head would drop and create lift under the ball to the opposite field – a lazy fly out.
His approach will change based on the situation. With nobody out, he tends to be aggressive and fearless. There are times when he becomes too eager to connect for an extra-base hit as the outs pile up, rather than staying relaxed and keep a consistent frame of mind in the myriad of situations that baseball brings.
The goal should always be to put a good swing on the ball. Trying to hit for power has never benefited a player. When he is relaxed, his hands are in a natural hitting position and don't drop. He simply rocks back in his stance and keeps his swing short and compact through the ball.
"Sogard is going to have to work on middle, middle-away pitches and driving the ball that way," Flores said. "He had a little bit of lag when he goes the other way. He needs to focus on letting the ball get there and taking the same approach where he is hitting over the ball instead of underneath the ball so he can have more drive the other way."
Sogard does have surprising pop for his stature. He will launch a few over the fences but his true strength is hitting line drives and taking an extra base when the opportunity presents itself. Sogard should benefit from Tony Muser's hitting philosophy of backspin because his swing is level and his swing plane won't change a whole lot to get the necessary backspin that creates lift and carry.
A solid bunter that has good speed, Sogard will drop a bunt in just about any situation. During one game in Eugene, he laid the bat head out with two men on and the Emeralds down late in the game.
A left-handed hitter, his ability to drop the ball down the line gives him opportunities when the fielders play in. He generally has good control of the strike zone and does well placing the ball to different parts of the field on balls middle-in.
"He is not a guy that chases out of the strike zone," Flores said. "As he gets older and start recognizing the pitches being thrown to him on a regular basis, I could see him shortening up even more so to focus on the one pitch, one spot theory all the time.
"He has great command of the strike zone. He knows what he is trying to do up there. He will put a bunt down when he needs to. He is an all-around player – a baseball player."
Sogard swiped six bags in 10 attempts over two leagues. Improving his balance on the bags should assist him in picking up a few more stolen bases. He has a tendency to stand on the balls of his feet and rock before taking flight. He does not have exceptional speed but should be able to post double-digit steals in the coming years.
"He has a lot of instinct – another gamer, another player," Skube said. "As a manager you say, ‘This guy can play for me anytime because he is not going to be out of position. He is always going to make contact when he needs to and he is going to surprise you with some power into the gaps while hitting some home runs.'"
While he played shortstop at times in Eugene, Sogard is better suited for second base due to lack of arm strength and adequate range.
Sogard has worked hard on his balance and ability to stay in a crouch while throwing the ball. He will, at times, stand up too tall, causing throws to have a tendency to become errant.
The Pacific-10 Defensive Player of the Year showed a solid turn at second base on the double play and was confident sticking on the bag and attacking the ball. There are, however, doubts about his defensive ability.
"He is definitely a second baseman," Eugene manager Greg Riddoch said. "He could work in a pinch at short but is more of a second baseman. I am not sure Sogard could be a utility player in the big leagues because he couldn't be a regular shortstop for two weeks."
"He has to play second base," former Padres minor league field coordinator and current MLB scout Bill Bryk said. "He can't play shortstop. He is OK at second – not great, just average. He has to hit a ton to play in the big leagues because that is his only position."
ETA:Sogard has good patience at the plate but lacks top end speed. That makes his ascension to the majors reliant on his ability to hit for more power and play stringent defense at second base, since he appears to be limited to that position. Right now, he has not shown an affinity for either, but it usually is a tough first season in the professional ranks and hard to judge solely based on that. He does have to make strides this year to prove he belongs.