Stars of the AFL: Brandon Sing

If there were any questions about Brandon Sing being a true ballplayer, they were put to rest in 2004 when Sing hit 32 homers in just 408 at bats. In 2004 that might have sent Cubs fans, and the front office, into delirium. At the beginning of 2005 Sing got bumped up to Double-A West Tennessee, and while few expected Sing to get the call, even fewer expected Derrick Lee to suddenly turn into Albert Pujols with speed.

Midway through the season there were other questions about Brandon Sing, but those were put to rest last week. After the 2005 season Sing became a six year free agent.

"Yeah, I've always wanted to be a Cub," Sing said last week from Phoenix where his Mesa Solar Sox were preparing to take on the Grand Canyon Rafters in the Arizona Fall League, "so it was a pretty easy decision for me to resign."

Yes, Brandon Sing is remaining a Cub, and it would be hard to believe it is because of a lack of other opportunities.

"I look at the Arizona Fall League as an opportunity for me. If I do well down here I think they'll have to look at putting me on the 40 man roster. That's the idea anyway," Sing laughs. He knows that Lee isn't going anywhere anytime soon, but Sing isn't trying to compete.

"I really wouldn't care if I just came up to give him a day off every now and again," Sing says when asked what role he sees himself in if he were to get called up.

Conventional wisdom states that the Cubs are unlikely to do that though. Typically organizations feel an up and coming player is better served playing everyday in the minors rather than riding the pine in the bigs, and Sing knows it, but there could be another way...

"I've always been an infielder, my whole career, but if it gives me a better opportunity to get to the Majors, I'll try it."

Sing is talking about the outfield, left field to be specific, a spot he's been working on in the AFL.

"My first start ever out there was this week," Sing says, and while there is a lot of work to be done, he knows the opportunity would be worth the effort, "I like the challenge. It's been different, I love playing first base, but I'm working hard out there, and there's just more opportunity in the outfield in Chicago."

That might be one of the more obvious statements that Sing will make. In 2004, when Sing truly emerged, Moises Alou and Sammy Sosa were putting up big numbers in the corner outfield spots, and Corey Patterson seemed to be the long term answer in center field. What a difference a year makes. Sosa and Alou are gone and it appears Patterson might be following. While Matt Murton and Jason Dubois both got auditions in left field in '05, neither took the job by the horns. With Dubois gone to Cleveland, it has become obvious if Sing's defense was half of his offense, he might very well have a shot at the spot coming into spring training.

"Defense is the focus for me down here," Sing says, "A lot of what I'm working on seem like little things, but they make all the difference," and he's getting help, "[Cubs minor league coach] Von Joshua has been working with me a lot, and Matt Murton has been helping me too."

Not that Sing has given up his dreams of playing first base. In the AFL he's made only two outfield starts, while he's had four starts at first base and five as the designated hitter. Obviously, Sing's calling card will be his bat, and there's nothing wrong with that.

"I like to hit, and I'm looking forward to the challenge of hitting big league pitching," Sing says.

So far his plan appears to be going perfectly. In the AFL Sing is hitting .342 with three homers in 38 at bats. He's drawing walks, he's driving in runs, and he's playing well in the field. Though he'll never be confused with Andruw Jones, Alou wasn't exactly Gold Glove material either, and one thing is for sure, in the batter's box, he'll do just fine.

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