Name: Chad Tracy
Position: Left Field
DOB: July 4, 1985
This feature article appeared on September 23, 2007
The 2007 campaign was a rollercoaster ride for Single-A Clinton outfielder Chad Tracy, who was playing his first full season of professional baseball.
Tracy got off to a fast start, as he went into the All-Star break as the Midwest League leader in both doubles and runs batted in. However, Tracy struggled in the second half, batting just .217 with six home runs and 29 RBI in 67 post-All-Star break games.
When the dust had settled, the Pepperdine product had mixed feelings about his season.
"I think there were a lot of positives and there was some stuff that wasn't," said Tracy of his 2007 season. "The first half was really good, I did a lot of things right. The second half was a little bit of a struggle. It was kind of a tale of two seasons for me."
Although Tracy did not particularly light the world on fire in August, his biggest struggles came in July, where he hit .189 with just eight extra-base hits in 106 at bats. The outfielder believes his month-long slump stemmed from an early-July series.
"I just ran into some struggles at the beginning of July that lasted through July," he said. "It was my worst month this season. One particular team pitched me against the grain of what other teams did and it threw me off guard for four games. I found myself trying to adjust to that for a month when I should have just stayed right with my approach."
Tracy says he spent much of the season's second half working to regain the swing he possessed early in the year.
"The coaching staff and I recognized I was being pitched differently and I had to make some adjustments," replied Tracy. "When they started pitching me different, my swing changed, so we started working on getting my swing back."
After appearing in 134 of Clinton's 137 games this past season, some have suggested that Tracy grew tired down the stretch. However, he does not believe that was the case.
"A lot of people ask if I got tired," said Tracy, "but I don't feel like it was a physical thing at all as far as being tired. That really didn't affect me. I felt pretty good."
Tracy – who was a catcher throughout his career at Pepperdine University and in his professional debut with short-season Spokane – spent much of the season focusing on his defense after the Rangers elected to move Tracy to left field in spring training. Having never really played in the outfield before, the adjustment wasn't an easy one for Tracy.
"I know how I felt in spring training when I stepped into the outfield for the first time," he said. "I was very uncomfortable, my footwork had a long way to go, and I wasn't quite certain how to go back on the ball. All my moves were not done with confidence."
But the former backstop felt he was able to make the necessary adjustments throughout the season.
"By a month into the season when I was out there in Clinton taking BP and working on it, I felt like I progressed a lot," said Tracy. "I was very confident with my footwork, I knew where I was going to go, and I knew how to beat the ball to the spot. I still have a long way to go, but I took big strides out there."
Tracy credits much of his defensive development to first-year LumberKings manager Mike Micucci.
"[Mike] Micucci is unbelievable," he said. "He's probably the best manager I've ever played for, and I've played for some good ones too. I've been with Micucci for two years now. He's one of those guys that knows a little bit about everything. He was a catcher, so obviously he helped me out with that when I first signed. He's just a baseball guy and he knows how things are supposed to be done. He just kind of makes his way around during BP and tries to spread any kind of knowledge he can on you."
After spending the majority of the season in left field, the Rangers decided to give Tracy a crack at first base in August. The 22-year-old says learning another position can only make him a more valuable commodity down the line.
"They said it was just another piece to what I would be doing," said Tracy when asked if he would continue to play first base. "If you're able to be a player that plays in different spots, it increases your value. I'm going to the Hawaii Winter League and they said there is a chance I'll be doing a good amount of first base there."
Tracy also did some catching early in the season. Though he didn't appear behind the plate down the stretch, the son of former Pirates manager Jim Tracy would like to get another crack at catching someday.
"It's really up to the minor league people that are in charge for the Rangers, but I hope so," said Tracy of catching again. "It's something I've done my whole life. If I'm a guy that will be able to play left field or first base everyday and then be able to go back once or twice a week to catch a game, I think that's something valuable. I'm hoping they will still allow me to work on it and get adequate at it so I can do it again."
The 6-foot-3 slugger realizes the challenge he will face in developing at three different positions.
"I'm going to play left, I'm going to play first, and I've got to take some time to put drill work into both," he said. "I've got to get better at both of them. No matter what, whether they want to throw me at first, in left, or behind the plate, I'm able to do it on a whim."
Batting and Power: Tracy was regarded as one of the top collegiate hitters in the nation when he was at Pepperdine University from 2004-2006. He posted a solid debut season with Spokane in 2006, but wore down late in the year with the Indians. That trend continued in 2007, as he batted just .217 over the last two months of the season. Tracy is a line drive hitter with the ability to drive the ball to all fields. His power is a shade above-average. Though Tracy's power translated more into doubles (35) than home runs (14) with Clinton in '07, he should start seeing more long balls as he moves into the much more hitter-friendly California League in 2008. Tracy has shown great potential with the bat over the last two seasons, but he must be more consistent.
Base Running and Speed: Tracy's speed is a bit below-average, but he has used it judiciously over the last two seasons. The outfielder has attempted just 15 stolen bases in 200 professional games, but he was successful on 13 of those tries.
Defense: Drafted as a catcher, many wondered whether Tracy – typically regarded as a below-average defender – would be able to stick at the position. Though he did catch occasionally for Clinton last season, Tracy spent the majority of his time in left field, where he is likely to stay. Tracy struggled to read balls early in the year but did show improvement as the season progressed. Because he is not a particularly fast runner, Tracy's range will probably never be more than average. His arm also rates as average in left field. The native of California also played some first base towards the end of last season. He expects to play both left field and first base going forward.
Projection: Regardless of where he is playing in the field, Tracy will be a valuable prospect because of his potential with the bat. The 22-year-old should hit well enough to stick at either first base or left field, but his defense will likely always be a question mark. Should Tracy make it to the major leagues, he could be a versatile player who is able to put in time at both the left field and first base positions while doing some DH work.
2008 Outlook: The 22-year-old will look to make the jump to High-A Bakersfield in 2008. The move should benefit Tracy, as he spent his entire 2007 season in a league that is notoriously tough on hitters. An in-season promotion to Double-A Frisco would not be out of the question, but because of his reputation of wearing down late in the year, the Rangers may want Tracy to prove he can sustain success at one level for an entire season.