In his last two seasons, with High-A Bakersfield and Double-A Frisco, respectively, Chad Tracy had gained a reputation as a bit of a slow starter. Tracy batted just .228 at Bakersfield in April '08, and he hit .238 in Double-A last April.
So far this April, the 24-year-old appears to have bucked the trend. In his first eight Triple-A games, Tracy is 12-for-35 [.343] with three doubles, a triple, and three home runs––good for a .743 slugging percentage and a 1.086 OPS.
Although Tracy hasn't drawn any walks yet, he is doing exactly what led to his second-half success last season––laying off pitches out of the strike zone and waiting for a ball up and over the plate. Tracy is one of the best fastball hitters in the system, and his excellent power is evident when he's hitting pitches up and over the plate.
As Tracy talks about in the following interview, he doesn't feel the discipline is consistent enough yet, as he will still chase bad pitches and fall behind in the count from time to time. But, for the most part, the former Pepperdine standout has been successful thus far.
While Tracy is making his Triple-A debut this season, he also got his first big league Spring Training experience last month. The 6-foot-3, 210-pound prospect played in 10 total games with the Rangers, going 4-for-11 with a double, a triple, and a walk.
Lone Star Dugout caught up with Tracy after Thursday's game, in which he went 2-for-4 with a double and a solo home run.
Jason Cole: I talked to you while you were in big league camp this spring, so how did you feel your Spring Training went after you went back down to the minor league side?
Chad Tracy: It was good. I was fortunate to spend a little extra time in big league camp–more than I expected. I got some good work done. The reps–a little less reps down there, because there are a lot more guys obviously.
You have to take what you learned and what you're working on–you have to stay focused with it and try to get as much done on your own. I just tried to continue my work that I was doing in big league camp and tried to take it over to the other side.
Cole: You've moved up one level per year since you've been in the system, pretty much. What was your mindset coming into your first Triple-A season?
Tracy: I think a lot of the same stuff we talked about in Spring Training, and I'm still working on it. Today was good, but it has kind of been hot and cold. Plate discipline, for me. I thought that was what got me going last year, and I thought it would be very important for me to continue that this year, especially being a level higher.
There are a lot of guys that are veteran guys. A lot of guys that have been in the big leagues before that know how to move the ball and do things with it–move it out of the zone. What I was working on there has been so far, and it will continue to be very important that I pay close attention to my plate discipline. I have to make sure I'm swinging at strikes.
Cole: How often are you going in and out of it? When you struggle with discipline these days, is it a game-by-game or one at-bat thing, or do you have longer stretches?
Tracy: As a hitter, you'd like it to be a one-game or a couple at-bat thing. That's the key to being a good hitter–being able to make adjustments on the fly and make them quick. That's something that has hurt me in the past. I don't like to struggle for a month and a half. You've got to be able to work out of stuff a little quicker.
So far this season, it has just been a game or a couple games. Then I'll be able to fix it. But still, it's an adjustment. It is very important every day because you have to go up there with focus. You can't go up there just thinking it's going to happen for you and the ball is going to be in the middle of the plate all the time. You've really got to focus on getting something to hit.
Cole: You've had your first week-plus of Triple-A baseball. How is it going for you so far?
Tracy: It's going alright. Like I said, it has only been a week. I still think I'm not quite where I want to be as far as consistency goes. I've definitely taken some very good swings so far this season. But consistency-level, I need to get more consistent with it. It is kind of what I expected it to be, and focus and concentration is very important at this level.
Cole: You hit a home run today. Take me through that at-bat.
Tracy: Well, he's a sinkerballer–Corcoran. He was throwing a lot of sinkers and sliders–a little cut-slider. And he is very effective down in the zone. He got a couple guys out down in the zone, throwing a lot of sinkers. Especially in that situation right there, I'm just trying to get something up in the zone. I don't want to swing at his pitch and pound a sinker into the ground for a ground ball.
So I was patient with him, like we just talked about. He threw me a sinker and a couple sliders–one was a strike and then down and out of the zone. And then 2-1, I think it was, I got one about thigh-high. Got the one I wanted to and I put a good swing on it.
Cole: You hit a double off Corcoran in your next plate appearance. Can you talk about that one a bit?
Tracy: That was the second pitch, I believe. He threw me a little cut-slider down and away and missed. I laid off it for a ball. Then he threw me almost an identical pitch. It was little runner, but it was up in the zone. I was just doing the same thing–make sure I get a ball up and don't let him sink the ball and let me roll over it. I tried to do the same thing I did the at-bat before.
Cole: You got your first game in the field today, playing at first base. You've DHed the other games. Take me through your routine when you are a DH. Do you do anything special to stay in the game the entire time?
Tracy: I don't do a whole lot. I try to just stay focused on the game. When DHing, it's easy to get in the dugout after an at-bat and have side conversations or kind of mess around, and before you know it, you're like, ‘Oh, I'm coming up to hit.' I don't like to do that. It's tough.
It's a lot tougher than people think. I try to stay as focused on the game both when we're on defense and when we're hitting. I want to pay attention to the pitchers and what they're throwing. If I have to wait two innings before I can hit again, I want to develop a plan for when I do get that next at-bat.
Just trying to stay locked in on the game. It keeps me in the game. That's a lot easier when you're playing defense, because you can't sit around. You have to go right back out and play defense. I just try to watch what's going on at all times, and that helps me stay in the game a little better.
Cole: When you're DHing, is it possible to over-think things at all? Like just sitting there for two innings and thinking about a previous bad at-bat?
Tracy: Absolutely. That's probably the hardest part about DHing. Obviously, when you go out on defense, you can think about it. But as soon as that first pitch is thrown, it's flushed out of your head because the ball can be hit at you. You've got to be ready to go.
But yeah, definitely. You almost have to learn how to let it go a lot quicker. You have to flush it if you have a bad at-bat. You can't sit there and overanalyze it. If you do that for two innings, by the time you go up there you've been thinking two innings of negative thoughts. You really have to learn how to flush that out and just take your next at-bat.
Tracy off to hot start
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