When Braxton Lane was selected by the Rangers in the seventh round of last summer's MLB Draft, he was regarded as a toolsy, but raw player that would need some time to develop.
That was evident once Lane took the field after signing for a $125,000 bonus. Playing with the rookie-level AZL Rangers, he went just 12-for-65 [.185] with one extra-base hit, striking out 33 times––almost half of his plate appearances.
On top of the struggles, the switch-hitter also missed a chunk of the AZL season with a bone spur in his elbow. As Lane stated in that previous article, he was eventually forced to miss Fall Instructional League in order to have surgery on the elbow. Lane was limited all the way up to Spring Training, and he was unable to play full-go in game action until the end of camp.
Coming out of Sandy Creek High School in Georgia, Lane signed a dual scholarship to play both football [wide receiver] and baseball at the University of Oregon. As a two-sport player, Lane had never been able to focus solely on baseball, and he had trouble keeping up with the speed of the professional game during his first stint in pro ball.
All the time off certainly wasn't helping the 5-foot-10, 190-pound speedster, and he struggled at the beginning of Extended Spring Training.
But lately, Lane is beginning to turn it on. Lane, who had just one extra-base hit in 65 at-bats last summer, belted a home run from the right side of the plate earlier this week. The next day, he turned on a fastball and crushed a round-tripper from the left side. In another recent game, he poked an opposite-field double to the wall in left-center field.
Lane still has quite a ways to go in his development as a hitter, but he is making major strides less than one full year into his career. The outfielder often had fastballs blown by him last year, but as he states in the following interview, he implemented a toe-tap that is helping him stay on top of the plate and make more consistent contact.
The adjustment has kept Lane from swinging and missing nearly as much, as he has been able to foul off good breaking balls before hitting fastballs hard in recent days. Lane's recent success is a definite confidence builder, and that's perhaps the most important thing for a young prospect that has struggled at the plate.
Lone Star Dugout interviewed the 19-year-old after Friday morning's game, in which he went 1-for-2 with a double and a base on balls.
Jason Cole: I want to start off by going back to your Spring Training. You were a little limited at first because of the surgery, weren't you?
Braxton Lane: Yeah, I was really limited the first couple weeks of Spring Training, with the elbow. It was feeling pretty good coming into camp, but on the first day, we did some throwing and it kind of bit me a little bit.
We backed it off for a little bit and got on to a throwing program. I eventually got off that, and by the end of Spring Training and into Extended, we were full-go.
Cole: So you're feeling like you're at 100 percent right now?
Lane: Yeah, everything is at 100 percent.
Cole: Were you able to get any full action in Spring Training, like playing games both as a hitter and in the outfield?
Lane: I did get to play some games in the field toward the end of Spring Training. Like I said, toward the end of Spring Training and headed into Extended is when I was really full-game ready and being able to play everything at 100 percent.
Cole: How do you feel you have been playing out here in Extended Spring Training?
Lane: I feel like I have actually been playing pretty well. Especially when you compare the way I'm playing as of right now to last year. I think I'm a totally different player. Everything is really starting to click for me. I think, with all the coaches here––all the hard work that we did every day has really been paying off for me.
Cole: When you look at your performance in the AZL last year compared to what you are doing out here right now, what would you say has been the main difference?
Lane: I'd say just being more of a baseball player. I'm getting more hits, running the bases better, and just learning more about the game at this level. I have been able to put what I've learned––what we work on every day––towards the game here in extended. I feel like I've made a 180-degree turn from where I was last year to right now.
Cole: Had you ever played baseball full-time before this season?
Lane: Not really, actually. Just baseball season in high school. It was always football half the year and then baseball for a quarter. Even summer ball––once it was time for summer ball, I had to cut that short to get ready for football. So I never really got a chance to devote myself 100 percent to baseball until last year after I got drafted.
Cole: I'm sure you enjoyed playing football, but how much has it helped your game now that your life has pretty much been all baseball for the last year?
Lane: I feel like it has helped tremendously. I have been working with the coaches and even doing work after practice just so I can get more swings. I'm working on repetition because I haven't had that full-time thing that the other guys have had since they were a lot younger. I think being able to focus my time 100 percent now has helped me ten-fold.
Cole: What position have you mostly been playing in the outfield out here?
Lane: I've been playing left field since I started in Spring Training and out here in extended.
Cole: You hit a right-handed home run a few days ago, a left-handed home run a day later, and you got an opposite-field double from the left side today. Do you feel your game power is improving as the game slows down for you?
Lane: A lot more. This extended––I had high expectations, but I can honestly say that I am doing better than what I expected. You always go in expecting to do great things, but when you see it really coming to fruition so early and have success like I am right now––I'm just hoping to carry it into the season.
It has really been a good feeling for me, seeing two home runs. I didn't have any last year. I've been hitting a lot more triples and a lot more doubles––really driving the ball instead of hitting the ball.
Cole: Is there anything in particular you have really been focusing on offensively?
Lane: I started a toe tap from both sides of the plate. My approach now is to take away the outer half of the plate. I'm working on not pulling off the ball. That approach really helps me stay on the ball and let my hands and legs work.
Cole: You're getting close to playing in games where official stats are kept. Have you set any goals or expectations for yourself for the remainder of your first full year?
Lane: Definitely. My goal is to hit .300. Some would call that mediocre, but I think that's really good. I think it would be a good benchmark to set for a goal. Home runs and things like that––I'm not really counting on anything like that.
I think if I can put a good swing on the ball––I think I have some power, and they might go out, but I'm definitely not a home run hitter. I don't go up there swinging for the fences. Really I'm just going out there and trying to hit .300 and help my team win. That's really all I can ask for.
Lane gaining confidence
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