Ryan Brett Blossoming as Leadoff Hitter

Bowling Green's Ryan Brett is fast becoming one of the best hitters in the Rays' system and was recently named the Minor League Player of the Month for May. The Seattle native is also developing into the quintessential leadoff prototype by demonstrating the ability to consistently get on base and steal bases. His continued success is due to hard work and he continues to try and refine his game.

"I don't try to do too much," says Ryan Brett, the Bowling Green Hot Rods second baseman, when describing his game. "My game is to take a walk, bunt for a base hit, hit a single and steal second."

Brett's mentality and approach are perfect for being a leadoff hitter and that is where he has always been the most comfortable. Hitting leadoff as a professional comes very natural to him because of his past experience in this role.

"I've been hitting leadoff all my life," Brett said. "It's nothing new to me."

Brett was recently selected to the Midwest League Eastern Division all-star team and went 0-for-2 coming off the bench in the game on Tuesday. It was Brett's first time making an all-star team as a professional and was a huge honor for the infielder.

"I was excited to make an all-star team. It's going to be quite an experience," Brett said a couple of days before the game. "I'm going to do whatever I can to help."

Brett was also named the Rays organization May Player of the Month after he hit .343 in the month with two home runs, two doubles, two triples, and nine runs batted in.

"When I first heard, it was unreal," Brett said about learning of the back-to-back honors he received.

He currently has 72 hits on the season, a total that ties him with outfielder Drew Vettleson for the team lead, and is hitting .314, with 7 doubles, three triples and five home runs in 229 at-bats.

The home run total may come as a little bit of a surprise when looking at the 5'9" 180 pound frame of the second baseman, but the more he works on his strength and staying relaxed in the box, the more the ball keeps going over the fence.

"The home runs will come," Brett said. "It's not something I'm trying to do but if I hit one it's just a bonus."

Brett's April batting average was .295 and he attributes the increase in his average in May to the weather getting warmer and beginning to get more accustomed to playing full-season ball after playing at the rookie level the last two seasons.

Brett tied the franchise record for most hits in a game with 5 on May 21. He also had a 28 game on-base streak from April 4 to May 14 and from April 15 to May 5 added a 15-game hit streak to his growing resume.

Running and base stealing are aspects of Brett's game that he continues to excel at. He currently has 19 stolen bases and has only been caught stealing five times.

Stealing bases is something Brett enjoys doing and he has the green light from manager Brady Williams to take a base when he sees fit.

"I try to stay relaxed on the base paths because the tenser I got the more often I got thrown out," Brett explained. "I try to take advantage when I can, especially when you have a high leg kick pitcher on the mound."

Brett has been working a lot on his swing and approach over the past year. He is a naturally aggressive hitter, so he has had to make a concerted effort to work on being patient at the plate. When he is in a funk it is usually because he is chasing pitches that he doesn't want to hit.

"I've been working on getting my hips cleared more and trying to keep the same approach. Also, trying to zone in on my pitch in the zone instead of trying to chase everything," Brett explained about his efforts to remain more patient.

The Seattle, Washington native was selected in the third round of the 2010 draft out of Highline High School. Brett was often criticized and doubted because of his height by scouts so being taken in the first 100 picks was kind of surprising for Brett.

"I was really excited," Brett said.

Brett chose to play professional baseball and sign with the Rays instead of enrolling at Gonzaga where he had a commitment. He knew in high school, that baseball was all he wanted to focus on and thought being drafted in the third round might be his best opportunity to be drafted that high.

"I wanted to try and get better and make it to the next level," Brett said about his decision to start his pro career right out of high school.

The second baseman enjoys being in Bowling Green rather than Princeton, where he played last year, because there are more fans and the atmosphere is much more exciting. However, despite his love of playing in front of a bigger home crowd, Brett is currently hitting .355 on the road and only .267 at home.

"On the road I'm more relaxed," Brett said. "I feel pressure to do well at home."

The lefty swinging Brett has had his troubles against southpaws this season only hitting .250 against them compared to .331 against righties. The biggest trouble for him has been letting the ball get deeper in the zone instead of trying to drive it to the opposite field.

"I try to chase the outside pitch and get around it, instead of just taking it the other way," Brett said.

Bunting for base hits is another aspect of his game that he has been working diligently on and while he has been executing the play a lot in practice, he doesn't get the opportunity to use the skill much in games.

But Brett does more than just work on his offense game. He feels he has improved greatly on defense since coming into the Midwest League. Turning double plays and tracking balls to his left and right are drills that Brett works religiously on.

"I was trying to do things way too fast," Brett said about his improving defense. "Now I've gained a lot more confidence and I want the ball hit to me because I know I can make the play."

Austin Nichols is the Bowling Green beat writer for Rays Digest. You can follow him on Twitter at @Nichols_HotRods.


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