"I just feel more comfortable now," said Austin Schotts when asked about his ability to torch the opposition at the plate this season. "I am seeing pitches better and am learning to read the spin on the ball a lot better. Everything seems to be starting to click."
It's safe to say that things have certainly clicked at the plate for young Schotts. Through 36 games, Schotts' .338 batting average and .876 OPS rank second best in the Gulf Coast League. Schotts has also recorded ten doubles, a triple, three homers, 21 RBIs and twelve stolen bases over 139 at-bats this season.
The game of baseball and its fast-paced arduous grind is nothing new for Austin Schotts though.
"I really believe that I was born to play baseball," said Schotts.
"When I was 7-years-old my dad started me in 90mph cages," Schotts further stated. "My brother and I would always compete with each other to see who could hit the most balls since they were coming so fast. I grew up hitting at faster speeds."
Well Austin, we can tell.
For many, it has been a delight to watch Schotts in the batters box this season. His simple sweet swing, impressive bat speed and polished advanced approach are remarkable given his age.
While it's easy to marvel at Austin's mammoth season at the plate, the real treat has been his maturity and development defensively. The results are encouraging when you consider that it's been less than three months since the soon-to-be 19-year-old was asked to change positions.
You see, Schotts learned through the grapevine shortly after being drafted that the Tigers planned on developing him as an outfielder not a shortstop. Despite no prior experience Schotts welcomed the move and he's progressing nicely.
Even the almighty scouts, well known for their skepticism, see some progress and potential.
"He's an instinctual guy. You can see it in the way he plays. You can also see he's trying to figure how those instincts relate to the outfield. I think he can do it, but he's not there yet," said one NL Scout.
Another NL scout remarked, "He shows you some great reads and will really get a jump on a few balls. Then he'll come back and look a little lost on some. The talent is in there but he's got to learn."
Overall, the consensus is that he "fits better there [CF] than in the infield," further stating, "he knows the game well enough to catch on quickly."
Surely there's work to be done. The coaches know it. The scouts see it. Heck, even Austin realizes it. Regardless, the determination, work ethic and progress speak volumes.
Austin Schotts will succeed.
"I feel more comfortable every day," Schotts stated when asked about his progress. "I am getting better reads and taking better routes on balls. I feel like I am improving. I love the gap shots and the bloopers. I like to test myself to see how far I can go to make the plays. It's fun learning to read the ball off the bat when you are deeper in the field. It feels like being a wide receiver."
The coaches and teammates are giving Austin the tools to succeed. A student of the game, Schotts is taking advantage of his peers; working hard to perfect his craft. "I just train and listen and learn from what they tell me," Schotts further stated. "It is a different read off the bat from center than when I was at short. My coach, Basilio Cabrera, has helped me a lot with the transition and my roommate, Ismael Salgado, has been giving me pointers about how to improve my game defensively too because he has played outfield longer than I have."
Schotts further spoke on how his plus-speed has also aided the process.
"If I get a bad read on the ball my speed helps make up for that a bit," Schotts stated. "I love making plays and running which is probably why they put me in center."
Routinely cited for his advanced feel for the game, solid work ethic and mature approach, Schotts features the perfect combination of talent, confidence and humility.
"I have no fear of something I believe I was born to do," said Schotts. I go out and give it everything I've got every game. As far as carrying myself, it's not a game to me, it's my life. I want to project myself in a way that looks good to God and to everyone."
A simple glance at Schotts' character and small but impressive body of work and it's easy to predict a bright future. If/when obstacles arise while he's on that long and often bumpy road to the show; I'm even more confident that he'll have the maturity and drive to push forward.
James R. Chipman is the Lakeland Flying Tigers correspondent for TigsTown. Be sure to follow him on twitter @JAYRC_TigsTown.