Boesch Befuddles Scouts, Observers Alike

A scout sat in the press box at Jerry Uht Park last week in the days leading up to the trading deadline staring at the scouting report he was scheduled to file in a day. He sat peering at the paper, discontent with what he just recorded. "How do I fill this out?" he asked. "Every time I start to fill it out I don't feel good about it."

"He hits the ball hard, plays decent defense, but he's too wild at the plate. Way too wild," he said. "Brennan Boesch. This is the hardest report I've had to file in a while."

It wasn't the first time that someone has been completely flummoxed by Boesch. He's the type of player that would make Billy Beane and the other leaders of the new statistical analysis frontier cringe. He might even make the old-school scouts do the same.

Say what you will-- he strikes out too much, he doesn't draw walks, he swings at everything and his defense is average-- but he produces results, which is why it's so hard to get a good read on him.

Boesch currently leads the Eastern League in home runs (23), triples (7), extra-base hits (51) and ranks in the top five in RBI (73) and runs (66).

No one can argue that when Boesch gets his bat on the ball, good things consistently happen.

"He hits the ball as hard as anybody I've ever seen," manager Tom Brookens said. "The power is legit. He needs to learn to lay off those bad pitches out of the zone, there's some work to do there. When he gets his bat on the ball, though, good things happen."

The Tigers' organization has been working hard to harness that raw power and turn it into a complete package that can help the Tigers' out down the road.

The most important part of that transformation is instilling some plate discipline in him, which is something that may be hard to accomplish. Boesch, a third round pick out of Cal in the 2006 draft, has historically posted low walk totals, which is evident in his abysmal career on-base percentage of .311.

His current OBP of .303 places him in the bottom ten among all Eastern League hitters who have averaged at least 2.7 plate appearances per game. His 20 walks rank as the eighth lowest total among all hitters with at least 250 at-bats.

Unfortunately for Boesch, this is an area that is believed to be among the hardest to improve. Growth is possible, but most baseball people feel that plate discipline is an inherent trait that must be instilled early in the development process. Improvement is possible, but it takes a lot of hard work, dedication and time.

"I don't think you can teach it. It's just something that each guy has to go up there and learn and fight his way through it. It's as much as a mental approach as a physical approach that you're going to go up there and gut this thing out and wait for a pitch to hit. If that doesn't happen, you have to be able to have the discipline to lay off it," Brookens said.

"As a coach all you can really do is keep harping on it until it sinks in. You can do some things to help them mechanically to help them out, like choking up and shortening up with two-strikes."

The next part of Boesch's evolution is getting him to spray the ball about the field. The left-handed Boesch is a natural pull hitter, but the team is working to try to get him to go to the big part of the field as well.

Several of Boesch's recent home runs have been to the left side of the field, however he states that this is more of a coincidence than something that has happened by design.

"It's hard to aim the ball. Who knows what anyone else wants. I know what I want, and what I want is to put a good swing on the ball. I don't try to do anything other than try and hit a ball hard. I don't aim the ball to left. As far as what anyone else wants, I couldn't tell you," Boesch said.

We already know Boesch can put a good swing on the ball, he expects to "run away" with the home run race, the only thing holding him back from being a legitimate outfield prospect for the Tigers is his reluctance to take a walk.

He is growing, though. Last season with Lakeland he hit .249 with seven homers and 64 RBI. This year he had already exceeded those figures by the second month of the season.

"Boesch had a really regimented and intense workout program this offseason. It seems like he has a he a different attitude and carries himself differently," teammate Casper Wells said. "He's been swinging hard and hitting the ball well. All the work he's put in is paying off."

We already know that's what everyone else wants. The question now is if that is what Boesch wants.

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