Breen Becoming A Complete Player

STATEN ISLAND, NY - In his first full season with Class-A Staten Island, Chris Breen thrived in the spotlight. He came back down to Earth after his monstrous start to the season but he still proved to be one of the team’s best hitters as he was among the leaders in most offensive categories. More importantly, however, he became more than a mere hitter.

"He’s capable of doing some big things offensively,” manager Mario Garza said. “He has power to all fields… He’s a competitor, he’s a real low maintenance player; he goes about his work He’s a great worker, he’s a grinder, he’s very physical – his body, he’s in good shape – his bat speed hasn’t seemed to slow down.”

He finished second on the team in batting with a .281 average, four in RBI [28], and led the team in runs scored [34], and home runs [8]. At only 20 years old, he still has plenty of time to develop as a dominant hitter too. But what he’s been able to do at this level has been just as impressive.

However, if you ask Garza what he’s most pleased with regarding Breen it isn’t his hitting.

“Probably the most surprising, and the most happy, I am about anything he’s done is his defense because he hadn’t played a lot of left field,” he said.

“That was the second position change he’s had as a Yankee – he went from catcher to first base, then to left field. So I was really proud of his ability to become, not only an average left fielder, but I’d say he’s become an above average left fielder."

The transition to left field was only one of the adjustments Breen would have to make this season. And overall, he said he was happy with the way he played. He also said that it’s hard to look back at his own season when the most important part of the season for the team was a potential playoff push.

"I feel like [my season’s] gone pretty well,” he said . Personally I feel like I’ve done well."

While earlier in the season Breen was hitting over .300, a mid-season slump brought him back down into the .200s. It wasn’t anything that alarmed him, however. Throughout each at-bat he has a game plan but more importantly he has a game plan for the entire course of the season. So while a poor performance or a bad week will hurt his numbers, it won’t necessarily get him down.

“Me and [hitting coach] Ty Hawkins were looking at some of the video and one thing I noticed this year is it’s not all about the hits,” he said. “You have to take some of the pitches, [or I’m] not getting as many pitches to hit. I think it’s just a little bit of a midseason slide but I felt like I got back on it and turned it around.

"I feel pretty good, like I said. It’s a lot about just what kind of pitches I’m getting to hit, and learning how to hit some of these better pitches that some of these pitchers are making."

Hawkins shared the same sentiment.

“It’s pretty common for a season,” Hawkins said. “He cooled off for a week or two but he battled back and got his swing back. A lot of it is how he’s getting pitched and getting pitches to hit, and he went through a spell where he wasn’t getting anything.”

Being able to turn a slump around the way Breen did shows poise and maturity not often found at this level. Now that he’s hitting well, he has to bring this momentum into the offseason where he can continue to improve his game. His manager feels Breen should be able to improve upon his eight home runs from this season, as well.

Although it’s nice to see a young player hitting well, his offense was never really in question – making his second transition in the field was.

As a catcher-turned-first baseman-turned outfielder, Breen hasn’t had much time to get comfortable out on the field. With over half of his games played coming in left field this season, he should have at least become a little more familiar with the territory.

"I feel good [in the outfield],” Breen said. “I got some time out there last year, during Extended Spring. I didn’t play there too much in the GCL but I played a little bit of the outfield last year and I’m glad I got a chance to do both [outfield and first] and be as versatile as a can on defense.

"I like playing in the outfield a little bit more - I get to use my arm and run a little bit more. But wherever I can get into the lineup as that day is really what matters."

As Garza had mentioned, what’s become apparent this season is not only is Breen not a liability in the outfield but he’s actually an asset out there.

"His ability to go back on balls [impressed me most] – I think he’s done a really nice job with that,” Garza said. “It’s one of the toughest things of any outfield conversion.

"He has a plus arm – I had no idea he had such a nice arm – so that was really neat to see. He’s kind of sneaky athletic, which we call him, because you look at him and you wouldn’t think he’s as quick or you wouldn’t think he’s as athletic as he is but he’s a good athlete."

As for this season, Breen accomplished almost all of what he set out to do. The only thing that could have made it better for him is if his team made the playoffs. But on a personal level all he can do is continue to improve his game in any and all aspects.

This offseason he will be attending the Instructional League where he hopes to keep adding muscle and speed while continuously working in the outfield so that he may take another step in the right direction, adding onto his accomplishments from this season.

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