Payton Doing The Little Things Right

TAMPA, FL - Standing a mere 5-foot-7, outfielder Mark Payton isn't somebody who jumps off the field with his physical tools. But with his attention to detail and ability to consistently do the little things right, he is somebody who stands out on a baseball diamond and also supports the notion that great things come in small packages.

Following a promotion to the Florida State League last season, Mark Payton is proving himself yet again as the second season of his professional career progresses, relying on his smarts and knowledge of the game to set him apart from the other players.

“I was really impressed with how intelligent he is, he really knows the game,” hitting coach Tommy Slater of his first impressions of the 23-year-old outfielder.

Manager Dave Bialas agreed that it is Payton’s awareness that makes him such an asset.

“He plays the game very hard," Bialas said. "He’s a smart player with a great work ethic. You would want every player in the organization to go about his business the way Mark does."

Only 14 games into the season, the 2014 seventh-round pick is hitting an even .300, racking up 18 hits and two stolen bases, something that the organization has taken notice of. It was also noted how well Payton performed during Spring Training too.

“He had a great camp," "Bialas said. "He plays centerfield and I think he could play centerfield in the big leagues. He was great defensively, he swung the bat well, and he steals bases."

Payton was one of the real standouts in Spring Training camp and that's not always the easiest thing to do for essentially a first-year pro like him.

"I think it went as well as good as it could," Payton said. "It was my first one. I went out there with a positive attitude. I think I probably could have gotten more sleep.

"Waking up every day early is tough, especially when during the offseason you’re up at 10 o’clock and then Spring Training starts and you’re up at 6 or 7 and your body doesn’t respond as well as you think it would."

As he's been prone to do in his brief career thus far, however, he made the adjustment. He's done it in the batter's box too. Hitting eleven doubles in his inaugural professional season and three so far in his sophomore season as well as three triples, Payton is also regarded as a threat at the plate.

"He looks really good up at the plate," Slater said. "He has great strike zone discipline, he understands what he wants to do up there, and he always has a game plan for what he wants to do at each of his up-at-bats. He really knows himself as a hitter which is fun to be around. He does the little stuff right."

Despite Payton only being 5-foot-7, his height is apparently not an issue and dismissing him so quickly because of it can be a fool's errand. Bialas ensures that his size does not matter in the slightest, comparing him to Boston Red Sox second baseman Dustin Pedroia who is listed at just 5-foott-9.

"He’s strong, he’s not a weak kid and he actually has some power," Bialas said. "He’s no home run hero but he can drive the ball to the gaps. He’s built."

"Mark has the ability to get the barrel to the ball, and as long as you can do that, you can drive the ball," Slater added. "And he can definitely drive the ball.”

Payton has certainly proven this ability to drive the ball into gaps, with a combined average of .315 for both of his professional seasons thus far and a .485 slugging percentage. Payton attributes this strength to the work he put in during the offseason, explaining that he got a personal trainer.

"I was really trying to get quicker, stronger, and I really worked on my hitting and my arm strength,” Payton said. "I lost some weight and I gained some more lean muscle mass."

It is clear that Payton is settling in to his new position in Tampa, having gained some experience last year during the little time he spent with the team. He has found he knows what to expect more and has a better grip of how things operate in the clubhouse.

While some might expect the prospect to be disappointed that he was not moved up further, Payton said he feels good where he is, and had no hard feelings towards the fact that he was not given a position at the Double=A level.

"I don’t have any expectations," he said. "It’s never a player’s call to tell them ‘I’m ready to move up’. You have to go out there everyday and prove yourself."

Just two weeks into the season he is out to prove himself in what is his first full minor league season, and he knows how to get there; doing all of the the little things right.

"It’s going alright," he said. "It’s different things on different days, whether it’s a bunt or finding ways to steal a bag, or making a defensive play in the outfield, it’s what I need to bring to the table everyday."

Slater echoes this by saying there is no one thing he thinks Payton needs to improve on, noting that it’s day to day improvements that need to be made in accordance to what the team faces during games.

"I love his savvy and his intelligence," Slater said. "He watches and pays attention to every detail of the game.

"Whether it's something the opposing pitcher may be doing or something an opposing infielder may be doing, he has an ability to pick up pitcher tendencies and steal bases. He picks up on all the little things that the other team is doing that help him help us to win games."

Doing all of those little things right, however, are the byproduct of wanting to the play the game and Payton is enjoying everything that has come to him, saying that what he was most excited about this season was getting to play the sport he loves.

"Being able to play everyday," he said," this will be my first full season and it’s all about finding out how my body responds everyday. It’s getting to play a lot of baseball…and not having to deal with school.”

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