Mikolas Making Gains

PULASKI, VA - Fourth year outfielder Nathan Mikolas has admittedly experienced some ups and downs in his time in the minor leagues. While spending the 2015 campaign in Pulaski, Mikolas has worked hard to prove to his coaches - and himself - that a small town kid can make a big impact in this game.

Mikolas made the jump from high school to the minor leagues when he was selected in the third round of the 2012 MLB Amateur Draft out of Bradford High School in Kenosha, Wisconsin. Since then, he’s suited up for different Yankees affiliates at the lower levels in each his four seasons.

“Coming out of high school, I knew I was raw,” Mikolas said. “I just wanted to learn as much as I could in the beginning.”

Pulaski’s hitting coach Edwar Gonzalez first encountered Mikolas in the GCL in 2012. Gonzalez agreed that Mikolas was a raw talent then, but relayed that his game has come a long way since then.

“[The biggest difference] is his baseball awareness. He was very raw coming from Wisconsin,” Gonzalez said. “We really had to start from zero.

"He had to learn a lot of things quickly. But that’s what I see he’s learned: baseball awareness, instincts and just the baseball game overall. The same thing goes for his hitting. He was very raw. He didn’t know how his swing worked, but he’s gained a lot of knowledge on that.”

After playing in the GCL in 2012 and 2013, Mikolas was promoted to play in Staten Island for the 2014 season. He appeared in 48 games there, hitting .225 with a .357 on-base percentage.

Mikolas then made the lateral move to Pulaski where he’s appeared in 50 games. He’s currently posting a .286 average with a .376 on-base percentage. Mikolas has 49 strikeouts in 50 games with Pulaski compared to 56 in 48 games with Staten Island.

So while he seemingly took a step back down the career ladder, Mikolas understands that the road to the show isn’t always a fast one.

“I knew it would be a tough journey, but I thought it would be a little bit quicker,” Mikolas admitted. “But I’ve learned a lot about myself over this time and I’ve become a lot better baseball player, too.”

Pulaski manager Tony Franklin commended the young player’s ability to deal with adversity in his career thus far.

“He’s got a great attitude. He’s a young man of good character,” Franklin said. “He’s willing to work. He’s certainly working hard as heck and asking a lot of questions of Gonzo [hitting coach Edwar Gonzalez] and me, and when he does that it shows me that he’s got the willingness to learn and listen and try to apply things.”

Gonzalez echoed Franklin’s assessment of Mikolas’ character.

“He’s a hard worker,” Gonzalez said. “He doesn’t stop working, and he wants to work. He just wants to play. That’s all he cares about, and I agree with that. That’s all he should care about, just playing no matter where it’s at, because baseball is tough.”

The coaching staff’s influence on Mikolas is evident in the way he speaks about all that he has learned from them.

“I’ve learned a lot with Tony and Gonzo," Mikolas said. "I feel like I’ve made good strides. I feel like the coaching staff here has really helped my development. I just play where they put me, as long as I’m playing.”

Franklin and his staff have exclusively played Mikolas in left field. Both Mikolas and his coaching staff expressed that while he may not have the breakout speed to play in center, he does possess the ability to play in both corners of the outfield. Franklin even discussed the possibility of trying him out at first base in the future.

But before he makes any drastic moves like a positional change, Mikolas is looking to work hard this offseason on a few specific aspects of his game.

“My strength for baseball is with the bat, but I have to work on everything,” Mikolas said. “I want to work on my speed. I really want to hit my footwork this offseason. That and arm strength.”

With the unpredictability of the minor leagues, it’s hard to guess where Mikolas will be playing in 2016. No matter where he ends up, his humble, blue-collar attitude will help keep him grounded.

“Even if I do advance higher in the system, I’m always going to be true to myself and stick with my morals,” Mikolas said. “That’s how I was raised, being brought up humble and hard working. That’s never going to change.

"I just want to progress, show that they can trust me and show that I’m making gains in all avenues of baseball.”

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