Last season Fleming was bounced around in the minor leagues, playing for a total of four different teams -- Pulaski, Charleston, Tampa, and Trenton -- and just like this year, he's finding at-bats any way he can at a number of infield spots. Not only was he bounced around a lot but Fleming did not see much playing time last year either, especially in Tampa where he only played in seven games total. However, Fleming took last season and turned it into a learning experience.
“I think it was a really good year," he said. "It was my first year in pro ball so I was working on getting my routines down and the importance of following a routine and doing the same thing everyday, and I got to go to a lot of different levels which was good to see the different levels of competition at each level. So in all I thought it was a great learning experience.”
During the 2015 season Fleming not only moved around a lot throughout the Yankees organization but he also was not a regular starter for any of the teams he played on. Fleming, who is now a regular in the Tampa Yankees lineup, would go three or sometimes even four days without seeing the field at all. The infielder did not let that affect him mentally but instead took it as a way to learn the ropes of the organization.
“I tried to make the best of every opportunity I got," he said. "If I was playing once every three or four days I tried to play the best I could to show them I could play, but I think it was more of a learning experience just getting used to not playing everyday and still staying mentally tough that way."
He did make the most of his limited opportunities though, hitting a combined .338 with 14 doubles in just 204 minor league at-bats last year, and opening some eyes inside the organization.
During the offseason, Fleming, looking for even more opportunities in 2016, developed and learned the importance of following a routine everyday. He stated his goals were the same as always during those couple of months, “get bigger, stronger, and faster,” but at the same time developing a consistency in his workouts was a big challenge that needed to be mastered. He also spent a lot of time working on his fielding due to taking on more responsibility playing first, second, and third base.
“Just sticking to a routine like I said. I think that’s the most important thing that I do everyday is try and do the same things. I know everybody is different, but if you stay with a routine it makes everything a lot easier,” Fleming said.
Getting more regular playing time this season, Fleming has been making a name for himself not only in the Yankees organization but throughout the rest of the Florida State League, hitting .321 with ten extra-base hits in his first 28 games.
Undrafted and signed as a minor league free agent in 2014 out of West Virginia University, Fleming stated that he “has a chip on his shoulder,” and he is just going out on the field and continually trying to prove himself. All Fleming’s efforts seem to be paying off too, impressing Yankees hitting coach Tommy Slater and manager Pat Osborn.
“He’s playing above this league," Osoborn said. "He shouldn’t be here, he should be in Double-A and getting everyday at-bats up there, and right now we don’t have the opportunity for him to do that so he’s here and he’s doing what he’s doing what he has to do,” Osborn said. “He’s performing. He’s one of the better hitters in the league and I’m glad he’s here now cause who knows when we’re gonna lose him.”
With another double in Monday's game against Lakeland his current .321 average is actually the lowest it has been all season and he has reached base safely in ten of his last eleven games too; he can get on base consistently with the best of them.
“He can flat hit," Slater said, "and he knows how to get the barrel to the baseball consistently, and he’s got great barrel awareness and great barrel adjustability. It’s just fun to watch him hit."
Moving forward Fleming knows there are areas of his game that he would like to improve upon. According to Slater, one of Fleming’s best attributes is the fact that he’s a hard worker both on and off the field. Fleming is pretty confident with his skills now, but two major areas of his game he is continuing to work on daily during his time here in Tampa.
“Improve defensively and working on my hitting approach. [These] two things I take very seriously everyday, trying to get my work in at-bat and trying to stay consistent,” Fleming said.
Seemingly another undrafted spare part a year ago, Fleming has slowly been turning some heads. In fact, even prior to this season some team officials opined that Fleming could win a batting title and it's a big reason why the Yankees tried to find him consistent everyday at-bats.
Still playing with a chip on his shoulder, however, Fleming doesn't pay attention to any of it. He simply wants to keep his head down, work hard, and begin to realize his dreams even more.
“I try not to think about that kinda stuff. I just try to go out and show everyone that I can play and that I deserve to play every single day, and just maximize my potential. I try to just worry about what I can control,” Fleming concluded.