Going back to 2015, Angel Aguilar was always playing catch up due to two injuries he was nursing. He was hitting just .229 at the end of the season and feeling down on himself, he wasn’t sure if he had what it took to go all the way. His coaches, though, had different thoughts. They still saw the long-term promise in him that they saw from the beginning and thought he was handling his injuries as best he could last season.
“He was playing catch up [last year]," Charleston RiverDogs hitting coach Greg Colbrunn said. "He was healthy and ready to go when he came here the first time around but he was rehabbing a lot during Spring Training and not seeing a ton of at-bats, and then once he came here it was like a rush to catch up with everything, but that’s part of the game and he was handling it very well."
Aside from the lower batting average he didn't show much power either and that had somewhat become his calling card after leading the Gulf Coast League in home runs the year prior. He hit just three home runs last year and it was quite evident he just wasn't himself.
This season, however, was an entirely different story. Coming off of those two injuries, he did not do much in the offseason to prepare for this coming season. His main concern, and his coaches’ main concern for that matter, was to make sure he was truly healthy for when the season really picked up. He rested a ton during the offseason and was doing a lot of rehab to make sure he was ready.
“Last season wasn’t a good season for me, but it also wasn’t a bad season for me," Aguilar said through the help of a translator. "I think I made the necessary adjustments as best I could, but I still could’ve done better."
So far this season he is still somewhat struggling at the plate. Hitting just .213 with 36 hits and 26 RBIs in 211 at-bats, there is still a lot of room for improvement. The strikeouts are high, but Aguilar is still taking precautions and really listening to his coaches when it comes to swinging.
“My hitting coaches and I have been working on getting a good pitch to hit and obviously a strike to hit; really working on not swinging at bad pitches and getting base hits and the power will come and the home runs will come with time and a good swing,” Aguilar said.
As opposed to last yer when everything was down -- both the batting average and the home runs -- at least this season he is back to his clubbing ways. He has quietly hit eight home runs, a total that not only establishes a new career high but ranks second only on the team behind Chris Gittens and puts him in the top ten league-wide.
“He is definitely more mature than he was last year," Colbrunn said. "He is working to stay mechanically sound and stay under more control as a hitter. He’s still learning the strike zone.
"Yes, he is having some issues at the plate average-wise and with strikeouts, but I think it’s a combination of plate discipline and bad luck. The most important thing is that he’s getting better than last year and progressing well."
Aside from his offensive game, he has contributed well defensively. Last season, Aguilar was playing a couple different positions and this season he is doing the same. A solid shortstop and third baseman, he’s been contributing well to the Riverdogs defense. Charleston Riverdogs manager Luis Dorante thinks he is a solid third baseman.
“He has played a lot of different positions, third base, second base, and shortstop too, but I think third base is a good spot for him. He’s got the arm strength to really reach out for first, and he’s doing solid work there.”
So while the lower batting average is an issue that continues to be worked on, Aguilar's coaches believe a lot of progress is being made and there is still a lot more potential left to be tapped.
“He’s got a strong set of hands and with all the changes defensively, he has been a solid player to have at our disposal,” Colbrunn added.
There is no doubt that in this 2016 season Aguilar has been more of a contender in the scouts’ minds. He is more comfortable than last season and is proving his worth as a diverse ball player.