After dominating the Midwest League in 2006, Jeff Baisley was presented with a tall challenge right off the bat in 2007, as the Oakland A's sent him straight from Low-A to Double-A. It is a big jump in talent and experience from Low-A to Double-A, and Baisley noted a number of differences in the level of competition in the Texas League compared to his time in the Midwest League.
|Baisley made the jump from Low-A to Double-A this season.|
"In Double-A, the players have obviously earned it to be there. With the pitchers, there aren't guys in the bullpen who are a cakewalk. The talent level is a lot better. You don't see any bad arms. They make their pitches a lot better. They throw 2-0 change-ups and a lot of them throw sinkers and cutters, so that was a big adjustment."
Despite jumping two levels, Baisley got off to a fast start at Double-A, hitting two homers in his third game as a member of the Midland Rockhounds. Baisley posted only a 724 OPS in April for the Rockhounds, but he improved quite a bit in May, posting an 833 OPS and batting .299. He really got hot during the month of June, hitting .328 with a 932 OPS and driving in 17 runs in only 67 at-bats. Baisley said that it took him a little bit of time to make the adjustment to the way that Double-A pitchers were throwing to him.
"In the beginning, I had some trouble with sinkers and with two-seam fastballs that would start in on the plate and then come off of the plate," Baisley said.
"I like to hit pitches that are on the inside of the plate, and they threw me a lot of pitches that started on the inside half and came off the plate inside even more, so that was something that I had to make an adjustment on at first, but it started to iron itself out."
Unfortunately for Baisley, his momentum was stopped cold when he injured his knee on June 17. The injury was torn cartilage in his knee, and Baisley would miss the next five weeks of the season. He wasn't 100 percent upon returning to the field in late July, and the numbers reflected that. He batted only .201 with a 520 OPS after returning from the disabled list. He was hitting .288 with an 823 OPS at the time of the injury, and finished the year with a .257 average and a 718 OPS.
"[The 2007 season] started out really well until I got hurt. It was kind of a struggle in the second half when I came back," Baisley said.
Because Baisley missed so much time this season, the A's were eager to see him recapture some of those missed at-bats this fall at the Arizona Fall League. Baisley is still bothered by the knee injury, and he has continued his rehab while playing in Arizona.
"[The knee] is better. It's not 100 percent. It's going to take time. It's one of those things where there is only so much rehab that you can do for it," Baisley said.
"The best thing for it is to rest and take time off from baseball, but I can't exactly do that. [laughs] It's not 100 percent but I'll have the off-season to get it back to 100 percent."
Baisley got off to a fast start at the Arizona Fall League this October, collecting three hits in his first game. Through the first eight games of the AFL season, Baisley was hitting an even .300. He has struggled over the last four games, going one for his last 12, which has dropped his average to .238. However, he has continued to drive-in runs at a good pace and he sits second on the leader-board for the AFL in RBIs with 12.
Baisley has been impressed with the AFL experience thus far.
"It started out going great personally. I was hitting the ball really well. I've struggled a little bit since then, but the league is everything that you'd expect. The pitching is really good and the defense is a lot better than you are used to," Baisley said.
Baisley has noted a definite increase in the level of competition at the AFL as compared to Double-A.
"The competition is a lot tougher. There is a lot more speed out here [at the AFL] and the pitching is a lot better. There are guys out here who have been in Triple-A and some of the guys have been in the big leagues, so I'd say that on average it is better than Double-A," Baisley said.
Baisley has kept his goals simple for his time at the AFL.
"I'm just trying to get at-bats and trying to show everybody what I can do. You are selling yourself out here for all 30 teams," Baisley said.
A natural third baseman, Baisley has been thrust into the unfamiliar position of playing at first base for five of the 12 games that he has played in this fall. Every team at the AFL is given players who are designated "priority" players to compete at particular positions. Baisley is not the "priority" player at third for his team, the Phoenix Desert Dogs, meaning that he has to play at different positions in order to get into the line-up every day. Baisley is a novice at playing first base, but he has played error-free baseball thus far.
"I haven't played first base ever at any level. I'm not the primary third baseman here, but I guess that we don't have a primary first baseman, so me and another guy are sharing duties at first base to get at-bats at this point," Baisley said.
"It's been fun to try to learn another position. The angles of the balls coming off of the bat are pretty much the same. It's on the other side of the field, but it is pretty much the same. The biggest problem is deciding what balls to go after and what balls to leave for the second baseman so that I can cover first base. I have messed a few of those up [laughs], but other than that, it has been pretty smooth sailing thus far."
Earlier this week, Baisley was tapped along with fellow A's prospect James Simmons to compete in the Rising Stars game, considered an All-Star game or prospect showcase for the Arizona Fall League. Last season was the first year for the Rising Stars game, and the A's had Travis Buck, Marcus McBeth, Landon Powell and Mike Mitchell representing them in the game. Ryan Braun, Hunter Pence, Kevin Kouzmanoff, Troy Tulowitzki and Jacoby Ellsbury are some of the other participants in last year's game who went on to have a big impact in the major leagues in 2007.
Baisley is thrilled to have been selected to participate in this year's Rising Stars game.
"It's a big honor. It's an honor in itself to be able to play in the Fall League and to be able to go to the All-Star game or whatever you'd like to call it, makes it that much more rewarding," Baisley said.
Once the AFL season is over, Baisley will return to his home state of Florida and continue to rehab his knee.
"My top priority this off-season is to get healthy and come back strong next year," Baisley said.