Tuesday, May 21, 2013

An Interview with Andrew Aplin

When I spoke with Manager Rodney Linares about Andrew Aplin, he had this to say about him, "Appy's just a baseball player. [He] and [Nolan] Fontana are the definition of a baseball player. Fontana's got a little bit more finesse. Aplin is just greedy and getting after it, dirty, plays hard. Love him to death. Got a chance to be whatever he wants to be in this game. As solid as they come."

Interestingly enough, both Linares and Hitting Coach Darryl Robinson spent a lot of time enumerating all of the things that Aplin needs to work on: swinging at pitches in his zone and not trying to hit the pitcher's pitch, finding his power stroke, getting a better read on the pitcher as he runs bases. But that's not because Aplin isn't good, but as Robinson puts it, "I see more for him and he does too." Aplin is, as Morgan Ensberg might put it, a "Really Good Player," but Linares and Robinson both seem to think that Aplin can be so much more.

Andrew Aplin - May 2013
Photo by Jayne Hansen

Let's hear from the man himself (edited for brevity and clarity) ~

What does he bring to the game and what is he trying to improve on?: "I think I’m a real big team guy. I like to bring a lot of energy, a lot of hustle and try to just lead by example, more of an example guy than a vocal guy. So I just try to play as hard as I can all the time to try to set that tone. Things I’m trying to improve on … just trying to drive the ball the other way using the whole field. I’ve been working with the hitting coach on that. It’s getting better."

What does he think Robinson had to say about him?: "He probably said I still have a lot of improvement which I do. Been in there consistently in the cage working with me. I love the guy. He is a real fun guy to be around. [On hearing the assessment that he hits like he has a chip on his shoulder.] I’m a little guy out there so I have to act like a big guy."

On his lefty/righty splits: "This year it’s been better off of righties, but over the years through college, it’s been about the same. My freshman year in college I struggled with it so I’ve worked on it a lot and practiced it hitting off our pitchers and it really helped me adjust to lefties, just learning [a good] approach to the lefties is what helped me the most."

Which Astros pitcher would he least like to face?: "I’ve never hit off of Kenny Long before but I see how he make some hitters look. I’d like to stand in there, but I don’t know if I’d like it to be in the stat book. Just something about him, whatever he’s throwing up there, it’s got to be really good because I stand in the outfield in awe sometimes. It’s pretty impressive. You see this kid walk up there, 160 pounds, and he’s just striking people out and getting them out left and right. It’s impressive. It’s really impressive. I played with him in summer ball in college in the Cape Cod [league] so I knew him before he got drafted [and] I was glad to have him [in the Astros organization]."

On his defensive skills: "I take defense really serious. Just because you can’t ever slump on defense. If [I'm] not hitting, I’d better be doing something else to help the team win. If it’s making a diving play, [if] it’s throwing somebody out, I always want to be a part of the team."

Who on the team makes him laugh?: "I like Brandon Meredith. He’s a character. I get to play outfield with him every day and he just makes you laugh nonstop all day. Him or Fontana. I’m roommates with Fontana and we’re nonstop joking with each other and messing around with each other so those two guys."

Who on the team does he like to just sit back and watch play?: "On this team I’d probably say Fontana. Kind of just sit back and just watch him. He hits the ball. He plays defense. He’s just a down dirty-nosed type player. Every night he’s just going to bring as much as he has and leave it all on the field. It’s just impressive to watch."

Was he surprised about skipping Low A last season?: "It was a big surprise. Getting drafted, just that half-year, [I] did pretty well in New York and they told me I was going up so I figured I was going to Low A, and when they told me I was coming up to High A, I was just really proud, happy, thankful. When I got here, the guys took me in under their wing really good and we gelled as a team and won the whole thing."

What would he do if he couldn't play baseball?: "If I couldn’t play baseball, and if I had the money, I’d just like to golf every day. If not, stay around the game, coach kids and help people grow as players, just share experiences and share my knowledge of the game."

Something most people don't know about him: "As serious as I look on the field, I’m actually a big jokester. I like to have fun with the game. That’s what it is. It’s a game. You’ve got to have fun with it or it’s going to eat you alive so I like to go out there and joke around when it’s the time to joke around and try to keep the team loose."

How does this Lancaster team compare to last year's team?: "I’d say it’s just as good if not better. We have a lot of talent out here … a lot of good pitchers, a lot of hitting, a lot of guys that don’t take the game too seriously so when they’re not doing too well it’s not like you don’t want to be around them. Everybody wants to be around each other all the time so it kind of keeps the team going and doesn’t separate anybody from the team. That last two weeks [last year] we had unbelievable chemistry but I definitely see it in this team [as well]. In the clubhouse, everybody is just mixed together ... pitchers, hitters, nobody really separates."

What does he think about the Astros minor league system?: "This whole minor-league system ... it’s unbelievable how much talent we have and how many young guys that are already really good and really mature and are going to be pretty awesome down the road. There are a lot of opportunities in this organization. It keeps you motivated. The depth in this organization is unbelievable."

According to Linares, you could insert Aplin into a major league roster today and he wouldn't embarrass himself because he does so many things the right way right now, but he sees a guy who will develop into a player who will give you 15 or 20 home runs, 40 doubles, 50 steals and provide great centerfield defense to boot. Linares left me with this final thought about Aplin, "He's got a chance to be however good he wants to be and I think he wants to be really, really good. That's scary a little bit." Yeah, scary good.

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Thank you for your time, Andrew, and best of luck as the season unfolds.

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