Friday, August 4, 2017

Getting to Know Quad Cities 1B Troy Sieber

There's always at least one player on a team that really stands out for being approachable and engaging, a player who just loves to talk baseball. Troy Sieber is that guy. I first met him last season in Greeneville (TN) shortly after he was drafted by the Astros in the 24th round out of St. Leo College (FL), and I knew that I'd enjoy talking with him. My chance came in late July when I caught up with a very talented Quad Cities River Bandits team.

Troy Sieber - July 2017
Photo by Jayne Hansen

First a little background from Quad Cities Manager Russ Steinhorn on Sieber, "He's been here (since late June). They had a lot of good things to say about him in Extended (Spring Training) about the work he put in and the adjustments he made. Very physical player. Primary first baseman. He's been working on trying to drive the ball more and he's got a handful of home runs and doubles and RBI's so you can tell the work he's put in."

Steinhorn continued, "He's always in the office, asking questions and trying to figure out his approach at the plate. He's always putting in extra work in the cage so he does do a good job of getting his work in, but also of being a good clubhouse guy at the same time. He's been a good addition all around."

My first question to Sieber was to clarify something that I had read about him possibly being drafted as a catcher. He responded, "The funny thing is that I did just a little bit of catching bullpens on the side in college, but I never really caught any games and then, when I got drafted, I got drafted as a first baseman, but my contract says 'Catcher.' So my contract shows primary position is catcher when I've never caught a game in my life, just bullpens."

When I suggested he could possibly be an emergency catching backup despite playing first base exclusively to date, Sieber laughed and quickly said, "I don't think so. I don't ever see myself catching in a game. I would need a lot of practice for sure. That's the hardest position on the field. But the time that I spent catching in the bullpen, I realized that I have a lot of respect for those guys because it's such a brutal position, the beating they take and stuff. It's really hard. I have got a lot of respect for these catchers because you're constantly worrying about blocking the ball and you're calling the whole game, where first base, you're only really worried about hitting. There's nothing else you really have to worry about. It's a lot calmer at first base."

I asked Sieber to give a scouting report on himself. "I think the scout would say that I hunt fastball. That's the pitch that I like to hit early in the count. I'm always hunting fastball. I'm never really sitting on the off-speed pitch. Depending on the count, when I get to two strikes or something, I'm going to adjust. I'm hunting fastball, and I like to drive the ball the other way. So like left-center field I would say is where the power is," said Sieber.

As he continued, Sieber got into the nitty-gritty of his approach and what he's working on, "I would say something that I need to work on is just recognizing the changeup earlier and driving the ball to right field better. That's kind of what I'm working on here. Because in college ... it was all fastballs and breaking balls away. So I kind of just got so used to hitting the ball to left field that when I hit the ball to right, I tend to roll over some, so I'd like to backspin the ball more to right field and just adjust to the changeup better because I realize here, that's the pitch they like to go to. They like to throw the changeup and get me to roll over on it so that's something that I'm working on here with the hitting coach."

Characterizing his biggest strength defensively, Sieber said, "On ground balls, just blocking it up. I'm big into not letting the ball get by me. As a first baseman, especially when there's nobody on, I like to block the ball up. I don't want it to get by me at all. I know the pitcher's going to be there. He's going to get over so, if it's a ball that's hit hard, I don't mind sticking my chest out and stopping it so I can flip it to the pitcher. So I'd say that my strongest suit is blocking the ball over there." He plans to work on his speed and agility in the offseason to help him defensively as well as with his baserunning.

In talking about his season, Sieber really got into the weeds regarding his plate approach, "I'm happy with how (the season is) going. Like I said, I want to work more on driving the ball, but I'm happy with how it's going. There's adjustments that I've had to make already, and every day it's a different adjustment." When he first got to Quad Cities, opposing pitchers really didn't have much information on him so he was initially getting a lot of fastballs in, but that soon changed and so did Sieber.

"Coming from Division II baseball and then (Rookie League) Greeneville, I've always let the off-speed pitches go, because not all of those guys could throw those off-speed (pitches) for strikes. So I'd always let them go and I'd get myself into a 2-0, 3-1 count so I could get the fastball I wanted to hit. But here I realized they can throw those off-speed (pitches) for strikes early in the count. It's just really about recognizing earlier in the game, like before my at-bat what they're doing to the guys before. So I watch [Josh] Rojas or another lefty Ronnie [Dawson]. I like to watch them and see what the pitcher is throwing them. Like yesterday in the game, my first at-bat, he threw me a 1-0 changeup, he threw Rojas a 1-0 changeup and Ronnie a 1-0 changeup so I knew coming into the next at-bat, he got me 1-0 and he threw a changeup. It was a ball that I hit to right field. So it's just finding the tendencies because the pitchers like to do the same things over and over again with the counts so getting used to that is something that I want to work on, just the game within the game. There's little things like that that I need to learn and pick up on those things just to help me out with hitting," said Sieber.

Sieber is from south Jersey near Delaware ("I live right on the Delaware River. It's nice."), but he enjoys spending his offseason in Florida at St. Leo College near Tampa where he went to school. "That whole Florida area is nice. I like it down there. In the fall, the weather's beautiful. I'll go back to my school, practice with them, hit and workout. So it's nice."

Getting the opportunity to scrimmage with his old team will also help Sieber get some extra reps, something that he realizes is valuable to his development and something he missed out on in earlier years. "I've played baseball my whole life and I played in college for three years but, talking to most of the guys (from the States), they've all played summer ball somewhere. They've gone to the Cape Cod League, somewhere. I've never played summer ball before. So our coaches like to give me some crap about it just because it's a lot of at-bats that I've missed. It was nice to just kind of relax in the summer, but now looking back at it, I wish I would have played summer ball just to get more reps under my belt."

Sieber will also work toward finishing his degree over the offseason. A major in criminal justice, he plans to take several online classes toward that end. "I'm close to finishing up. I just didn't want to take any (classes) during the season just because I wanted to focus on the season and nothing else. Once the offseason starts, I'll take some online. I actually went back to school right after Greeneville (last year) and that's when I got invited to Instructs [Fall Instruction League] so I had to drop out of those classes and do them online."

We ended the interview talking about the immense talent on the Quad Cities team. Sieber said, "The talent here is unbelievable. Everybody can hit the ball well. Being in college, I was so worried about trying to win and getting big hits all the time. And here I realized, just do your job. There's no point of trying to do too much. Don't go outside of my game. Just stay within the game because everybody can hit the ball. You have hitters like Daz [Cameron] and Ronnie; those guys are such good hitters. Watching Ronnie hit ... I love his swing ... he's a left-handed batter, big kid and he can drive the ball to every part of the field. When I see him hit the ball out to left field, it's really nice because a lot of the time, you see a guy pulling the ball for home runs, but when you see a guy like him that can hit the ball out right-center, left-center, it's really a nice thing to watch. And for a guy that big that has such good speed, it's just ... he's a really good player. It's awesome to watch for sure. You don't see that very often."

Sieber is enjoying the competition in the Midwest League, "It's definitely a different kind of baseball. But it's fun. It's really competitive and all the guys are really good." And Sieber is holding his own with that competition as his work to re-define his approach is really starting to pay off. Since mid-July, he is hitting .293/.423/.517 with four doubles, three home runs, 12 RBI and a very nice ratio of 13 walks to 15 strikeouts. With his hard work and great mental approach to the game, he will bear watching as he continues to move through the system. And if you just want someone to sit down with and talk baseball, he's your guy for that too.

Thank you for your time, Troy, and best of luck as the season continues.

Other Recent Interviews:
Marcos Almonte and Abdiel Saldana

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