January 2nd, 2018
Drew Lugbauer is a catching prospect in the Atlanta Braves organization. Drew was the 5th pick of the 11th round of the 2017 MLB first year player draft out of Michigan. Across two levels (Rookie and A) in 2017 Drew mashed his way to a .261/.350/.514 slash line with 13 home runs and a .380 wOBA in 254 PA. Drew discussed his story a little, his thoughts on hitting and Minor League baseball with the Students of the Game!
MD: You passed on being selected by the Blue Jays in the 21st round out of high school in 2014; how do you think that decision impacted you and potentially made you more prepared for professional baseball after three years at Michigan?
DL: First, it gave me the experience of going through draft day and seeing what that process is like, which made me more comfortable about what to expect going into my junior year. It took pressure off myself when the draft was approaching. Other than that going to Michigan was the best decision of my life, I think. The coaching staff there got me prepared. I learned more about myself than I did in terms of baseball specific skills, which helped me develop as a player. The development aspect, coaching staff wise, are up there with the best coaching staffs in the country. They knew their stuff, they were tough on us, which helped me develop mental toughness. This helped me get through college and really helped me as a player.
MD: You talked about how at Michigan they helped develop you as a player and a lot of it was more developing as a person, which helped you develop as player. Do you think that maturity lead to your success this year?
DL: Yeah, maturity was probably the biggest thing because you have to play every single day in minor league baseball. It is a grind so you have to focus on the next pitch, the next game and if you go 0-4 one game you know you are playing the next day. So don’t get too high, don’t get too low. You want your performance to be more of a straight line than peaks and valleys. Sticking with that, that comes back to the mental toughness part of it. Grinding it out, not getting down on yourself because you are going to go through slumps and rough patches, so just being consistent and having that consistent mindset helps you as a player.
MD: What are your goals for the 2018 campaign?
DL: I have not really thought of specific goals. I just want to play as hard as I can, as much as I can, and stay healthy. I am not really trying to put specific numbers up, just be better than I was last year, get better every day and not really focus on the results as much as the development.
MD: You possess great power; what do you think has been the most important aspect for you in developing this power and your raw power translating to games?
DL: Honestly, I have said before, I am not the strongest kid in the weight room. I am strong, but I am not one of the strongest kids; it is just something I think I was born with. I ask myself where my power came from and I think it is part of my swing; my swing is built for power. I work on my swing, lift, eat healthy and that all plays a part in it.
MD: You hit 13 home runs in just 258 PA last year, what do you think was the reason for the power explosion, when generally guys who are just drafted take longer to tap into their raw power?
DL: That goes into what I learned at Michigan, the kind of hitter I am my job is to score runs. I look for that one pitch I can do damage with and if I don’t get it I won’t swing. It is a little risky, but that is part of my game, that is my job, to score runs and the only way to do that is to get your perfect pitch. For me I like that ball on the outer third so I can get extended, if its inside I let it go, its knowing your swing, knowing yourself and hunting that one pitch.
MD: What is your position on the flyball revolution?
DL: I’m all for it. That’s what wins games. Singles don’t win games, as much as they help out your OBP, which is huge. I just think if you hit doubles and home runs, you look at a guy like Giancarlo Stanton and anybody getting paid in the big leagues are the guys who hit home runs.
MD:How do you train to hit the ball in the air?
DL:It started in Cape Cod; Benny Craig for those of you who don’t know him you should look into his work. Benny gave me some books to read like Ted Williams The Science of Hitting, The Mike Schmidt Study, so I read those. It makes sense to swing up if the ball is coming down, so I work on hitting hard back-spun line drives as much as I can.
MD: What is your approach as a hitter?
DL: Hit everything as hard as I can up the middle over the centerfielders head.
MD: If you had to give advice to younger hitters on their approach would you tell them to do the same thing or something different?
DL: Yeah, when I give lessons I tell kids the same thing; hit it hard and up the middle over the pitchers head.
MD: What hitters do you watch the most and are there any you try and emulate?
DL: You watch Bonds, you have to watch Bonds. Pretty much any lefty who hits for power. I like Adrian Gonzalez’s swing a lot; I have a little leg kick so any lefties who have similar leg kicks that hit for power I try and study and see what I can learn.
MD: You played mostly corner infield in college and you were drafted as a catcher, the position you played in high school. How have you handled that transition and what is it like handling a Minor League pitching staff?
DL: It is tough going back to being a catcher, being in the professional realm and having to perform at that level. Catching is kind of tough. You get used to it; you just have to work more at it and handling the staff. It is just getting to know these guys and knowing what they throw. For most they are all around the zone so it is easier to catch. It is just knowing what kind of people they are so I can work with them.
MD: Do you take more pride in your defensive ability as a catcher or being a power threat?
DL: If I want to be a catcher I think I should take more pride in being a good defensive catcher. Right now though, I’m a better hitter than I am catcher, but I am working on improving my defense to be as good a catcher as I am hitter.
MD: What has been the most difficult adjustment to professional baseball?
DL: I think it is more everything off the field. Baseball wise, once it hits 7 o’clock it is baseball; it is the same. It is the daily grind like when you are going to get your workouts. In college everything is scheduled and you don’t play everyday. In minor league baseball everything is on your own with your daily routine, like when to eat and what to eat and how to spend your money properly. That part was tough, but after getting half a season under my belt I can make adjustments and be more prepared for the 2018 season.
MD: How prevalent are analytics in minor league baseball?
DL: In other organizations analytics are huge, but with the Braves there isn’t a lot. When we play the Astros affiliates they have a specific shift for everyone and do all of that stuff. The Braves are pretty old school so you don’t see the analytics like you would in other organizations.
MD: What are your favorite parts about MiLB?
DL: Getting to play everyday. Everyday is a new day so if you have a bad night you get to play the next day. The camaraderie, getting to know all the guys. Everyone is going through the same thing you are with similar goals and drive which is pretty cool.
MD: If you could change one thing about MiLB for the upcoming season what would it be?
DL: Getting paid more. The foods great they give us, but definitely would make minor leaguers get paid more.