Mitch Maier is one of Wichita's six first-rounders
This season, Wichita's Mitch Maier is batting .269/.331/.421 with eight home runs and 49 RBIs. Prior to Tuesday night's game vs. the Springfield Cardinals, RC's Kevin Agee asked Maier what it's like playing on a team with so many former first-round picks, among other topics.
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Royals Corner: Mitch, you were a catcher while at the University of Toledo, but you stole 48 bases in 56 attempts in your three years there. Is your speed something you’ve always prided yourself on?
Mitch Maier: Oh, absolutely. I got away with it a little more being a catcher, so [the opposing team] didn’t expect me to run as much, but that’s always been something that I’ve prided myself on. I try to work on it every day when I come out [to the stadium] and in the game I always try to get an opportunity to steal and get an extra base. But it’s a big part of the game, and it’s something I have the tool to be able to do. It’s just a matter of fine-tuning it.
RC: Ultimately, your ability to run well is the big reason why the organization moved you to centerfield. Can you describe that move?
MM: Yeah, I wasn’t surprised. I knew that was an option when I got drafted, and I played out there a little in the summer league in the outfield, and [the Royals] basically told me when I got drafted that it was an option one day to move. I took it in stride. I knew it was something I’d be comfortable with. It would just take a little time, but I’ve loved it since I’ve been out there. It’s been awesome.
RC: Before you moved to center, the organization moved you to third base. Did those changes make it difficult to focus on the other important aspects of your job as a player?
MM: No, I had no problem. It was an easy move. Learning third base was difficult, but I separate the hitting and defense, so when I get in the dugout to go on offense, my mind switches modes. So I didn’t have a problem with the mental side of it. It was just that when I was on defense at third it was a struggle. I had a lot of stuff to learn since I’d never played infield in my life, so the transition to the outfield was a lot better.
RC: Last year, you moved up from High Desert to Wichita, which is a pretty big jump in terms of how much more advanced the pitching is. What kind of adjustments did you need to make to make to handle the promotion?
MM: I’d say to keep my weight back. They throw a lot more offspeed in fastball counts [in Double-A]. When you’re ahead 2-0, you’re not always going to get that grooved fastball that you get at the lower levels. Not getting myself out is the biggest thing. When I have trouble, I’m getting myself out. I’m getting out front and swinging at pitches I shouldn’t in certain counts. That was the biggest adjustment last year. I worked on it all winter with Andre [David] out there in Arizona, and it’s been a lot better this year. Last year was a big help to me, getting here and seeing what the pitchers had. You know, you’ve got some older pitchers down here that are veterans and know how to pitch as well as the young prospects. It was a big step for me, but I was fortunate to have some time here last year to see what I needed to do so that going into the offseason, I could fix some things. It’s been going well so far. I had a little slump but overall, it’s been great this year, and I’m doing what I can to help the team win.
RC: What’s your approach at the plate?
MM: I’m an aggressive hitter, but at the same time, I’m looking for a certain pitch to drive. That depends on the situation, but I’m always looking for a pitch to drive and ultimately hit in the gap. You know, get on base, maybe steal, drive runs in. Pretty much just do what the situation calls for, and being a well-rounded hitter.
RC: You’re one of six first-round picks on this team. How important do you think it is not only to advance to Kansas City together, but to win together in the minor leagues as well?
MM: Oh, it’s huge. At the beginning of the year, we struggled a little bit. We knew we had all the talent, but we didn’t come out and start off the way we wanted to in the first half. We’re finally learning to win together. It’s not always the team with talent, it’s the team that can learn how to win and play together. We’re finally starting to gel, and it’s been a lot more fun in the second half.
RC: Finally, we posed this question to Billy Butler yesterday: Who would win a home run derby between Butler and Alex Gordon?
MM: Wow … Where are we playing? That would be a good match. I don’t know, I don’t know who would win it, because both of them have unbelievable power. It’s amazing what I see watching these guys every day in batting practice and in the games. Some of the balls they hit, it’s unbelievable. I’d have to say it’s a toss-up. If you’re a betting man, you’re probably in trouble.
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