Saturday, March 15, 2014

Aaron Shipman enters the Cal League (Q&A)

Oakland is in possession of some bonafide athleticism within their farm system between assets such as Addison Russell, Justin Higley, Bijon Boyd and Rashun Dixon, who have continuously received sterling marks for their physical potentiality while housed within the A's ranks. An additional name thrown into that cast, and quite possibly the quintessential embodiment of athletic prowess in the A's system, Aaron Shipman has seen his career been stunted significantly by a litany of injuries and has yet to surge past Beloit, but his brooding potential has him clinging to Oakland's top 30 prospects at the moment after once being considered a unanimous top 10 piece initially upon being plucked in the 3rd round of the 2010 Draft. Regardless, Shipman's exquisite strike zone recognition and developing baserunning capabilities have kept him relevant within the Athletics system, as he remains a top tier outfield farmhand for Oakland just prior to entering Stockton. The prototypical leadoff man has struggled to accumulate power statistics while a professional, having yet to hit a dinger in nearly 1000 cumulative plate appearances, but his remarkable swing mechanics have salvaged value for the 22 year old lefty, who still is quite youthful despite a challenging ascent. One could perhaps even designate him as the "positional Michael Ynoa"

The 6'1", 175 pound Georgian originally debuted in Papago with the AZL crop, struggling mightily after a 2-17, 6 K attempt just prior to a corresponding Vermont assignment to begin 2011. He would then commence upon one of his more successful campaigns as a professional, hitting .254/.385/.303 between 247 PAs, a 17.0% BB% (42:39 BB/K) and a career best 17-3 stolen base résumé, however, this wouldn't be enough to vault the youngster to Burlington until the 2012 stint as he grappled with a multiple of lower body issues and had his season abruptly derailed by a hand fracture. Shipman was assigned to Burlington after confronting a hip flexor hindrance and then suffered from debilitating wrist issues that squandered his capability to hit sufficiently amongst the remainder of the Midwest League competition. With a mediocre .206/.316/.261 try with a 74 wRC+ through 427 PAs, Shipman would tackle the Midwest environment once more with Oakland's newly acquired Wisconsin affiliate, despite once more witnessing his season be compromised as he would succumb to an elbow injury following another unsatisfactory initial month with the Snappers. Forced to rehabilitate in Arizona, Shipman consequently was instructed by the coaching personnel to tweak to approach, often cited as too passive and criticized as not possessing the ability to be aggressive when required, with outstanding results. The now recuperated Shipman blew past inferior AZL arsenals and was slotted upon Beloit's roster once more just prior to July, hitting .314/.417/.361 to close out his Midwest League tenure thanks to a breakthrough .362/.474/.415 (20:14 BB/K) July that ranked as one of the more impressive single months throughout the 2013 campaign within the A's system. His BABIP significantly inflated and his approach became far more line drive oriented, amassing a cumulative 116 wRC+, .351 BABIP, 16.1% BB%, and a 17.1% K% (47:50 BB/K in Beloit exclusively, 4:0 in the AZL) as he steamrolled into the postseason for Beloit, going 8-19 with a double and three walks in the Snappers five game postseason stint. Despite the lack of power production, Shipman seems to finally have begun materializing and thus heightens anticipation for his Cal League debut this April. I spoke with the Quitman, GA native about his upcoming season: 

CK: Hey Aaron, how's the offseason been treating you? First few days in AZ going alright?

AS: The offseason was great and these first few days of spring training have been great as well. It's great to see all my teammates and coaches and the great staff members we have in this organization again.

CK: Last year obviously wasn't an ideal way to start after sustaining the elbow injury just before May and missing a couple months. Have you done worked on building up your strength this offseason to better prevent stuff like that from happening?

AS: Yes. I did less aggressive throwing and more small muscle work to ensure all of the muscles used in throwing would be strong and ready for the grind of a season

CK: You have some pretty outstanding plate discipline and strike zone recognition as evidenced by the fact that you walked more than you struck out between the AZL and Beloit last season. What's your approach at the plate when you're tackling pitchers?

AS: My approach changes based on where I'm hitting and which AB in the game I'm at. If I'm leading off a game I always want to make the pitcher prove to me that he can get strike one. When a pitcher shows me that he can throw strikes, I become more aggressive, but until he proves that he can locate I am satisfied with a walk.

CK: The organization supposedly wanted to see an uptick in your aggressiveness at the plate, which worked out well for you following your return to Beloit. Is that something that is going emphasized for you again this season?

AS: Absolutely. I've been known to get passive at times and wait for that "too perfect" pitch and end up striking out without swinging at all, so I want to continue to build on the success I had in Beloit last year and the approach

CK: Once you entered the system, you got some high marks for your stolen base capabilities. It's taken a little while, but last year saw an increase to 19 in 28 tries. What's your strategy in executing stolen base attempts and will we see more aggressiveness on the basepaths from you this season? 

AS: Stealing bases is all about getting a "jump". Keying in on something a pitcher does that assures you that he is about to deliver the ball to the plate. If I feel like I've got a key and I can steal a bag easily, then I'll run. Yes, there will definitely be an increase in stolen base attempts for me this year.

CK: You're taken a pretty even split between all three outfield positions, but played LF primarily for the Snappers in 2013. Do you feel more comfortable in one spot over another? 

AS: I've played most my professional games in LF so I would say that's my most comfortable spot. I don't mind playing any position as long as I'm in the lineup.

CK: While you weren't around when Beloit actually won the first half title, what was the postseason experience like in Wisconsin?

AS: Simply put, it was amazing. I played with an incredibly talented group of guys who pushed me to work as hard as I ever have and I can truly say that that Beloit Snapper team was the best team I've ever been apart of.

CK: It's presumed you'll be heading out for your Stockton debut this year. What are you expecting about the Cal League? 

AS: I'm hoping for the best in the Cal League. I hear it's a great place to hit and I'm looking forward to getting the opportunity to play there.

CK: Do you think you can also hit your elusive first HR there? I know that's not the focus, but in ballparks like High Desert and Lancaster, pretty much what would be a pop-up in the Midwest League heads 420 feet out of the stadium (I'm exaggerating a bit... but not really)

AS: [Laughs] I am not a power hitter by any means. If I do connect and hit a homerun it will be a mistake for sure because my only goal is to hit hard low line drives. Maybe I'll finally get on the board in Stockton if I'm lucky haha.


CK: What are your goals for this approaching 2014 season? What do you hope to have accomplished when everything wraps up?

 AS: I just want to enjoy myself everyday on the field. I want to have fun playing with my teammates and I want whichever team I end up on to win the championship. Hopefully I can put together another season to build on in my quest to reach Oakland one day

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