Andre Ethier. Dustin Pedroia. Mike Leake. Ike Davis. The baseball tradition at Arizona State is long and storied. The most recent crop of Sun Devils alumni to succeed at the major league level may soon add a new member to their ranks. The way he has been playing lately, Oakland Athletics prospect Eric Sogard is on track to do just that.
The 81st overall pick in the 2007 draft, Sogard was acquired by Oakland from San Diego last offseason. The Phoenix native has always been a slick fielder (Sogard was the first player in Arizona State history to be named Pac-10 defensive player of the year) but a positive trend of offensive improvements have helped him shed the ‘all-glove’ label. Now at Triple-A Sacramento, Sogard owns a career minor league batting average of .291 and an on-base percentage just shy of .400. The 24-year-old takes an unabashed pride in playing the game the right way: fundamentals, aggression, being a good teammate and having fun. Sound a bit like another undersized, often unheralded second baseman? Maybe 2008 American League MVP Dustin Pedroia? “I try to keep up with Pedroia. I love the way he goes about the game. He plays hard and gets it done.”
A recent guest of Gotham Baseball Live with Jay Ferraro and Dan “Hawk” Drobnis, Sogard lauded the ASU program as an essential component of his development. “A lot of my teammates at Arizona State were drafted and got the opportunity to play pro ball. A lot of them are doing very well and on their way to the big leagues also. It’s neat having that group of guys that you can always go to and talk to.” Sogard believes consistency in all phases of the game will bring about his ultimate goal: playing and winning in the major leagues. “Consistency is everything at this level. I feel like I have been working hard at that. I just try to do what I can do.”
The A’s are ranked in the bottom tier of all major offensive categories and have made the fifth-most errors in the American League. If notoriously aggressive GM Billy Beane senses trouble, Eric Sogard will likely be at the forefront of the youth movement in Oakland. “It’s a great organization to be with. I’m starting to get comfortable [in Triple-A]. I’m having some fun out there.” Having a Devil of a time, no doubt.
Anthony Federico covers all levels of the game for Baseball Digest and Gotham Baseball. He is the author of “Must Be Nice” – a loving look at the glory of beer-league softball. Check out www.mustbenicebook.com for more info or follow him on Twitter @AntFeds