Rays Prospect Q & A: Ryan Brett (Part 2)

There were 28 of the best prospects in the Rays' system at the recent Winter Development Program. If I had had time, I would have interviewed them all. Of the player's I missed, I was most disappointed to have not spoken with infielder Ryan Brett. Fortunately, I was able to track him down and he spoke with me last week from his home in Seattle. Inside is Part 2 of that interview.

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Rays Digest: You were a third round pick and you've had some pretty nice success at the rookie level the past two years. Something that was crossing my mind today was - this is the time of year when websites and magazines start coming out with prospect lists. You are routinely ranked somewhere in the Top 20 in the Rays' system. I was just curious if you guys pay attention to that kind of stuff? Does it get in your head? Does it give you any kind of pressure to perform because of the expectations on you? Or do you just go ahead and kind of do your thing no matter what?

Ryan Brett: Well it's funny that you ask, because my Mom is on that thing every day. She's always listening to talk radio or looking at Baseball America and their top lists - and all that kind of stuff. She'll tell me about it and I'll look at it.

You know really...I just try and make myself better. Of course when they criticize me or say something that I don't like - of course I don't like it. But that just lets me know: "Hey, there's still room for improvement. I can still get better." So I just try and take it into consideration and try and work to make myself move into the Top 5. So I kind of use it to my advantage and try and get better from it and try to keep climbing the ladder every year.

Rays Digest: (Laughing) By the way, the Baseball America rankings came out today - their annual prospect book - and I think you were number 15 or something like that.

Even though I cover the minor leagues...I really don't like ranking players like that. I don't really think it's beneficial to anybody. Especially when I am covering the same people all the time, I don't want to say, "that guy is better than that guy and that guy." But that's just what people want. They like lists. Not just in baseball - but in everything. I do rankings of course, because you kind of have to, but I don't necessarily enjoy it. So yeah...I was just curious to get your take on it.

Ryan Brett: Yeah absolutely. I can understand that.

Rays Digest: Are you still switch-hitting? Or did you give switch-hitting up? Because I know you were doing it for awhile in high school.

Ryan Brett: Well I was doing it in high school, because I was actually pretty good at it when I was younger. I was just kind of messing around and I actually had a pretty good swing. Then one of my hitting coaches one day just thought of it to try and give me some higher value in the draft. But halfway through the season in high school I just kind of said "screw it" really, and just started hitting right-handed. I felt like I really wasn't gonna switch-hit at the next level. So I just kind of weeded that out.

Then when I went down to Florida I was just kind of asking them: "Do you think it would be a good idea to switch-hit?" They said it was probably not a good idea, because my right-handed swing has come a long way. So they just kind of told me not to switch-hit. But I was doing it for a little while in high school and I enjoyed it but...

Rays Digest: So your just a right-handed hitter now exclusively?

Ryan Brett: Yeah just right-handed.

Rays Digest: On your Baseball Reference page they have you listed as a switch-hitter... (laughing))

Ryan Brett: Yeah I saw that. (laughing)

Rays Digest: ...and I knew you were just a right-handed hitter, but I wanted to ask you because I knew you experimented with switch-hitting.

Brett has a career .932 fielding percentage at second base in two seasons of pro ball.

Another thing I wanted to ask you about - you were a shortstop in high school, but you've been playing second base for the Rays. How has your transition been moving over to second base? How comfortable are you feeling there? Is that where you see yourself - or the Rays see you - playing in the future?

Ryan Brett: At first I had to get used it, because I'd never played on the side of the bag. I thought it felt easier, because there's not a long throw. I mean you really just have to catch-and-throw it and it's an out.

I see myself as a second baseman, because of the fact that I'm not that big. I don't have the size really to play shortstop. I don't have the best arm on he field, but it's not bad - it's not terrible. I'm still working with it. Almost every week I'm out there working with it. I work on my feeds. I work on my play around the bag. I just work to improve at second base, because I see myself staying there at second base. And I feel the Rays do too. I just want to keep getting my work in and keep getting better defensively, so that I can stay there and hopefully get to the bigs one day as a second baseman.

Rays Digest:: Actually in the Baseball America scouting report that came out in the book today, they did mention that your defense had become a lot smoother than it was in 2010.

Obviously your bat has been your calling card. Is becoming a better defensive player a goal of yours to try and become a complete all-around player?

Ryan Brett: Yeah of course. My hitting is like my thing right now. When I was younger, that's all I really worked on. I really didn't work defensively a lot. I didn't work on base-running a lot. I work on hitting every day, but I also try and get fielding in too so that I can become a better defensive player. My goal is to just keep getting better every year. I'll come into Spring Training ready to go and be ready for a long-season team hopefully.

I mean I need to work on my base-running too. I feel like I'm not at full potential yet. Also I feel like I could have stole a lot more last year. I just need to start stealing bags and keep working on my defensive game so that ultimately I can become an all-around player.

Rays Digest: You said you wanted to steal more. I'm looking at your stats right now - and you were 21 for 24 last year, which is obviously an exceptional percentage. Are you talking about being more aggressive?

Ryan Brett: Yeah. If I have the green light then I just take that advantage, because in the long run if I keep doing it, the better off I'll be. The more bags I attempt to steal - then ultimately - I'll have more in the end. Just something to work on when I get down there to Spring Training.

Brett had 21 stolen bases and scored 42 runs in 61 games last season for Princeton.
Rays Digest: In 2010, your first season, you hit .303 and then last year you hit .300. Obviously there is a bit of difference in the pitching in the Appalachian League, but you were very consistent and you hit pretty much the same. Was there a big difference in your approach from your first year and last year? How were you able to make adjustments?

Ryan Brett: I've always been a really aggressive hitter. If I see a pitch in the zone that I think I can handle, I'm going to swing at it. At the start of the year last season, they were doing exactly that. I would just wait for them to throw a fastball right down the middle - and because I was leading off - I'd swing at it. Once the season started carrying on, they weren't throwing me fastballs anymore - curveballs first pitch - so I had to adjust from that. I started struggling and it kind of got in my head a little bit. I was talking to the coaches and they were just saying to be patient at the plate, work the count and wait for your pitch to hit. So that's what I started doing and I started doing well. I was hitting the same at the end of the season as I was at the beginning just because of that adjustment. Just taking the count deeper and looking at some pitches and waiting for a good pitch to hit.

I don't think the pitching was that different at all. It was maybe a little bit more consistent in Princeton than in the GCL, but it was basically about the same I'd say. You'd have guys that would throw hard, but they don't where it's going. But yeah, it was a little better. They're a little bit better at locating and have better breaking stuff.

Rays Digest:: You said you started out the season being very aggressive, but you actually walked more than you struck out. You walked 26 times and struck out 24 times and had a .370 on base percentage. Is that result from talking to the coaches - like you said - and making adjustments and developing a more patient approach?

Ryan Brett: Yeah I think so. Usually when I get down in a count, I doubt myself a little bit and don't think I'll do as well. But if I keep my same mentality like I am at the beginning of my at bat - being aggressive - but also waiting for a good pitch to hit, I'll be fine. Really it's just trying to be quiet at the plate and keeping a smooth load and not trying to be too quick with it. I just tried to work the count, work the pitcher and if he gave me the bag - then obviously I'd take the bag. Anytime I could though, I would try and get a hit, because I'm just too aggressive and all I want to do is just hit.

Rays Digest: Obviously Spring Training is right around the corner. Are you planning on going down there early? Or are you going to just stay in Seattle until the reprting date?

Ryan Brett: I was going to stay until the reporting date, because of the traveling - I have to pay for it - and I'd have to pay for housing. I was just going to stay here and live with my parents until Spring Training so I can save a little bit of money. I got good workouts here and I've got hitting, so I think I'll be fine.

Rays Digest: Just one more question. You didn't wear batting gloves in high school, but obviously you're wearing them now because it's a lot hotter in Florida and on the East Coast. (laughing) You've kind of been described as a throw-back player. Who were some of your influences as a player growing up? Who was your favorite player?

Ryan Brett: Growing up it was probably Ken Griffey, Jr., because he was a Seattle Mariner and he was like an icon here. He was just the man. So I looked up to Griffey, even though he is a lefty and a big power-hitter. It has nothing to do with my style of game, but I loved the way he got into the box and it always looked like he was just going to smash everything. So I kind of looked up to him. Now it's Jose Reyes, because he's kind of the same type of player as I am. He's been doing really well and I just enjoy watching him play.

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John Gregg is Publisher and Senior Editor of Rays Digest. You can follow him on Twitter at @RaysDigest. He can also be reached via e-mail at raysdigest.com@gmail.com.

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