The storylines of the Orioles mid-summer stretch not been positive ones, to say the least. Between poor starts, trade deadline rumors and a different narrative seemingly every night, it's a rather strange time in Birdland. Fortunately, there's been an abundance of good news to talk about in the minor leagues throughout 2017, including outfielder Randolph Gassaway.
This week Gassaway was kind enough to chat about his progression and development throughout the Orioles system, spotlighting particularly about his approach at the dish.
At just 22 years old, it’s easy to forget that Gassaway has been playing in the Orioles system since 2013 when he was drafted in the 13th round. He’s played in short periods since that point, but 2017 has marked his first year at a full-season affiliate. And thus far, he's performed almost on par with the likes of Cedric Mullins and Austin Hays.
Through 68 games, Gassaway has hit .310 with the Keys, posting a .360 on-base percentage and steadily representing a reliable outfield option in Frederick. This comes after a 2016 season that saw him put up a .340/.384/.535 slash line in Delmarva through 200 at-bats.
“I’m just focusing on work in the cage, work in the field and concentrating more and more and applying all of that to the game,” Gassaway said when asked what’s worked over the past two years. “I came a long way because of doing all of those things and taking it way more seriously, paying attention to all of the details and applying that on the field.”
It sounds like a simple approach, but it might just be the player Gassaway ultimately is and looks to potentially become. Although he struggled in his first two seasons in short-season and rookie ball, there’s been a steady incline in overall numbers since the 2015 season in Aberdeen. Now in his first full-season year, all signs point in positive directions.
A right-handed hitter, Gassaway has performed well against both sides throughout the year. He’s hit .306 against right-handed pitching and .319 versus southpaws, numbers that almost mirror the marks posted last year in Delmarva. Those numbers have stayed steady — but one area that warrants watching is the slugging totals.
In 55 games in 2016, the 6’4” Gassaway slugged .535 with seven HRs and 16 doubles. With the move to Frederick this year however, he’s hit just three balls out of the park in 68 games, earning a slugging percentage of .383. It’s an oddity that can’t be summed up on paper, but even Gassaway himself isn’t concerned with earning the power hitter label for the time being.
“Not yet,” he said when asked if he considers himself a major power hitter within the organization. “I feel like that’ll come when the swing is cleaned up a little bit more, cleaner paths [to the ball] in general, but obviously in the future I know that’ll happen. As of now, I’m trusting the process, going along with everything I’m learning and letting it happen instead of trying to force it.”
It’s a wise answer for a 22-year-old prospect, impressive for anyone in his situation. He explained his current approach further, noting that there’s nothing wrong with staying the course and letting the power numbers come when they want to.
“It’s not necessarily forced because that’ll just screw up everything and there would be no point in the work that I’ve done before,” he continued. “You can’t think about trying to hit home runs. If I do that, I’ll mess up my swing and what I’ve been trying to mold for the future… When the home runs come, they come.”
For now, it certainly doesn’t appear Gassaway will have to worry about knocking balls out of the park to be on the Orioles radar. He was called up to Bowie for a short time in May, and while the stint only lasted nine games (in which he posted a .313 on-base percentage), there’s no reason to think his name won’t be talked about in organizational meetings throughout the trade deadline period and, if applicable, into the offseason.
“You have to take care of what’s in front of you,” Gassaway said. “You can’t think ahead because if you get off task and try to think ‘Oh, if I do this then I’ll be here’ or ‘If this happens then I’ll be there’, you really can’t think about those kind of things. You control the controllables and take it day by day what’s in front of you.”
In every sense of the word, Gassaway is impressive. He seems to have everything heading in the right direction for a young outfield prospect, good news for both him and the Orioles. When asked about moving ahead, he stressed a veteran approach — simple and consistent.
“I’m just sticking to my approach and not getting off of that,” he said. “Putting a good swing on the ball, hitting the ball hard and continuing to keep hitting, stay in my zone and stay disciplined at the plate a bit more. Defensively, getting to balls that I don’t usually think I can get to, just trying to go all out for it and get better first steps, stuff like that – getting better each day any way I can.”