Andrew Aplin wasn't that much different than too many other people finishing up college this spring -- the former Arizona State outfielder went home for a couple of weeks and waited for his phone to ring with a job offer.
The difference was Aplin was pretty sure he was getting a call, and knew more or less when it was coming. On the second day of June's draft, Aplin got the call that he was a Houston Astro, selected in the fifth round.
Aplin signed right off the bat, leaving home after just a week-and-a-half of rest to join his new team in Troy, New York, a state he'd never even visted before, and start his professional career.
"I had about a week and a half to get my legs under me and then it was time to get out here and go again," Aplin said earlier this week.
He hasn't really stopped since he got there -- hitting .351/.461/.553 with three homers and 15 stolen bases in 32 games for the Tri-City ValleyCats of the short-season Class A New York-Penn League.
For Aplin, besides playing every day, the two biggest changes from college ball at Arizona State to pro baseball have played into his strengths -- the Astros let him run more on the bases to utilize his speed and the switch to a wood bat plays into his strengths of squaring the ball up and hitting gap-to-gap.
In his first month or so as a pro, his 15 stolen bases are nearly twice the number he put up in 24 more games in college.
"When I got drafted I wanted to steal more bags, being a center fielder it's something you need to have in your repertoire," Aplin said. "We had green lights, but hitting in front of Joey DeMichele, Deven Marrero and Abe Ruiz, their name says enough. I didn't want to risk getting thrown out when they could drive me in with one swing of the bat."
Marrero was the first-round pick of the Red Sox, while DeMichele and Ruiz were both drafted by the White Sox in the third and 16th rounds, respectively.
A leadoff man with a .392 on-base percentage at Arizona State as a junior, he did hit six homers, second-most on the team, but had just one in his first two seasons for the Sun Devils. Still, at Arizona State he slugged .454 wracking up 28 doubles and nine triples in his career. For the ValleyCats, he has 13 extra-base hits so far. Aplin said he's never tried to muscle up too many balls, just go gap-to-gap and use his speed. While the transition to the wooden bat saps some players of their power, the recent change to a more wood-like aluminum bat and the fact he was never a power hitter allowed him to continue hitting in the pros, just like he did in college.
Once I get a wood bat in my hand, I get the feel of the bat more than aluminum," Aplin said. "I used it in summer ball both years and when I was younger, I'd play in wood bat tournaments with my travel team and I'd just mess around with wood bats because the pros used it."
Aplin's defense in center has always been one of his big strengths, but he's showing he can hit as a pro, as well, leading the New York-Penn league in batting and currently second among all players in on-base percentage, slugging, and OPS.
"I've always heard that coming up through high school and college, but I just try to play hard every day," he said. "My defense is not going to change, it's not something that goes into a slump. I just try to keep focused on that and not try to do too much offensively."
• Catcher Rob Brantly made a heck of a first impression with the Marlins. Acquired in Monday's deal that sent Anibal Sanchez and Omar Infante to Detroit, Brantly had three hits and drove in three in his debut for Miami's Triple-A team in New Orleans on Wednesday. Between Double-A and Triple-A, Brantly's hitting .293/.337/.392 with three home runs this season.
• Padres right-hander Casey Kelly made his first appearance since April on Tuesday, working two innings in the Arizona Rookie League. Kelly had missed most of the season with an elbow strain. He didn't pitch particularly well, allowing six runs (four earned) on six hits in two innings. He did strike out three and didn't walk a batter. After the game he took to Twitter:
Good to get back on the mound tonight. Step in the right direction. Back at it tomorrow— CaseyKelly (@IamCaseyKelly) July 24, 2012
• Red Sox first baseman Michael Almanzar reached base in 16 consecutive plate appearances earlier this week -- finally being retired Wednesday when he was jammed and popped up to second base in the eighth inning of a 6-1 victory over Myrtle Beach. The son of former big-league pitcher Carlos Almanzar, the younger Almanzar started his streak on Sunday, going 2 for 2 for Boston's high-Class A Salem squad. The next night he was 3 for 3 with a homer and hit by pitch and 4 for 4 with a walk on Tuesday. Wednesday he went 3 for 4 with a double before his streak ended. His 12 consecutive hits matched the Carolina League record, set by Kenneth Kuhn in 1958. His streak of reaching base fell one short of the all-time record in pro baseball, set by Frank Ward in 1893. The modern-day big-league record is 16, set by Ted Williams in 1957. Almanzar, 21, is hitting .316/.369/.481 with nine home runs this season.
• The Cardinals' Triple-A team in Memphis put on quite the show on Sunday, as Pete Kozma and Stepehen Hill each hit grand slams in a eight-run fourth inning of a 24-7 Redbirds victory over Oklahoma City. Kozma was 4 for 6 with five RBI and three runs scored, while Hill was 5 for 5 with five RBI and four runs scored. All nine starters had at least one hit, eight starters scored a run and seven knocked in at least one.
• Reds shortstop Billy Hamilton has been the most exciting player in the minor leagues (he's up to 113 steals on the season), but one of the reasons it took him half a season to get the call from Double-A was that the Reds have another young shortstop in the system -- Didi Gregorius. The 22-year-old native of the Netherlands is hitting .312/.339/.607 in his first 14 games at Triple-A, including four home runs. In 81 games at Pensacola, he had just one home run and was sluggling .373. On Wednesday, Gregorius crushed a walk-off homer in a victory over Buffalo:
For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnBaseball on Twitter, subscribe to the RSS feed and "like" us on Facebook.