Repeating grades in the minors is a necessary evil. Perhaps the player has shown he has a lot of talent, but didn’t play up to that level the first time through. Sometimes the organization wants a player to concentrate on fixing on part of their game. And then sometimes there are multiple reasons.
One player who repeated a grade and has had success because of it is Brett Nicholas who was the 6th round draft pick of the Texas Rangers in the 2010 MLB draft.
Nicholas was drafted as a catcher and was sent to the Rookie League Arizona Rangers. I’m not sure that he even unpacked when he went to the complex at Surprise. He played in 3 games, having a total of 7 plate appearances. In these 3 games, 2 of them were only in a pitch hit roll. Given the fact that he didn’t homer in every at bat, it maybe have been the quickest promotion in recent memory.
The Rangers organization promoted the young catcher to the Short Season Class A Spokane Indians of the Northwest League. Nicholas played in 51 games with 216 plate appearances in 2010 and hit .245/.319/.344 with 32 RBI. He hit 3 homeruns and 10 doubles to compliment his total 24 hits. Similar to his microscopic stay in Surprise, he did not play defensively in every game he played. Indeed he only caught 37 of the 51 games he was in.
2011 started out for Nicholas in Extended Spring Training to start. While I am sure he would have preferred to start with Hickory or even Myrtle Beach he had something standing in his way, that being the roadblock of Kellin Deglan and Tomas Telis in Hickory and Zach Zaneksi and Vincent DiFazio in Myrtle Beach. So after EST he once again joined the Spokane Indians, but not entirely in the same roll.
Brett Nicholas is just one example of a player who is drafted in one position only to be changed positions due to need, lack of ability, or injury. Two players who changed their positions and currently on the Texas Rangers 40 man roster are Mike Olt and Matt West, both of these players starting life as 3rd basemen. In 2011 the Spokane Indians started to 1st base. This move happens a lot, as seen with Mike Napoli and Joe Mauer seeing starting time at 1st.
The 2011 season saw a spike in the time that Nicholas played, going up to 63 games. He caught a mere 12 games for the Indians, but played 1st for 30 games. The other 21 games in which he played it was as a bat off the bench. In the 284 plate appearances he made he hit .277/.386/.451 with 6 home runs and 45 RBI.
The Rangers liked the changes that Nicholas had made and gave him a late season promotion to Myrtle Beach for 3 games.
2012 saw him begin the season with Myrtle Beach. It has been a season of his being almost completely a 1st baseman. In 97 games that he has played in, 86 have been at 1st base, 8 at catcher and 3 at the DH. This has been a big change for him as not being a bat off the bench but an everyday player. He has made the most of this change and it hitting .284/.339/.404 which is good for the highest batting average of any current Pelican. He has surpassed the 100 hit mark and is at 50 RBI.
Had it not been for the decision of Andrew Clark to retire after the 2nd game of the year, Nicholas may not have been given the playing time he has been. But Nicholas made the most of it, and has successfully made a point that he needs to be considered for promotion to Frisco.
Given his history in different positions and coming off the bench he should be kept in mind if the Rangers are looking for a C/1B/OF/DH utility player in a few years. But he needs time in the higher levels of the minor leagues to make sure that his 2012 numbers are repeatable.