Harris Is Impressed With Vechionacci & Battle
We sat down with Charleston Riverdogs' outfielder Estee Harris for a Q&A session to talk about his 2005 season, what he's doing this offseason to prepare for 2006, how is he able to hit for good power, which Yankees' prospects from his Charleston team impressed him the most, and much, much more.
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PinstripesPlus.com: Estee, talk about your year last season. What do you think of the year you had?
Estee Harris: It started out a little rough for me, but I think I was able to make some adjustments later in the year and I was able to finish a lot better than I started. The team was doing really well, and even though I struggled personally, there wasn't as much pressure. I think even though my stats might not show it, I contributed to the team winning and I was more happy about that. Of course you'd like to have a great year for yourself. But you don't want to just have a good year yourself, but help the team win too.
PinstripesPlus: When I saw you in Spring Training, you were seemingly one of the harder workers out there but yet you didn't have a great year last season. Was it a frustrating year for you?
Harris: Yeah, it was frustrating in the sense that I worked hard, but it was just one of those things. Baseball is one of the hardest games to play and it is a grind. I know I'm a lot better player than I played last year. I'm just going to have to work through it. I thoroughly enjoyed playing on that team [Charleston]. It seemed like everyone cared more about the team than they did about their own personal numbers, so that helped soften the blow. I didn't lose any confidence or anything last year.
PinstripesPlus: What are you doing this offseason to get ready for next year?
Harris: I'm working with a personal trainer six days a week. I'm also hitting and throwing everyday. I've been pretty busy actually. I'm just preparing for next season.
PinstripesPlus: Despite the struggles last season, you seemed to be smiling all the time, even through the tedious drills in Spring Training.
Harris: Well, I wouldn't rather be doing anything else. I was still very happy even at my lowest points in the year because I was playing baseball. It doesn't get any better than that.
PinstripesPlus: Even though the average wasn't where you and the Yankees would like it to be, it seems that you still racked up a good amount of extra-base hits. You're not a big guy at all. How are you able to hit for such good power?
Harris: I think my good bat speed translates into good pop off the bat when I make contact. I've never considered myself a power hitter, but a guy that can hit for power. It is a weird thing. I wind up hitting the ball pretty hard even though I'm not necessarily trying to do that. I'm just up there trying to put the ball in play.
PinstripesPlus: Considering the struggles you had last season, are you still thinking that you'll begin the year with the Tampa club?
Harris: You always want to shoot high. I want to try and break Spring Training a level higher than that, but at the very least, begin the year in Tampa. I have the mind set of high expectations. I know what I'm capable of doing. If I stay focused, have a good attitude, and have fun out there, the rest of it will take care of itself.
PinstripesPlus: What would you say is the weakest part of your game?
Harris: Tools-wise, it would have to be my arm strength. I've been working hard on my throwing this offseason. I recognized that it [arm strength] was a concern that needed to be addressed. But I'm also working hard on making more contact with the bat. I mean, when I do make contact, good things happen. Some guys are able to make more contact than me but sometimes they aren't able to do too much with it. So what I'd like to do is make as much contact as possible and everything else will take care of itself.
I'm trying to set myself up in spots to make better contact. I can be productive in other ways, even when I'm not hitting as well as I'd like. I have good speed and can let out some infield hits and leg out misplays. I'm looking to improve my mental approach at the plate and make my swing as short as possible, swinging through the zone without any unnecessary movement. My ultimate goal is make as much contact as possible. I'm feeling pretty confident I'm going to make more than I have been.
PinstripesPlus: What would you say are your strengths as a ball player?
Harris: It would have to be my bat speed, my power, my speed [base running], my instincts and my intelligence. I'm always in the game and I don't need somebody to tell me what to do during the games. I also think that, with my speed, I have pretty good range in the outfield, so that's a plus. I have pretty good instincts on the base paths and with my speed, I feel I can be a successful base stealer. I was able to steal 20 bases last year even though I wasn't on base as much. Once I make more contact and get on base more, I think I could steal a lot more bases. I think I can leg out doubles on bloopers even though they aren't really hard-hit doubles because of my speed.
PinstripesPlus: Among your Charleston teammates from last season, which positional player do you think has the highest upside?
Harris: It would have to be Tim Battle or Marcos Vechionacci. Both are really talented players and both are fun to watch. I think when they put it all together, they're going to be special players. What I like most about Battle, outside of his tools, is his overall confidence. Nothing discourages him. If has a bad game one day, he'll come back the next day and totally forget about it. You have to stay positive. If you feel like you can do it, you will do it and that's what I like most about him. With Nacci, I like his maturity for such a young player. He has all the tools, and as he gets more baseball experience, he's going to be great. He already has good clutch ability and that is just as important as anything. What is most impressive about him is that you can count on him and yet he was the youngest player on our team last year.
PinstripesPlus: Among the Charleston pitchers last year, which one do you think has the highest Major League potential?
Harris: It has to be Phil Hughes. He's another one who is mature beyond his years. I mean, his stuff is dominating. He just made batters look foolish. But what is great about him is his presence on the mound.
PinstripesPlus: Which of your Charleston teammates, hitter or pitcher, do you think is the best "sleeper" prospect? Who do you think doesn't get the attention he deserves but will wind up having a solid Major League career?
Harris: I'm going to pick a pitcher and a hitter. Phil Coke is a left-handed pitcher that has some dominating stuff. His stats weren't eye-popping this past year, but he always seem to pitch well in games where we weren't hitting. Ben Jones is one of the flat out best hitters I've ever played with. He has the knowledge and the hitting ability to play in the big leagues someday. He was crushing the ball all year and pitchers were staying away from him. He has one of the best approaches at the plate. I like the fact he always stays within himself.
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