Appy notes: Vallot finding his groove

Burlington backstop flashing power, focusing on defense in pro debut

Chase Vallot, who turns 18 later this month, has seven homers and 23 RBIs in 40 games. (Dano Keeney/

By Bob Sutton / Special to | August 14, 2014 10:00 AM ET

Burlington Royals catcher Chase Vallot is making adjustments all the time, and his knack for power hitting has been one of the signature accomplishments of his first professional season.

For a 17-year-old player, plenty has happened since June's Draft when he was taken in the compensatory first round (40th overall) and lured away from a scholarship to Mississippi State.

"I'm starting to come around and starting to feel better," Vallot said. "I just need to stay in the groove."

He was such a force for St. Thomas More High School that he was named Louisiana's top high school player. This came after a serious weight reduction earlier in his senior year when he heeded advice to get in better shape.

Since last summer, he shed nearly 20 pounds to get down to 211.

"People said I was overweight and too sluggish," he said. "I had to do something about it if I wanted to get drafted."

He became a hot Draft commodity and has backed that decision up with the Burlington team. He hit seven home runs over his first 35 pro games. Two of those came during a three-game series with the Bluefield Blue Jays with his family visiting in early August.

"When he hits the ball, it does some damage," Burlington manager Tommy Shields said.

Vallot, who's normally plugged into the third or fourth spot in the Royals' lineup, said he's disappointed in his strikeout total, which has averaged about 1.5 per game.

That has kept his batting average lower than he had hoped, but Shields said there are encouraging signs most of the time.

"He's battling the first year," Shields said.

While Vallot's abilities with the bat have wowed some observers, he's been challenged behind the plate. With a Burlington pitching staff numbering about 20 most of the season, it's been a chore for Vallot to figure it all out.

"It's very tough," he said. "Just learning all the different pitchers and seeing what they have. It's just an ongoing adjustment."

On the plus side, Vallot has found himself in countless situations on defense, many of which he never encountered quite in this fashion during high school.

He also has been forced to mature in a hurry in many ways. Last summer, his mother, Renee, was diagnosed with breast cancer. Nearly a year later, she had what might be her final surgery in that recovery process in June just a week or so into Burlington's season.

"I had to grow up quick," he said. "It's been a roller-coaster."

In brief

Getting it done: Second baseman Casey Turgeon of the Johnson City Cardinals leads the Appalachian League among active players with a .333 batting average. Accompanying that mark for the former University of Florida player are league-leading totals in walks (31) and runs scored (37) across the first 45 games.

Big-time bounce back: Pulaski Mariners right-hander Zack Littell had one of his roughest outings when he faced host Burlington in what amounted to a homecoming appearance in late July for the North Carolinian, who lives only a few miles away. In his next two stints, he went a combined 10 1/3 innings without giving up an earned run.

Anyone on base? The first five home runs for Kingsport Mets outfielder Ivan Wilson were solo shots until an Aug. 8 grand slam against the Bristol Pirates. Wilson's next homer came four nights later -- a three-run blast. Those two hits account for a decent chunk of his 20 RBIs through 44 games.

Bob Sutton is a contributor to

This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.

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