NYPL notes: O's Breazeale finds early success

IronBirds backstop brings senior momentum from Wake Forest

Ben Breazeale tops the New York-Penn League with a .453 on-base percentage and is tied for the lead with 30 RBIs. (Gordon Donovan/MiLB.com)

By Craig Forde / Special to MiLB.com | August 24, 2017 10:00 AM

It's been a long, productive year of baseball for Aberdeen's Ben Breazeale.

Undrafted after his junior season at Wake Forest, he hit .333 as a senior, was selected in the seventh round by the Baltimore Orioles in June and has been one of the New York-Penn League's most productive hitters since landing with the IronBirds.

"It's just kind of crazy," Breazeale said of 2017. "It's definitely been a long season. We had a good season in college, and that was really fun to go out my senior year like that. I couldn't have asked for more from that, and the Draft. Quick turnaround, come to Aberdeen and play in these 70 games here and go from there. It's been a lot of baseball. It's been a lot of fun."

In his debut, Breazeale went 3-for-4 for Aberdeen and hit safely in 20 of his first 21 games at the pro level. He sits second in the New York-Penn League with a .341 batting average and is tied for the lead in RBIs with 30, to go along with a league-best .453 on-base percentage.

The 22-year-old, who has split time between catcher and DH, credits his early successes in Aberdeen to the approach that gave him success at Wake this season.

"I like to get to the field a little bit early, get some swings off the tee, not try to tire myself out," he said of his routine. "I tried to find something that's repeatable that I can do in the cage that will transition to BP, then BP to the game. I feel like, having that down pat at this point in the season is something that gets you ready for each game. It gets to be a little bit of a grind. If you can find something that makes you comfortable as a player, it makes it that much easier."

Video: Breazeale delivers walk-off hit for Aberdeen

A recent participant in the New York-Penn League All-Star Game, Breazeale has found that the pitchers he faces on a nightly basis are always as strong as the weekend arms he would see in college.

He's also learning about living life as a pro and adjusting to the notion that he does this every day now, and things like coursework and classes have gone by the wayside.

"It's a lifestyle," said Breazeale. "You play a game at 7 o'clock at night, you don't get done until around 11, get home and then eat, sleep and get up and do it again. Getting a routine is one of the most important things, especially when you're at home. On the road, you're kind of more set. I feel like getting your feet wet at this level and finding something that works for you as a player will give you the best chance of having some success."

Comfortable in the routine he's found at the next level, Breazeale is enjoying his first taste of pro life as he looks to carry his momentum through the end of the season and into instructs, before he can finally take a breath and look back on a long baseball year.

"It feels like just yesterday it was December and I was going back to school to start the season," he said. "It's awesome. Playing in Aberdeen, an area I'm familiar with, has been really nice. The people, the coaches, the players, it's just been first class."

In brief

Double trouble: With 18 doubles, Walter Rasquin is looking to be the first player since 2015 to collect 20 or more two-baggers. The Brooklyn second basemen, who has picked up half of this year's tally in August, entered the season with 19 doubles over his first 143 Minor League games. Rasquin has accounted for 21 percent of the Cyclones' doubles this season. The most doubles for an entire season over the last decade is 24, accomplished when Jamestown's Ryan Fisher did it in 2010 and again when Williamsport's Chris Serritella matched the feat in 2012.

Hit and run: Hudson Valley's Vidal Brujan has surged into the league lead in both hits (63) and runs scored (42) thanks to a highly productive August. The Dominican-born infielder, who is hitting .366 for the month and is in the midst of a 12-game hitting streak, has hit safely in 18 of 19 games this month and scored in 15 of them. On the year, Brujan has collected hits in 41 of 53 games and has 19 multi-hit efforts. He has also crossed the plate in 34 separate games this season.

Lefty stars: The Aberdeen southpaw combo of Zac Lowther and Nick Vespi have put together some stellar strikeout numbers. Lowther, the Orioles' No. 13 prospect and an NYPL All-Star, has a K/9 of 10.9 and a K percentage of 32. Vespi, an 18th round pick in 2015, has a K/9 of 12.2 and a K percentage of 31. Ironically for Vespi, who has struck out 20 over his last 11 innings, his first appearance of the season came in May with Class A Delmarva, where he did not strike out a batter in his one inning.

Craig Forde is a contributor to MiLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.

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