James McCann picked up a habit at the University of Arkansas that he still uses today with the Erie SeaWolves. And it's a good habit.
The top catching prospect in the Detroit Tigers organization, McCann keeps a notebook on opposing hitters as well as opposing pitchers.
"That way I can look back and see how they attacked me," he said.
Erie manager Chris Cron calls McCann a "manager's dream" and "a sponge" who soaks up information. The fact that he takes the initiative to keep notes just reinforces those characteristics.
"We don't issue" notebooks, said Cron, in his third season at Erie. "It's something you have to go out and purchase at Walgreens or something. He was in this league last year and has bits and pieces [of information] that he can add. That's what I mean about being a sponge."
McCann, 22, said the idea to keep a notebook came from Todd Butler, associate head coach at Arkansas. Butler said McCann became a catcher late in his high school career in California. He was also a switch-hitter at one point before just batting from the right side.
"His mind frame is outstanding," Butler said. "He was an overlooked player that blossomed late. His defensive skills are Major League."
"I pride myself on my defense. That's what comes first with this position. One thing I can do each day is block, receive and throw. I can control that each and every day," he said.
McCann was drafted in the second round by the Tigers in 2011. He began this season as the No. 12 prospect in the Detroit system, and in his first 60 at-bats he hit .350 with five doubles and an OPS of .824.
"I love having him around," Cron said. "He's a very intelligent kid. He brought all of this stuff with him; he learned a lot at Arkansas. You tell him something one time and he runs with it."
"It is all about repetition," Cron adds. "He's going to be a catcher in the big leagues, obviously. But he is getting time at DH. That is what I'm talking about with repetition. He is getting a chance and making the most of it."
McCann's defense has never been in question. But last year at Class A Advanced Lakeland, he had no homers in 160 at-bats with an average of .288. He was promoted to Erie and hit only .200 in 220 at-bats with two homers, an on-base percentage of .227 and a slugging mark of .282.
This season has been far different, though. McCann had four hits at Bowie on April 16 and drove in the go-ahead run in the 10th inning. He had four multi-hit games in his 10 contests this season.
"He is a very good defensive catcher," said Erie pitcher Matt Crouse, who was also teammates with him last year at Lakeland. "He is a great catch-and-throw catcher. He is very baseball smart. He is just a student of the game."
"I think McCann can catch in the big leagues right now," Detroit manager Jim Leyland told reporters in Spring Training.
A new bat in Bowie: Cuban defector Henry Urrutia was assigned by the Orioles to Bowie and went 2-for-5 with three RBIs in his debut Friday at Akron. The 26-year-old outfielder then hit safely and drew a walk in both games over the weekend for the Baysox. "My dream is to be in the big leagues. I am not here to be a Minor League player," Urrutia said in Spring Training through interpreter Felipe Rojas Alou, academy director in the Dominican Republic for the Orioles. "He has a really good bat from the left side," said Dan Duquette, executive vice president of baseball operations for the Orioles. "He is very clear on what his intentions are," with a goal to make the Majors.
Return to the Sens: Last season outfielder Brian Goodwin, the No. 2 prospect in the Washington system, moved from Class A Hagerstown of the South Atlantic League to Harrisburg, bypassing Class A Advanced Potomac. He hit .324 at Hagerstown, then hit .223 for Harrisburg. Goodwin began this year at Harrisburg and hit .254 in his first 67 at-bats with three doubles, three triples and a homer. "Last year was a big jump for him," said Harrisburg manager Matt LeCroy. "He came in with a pretty good attitude. He's made gradual adjustments."
Slugger rides Curve: Altoona's Alex Dickerson, the No. 11 prospect in the Pittsburgh system, got a hit in his first Double-A at-bat on April 4 and added an inside-the-park homer April 7 at Erie. He hit 13 homers last year for Class A Advanced Bradenton and was batting .200 through Sunday for Altoona, seeing action as a right fielder after playing first base in his previous two Minor League seasons. He grew up in California and was a standout at Indiana University. "I was not highly recruited," he said before Thursday's game at Harrisburg.