Now in his fourth year of pro ball, Pittsburgh Pirates prospect Robbie Grossman put it all together in 2011.
The Bradenton outfielder became the first player to record 100 walks and 100 runs in the same season in seven years, and he led all Minor Leaguers in both categories en route to an MVP-caliber year.
Selected sixth overall in the 2008 Draft, Grossman set career highs in nearly every offensive category, including batting average (.296), homers (13) and RBIs (56). Capping a productive campaign, Grossman was named to the Florida State League's postseason All-Star team.
Among his season highlights were 42- and 37-game on-base streaks -- the top two marks in the league -- a strong June where he hit .341 across 26 games and a red-hot doubleheader in August in which he went 6-for-8 with seven runs scored.
The 22-year-old was shortlisted for a MiLBY Award in the Class A Advanced Best Hitter category, and he was invited to go head-to-head with the brightest young prospects in the game in the Arizona Fall League -- an offseason finishing school of sorts where he was also selected to the Rising Stars showcase.
MiLB.com talked with Grossman about learning to hit from both sides of the plate and his success in the AFL.
MiLB.com: You had such an impressive season with Bradenton. Have you been able to take anything from the year yet, or did going straight to the Arizona Fall League delay the evaluation of your regular season success?
Robbie Grossman: It was fun. I loved coming out to the park every day and trying to get better. I haven't had a chance to look back on it yet, but I'm sure I will over the next couple weeks or months. I was proud how I was able to go about things every day and make the most of things.
MiLB.com: You're the first Minor Leaguer to draw 100 walks and score 100 runs in a season since Nick Swisher accomplished the feat in 2004. How did that feel?
Grossman: It was a tremendous honor just to be mentioned in the same sentence as Nick Swisher. That was an honor in itself. I took it one day at a time. It was a lot of fun. I knew that I was a leadoff hitter coming into the season and I knew what my role was. I had to get on base, and I knew that if I did that the guys behind me would drive me in.
MiLB.com: In 2010 you appeared to project more as a doubles hitter than a home run threat, but then this year you hit 13 homers. What would you put that down to?
Grossman: I just got used to hitting left-handed more. I only had about one year switch-hitting in summer ball and the high school season. This year I got more accustomed to doing that and figuring out my swing.
MiLB.com: How hard is it to suddenly start batting from the opposite side when you're so used to doing everything one way?
Grossman: I still have a lot of work to do, but I'm excited for what's to come. A couple years of pro ball got me more at-bats left-handed against right-handed pitching, and it really paid off. It's definitely taken me some time as you can see, but I'm happy with how it's come.
MiLB.com: This season marked the second full year you've spent in the Florida State League. How much easier did you find it this time around?
Grossman: It's a tough league. It's a challenge with the ballparks and the conditions. Just Florida in the summer -- it's not easy. But I had fun with it and made the most of it every day.
MiLB.com: Other than batting left-handed, what else do you need to work on to take your game to the next level?
Grossman: I need to continue what I'm doing, and hopefully I'll get better and I'll get stronger. I'll try to stay healthy and let the chips fall where they fall. I'm guessing I'll be starting next year in Altoona in the Double-A Eastern League.
MiLB.com: How has playing in the Arizona Fall League helped you prepare for next year? You looked like you handled the jump in competition well.
Grossman: I'm having fun here. There are some good guys on this team, and we have a great coaching staff. There's a great atmosphere. I'm just showing people what I can do and what I can bring to the table. I really don't think the jump is that big, it's more the conditions that are different. The difference between [Arizona] and Florida is totally night and day in terms of how the ball carries and how fast the fields play. The pitching is good, but I just had to step up my game and show people what I got. There's a lot of people out there taking notes, and I had to go out there and show them that I could play.
MiLB.com: Back in 2008, you committed to the University of Texas. What was the deciding factor in choosing to go pro at that point? Were you ever worried about whether you had made the right decision?
Grossman: I sat down with my family, and I decided that this is what I wanted to do with my life. I thought I might as well get in and start now rather than later. I made the decision and never looked back since. I live my life with no regrets, and I'm glad about where I am today. I wouldn't give anything in the world for it.
MiLB.com: You got a $1 million signing bonus as a teenager on Draft day -- how did that amount of money change your life?
Grossman: It's nice to have, but it really doesn't mean much. I don't see much of it, but it's nice to have to help my parents. I gave them some money and put the rest of it in savings. The Pirates gave me a chance and I can't thank them enough.
MiLB.com: Here's a theoretical one for you. If you had the chance to man the outfield with any two players in baseball history, who would you pick and why?
Grossman: I'd probably say Ken Griffey Jr., Jim Edmonds or Craig Biggio. They were my favorite players growing up, and I like the way they played the game. They were obviously exciting players, and they played for a long time in the big leagues.