It didn't take anyone long to see that Brent Clevlen was going to break out in his second tour through the Florida State League.
On his way to winning the MiLB.com award for Class A Breakthrough Player, the Lakeland Tigers outfielder displayed a unique mindset right from the start of the season.
"He was on a mission from the first day of Spring Training," Lakeland manager Mike Rojas said. "He could have been a little upset when he didn't start in Double-A, but instead his attitude was fantastic after he was told he would be on the Lakeland club again."
Clevlen batted .302 with 18 homers and 102 RBIs, a performance that netted him the league's Most Valuable Player award. In 2004, he had posted a .224 batting average with six homers and 50 RBIs. Clevlen's determination to dwarf those numbers in 2005 was evident by the end of April, when he was hitting .375 with six homers and 27 RBIs.
"I think the second year in the same league helped him with maturity," Rojas said. "A high school draftee usually takes a little more time. The talent was always there, but he stepped up with his maturity, plate discipline and outfield positioning."
Clevlen, who was selected by Detroit in the second round of the 2002 First-Year Player Draft, learned to recognize offspeed pitches after having trouble with them throughout his 2004 season. Thanks to an optimistic approach, he was also better prepared to deal with the challenges of a long regular season.
"What really surprised me was how nothing affected him negatively. It was all positive," Rojas said. "When he did fail, you could see that he cared. When he didn't do well in his first couple of at-bats, his next two or three were usually much better."
Not that Clevlen encountered anything even resembling a slump. Only once all season did he go more than two games without a hit, and he put together one stretch where he collected hits in 18 of 19 games. It's no wonder his manager gushes about him.
"I'm happy, tickled and proud of the way he handled himself," Rojas said. "He's only going to get better. I think this was a huge step for him ... with this organization. He wanted to prove to the organization that he is a complete player -- and he did."
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.