Drillers' Farmer flashes newfound power

Dodgers catcher goes yard twice, but defense remains primary focus

Kyle Farmer slashed .272/.311/.392 and drove in 39 runs in 76 Texas League games last season. (Shane Roper/MiLB.com)

By Alex Kraft / MiLB.com | April 12, 2016 4:11 AM

Over the course of 76 Texas League games last season, Kyle Farmer hit two homers and one triple. This season, it took him only one night.

The Dodgers' No. 29 prospect went 3-for-5 with four RBIs as the Double-A Tulsa Drillers routed the San Antonio Missions, 10-1, on Monday at Nelson W. Wolff Municipal Stadium.

"It definitely feels great to help the team out and get a 'W,'" Farmer said. "We were kind of struggling with the bats early in the year. ... I'm glad to do what I did tonight with us winning, that makes it a lot better."

Power has never been the 25-year-old catcher's forte, but on Monday, he gave Tulsa a 2-0 lead in the fourth inning when he deposited a changeup from Missions starter Johnny Hellweg (0-1) over the left-field fence. Three innings later, he was the beneficiary of smart preparation for his second homer.

"[Reliever Kyle Bartsch] had me with two strikes," said Farmer. "I'd watched him earlier that inning and I saw his curveball that he threw, and I knew he would go to that with two strikes. I guessed right and put a good swing on the ball."

His offensive feats aside, the 2013 eighth-round pick that his focus lies with more with his work behind the plate than next to it. A shortstop during his collegiate career at the University of Georgia, Farmer moved to catcher after entering the Dodgers system. He made strides at the position in the Arizona Fall League and continued to hone his skills during his stay in big league training camp this spring.

"I learned from Yasmany [Grandal] and A.J. [Ellis], you know, they were a great help and Austin Barnes also," Farmer said. "They took me underneath their wing and taught me what they know.

"Barnes, Yas and A.J., they all receive really well, and that's a huge focus point with the Dodgers right now -- receiving and stealing strikes. We really, really grinded that out in Spring Training. Watching them do it, it's something special, and so I'm just trying to learn what they do. They basically taught me to relax, use the glove and try and steal the strike."

The Georgia native hopes his defensive improvements can one day put him in the same position as his mentors.

"Baseball is a game of failure and you always have to put your best effort every day," Farmer said. "Right now, I'm still working on things and it's still a work in progress. I'm not where I want to be. [Los Angeles] is where I want to be. And so I'm always going to be working and grinding."

Tulsa shortstop Erisbel Arruebarrena also smashed two homers for the Drillers, who tallied 17 hits after being shut out three times in their first four contests. Coincidentally, Arruebarrena and Farmer share an unusual connection. While Farmer was playing for Team USA at the World Port Tournament in the Netherlands, he met and befriended Arruebarrena, a shortstop on the Cuban team. The pair agreed to swap equipment -- Farmer's glove for Arruebarrena's jersey.

"I actually have his jersey framed in my house right now," Farmer laughed. "I never thought I'd see him again and now look where we are. He's a great guy, a great teammate. I'm very proud of him."

Hellweg (0-1) surrendered three runs on seven hits and a walk over 4 2/3 innings for San Antonio.

Grant Dayton (1-0) picked up the win after giving up a hit and a walk over two frames in relief of Drillers starter Seth Frankoff.

Alex Kraft is a contributor to MiLB.com. Follow and chat with him on Twitter @Alex_Kraft21. This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.

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