In the days leading up to the 2015 amateur baseball draft, Braden Bishop probably could have told you he wasn't getting picked in the first round. Teams loved his speed and defense, but there was talk about his bat, specifically that it wasn't very good. Bishop hit .293 in his career at UW, while showing improved on base skills over his time there, growing a walk rate of 3% as a freshman, to nearly 12% in his last season as a Husky. He addressed his offense in a Seattle Times interview shortly after being selected (94th overall) by the Mariners.
"All through the draft process it’s been made pretty public that I have a weak bat," Bishop said. "But I’ve never believed that. I bought into my role here at UW, and that called for me to get on base any way I could. So I had to sacrifice power numbers to be a top-of-the-order guy and get on base. It’s not that I can’t do it. It’s more of me adjusting to the role of helping my team win." [...]
It's the obvious willingness to learn and improve that has me so excited about Bishop as a prospect, because he has all the tools to succeed. From the same story:
"That’s a stereotype that was put on me, but I strongly believe that I’m a good hitter," he said. "I’m not going to stop working at it. I don’t have it all figured out. But I’m going to learn. I’m excited to work with the coaches to take my bat to the next level. I’m willing and eager to do that."
Braden Bishop was a 3rd round selection (94th overall) of the Seattle Mariners in the 2015 MLB draft. He hit .320/.367/.393 and had 13 steals for the Everett AquaSox while helping them to win the Northwest League regular season championship. I reached out to him and asked if he'd be willing to answer a few questions for an article on Lookout Landing, and being the awesome guy he is - he happily agreed.
You played with a lot of talented guys this past year, did some of their performances surprise you? Who, based on your experience do you think fans of the M's should really be excited about?
I was very impressed with the talent that was in Everett this year. I never wanted to miss a pitch because guys made every pitch interesting. Whether it was De Los Santos throwing a hard slider that made the hitter buckle, Andrew Moore never walking anyone, Drew Jackson stealing 2nd and then 3rd, Alex Jackson throwing a guy out from the wall, Uhl hitting a ball 450 feet, Corey Simpson hitting a home run out of the stadium, Cowan making a diving play up the middle, or Logan Taylor playing a new position every night. It was such a unique group. I could go on and on. I think Mariners fans should be excited about this group. This group has some of the best competitors I have ever played with. Guys who want to establish a winning culture. More specifically I’d say Logan Taylor is a guy to really watch out for. He has a unique combination of skills that can make him one of the great ones. He’s a very, very good baseball player and a very, very competitive guy. And then there is Drew Jackson who should be arrested for stealing so much. Everyone should be excited about him. He’s a stud.
You also had a heck of a season with the stick, batting .320 and causing all sorts of havoc near the top of the lineup, but some people pointed out the low walk rate (only 5 times in 218 AB's) I just wonder, was on base percentage something coaches in Everett talked about? Or was it a topic that was pretty much left alone?
I try not and focus on numbers too much and that’s not one I worry about at all. I talked to our hitting coach in Everett, Brian Hunter, a lot and walking isn’t a big worry on our list. His most important point to me was ‘How many Hall of Fame walkers do you know?’. I’m an aggressive hitter and I saw a lot of fastballs early which I wasn’t going to take. I’m looking for pitches early and if I get one I’m usually pretty good about putting it in play. For now I am trying to develop as a hitter, walking will come as I start to develop more. Hard contact is my main priority right now.
Probably my favorite part of your game is the elite defense, scouts may question this or that, but there was never a doubt that you were right near the top of your entire draft class with regards to pure ability to play CF. Is this something you put a lot of work into, or has it always come natural? Do you like diving for catches and making the highlight reel plays, or would you prefer to just make ridiculous catches seem ordinary? Is there a defensive center fielder that you model your game after?
My pride and joy is my defense. I take so much pride in being that guy in center field who can truly make a difference. I love being a guy that makes it easy on a pitcher if the ball goes up in my direction. In college it was preached to me to make the routine play, if you do that consistently enough the great plays will come. That’s my mentality. I work on my defense a lot but at the same time have tried to be as athletic and as natural as possible. I don’t really mind about how I make the plays as long as I make them and we get the out! There isn’t one guy I model my game after I just appreciate the great ones and try to emulate what they do well and implement it into my game as best I can.
Speaking of speed, you had 13 stolen bases last season, is running something that you consider to be a big part of your game? Do you think you could be a guy who steals 20-30 bags in a season?
I’d say running is the biggest piece to my game. I take a lot of pride in being someone who can help change a game with my legs. It translates to defense as well. I didn’t steal as many bases as I would have liked but it’s still something I am working on. Brian Hunter, who played 10 years in the Big Leagues, has really helped with my base running. I’m looking forward to running a lot more in my career. I do see myself as a 20-30 stolen base guy as long as I keep working at it.
If you had to sum up how your first year in professional ball was (as an overall experience), what would you say?
It was a lot of fun. I was surrounded by one of the most unbelievable group of coaches and teammates. I truly learned how to have fun playing this game while learning how to be a professional at the same time. Being with a group of guys that came to the field everyday wanted to get their work in and wanted to end each day with a win is something that is hard to find. I think any time you can combine those two things it makes baseball a lot of fun. I also learned a lot from Rob Mummau and Brian Hunter. They are two of the smartest baseball minds I have come across in my time playing baseball.
Have you gotten any sense from the organization where you might be starting the year next season? How closely does it seem the Mariners oversee your off-season?
I think with all the turnover in the organization it’s tough to say but I believe in this organization and I know they will do what’s best for us.
Finally, while it was an excellent debut pro season for you last year, I'm sure you're probably your own biggest critic, what kinds of things are you trying to work on moving into 2016, and beyond, and do you put any kind of statistical goals on your performance?
I’m really not a numbers guy which is really hard in a game which is becoming more about numbers everyday. To me the most important thing is putting myself in the best position to be successful on a consistent basis. If I’ve learned one thing is this game it’s to be as consistent as possible. I am training everyday with a great group of pro guys that have come from UW. It’s great to talk baseball with a guy like Jake Lamb who knows what it takes to make and stick in the big leagues. I want to absorb as much knowledge as possible and become a better baseball player than I was last year. I don’t accept mediocrity and I know to not take this game for granted. I’m very thankful I have this opportunity to play for the Mariners and I don’t take it lightly. I owe it to the organization, my family, and especially myself to come ready to go during Spring Training. With that being said the most important thing is winning games. Winning makes everything better.
I just want to sincerely thank Braden for taking some time to answer a few questions, and give me some insight into what life is like for a first year professional baseball player. We'll all be rooting for you man, go M's.