MODESTO, Calif. — Braden Bishop is one for developing sequences, and developing in general.
The 23-year-old Mariners prospect says that for him, developing a sequence—a consistent one, at that—is part of his daily routine. He makes sure that he gets his body and his swing warmed up, so when batting practice rolls around, that’s not the first time he’s swung or the first time his body’s been moving.
Learning to drive the baseball has been another thing for Bishop. He says that the increase in offense for him has been learning to drive the ball into the gap and not just settling for punching the ball and trying to beat it out.
“I think I'm still in between where I'm driving the ball a lot more, getting more doubles, play in a big park, putting the ball in gaps down the line so I'm able to run,” Bishop says. “But still trying to develop that power game. The home runs will come as long as I keep developing the right movements and sequences. I'm excited to see where it goes; I'm excited the work I've put in has shown more power numbers in terms of doubles and triples.”
In 2016, Bishop only had 11 doubles and one triple. Now, as of publication, Bishop has 23 doubles and three triples. He’s also stolen more bases this season, stealing 16 and getting caught four times as opposed to stealing eight and getting caught once last season.
There was a time when Bishop was considered a “glove-first prospect,” and now his offensive production has increased, but those labels mean nothing to him. He says people can label him however they like, as they are entitled to their own opinion, but more importantly for him is, does he help his team win?
“It's a testament to all the guys in that locker room and they've created that label for themselves,” Bishop says. “We've created that for ourselves, that we win, whatever level we're at, whether it was Everett or Clinton, Bakersfield, now Modesto. I think that's a more important label—how can we win? And I think we've done a good job of that so far.”
This is Bishop’s second year in the California League. He was promoted to then-High-A affiliate Bakersfield at the end of June 2016 and finished the year there. With the affiliate change and the Mariners buying a stake in the Modesto Nuts and moving High-A to the North Central Valley, Bishop started the year strong and continues to be strong.
Bishop notes that Bakersfield’s Sam Lynn ballpark was smaller than Modesto’s John Thurman Field, with the centerfield dimensions being significantly shorter at Sam Lynn. He also notes that the final Bakersfield team was different than the one playing in Modesto today.
“That team was a lot older, had a lot older guys with a lot of experience,” Bishop says. “This Modesto team's relatively younger—guys who have played together level to level. Obviously, a new manager. He expects a lot out of us. He pushes us to be great, pushes us to find our best every single day. Obviously, that's different. I think Mitch [Canham] playing in college, winning two College World Series, that is greatness at the highest level of Division I baseball. He expects a lot out of us. We get our work in. We prepare. I think it shows up during game time.”
Bishop’s upbringing is another thing that prepared him for a career in baseball. Born in San Carlos, Calif., in the San Francisco Bay Area Peninsula, Bishop attended high school in Mountain View, Calif.’s St. Francis High School.
“I think I was super, super fortunate to grow up in the Bay Area and, y'know, it's a baseball factory,” Bishop says. “You got so many elite travel organizations, so many elite high schools. Just a lot of great baseball minds. That itch of wanting to get better, wanting to learn as much as I possibly can, especially with how the swing has evolved throughout the past couple of years. I wanna learn, I wanna be right in the mix, right in the middle of it.”
A continuing student of the game, Bishop also says that he’s super fortunate to have access to Andy McKay, the Mariners’ Director of Player Development, calling McKay one of the best mental skills guys in baseball.
“I think between Andy, between my youth and growing up, I've just been super fortunate to be around a lot of great baseball minds,” Bishop says. “Not to mention, you play in the California League, so whether the guys are still here or they've moved on to Double-A or Triple-A or some big leagues. You can always pick their brains. I think the All-Star Game was a great opportunity to be around a bunch of different guys from different teams and be able to soak up as much info as possible, see what their mentalities are, see how they approach certain situations within the game, and then try to apply it to my own 'cause, y'know, I don't know everything. I've got a lot to learn. So I just try to be like a sponge and soak it all up.”
Being able to pick other player’s brains is something Bishop has done with members of the Mariner’s big league roster, as well.
“I was lucky enough that I had a relationship with Mitch Haniger,” Bishop says. “Played against him in high school, played against him in college, and obviously got to interact in spring training. So just soaking up information from guys like that who are doing it at the highest level and having success doing it, and who are also students. That just makes for great conversation and a lot of learning comes out of that.”
Continuing his studies in the game, Bishop is also fascinated by the evolution of training in baseball. The mindset of “I wanna throw it harder, I wanna hit it further” and the idea of intent-based training, he says emphatically, is awesome. The intent-based training harkens back to his days at the University of Washington because that’s how the strength and conditioning thought.
“There's intent behind what you're doing. They've got goals and then they go out and accomplish them.”
There’s also a lot with regard to hitting, he says—and says it goes back to how he was approaching hitting and developing sequences and developing in general.
“I think all the hitting stuff that's going on right now, about driving the baseball, elevating it, just trying to have some intent behind your swings and throughout training—swinging a weighted bat, an underload, an overload, swinging a PVC pipe, just to get different feels,” Bishop says. “If you can develop a movement pattern and a sequence within your swing, you'll be able to develop more rapidly than if you just tried and took a million swings. Try to get some variation within your swings and have some intent behind what you're doing.
“I think sky's the limit for a lot of people. I think a lot of people can train to become a lot better now. I think that's pretty fascinating.”