Angels Shortstop Tommy Field Breaking Out


August 4, 2013; Anaheim, CA, USA; Los Angeles Angels second baseman Tommy Field (12) misses fielding ground ball in the third inning against the Toronto Blue Jays at Angel Stadium of Anaheim. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

Of all professional baseball leagues, AAA is perhaps the most unique. It is a strange amalgamation of young stud prospects, desperate for any shot in the majors, tired and old former all stars, still clinging to their last drops of baseball talent, and then the elusive in-betweeners: the players too old to be classified as prospects, yet who were never quite skilled enough to make the big league club. Most of these guys skate by for a few years at this level, perhaps even garnering a cup of coffee at the show, before finally sizzling out and retire from an unmemorable career. But occasionally, a player finds his way through the woodwork, and despite having been deemed mediocre long ago, finds himself as a productive major league player. After launching a series-winning playoff homer last night, Salt Lake Bees shortstop Thomas Field may soon become one of those players.

Drafted by the Rockies out of Texas Tech in the middling rounds of the draft, the 24th to be precise, when few if any major leaguers are taken, Field was a modest prospect from the start. Only one other major league shortstop has ever been taken in that round, former Giants power hitter, and suspected steroid user, Rich Aurilla. That was over 20 years ago.

From then on, Field had an unspectacular minor league career. Being a college draft choice, Thomas, or Tommy as he is often known, was expected to rise through the minors quickly. To the contrary, Field struggled through his first major league season while playing against much younger, A ball competition. He hit only .257 with little on base ability, while showing none of the at least average power he displayed when drafted. The next two years were of some improvement for the young shortstop, as he put up an .863 and .795 OPS in A+ and AA ball, respectively. But while his power numbers were good, enough to even earn him a brief September call up, they could be readily discounted due to the notoriously strong hitting environments he played in. Not to be discredited, however, was the fact that he was named the Rockies’ best defensive infielder, highlighting a glove that may earn him a spot in the majors shortly.

After struggling to a .314 OBP and .271 SLG in his short major league addition, Field, then 25, had a terrible 2012, hitting .246 with only 8 home runs at AAA, prompting the Rockies to give up on him, place him on waivers, and allow the Twins to pick him up. He didn’t last long with them either, as he was placed on waivers by Minnesota and shipped off to Anaheim. His career suddenly had all the makings of a journeyman, AAA infielder.

Then something miraculous happened; Tommy Field started hitting. After batting a pedestrian .239 through an injury riddled first two months of the season, the young journeyman just took off in the summer. He bopped to  a .309 average with six home runs in June, a .367 average with three home runs in July, and a .333 average with two home runs in August. Even more telling was his peripherals as he boasted a major league ready 36:46 BB/K ratio,  leading to a .400+ on base percentage and a .900+ OPS in each month. His final line for the year came out to a career best .303/.391/.484 (AVG/SLG/OBP). His game changing playoff home run last night was just an icing on the cake. And while the PCL, the Bee’s AAA league, may inflate some offensive numbers, these statistics are too gaudy to discount.

With fluid range, a quick glove, and a solid arm at short, the suddenly hard hitting 26 year old may have played his way into the Angels future. This is a team in a rebuilding mode, an organization set to auction off Howie Kendrick and Erick Aybar in the offseason, and Field may have just found himself in the perfect position to possibly take his spot.