Heading into 2017, I was really looking forward to watching Trent Giambrone play every day at South Bend. The 2016 25th round draft pick out of Delta State was an essential part of the Eugene Emeralds’ championship run that same year. He played all four positions in the infield while hitting .292 with 4 home runs and 22 RBI in 51 games. He quickly became one of my favorite players on the team by putting together great at-bats, going the other way, and never gettin cheated at the plate.
Much to my surprise, he was nowhere to be found at South Bend when rosters were announced this spring. Instead, he had skipped a level to Myrtle Beach. It’s been an interesting season for him, filled with lows and highs alike . I had the great fortune to talk with Giambrone about his season and how he has made adjustments to a new level.
To provide some additional context here, the Cubs are not known for having players skip levels in the minors. It has happened occasionally, most recently with pitchers Ryan Williams, Zach Hedges, and Dave Berg. We can now add Giambrone to that list.
Giambrone had a rough April, hitting only .256 with 30 strikeouts in 86 at-bats. He then fell below the Mendoza line in May, slashing .183/.238/..258 across 25 games. However, Manager Buddy Bailey stuck with him and the young hitter responded with an outstanding June that saw him hit over .300 with six home runs.
“It’s just 60 feet, 6 inches, you play the game one pitch at a time and it’s baseball,” Giambrone responded when I asked if skipping to high-A had put any additional pressure on him. “Baseball doesn’t matter what level you’re at and you take it one pitch at a time. You can’t play two pitches ahead and you can’t worry about pitches that already passed.
“At the same time I wanted to do well right away. I was having trouble finding holes but at the same time it’s about the process and not about the product. It is about becoming a better hitter and trying to help my team win every night.”
“On certain nights I get different things from different pitchers,” Giambrone said. “After you face a guy like four or five times, most of the time you know where he’s going to try and attack you. So you can kind of cheat a little bit and I’d be a little more patient. And you can go aggressive in that zone.
“I’ve kind of gotten away from it this year but it’s something that you’re always taught, to be aggressive in the that zone. Sometimes you can sit on pitches if you know what guys are going to attack you with. A lot of times, I like to sit on zones rather than sitting on pitches.”
Development is rarely a linear process, so how a player responds to adversity is often a very important indicator of how he’ll well he’ll do in the future. That’s particularly true at lower levels of the minors, when some of these guys who were studs in high school and college first experience real struggles.
“Once you start trying to do things that are out of what you were doing good at, then you start playing to your weaknesses,” Giambrone admitted. “Play to your strengths and those are the things that help you. For me, I like to drive the ball the other way. So I’ve got to get pitches to drive the other way.
“I can’t just swing any any pitches. Pitch selection is a major thing. When it comes down to it, I feel like that’s the main thing.”
All is going according to that plan so far, as the success he found in June with his daily approach and regimen has continued a .314/.410/.412 slash so far in July. He seems to really trust and depend on the process, which will serve him well as his professional career moves along.
In keeping with Giambrone’s versatility and his willingness to work at new things, he made his first career start in left field this past Saturday. And wouldn’t you know it, he threw a runner out at the plate in the 1st inning. Yeah, I think he’s adjusting just fine.
Feat. image credit: John Arguello, Cubs Den