Astros prospect Bregman 'ready to contribute'

Astros prospect Bregman 'ready to contribute'

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas -- Alex Bregman doesn't make many mistakes on the baseball field, so when he was picked off base in a game a few days ago in Midland, Double-A Corpus Christi manager Rodney Linares noticed Bregman sitting with his head down in the dugout.

Sure, Bregman -- the infielder who was the No. 2 overall pick in last year's First-Year Player Draft and the Astros' top-ranked prospect by MLBPipeline.com -- isn't perfect, but he wants to be. Getting picked off base was as bad as it gets for him.

"I went up to him and I said, 'I can't even be mad at you. You get a pass for it,'" Linares recalled.

That's because Bregman's desire to be the best and his work ethic set him apart. And so does his play on the field. He narrowly missed hitting a homer in his first at-bat Wednesday and followed with three singles to go 3-for-4 in a 2-1 win over Arkansas at Whataburger Field. He's hitting .333 with 12 homers, 32 RBIs and only 12 strikeouts in 125 at-bats (33 games). He entered Wednesday leading all of the Minor Leagues with a 1.104 OPS.

"It's due to the preparation I put in this [past] offseason," Bregman, 22, said. "I worked really hard on the pitch in and hitting it in the air, and the ball away and hitting the ball on the line. It's just a product of the preparation I put in back in [his hometown of] Albuquerque. I feel ready to contribute."

Top Prospects: Bregman, HOU

Linares compares the 6-foot Bregman to a young Craig Biggio based on his passion and grit. Those are heady expectations, but Bregman's done nothing to suggest he's not ready to live up to that billing.

"He's leads by example, doesn't talk much during the game, really methodical," Linares said. "He watches pitchers. He's a pretty strong man. For a little guy, he's got some sock."

Bregman's bat could have him in the Major Leagues by the end of this season, which is why the Astros recently started exposing him to third base (he made his fifth start at third Wednesday). With Carlos Correa entrenched at shortstop in Houston, Bregman has taken a crash course at third. He played third with Team USA last summer, so he's been a quick learner.

"He's done well," Linares said. "He still needs some work there getting more familiar with swings and reading the swings off the guys' bats, different angles, and we've been out there five or six times over the last couple of weeks working early. I can only simulate a swing so much with a fungo, or flipping a ball. The more exposure he gets over there he's going to be better, because defensively he's got some soft hands and his arm is accurate enough."

Transition is nothing new. Bregman was a catcher in high school who made the move to shortstop when he got to LSU. He says he's now as comfortable at third as he is at shortstop, but he's going to keep working.

"I think every year you're trying to improve every phase of your game, and I'm going to continue to do that for the rest of my career," he said. "I feel like I'm ready to contribute at the highest level possible. I can only control what I can control, which is taking care of my business here and working hard every single day, and eventually that time will come."

One of the team's Minor League coaches described Bregman as having an "incredibly motivated work ethic," and his desire to play in the big leagues drives him. Linares said Bregman told him at the beginning of the season he thought he could reach Houston this year.

"I know the numbers look really, really good, but I think it's going to be more of a developmental time for his defensive positioning, because he hasn't played there so much," Linares said. "I'll keep him as long as he's here and I'll be happy to have him. When he has to leave, I'll make sure he's ready to go wherever he's going."

Because he's one of the game's prospects, Bregman has become a fan favorite in Houston, even though he's in Double-A. With the team struggling for production at third base, fans are clamoring for Bregman in the same manner they did last year with Correa.

"[I'm] not saying I don't agree with them," Bregman said with a smile.

Of course, with success comes expectations, and with expectations come pressure. It probably wouldn't surprise you Bregman embraces that as well.

"Having pressure is a privilege," he said. "You grow up always thinking you'd be in pressure situations all the time, and that's why I put pressure on myself in practice, so when those situations come in the game I feel I can be successful. I'm just having fun and taking it one day at a time."

Brian McTaggart has covered the Astros since 2004, and for MLB.com since 2009. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.