Readers of this blog are aware that I have had chats with former players in the Georgia Baseball and Softball Academy Rays program. Those players are currently in the Minor Leagues and are each at different levels of their professional baseball journey. I have kept up with these young men and would like to report on their current status.
Armond Upshaw, Auburn Doubledays (New York-Penn League): .167/ .335/ .210 with 5 RBI, 18 Runs Scored, 8/11 in stolen bases and 27 BB
DJ Neal, GCL Blue Jays (Gulf Coast League): .263/ .311/ .360 with 9 RBI, 16 Runs Scored, 7/9 in stolen bases and 6 BB
Mason Davis, Jupiter Hammerheads (Florida State League): .267/ .326/ .377 with 22 RBI, 37 Runs Scored, 11/14 in stolen bases and 14 BB
Jacquez Williams, Arizona League Padres (Arizona League): .226/ .352/ .434 with 18 RBI, 17 Runs Scored, 1/1 in stolen bases and 19 BB
There are three other alums who I have not caught up with yet for a chat. They are:
Malik Jones, Vermont Lake Monsters (New York-Penn League): 0-1 with a 2.53 ERA, 0.84 WHIP, and .132 BAA in 10.2 IP
Akil Baddoo, Elizabethton Twins (Appalachian League): .299/ .398/ .469 with 18 RBI and is currently riding a 10-game hitting streak
Jordan Scott, GCL Yankees West (Gulf Coast League): .233/ .367/ .489 with 17 RBI
Of course, you can visit the blog each day for updates on my favorite GBSA Rays alum, Cedric Mullins of the Bowie Baysox (Eastern League).
In what has become a somewhat “series” of conversations for me, I recently had the opportunity to chat with San Diego Padres and @GBSARays “baseball brother” Jaquez Williams.
Williams, the Padres 18th round draft pick in 2016, is currently playing first base for the San Diego Padres’ Arizona League (Class-Rookie) team. Slashing .242/ .364/ .484 with 5 homeruns, 16 runs scored and 18 RBI Williams has improved on his debut season’s numbers (.169/ .245/ .303 with 1 homerun, 11 runs scored and 12 RBI). He began the 2017 season with a 5-game hitting streak and produced a second 5-game hitting streak over his 26 games played. Looking at his stats it would appear that Williams is driving the ball more this season, hence the improvements.
What follows is our chat.
Coming from Georgia, how are you adjusting to life out west? “I’m adjusting pretty fast now. After coming to Az for 2 years, the only thing adjusting to is the heat because if you’re not taking care of your body with drinking lots of water and stretching then you will go through cramps and having muscle tightness.”
To what do you attribute your improvements this season over last year? “From last year to this season I can say my attitude has changed with becoming a better baseball player, my approach with seeing the baseball in my AB’s, and not being scared to make a mistake because everyone makes mistakes and if you don’t make one then you can’t learn from it.”
What do you feel are your strengths as a baseball player? “Helping others when they are going through struggles, staying positive when going through my own adversity, and if you’re talking about my athleticism as well, being strong as a bull.”
Is there an aspect of your game that you are working on improving? “Yes, there is, there is always something to improve on and for me it’s my fielding. I usually field at least 100 ground balls a day to feel comfortable before every game. My throwing consistently to bases is something I’m working a lot this year as well.”
How did playing for #GBSA prepare you for your career? “I started playing (for) GBSA when I was 15u. Seeing Isaiah Gilliam (NY Yankees), Bakari Gayle (Alvin CC), D.J Neal (Toronto), Akil Baddoo (Minnesota) and Te’kwaan Whyte (Chipola College) really opened my eyes because they were the guys that played hard and had fun playing this game. Thinking to myself, I was like this organization has a lot of guys who have the potential of becoming a big leaguer. So playing with GBSA really got me focused, determined, and more mature for this game at the next level.”
Who has had the biggest influence in your life to this point? “My mom and my brother. My mom stuck through everything with me. She was right there by my side when things were going good and when they were going bad.”
If you could have dinner with one player, past or present, who would it be and why? “It would be Denzel Gowdy of the San Diego Padres (Arizona League Padres). He has been my roommate for 2 years now, he is from Ga and I have grown a real brother relationship with him, and he is someone who is a hard working guy.”
Where do you envision yourself in 3-4 years? “In 3-4 years I envision myself either in the big leagues or in AAA grinding it out to get that opportunity.”
I would like to thank Jaquez for taking time out of what I imagine to be a busy schedule to chat with me. I would also like to acknowledge the assistance of Mr. Eddie Phelps of the GBSA Rays in helping to put me in contact with Jaquez.
It is my hope that readers enjoy these chats as much as I do in conducting them.
It is no secret that I am a fan of Bowie Baysox (Class-AA, Baltimore Orioles) outfielder Cedric Mullins. Anyone who has followed me here on my blog or on @BabyBirdland has seen that I am following Mullin’s progress through the Orioles’ Minor League system and have penned a few articles about him. He is a favorite of the @BabyBirdland editor, Josh Michael, as well and has many mentions in both the round-ups and spotlights on that site.
Mullin’s skill, ability, baseball IQ and work ethic are what one looks for in a player. Yes, most of it is hid God-given ability and personal drive but it was molded by a fine organization as well.
My research on Mullins revealed that he is a product of the Georgia Baseball and Softball Academy’s (Atlanta, Georgia) Triton Rays Travel Program. The mission of the program is to “help young men in their development and academic journey thru (sic) baseball”. They do that as evidenced by Mullins; he is not the only player the program has seen make it to professional baseball, however. Currently there are 5 GBSA Rays in the Minor Leagues and 3 more were drafted in the recently concluded 2017 MLB Draft.
I would like to shine a light on these young men. While they may not have the same skill set or ability as Mullins: each is his own man with skills and abilities unique to him individually. They all share a basic foundation shaped in the same program and as such, I feel, are players you can feel good about rooting for if you like what Mullins brings to the table.
Drafted in 2017 were: Malik Jones, 23rd round by Oakland, D.J. Neal, 26th round by Toronto and Brent Burgess, 38th round by New York (AL). To the best of my knowledge, only D.J. Neal has signed so far.
Currently in the Minor Leagues are:
- Akil Baddoo, RF: drafted in the 2016 Lottery Round (74th pick) by the Minnesota Twins. 2016 GCL (Gulf Coast League) Twins slash line .178/ .299/ .271 with 15 RBI and 2 HR
- Monte’ Reese, RHP: free agent signee with Atlanta Braves. 2015 GCL Braves line 0-0 record in 1.1 IP, 6.75 ERA and .186 BA against. Released by the Braves in March of 2016.
- Jordan Scott, CF: drafted in 14th round of 2016 (428th pick) by the New York Yankees. 2016 GCL Yankees slash line .209/ .305/ .344 with 17 RBI and 5 HR
- Armond Upshaw, CF: drafted in the 11th round of 2016 draft (334th pick) by the Washington Nationals. 2016 GCL Nationals slash line .325/ .391/ .400 with 2 RBI.
- Jaquez Williams, 1B: drafted in the 18th round of 2016 draft by the San Diego Padres. 2016 GCL Padres slash line .169/ .245/ .303 with 12 RBI and 1 HR
All of these young men are awaiting assignments either to return to the Gulf Coast League or to move up to Short-Season Rookie Ball and that is why I only have their 2016 stats. I will update their assignments once rosters are posted.
It is worth following these young men based on their baseball pedigree alone. Baseball fans would be wise to be aware of these young men so that once they make their mark no one is wondering, “Where’d they come from?”. Remember, you heard about them here first.
**UPDATE (6/21/2017)** Armond Upshaw was moved up and is currently on the roster of the Auburn Doubledays (Nationals) of the New York-Penn League (Class-A Short). See his stats HERE.
Akil Baddoo will play for the GCL Twins again in 2017. The season begins on 6/26 against the GCL Orioles. See his stats HERE.
Jordan Scott will play for the GCL Yankees East in 2017. The season begins on 6/26 against the GCL Braves. See his stats HERE
DJ Neal will play for the GCL Blue Jays in 2017. The season begins on 6/26 against the GCL Tigers West. See his stats HERE
Jaquez Williams will play for the Arizona League Padres again in 2017. The season started on 6/25 against the AZL White Sox. See his stats HERE.
Malik Jones is playing for the Vermont Lake Monsters of the New York-Penn League. See his stats HERE