I first wrote about Toronto Blue Jay prospect Dexter “DJ” Neal a few weeks ago in a piece I did which featured Cedric Mullins’ (Class-AA Bowie Baysox) baseball “brothers” from the Triton Rays of the Georgia Baseball and Softball Academy. You can read it HERE.
Neal, a rightfielder, was drafted in the 26th round of the 2017 MLB Draft by the Toronto Blue Jays. He previously was drafted in the 32nd round of the 2015 MLB Draft by the Atlanta Braves but chose to attend the University of South Carolina Sumter instead.
Upon signing with the Blue Jays Neal was assigned to the Gulf Coast League where he is slashing .345/ .424/ .448 in 8 games with 1 double, 1 triple, 2 stolen bases and 6 RBI in 29 plate appearances. He has walked twice while striking out 6 times. Neal has gotten a hit in 7 of his 8 games so far this season.
I recently had a conversation with Neal about his baseball life and his experiences so far in professional baseball. What follows is that conversation.
How would you describe your baseball journey so far? “My journey (has had) many ups and downs and with those ups and downs (has) come a lot of fun. I treat it as a business and allow myself to have fun…while learning and getting better.”
When did you realize that you had the chance to play professionally? “My sophomore year of high school…I realized I had a chance to get drafted so I took my time (and) started to work.”
How did you find out the Blue Jays drafted you? “I got a call from my area scout and a video with the selection.”
What was your “wow, this really is pro baseball” moment? “I was actually in the middle of a conversation with my father and he (area scout) called and everything seemed as if it had stopped. The words that he (said) just hit me. I was very proud but just speechless at the same time.”
What has been the most difficult part of pro baseball so far? “Consistency. Pitchers are smarter now so I must get a consistent swing and solid approach.”
How did playing for @GBSA prepare you for this? “Opportunities as well as competition. We faced some of the better teams in the country which prepare(d) me for pitchers with hard velocity and good off speed…”
Who has been the biggest influence in your life? “My mother and father push(ed) me growing up and (made) sure I never stopped until I reached my dream…My grandmother… I told myself that I would do (what) she wanted me to do and do what she had predicted… Before my grandma died, she would catch every game with my grandfather as well so they (had) a huge influence in my life.”
How do you keep your life grounded and balanced? “I don’t think about it too much I just live,… enjoy my family, and take care of the important things. The rest falls (into place).”
I would like to thank DJ for taking the time to answer my questions and wish him much success as he continues on his journey both in baseball and in life.
Baltimore Orioles Prospect OF Cedric Mullins is Worth the Hype and Then Some — Courtesy of @BabyBirdland
By Contributing Writer: Chuck Boemmel Jr. The early season buzz in the Baltimore Orioles organization was all about Bowie Baysox (Class-AA) outfielder Cedric Mullins. The buzz has softened a bit due to Mullins being on the disabled list from April 21st through June 3rd due to a hamstring injury.Photo: Patrick Cavey It is no secret that Mullins is…
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