Alex Presley wasn't even an everyday player for parts of last season at Single-A Lynchburg, which is hard to believe given how good he's been for the Curve this year.
Good doesn't even do him justice. Presley has been exceptional so far.
He's second in the Eastern League in hitting at .365 and put together a 19-game hitting streak that ended Thursday. That's the second-longest streak in franchise history, behind only Kevin Sefcik's 21-gamer in 2002.
Mirror photo by Patrick Waksmunski
Alex Presley recently put together a 19-game hitting streak.
"He's shown me a definite major league prospect kind of player," Curve manager Matt Walbeck said. "He keeps his barrel through the hitting zone for a long time, and that's something that you have a hard time teaching."
Why is it so important to keep the barrel in the zone so long?
"Once the hitter starts his swing and he's late, he can hit it to the opposite field," Walbeck said. "As he's also swinging at the ball if he's early, he can hit it to his pull side. He's able to swing the bat more frequently on a longer plane, allowing himself to put good wood on the ball more frequently."
Presley spent the past two seasons at Lynchburg and had moderate success, hitting .258 in 2008 and .257 a year ago. He has looked nothing like a .250s hitter this season, putting together quality at-bats every time up and making solid contact to all fields.
"I try to work hard every offseason, but I really, really grinded it out this offseason to try to get ready for this year because I knew it was a big season," Presley said.
It's a big season because Presley is about to turn 25 in July, and after spending two so-so seasons in high-A, he needs to show the Pirates that he should be considered part of their future.
The organization didn't even think highly enough of him last year to give him an everyday position with the Hillcats.
"At the beginning of the year I kind of platooned a little bit," Presley said. "Then the middle of the year, for a good span there I played every day. Then toward the end of the year I platooned more. It was tough to get in there consistently the entire year."
Presley impressed the Bucs enough in spring training to win the Curve's left field job, and he has taken full advantage of his shot to be in the lineup every day.
"He believes in himself," Walbeck said. "And I also believe that being around Jim Negrych helps him immensely. He and Jim are very similar hitters, and they're able to mirror each other and feed off of each other's at-bats and talk to each other."
Presley and Negrych are close friends. They rent a house together during the season, room together on the road and constantly talk hitting.
Presley is 5-foot-10 and 190 pounds. Negrych is 5-9 and 190 pounds. They both hit left-handed, and Walbeck said if you slow down footage of their at-bats, they are nearly identical frame by frame.
"Me and him are very similar hitters," Negrych said. "If you watch our at-bats, they're very similar. We feed off each other's at-bats a lot. When we play together in the same lineup, we have decent success.
"When I'm up, he'll watch what they throw me. And when he's up, I'll watch what they throw him. More times than not, we get a feeling that the pitcher is attacking us in very similar ways."
Negrych batted .370 at Lynchburg in 2008 and is a .307 career hitter. He doesn't have as much pop or speed as Presley, but in most other aspects it's tough to tell them apart at the plate.
"He definitely knows how to hit, so we've been a big help to each other so far," Presley said.
They help each other by setting a standard, as well, with both hitters wanting to outdo the other in their friendly competition.
"I'm hoping to get up to his level," Negrych said. "I want to catch him, and he wants to stay above me. It's going to go back and forth.
"He's a great clubhouse guy and just a great guy in general, which makes it even better that he's succeeding because he's such a good person, too."
Cory Giger can be reached at 949-7031 and firstname.lastname@example.org.