August 8, 2016
Changing positions is a common occurrence for many minor leaguers. That’s why it’s important for scouts to discover players that have the ability to move around the diamond as needed for future opportunities in the game.
That’s exactly what happened when Blue Jays scouts encouraged the organization to take a flyer on John La Prise during the 2015 draft. Performing primarily as a third baseman and an outfielder at the University of Virginia; the Blue Jays envisioned the prospect playing up the middle as a second baseman when they picked him in the 19th round.
Beginning his transformation during extended spring training, La Prise found some of the initial footwork involved with the position challenging as he was recovering from hip surgery from an injury he suffered last summer.
“I was working on a lot of defensive specific drills in extended,” explained La Prise. “Coming off of hip surgery, I was trying to get a wider base for my fielding. It really helped me get into the swing of things. It got me into my daily routines so I would be ready for my time in Lansing.”
“The footwork is definitely different for the 4-6-3 double play” La Prise added. “It was tough being wide and able to pivot as well. All of those idiosyncrasies in the footwork made it a tough process. I think extended helped me a lot in that area.”
The hard work has paid off as La Prise is one of the Lugnuts best defenders. Currently sporting a .966 fielding percentage, while taken part in 25 double plays, and assisting on another 132 is a strong inductor that the young infielder is developing well at his new position.
His play doesn’t end in the field though as La Prise has been a steady hitter in the Lugnuts lineup this season. Known for his capability to hit line drives, it makes complete sense why the Blue Jays wanted to move the prospect to the middle of the diamond where there’s less emphasis on hitting for power.
“I’m trying to keep my plate approach simple and do whatever the team needs me to do,” stated La Prise. “Sometimes I think I try to be too big and try to hit home runs, so I try to keep it simple hit line drives and help the team win.”
Maintaining a .274/.338/.335 slash line in Lansing has been a nice way to kick off his time in low-A ball. Recording 49 hits in 179 at-bats, La Prise has notched 10 extra base hits, which includes: nine doubles, and a triple.
Making advances in the batter’s box thanks to the help of Lansing Lugnuts hitting coach Donnie Murphy, La Prise discusses what he has liked about working with the former big leaguer.
“I love working with Donnie,” said La Prise. “Donnie played in the big leagues for nine years so he definitely knows his stuff. He gives great advice and keeps you even keel every night.”
The admiration goes both ways as Murphy is impressed with the way La Prise has been able to bounce back after a major operation.
“I’m impressed with the way John La Prise has been able to step into the lineup after hip surgery a year ago,” stated Murphy. “John has a natural feel for the game. He played for a great college program and it’s shown here. He’s playing great baseball.”
Crediting a lot of his success in baseball on the fact that he played numerous sports in high school; La Prise sees some direct correlations between the skills he attained in soccer and basketball to those he uses on the diamond every night.
“In soccer and basketball there’s a lot of agility and side movements,” explained La Prise. “I loved playing whatever sport was in season and I definitely feel it helped me in baseball.”
His love for baseball has paid huge dividends in his life to date and for the Blue Jays who could’ve potentially found a future major leaguer late in the process.
But no matter how long his transition takes at second base, fans of the Toronto Blue Jays will continue to follow John La Prise for years to come.