A Blog of Toronto Blue Jays Prospects Interviews, Evaluations and News

Art Charles Powering His Way through the Northwest League

Art Charles Powering His Way through the Northwest League

August 29, 2012

Art Charles has found success since joining the Vancouver Canadians in July. (photo credit: Rob Fai)

If one was to describe Art Charles’ game in one word, it would be power. In 29 games with the Vancouver Canadians, Charles has exerted his bat into the cleanup spot for the C’s during their current playoff run, hitting six home runs and nine doubles, and leading the team with a .491 slugging percentage. In his last game against the Boise Hawks, the powerful first baseman smashed the first pitch he saw in the fourth inning over the right field fence for a home run. What’s so special about that? The ball landed not only over the fence, but on top of the adjacent building’s roof (which is higher than the fence). Yeah, he has that kind of power.

Much like many of his new teammates in Vancouver, Charles wasn’t just a one-sport athlete growing up. His tall physical frame lent him naturally towards basketball, and it wasn’t until his junior year of high school that Charles decided where he wanted to take his career.

“We would play baseball tournaments and there would be scouts there. So I thought maybe this was going to happen, but I didn’t take it seriously. I loved playing basketball too. So I did basketball and baseball,” Charles explained. “My junior year of high school was when I knew this was going to do it for me. I went to some workouts and become serious.”

That was a good decision, as he was soon drafted from Ridgeview High School in the 33rd round by the Baltimore Orioles in 2008. But the lefty decided to go back to school and attend his hometown Bakersfield College, where he was then drafted by the Kansas City Royals. But the journey did not end there for Charles, as he was once again drafted the following year in 2010 by the Toronto Blue Jays. And he couldn’t be happier.

“Luckily, I’m here with the Blue Jays right now, and I love everyone minute of it. I love the organization, the staff, I love playing in front of these fans. It all worked out for me. God has a plan, the Blue Jays have a plan.”

One reason for his excitement to be with the Canadians is the guys in the clubhouse. Charles couldn’t have been more appreciative of his teammates. “My teammates made it easy. I knew a lot of the guys before from extended spring training. So it made it easy for me to come into the team. But also just being here and knowing you have that support. And know that if I don’t get it done, someone else will. If they don’t get it done, I’m going to get it done. Just having each others’ backs, it makes it easy for us to play, especially if we have these fans.”

Having said so, Charles really wants to find comfort at the plate. As is with many power hitters, being consistent and having a high on-base percentage is crucial to their offensive game. By eliminating swinging at bad pitches and seeking those few driveable balls over the plate is what separates the elite power hitters from the close-your-eyes-and-hack batters. Charles accredits his success to this very point.

“Just patience; patience is a big thing in this game,” he said. “Being a big hitter that I am, you are not going to get pitched as much. Patience is big for me, just getting a pitch I can drive and put a good swing on it. Just letting the rest happen and take care of itself.”

Charles gave us some further insight about exactly what he has been working on with his hitting coach over the past few weeks as well. “Just making sure I’m staying through the ball and not pulling out my front shoulder. Staying through it, and just make contact. Once I make contact, the rest will take care of itself. You gotta put bat on the ball for results. If I can hit for power and being consistent, I can be an all-around player.”

A look around the baseball world shows that Charles’ strengths are a hot commodity. Even though the number of home runs around the major league have taken a plunge in the past couple years, having a power hitter to anchor a lineup is still very valuable. And Charles knows exactly the type of players he wants to emulate.

“I like Ryan Howard a lot, Adrian Gonzalez, other players that play 1st base. I mean, I also watched Barry Bonds a lot too. He’s a big guy, he hit home runs and he has to be patient to get those pitches. He led the league in walks, but also in home runs.”

Given the natural talents, the only other thing a player like Charles need is the work ethic to master his craft. And he has no shortage of motivation to get to that MLB All-Star level. Art explained his drive to be that player.

“The sacrifices that my family made for me to go to tournaments, the money that we spent on everything,” he said. “I have to make it now. All the traveling and hard work that I’ve put in, what my family have done for me, all the support they’ve showed me, I mean I have no choice but to make it. That’s enough for me to reach my goal.”

When asked what that goal is, Charles said, “I want to get a ring this year. As of right now we have a good chance. Just do whatever I can to help my team win. Long term goals, obviously, I want to make it to the major leagues, and become an all-star. Just make it to the big leagues and be successful and help the team win.”

The 21-year-old slugger is definitely making the best out of his opportunities. His improvements with his approach at the plate, combined with those monstrous home runs, are turning out to be a great investment for the Blue Jays’ organization. Hopefully, it won’t be long before Charles’s home runs are making dents in the Rogers Centre.