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After Strong 2013, INF/OF Jordan Leyland Looks Forward to 2014

After Strong 2013, INF/OF Jordan Leyland Looks Forward to 2014

September 3, 2013

Since signing with the Blue Jays in 2012, Jordan Leyland has continued to find success.

In 2012, the expected value for a ninth round pick in the MLB Draft was $126,400. But as the 295th overall pick INF/OF Jordan Leyland signed with the Blue Jays for a mere $5,000 – obviously anxiously anticipating an opportunity to play professional baseball.

“Being drafted by Toronto was an honor,” he said. “I honestly had no idea where I was going that day or even if I was going to be picked at all. The entire process was incredible. I was very excited and so was my family.”

Leyland – who has no relation to the former Detroit Tigers Manager – immediately began his professional career in 2012 with the Vancouver Canadians before finishing his season with the Bluefield Blue Jays several weeks later.

“Bluefield was a learning experience. Personally, my 2012 season didn’t go the way I wanted, but I used my time in Bluefield to learn so I could have a better 2013. I got my head on right and I knew what to expect in professional baseball.”

And the following season, Jordan Leyland did exactly that.

To start 2013, Leyland hit .341 with 11 doubles, two home runs, and 22 RBIs in 135 at-bats with the Vancouver Canadians (photo credit: milb.com).

Returning to Vancouver in 2013, Leyland came out of extended spring training swinging. He batted .341 with 11 doubles, two home runs, and 22 RBIs in 135 at bats. Leyland improved his line in Vancouver to .435/.467/.901 opposed to .337/.346/.683 in 2012.
“My favorite part of Vancouver is playing for their incredible fans,” he said. “I also learned a lot and had a great time working with Clayton McCullough. [McCullough] is a great manager and I’m looking forward to what’s ahead.”

His breakout season in the Northwest League earned him mid-season all-star honors, before a well-deserved promotion to the Blue Jays Midwest League affiliate. With the Lansing Lugnuts, Leyland batted .231 with two doubles, one triple, two home runs, and 19 RBIs in 130 at bats. The prospect admitted that the lowered batting average and OPS was not directly related to any big change between the leagues, but added that he did notice a slight change in the strike zone.

“To be honest, I don’t think there’s much difference between the Northwest League and the Midwest League in terms of pitching,” he said. “But I do think it’s more mental. The strike zone is also a little tighter, but that’s expected when you move up a level.”

Despite some lowered stats, Leyland admitted that one of his most memorable days of his professional career occurred while he was playing in Michigan’s capital. In fact, on August 26th, the 24-year-old went 3-for-5 scoring two runs and driving in six — four of which came off of a grand slam.

“Hitting a grand slam felt absolutely amazing. It was an incredible memory and something I will never forget. There’s really nothing else to say other than to say that it was fun.”

“It wasn’t the first grand slam I’ve ever hit. I hit one when I was younger, but it’s my first one since before high school.”

Leyland begun his professional career playing the infield at UC Irvine for three seasons (photo credit: Rick Heath).

While maybe not hitting grand slams, Leyland was still fully emerged in baseball for the four years in between high-school and signing with the Blue Jays. Leyland spent three seasons at the University of California-Irvine from 2009 to 2011. He found success in each of his years at UC and helped the team win a conference championship in 2009.

“I spent three seasons at UC-Irvine. I enjoyed my time at the school. While I was there,  I learned a lot of things about myself and about the game.”

Leyland decided to transfer to Azusa Pacific University for his final collegiate season. At Azusa, Leyland had a breakout season batting .441 with 17 doubles, 20 home runs, and 64 RBIs. Leyland’s 20 home runs ranked him second amongst the NAIA ranks. Leyland also held the nations’ top slugging percentage at .855. His incredible season earned Leyland the Golden State Athletic Conference Player of the Year Honor.

“Winning player-of-the-year was a great feeling, especially knowing that there were many other deserving guys,” he said, modestly. “But I’m glad to have had a good year and it was a true honor to win the award.”

But the power he displayed in California was nothing new to Leyland as he explained that one of his most memorable opportunities of his baseball career came when he was participating in the Cape Cod All-Star game at Fenway Park and hitting balls over the Green Monster.

“The Cape Cod All-Star game was incredible,” he said. “Playing in that game isn’t much different than playing affiliate baseball. A lot of the players in the game are playing professional ball now. It was a great experience and great baseball. It definitely gave me a taste of what to expect.”

“The opportunity to play in Fenway was also an unreal experience. When we stepped onto the field a lot of players grabbed dirt. Just knowing who has played on that field it was an honor to play there. I hit a couple balls over the green monster in batting practice which felt really good.”

It’s evident that Leyland has found success in his past and will continue to find success in his future. Speaking about his best skillsets, Lansing Lugnuts’ Hitting Coach Kenny Graham indicated: “Jordan is a great guy to have in the middle of the lineup and he gives tremendous at bats. He’s a great competitor. His average doesn’t reflect what he [did] in Lansing. He averages around five pitches each at bat. He can really hit the ball hard. I’ve really liked what I’ve seen from him.”

Soon Graham and other Blue Jays coaches will see more from the young prospect with Spring Training right around the corner. Until then, Leyland is just going to find some time for himself as he prepares for his next season in professional baseball.

“This off-season I’m going to relax and hit the weight room. I’m looking forward to getting started back soon and seeing how things will go in 2014.”