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

Matt Dean Getting Acclimated at First Base

Expects his defence to improve in 2015

Matt Dean Getting Acclimated at First Base

March 31, 2015

Matt Dean

Matt Dean played first base with the Lansing Lugnuts in 2014. (Scott Mapes/MiLB.com)

Players always think they know how their careers will unfold when they’re entering professional baseball. While some are not far off, most are thrown a few curveballs along the way. Such is the case for Matt Dean who began his professional career at third base before the organization decided to transition him to first base prior to the 2013 season.

Playing first is still relatively new for Dean, who just completed his second year at his new position. The Texas native is developing nicely on the right side of the diamond and showing why he is one of the organization’s top prospects at the position.

Playing first presents some challenges for Dean in the field, as first baseman have different footwork drills to work on. Being more responsible for holding runners on and moving into the play as the pitcher is winding up are areas the young prospect is still working on, but he’s satisfied with his results so far.

“The footwork is coming around. I would say last year it wasn’t as good,” said Dean. “I feel this season it’s turning into muscle memory
which is a big plus for sure.

“Moving into the play with a runner on was a tough transition for me, especially with a big lefty at the plate,” he added. “The balls hit in your direction come quick. I’m still working on that as well. Hopefully I’ll work on that more this off-season.”

Another area Dean will be working on for 2015 is making a cleaner pickoff tag. With most first basemen being left-handed it’s easier to tag runners going back to the bag as they just go straight down with the glove after catching the ball. For a right-hander like Dean, it’s a little harder as they need to torque their body a little bit to make the tag.

“Being a right-handed first baseman the tag is a little bit tougher, but the coaching staff is working with me to make the move quicker,” explained Dean. “Obviously, it’s easier for a lefty because it’s straight down, but the coaching staff is trying to make it easier and I’m still learning as well. I’m trying to perfect it and I’ll keep working on the move in the future.”

In 2014, Dean performed well at first for the Blue Jays full season low-A affiliate Lansing Lugnuts. Appearing in 64 games, Dean maintained a .982 fielding percentage while taking part in 40 double plays and 16 assists. While his numbers were solid at the position, Dean admits there’s still a lot of work to be done at first base moving forward as he committed 11 errors.

“I still need a little work at first, but I’m starting to learn it,” explained Dean. “I’m starting to feel comfortable over there. I feel the more games I play there the more comfortable I’ll get. I just need to keep working at it and hopefully someday I’ll be a gold glover at the position.”

A big area for first basemen is their play at the plate. Generally regarded as a team’s big power threat, first basemen are usually expected to hit 30 or more home runs a year at the major league level. Still developing that area of his game, Dean showed excellent extra base power all season in the Midwest League. Registering 43 extra base hits on the season: which included 29 doubles, five triples, and a club leading nine home runs, all-the-while driving in 51 runs.

Dean’s excellent play earned him Midwest League Mid-Season All-star honors and he was able to take part in the league’s annual all-star game which was played on June 17th at Fifth Third Ballpark in Comstock Park, Michigan. Dean was the East’s team starting first baseman and went 0-for-2 in the game. Even though he would have preferred better numbers in the game, Dean enjoyed meeting players from other teams and sharing the moment with his family that drove up from Texas for the event.

“My All-Star experience was a lot of fun. I really enjoyed meeting all the guys from the league,” stated Dean. “They were all nice guys. It was fun hanging out with them and then getting the opportunity to play the game with them. It was a good experience.

“It was special having my family here for the all-star game, as it was the first All-Star game I’ve played in,” he added. “Having them here to share the moment with me was incredible.”

Excited to have his father witness his first professional All-Star game, Dean’s professional career was inspired by his father Martin, who played college baseball at Southeastern Oklahoma State University and was drafted by the Atlanta Braves in 1981. The older Dean’s professional career never took off due to an injury in college, but he put all of his knowledge and work ethic in his son. Matt admits it wasn’t always easy having his Dad as his high school coach. But he’s very thankful for what he did for him, as he taught him what he needed to know to play professional baseball.

“My Dad was a major influence on my career,” Dean said, smiling. “Growing up, I hated that he was my coach, but he was a great role model for me and he taught me how to play the game the right way. He pushed me hard and had higher expectations for me than I had for myself. I think that coaching made me the player I am today. He worked my tail off and I’m thankful he was my coach.”

Enjoying every aspect of his Midwest League experience, Dean was sad to see the 2014 season end, but was grateful for the experience he went through, as a member of the Lansing Lugnuts. Enjoying all the cities and stadiums along the way, Dean feels the Midwest League has amazing facilities for low-A baseball.

“The Midwest League is great because you usually have good crowds at every game. The stadiums are great. Good atmosphere with good playing surfaces,” recalls Dean. “The team made the experience fun. There were a lot of good players on this team. The coaching staff made it a lot of fun. I was very fortunate to be here the whole season. I was kind of sad when the season ended, but it was a great experience.”

Heading back to Texas this off-season, Dean is looking forward to giving his body a bit of a rest before jumping back into his busy off-season routine, which helps him get bigger, stronger, and faster, as he’s looking for more success in 2015.

“I’ll take a little break once I got home just to let the body rest a little,” said Dean. “After a short break jumped back in and hit the weights. [I’ve done] a little speed training. I’m going to try to get a little bit quicker and a little bit stronger while staying flexible.”

Be sure to follow Matt Dean this season as he is likely to jump up to high-A to continue developing his game at first base as well as at the plate.

Brian Crawford

Brian Crawford

Brian has covered professional baseball for eight seasons for numerous media outlets.
Brian Crawford