Cain learning plate discipline in AFL
Triple-A stint forced Brewers prospect to reevaluate approach
PEORIA, Ariz. -- Lorenzo Cain will be the first to admit that he's aggressive in the batter's box. It's the kind of protect-the-plate, jump-on-the-first-good-pitch mentality that has contributed to his success as he's progressed through the Milwaukee system.
While his aggressiveness has proved beneficial at times, it's also occasionally been a detriment. Cain's strikeout totals have been high and he knows it. He spent much of this season working on better control at the plate, an approach he's continuing to develop with the Peoria Javelinas in the Arizona Fall League.
"I'm a very aggressive hitter," Cain said. "You play in those lower leagues and you're always swinging. And that's not good all the time. You rack up a lot of strikeouts if you're too aggressive. You have to be patient and get on so you can steal some bases, which is also part of my game.
"Sometimes you have to be able to take a pitch, no matter where you are in the count. And then with two strikes, just try to put the ball in play and avoid the strikeout. If you put it in play, you might look up and have a hit."
Cain did put the ball in play quite a bit this season, combining to hit .279 in the Florida State, Southern and Pacific Coast Leagues. He had 11 homers, 60 RBIs and stole 25 bases, but what stands just as much are the career-high 115 strikeouts.
But he is learning. Compare that regular-season strikeout number to his results so far in the AFL. Cain struck out only twice in his first 32 at-bats. He had two homers, four RBIs, a handful of steals and an OBP (.382) that would look good at the top of most batting orders.
It's all a learning process for the 22-year-old Cain, who didn't begin playing baseball until high school. He's a bit behind other prospects his age, but is quickly catching up with the rest of the top-flight talent in a very deep Milwaukee system.
"I think I've progressed pretty quickly and I'm close to the other guys in this league and on this team now," Cain said. "You always have a lot of learning to do. I think I had a pretty good season in all aspects of the game. My power numbers went up, I improved on the defensive side of the ball. I just didn't improve on my plate discipline. That still needs work.
"The pitchers get better as you move up. The breaking balls get better, the fastballs are harder and the pitchers locate better. But after you go through it and you experience it, you'll be fine."
Cain began the season at Brevard County in the Florida State League before a surprise promotion to Triple-A Nashville in June. He hit just .158 in 19 PCL at-bats before returning to the Florida State League, but while he was with Nashville, he had an epiphany of sorts.
The pitchers in the Pacific Coast League are much better than what Cain faced at Brevard County. He saw the future and realized that an adjustment was in order. He went 22-for-67 upon his return to the FSL, raising his average from .277 to .287, hitting safely in 15-of-17 games and earning another promotion, this time to Double-A Huntsville.
"I was [in the PCL] for two weeks and I saw the difference," he said. "So when I got back to the Florida State League, everything felt a lot easier. Those guys [in the PCL] really know how to locate their off-speed pitches. They are real pitchers up there and it helped me out a lot. I didn't do well there but it helped learn to see pitches."
Cain is seeing pitches well for the Javs, hitting .344 heading into Tuesday's action. So while the Brewers have some big names in their system -- Mat Gamel, Angel Salome, etc. -- Cain is proving that he belongs in that group. Not that he's looking for the attention.
"I don't like being in the spotlight," he admits. "I want to sit back, lay low and just handle my business and let things come my way. I'll let them have the spotlight."
Kevin Czerwinski is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.