Haven't heard much about Steffan Wilson? That's a good sign for the Brewers' system. Not long ago, a guy capable of playing third putting up a .295/.357/.509 line at West Virginia would have received a lot more attention, but thanks to the system producing three huge third base prospects in the last three years, Wilson is flying under the radar. Regardless, I think you'll find the former Harvard player's answers thoughtful and self-effacing.
BCB: You guys had a tough loss [Tuesday night].
SW: Yeah we did.
BCB: You've been playing really well lately though—both you personally and the team in general. Are you happy with the season so far?
SW: Yeah, there are things that I would change, but things are going well. And this is the most important month.
BCB: What would you change?
SW: Well, the start that I got to the season, and the start that the team got off to. I guess it’s kind of expected a little bit. And everyone can look back and change something for the better, I’m sure. But we’re in a tight race right now, and though I think we all play our hardest every day, if we realized how close it would be, we may not have taken some of the losses that we knew we should have won a lot harder. At the same time, this team does a great job of bouncing back from tough losses, so it’s kind of useless to say what you may change, and as a whole, the season has been a success thus far. Sorry, that was a long answer.
BCB: No, don't worry—long answers are good! Did you make any adjustments after your poor start? Personally, I mean.
SW: Oh yeah, I made a ton of adjustments throughout the season. Adjustments are made daily. That’s the name of the game. I think I have come a long way as a player, and I can safely say that everyone on the team has improved throughout. A lot of my adjustments came in my hitting approach with the help of our hitting coach, Jim Lett: recognizing what pitchers are going to try to do to me as a hitter, creating a consistent approach and swing, protecting the outer half, especially when I am down in the count, and just coming up with a good mental approach for a long and roller coaster-like season.
BCB: So you've learned to take it the other way more?
SW: That’s still a work in progress, and I still find myself trying to pull balls that need to be hit the other way, but I think I’ve improved and adjusted my swing in a way to maximize those goals.
BCB: You said everyone on the team has improved Who has seen the most gains?
SW: Well, I think Lee Haydel has been an excellent player for us. He’s hitting the ball very well and is an important part of our offense. For the most part, everyone has seen improvements, shown in their improving numbers. It’s tough though, because everyone is working on something different, though all working for the same goal of consistency and success. Everyone has different weaknesses that they key on.
BCB: Would you say your biggest weakness is going the other way when it's given to you?
SW: Um, that’s just part of it. I think hitting my pitch and not missing it is another goal of mine. At-bats where you miss the pitch you know you should drive into a gap or out of the park are frustrating, and I think as you see with the higher levels, the good hitters don’t let pitchers get away with a hitter’s pitch. They hit it hard somewhere; they rarely take it for a strike. If I can hit my pitch early in the count, it will make my down-in-the-count approach easier, but at the same time, if I can hit a pitcher’s pitch the other way, the next at-bat, the pitcher may try to come in and leave one over the plate I can hit hard somewhere.
BCB: So, what about Haydel's improvement has impressed you so much?
SW: Well, his bat control and his ability to hit left-handed pitchers. I think just his overall grasp of the game has vastly improved, along with all of us in our first full season. He worked hard in the offseason, and it’s obvious that his hard work has paid off. He’s hitting the ball hard all over the field. He went through a stretch where he was flaring the outside pitch into left field with little success, but recently he’s been driving the ball that way, and in big situations.
SW: I didn’t get a chance.
BCB: Walk-off three-run homer in the 13th inning. His first home run of the year.
SW: Wow. That is a big night.
BCB: What did you think of him as a ballplayer? Obviously he has the tools...
SW: Yeah, he definitely has tools. I thought he was a good young ballplayer. When I played with him, we had similar obstacles in the way of confidence. Early in the season, almost everyone on the team was struggling, and no one had a whole lot of confidence, which is such a big part of this game. But his range in the field was very impressive, and he was hitting the ball hard for a while early in the season. But we are all a work in progress.
SW: That’s one of those things that is out of my control. Both of those guys are great ballplayers and set the bar pretty high for guys like me and Zelous [Wheeler]. It gives me a level of success to shoot for. But like I said, it’s one of those things I can’t control. I figure if I play well enough, I’ll get to keep playing. And those guys are certainly up for promotions themselves.
SW: No. He and I room on the road, but we don’t talk about things like that. The talent in this system is great. It provides a healthy level of competition. I think and hope that the guys that can play, and show they can play every day, will be rewarded. Fryer and myself are in our first full season. The guys ahead of us have proved themselves year-in and year-out. When I do that, we’ll see where I am, but I have a long way to go to see myself at that caliber, and I can only play my game and hope I play well and that it gets noticed.
BCB: You and Fryer and Wheeler have all played a bunch of positions this year. Have you got a sense for where the organization views you long-term?
SW: I think I speak for all of us when I say we have no idea. I don’t think it hurts to be able to play multiple positions, but I know I’d like to be able to call one of those positions my own, and have a lot of confidence in one specific position. I know though that I have to hit, and if I can do that, maybe I’ll fall into a position.
BCB: How do you feel about your defense at third?
SW: I think it’s a lot better this year than last, and when I played there every day, early in the season, I felt good about it. But I see the great plays Zelous makes and know that I am not where he is, and it’s tough when you don’t get a chance to improve everyday at third. But it was something I worked hard on in the off season, and something I intend to continue to work hard at.
BCB: What kind of feedback have you gotten about your strengths and weaknesses defensively?
SW: I haven’t gotten a whole lot this year. I think it’s one of those end-of-season things. But last year I was told I needed to improve my range. A lot of my offseason stuff was aimed at that kind of improvement, but I think reps is a big part of it. That would improve my footwork, hands, and throwing position. Consistency in my throws was something else I worked a lot on.
BCB: Wow's your arm strength?
SW: My arm feels great, which is nice to say this late in the season. It’s never really been the strength of my throws that is the problem; I wanted to work hard on the accuracy of those throws.
BCB: There were a couple pitchers I wanted to ask you about, as well.
BCB: Roque Mercedes seems like he's a completely different pitcher in the bullpen. What's changed?
SW: Well, the bullpen is certainly different than being one of the starters. You come into a game that’s not yours and hitters you haven’t faced yet, in many cases. I think he has adjusted to his new role though, and comes into games now ready to throw strikes, and aware of what the hitters he is facing have done in their previous at-bats. I think he pitches to contact more now, and is more efficient in that sense.
BCB: How hard has he been throwing out of the pen?
SW: I’m not sure. Right around 90 I think. It’s hard to find and accurate radar gun in the league.
At this point, Steffan had to get some sleep, but I think you'll agree that the breadth of his answers more than makes up for the fewer than usual questions.