Brewers By the (Jersey) Numbers – #58 Josh Prince

*EDIT* (I came home from a nice day/night out and find that my Josh Prince article didn’t post as scheduled. Awesome.)

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Welcome to being inside of two months until Opening Day. Yesterday was exactly two months out from the pomp and regalia, of the bunting and lineup intros, of everything that makes Opening Day superb.

But that was yesterday. This is today. Today, we’re 58 days away and today we therefore turn our attention to a 6’1″, 190 lb outfielder who came to the Brewers organization by way of Tulane University…

Josh Prince.

Prince AFLJoshua C. Prince was originally drafted by the Brewers in the 3rd round of the 2009 First-Year Player Draft. He was their sixth overall selection that summer behind Eric Arnett, Kentrail Davis, Kyle Heckathorn, Max Walla, and Cameron Garfield. Those are some names you know if you follow the Brewers minor league system.

Prince was drafted as a shortstop, assigned to the rookie level Helena Brewers right away and after 36 games of .298/.426/.348 ball, received a promotion up to Class-A Wisconsin. He played 31 games for the Timber Rattlers to finish up 2009 and didn’t fare quite as well. Still, as a 22-year-old he began 2010 with Class-A Advance Brevard County. In 106 games, Prince struggled at the plate. He was .233/.287/.282, 62 R, 95 H, 80 K, 32 BB, 1 HR. About the only true positive offensively for Prince that year was his 44-of-55 (80%) stolen base numbers. In short, it was a learning year. Prince was learning how to get better and overcome while the team was perhaps beginning to learn whether he had what it took to succeed.

He answered those questions a bit by coming on strong in 2011 in an encore performance as a Manatee. In 75 games, Prince posted a much better batting average and on-base percentage and actually began showing a little more home run power as he tallied five on the campaign.

Prince was still in need of something to distinguish himself from the other bats and gloves in the clubhouse though. That came in two phases. First, Prince spent a considerable amount of time as an outfielder in 2012, his first time ever playing the position. Some may recall in a televised Cactus League game that spring that Prince was inserted into left field late in a game and, as will happen, the ball found him quickly. He was kind of hung out to dry and it showed. It was his second day in the outfield ever and he’d never taken a fly ball in left. He came into spring training as a shortstop and it wasn’t until after a week or two went by that they asked him to try working in the outfield to increase his versatility.

What that did accomplish though was expose Prince to what the outfield was like in a live game situation. He learned from it and every other misstep and miscue and has made himself a pretty good outfielder in just one year of working at it. He’s got room to improve but as he told me personally at Brewers On Deck when I pulled him aside for an interview, he feels that when he stops getting better it’s time to stop playing at all.

(The entirety of the Prince interview will be transcribed soon and I’m working on getting a file up for you to listen to it but haven’t gotten there yet.)

But the 10 minutes or so I was able to spend with Prince were eye-opening from my perspective. He was humble but confident in himself and his abilities. He felt that his skills at this point would be best suited to leading off and that his batting eye was his best asset today.

That was reflected in his 2012 numbers. His OBP was 95 points higher than his batting average as a member of the Class-AA affiliate Huntsville Stars. He stole 41 bases, and while he struck out 107 times, he walked seventy-four times. That’s 74 in 596 plate appearances. Yes, it’s a completely different level of competition, but for comparison’s sake Rickie Weeks walked 74 times in 588 PAs. I think we all can agree that Weeks has a good eye at the plate.

Those strong regular season numbers told the Brewers brass that it was time to see what they had in this kid. Well, the numbers and the fact that Prince would be eligible for the Rule V Draft in December if he wasn’t added to the 40-man roster. That combination of factors led to Prince’s trip to the desert for the Arizona Fall League.

All he did there was lead the league in hits (36), post a team-high .404 batting average (second in the entire league) with 15 walks and only 14 strikeouts in 89 at-bats. His on-base was again significantly higher than his average (.491) and his slugging was an eye-popping .573 courtesy of 10 extra-base hits. He also was 10-of-14 in stolen bases attempts in the AFL. Prince’s 1.064 OPS was good for third in the league as well. He was named to the AFL Top Prospects Team which is a selected the league’s managers and coaches.

The Brewers had privately hoped before the Arizona Fall League that they’d be able to hide Prince for one more turn without having to add him to the 40-man roster. The results spoke far too loudly though and Prince was added to the 40-man on November 20th. Said Brewers assistant GM Gord Ash “(Josh) made the most of his opportunity. I’ll say that.”

What I’ll say is that Josh Prince is certainly a name to know for any passionate and informed Brewers fan. So watch for the outfielder who will be much more acclimated to his job than when you possibly saw him last. He’ll be the guy with the 58 on his back.

You can follow Josh Prince on Twitter: @JoshPrince17

Miss anyone along the way? Catch up on the Brewers By the (Jersey) Numbers profiles to this point:

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