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Major League Baseball's Next Super Stars



Posted in: Articles by ProSource, Superfeature Articles, Supplement Articles, Supreme Protein: Supreme Protein Bars | Dec 15, 2008



Phenoms Brett Wallace, Matt Wieters, and Tommy Hanson
polish their skills as they prepare for the spotlight

For the last 16 years, baseball fans have flocked to Arizona in October and November to experience the showcase of the world's premier fall baseball league. Just as the desert begins to cool down, baseball's hottest young players descend on the Phoenix area to display their skills for scouts, general managers, and farm directors from around the league.

Each Major League Baseball franchise sends their top prospects to gain valuable experience playing in this major league setting. Most of the league consists of Double-A and Triple-A players, although some have already seen major league action. Described by baseball insiders as a "graduate school" for top minor league prospects, the Arizona Fall League has helped groom a substantial portion of today's "A" list players. To put it into perspective, the 2008 MLB All-Star Game featured 36 AFL alumni and five out of the last seven MLB MVPs formerly played in this prestigious league. All-Stars like Albert Pujols, Justin Morneau, Jason Giambi, David Wright, Jimmy Rollins, Chase Utley, Derrek Lee, Ryan Braun and Ryan Howard have all played in the desert in the fall.

In many cases, the talent is so major-league-ready that some of the participating players go on to have breakout years in the big leagues the following regular season. Last year's prime example was Tampa Bay Rays third baseman Evan Longoria, who was an All-Star and the 2008 Rookie of the Year while leading the Rays to their first World Series in franchise history.

I've had the privilege of watching the Fall League for the past month and as a huge baseball fan, the experience has been a pleasure, to say the least. The talent of these young athletes is remarkable. So many of them are just on the cusp of making it onto a big league roster and they're working their tails off to prove that they deserve to get that shot, come spring.

There have been three players, in particular, that have stood out the most in this regard. Each of them possesses an unbelievable amount of sheer talent, setting themselves apart with their work ethic, focus and determination to be the best. I had the opportunity to sit down with each of them to discuss their priorities and what their expectations are for the coming season.

Brett Wallace: The Pure Hitter


Brett Wallace was drafted by the St. Louis Cardinals in the first round of the 2008 players draft held last June. Coming out of college baseball powerhouse Arizona State University, Wallace holds a college career batting average of .398 and was the back-to-back Pac-10 Player of the Year, and back-to-back Pac-10 Triple Crown winner his sophomore and junior years. Since being drafted, Wallace has continued to play at an extremely high level. Originally assigned to Low-A Quad Cities, Wallace reached Double-A Springfield after putting on a 40-day hitters clinic in QC. According to the recent Baseball America's 2008 Draft Report Card, Wallace was voted as having the best pro debut of his draft class after hitting .337, 8 home runs and driving in 36 runs in just 54 games played between Low-A Quad Cities and Double-A Springfield.

Arguably the fastest rising prospect the Cardinals' organization has seen since J.D. Drew in the late 1990s, Wallace was sent to the Arizona Fall League this October to work on his fielding and to gain experience facing top pitching talent. Competing against some of the best competition he has ever seen, Wallace has shown commendable determination and dedication as he works to improve.

B.W. Priority #1: Fitness/Workout '" Keeping his lower body strong

Brett doesn't posses the prototypical body of a baseball player. He has large thighs and a thick core. Because of this, many teams passed on him in the players draft last June. Some scouts believed and still believe that because of his unorthodox body type, he will struggle to find a natural fielding position. Brett sees the situation in a different light. "I was born with a big lower half and I've worked hard to continue to keep it lean, and keep my legs strong and quick. I feel like when I sink in my legs at the plate, I have a little extra juice compared to other guys that may have to try real hard for extra power. I feel it helps me drive the ball around the whole yard and it's just a huge asset for me at the plate." Working to keep his lower half strong, Brett integrates a lot of quick movement exercises into his workout routine. "It's a lot of walk lunges with weights, and explosive jumps, in between sets of squats. It's a combination. You build the explosive strength in the leg muscles that you're working on."

In regard to scouts' concerns over Brett's fielding capabilities, particularly at third base, since being drafted, Brett has committed six errors in 126 combined chances during the regular season and only one error in 28 chances here at the fall League. "I like proving people wrong. People want to say whether I can or can't play third. It's actually more fun when people say I can't do something and then I do and do it well and prove them wrong. It just drives me to play even better.
Supreme Protein® bars are the best tasting bars on the market that I've found. It's hard to find a protein bar that has such a high protein content that tastes great, while also keeping the carb and sugar count so low. - Brett Wallace
"You know, it's an emphasis that I'll always work on. People will always try and find something to knock about my game, and that will continue to motivate me to get better everyday and prove them wrong."

B.W. Priority #2: Nutrition

The life of a professional baseball player is extremely fast paced. Traveling from city to city every couple of days, trying to get adequate nutrition can sometimes be a tough task. "Nutrition plays a huge role in my performance as an athlete. On game days on the road, you may only have an hour to eat before the game and it's easier to just grab something quick rather than eating well. You've really got to have the right frame of mind to be disciplined enough to not eat the garbage. I actually find that eating protein bars and drinking protein shakes make it a lot easier to get the adequate amounts of nutrition quickly after a workout or before a game.

Supreme Protein® bars are the best tasting bars on the market that I've found. It's hard to find a protein bar that has such a high protein content that tastes great, while also keeping the carb and sugar count so low. Supreme Protein® bars offer me everything that I need in order to be energized during vigorous workouts, build muscle, and live a healthy lifestyle." Brett says that staying committed to eating right and working out, takes a lot of discipline. "You work so hard in the gym to get your body to a certain level ... You don't want to eat any crap that may hinder your performance."

B.W. Priority #3: Mental Preparation

With so many unbelievably talented players in the Arizona Fall League, really standing out takes more than just having phenomenal physical athleticism. It takes mental strength as well. "Just getting to play against these guys and experience success is great for me because it builds my confidence. It shows me that I'm just about there'¦There's just that much difference between these guys, and most of it's up top (in your head) not physical. I had the opportunity to face Clay Buchholz the other day and I did alright against him. Achieving success against guys here who have played some in the big leagues can be a real confidence booster."

B.W Priority #4: Light up opposing MLB-ready pitchers

After getting off to a mediocre start in the fall league, Wallace went on an absolute tear the last several weeks, leading his team to within one win of the championship game. He ended his first AFL campaign batting .309, with 6 home runs and 24 RBI in just 24 games. One of his home runs came off of Red Sox pitcher Clay Buchholz, who threw a no hitter in the big leagues in 2007. Going 4 for 5 and driving in 6 runs for the day, most of the damage was done off the Red Sox top pitching prospect. "It feels pretty unbelievable. He (Buchholz) obviously has great stuff, and he's a guy who's proven himself in the big leagues. It makes you realize we're all getting pretty close to where we want to be. There's no margin for error in this league."

Matt Wieters: The Natural


Quite possibly the most heralded prospect playing in this year's fall league, Matt Wieters is a 6'5 switch hitting catcher in the Baltimore Orioles farm system. Winning MLB.com's 2008 MiLBY for the best hitter in the minor leagues, Wieters, according to most scouts, is a can't miss prospect on all levels and the future face of the Orioles. Taken fifth overall by the Orioles in the 2007 players draft, Wieters wasted little time making his presence known in professional baseball. Winning his own system's triple crown, Wieters hit a combined .355, with a .600 slugging percentage, a .454 on base average, and 91 RBIs and 27 homeruns between Advanced-A Frederick and Double-A Bowie. With a good eye at the plate and great power to all fields, Wieters also receives rave reviews for his defensive skills and natural ability for game calling behind the plate.

A gifted athlete with a workhorse mentality, Wieters hit .359 with 35 homers and 198 RBI in three seasons at Georgia Tech. Before Wieters was taken in the daft, North Carolina State baseball coach Elliott Avent said he was the type of player that comes around once every 25 years. "I mean how many catchers do you see with his size and ability that can switch hit? Maybe Jason Varitek. There just aren't many like him out there."

M.W. Priority #1: Fitness/Workout/Fundamentals

Being a catcher very well may be the toughest job in all of sports. At 6'5, 230lbs, Matt Wieters is remarkably big for his position. Squatting for nine innings over 120 games a year can take a toll on a player's body. Matt says it's crucial to keep your body in top form. "You've got to find a way to get the workouts in but at the same time, you've got to keep your body feeling fresh and feeling that you can play once the game comes along. The offseason is when I focus the most on lifting weights and adding strength. The workout routine during the season is different particularly in pro baseball because you just don't get the off days. Once the season comes around, I just try and maintain. Anything I can find time to do just to get a little bit of a workout in is beneficial."

M.W. Priority #2: Nutrition

"I really watch what I put in my body so I'm able to stay strong each and every game throughout the longest season in professional sports. In regard to supplements I don't take many, other than protein shakes. Being a catcher, my weight's going to drop as the season goes on, so any time I need to get those extra calories in after a game or whatever, a protein bar or shake is a good way to do that.

M.W. Priority #3: Mental preparation '" Remember what dad taught you

"My dad's been the biggest influence in my baseball career, hands down. He pitched in the minor leagues and hit in college so he understands both sides of the game. We would watch Atlanta Braves games together when I was growing up and we would always discuss and break down what the pitcher was trying to do in a given situation and what the hitter was trying to do."

M.W Priority #4: Handle the hype with class

With not even a single major league at bat, Wieters is already considered the cornerstone and future face of the Baltimore Orioles franchise. At just 22, he has handled himself on and off the field like a poised veteran. Orioles manager Dave Trembley recently said of Wieters in an interview; "he's a big league guy in the minor leagues. We're looking for big league players, but we're also looking for big league people. Wieters is at the top of the charts in all of those categories."

Wieters finished the fall league with a .301 average, 1 home run and 12 RBI in 73 at-bats. Having the opportunity to watch Wieters at a few of the fall league games, I could clearly see that he stands out among his peers not only with his play on the field but also in the way he handles himself off it as well. After I conducted the interview with him, he immediately went around signing each and every autograph a fan requested. "The fans are the reasons we're able to play this game. When they show up every night and support you, you've got to give your best effort to give them autographs and just give them a little bit of your time," Wieters said in a prior interview. "You're not going to be able to sign every autograph or get to say hello to every person, but any chance you can get, it doesn't hurt to take some time out of your day to sign some autographs and make some kids happy."

Tommy Hanson: The Ace


Tommy Hanson is a 6'6", 210-pound right-handed future major league ace. With a mid-90's fastball, a nasty curve ball and a solid change up, Hanson is one of the most highly regarded pitching prospects the Atlanta Braves organization has seen in quite some time. Originally drafted in the 22nd round out of Riverside Community College in 2005, Hanson spent his first year of pro ball in Danville in 2006 where he compiled a 4-1 record with a 2.09 ERA. In his 51 2/3 innings at Danville, he had an astounding 56 K, nine BB, and a 0.99 WHIP. The following season in 2007 Hanson split time between low-A Rome and high-A Myrtle Beach. While at Rome, he appeared in 15 games and started 14 of them. Hanson was 2-6 with a 2.56 ERA, while striking out 90 in 73 innings. When he was moved up to Myrtle Beach, he struggled a bit. In 11 starts at Myrtle Beach, Hanson was 3-3 with a 4.20 ERA, but he still struck out more than one batter per inning (64 K's in 60 IP).

In his first 7 starts with Double-A Myrtle Beach in 2008 Hanson was absolutely dominant, recording 49 strikeouts in 40 innings. Hanson was then promoted to Double-A Mississippi where he started 18 games and continued his domination of opposing hitters. In his ninth start in Mississippi, he tossed a 14-strikeout no-hitter against the Birmingham Barons. It was the first no-hitter in the history of the Mississippi Braves organization. Finishing the 2008 season with an 11-5 record and a 2.41 ERA, Hanson's 10.63 strikeouts per nine innings ranked second in the minors and his .175 opponents' average led all Minor League starting pitchers.

T. H. Priority #1: Fitness/Workout/Fundamentals
One product I actually really enjoy is the Supreme Protein® bar. Supreme Protein bars® are by far the best-tasting protein bars I've ever had and they help me out substantially with my overall endurance and strength. - Tommy Hanson
In his short professional career, Tommy has gained a reputation for pitching deep into games, pitching 323 innings in just his first 3 seasons. "The day after I pitch is usually the day I lift and get a long run in. The second day after I pitch I throw on the side and do some more long distance running. Everyday I'm running actually. The third day I have another light full body workout and then I rest until I pitch next."

T. H. Priority #2: Nutrition

Major league baseball club houses are known for their lavish buffets with huge varieties of meal options to choose from. As Tommy attests, the minors are a far different story. "Nutrition is 100% a big deal in regard to my performance. It's hard in the minor leagues because there's just not a lot of good food around. One product I actually really enjoy is the Supreme Protein® bar. Supreme Protein bars® are by far the best-tasting protein bars I've ever had and they help me out substantially with my overall endurance and strength. Being on the road as much as I am, it's tough to get quality nutritious food. Supreme Protein® bars are a quick and easy way to get quality supplements in my body."

T. H. Priority #3: Mental Preparation

Coming into the fall league there was a lot of speculation about the Braves looking to trade Tommy to the Padres for former Cy Young winner Jake Peavey. Tommy has made it clear that he hopes to stay and pitch with the team that drafted him, however he's refused to concern himself with things he can't control off the field. "I try not the think or worry too much about talk off the field. I came to the fall league to work on my change-up and become more consistent with all my off-speed pitches. "The game of baseball is like a chess match between the hitter and the pitcher. Focus is critical and you can't let the off-the-field stuff consume your thoughts. Also, you've got to have the physical part down, because if you feel tired or weak it will get into your head and affect you mentally."

T. H. Priority #4: Rise above the rest in the best-of-the-best showdown

In a league of highly touted top pitching prospects tirelessly trying to prove their skill to scouts, coaches and players alike, Hanson undoubtedly has risen above the rest at this years AFL. Displaying his dominance against the league's elite this fall, Hanson pitched three hitless innings and struck out seven in the Rising Stars game at the fall league mid point. Hanson led his team to the championship game against the five-time defending AFL champs the Phoenix Desert Dogs. Though losing, Hanson started the game and pitched five strong innings, only allowing a run on three hits with eight strikeouts. Hanson finished the fall league by pitching 36 2/3 innings, allowing only 13 hits and 10 walks while striking out 64. He finished the fall campaign with a combined 0.74 ERA, and was the first pitcher in the sixteen-year history of the league to win AFL MVP.

All three of these unbelievably talented and dedicated young men will undoubtedly have an invitation to their respective teams' spring training in March of next year. We at ProSource wish them all the best of luck and we look forward to following their careers as they ascend toward major league glory.





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