January 25, 2012 at 8:00 AM
|Sean Coyle (Kelly O'Connor)|
BOSTON, MASS. -- Rookie lessons are a reality for any professional baseball player. The grind of the road and playing every day from spring training through the Fall Instructional League, adjusting to professional pitching, and dealing with slumps and injuries are among the myriad things that every player deals with at some point for the first time.
In his first full season as a pro, these are things that Sean Coyle was able to deal with splendidly, en route to his being named SoxProspects.com Rookie of the Year following a promising first full season.
“You have to control the things that you can control,” he said of what he learned. “You can’t control whether a guy comes out and throws you three fastballs or three curveballs. You can’t control whether you hit a line drive at the shortstop or you hit a double in the gap. You can’t control those things, but you can control coming into the park every day and working hard and getting after it. You can’t really worry about statistical things. Those are going to follow directly with your work ethic.”
Coyle showed great resiliency throughout the year. This included bouncing back from the slumps all players face, but also the occasional injury. The worst injury – and most impressive show of toughness, came when Coyle was hit in the face by a pitch. Coyle has a few fake teeth from the beanball, and he suffered a fractured jaw. However, he missed just 10 games, and somewhat stunningly, had no issues getting back in the box when he returned.
“You know, people always ask that,” he said, “but I think it was just that I’ve been playing for however many years, and I’ve never been hit in the face before, and I guess I thought, ‘it’s probably just not going to happen again, or at least for another 20 years.’”
Although Coyle’s batting average (.247) and strikeout (110) numbers may not have screamed a successful season, a look at his on-base percentage and power numbers tell a different story. With a .362 on-base percentage, his .115 Isolated Discipline number was the highest for any state-side Sox minor leaguer with at least 100 plate appearances. Similarly, he showed great power for a high schooler in his first full season, adjusting to wood bats by slugging more extra-base hits (48) than singles (47), finishing with a .464 slugging percentage. The 5-8 Coyle did not necessarily say he was surprised by his power display, but he admittedly did not expect it either.
“I guess I didn’t know how power numbers would really be affected coming out of high school. I’d never taken a full season and really looked at my stats,” he said. “In high school, you play every day, and nobody keeps a stat sheet over the summer. … I’m not out there trying to hit home runs, but you get under a ball here or there and it just kind of happens.”
Right now, Coyle is preparing for the season back home in Pennsylvania, but he plans to report to Ft. Myers on February 1 in order to get outdoors earlier than he otherwise would in the northeast. With that first full season under his belt, it will be exciting to see what he can do with what pitchers throw at him – both figuratively and, hopefully not, literally – in 2012.