With help of D-backs pal, A's Chalmers adjusting to life as a pro
MESA, Ariz. -- Moving across the country and adjusting from life as a high school student to one as a professional athlete isn't an easy transition to make. And it is even tougher when you are just 18 years old and carrying around the lofty expectations of being a third-round Draft pick.
However, Athletics prospect Dakota Chalmers, ranked ninth on the A's Top 30 Prospects list, has had it a bit easier because he's going through the process, side by side, with one of his best friends.
"Whenever you hear somebody on the phone, you have a picture of what they're going to be like; then when you finally meet them, it's different. But from what everybody told me how it's going to be, it's exactly how they told me," Chalmers said of the adjustment to life as a professional. "It's a little different environment, but with the right people surrounding you, it's a pretty easy transition."
One of those surrounding people is Michael Branigan, a catcher in the D-backs organization. Branigan and Chalmers both grew up in Georgia, played travel ball together for a few years and have been great friends ever since.
"Michael was an under-the-radar kid, no offers. Dakota was committed early, could have gone high," said Kevin McCollum, who coached Branigan at Forsyth Central High School. "They took two different roads, all eyes were on Dakota and Michael happened to impress one guy. The pressure on Dakota was much more significant, and Michael probably didn't realize anyone was looking."
Branigan was drafted a year before Chalmers, and the lessons he learned in 2014 have greatly benefited Chalmers so far in the Rookie-level Arizona League.
"Advice I gave him was really on the baseball side of things, the smaller things," Branigan said. "Like how not to call coaches 'coach' but to learn their names, make relationships with them. Having confidence is key, and [I told him] how you don't want to be the guy with your shoulders slacked, you want to have your shoulders back."
Chalmers has used Branigan's lessons off the field, but on the field, he's continued to do exactly what he's done his entire life: perform.
The A's thought highly of Chalmers as they drafted him in the third round and awarded him and his upper-90s fastball an above-slot signing bonus of $1.2 million.
The right-hander has made six starts, and he has posted a 1.54 ERA with eight strikeouts in 11 2/3 innings.
"He always played up with us, so he was more on level with us, even at a younger age," Branigan said. "And then when he would go and play with guys his age, he would excel and stand out, and that's really how it always was."
For as good as Chalmers has been, he's struggled with command. Chalmers has walked 11 across 11 2/3 innings, but he also knows he's in good hands and will continue to develop with the A's.
"The pitchers they produce -- even if it's not on their big league club, just the guys throughout MLB that they've drafted [give me confidence]," Chalmers said. "The day you come in, they're really on you about doing everything the right way in the weight room. They monitor you really well, and the throwing program is very strict and very unique to the A's."