First baseman/catcher makes splash in earning Most Valuable Player honors
SURPRISE, Ariz. -- The rosters at this year's Arizona Fall League Fall Stars Game were a veritable who's who of prospects. There were 21 Top 100 prospects in the game, so it made sense to expect one of them to walk away with MVP honors.
But sometimes an under-the-radar guy takes a hold of an opportunity, on a national stage, to jump on the radar. That's exactly what Rangers prospect Brett Nicholas did. He may have been one of the few players not on the top 100 or an organizational Top 20 list, but he went 3-for-4 with two home runs to take home the MVP plaque.
"It feels nice to do something like that," said Nicholas, who played first base for the West Division, which won the game, 9-2. "It's an honor to be a part of this. Some of the guys in there, the Byron Buxtons, the Kris Bryants, those guys are incredible players. Just to be able to be out here and competing with and against them, it's a great experience. It's something I obviously want to keep doing for a long time. Hopefully I can put my name out there and continue to do that."
Nicholas put his name out there for the first time with a line-drive single in the second inning against East starter Aaron Sanchez of the Blue Jays. He then greeted Cam Bedrosian while leading off the fourth with his first homer of the night, a blast to right field on a 2-1 count. He got a 1-0 changeup from Mets right-hander Jeurys Familia with two outs in the seventh and deposited that one as well behind the right-field wall. It's not a bad night for any game. Add in that it was on national TV in front of more than 6,000 fans, and the fact that Nicholas is a Phoenix native, and it's unlikely the 25-year-old will forget it any time soon.
"It feels incredible," Nicholas said. "The other part, too, I've got a lot of family and friends here. I'm from Arizona. It's just an incredible experience and it's something I'll remember for the rest of my career."
Nicholas hopes that career continues for a long time. He had a breakout campaign in 2013 after scuffling a bit since being a sixth-round pick in the 2010 Draft. In his first taste of Double-A, Nicholas hit .289/.357/.484 with 21 homers and 91 RBIs. Drafted originally as a catcher, Nicholas played mostly first during the past two seasons. But the Rangers feel like he still might have potential behind the plate, so his year will not be over when the AFL concludes.
"I'm heading down to the Dominican after the Fall League to catch full-time and try to continue that," said Nicholas, who is hitting .244 with a homer and four RBIs in 10 AFL games. "It's something that I believe if I can do, it will make me a little better of a prospect for the Rangers and maybe a little more valuable for them. Hopefully, some day I can break that 25-man roster."
Clearly, the Rangers feel that way, too. Nicholas might be a bit of an underdog and under the radar, but the Rangers didn't send him to the Fall League and don't want him to head to the Dominican just to fill space. If he started to figure things out at the plate in 2013 and can do it as a catcher in the future, they might have something in Nicholas. The faith the organization has shown clearly isn't lost on him.
"It feels good," Nicholas said. "It's been a long couple of years. There's no finish line in this. It's always a grind. It feels good that they want me to do that. I'll continue to keep doing it as long as they're willing to put me out there."