TRENTON, N.J. – Many area fans will remember Eric Jagielo’s impressive hitting that powered Notre Dame in the old Big East.
Scouts will recall how the 6-foot-2, 215-pound native of Downers Grove, Ill., was able to quickly transfer his hitting skills to wooden bats in the Cape Cod League, where his performance enticed the Yankees to make him a first-round pick (26th) in the 2013 draft and offer a $1.875 million bonus.
Offensively, Jagielo has been all the Yankees hoped, smashing 16 home runs and driving in 54 runs in 85 games last season at Class-A Advanced Tampa. The home-run total was impressive in the Florida State League, playing in big, spring-training ballparks. Had he not missed nearly six weeks with a strained muscle near his rib cage, that long-ball total would have been even higher.
Jagielo also missed participating in the Arizona Fall League after being hit by a pitch in Instructional League play and suffering a broken bone in his face.
“I was pleased with last season,” said Jagielo, who will turn 23 May 17, “It was the first time I had 150 games (a full season) and was able to play third base and nothing but third base. The only thing was I got hurt, but it was a learning experience handling all those things.
“Now I’m good, and really looking forward to having a fun season with this team.” The Thunder open their 2015 Friday night in Erie, Pa.
Jagielo, who hit ,259 (80-for-309) in the FSL, will be the Trenton Thunder’s primary third baseman, splitting time with Dante Bichette Jr., but occupying the hot corner four or five days a week. He will also DH in spots. There is certainly a possibility he could belt 25 homers in the Eastern League.
“Dante and I work well together,” said Jagielo. “We did this at Tampa last year until I got hurt. We just go out and do our thing in games. What’s good is we can talk about what we need to do both in the game and with our off-the-field work.”
Jagielo and Bichette are at third base at a time when the Yankees system is building depth at the position, with Miguel Andujar in Tampa and Dermis Garcia in the Gulf Coast League. It is up to Jagielo to improve both his defense and to become more selective at the plate.
Over the winter, Jagielo worked with Yankees Minor League Infield Coordinator Carlos Mendoza and former All-Star Scott Rolen to upgrade his fluidity at third base. His first-step quickness improved markedly last season and with the work done in the off-season.
“A lot of it is repetition, getting as much work in as I can,” Jagielo said. “Carlos and Scott really helped me.”
With power that rates in the plus category, it is natural Jagielo is the type of hitter who will strike out a lot. Last season in Tampa, he fanned 93 times and walked just 38. A bit more patience and selectivity might play to his advantage.
With the trade of former Trenton Thunder pitcher David Phelps to Miami, Jagielo is left to carry the Fighting Irish colors in the upper levels of the Yankees system.
“David’s a good guy,” said Jagielo. “I didn’t know him when I was at Notre Dame, but we exchanged phone numbers when I first came to spring training. We talked a lot about Notre Dame and the Yankees.
“He’s a good pitcher. We still keep in touch, and talk once or twice a month. He’s having a good time with the Marlins. I told him I’ll keep the spirit of Notre Dame going in the Yankees system.”
Offensively, Jagielo will be a force for the Thunder. If his defense improves a notch or two, the Yankees will be quite pleased with their investment.