Bouchard Takes Big Steps

Bouchard's glove and bat are coming along

The 20-year-old rookie, drafted in the 11th round out of Georgetown, earned significant playing time from day one. He got off to a hot start, and then cooled, but by the season's end, Matt Bouchard would put together one of the most impressive seasons by any non-pitcher in this year's draft class. Inside Pitch caught up with the shortstop to discuss his year.

After appearing in all 55 games with his Georgetown University squad last spring, Matt Bouchard stepped right in and assumed the starting role as the everyday shortstop for the Cyclones. From his first moments on the field, he knew he faced a challenge, but one that he would he would enjoy in the friendly confines of KeySpan Park.

"I had a lot of fun playing in Brooklyn, and it was a really successful rookie year for me, but there were a lot of challenges,' he said. "I found out that pro ball and college ball are two entirely different games, knowing what the manager expects out of you, and especially being a shortstop, being the leader of the infield."

He quickly adjusted to the pitching in the NY-Penn League as he got off to a .344 clip in his first 11 games. For Bouchard, he entered the system a bit ahead of the curve, showing strong discipline at the plate after appearing in 110 games his last two years at school. Yet for the 6-foot right-hander, his growth will come with experience at the plate.

"A lot of what I wasn't doing goes to my mental approach. I worked on my discipline and picking out a pitch that I know I can hit. Eventually, I started seeing the ball a lot earlier and deeper into the strike zone. I learned to not cover the whole plate, but look for a pitch I can hit well."

His average may have dipped to .252 by the season's midway point, but Bouchard (who earned distinction as a NY-Penn League All-Star) showed he is plenty capable of spraying the ball around the field for both contact and power. The one kink in his swing is that at times it is too long, giving him trouble with breaking pitches. However, his swing, especially with the switch from aluminum to wood, is something that will be corrected through time and repetition. His focus to improve his swing was to take pitches to the opposite field.

"[My swing] needed a few tweaks," he said. "I would have a long swing sometimes and that caused me to get late on some pitches that I should be hitting better. But with the wooden bat, you have to be naturally shorter."

As he ironed out the holes, his production returned, matching his season-end average with a .266 pace in August, and closing the year out by hitting .344 in his last ten games. For Bouchard, it all comes back to consistency and maturity.

"My discipline helped with my strikeouts and walks, but I think my experience really made all that come along into knowing what kind of player I was going to be," he said.

On the other side of the field, as a shortstop Bouchard knows his defensive progression will be just as important his offense. His error total (9 in 70 games) was not poor, but for his game to really achieve completion, he will continually stress his defense.

"Consistency is always something I'm working on, trying to get as close to perfection as I can. No matter what my offense is doing, as a professional shortstop my defense has to be there all the time. I pride myself on my defense and help my pitching staff as much as I can," Bouchard explained.

There are aspects of his defense that need some work, specifically his footwork and accuracy, but they are both just elements of what will continue to be a work in progress.

"You always want to improve everything to its full potential obviously. I'm going to work on doing all of that this winter. I've been working with Kevin Morgan, our infield coordinator, and he showed some video on what I need to do and get it ready for spring training," he said.

Bouchard has offered early promise through the talent and tools he showed during his rookie campaign in Brooklyn. Now after spending time in at the Instructional League where he will work on all the loose ends, he has a positive outlook on his first year and a workman's attitude to keep growing.

"I think I progressed exponentially. After a short season professionally, and a week at Instructs, I've learned maybe more than I have my whole life. Getting out there playing everyday and working on fundamentals with the coaching staff and having all those eyes on you everyday helps a lot. I'm excited about being in this organization and all the work that has come with it," he closed.

InsidePitchMagazine.com Recommended Stories