INDIANAPOLIS — With the impending free agency following the season, the Pirates have some interesting decisions that need to be made at the big league level. One of the biggest decisions was already made, with Keon Broxton getting called up to the majors. Broxton, who had a breakout campaign split between Indianapolis and Altoona, would have been eligible for minor league free agency following the season.
Between the two levels, Broxton hit .273 with 27 doubles, 12 triples, 10 home runs, and 39 stolen bases in 54 attempts. The athleticism is clear for the former third round draft pick of the Arizona Diamondbacks, but Broxton knows that he has been able to translate all of that to the field this season.
“I think the season has gone pretty well,” Broxton said. “I have put a lot of things together that I have not been able to throughout my career. I have been able to steal bases, play defense, hit for power and average. I think that I have done pretty decent with all of that this year. I think that is what I am really proud of, the way that I went about my business this year and did a lot of things that I wanted to get done.”
Broxton credits his success to several reasons this year, but the biggest factor has been his experience and his improved baseball IQ.
“I think that it is a combination [of experience and things clicking],” Broxton said. “Over the years, I have learned a lot about myself and the game. Just playing as much as I have, it is all coming more natural to me. At the start of my career, I was not sure exactly what I was doing and did not know too much about the game. Years later, I have learned so much, I have been able to bring the mental part to the game and not just the physical part.”
On the bases, Broxton had a big year. Though Broxton stole 33 bases in 2011, the success came in A-ball. Since reaching the upper levels, the stolen base numbers have not been there, with the next closest season being at 27. The success in this area comes from the hard work and research that he puts in about his opponent off the field and learning how to get a feel on it.
“I think that [base stealing] is a feel and a knowledge of when to go,” Broxton said. “It is knowing the pitcher and what his time is to home plate. I never really know the catcher’s pop time and I always steal off the pitcher. I think that catcher’s pop times are usually about the same. It is putting a lot of information together on the pitcher, the count, who is at the plate, what pitch might be thrown, just a combination of those to get the right times.”
The final tool that Broxton has put together this season is his glove and versatility in general. While he has primarily been in left and center, Broxton also played some in right field. Regardless of the position, his speed translated to the field, allowing him to make several rangy plays that most left fielders would not get. He also does a nice job coming in on the ball, making countless diving catches, saving hits and ultimately runs.
“I take a lot of pride in defense,” Broxton said. “I think that is one of the biggest parts of the game. When you are on defense, that is a time where you can really help a team out, not just at the plate. On defense, you can do a lot of things. You can throw a guy out, make a diving catch, or just do a lot of things to help the pitcher and help us win. I take defense just as serious as hitting or base running.”
Though the outfield is one of the most, if not the most, talent filled position in Pittsburgh, Broxton showed some potential this season that makes him valuable to keep around. The Pirates can benefit this year from his speed on the bases, and his defense as a replacement if one of the regular outfielders is out of the lineup. The biggest value to his addition today is that the Pirates can now keep him around as a depth option next year, rather than losing him in a few weeks as a minor league free agent.