Side celebrates with a
teammate during the CWS
Robert J. Side III
Draft: 6th Round, 2006
Position: Center Fielder
Weight: 190 lbs
History: The Georgia
Bulldogs loved having Joey Side patrol center field, and
not just because of the terrific offensive numbers he
put up there. His all-out hustle rallied and
motivated his teammates, leading them to the College
World Series in 2006. That same aggressive style
of play also endeared him to Bulldogs fans, and his
body-banging catches routinely made Sportscenter
highlights that June.
Unfortunately, Side's style of play
is what's getting him into trouble at the professional level. Crashing
into walls and diving into grass takes its toll on the body. Through his
first 28 professional games in 2006, Side hit .283. Playing in far more
games than ever before, plus suffering from a tired body, Side batted just .250
in his final 28 games, the last seven of which were spent as a designated hitter
to give him more rest.
"Last year at Yakima, I was a little bit worn out,"
Side admitted. "The bat was feeling heavier
than it usually does."
By the 2007 All-Star break, Side appeared as though he had
overcome any fatigue issues. He was batting .321, not having hit lower
than .318 in any of the first three months of the season. We asked him at
the time how he had remained so consistent.
"As long as you stay consistent in the [batting] cage,
those average numbers are going to stay with you," he explained. "You've
got to stay in that cage to make sure you stay in that groove."
There's no doubting Side's work ethic, as he continued to
take as many swings in the batting cage as he could. He again wore down,
however, batting .267 last July and just .191 last August. Side needs to
learn to pace himself for full season ball, according to Mark Haley, his manager
at South Bend.
"Does that intensity help, or does it hurt at times?"
questioned Haley. "I think he's understanding that you have to play intense, but there's also a time to sit back and evaluate. You've got to sometimes pull back."
Despite obviously playing with some fatigue during the
final months of the season, Side was selected to play Instructional ball in the
fall. The organization still regards him very highly, and if he can learn
to maintain his early season success for a full five months, he's going to turn
quite a few heads.
Statistics Courtesy of
The Baseball Cube
Batting and Power:
As you might expect, Side brings an intensity to
every at bat he takes.
"Mentality-wise, I get pissed off when I get out," he
Even when he struggled late in
the season, Side never gave up any at bats. He
still made consistent contact and took his fair share of
walks. The trouble was that the ball just wasn't
shooting off his bat as solidly as it was earlier in the
season. Side never projects to hit a ton of home
runs, but he should be able to maintain line drive power
throughout the season.
Another reason Side might have
worn down last year: he wasn't afraid to take one for
the team. He got plunked 15 times, or once every
eight or nine games. If Side ever suffered a
serious injury from one of these beanings, or any of his
hard-nosed catches in the outfield, he played through
Base Running and Speed:
Side possesses above-average speed, and often looks
faster than he is due to his hustle and aggressiveness.
Right now, he's running into as many outs as he is
taking extra bases, whether it's getting caught
stealing, being thrown out stretching a single into a
double, or getting doubled off a base on a fly ball.
Side hustles at the MWL All-Star Game
"That's one thing that I love about the Diamondbacks organization,"
noted Side. "They
said in spring training that, 'we want you to be so aggressive that sometimes
you even make a stupid mistake.' I'm really aggressive on the bases.
That's just my mentality. I want to take that extra base, and that's the
Diamondbacks' philosophy. That's good for me, because that's the way I am.
I'm not sure if that played a role when they were deciding on whether to draft
me or not, but that's the philosophy, and I love it."
The idea is that prospects learn their limitations from
making aggressive mistakes, whereas if they play
passively, they might never reach their true potential.
Side is one player we don't need to worry about
squeezing every ounce out of his natural talents.
An excellent defender, Side has enough range to
play center and a strong enough arm to play right.
He's gunned down a dozen runners so far at the
professional level, and made countless diving and
sliding catches already. A slump at the plate
doesn't affect Side's defense, as he takes a lot of
pride in tracking down fly balls.
He was part of a fantastic defensive outfield at South
Bend, with Daniel Perales and Gerardo Parra both considering themselves natural
center fielders. Side nevertheless received the bulk of the playing time
Side (left) prepares for infield practice with his teammates
Even with the
departures of Carlos Gonzalez and Aaron Cunningham, the Diamondbacks outfield
situation remains very competitive. Side's future with the organization
probably remains as a role player rather than as a starter. He can provide
great late-inning defense and work well as a pinch runner once he learns to
channel his aggressiveness better. His ability to make consistent contact
also makes him ideal in a pinch-hit role.
Clone: Aaron Rowand
ETA: Side will begin the
year at Visalia as a 24-year old. It will be
paramount for his prospect status for Side to make
Double-A by the end of the season. If he can do
that, we may see Side as the Diamondbacks' fourth
outfielder in 2010.
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Joey Side makes the FutureBacks Fifty for the second straight year. Unfortunately, the king of hustle has also worn down at season's end for the second straight year, preventing him from climbing up our list.