Sabourin hitting his way onto prospect radar
Signed as an undrafted free agent, Carolina Mudcats first baseman Jerrud Sabourin has developed into a true underdog story.
The model of consistency, Sabourin leads the Carolina League in batting average at .318 and is fourth on the team in hits and plays great defense at first base. Sabourin was recently honored for his efforts with a selection to the Carolina League All-Star team.
Being undrafted out of Indiana University, the Cleveland Indians signed Sabourin as an undrafted free agent in 2011. Two years later, Sabourin is playing at the Advanced–A level and has developed into a solid prospect in the Indians system.
“I don’t really look at myself as an underdog," Sabourin said. "I believe I have the skillset just like anyone else here to be a Major League Baseball player. It’s been a journey for me. Nothing has come easy.”
Selected to his first All-Star game this season, Sabourin enjoyed representing the Carolina League and playing alongside three of his teammates, shortstop Francisco Lindor, center fielder Tyler Naquin, and starting pitcher Cody Anderson.
“It was amazing playing in my first All-Star game,” Sabourin said. “I got to fly across the country to a great venue in San Jose. They put it together well for us.”
Sabourin, who went 1-for-4 with a single and an RBI sacrifice fly, said it was great to represent the Carolina League, especially with so many of his teammates playing in the game as well.
“You know, they’re great teammates and it’s always fun to be around them and they showed their talents as well,” Sabourin said. “It’s also great to get to know some of the other guys in the league a little better.”
Sabourin has developed into one of the best hitters in all of the Carolina League. This is nothing new for Sabourin, as he has always been a fantastic batter, hitting almost .400 his junior year at Indiana University.
“I have been blessed with good hand-eye coordination that has given me the ability to put the ball in play,” Sabourin said. “Even when my swing isn’t really there, I can still use my hands to put the ball in play and get a few hits. At one point in my career I was trying to pull the ball too much, but I’ve learned to just put it in play and take what happens.”
While one of the best batters in the league, Sabourin does not have the power usually expected from a first baseman. However, this does not worry Sabourin in the least, believing that there is more to being a first baseman than hitting for power.
“I think the power thing is overrated," Sabourin said. "I get on base a lot more than most first baseman which gives me the opportunity to score more runs. I believe the power issue will progress along with my career as I already have the same number of home runs this year as I did all season last year. People like to see power in a first baseman, but it’s all about production.”
When asked to compare himself to any Major League first baseman that didn’t have a lot of power, Sabourin had no problem listing several players that have been productive with limited power. However, he does not see himself mirroring one player’s abilities.
“I don’t really see myself resembling one player, because I’m different from all of them in my head," Sabourin said. "I’d like to take parts from a lot of players games to improve my own."
Sabourin was a standout player at Indiana University during the years that the baseball program was not one of the best, but was excited to have been part of the group that helped turn the program around and propel Indiana to a birth in the 2013 College World Series.
“I was so happy for that group of guys," Sabourin beamed. "When I got to the program, they had just got their new head coach, Tracy Smith, and he was able to bring in a lot of good players. We’ve gotten better and better, and to see them in Omaha this year, it was surreal for me."
Originally recruited as a pitcher/infielder, Sabourin quickly turned his attention to first base upon his arrival to college.
“I was actually recruited a little more as a pitcher out of high school, but hitting always came easier to me," Sabourin recalled. "I felt like I had the ability to hit off tougher pitchers, but when I was pitching I could get around the teams that weren’t very good, but I would get lit up against the better teams."
Every now and then, Sabourin said he still gets the itch to go out to the mound, but said it will probably never happen.
“I don’t think you want to see a lefty topping out at 81 up there," he chuckled.
Placed on the disabled list earlier in the season with a groin injury, Sabourin is completely healed and feels great now. His stint on the disabled list was his first as a professional, and he still isn’t quite sure what happened on the play.
“It’s a tough injury because it nags at you, but it feels great and shouldn’t be a problem the rest of the year,” Sabourin said. "It surprised me, because it wasn’t really a different movement when it happened. It was my first time really on the DL since high school so it was kind of different for me.”
Fully healed, Sabourin is back to his normal self, keeping his batting average around where it was when placed on the disabled list.
From undrafted to All-Star, Sabourin has developed into a prospect and put himself on the radar in the Indians farm system. Sabourin said the key to his success was he always believed in himself.
“I was the guy in high school that when the coaches said maybe one of you could be a professional baseball player, I always said it was going to be me,” Sabourin said. “I’ve always believed in myself, and I think that takes you a long way.”
Zachary is a senior at NC State where he is majoring in communication-media, with minors in journalism and theatre. You can follow him on Twitter @RealZachFrancis.