Tice is finding a home in the outfield
Akron, OH -- The Cleveland Indians have been looking for a right-handed outfielder with some pop for a while now, and Akron Aeros outfielder Jeremie Tice is looking to fill the role someday.
Tice, drafted in the sixth round by the Indians in 2008 out of The College of Charleston, is in his fifth season in the minor leagues and was recently promoted to the Akron Aeros for his first taste of Double-A baseball.
In one full season and two partial seasons in A+ ball, Tice hit 28 home runs, establishing himself as a legitimate power threat from the right side of the plate. In 52 games with the Carolina Mudcats earlier in the season, he hit .282 with 12 homers and 18 doubles. He drove in 47 teammates, which is something he emphasizes more than hitting the long ball.
“It’s important for me to get RBIs,” said Tice. “It’s more important than home runs or base hits to me -- as long as I’m getting RBIs, I’m happy.”
Since his promotion to Akron, Tice hasn’t skipped a beat. In his first 10 games, he has hit .350, with a homer, four doubles and 11 runs batted in.
“There’s a lot of adjustments,” said Tice. “First of all, the pace of the game -- pitchers are a lot better, more efficient, and more consistent with their pitches. I’m still trying to figure some things out, but I’m trying to be aggressive but not too aggressive.”
Aeros manager Chris Tremie has put the hot-hitting outfielder in the middle of his lineup right away to give him an opportunity to keep the RBIs coming.
“He’s been hitting in the middle of the lineup and he’s really had quality at-bats and shown some power,” said Tremie. “He’s gotten some hits in big situations so he’s definitely been a nice addition to our lineup.
“He was obviously having a good year in Carolina and he brought that here and has had some success to this point. I don’t see any reason why it won’t continue,” said Tremie.
Like most power hitters, Tice struggled with strikeouts in his first few season of professional baseball. After striking out a career-high 106 times (31 walks) in 2010, he started to refine his approach at the plate. So far this season, he has struck out 55 times, but has also walked 23 times.
“They always stress that [strikeout and walk] numbers need to be close and I’ve tried to work on that each and every year,” said Tice. “I’ve tried to make it a goal of mine to decrease the strikeouts and increase the walks. Now that I’ve come up here, the zones are a little bit better, so hopefully I’ll be able to continue to do that.”
Additionally, Tice has struggled to put together a sustained period of dominance in the batter’s box. As many hot streaks as he has, he also runs into dry times. So far this season, Tice has provided consistent middle-of-the-order production and is already just one dinger away from his career-high.
“There have been times where I’ve been swinging it really well and there have been times where I’ve been kind of down, so if I can mediate that a bit and decrease the times that I’m down, that’s a big thing for me,” said Tice.
The only other question that remains with Tice is his role on the other side of the diamond. With Carolina, he played eight games apiece at first base and in the outfield, but played 35 games at designated hitter.
Minor league designated hitters usually don’t find their way to the big leagues, so the Indians organization is trying to work Tice more in the outfield with the Aeros. In 16 games in the outfield this season with Akron and Carolina, he has yet to make an error and has three outfield assists.
“I don’t know if [the outfield] is my best defensive position yet,” said Tice. “I’ve talked with the Indians and they’ve said that’s going to be my best opportunity, so I’ve just tried to run with it and get better with it each and every day.”
With Tice’s continued improvement at the plate and in the outfield, the 25-year-old slugger is garnering the notice of the Indians front office. If he keeps up his current pace, Tice will find himself going yard at Huntington Park in Columbus next season.
Nathan Kemp graduated from The University of Akron in 2012 with a bachelor's degree in English. He plans to pursue a graduate degree through NEOMFA in the fall. Follow him on Twitter @NathanCKemp.