Get To Know Twins Third Base Prospect Andrew Bechtold
Image courtesy of David McQueen (photos of Andrew Bechtold)Andrew Bechtold grew up in a city just outside of Philadelphia. Each year, he went to a couple of Phillies games. He enjoyed following that team and had a favorite player that personifies those teams.
“Growing up, I was a big Chase Utley guy because of the way he played, and he was a good guy on and off the field. He really played for the love of the game. I always looked up to Chase Utley as a player when he was with the Phillies.”
Bechtold has some great memories of that 2008 Phillies World Series winning team.
“I still remember when they won the World Series, staying up late that night and all my friends going to the parade. That was my fondest memory of Phillies baseball, their World Series team with Utley and (Jimmy) Rollins and Ryan Howard, and that pitching staff that they had. It was an exciting time, and I was at an age where I could really appreciate what went on.”
Bechtold grew up playing multiple sports, including basketball. He went to Garnet Valley High School, a traditional northeastern high school known for its football and lacrosse, but Bechtold notes, “You don’t hear too much about our baseball program, but we’re always solid across the board in all athletics.”
He played basketball through his freshman year in high school when baseball became his focus.
“Transitioning from middle school to high school and playing on the varsity baseball team, it was one of those jumps that I was really excited for. We had 6 am workouts in the winter, and seeing the physical maturity of everyone around me really made me realize how hard I had to work to play in college after high school.”
He got to practice with the varsity as a freshman and even played in some games. “That’s when I really knew that baseball was what I wanted to do and wanted to put a lot of time and effort into to hopefully play in college and one day play professionally. I knew it was going to take a lot of work in the weight room and off the field doing other things to get better at my craft.”
He put in that work and after a strong high school career, and after his senior season, he was drafted in the 37th round by the Texas Rangers. While the idea of signing crossed his mind, Bechtold knew the right decision for him was to go to college.
“It was creeping into my head. I was talking to my adviser and some other people and said that if the pick is right and the team is right and I feel good about it, it could be good for my development. To say I didn’t consider it would be lying, because I did. I also knew the value of college and the value of an education. Those three years to mature physically and mentally as a baseball player and as a person would greatly outweigh going pro out of high school. I was confident to know that I would have another shot at the draft after college, and I just felt like college was the best thing for me physically.”
He took his talents to the University of Maryland where he teamed with fellow Twins prospects Lamonte Wade and Alex Robinson. He started at shortstop right away as a freshman, but then he got hurt.
“Things didn’t really fall into place the way that I wanted them to at Maryland.”
After two years (including a redshirt season) with the Terrapins, he made the decision to transfer to Chipola College.
“I tell everybody, Chipola wasn’t my first thought. My first thought was to contact all the other Division I schools that offered me in high school. Then I started to think about it, and I didn’t want to sit out a whole year with the NCAA transfer rule. I started talking to some local people and others I knew through baseball, and Chipola kept coming up. I didn’t know anything about it. I had never visited. So me and my dad drove down to Marianna, Florida. When we got there, it was my first time seeing the campus and the baseball field. It’s a small town in Florida, and there’s not much to it. There’s a couple of places to eat, but the people are very nice and the coaches and the tradition… it was the perfect fit for me.”
He enrolled and it was a decision that worked out exactly as Andrew Bechtold would have hoped. He credits the coaching staff led by head coach Jeff Johnson with helping him develop.
“I owe so much to those coaches for really revamping my career. Those guys worked with me day in and day out to get me back to where I needed to be, back to my comfort zone. It’s nothing flashy, but it’s what you need to be successful. The core group of guys there were pushing you day in and day out. The way that I performed there, and I had great stats, but on top of everything, I had a blast playing there.I loved going to the field every day. I loved staying late every day. I loved lifting with those guys. I really enjoyed every minute that I was at Chipola, and I think that’s what college should be about.”
He gives Jeff Johnson a lot of credit for his success. “He’s worked with Jose Bautista, Patrick Corbin, Russell Martin. All those guys, he’s worked with them. He’s had the biggest influence just because he’s made things simpler for me and helped me career as a whole, so he’s probably been one of the most influential coaches I’ve ever had.”
As the draft was approaching, scouts were abundant at Chipola games. “The main focus is the draft and the coaches don’t deny that. The coaches know that you’re coming there to get drafted, you want to be seen by the right eyes. I had a lot of contact with some scouts. Jack Powell was the Twins scout that drafted me, and he was involved so much. He was at every game. He even came to some practices. He made a conscious effort to come out and see us all the time. Throughout the year, I felt I built up a pretty good relationship with Jack to the point where he calls me in the offseason to see how I’m doing and how I’m feeling. He was really involved with the Chipola team as a whole and coming out to see us a whole bunch.”
The Minnesota Twins used their fifth round pick on Bechtold. In my return to podcasting last week, MLB.com’s Jonathan Mayo said of Bechtold, “Their draft… Andrew Bechtold, I like a lot. They got him out of Chipola. You’ve got to see how those skills translate, but I think he can play. To get that kind of performer. He had a solid debut in the Appy League. That could be a steal for them from the fifth round.”
As for Bechtold, “You never know. I tried to stay out of it as much as possible. I let my adviser take care of that stuff because we had a really good team and were in the midst of trying to get to the Junior College World Series and eventually win the Junior College World Series. For me to think about the draft would have been too much. When the season was over, we talked about stuff. I knew I was going to go on Day 2, but I didn’t know to who. I was patient with the whole thing. I looked back at my season and I felt like I really showed what I can do. So whoever picks me and whatever dollar figure they give me, I know I had a great year. I’ll be really happy with whatever decision a team makes.”
He was happy to hear that the Twins were going to take him in the fifth round.
“I was really happy that the Twins picked me because they were one of the teams that I had my eye on. I know some guys in the organization already. So when I heard that the Twins were going to pick me in the fifth round, I was really excited about that.”
Bechtold had committed to play in 2018 at LSU, but generally, the choice to sign was fairly easy for him. After signing, he was sent to Elizabethton where he won a second championship in 2017, an Appalachian League title. He also put together a strong season. He hit .299/.406/.424 (.830) with ten doubles, a triple and two home runs in 43 games.
“E-Town was nice. For me, coming from a junior college and a small town in Marianna, I felt like I adapted really well to being there. It took me a couple of days, but within two or three days, I felt like I was right into everything and feeling good.”
With the E-Twins, he was managed by former big leaguer Ray Smith who has been coaching or managing in Elizabethton for over 30 years. And Jeff Reed has been the hitting coach there for nearly 20 years after playing 17 seasons in the big leagues. Bechtold was able to learn a lot from both of them.
“The coaches were great, and they made sure that before they started putting me in the lineup that I was good to go. I got to work throughout the season with Jeff (Reed) on my hitting and my approach and pick at his brain for what worked for him. That’s what I always try to do. Guys that have played in the big leagues and are now coaching, I try to pick their brains and try to figure out what worked for them. You have to try as many things that you can until you find something that really works for you and that you really like and you can be successful. Ray (Smith) knows his stuff. He’s a good manager. He likes to teach the game. I mean, we worked on fundamentals almost every day. Even if it was just 15 minutes, he tried to get a little teaching aspect in there, which is good. We need to gather as much information as we can to become the best we can. I think Ray does a really good job of instilling that in us and helping us continue to learn and develop.”
While he put up terrific offensive numbers, has a good approach, takes walks,and has some power, when asked about his strengths on the field, Bechtold spoke to his defense.
“Ever since I was little, defense has been a big part of my game. I always know that hitting is streaky. Sometimes you’re going to be hot. Sometimes you’re going to be cold. But the one thing you can always control is your defense. Even if I’m having a bad game, 0-3 or 0-4, I’m still going to play rock-solid defense because that can make an impact and help our team win.”
Recently, Baseball America noted that Andrew Bechtold has the strongest infield arm in the system.
“I really take pride in my defense, and especially showing off my arm and using my arm strength to my advantage.”
Offensively, he thinks he has taken some strides since high school.
“I understand my approach a little more. I understand how to use my body more to get into the ball. If you look at my numbers, my power has slowly increased each year since high school. That’s a big key for me.”
In addition, he’s got good speed. During his college season, he stole 24 bases in 28 chances. It’s also a key area that he is focusing on during the offseason.
“Stealing bases is something that I think is really important. I’ve worked on that this offseason. I plan on taking a more aggressive approach on the base paths wherever I am next year because I know that I can be a stolen base threat and every base helps to keep my team in the ball game or help us get an extra run. I’m not scared to go first to third. I want to put pressure on the defense to make plays. That’s the fun aspect of the game, putting pressure on the defense and running everything out because you never know over the course of a season how much of an impact that is going to make.”
Bechtold played shortstop in high school and at Maryland, but he’s transitioned to third base the last couple of years. “It’s definitely not as easy as people think. I realized that I struggled to get to certain balls. When I transferred to Chipola, they really taught me about the angles of third base, taking drop steps or getting your feet in better positions. Toward the end of the year, I really had a good feel for what I was doing. Then when I went to Elizabethton, it was almost second nature. Now I’m to the point where I’m 100% comfortable there. And I know the things to work on.”
He’ll head to Ft. Myers in February, a little bit before the official start of minor league camp. He’s got some goals as he looks to 2018.
“For me, I’m just going to go out there and play. I know what I need to do, and I know what I’m capable of. Personally, I hold myself to a certain standard on the field, whether it’s defensively or offensively. I”m just trying to have a good year. I want to put the bat on the ball. I want to be aggressive. Being aggressive this year is a big thing for me this year. And then I want to play good defense. As opposed to what level I want to end up at, or I want to hit .300, or I want to hit .350, or I want to hit this number of home runs. That kind of stuff will all fall into place. If I’m doing what I’ve been working on all offseason, and I’m staying within myself and being aggressive, all that stuff will take care of itself.”
If you’re looking for a name to watch in 2018, Andrew Bechtold would be a good one. He’s shown the ability to hit for average, take a great approach into each plate appearance and get on base, has power potential, has good speed, wants to be more aggressive, and will play good defense at the hot corner.
Most likely, Bechtold will begin 2018 in Cedar Rapids, and there is a chance that he could end the year in Ft. Myers. As you can see from his responses, he’s thought-filled and has a strong grasp on what he is and where he wants to get.
Thank you to Andrew Bechtold for taking time to talk to me and let the Twins Daily readers get to know him.
- Cory Engelhardt, bluechipper, dbminn and 2 others like this