Minnesota Twins prospect Spencer Steer had a great first season for the Twins in 2019. Otto Johnson caught up with him about baseball and the minors.
Spencer Steer was the Minnesota Twins’ third round draft pick in 2019 (90th overall) and got off to a solid start in the minors, hitting .280, 4 HR, and 33 RBI in 64 games last season. He is ranked among the Twins Top 30 prospects by both the Athletic (No. 23) and FanGraphs (No. 25). Check out MLB.com’s recap of the pick:
I got the opportunity to talk to Steer on the phone and talk about, several topics including baseball in Southern California, college at Oregon, being a minor leaguer during COVID-19, Minneapolis Skyways, and more!
On Playing Baseball Growing Up:
Otto Johnson: So you were born and went to high school in Long Beach, California. What’s it like playing baseball in Southern California?
Spencer Steer: Awesome. Weather is perfect all year round, and that’s one of the advantages of growing up in So Cal, you get to play quality competition all-year round. Even with high school teams, there’s leagues in every season, and I thought that was really important for my development.
OJ: What is your favorite baseball memory, a moment that really got your heart set on the sport?
SS: I grew up pretty close to my grandparents, and they had a pretty big backyard, and I just remember going to their house and hitting wiffle balls and baseballs in their backyard, and that got me hooked at a young age
On Baseball at Oregon:
OJ: You were drafted by the Indians as a 29th Round Pick, 872nd overall right out of high school in 2016. Instead, you chose to go to the University of Oregon. What helped fuel that decision?
SS: I was pretty set I going to college out of high school, I believed I’d have another opportunity at the draft, and I really wanted to get the college experience, making that a pretty easy decision for me.
OJ: As far as the recruiting process goes, did you have any other division one offers, or was it all just Oregon?
SS: I had two other scholarship offers to USC and UCLA, but I think Oregon was the clear choice, for a couple of reasons. Number 1, George Horton (native of Southern California and former Oregon Head Baseball Coach), I really liked him on my visit and really wanted to play for him, he’s a legendary coach, and number 2 I just wanted to get out of southern California and have my own journey away from home.
OJ: Oregon is a school that historically pumps out professional athletes Sabrina Ionesco just went No. 1 overall in the WNBA draft. Do you think being at Oregon helped you get drafted in the first three rounds of the MLB draft?
SS: Yeah, 100%. The facilities up here definitely give you an advantage and seeing other professional athletes in other sports motivates you and 100% a part of why I got drafted where I did.
OJ: What was college like for you as an athlete? What’d you do in your spare time?
SS: It was as busy as everyone says, but I enjoyed every second of it. A lot of it is waking up early, going to class, tutoring, getting academics done in the morning, going to your lift after that, going to practice, getting home late after that. When I got free time, I just spent it relaxing from the busy.
OJ: You had an excellent last season at Oregon, hitting .349 with six homers and 57 RBI. You improved every single season batting average, homers, RBI, runs, walks, and almost every single stat every year. How’d you pull it off?
SS: I think just learning. The biggest thing for me for my jump from sophomore to junior year was playing in the Cape (Steer played in the Cape Cod league with the Orléans Firebirds along with several other elite college athletes), kind of learning how other programs and other guys do it and learning about their routines and their approaches at the plate. It allowed me to take a lot back and put into my game, so that was big.
On the Draft and the Draft Process:
OJ: Let’s talk about the draft a little. You were a 3rd round Pick in last year’s draft, 90th overall. Were you excited to be picked as high as you were? Or did you have hopes of going higher?
SS: I mean for me, I went into the draft with zero expectations. I knew there was a possibility of me being drafted, but I didn’t want to get my hopes up and have them crushed, so where I got picked, made me super excited.
OJ: I’ve talked to some other prospects about the draft process, but I’d like to hear your thoughts. Walk me through your draft experience: Who talked to you, what happened, and how’d the draft process go for you?
SS: For me it started in the fall of junior year, meeting with different teams and different scouts. I met with the Twins in the fall, but after that, I didn’t hear a word from them until they drafted me, so that was kind of a surprise. The whole process of having them not talk to me for that time then pick me that high was shocking. There were a lot more teams talking to me and my agent, so I thought those might draft me higher or in general.
On being in the Minors during COVID-19:
OJ: You were able to play 64 games last season after signing with the Twins. This season, you haven’t been able to play any games due to the COVID-19 outbreak. There is a lot of moving pieces for the season, including messed up salaries, derailed training programs, and schedules. What is it like being a minor league ballplayer during this time?
SS: I just think there’s a lot of uncertainty, because no one knows what’ll happen with the virus, if we’ll have a season, so for me I’m just trying to focus on doing what I can right now. Finding ways to get stronger, stay in shape, and just getting ready, for if things take a turn for the better and we end up playing the season.
OJ: On a bit of a lighter note, What have you been doing to kill time while at home? Any fun shows you’ve watched or video games you’ve been playing?
SS: I get my hitting and lifting in, but besides baseball I’ve beed doing a lot of golfing and a lot of Call of Duty.
OJ: You talked a little about this, but what specific training have you been doing to stay in baseball shape for when it’s time to play again?
SS: I’m living with an old teammate in Eugene right now (where the University of Oregon is located) and in the garage, there’s a bar with some weights and bands and doing everything we can lifting-wise. We also set up a batting cage in his uncle’s backyard who lives nearby, so we’re between garage workouts and the batting cage and that’s what were going with.
OJ: Have the Minnesota Twins or members of the organization been sending you instructions on what to do or has it been more radio silence on their end?
SS: The Twins have done a really good job of communicating with us, our trainers text us every day to see how we’re feeling and what we’re up to along with at-home workouts sent to us if we don’t have weights. We’ve also had meetings with the hitting coaches to see how we did last year and what was important to set up a plan moving forward for what they want us to build on. The plans are really detailed.
OJ: Do you mind talking about what aspects of your game they want you to work on?
SS: Yeah, so they really harp on four things: Aggression, meaning like swinging on your pitches that are in your hot zones (areas around the plate where a hitter is best), putting the bat on the baseball, meaning less swing and misses, your eye, so swinging at pitches in the strike zone, and damage, which is how hard you’re hitting the ball of the bat. My numbers were pretty good compared to the rest of the system in those categories except damage, which was about league average, so they want me swinging at more pitches I can do damage with.
On his first year in the Minnesota Twins Organization and beyond:
OJ: Lets talk about your 2019. We talked about your stellar year at Oregon. You kept it going during rookie ball and when you were promoted to Single-A ball. What helped make that transition so smooth?
SS: Honestly, the summer ball they had us play in college, as it’s pretty similar to short season ball. It’s wood bats, traveling on buses, so I think those experiences over the summer that helped me prepare for that.
OJ: Are there any prospects or current Minnesota Twins that you’re excited to play with over these next couple years?
SS: Definitely Royce (Lewis). I played with him in high school when he was a senior and I was a junior, so I think it’d be fun to play with him again. We played together on the same area code team, so that’d be fun to do again.
OJ: You’ve played, second, short, and third so far in the minors. Which spot is your favorite and which one do you feel is the best?
SS: My favorite is shortstop, just because that’s what I grew up playing my entire life up until college. I would probably say I’m the best at third because I’ve played the most games there over the past three years, so I think I’m most comfortable there.
On Minnesota and Twins
OJ: Now for a different direction: How much time have you actually spent in the state of Minnesota? What are your initial thoughts?
SS: I’ve only been there once, when I was there to sign my contract with the Minnesota Twins, but I thought the city and the stadium were beautiful. It was my first time there, so I thought it was pretty cool. I thought it was interesting seeing the bridges from building to building, I can’t remember what they’re called, they’re there because it’s so cold.
OJ: The Skyway?
SS: Yeah, I definitely thought those were pretty cool too.
OJ: Alright, last question, is there anything you’d like to let Minnesota Twins fans know about you going forward?
SS: I just want to say it’s pretty cool I’m a twin and I’ll be playing for the Twins. It was kind of funny, because I have a twin brother, but I didn’t realize until my brother called me and said “You’re a twin and you’ll be playing for the Twins, that’s sick!” And I didn’t even notice that it worked out like that!