FEATURE: Cubs Hitting Prospect Dustin Geiger Looks To Take Another Step Forward In 2014
Click picture to see video of Geiger going yard during the 2013 season.
For Chicago Cubs hitting prospect Dustin Geiger, there was no other option growing up in Merritt Island, FL.
He was going to play baseball.
“I realized at a very young age that I was going to play,” Geiger said. “I was the prototypical elementary school kid that had dreams of playing in the big leagues after watching spring training games with my dad.”
“I think freshman year of high school is when I realized baseball might be my ticket to play for college and it turned into a lot more than that.”
Geiger, a high school standout that received multiple district, conference, and state honors as an infielder, had been committed to play collegiate baseball at the University of Central Florida.
But when the Cubs came calling in the 24th round of the 2010 Amateur Draft, is was just too good of an opportunity to pass up. After discussing with his friends and family, it was settled.
He was going to play professional baseball.
As a wiry corner infielder with a great swing and a plus arm, Geiger struggled–like many others–to adjust to the rigorous schedule of pro ball as an 18 and 19-year-old in 2010 and 2011. He hit just four home runs to go along with a .255 average over those two seasons.
“It was tough transitioning to playing every day,” Geiger said of his first two professional seasons. “There’s very few days off. It’s a true job.”
Lucky for Geiger, he had the support of his teammates, and the organization.
“The guys who signed out of college welcomed me with open arms and I learned really quickly how I was supposed to act and go about my business,” Geiger said. “I give a lot of credit to [fellow Cubs’ prospect] Anthony Giansanti for helping me become who I am today on and off the field.”
Like most high school draftees, Geiger was coined the term “projectable” by most scouts and members of the organization. At 6’2” and 180 pounds soaking wet, he had a lot of filling out to do if he was going to reach his power potential.
Knowing that he had to put on mass, Geiger–instead of going home–trained rigorously at the Cubs spring training facility before the 2012 season to put on mass and worked diligently on shortening his leg kick and getting into a more consistent hitting position with then hitting coach Tom Byers.
The move paid huge dividends. After hitting just three home runs in 2011, Geiger–now tipping the scales at close to 210 and armed with a new leg kick–smacked 17 home runs in just 303 at bats for Class A Peoria in 2012, good for fifth in the Midwest League. His at bat per HR of 18.2 trailed only coveted Twins’ hitting prospect Miguel Sano (16.7) among qualified hitters.
“The training program [in Arizona] helped tremendously,” Geiger said of his breakout 2012 season. “I was able to work with our strength coaches as well as our nutritionist which helped me put on some really good weight over the course of the offseason.”
Geiger also tied a club-record in his age-20 season. After hitting four home runs total in his first two minor league campaigns, he hit four home runs in four consecutive games.
“It was a bit surreal. Everything was clicking,” Geiger said. “I was getting good pitches to hit and not missing them. It was a lot of fun while it was all happening.”
The fun didn’t stop during Geiger’s 2013 season, either. Now playing for the High-A Daytona Cubs–just 45 minutes from his hometown, he continued to develop, smacking another 17 home runs and setting career-highs in games played (123), at bats (455), runs (62), hits (128), RBI (86), stolen bases (6).
He also posted a .366 OBP and took a career-high in walks (52) after just a .301 OBP in 2012.
The 86 RBI’s were good for 3rd and the 17 HR were good for 7th in the Florida State League last season, respectively.
“I developed a two-strike approach by cutting down my leg kick a little bit and it helped me grind out at bats better than years prior,” Geiger said of his big 2013 season. “This in turn helped me see more pitches, put more balls in play, and draw more walks.”
The now-22-year-old’s monster season didn’t go unnoticed in the Cubs’s organization either. Once an unheralded prospect, Geiger made a name for himself in 2013.
Cubs player development and scouting director Jason McLeod had this to say about Geiger.
“He’s a guy who has flown under the radar,” McLeod said. “He’s had two pretty good seasons back to back. … He’s a big physical right-handed power bat who has got lost somewhat because he played on a team with Javy Baez last year.”
It wasn’t just all about piling up the individual accolades, either. The 2013 Daytona Cubs–with Geiger playing a key role–went on to win the Florida State League Championship and were named the best team in minor league baseball.
“It was an incredible season. I got to witness a lot of things you don’t always get to see. A Javier Baez 4-HR game, two no hitters, and the championship all happened within the span of a few months,” Geiger said.
“It was an amazing journey and I can only look back and smile at the year we had.”
Now with higher expectations than ever coming into spring training, Geiger has his eyes set on an even better 2014 season.
“I just want to keep working on the things I’ve been working on and just become a better baseball player,” Geiger said. “I don’t know where I’ll be starting the year, but wherever it is the goal is always to move up as quickly as possible. I’m very excited and it should be a good year. ”
Geiger has top prospects Kris Bryant, Javier Baez, Mike Olt, and Anthony Rizzo blocking his path to Wrigley at 3rd and 1st base, but he’s not too worried about it. He knows if he keeps producing things will fall in place for him, and he’s comfortable playing whatever position–3rd or 1st–that gets him to his ultimate goal.
“You never can tell who you’ll make it to the big leagues with. Injuries and trades happen daily so you never know,” Geiger said. “I’d love to play in the big leagues with our historic franchise so hopefully I’m in their future plans.”
Like everybody else, he wants to reach his dream of playing in the major leagues. Needless to say, the once skinny high school kid turned slugger is more determined than most.
“There’s not a day that goes by that I don’t think about playing in the major leagues,” Geiger said.
“I want to live my dream.”
Follow OPSN Lead Writer Shawn Ferris on Twitter @RealShawnFerris for more MLB news, updates, and analysis.