When you come across a new player that catches your interest, it’s like finding a new song that you’ve suddenly fallen in love with. You go to games to see them dominate, their stats are your main focus and, just as annoying about having a song stuck in your head, their main asset whatever it may be, sticks to your brain. For the past few weeks, OF/DH Andrew Calica has been that player.
Even at the short season level, there are standout players who have broken away from the pack a bit and, though they have a long way to go, glimpses of brilliance are not hard to find. Calica’s brilliance isn’t something new to the Indians, as he had been drafted by them once before in the 17th round in 2012, but stayed with his commitment to school and attended University of California Santa Barbra.
In his 4 years at UCSB, the 6’1/180 switch hitter put together a pretty good resume for the Indians to look through, though he missed a good deal of his freshman season due to a back injury. In 2014, he began to find his niche, putting up a .310/.408/.352 with 10 stolen bases and a .375 BABIP.
2015 was the young outfielder’s big season and the first where he was 100% healthy, ending up with a .329/.445/.424 slash, 15 stolen bases, 25 walks, 19 HBPs, and 13 doubles. Also that season, he had the 4th highest OBP in the Big West, and 18 multi-hit games (second best on his team). Calica also played 31 games in the Cape Cod league that same year, continuing his domination of 2015 with a .425/.480/.469 slash, 8 stolen bases, and 16 RBI. He ran away with the Cape Cop batting title, being the first player to hit above .400.
The center fielder played 64 games in 2016, and emphasized even more his high ability to get on base one way or another, walking 45 times and with 24 HBPs. His average dipped a bit to a .252, but his OBP was on track with his previous seasons at a .427. Also, his aggressive approach when on base was as hot as ever, stealing a career high 18 bases, only to be caught 4 times (43 SB/14 CS 2012-2016 overall). Calica was named the best athlete and top defensive outfielder in the Big West Conference by BaseballAmerica. Through all four seasons of college baseball, Calica made ZERO defensive errors, giving the Indians even more to be impressed by going into the draft.
In 2016, the Tribe went for him again in the 11th round, snagging him up, 332nd overall, this time resulting in a signing. Calica started with the Indians, short season, low-A team, the Mahoning Valley Scrappers, and without any surprise, has taken over that field without skipping a beat. In 17 games played in his first professional season, he’s batting .417 with 7 steals, 6 extra base hits, and a .480 BABIP. In his last ten games, his gone 18 for 38, with 7 RBI, and only 6 strikeouts (9 strikeouts overall).
He’s the type of player who will get on base however he can, and once there, knows exactly how to make something of it. Having such a high number of HBPs (58) could say a lot of things, from crowding the plate and not knowing when to get out of the way, or being fearless and “taking one for the team”. Either way, it seems to be working out quite nicely for the 22-year-old, since he’s not really a bat with a ton of power behind it, hitting only 6 home runs since 2012. Calica understands where his strengths and weaknesses are, and instead of trying to force an uphill battle, uses what has worked for him so flawlessly thus far.
It’s encouraging to see a player with confidence at the plate, and enough discipline to let the ball come to him (literally) and create situations that play into his strength. Get on base. Steal a base. Very simple, and effective. As he continues in the Cleveland minor system, I expect him to find a little power, and settle into his bat a bit more, but hopefully he won’t stray too far from his path. He’s a fun player to watch, with just as good at eye in the field as he has at the plate, tracking the ball well with a solid arm coming from center field.
From his stats to his swing, Calica has kept me on the edge with a sense of comfort and promise. He has a ton to offer the system, with a lifetime yet to make adjustments and improvements. He’s not as smooth as some players, but plays the game with his own flair. His stats are that buildup of what you’d expect, what you love, and then the beat drops and he gets even better. Some players, like great songs, can get over done after a time, but this kid is one of those tracks that I doubt will ever go out of style. A timeless classic, waiting for the big time.