TORONTO — As a bigger kid pretty set in his ways, Cade Doughty could be a handful growing up, so much so that his mom, Jennifer, came up with a nickname for him — King Cade.
“I think I was a little bit of a brat, to be honest,” admits the Toronto Blue Jays infield prospect drafted in the second round, 78th overall, last month. “It was just me being a kid that knew what he wanted to do and didn't really have much care for anything else.”
The nickname stuck, even as childhood stubbornness evolved into the dogged determination that became one of the 21-year-old’s trademarks during three seasons at Louisiana State University, or LSU. It was there, after Jennifer mentioned it to the program’s media staff, the King Cade moniker really took off, especially as he built a reputation for delivering big hits the past three seasons, when he batted .301 with 30 homers, 31 doubles, 124 RBI and 104 runs in 133 games.
“I can't express enough how excited that makes her and just seeing King Cade brings back memories of when I was little,” he says. “She is full on board and she loves it.”
What Doughty loves right now is his introduction to pro ball, having just completed his first week of games with low-A Dunedin. He’s off to a nice start, going 7-for-18 with a homer, six RBIs and three walks on a team now stocked with several other players from his draft class, fellow second-round infielder Josh Kasevich, third-round outfielder Alan Roden, seventh-round first baseman Peyton Williams and ninth-round reliever Devereaux Harrison among them.
The group went through a two-week draft camp immediately after signing before being assigned to various stops — first-rounder Brandon Barriera, for example, is still building up at the club’s Player Development Complex in Dunedin, Fla. — giving them a chance to bond.
“That was an awesome experience,” Doughty says of the camp. “It was really cool to build a relationship with the players that I’m now playing with and meeting new guys on the team as well. We already feel connected on the field.”
Focuses during the introductory camp included learning the pro ball lifestyle and developing routines, two things Doughty believes he was well prepared for at LSU, a program he says, “I was pretty much born into.” All four of his grandparents went to the school as did both of his parents, with his dad Richard also catching for the Tigers. Older brother Braden also caught for the club, while great-grandfather Frank played basketball at the school.
Under head coach Jay Johnson, the Tigers used several drills similar to those Doughty has encountered with the Blue Jays and he had also started diving into advanced technologies to further his hitting. At the Baseball Performance Lab in Baton Rouge, for instance, he started using force-plate data to better understand how he was leveraging his 6-1, 195-pound frame.
“I found that I wasn't maximizing when my front foot lands, I wasn't having enough torque,” Doughty explains. “I was able to improve that tremendously. That was just one of the things that I've kind of learned so far.”
The Blue Jays’ hitting lab at the complex offers even more tools and, as a hitter looking to gain every edge possible, Doughty intends to lean in. “I'm very curious and open-minded to new things,” he says.
Still, as a high-contact hitter who showed more power this season ahead of the draft, the Blue Jays will also want him to keep doing what he’s been doing.
During Major League Baseball’s draft combine, he was compared to Aaron Hill, the longtime second baseman drafted by the Blue Jays in the first round, 13th overall, out of LSU in 2003, an indicator of the type of player he has the potential to be.
To start, he’ll be focused defensively at third base, his best position, as well as second base, with advanced notice of where he’ll be playing the next day so he can prepare mentally beforehand. That’s important, but the bat will be what carries him.
“Barrels, honestly,” is how he describes his approach at the plate. “I’m going up there looking to do damage in the middle of the plate. Not really searching for a pitch. Obviously would like a fastball, but whatever's in the heart of the plate, just trying to drive it to centre field. If I'm a little early, hopefully split the gap, if I'm a little late, split the other gap. So just looking up the middle, trying to get a ball to handle and putting a good swing on it.”
In combination with his tenacious playing style, he’ll have a chance to move up the system relatively quickly.
“I love the little things about the game that maybe didn't take up the eye of normal fans, kind of the gritty ballplayer mentality,” says Doughty, who credits childhood coach Russ Johnson for instilling in him what he calls a TNT mentality. “It ‘Takes No Talent’ to have attitude and hustle. It’s very simple, but a lot of people take that for granted or don’t remember the little things.”
For Doughty, those things are always top of mind as he looks to expand the reign of King Cade.