Andrew Calica grew up in southern California and baseball has been a part of his life for as long as he can remember. The 6’1”, 190 lb. center fielder was selected by Cleveland in round 11 of the 2016 draft out of the University of California- Santa Barbara. This was the second time the Indians had drafted Calica, after previously selecting him the 17th round in 2012.
Rather than signing out of high school, Calica chose to attend college. Getting a redshirt his freshman year due to injury, he stayed four years at UCSB and many draft watchers considered him a solid pick, perhaps one of the strongest seniors in the 2016 draft.
“My parents always put education first,” said Calica about choosing college over an early start to a professional baseball career. “I know how important that was so I wanted to make sure that was a priority for me and UCSB was a great school, a good educational system, and a good atmosphere.”
His best year for the Gauchos was his junior year. He hit .329 in 210 at bats, putting up 41 runs, 15 stolen bases, and 19 RBI in 56 games. Calica followed this up with a summer in the prestigious Cape Cod League.
Playing for the Wareham Gatemen, he claimed the league’s batting title with a .425 average in 113 at bats. It was even more impressive when you consider it was his first go round with wooden bats.
“It was a really good experience for me,” he said. “I really enjoyed the opportunity to go out there and play summer ball. It’s kind of like short season ball; you’re playing pretty much every day. You get to come out to the field early and do your hitting for a seven o’clock game and you get to be around your friends every day.”
This led into his senior year at UCSB where the Gauchos earned their first trip to the College World Series in school history. After sweeping their way through the regional and super regional levels, the team traveled to Omaha where they went 1-2, but eliminated number three ranked Miami before falling to Arizona.
“It was a once in a lifetime opportunity,” said Calica. “We had a pretty good group. Sometimes it’s not the best players on the field that make it out there, but the best team. Omaha was an incredible experience, to play in front of so many people, so many fans, and to have my family out there supporting me, and the team. It was an incredible experience.”
In just over a year’s time, Calica won a batting title in the Cape Cod League, led his team to the College World Series, and was drafted and signed to play professional baseball.
Quite a year for anyone.
Assigned to short season Mahoning Valley to begin hisprofessional career, he put up strong numbers before a late season promotion to Low-A Lake County. Even in rookie ball, he maintained a high level of performance, named to the New-York Penn League Mid-Season All Star team. In his first 50 games his performance produced a .382 batting average, backed up by three home runs, 32 RBI, 15 stolen bases and a 1.031 OPS, all solid numbers in the transition from college to the pro ranks.
On the strength of his first season performance, MLB Prospect Watch lists Calica as the number 27 prospect in the Cleveland system.
“You’re playing a very high level of baseball,” he said about moving into baseball in the minor leagues. “Competing at your best level [the College World Series] and you get some tough competition. You get to take that kind of energy, playing in front of that many people and you try and transfer that energy and competition to the professional level.”
Assigned to the High-A Lynchburg Hillcats, Calica is still working at making the challenging transition to the professional ranks. In 50 games this season, he has a .240 batting average but a .336 on-base percentage.
“You’re playing every day so your routines have got to change more. You’ve got to learn to take care of your body better,” he shared. “This is my first full season so it’s really important for me to figure out a routine that is going to work for me, that is going to help take care of my body.”
One of the parts of his game that he might need to adjust to do this is his habit of getting hit by pitches. He was plunked 19 times his junior year of college, 24 times as a senior, four times in the Cape Cod League, and 15 times in just 50 games during the 2016 season. He has already been a hit batsman four times as a Hillcat.
“I know that in college our coach ground into us the idea of a tough mentality and holding your ground. Probably a little bit of that carried over,” said Calica about why he seems to get hit so frequently. “I’m figuring out when you have a 140- or 150-game season you might not want to get hit as much.”
In his first full season, he is trying to establish himself and master the skills that he has. He bats from the left side, but throws right-handed when he is in the field. Exclusively a center fielder in college, Calica has played 44 games in the field for the Hillcats. He has distributed his play across all three outfield positions, playing 11 games in right field, 18 games in center field and 15 games in left field.
In the past few weeks, he has been making adjustments and elevating his play. In a Saturday evening contest against division rival Salem, his timely hitting aided his club in taking the lead and eventually gaining a game on the first place Red Sox. Hitting against Salem reliever Austin Glorius, he doubled in teammate Martin Cervenka to tie the score, and the Hillcats would go on to score again in the seventh inning, putting up a victory.
“I’m coming out and trying to put my tools on the table and just do the best that I can,” he said. “I don’t try to look at the stats too much at the end of the year. I just try to focus on having a good approach and working with my coaches on what I need to get done.”
With a successful year now behind him Calica remains focused on the current season and on improving his own skills. With a degree in political science to add to all his baseball success, do not be surprised if Andrew Calica’s name starts to climb up the rankings of Cleveland Indians prospects.
Photo: Lathan Goumas/The News and Advance