Jacob Nottingham has a quick answer for how he acquired his trademark toughness, a trait that got him drafted by the Astros and also earned him a football scholarship from the University of Arizona.
"I've got two older brothers," Nottingham said of siblings Michael and Billy. "I've always grown up playing with older guys. That's helped me learn the game. My brothers toughened me up a lot, but that's their job."
Selected in the sixth round of the 2013 Draft out of Redlands High School in California, Nottingham's toughness has him at or near the top of most slugging categories in the Midwest League. The Quad Cities catcher is first in the circuit with a .572 slugging percentage, third with a .335 batting average and 99 total bases, and tied for fourth with eight homers.
"I'm working with my hitting coach [Joel Chimelis] a lot on pitch recognition and capitalizing when the pitcher makes a mistake," Nottingham said. "I worked on hitting in the off-season and tried to simplify things and not try to do too much at the plate. I'm learning to be patient."
Nottingham praised his manager, Josh Bonifay, who also managed the backstop last season at Rookie-level Greeneville.
"Jacob is a bright young catcher whose skill set is off the chart," Bonifay said. "He's a big kid, and he's only 20 years old. He has quality bat speed and the ability to hit the ball out of the ballpark at any point in time."
According to Bonifay, Nottingham has made significant improvement behind the plate.
"Jacob provides a big target and does a nice job receiving the baseball," Bonifay said. "He will throw his body in front of anything. He's that type of person, that type of player who will do anything he can to protect the pitcher's runs to prevent extra bases. He's come a long way.
"Jacob's ability to lead a pitching staff, his ability to call games, his ability to get better at receiving have really improved," he added. "His hitting is going to be there. If he can solidify himself behind the plate, his future is one of the brightest you'll ever see."
In addition to catching, Nottingham has played a few games at first base this season. Houston's director of player development, Quinton McCracken, informed Nottingham before Spring Training that he wanted to see the youngster learn the new position.
"I never played first before," Nottingham said. "It's fun. It's new. I'm having a good time doing it. I feel pretty good there. It's obviously a different position to try to learn. A lot of guys have helped me with it.
"It's challenging. You have to be in different spots in different situations. You just go with the flow of the game. Playing more than one position helps any player. If you can do more than one thing, you're in the lineup more. The main thing is the Astros want me to catch. Catching is my priority spot. But instead of a day off, or DH, I play first base."
Jacob Nottingham is the youngest of three brothers (Michael & Billy) to play for the ABD youth program.