Justin Fiske has enjoyed quite a rise in his stock this past season. After having his contract purchased from the independent league Joliet Jackhammers just a little over a year ago, Fiske to now pitching in the Arizona Fall League, which is considered to be the “finishing school” for a professional club’s top prospects. During the regular season, Justin pitched in relief for the Quad Cities and Palm Beach and was moved to starting for AA Springfield. Cumulatively he averaged over a strikeout per inning and posted a 3.20 FIP, impressive for someone who throws a mid-eighties fastball. He has only thrown two innings so far in the AFL due to a sore shoulder, but has kept busy with a number of baseball activities, including a little blogging on the side. Justin kindly agreed to answer some of my questions during his down time.
Archive for the “Interviews” Category
erik in Interviews, tags: Adam Reifer, Brett Wallace, Colby Rasmus, Daryl Jones, David Freese, Jaime Garcia, Jeff Luhnow, Jess Todd, Jon Jay, Pete Kozma, Roberto Pina, Santo Franco
Ben Badler is one of the many talented writers at Baseball America, the standard bearer for all things prospects. Recently I asked him if he’d be up for some Q and A and he very graciously agreed to rap with us. I thoroughly enjoyed his answers and I’m sure you will as well. Thanks to Ben for taking the time out of his busy schedule to give us his insights on the Cardinal farm system.
erik in Interviews, Sam Freeman
Sam Freeman was the 24th round pick out of the University of Kansas in this past year’s draft. A hard throwing lefty, Sam dominated the Appy League before making the jump all the way to Palm Beach to finish his season. He struck out 38 batters in 26.1 innings and held lefties in check, to the tune of a .038 batting average. Jeff Luhnow recently called him one of the hidden gems in the system. I recently caught up with Sam and he was kind enough to answer my questions. My thanks to Sam for his time and thoughtful answers.
erik in Adam Reifer, Affiliates, Interviews
Drafted in 2006, Jeff Luhnow called Adam Reifer the “sleeper of the draft”. No one is sleeping on him any longer, as Baseball America rated him the top pitcher of the NY Penn League. Armed with a 95-99 MPH fastball, a nasty hard slider and an abundance of confidence, he helped steer Batavia to their league’s championship. I was fortunate enough to catch up with Reifer for a little Q and A.
Congrats on winning the NYPL championship. Can you describe the experience of winning it all?
Winning the NY-Penn was an awesome experience. It was the first championship that I have ever won, so this will forever stick out in my mind, especially being out there to close out the game. And to do it with the guys we had on our team just made that much more special. We had one of the best group of guys that I have ever been a part of.
How would you describe Adam Reifer, the ballplayer?
Adam Reifer the ballplayer is intense and wants no one to get an edge on his game. He wants to be the best and will stop at nothing to try an get there.
And Adam Reifer the person?
Adam Reifer the person is laid back and takes life as it comes. He tries not to take life to seriously because life is short and stress could make it shorter.
What was the key to your success this past season?
The key to my success would be my dedication to let nothing get the best of me, because I did start this year on a sour note by not coming out of the gates healthy. But I knew I was better than that, and knew what kind of pitcher I was. I knew I would get through that bump in the road.
Being ranked by BA as the best pitcher lets me know all the hard work I have done to be best has paid off. It also means a whole lot that I have been recognized by my peers and higher end guys that I was the top pitcher in the league.
How would you define a “closer’s mentality”?
I define a “closers mentality” as a cocky mentality. A closer tries and lets nothing get the best of them. They go out there for an inning or maybe more and they give it their all. You go out there giving your best every pitch and want no one to beat you because you really know there is no one better than you out there on the mound.
What is going through your mind when your called to record the last three outs?
When I get called to record the last three outs I am not thinking a whole lot, actually. A lot of my thought process comes before I’m called out there. I start preparing myself in about the 7th inning when I kind of separate myself from the the rest of the bullpen. A lot of my thought process is that I tell myself I am the best, and the other team has no chance. I begin to grow a hatred for the other team as well. I do a lot of things basically to build myself up. So when I actually get the call to go out there, everything now is just how I react than actually think.
What would you say was the most important thing you learned this past season?
Most important thing I learned would probably don’t get to ahead of myself. Take each day and outing as it comes because they are all different.
Is there a closer in the big leagues that you particularly enjoy watching?
Jonathan Papelbon is my favorite pitcher and favorite closer. I just love his intensity, the way he goes after every hitter with authority and he has electric stuff. He’s a pitcher I try to model myself after, but I want to better and just want to be me.
Give me your quick prediction – Who do you think wins the league championship series, who do you think will win it all, and why?
I think the Dodgers have a real good chance to win even though they are down 2-0 now, but I just think they have some firepower and have a lot of momentum still that can take them to the World Series. The Rays would be my pick in the ALCS because they are just a complete team and I just really want them to go. To win the whole thing…I will say the Dodgers will win even though I really want the Rays to win it all.
Thanks to Adam for taking the time to talk with us. I would say he has a very good shot at rocketing through the system given his stuff and demeanor.
Chuckie Fick very quietly put together a terrific season for the River Bandits, posting a 3.17 ERA over 20 games. I recently had the chance to catch up with Chuckie for a little Q and A, and he was kind enough to oblige.
With the success of Jason Motte, the Cardinals seem to be experimenting with the idea of moving strong-armed catchers from behind the plate and onto the bump. One of those is David Carpenter, who I recently was able to catch up with and ask how the experience has been so far.
So what has been the baseball story of David Carpenter to this point?
I’ve always been throwing a ball or swinging a bat for as long as I can remember. Started playing organized baseball at age 5 and just fell in love with the game. Played high school baseball at East Fairmont and signed early at West Virginia University during the fall of my senior year of high school. Played for 3 years at WVU before being drafted in the 12th round of the ’06 draft. Played my first professional season in State College Pa. After breaking my hamate bone in my left hand during Spring Training the following year I played for the Batavia Muckdogs in 2007. I was invited to Big League camp in 2008 as a catcher. Played for the River Bandits before being promoted to Palm Beach in early May.
What was your initial reaction when the Cardinals approached you about moving to the mound?
I was really disappointed at first with the Cardinals’ decision to make the conversion. I felt that I was making big strides in my hitting and was finally headed in the right direction.
Do you feel that your experience as a catcher helps you as a pitcher, and if so in what ways?
I believe that my experiences as a catcher give me an advantage when I’m out on the mound. I’ve seen the situation from a different angle and have an idea how to attack the hitter since I have been in similar situations in the past. Knowing what pitch to throw during different times of an at bat is a very valuable tool to have, but having the confidence to throw the right pitch is even more important.
What is the most challenging thing about pitching so far?
The most challenging part of pitching has been the down time. After converting from the hardest working position on the field to a position that allows you to have the most down time has been a big adjustment. Not knowing when you might be going into a game is another challenging part of the position change.
What do you enjoy about it the most?
I love the one on one competition. Blowing a guy away with a fastball or breaking off an unhittable curve that he swings over top of is a great feeling. I’ve always enjoyed being a critical part of the game. Being a catcher you try to help your pitcher make the right decision on a pitch or throw a guy out stealing. As a pitcher, you’re the one making the final decision on the pitch and you have complete control over the situation at hand.
How hard do you throw your fastball?
My fastball stayed in the 91-94 range normally but I touched 96 at one point during the season.
Do you miss catching at all?
I do really miss catching. I miss playing everyday and getting to hit. The relationship between a catcher and a pitcher is very important and I liked the fact that a pitcher could depend on me to block a ball in the dirt, throw a guy out at second, or help him decide what pitch to throw in a critical situation.
When you’re not playing baseball, what do you do for fun?
I enjoy spending as much time as possible with my family. I travel around to see some of my teammates during the off-season. I help my dad work on his Camaros and take them to car shows. I also enjoy watching WVU football and basketball games when I’m back home.
Daniel Descalso has been on fire since getting called up to Springfield this past week, the 21 year old second baseman is hitting .458 thus far. I recently had the opportunity to talk with Daniel about hitting and making adjustments, offensively and defensively.
Q and A after the jump.
Staying on the theme of the week, I have yet another Q and A with a Muckdog. This time I talk with RHP Jason Buursma, whom the Cardinals drafted in the 25th round out of Bucknell University. He was voted the Patriot League Male Scholar-Athlete of the Year. A two-way player at Bucknell, Buursma hit 13 homers and put up a .367/.426/.671 his senior year, as well as pitching 83.2 innings with a 78/10 K/BB ratio and a 2.58 ERA.
Q and A after the jump.
erik in Interviews, Jeff Albert
Many of you will remember Jeff’s excellent columns at the Baseball Analysts, where he was a regular contributor. He provided fascinating analysis using slo-mo video analysis to break down the hitting (and sometimes pitching) mechanics of several all stars and prospects, and it got a lot of people talking. He also owned and operated swingtraning.net. Jeff has worked with high school, college and minor league baseball players doing training and video analysis before getting hired by the St. Louis Cardinals to be the Muckdog’s hitting instructor. He is doing a good job so far, the ‘dogs are third in the league in OPS and are a half game back from 1st place in their division.
A couple years back, Jeff was nice enough to help me understand Jon Jay’s hitting mechanics back when I was contributing at Viva El Birdos. Naturally, I was thrilled to hear the Cardinals had hired him this off-season. Recently I had the chance to catch up with Jeff to see how the new gig is going and ask about some of his students.
Q and A after the jump.
I recently had the opportunity to do a little Q and A with former UNLV star and current Muckdog first baseman Xavier Scruggs. Thanks to the Xavier for taking the time out of his schedule to answer my questions.