2012 MLB Draft Q & A: Lance McCullers

Rays Digest is proud to announce the first in a series of 2012 MLB Draft Q & A's that we will be featuring between now and June 3rd. Today's interview is with Tampa Jesuit pitcher/shortstop Lance McCullers, who has been reported to have touched 100 mph several times this season. Inside he discusses his commitment to Florida, his workout routine, his thought process regarding the draft and more.

For a full scouting report on McCullers from Scout.com's National Baseball Expert Frankie Piliere, see: 2012 Draft Scouting Report: Lance McCullers

For scouting video of McCullers, see: 2012 MLB Draft Scouting Video: Lance McCullers


Rays Digest: Most people know about your fastball, it goes up there, I think you've touched 100 mph. What other pitches do you offer though?

Lance McCullers: I throw two types of curveballs. One is more of a get me over pitch where I'm ahead in the count. I usually throw that about 79-81 to 82 mph. Then I throw a hard curveball. I refer to it as a slider, but it has a true hard break as an out curveball would. I usually throw that for about 82-85. I throw that as my main out pitch. I'm really developing a change-up that I've been throwing this year, and it's actually come along pretty nicely. I throw it a lot to lefties and sometimes to righties when I see them cheating on my fastball. It's working well for me and I throw a two-seam fastball too.

Rays Digest: The reports on your pitches have been great, especially that fastball. I know your Dad [former MLB pitcher Lance McCullers] was in the major leagues. How much of an influence has he been to you as far as developing as a baseball player?

Lance McCullers: I'd say I'm definitely the type of pitcher and player I am because of my Dad. Without my Dad I don't think I would be half as good as I am, or healthy, or anything like that. He's done a great job of always protecting my arm. This is really only my second season of high school starting and he's taught me things that ordinary people just wouldn't be able to teach you. Being able to tap into his experience and what he went through is something that no one really gets to use that much and I'm extremely grateful for that.

Rays Digest: I'm sure you guys often talk around the dinner table about pitching and your outings and that must be a great experience. Is there anybody else that's really helped you along the way?

Lance McCullers: A lot of people. I work out with Orlando Chinea, who is my strength and conditioning coach. Then one of my contacts through the Boras Corporation, which is my advisory group, is Bill Caudill. He pitched a number of years in the big leagues and he's really helped me a lot with the mental side of the game. Coach Goetz as well. He is the pitching coach at Jesuit and former sixth-overall-pick in 1997. They've all been big parts of my success and what I've been able to do this year.

Rays Digest: What's your workout program like? How many days a week do you lift?

Lance McCullers: In the off-season I work out every day. Well not every day. I work out Monday through Friday with Orlando, sometimes on Saturdays depending. With him I do a strength and conditioning program. We do a lot of things for my agility. We do a lot of things for my endurance: a lot of box drills, a lot of medicine ball work, balance drills, work focusing on my core. Every day we do shoulder exercises. We do 30 minute stretching sessions every time, focusing on the little things not the bigger things. With him I throw a softball, which helps make sure that my pitches are really fine and crisp and I'm not throwing any of them the wrong way. I think that has helped my arm be extremely healthy along with my Dad always watching out for it.

I got to the gym in the off-season probably like three days a week, usually Monday, Wednesday and Saturday. That's a lot of leg-lifts, sled-pulling and stuff like that. Now that the season is going, I still do my core-work and leg-work in the gym. It's not as heavy or intense, but I do it just to maintain.

Rays Digest: So the draft is coming. You've probably got your mind on the season, but the draft is slowly approaching. How much have you actually thought about it and prepared for it?

Lance McCullers: In the off-season I met with some MLB clubs and kind of got a better feel for their organizations. Honestly, when I say that I'm 100 percent focused on my task at hand right now - which is Jesuit baseball and winning that state championship - it's totally true. Obviously the draft is slowly approaching, but the draft is so unpredictable and anything can happen. Nobody knows anything for sure and I don't have anything guaranteed in the draft. All that I have right now that is guaranteed to me is the rest of my high school season and a scholarship to the University of Florida. The draft is always going to be there as the end of the season approaches, but I'm really trying to enjoy my last games of my high school career with some of my best friends.

Rays Digest: Have you made your mind up about whether you're fully committed to Florida or is there always the possibility that you might sign if the right team drafts you and has a good offer?

Lance McCullers: There's always that option. I think that's the great thing about baseball that other sports don't have is that you have that option to sign a professional contract out of high school or go to college and get your education and mature as a young man and mature as a ballplayer. I'm sure if the right team came along with the right things that me and my family thought made it the right time to sign, that would be an option. But I'm fully committed to the University of Florida.

As far as my will to go there, I committed there as a sophomore - actually very, very early my sophomore year. I was 15 years old when I committed then and I love the University of Florida. It's close to my home. Both of my grandfathers played there. One was a basketball player and one was a football player. It's somewhere I could see myself being, but if the right team and right offer came along and my family and I thought it was the right thing to do, we could go that route. But my goal is to play in the major leagues, not get drafted number-one-overall or in the first round or the last round. My dream as a baseball player is to be a MLB star, not a draft star. Whatever me and my family thinks is the best way to achieve that, is what we'll do this summer.

Rays Digest: Are you planning on going to any pre-draft showcases or not? If so, which ones?

Lance McCullers: No I'm not planning on doing any pre-draft showcases. At this point, it's still very much in my high school season. I have a good three weeks after my season ends before the draft, so if a team were to contact me and want to do individual workouts, that would be something that I would discuss with my advisory group and family. If we thought it was a good thing, we may attend it. As of right now though, I have no plans to attend any pre-draft workouts. That could change - but like I said - as of right now, I don't have anything scheduled.

Rays Digest: You won the Jackie Robinson Award last year for not only your accomplishments on the field, but for what you do as a student and in the community. What does getting that award mean to you?

Lance McCullers: I think when you're recognized for being a great athlete, it's nice and you feel rewarded for that. But when you're recognized for being a great athlete, but also a superior person, that is something that is very dear to me. Because my family and the values that they and Jesuit have instilled in me as I've grown into a young man, is something that everyone at Jesuit takes very seriously. We do a bunch of community service over there with the baseball team as a whole. We go to Metropolitan Ministries on the weekends and we are doing [unintelligible] in a couple of weeks. So to be recogonized for something other than just being a baseball player is something that is special to me. I'm glad that people looking from the outside in can see that I'm more than just a baseball player, that I'm a person that cares about other people.

Rays Digest: That Jesuit team, you guys are ranked third in the nation right now and have been playing touch competition all season. How much do you think that playing other highly-ranked teams has helped you as a player?

Lance McCullers: I think it helps you as a player because you can always tell where you're at compared to other top players in the nation. We are ranked in the Top 10 in a couple of different places, but being able to play top competition is what it's all about. You want to be out there playing baseball and having fun and competing against the best. We think we have a great squad and we want to be able to showcase that and the only way to do that is to play tough competition. It helps you guage where you are as a player and as a team. We've played teams like Lakeland and Dunedin and other teams that are ranked high nationally and in the state of Florida and we're ready for anything that comes our way. We're always excited to display our talent nationally.

Rays Digest: I know besides pitching you also play shortstop. Is that something that you ever considered - being a full-time hitter and fielder? Or have you always been focused on your pitching?

Lance McCullers: Like I said, I've always been a full-time hitter. I wasn't always a part-time pitcher. Coming into this year, in varsity, I had a career average of around .440, with a lot of RBI's and a fair-share of home runs. I've always been a hitter first and an infielder first. I committed to the University of Florida as a guy that would be able to do two things. Like this year, I've been bouncing around from pitching, to shortstop, second base, even a little left field. I'm just there to do the best for the team. Hitting and playing the infield is something I have an extreme passion for. I know in my heart that the mound is where I belong, but I have every intention, unless something else happens, of being a two-player down there.

Rays Digest: I know that versatility has also gotten you a lot of attention. How have you really dealt with the attention that's been surrounding you, especially in your senior year?

Lance McCullers: Like I said before, being recognized as a great baseball player is always rewarding. It's always something that has to be strived for. From the time they realize that sports is a media game, people want to be recognized for the hard work they put in. At the same time being recognized comes with adversity for those people you know can do things out there. I try to keep everything on an even playing field. I don't really pay too much attention to the great stuff and I don't pay too much attention to the bad stuff. I'm just there to play baseball and do something that I've loved to do since I was three years old.

Rays Digest: Other than baseball and school, what other hobbies do you have?

Lance McCullers: I love spending a lot of time with my friends and my family. I often go fishing with my brothers and we like to go skeet shooting every now and then. I love playing other sports like football and basketball. I grew up playing football and basketball and played basketball my freshman year at Jesuit. Unfortunately, with these all-year around sports we have in Florida, baseball and basketball were just too close together and it wasn't really going to work out. So I had to pick between the two and I chose baseball. I just love playing sports and love being around people who are good people, have good heads on their shoulders, know how to enjoy life and live the right way. Just kind of hanging out and being a kid is something I really enjoy.

Rays Digest: At Rays Digest, we are focused on the minor leagues, but essentially we are a Rays' site. Are you a Rays fan and do you go to a lot of games?

Lance McCullers: I am a Rays fan and I think the Rays have a great team. They are doing well so far this year and I was fortunate enough this pre-season to meet David Price, who came out and threw the first pitch. B.J. Upton was out there with him and had batting practice at our field sometimes. It was really nice being able to meet those guys and they are just like every other baseball player. They love the game. They are great guys to talk to and give you advice. I go to my Rays games when I can. Unfortunately, we are kind of on the same schedule as far as when they play and when we play. As you get closer to that August, September time, I make my way down to Tropicana Field and go watch the game. The Rays have especially young players and it's always fun to go out there and watch them. I just really enjoy the game of baseball.

Rays Digest: When David Price came in and threw the first pitch, what was that experience like? Did you get any tips from him?

Lance McCullers: I think it speaks volumes to what kind of person he is. Here is a guy who is an All-Star, one of the best pitchers in the American League, pitches in the playoffs frequently, and has no reason to come out to Jesuit and throw out the first pitch. Actually, he reached out to us to come out and do that. Just a great guy, a high character guy, someone that understands that giving back is important, which has obviously led him to tremendous success.

He just basically told me that he read a little bit about me before he came to the game. As far as seeing me play - he's never seen me play. But what he has read about me off the field, [he said] that I'm definitely doing the right things as long as I always keep a good head on my shoulders and realize that it's about other people first and then they will always be in my corner. I thought those were great words from someone that I look up to. I was actually watching him pitch before I called you. They're playing tonight. I have half of them on my fantasy team, which is kind of a cool thing. Just a great guy and being able to come out there and meet him, talk to him, and kind of pick his brain for a couple of minutes was something that I won't forget.

Marc Nemcik is the MLB Draft correspondent for Rays Digest. You can follow him on Twitter at @marcnemcik


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