Off-Season A's Prospect Q&A: Jeremy Barfield

Oakland A's eighth-round pick Jeremy Barfield has grown up around professional baseball, with both his father and his brother having played in the major leagues. He finally got his opportunity to experience it for himself in 2008 with the Vancouver Canadians. We recently spoke to the powerful right-handed hitter about his first season, playing in Vancouver, his health and more…

OaklandClubhouse: Keith Lieppman mentioned that you were injured during the A's Instructional League. How are you feeling now and what was the injury?

Jeremy Barfield: I had a mild sprain to a ligament in my elbow. I didn't need Tommy John surgery or anything like that, but it was the same ligament – the UCL, I think – that is involved in Tommy John surgery. I hurt it two days into camp and I needed to rest it, so they sent me home since I wasn't able to play. I am feeling fine now and am hitting and throwing. It shouldn't be a problem at all.

OC: How did you feel at the end of your first pro season? I know that you had a number of college games and then a little break before starting up with Vancouver. Was it tough on your body or was it kind of what you were expecting?

JB: I was expecting it to be tough, but it is a lot different to be expecting something and to actually experience it. It always happens, but I just lost so much weight. It was tough to keep the weight on. My playing weight is at about 230-235 and when I came back home, I was weighing 208. It just fell off and with less weight, I had less strength. I really played a lot of games this year and I didn't have much of a break between college and when I signed, but that's okay. It's just a learning process.

OC: Are you changing your off-season workout program based on what you experienced this past year, or are you sticking with what worked in previous years?

JB: It's a lot different now, definitely. In college, there is no true off-season because you are in class all of the time and in the off-season, you are spending a lot of time with the team and it was a lot more running than anything and that doesn't really benefit position players at all, the long distance running, anyway. Now the majority of my program is weights and it has really helped. I'm bulking up and getting a lot stronger and I can already see a difference when I am taking some cuts in the cages.

OC: When did you start swinging the bat and all of that kind of stuff?

JB: About two weeks ago.

OC: Did you feel rusty or did it feel natural when you got back into the cages?

JB: I thought I would feel terrible because the first swing, I pretty much killed the tee. But it feels fine now. I took soft toss for a couple of days and then I started to hit live pitching. It feels great. I was really surprised with how quickly it came back. I actually feel better than I did during the season.

OC: Were there specific things that you were planning to work on from this past season, or are you looking to carryover what you were doing in 2008?

JB: It's a little bit of both, actually. A lot of the adjustments are mental ones. I'm never going to be satisfied with my game. There is always room for improvement. A lot of the changes are on the offensive-side, especially from a power standpoint. Little mechanical flaws that I had in my swing that I gradually developed. I'm getting those knocked out right now so that when I get into spring training, there will be some visual changes for the good.

OC: I understand that when you were playing up in Vancouver, you were given a lot of attention by the media there because your dad [Jesse Barfield] had been a star with the Blue Jays. Was that hard to deal with as a rookie, or was it something that you just took in stride?

JB: There's nothing I can really do about it, so why fight it, is my mentality. It is what it is. I did fine with it. I could have done without it, but either way, it wasn't a big deal. It's just a part of it. As long as I didn't let it effect my game-play. That's the main thing. As long as something doesn't effect the way that I play, it's fine.

OC: You had pretty severe splits between home at Nat Bailey Stadium and on the road (885 OPS on the road versus a 541 OPS at home). Nat Bailey Stadium has the reputation for being a very difficult place to hit in. Was there anything that you noticed when you were on the road, or was it more of a fluky thing that there was such a difference in the splits?

JB: I have the exact same approach when I am home as I do on the road, but the thing is that the ball just does not carry there [at Nat Bailey Stadium]. As I said before, it's a lot different to expect something than it is to actually witness it. I had heard that it was a tough place to hit. The ball just would not carry there at all. Just proof of that, there were only two left-handed hitters who hit homeruns there the entire season and those came on the last homestand. It is just that bad of a place to hit.

It was nice to be on the road, though, because I do think I have more confidence on the road. I've always been a better road hitter. Always. Even through high school and college, I was a better hitter on the road. I don't know why that is.

OC: Going into spring training, do you have any expectations for where you are going to start off next season, or are you keeping an open mind about where you might play?

JB: I definitely want to be in Kane County. That is the goal that I have. It is something to work towards. I am definitely going there with an open mind, but I'd like to break camp with that team. I know that I am one of the younger guys. Since I was at a two-year school, I'm not even 21 yet. I would still definitely like to move to the next level, but it isn't my call. That's what I would like to see happen, though.

OC: Have you heard much about the Midwest League? That is another tough hitting environment. Are you preparing for that kind of situation again?

JB: Yeah. My brother [Josh Barfield] actually played for Fort Wayne when he was in the Padres organization. I've heard that it is a tough place to hit during the first few months of the season, but anything is better hitting-wise than Vancouver, honestly. It's just that tough to hit there. But you just have to get used to hitting in cold weather and playing in cold weather in general for the first month or two of the season, which really isn't all too bad because there is nothing you can do about it. Why fight it? Once again, it will be a lot different experiencing it for myself, but since my brother played a whole season in that league, it helps.

OC: How is your defense at this point? Are you feeling that that part of your game is where you would like it to be?

JB: Yeah, absolutely. There is always room for improvement, but I'm just glad that they are letting me get comfortable in right field. That's where I feel best is in right field. They started me off a little bit in left and once they got me in right, I didn't play any other position. I'm open to playing other positions, without a doubt, wherever I can get the most playing time and move up the quickest, but I feel best in right field. That's where all of my instincts are and my footwork is really geared towards right field. Even when I was a little kid and I envisioned myself in Game Seven of the World Series, I was playing right field.

OC: Throwing out the runner at homeplate?

JB: Oh, yeah. That is the biggest thrill I get playing the game of baseball. Moreso than hitting a homerun, even. I love outfield assists.

OC: What are your expectations of your first minor league spring training? Has your brother kind of filled you in on how it goes at all?

JB: Yeah, he has. I know that it is just mass instruction in minor league spring training. You have all of those different guys there. But Josh has given me a sense a little bit of what to expect. I'm looking forward to it because it will be nice to be somewhere once again where the ball actually carries, even if it is just spring training. It will be another opportunity for me to open some eyes and to get to know the other guys in the organization. I'm looking forward to that, too, being in my first full year.

OC: When you plan to head to Arizona? Are you going to be there at the report date or a little early?

JB: I'm going to head down there plenty early. My brother makes his off-season home there because the Indians just moved their spring training to Goodyear [in Arizona]. Me and him are going to be living together, which is going to be an experiment all of its own. [laughs] But I'm thinking about heading out there in the next two or three weeks. Definitely get a chance to get acclimated.

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