Oakland A's Prospect Q&A: Tyler Ladendorf

STOCKTON - Last season at the trade deadline, the Oakland A's sent shortstop Orlando Cabrera to the Minnesota Twins for a young infielder they hope will help them in future pennant races: Tyler Ladendorf. Ladendorf has since flashed his athleticism by showing an above-average glove all around the diamond. We spoke to Ladendorf on Sunday about his acclimation to the A's organization and more…

When the Oakland A's signed free agent Orlando Cabrera before the 2009 season, they gave up the right to draft a player in the second round. The A's made up for that draft deficit when they traded Cabrera, however, as they dealt him to the Minnesota Twins for the Twins' 2008 second round pick, infielder Tyler Ladendorf. A native of Des Plaines, Illinois, Ladendorf drew attention from scouts heading into the 2008 draft after two monster seasons at Howard Junior College. During his freshman season at Howard, Ladendorf stole 65 bases in 65 chances and he hit better than .500 during his sophomore campaign.

Last season, Ladendorf split the year between short-season A and Low-A, and he hit .275 in 67 games. His last 35 games came with the Low-A Kane County Cougars, who play only miles from where Ladendorf grew up. He hit only .231 with the Cougars, but he impressed his coaches with his defensive abilities. Ladendorf continued to open eyes during the A's Instructional League when he was forced to play defensively in the outfield as well as the infield. Despite his inexperience in the outfield, Ladendorf was called the team's best defensive outfielder by the A's Director of Player Development Keith Lieppman.

Coming out of spring training, Ladendorf was slated to be on the roster of the High-A Stockton Ports, but when the A's needed another player to suit up for Triple-A Sacramento temporarily, they called on the versatile Ladendorf, who appeared in two games for the River Cats before re-joining the Ports. He has played in eight games for the Ports, mostly at second base, and he is batting .241 with a homer.

We caught-up with Ladendorf before Stockton's game versus Visalia on Sunday.

OaklandClubhouse: How was your first spring as a member of the Oakland A's organization?

Tyler Ladendorf: Good. I kind of got to finish up with them last year and I got to meet some people in the fall [during Instructional League], but it was great to get to know pretty much everyone from top to bottom throughout the organization. I don't have any complaints right now. I'm just trying to go out there and get my feet wet just like everyone else. But it has been fun to get out there and play with guys I know now.

OC: You got to spend a few days with Sacramento at the start of the season. What was it like to be up the Triple-A level?

TL: It's always exciting anytime you get to be up there and face that level of competition and that level of pitching. You just try to go up there and make a good impression on the coaches and staff up there. And just try to slow the game down. Obviously, some of those guys are a little bit more polished, a little bit older. They have been around the game. You just try to go up there and try to hold your own and just have fun with it. Other than that, there really isn't much else you can do.

OC: I spoke with [A's Director of Player Development] Keith Lieppman during Instructs and he mentioned that you were playing all over the field and that he was really impressed with how you handled the outfield, in addition to the infield. Were you just winging it when you were in the outfield, or was that something you had previous experience with?

TL: We had some injuries in the fall and, like you said, I kind of jumped out there. I had played a little bit of centerfield when I was younger, but that was about it. To me, it was a fun challenge. Getting out there and facing challenges like playing in the outfield, I enjoyed it. It had been awhile since I had played out there, but you just kind of try and run with it and just try to learn on the fly, which I think I did a pretty good job of. I take pride in just being able to do everything. That's always something that will never hurt and will keep you around the game much longer if you can do it all.

OC: Do you think they will be moving you around defensively with Stockton this year?

TL: Yeah. I haven't played in the outfield yet this season, but Timmy [Garland], our outfield and hitting guy, has definitely said that I am going to be out there. Especially if we do end up getting Dusty Coleman, another infielder who is hurt right now, I'll definitely be out there.

OC: You did a lot of running when you were in college at Howard. Is that something you have been working on with Rickey Henderson while he has been here this weekend?

TL: Yeah. Anytime you are around Rickey, you just try to soak it in. That guy, he knows so much about the game, it's just unbelievable. Anytime you are around someone like that, you are just all ears.

OC: You spent last year in the Midwest League. Is it different playing in the California League this year?

TL: Yeah. The way that they play is different. The ball seems to fly a little bit more here. I think we are going to run into a couple more hitters' parks. But at the same time, you are facing some of the same pitchers that you faced in the Midwest League. To try to go out there and change your game probably isn't such a good idea. You just have to try to pick up little things. To go out there and get away from stuff that has gotten you to this point would probably be a mistake. But there is definitely a big difference in just the way everything plays out here. Obviously California and the Midwest are two different settings in terms of climate and that sort of thing.

OC: Was it fun to play so close to home last year [with Kane County]?

TL: Definitely. That definitely made the trade a little easier, to be able to live at home the last month and a half of the season. To be around family and friends definitely made the whole transition easier. Anytime you are in a situation like that, it is always going to benefit you.

OC: What was it like to be traded straight-up for a former All-Star like Orlando Cabrera?

TL: His credentials speak for themselves, so I guess it is never a bad thing when you get traded straight-up for someone like that who has done as much in this game as he has. At the same time, it is just a matter of trying to go out there and get better everyday. As far as your daily schedule, your plan for short-term and long-term, it really doesn't change. A different team and a different set of guys, but you still have to go out there and try to accomplish the same goals.

OC: Do you have any goals for this year?

TL: Yeah, definitely try to get out of here almost. That is the goal everywhere you go. You just try to go out there and do what you have to do everyday to move up. Obviously, that is not really a day-to-day thing but it is a process. Every season is a long season, so you have to understand that it is a grind and you have to go out there and do what you need to do to get better everyday.

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