Also, after you read the interview, be sure to take a look at our exclusive new Scouting Video of Kyle Bakker in action.">
Also, after you read the interview, be sure to take a look at our exclusive new Scouting Video of Kyle Bakker in action.">

Exclusive: Bakker Interview and Scouting Video

<B>Kyle Bakker</B> was the Braves 20th round selection in last June's amateur draft. He is a 6'9", 255-pound left-handed pitcher who starred for Georgia Tech the last three years. Bill Shanks talked with Bakker as he prepares for his first spring training with the Atlanta Braves. <BR> <BR> Also, after you read the interview, be sure to take a look at our exclusive new <B>Scouting Video</B> of Kyle Bakker in action.

Scouting Video Part 1 (Premium)
Scouting Video Part 2 (Premium)

Kyle Bakker was rated as the 33rd best left-hander and 162nd best overall player in the draft by Baseball America and the 64th best overall player in the country by Team One Baseball.

BILL: Kyle let's start by looking back at the draft. What were your expectations going into the draft?

KYLE: You know I've learned through playing the game of baseball that setting expectations you can cheat them sometimes but nothing is guaranteed. You know you usually just try to roll with the punches a little bit and try your hardest and from there what happens happens.

BILL: Did you feel you would go higher than the 20th round?

KYLE: Yea I felt I'd go higher than the 20th round.

BILL: What were the scouts telling you prior to the draft?

KYLE: There were scouts days before the draft and even on the days during the draft that were calling in the fourth and fifth round. I couldn't guarantee them that I was going to sign, and that's what they wanted to hear at that time. They were just calling and saying, "If we offer you this, are you a guaranteed sign?" And before that I did have some expectations that were a little bit higher than that. It was kind of a pushed situation where I had to tell them in a couple of minutes whether I was going to go or not.

BILL: When did the Braves start calling you?

KYLE: They actually didn't even call me. They drafted me in the 20th round and called me after they selected me.

BILL: How much contact did you have with them before the draft?

KYLE: I talked with Mr. (Al) Goetz (Braves scout for Georgia) maybe once or twice. Not a lot. I know the Braves are usually a high school oriented draft. It was kind of a surprise.

BILL: Did you really think there was any chance at all that the Braves would draft you?

KYLE: You know I didn't. Even if I had to list the teams out that I thought would draft me I would have put the Braves toward the end.

BILL: Mainly because they don't draft a lot of college kids?

KYLE: Yea.

BILL: What do you think happened last year to make you drop like that?

KYLE: I think some of it was during the season I started off the season throwing harder than normal – hitting 91, 92. And then it slowly went down and at the end of the year I was hitting 88. I think a lot of it had to do with control. I went through a period of mechanical (problems), where I had a hard time throwing strikes. Usually that was my big forte that I could usually control the ball well.

BILL: What was the mechanical flaw?

KYLE: It was just a simple thing with my hands in my delivery with what I was doing and once I went down to Instructional ball they fixed it right away. They saw what the problem was right away.

BILL: Was it just the placement of your hands?

KYLE: Yea it was a lot in the windup – the placement of my hands in the windup.

BILL: When I saw you pitch in the Instructional League you told me you had found your release point again. Was that what you had lost last season at Georgia Tech?

KYLE: Yea and I think a lot of it was that I was pressing. It was my draft year and I was trying to do my best. All of a sudden, the thing that was usually my strength was not as solid.

BILL: When you were trying to decide whether or not to sign with the Braves, how tough was it to come to a decision?

KYLE: It was very difficult decision. At the beginning of the process there was no way in my mind that I was going to sign. I was 100% going back to school. Then throughout the summer just thinking about it and talking with my wife ultimately professional baseball is where I want to be not in college. So that was part of the decision. Plus what the Braves offered me was a pretty good deal.

BILL: Did it cross your mind that if you went back to Tech and pitch the way you did in your sophomore season, you would be an even higher pick next year?

KYLE: Yes and no. If I would have gone back and thrown the way I had thrown during my sophomore year, yea I would have probably got more money than what I did. But if I had the same type of year I would have gotten drafted higher in the rounds but paid less because I was a senior.

BILL: When you were trying to decide, how important was it that it was the Braves? Do you think you would have signed with any other team that would have taken you?

KYLE: That's a hard question. I definitely wanted to go with the Braves. They have a great pitching system. It's great to be a part of that. You know there's obviously people throughout from A to AAA pitching coaches work well with their pitchers because the Braves are a team that bring their pitchers up through the farm system more than any other team almost. That was important for me because they're bringing their pitchers up and every year they're in the top of the pitching categories. They're doing something right.

BILL: Did you feel in a way that they would be able to fix you?

KYLE: Yea I did. I did feel that. I was never to the point where I thought I was at the point of no return. I think a lot of it was just that I had gone through a little bit and then started pressing and once it didn't click right away and went into the panic mode and that's not where I needed to be.

BILL: Since you are a tall kid, do you think you have to be more careful with your mechanics?

KYLE: Yea definitely. If I'm going to chance something, it's harder for me just because I have so much more body than other pitchers. It's just not as easy to balance a body that's as big as mine compared to a person that's a bit shorter. Nothing about me is quick. I just can't change things overnight.

BILL: What type of pitcher do you think you can be?

KYLE: You know I'm just trying to get back to the same way I was – a control pitcher, someone that can control both sides of the plate. I'm never going to throw 97 or 98 miles an hour. But I don't feel that I need to. I just need to become a control pitcher and have 3 or 4 pitches that I can throw for strikes in any count and keep hitters off balance.

BILL: What do you think you can do with your velocity?

KYLE: I think that after I'm completely developed I can see myself in the low to mid 90's.

BILL: What all are you throwing now?

KYLE: Fastball, slider, cutter, change up.

BILL: Going into spring training are you looking to build on the success you had at the Instructional League?

KYLE: Yea I want to make the statement that I can pitch and that's it not a question that I can pitch in professional baseball. But you know I'm not going to go out and try to overdo things. I'm going to take things as they come, get familiar with the system more, and not try to rush myself in trying to do things too fast.

BILL: Do you think you can make it to Rome this year?

KYLE: Yea I think I can. It would be bad to say that I don't think I can. Yea I think I can.

BILL: Well you know how hard the competition is going to be?

KYLE: Yea. Right. It (competition) always drives you to do better. You do it in college. You're doing it all the time. You're either competing to get a high spot or you are competing to keep your spot. That's what motivates you.

BILL: What are your expectations for this year?

KYLE: I've set goals. Wherever I start I want to end up at least one spot higher than that. I want to move up at least one spot during the season.

BILL: Do you feel that you need to prove to the baseball world that you are a better pitcher than what you showed last year at Tech and that you are better than a 20th rounder?

KYLE: You know it's not that I have to go out and prove it, but I think if I just work hard and do what I can do it will show through on its own. I'm not out there trying to press and show people that I'm a 20th rounder but that I'm a lot better than that. The draft – things happen that happen and when I look back there are some things I wish I had faced differently, but I think God has a plan for your life and whatever happens happens.

Bill Shanks hosts "The Braves Show" during the baseball season. He can be reached at thebravesshow@email.com

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