Cubs Prospect Interview: Jake Muyco

Behind the plate, Jake Muyco is one of the best defensive products you will find anywhere in the Cubs system. Between Class-A Peoria and Daytona in 2006, the 22-year-old threw out almost 50 percent of opposing runners in 112 attempts. Now Muyco is looking to turn things around with the bat, where he's struggled with a .211 average since being drafted.

The Cubs say they're really pleased with your work defensively. At this point, do you value defense over hitting?

I wouldn't say that I really value one over the other right now. I just know that defensively at my position, I'll always have to be strong. My mindset's always got to be there and I have to keep my body healthy so that I can help the team and the pitchers out. When I make a mistake back there defensively, everybody sees it and the repercussions are pretty big.

You threw out 47 percent of runners last year. What would you credit as the primary reason for that: a strong arm, accurate throws, a quick release point, or all of the above?

I think it's a little of everything. I have a pretty good arm I think, but I know there are guys not just in our system but in other organizations that have even stronger arms. They have better footwork than me and are a little quicker than me. One thing that I think separates me from them is I have pretty good accuracy. My throws are pretty much always on the bag and that looks good to the umpire sometimes.

Your manager at Daytona, Buddy Bailey, says you really work the pitchers to get outs. Is that a nice way of saying you won't hesitate to get on a pitcher's case?

As a catcher, I think you have to understand each pitcher. Each pitcher is a different person and different people are going to react certain ways in certain situations. Sometimes there are guys that I think you're going to have to jump on. Some will then kind of refocus or make the pitch they need to, while some guys are already hard on themselves and you have to calm them down and smooth things over. I also feel that to be a good catcher, you have to know your pitchers' strengths. If you don't, it's going to be tough getting guys out because you're going to want a certain pitch and he might ask why you want that pitch instead of another.

After you were promoted to Daytona, you started to work on some things to bring your average up. What did you work on specifically?

The biggest thing was that I was lunging forward. Maybe not lunge, but once I got planted, my back leg would keep pushing forward. The first thing that would do is lengthen my swing. When you're facing guys that are throwing 90-plus all the time, you're not going to have a chance when your swing gets too long.

Once the season ended, you went to the Instructional League in Arizona. Was there anything different that you worked on there?

Any catching stuff that I needed to do ... I just wanted to clean that up and get more reps back there. Offensively, I was trying to work on the same stuff as I was in Daytona. Baseball is a repetitive game. You just try to do the same things over and over and that's what I was trying to do in Instructs. I didn't have that great of an Instructs and I struggled, but this offseason I think I might have figured some stuff out.

That was going to be my next topic: the offseason and how you've prepared for the upcoming season.

After Instructs ended, I took awhile off. I took almost three weeks off, just kind of hanging around and not doing anything. After that, I started working out a little more. When I got into November, I started getting into the weight room about five times a week. When I got into December, I started doing a lot more cardio. Now in January, I'm trying to do the same thing with more baseball-oriented stuff like getting my arm in shape.

Do you feel your arm is presently in good shape?

I think so. I've tried to take care of it and it feels pretty good all year long. I don't throw too much right now. I'll play catch every other day or every third day and then I'll try to stretch it out. Beginning next week, I'll probably play long-toss maybe three or four times a week and go from there.

You said earlier that you thought you'd figured some things out this offseason. What would those things be?

As a hitter, I've learned that each player goes through a period where something kind of clicks in their minds; something they've heard probably a million times but for some reason it just clicks and you can feel yourself doing things a little differently. That's where I think I'm at right now.

Right after you were first drafted, you told us that you'd like to be a line-drive, gap hitter. Has anything changed in your approach at the plate since then?

I definitely want to show the organization that I have some kind of gap power. It's not necessarily home run power, because right now I don't think I'm going to be a guy that hits 20 home runs a year. I just want to be able to consistently hit the ball hard. If you can hit the ball hard and put the barrel on the ball, everything is going to take care of itself.

Are you currently training with anyone this offseason?

I don't have a trainer. During the Christmas break when colleges are usually out, I lifted weights with a buddy that I played with in high school, but I usually lift on my own. I'll hit with one of my summer coaches and with my junior college team that I played for my first year out of high school.

Looking ahead, are there any goals that you have coming into 2007?

Just to make a team out of Spring Training. I wouldn't say I have any goals. Offensively, I want to go in and make an impression. Hopefully the stuff I've been doing in the offseason will pay off and show them that my hitting is starting to come around. I'll play it out and whatever happens, happens. I just want to give myself the best opportunity to succeed.

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