Cubs Prospect Interview: Matt Canepa

Twenty-one year old Matt Canepa was the first catcher taken by the Cubs in last year's draft and was one of three players to join the organization after spending their final season in college at Cal-Poly. After developing a couple of bad habits a season ago with Class Low-A Boise, Canepa went to the Cubs' annual Instructional League camp in Arizona for help.

In his final season with the Mustangs in 2006, Canepa hit .326 in 53 games to garner a 15th-round selection from the Cubs.

He got off to a modest start in the short-season Northwest League at Boise, going 6-for-19 through his first eight games before closing with a .223 average in 45 games. He totaled four doubles and 19 walks while striking out 21 times in 130 at-bats.

Behind the plate, the 6-foot-1, 195-pound Canepa threw out eight runners in 51 attempts (16 percent) at Boise while being charged with 10 passed balls.

We caught up with the Cubs catching prospect this spring for a primer on what specifically he needed to work on in Instructs, and more.

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How would you sum up your first taste of minor league ball last summer?

The first couple of weeks in Boise, I was doing well hitting-wise and my catching was fine. Then, I kind of hit a point in mid-July where I was basically a little tired and not necessarily going at it in each at-bat. I wasn't as mentally prepared as I should have been. That's something that I worked through in the Instructional League with the hitting coaches. I kind of got into a lull and wasn't hitting as well until August when I started talking to our hitting coach (Kevin Green) a little more, so I started to turn it around a little. As far as playing in Boise and the experience I got, I had a great time. I learned a lot on the field and a lot about myself, too.

Your strikeouts and walks were pretty even last year. Is this something that comes with the territory for the type of hitter you are?

I think so. I'm not necessarily the prototypical catcher that's going to hit 15, 20 or however many home runs. I was batting in the lower part of the order so my job was to basically just get on base. If it's to the point where the pitcher's got two quick outs and I'm up there, I'm going to work him as much as I can to get on base and do whatever I can to help out the team.

How would you describe yourself as a hitter?

All I'm thinking is up the middle and to the right side. I guess that makes me a prototypical line drive, singles type hitter and that's totally fine with me. I realized in the Instructional League that if I'm going to be successful, I'm going to have to go the other way with the ball. I've been working hard this off-season and have carried that work over from Instructs to Spring Training.

What about your defense?

I try to pride myself in it. When it comes to throwing guys out, I know I could have done a better job last year. I developed a bad habit that I really only found out about in Instructs and then I corrected it. I pride myself in just helping the guy on the mound. I want to get him off the field with three outs as quickly as I can.

You mentioned falling into a lull at the plate, but what was the bad habit that you developed on defense?

It had to do with positioning. I wasn't getting myself turned properly to throw down to second base. It took a lot off of my throws because I wasn't using as much of my legs as I could, so a lot of times I left the ball short and some times I would tail off due to the fact that my arm was trying to catch up. But going to the Instructional League was nice because you get all these coaches that are showing you all these different things. I definitely think I improved while I was there.

What are some of the things you've worked on this spring?

Hitting-wise, I'm trying to get a downward angle on the bat with a line drive swing in order to go to the opposite field or up the middle on an inside pitch instead of pulling it. As far as the catching aspect goes, we've been working on basic things: blocking, throwing, etc. Early on, we hadn't thrown too much down to second just because you want to slowly build up your arm. We've done footwork and worked on pop-ups. Most of it's just been fundamentals.

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