Instructs Q&A with Josh Donaldson

Few catchers in the Northwest League had as productive of a professional debut season as Josh Donaldson, the Cubs' first-round (48th overall) supplemental draft pick.

After batting a career-best .349 with 11 home runs and 54 RBIs in his final year of college ball at Auburn, Donaldson signed with the Cubs and did not show any signs of slowing down at Class Low-A, short-season Boise.

He batted .346 with 22 extra-base hits and 35 RBIs in 49 games, walking more times (37) than he struck out (34).

Donaldson is continuing to build on his strong debut showing in the Cubs' annual Instructional League in Arizona, where he talked about his work over the weekend.

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Instructional League play is underway. Can you give us a primer of what you're working on in Arizona right now?

Josh Donaldson: It's more of like a focused practice. I'm trying to work on defense and on just trying to clean up some things offensively. It's a process that will hopefully lead to success.

What in particular do you want to clean up on offense?

Josh Donaldson: I think the big thing I've been working on is just cutting down my stride a little bit. Sometimes I get a little more into my front stride (toward the pitcher) and that causes me to get off-balance too much. That's really the major thing that we're working on right now.

You played some third base in college, and Instructs is always a good time for young players to experiment with other positions. No talk of moving you to another position already, though, right?

Josh Donaldson: No, I think they're going to try to keep me behind the plate as long as possible and that's what I want to do anyhow. We'll see what happens.

Do you feel you were born to catch?

Josh Donaldson: I don't know about that; I think it just suits my personality well and suits some of my strengths well. I think it's a position that I can play at a high level.

What has your work been like behind the dish in Instructs?

Josh Donaldson: It's just a continuation of learning the pitchers; always continuing to work on receiving, blocking and all of the little nuances of catching; learning what pitches to call in certain counts and what pitchers can do to get guys out. It's just a continuation process throughout your whole career I believe; just to continue and learn, and soak up new things.

Is there any one thing you feel you could improve on back there? You threw out 40 percent of opposing runners and had the top fielding percentage among all catchers in the Northwest League.

Josh Donaldson: Well, that's one thing I figure to be one of my strengths, being able to get rid of the ball quickly and putting it on the base. By continuing to work with pitchers in our organization and getting our chance to catch them, the more times I'll be comfortable catching them. It's just something that takes time and takes a lot of sweat. That's not something you learn overnight. For the most part, you've got to get back there and put the time in.

Going back to offense, you hit a good number of home runs (nine) in the number of AB's (162) you got. Is that something that surprised you?

Josh Donaldson: Well, it's something that I want to do. I want to be able to drive the ball and still have a high average as well. It's something that I take pride in as a hitter and something that I want to be able to do, and I feel I'm capable of doing it. Hopefully it continues over time.

Do you feel it's overly important as a catcher to hit for power?

Josh Donaldson: Honestly, I think anybody's job hitting is just to get on base. I think if guys are getting on base, you have an opportunity to score runs, whether it's hitting home runs or doubles or just getting singles. I really take a lot of pride in my on-base percentage and in not striking out and in just putting the ball in play. I want to win the game and I feel the best possible way to do that is to get on base and score runs.

Your on-base percentage was almost .500, by the way. Were you surprised at how quickly you seemed to adapt to pro ball? A lot of guys don't hit close to .350 when they come up from college.

Josh Donaldson: The thing that I kind of struggled with in the beginning was getting challenged with fastballs. In college, I saw a lot of curveballs and I didn't really get a chance to see a lot of fastballs, so it took me about a week or two to get adjusted to seeing fastballs more often. It was funny because once I started hitting them, I started seeing the curveballs again, and I was already ready for that. So it was kind of like they threw it back almost to where I was in college again. Some guys kind of resort to that, but as far as hitting almost .350, I have to admit I was kind of surprised. My goal was to hit .330 and I exceeded that, so almost hitting .350 was kind of a shock to me. Being able to have a decent slugging percentage was something I was fortunate enough to do. Like I said, I want it to continue and that's why I'm continuing to work here in Instructs and in the off-season – for continued success.

How much do you hear from your fans and friends from college?

Josh Donaldson: There are people that call and tell me I had a great season and everything. It's always good to hear from people from where you came from and that continues to follow you when you have success. I believe I get the chance to represent a great school like Auburn and represent them in the right way.

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