Joe Simokaitis Interview

Position players without a whole lot of flash know they have to do the little things well in order to advance through the farm system and beyond.

They may be the "little things," but they are just as important: adjust to the situation, make routine plays in the field, hustle out every play, and so forth.

Hitting well for average and reaching base never hurts, either, and Joe Simokaitis () has been known to do both periodically.

This season, Simokaitis batted .257 with three home runs and nine doubles in 76 games, primarily as the starting shortstop for Double-A Tennessee.

He received a second-half promotion to Triple-A Iowa for his efforts and got off to a strong start there, going 8-for-23 in his first six games with the team before cooling off and finishing with a .223 average in 38 games.

Defensively, Simokaitis committed 13 errors in 421 total chances while playing short in addition to seeing some reps at second and third base.

These numbers may not stand out on paper, but Pat Listach, who managed Simokaitis at Tennessee, calls the 24-year-old infielder a sleeper; one who does some of the things that don't necessarily show up in the box scores.

"He'll sneak up on you and make a good play in the hole when you least expect it," Listach said of Simokaitis. "He's getting better with the bat. He's still got some work to do offensively, but he makes the routine play and he's got a really good arm."

Simokaitis will get a chance to do all of those things and more in the annual Arizona Fall League beginning Tuesday when the Mesa Solar Sox – the team that houses prospects from the Cubs' system each year – begin play in the postseason event.

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What are you looking to work on in Arizona starting next week?

Joe Simokaitis: From what everyone else says, it's really just a showcase for your skills. You go out, play, have fun, and show the scouts what you're about. Defensively, you show your instincts and range left and right. Hitting-wise, you're facing the best of the best so there are a lot of arms coming at you.

Are you excited to go? You were one of only three position players selected by the parent club to participate.

Joe Simokaitis: I am totally excited. Like you said, the organization gets only so many guys to send, and to be thought of as one of those guys, that's big time. Now it's up to me to go out, play and perform.

You've obviously advanced through the system quite a bit since you were drafted just two years ago. Are you pleased with that progression?

Joe Simokaitis: I couldn't be happier. To end the year in Triple-A, that's exactly where I wanted to be and where I imagine most players in the minor leagues want to be; just kind of on the doorsteps so to speak. It was exciting to get called up.

Are you happy with the overall year you had and the numbers you put up?

Joe Simokaitis: In Double-A, it was up and down a little bit, but I felt I started to come on a little strong. I got called up and kind of continued that a little bit. Toward the end, I think I kind of tailed off and got a little tired. But just ending the year there (Triple-A) and to maybe start the year there next year, I couldn't be more excited.

Nobody ever really goes through an entire season in the minor leagues without changing anything. How much and what all did you work on with your swing this year compared to the work you've done your whole career?

Joe Simokaitis: As far as when I was in Double-A working with (Tennessee hitting coach) Barbaro Garbey and Pat, I don't think it was anything big; just some of the minor things with tweaking my swing and trying to pick up something every day. Maybe it was staying short or trying to work on going the other way. When I got up to Triple-A, I didn't have as much time to work with (Iowa hitting coach) Von Joshua, but I think the main thing was trying to keep your swing short and not trying to do too much. I think a lot of times when guys jump levels, they try to do too much. Von just kind of stressed to stay short.

Late in the season, you were really showing off some power in the batting cages before the games. Is power something you're always looking to develop?

Joe Simokaitis: I don't really think about it too much. As far as the organization is concerned, I don't think they're expecting me to go out and hit 30 home runs or whatever, but it's always good to be able to put a thought in the back of a pitcher's mind that you are capable of hitting the ball out of the park if he makes a mistake. ... The cage is to critique your swing and to work on stuff, and you start trying to take that over into a game. A lot of guys, with the adrenaline of the game, they get caught up and swing too hard or change their approach somehow. I think the key to hitting is being able to take what you're doing in batting practice and apply it to the game.

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