MadFriars' Interview: Justin Hancock

Justin Hancock, 21, was drafted in the ninth round of the 2011 draft by the San Diego out of Lincoln Trail Junior College. He gave up a scholarship to Indiana State University to sign with the Padres in one of the many over the slot deals then scouting director Jason McLeod made that year.

Hancock, at 6'3" and 175 lbs. with a fastball that sat consistently in the low 90s but so-so secondary pitches, is the type of player that screams projectability and always gets scouts excited.

Hancock struggled last season in the AZL with a 7.09 ERA but bounced back to have a strong spring and was able to make the Fort Wayne TinCaps out of camp. However a 6.95 ERA in 33 innings sent the young right-hander back down to extended spring in late May.

Justin turned it around in Eugene showing the promise that made the Padres so interested in him. He went 5-2 with a 1.61 ERA and led the staff in innings pitched with 72.2 as he held the Northwest League batters to a .204 batting average.

We caught up with him at the end of the season when he was home in Ohio to find out what was the turning point in his year.

You struggled you're first year in the AZL and with Fort Wayne at the beginning of the year and then you really turned it around in Eugene. Why?

Justin Hancock: I just changed my work ethic and my mound presence was much better . When I was in Fort Wayne I was only showing up when I needed too. When I got to Eugene I started to show up earlier to do some extra running and band work on my shoulders and it paid off.

Also it really helped me to get my mind right when I went out on the mound.

You threw over a hundred innings this year between Fort Wayne and Eugene. How does your arm feel?

Justin Hancock: It feels pretty good and it is the most that I have ever thrown in my life. I'm home right now and getting ready to go back to Arizona and gear up for that 100 degree heat. (laughs)

Could you go over briefly what you throw?

Hancock struck out 66 in 72.2 innings pitched.

Justin Hancock: I throw a four and two-seam fast ball, curve and change-up. With lefties I tend to throw the two-seamer more away and to righties I try to throw the four-seamer in.

What made you decide to not go to Indiana State from Lincoln Trail College?

Justin Hancock: I just felt it was the right time. I've always wanted to pitch in the major leagues and this just seemed like the best opportunity.

Like your buddy Matt Wisler, you are from Ohio which doesn't get as many scouts as the south and west. What was the competition like and do you feel you were overlooked?

Justin Hancock: The competition in high school was ok and at the junior college that I went too I think was somewhat comparable to some Division I schools.

As far as not being noticed it's hard to say. I think it was more of the case where I wasn't really tested so it's hard to tell.

In high school most of the time you are going to be able to throw your 90 mph fastball by nearly everyone. How does that change once you get to the pros?

Justin Hancock: For me it was when I started to throw my two-seamers more for strikes. As you said if you throw something without any movement, it doesn't matter how hard you throw it because it's going out just as fast.

Once I started focusing more on movement and placing my four-seamer where it needed to be that is when I started to find success. I can't say enough about my pitching coach in Eugene Nelson Cruz who really helped me to understand pitch sequences and basically just how to approach the game.

Murph [Pat Murphy, the Emeralds manager] was great in telling me what pitch I should have thrown when I made a mistake. Overall it was just a great summer.

What was your biggest adjustment to the pro game?

Justin Hancock: Just becoming a pitcher. You have to realize that no matter how good you are coming out of high school and college that these guys can hit something straight.

How was your off-season different last year from what you had been doing in the past?

Justin Hancock: You have a lot more time off but at the same time you have to work harder because the competition you are going to be facing is better.

A big difference for me last year was coming out to Arizona last year in January with Matt Wisler [Wisler was one of the better pitchers in Fort Wayne this summer] and getting an apartment. Just getting started throwing early because it is so cold in Ohio really helped me a lot.

What is the biggest part of your game you are looking to improve for 2013?

Justin Hancock: My secondary pitches. They are ok right now but need to get a lot more consistent. I would also like to start to develop a slider which I think would play well with my two-seamer.

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