MadFriars' Interview: Jake Goebbert

EL PASO - Jake Goebbert was traded to the Padres in mid-May of 2014 from the Oakland A’s for long-time prospect Kyle Blanks. One of the reasons San Diego was interested in acquiring Goebbert is the number of boxes he checks; left-handed bat and an ability to play all three outfield positions and first base.

Jake was drafted by the Houston Astros in the thirteenth round of the 2009 draft out of Northwestern University, where he hit .329/.431/.534 in a three year career. In 2013 he was traded to the Oakland A’s for Travis Blackely before being sent to San Diego.

Last season he got his first opportunity in the big leagues when he appeared in 51 games with the Padres hitting .218/.313/.317 but fared better as a pinch-hitter at .273/.385/.273 in 26 plate appearances.

This season he is back in Triple-A El Paso and has seen time equally at first base, all three outfield spots and as a Designated Hitter. Defensively, most scouts see Goebbert more as a corner outfielder, but the six-foot, 210 pounds former Wildcat is a good enough athlete to fill in at the other positions too.

Coming into Sunday’s action Goebbert was hitting .282/.389/.426 and in July he is at .381/.451/.643. The strength of his offensive game is his selectivity at the plate. Since May 1 he had a base-on-balls to strikeout ratio of 33 to 32 and his on-base percentage has been above .400 since that time as well.

We caught up with Jake before a recent game to talk about his time in the Padres’ organization and where he sees his future.

Last year you got called up to the big leagues for the first time in your career with the Padres. What was it like?

Jake Goebbert: It was just an unbelievable experience and the fruition of a dream that I had worked for my entire life. I learned a lot about being a bench player and how to prepare on a daily basis.

I’ve had to play a similar role here and based on what I learned last year is how I’ve been able to keep my numbers where they are.

That must be an adjustment for you guys because none of you have any experience coming off of the bench and now you get to the toughest level.

Jake Goebbert: It is difficult but it’s fun too. In some ways you are not expected to succeed in those situations so the only pressure is on yourself. So you can only give your best effort and when you do it, it’s great.

How did you end up at Northwestern? Did you have a chance to go to the pros out of high school?

Jake Goebbert: Not really. I came from a very small town in Illinois and didn’t really have an opportunity to get drafted. Also education was always a big priority with me and to get a chance to go to a school like Northwestern was great.

It was close to home and fit all the pieces I was looking for.

Since it is a cold weather school, how did that affect you when competing against players from the SEC and ACC, where they have an opportunity to play baseball year-round?

Jake Goebbert: Once I got to pro ball it gave me a bit of an advantage because everyone knew I was a little bit behind and it gave me an opportunity to grow with some of the best teachers in the game.

It took a little more work to get to where I needed to be, but the competition also helped me out. You always want to compete.

You play all over the field. Where do you feel the most comfortable?

Jake Goebbert: It’s kind of evened out, it’s been a lot of fun.

You don’t see many guys that can play center field and first base?

Jake Goebbert: [laughs] I wouldn’t say center is my number one position but having the opportunity to play there - and teams knowing I can play there in a pinch - is a great tool to have in my pocket.

You started off slowly in April, but your numbers have been trending upward. Did you make any adjustment or is that just the way the balls bounced?

Jake Goebbert: In the first month I definitely did hit the ball hard at people but I have also made a few minor adjustments at the plate as well.

The sporadic playing time must really be tough on your timing.

Jake Goebbert: Definitely and with the mental side as well. People like Jason Lane and Murph [Pat Murphy, the former manager of the Chihuahuas and currently with the Padres] and now with Jamie Quirk and Jody Davis [the El Paso Hitting Coach] - all of whom played a long time in the big leagues - really helped me with that part of the game.

I asked Casey McElroy this too, is there anyone that Jason Lane does not help?

Jake Goebbert: He is a great asset and he will have as long a future as he wants in this game. He sees and knows things from both sides on the field and he also helps a lot off of the field.

How is Triple-A different from other levels of the minor leagues?

Jake Goebbert: I’ve been in Triple-A with three different organizations and its a melting pot and fraternity. The most successful teams are able to jell the quickest and everyone on this team has played with or against someone at some point.

Having those relationships is important along with people willing to sacrifice by playing out of position at times to get the job done. I’m not a center fielder but I have been able to play there to help the team and it reflects on what our big league team needs. You will not always have the people and positions that you want, but you have to find a way.

Triple-A is a great experience. It’s a fraternity and brotherhood and something I wish everyone could experience, but the travel is definitely a grind.

My guess is the travel at this level is tougher than the long bus rides simply because of the hours that your flights take off and the number of connections.

Jake Goebbert: It is hard when we are on those quick turnaround stretches but it is also something you get used too. You get your sleep when you can and have to make the most of everyday.

What was your biggest goal coming into the year?

Jake Goebbert: My biggest goal was just to become a better all-around player. I think my role in the big leagues will be as a fourth outfielder as a guy that can play multiple positions. I want to be the player that can come through with those pinch-hits and keep my mental focus.

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