Padres Draft Q & A: Casey Smith

Casey Smith knows that the success he had at Erskine College likely won't be repeated in the pros. "I know I'm not going to hit .450 at that level," Smith says, but the Padres thought enough about this slugging first baseman to take him in the ninth round.

MadFriars:  You went a little higher than some had projected, the 9th round, obviously the Padres saw something in you, were you surprised you went as high as you did?

Casey Smith:  Well, when I had spoken with the Padres after the season, they had told me it would be somewhere around there, but the ninth round was the high end of what they said, so I'm extremely excited.  

MadFriars:  Does it add some pressure since they took you sooner?

Casey Smith:  No, that's the thing, there really isn't any more pressure.  The pressure was Tuesday [the first day of the draft], I'm just glad to get in, get started, and play ball.

MadFriars:  What will be your biggest challenge in the transition from college to pro ball?

Casey Smith:  Just adjusting to pro pitching.  Everybody's so much better at that level, everybody at that level is just as good if not better than you.  Also, and this is the good side of things, playing baseball everyday.  Not having to worry about school, just being able to focus on baseball.  It's my job, that's going to be the easy part, just going out and playing everyday.

MadFriars:  Is there a little intimidation factor when you start going up against some of these big program guys?

Casey Smith:  I got to see a lot of good pitching this year, and in high school I played against guys that ended up going to that next level.  If I get up and am intimidated I'm already beat, I just have to look at them like they are just another pitcher, and if the fastball is 98 I need to start my swing sooner (laughs).

MadFriars:  You had big power numbers, but you also hit over .400, do you think both the average and power can transfer to the pro game?

Casey Smith:  I'll do the best I can, I know if I'm going to be a first baseman I have to put up power numbers, but I'm a good average hitter.  I know I'm not going to hit .450 at that level, and I think the key is to keep the strikeouts down and the walks up.  That's something I've developed in college, I've learned what to look for in certain counts, but I know there are even greater adjustments in the pro game.  In the pro game the breaking stuff breaks out of the zone, where in college it might stay in the strike zone.  The think I need to do is lay off pitchers pitches, take advantage of hitting mistakes, and when you get those mistakes, you've got to hit them hard.

MadFriars:  How much experience do you have with wood bats?

Casey Smith:  I played two summers in college with wooden bats.  I had a couple wooden bat tourneys in high school, but obviously not a full season with it.  As soon as a season was over start I started playing with wood.  I knew that if I progressed to the level I wanted to get to, eventually I'd have to swing with wood.  What I learned was that when you swing with wood it makes your swing perfect.  It's just not as forgiving, and playing with the wood during the summer actually helped my college numbers.  I'd hit with wood during the summer and then when I went back to metal line drives in the gap with wood become homers with metal.  I don't think the transition is that hard, but I did learn things, you just couldn't get the bat through zone as fast.  The first week or two I'll break a couple bats on inside fastballs, but once I get my timing back it's the same swing.

MadFriars:  I know there aren't any guarantees, but are you confident you'll sign, or are you leaning toward returning for your senior season?

Casey Smith:  I think I'm going to be in pro ball relatively soon.  We'll start having discussions this weekend, but I feel I'm ready to go play, and I think I'll be a pro player in a few days.  I'm not a first round guy, so the big thing for me is to start playing as soon as possible, so I can start proving myself.

MadFriars:  Erskine College is a smaller school, but they've already had three players drafted this year, what is it about the program that produces so many quality baseball players?

Casey Smith:  I would attribute it to Coach Nichols.  He's one of the most amazing coaches I've ever played for, he turned me into the hitter I am.  Out there the work ethic is so good, there's really nothing to do but play baseball, we're out in the middle of nowhere.  Coach Nichols just taught us to work hard, and focus.  I came here for one reason, to play ball.  He's a players coach, and now for the past three years we've had great seasons, we just missed going to the regional this year, and we've started having a lot of guys get drafted, and I bet if asked any of them they'd say everything is attributed to him.

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