Padres Prospect Interview: Brett Bonvechio

MOBILE -We caught up with Mobile BayBears starting third baseman and part-time first baseman Brett Bonvechio before a recent game against the Mississippi Braves. Bonvechio has been in the Padres system since 2004, when he was acquired from the Boston Red Sox for outfielder Henri Stanly.

A left-handed hitter, Bonvechio is capable of putting up all sorts of numbers. Last year with the Lake Elsinore Storm was his best year professionally when he hit .267/.385/.460, with 19 home runs and 73 RBI's. The problem was that he also struck out 163 times in 485 at-bats and made 35 errors.

This year he's off to an interesting start, a .235 batting average, but a .372 on-base percentage to go along with a .436 slugging percentage. He's one of the leaders on the team in home runs, strikeouts, RBI's, errors and walks. The man's stats define the term "mixed bag". Stats through Saturday

Whenever we go over your stats you have some of the strangest stats of anyone on the team. You're one of the leaders in RBIs, total bases, walks, but you're hitting around .200. What is going on?

Brett Bonvechio: Its just a constant work in progress with my weight distribution at the plate. I'm not the prototypical power guy when you look at me, I'm not the size of MJ [Michael Johnson] so I use a little bit more of my body and I tend to leak out which leave me vulnerable to off-speed and breaking pitches.

I've been working with Arnie [batting coach Arnie Beyeler at Mobile] on staying back better, its coming along. I'm starting to take better swings, feel better at the plate and walk a little more.

In the off-season you said you were going to work on being more aggressive earlier in the count if you got the pitch that you were looking for. Is that easier said than done?

Brett Bonvechio: It is easier said than done, especially here. That statement was coming from my experience in the Cal League. Pitchers were making mistakes, they might miss in and I would try to jump on it.

Here I've maybe gotten four inside hittable fastballs in the first three weeks. Its one of those times I'm not seeing many inside pitches to drive. Right now I'm just going up to the plate with an idea of what pitch I want to hit. This year I haven't had that opportunity as much as I would have liked, but yeah if I get that pitch this year I'm definitely going to be more aggressive.

How much different is the Southern League than the lower levels?

Brett Bonvechio: The pitchers are definitely better or they wouldn't be here. They throw their off-speed stuff better for strikes and they locate the fastball better. So you're working with maybe one hittable fastball per at-bat. The heat definitely comes into play, so it wears on your body a little more.

Its only early May.

Brett Bonvechio: Exactly, but its still warm. I think a lot of it is also a mental approach, some guys can that too much into their head. I think you just have to go into the box thinking you're the best hitter in there.

I know you've just gone over to first base, but when Michael Johnson is healthy the plan is to move you back to third base. Is playing third base in Mobile a little easier than playing at Lake Elsinore?

Also, we've noticed that for the last four years, the third baseman on the Storm has led the team in errors. Comments?

Brett Bonvechio: The field here is softer so you get better hops. The thing about the Elsinore field is they hold dirt bike racing on it, and the place where they take off for jumps is around the third base area. I'm not trying to make excuses for myself or anyone else, but it definitely creates bad hops. With guys smoking balls down there its one of the last things you want to worry about.

With the Padres having an old third baseman in Vinny Castilla and getting closer to the major leagues in AA, is it tough not to start to think about how close you are to the big leagues?

Brett Bonvechio: I don't really think about it too much. If I put up the numbers I'll be there, if I don't its not going to happen. There is always a guy ahead of you until you get to the big leagues and once you get there, you have to fight to stay there. I just go in and do my business and try to get better.

[Editor's note, last year Bonvechio predicted and hit the infamous "Madfriars called shot" at Lake Elsinore during an interview]

So are you going to help silence Kevin Goldstein from Baseball Prospectus again and hit another home run tonight?

Brett Bonvechio: I sure hope so [laughs].

[For the record Brett his home run the next night, not right after the interview, just missing his date with history]

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