Padres Prospect Interview: Nick Hundley

FORT WAYNE - Coming into the season Wizards' catcher Nick Hundley had as much hype surrounding him as anyone in the Padres' system. He was seen as a top prospect that represented the middle ground between the organization's catchers Colt Morton and George Kottaras.

He has a little more power than Kottaras and a better command of the strike zone than Morton.

Nick Hundley represents another in the new breed of Padres' draft picks, a guy who hits with power and knows how to take a walk. His rather-pedestrian batting average at Eugene last year was offset by a good eye and impressive power in his professional debut. Hundley walked (33) nearly as many times as he struck out (35), and had an .844 OPS.

Despite a mystifying bout with passed balls early in his professional career, his defense is coming along, and Padres catching instructor Joe Ferguson was impressed with the improvement that he saw throughout last season. This year he only has three errors in 43 games.

Hundley had a rough first few months of the season at Fort Wayne. In April he hit .221/.289/.265, but started to pick it up in May .259/.397/.414 and exploded in June, with a .410/.455/1.307, with seven home runs.

We caught up with Nick on our recent visit to Fort Wayne just before he was promoted to Lake Elsinore.

Last year you had a good year in Eugene, this year you started off a little slow. What has been the reason for the slow start?

Nick Hundley: Definitely a slow start, probably pressing. I was trying to do too much and put too much pressure on myself instead of just playing and having a good time. Now I'm just going out there and letting it all hang out and having fun.

Did you put too much pressure on yourself because of all the good press that you received in the off-season?

Nick Hundley: It could have been it, but I don't want to make excuses for anything because I am the one out there playing. You definitely want to live up to the expectations that the organization has for me, and I'm glad they have high expectations for me. I have high expectations for myself.

What was the biggest difference from the Midwest League to the Northwest League?

Nick Hundley: Guys challenge you more here. In the Northwest League I was seeing a lot more off-speed pitches, here they come right at you with fastballs.

It always seems to us that the pitchers have a huge advantage in the Northwest League compared to the Midwest because so many hitters are getting used to hitting with wooden bats.

Nick Hundley: I'm comfortable swinging with the wooden bats and it wasn't too much of an adjustment for me. The biggest thing was just going out there and getting at-bats every single day. You get in a slide and if you don't fix it fast you are looking at 10-12 at bats in three days. It can get ugly quick, so you have to make quicker adjustments fast.

What is the biggest difference between playing college ball and playing professionally? Is it just the competition or how the game is played without aluminum bats?

Nick Hundley: College ball in the Pac-10 is real good competition. Every night you are going out there against someone pretty good. If you look at the draft they had three guys in the top 10 picks.

You play three games a week in college, so you have a lot of time to fix something that is wrong. Here you are going out every day four or five at-bats a day, so you got to fix something that is wrong pretty quick.

This is your first full year of pro ball, how has the off-season changed as compared to college?

Nick Hundley: Just work a lot harder, that is the biggest thing. Run, get myself in the best shape I can, running, cardio so I can make it through 100 or more games behind the plate.

Contact senior writer John Conniff at conniff@sandiegosports.net


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