Spring notes: Tom King and Nic Crosta

Two prospects come into the San Diego Padres' hitting camp with a renewed focus and priority list - pitch selection and swing. Infielder Tom King had some struggles last year but is working on swinging at his pitch. Outfielder Nic Crosta, meanwhile, has a swing in progress – one that he hopes translates onto the field this season.

King hit .231 last year for the short-season Eugene Emeralds with 19 doubles, three homers and 22 RBIs. He also drew 29 walks while whiffing 39 times in 69 games. He was hitting the ball but would often choose the wrong pitch to swing at, not getting good wood on the ball.

He aims to change that this season.

While you don't strike out a lot, one of the big things you were working on in Instructs was pitch selection – how has that developed between then and now?

Tom King: I worked on it a lot. I'm not used to that because in college I was a really aggressive hitter. Grady (Fuson) told me about halfway through the season at Eugene, guys can't back up strikes a lot here – so I took a pitch for a while, about 30 at bats, and my walks doubled just like that. So I was getting on base a lot more. I mean, at first I didn't feel real comfortable, but now I usually get a good look and see a couple of pitches first.

Is that still the primary focus of this hitting camp?

Tom King: Oh, yeah, definitely. Especially with a wood bat. You've got to get your pitch. It's not like a metal bat - you can get a missed swing and still get a good hit out of it. But with a wood bat, you've got to find your pitch.

What did you learn from your first year in professional ball after a fantastic college career at Troy?

Tom King: It was long at first. I got a little tired. But I learned just to go out every day and be focused on the game. You can't let one slip away. You've got to go out prepared every game.

You moved from shortstop in college to primarily second base in Eugene – how has that transition gone?

Tom King: I've played short and second my whole life. I've played a lot of second too. I'm a smaller guy so I've always played second, so it's not that big a deal to me.


Crosta hit .382 over 37 games with the Low-A Fort Wayne Wizards, collecting 12 doubles, seven homers and 30 RBIs. He was promoted to Lake Elsinore where he was immediately asked to change his swing plane, cutting down on its loop to create more line drives and eliminate pop outs. The result was a work in progress – he still had 22 doubles, six homers and 44 RBIs but hit .267 in 71 games. You have been working hard on creating a more level swing – are you comfortable with it yet or is it still a work in progress?

Nic Crosta: Well, I think it's always a work in progress. But I've definitely gotten a lot more comfortable, changed my grip around a little bit. It lets me create a better bat path to the ball. I'm very happy with it.

Who, in particular, has been instrumental in getting that new swing to a point where you are happy?

Nic Crosta: I think everybody, from Gray to Rob Deer. I've missed Jim Lefebvre - he's been helping me out a lot too at Instructs. You've got to credit the whole hitting staff and Max Venable as well.

Do you feel you have to be more selective at the plate with the new swing?

Nic Crosta: I think that the new swing will help me be more selective. I don't know if that's necessarily a reason to be more selective. But I think it will definitely be a byproduct of it.

You won the home run derby at the Padres Instructs – was that a testament to the strides you made with your swing?

Nic Crosta: Yeah, maybe I've gotta give that some of the credit. But at the same time I, just kind of, love those deals. But I only hit three so... (laugh) – it was enough to get it done.

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