Padres Prospect Interview: Matt Antonelli

PORTLAND, OR: After Chase Headle,y second baseman Matt Antonelli is probably the best known of the Padres' prospects. Antonelli had a big year in Lake Elsinore/San Antonio in 2007, hitting with power, posting a near .400 on-base percentage and showing that he handle second defensively.

There was even some talk at the end of last season that he would make the jump all the way from Lake Elsinore to San Diego.

A slow August in San Antonio and a poor Arizona Fall League abated such talk, but that doesn't mean the organization is any less high on Antonelli. On the contrary, he is the poster child for the type of player they want to develop: athletic, strong knowledge of the strike zone and hits with power. In short, he's the leadoff man the Padres need – now.

Antonelli got off to a slow start in April, but his average is slowly starting to come around. His other numbers are down slightly, extra-base hits, BB-to-K ratios, runs scored, but with the exception of his batting average, they are not far off from what he's done in the past.

Last year going into the season there were quite a few questions about you. Whether you could play second base? If you could hit for enough power and so on. This season you are coming off of a really good season. What is the difference between this year and the last?

Matt Antonelli: I try to not look at it any different than I did last year.

Yeah, you were pretty mellow about last year when we spoke to you.

Matt Antonelli: [laughs] Yeah, I didn't really care about those types of opinions. I had heard a bunch of those things that I had no power and stuff, but I thought I was a good hitter and didn't have a bad year. I went at it the same way I did last year and just tried to improve at everything.

Are you feeling more comfortable at second base?

Matt Antonelli: Yeah, I didn't have that good a weekend in Las Vegas, but mentally I feel more comfortable than I did early on last year.

There was some talk in the off-season of moving you to centerfield. From when I've interviewed you in the past it seems like you are much happier at second because there is a little bit more action.

Matt Antonelli: Well, I don't know [laughs]. I've never really played the outfield before so I don't know what it would be like out there.

It looks boring.

Matt Antonelli: [Laughs] I like second base. I think it fits me pretty well position wise, but if they want me to go out there and play that is fine too. I'll play wherever they want me too. My goal is to be in the majors.

When I look at your stats, and I know it's early right now, your on-base percentage is a little down, but everything else for your peripheral numbers are pretty close to what they were last year. The only number that is really off is your batting average.

Matt Antonelli: It's a little frustrating but then again I know that where I am now isn't where I'm going to end up. I haven't felt real great at the plate so far, and everyone goes through that some time during the year. I'm just going through it a little earlier than everyone else.

Hopefully, I'll get all of my numbers back to where they were and improve. When I am getting hits they are going for extra bases. What I'm struggling with now is getting singles. I'm just hoping to hit some balls hard, and, hopefully, the average will creep back up.

I wanted to go back to one thing that you said earlier that you heard some things but you don't really pay that much attention to it. To me that is pretty impressive because I think most people would have a lot of trouble doing that.

Matt Antonelli: I've heard a lot of stuff and try not to read anything like that, but people tell me things, such as some guy wrote that I don't do this well or some other guy believes that I do this better. Everyone has their opinions, which is fine, but I know what I can do and what I think I will be able to do and I'm just working hard to get to that point.

One of our readers wanted to know how the trip to China impacted your spring training.

Matt Antonelli: I enjoyed China and don't think it messed with me that bad, except a few of us didn't feel that great for a few days when we got back. It lasted at most for about a week. It was a nice trip a chance to see another part of the world, and I had never really been out of the US until then. It was fun to play a baseball game in front of people who had never really seen one.

Last question, do you plan to run more this year?

Matt Antonelli: I was planning on running, but I haven't really been getting on base enough to do that.

That kind of impacts it.

Matt Antonelli: Yeah, you can say that [laughs]. The last couple games I've only been getting on once a game so that it really hasn't been the right situation. I'm sure that as I get on more there will be more opportunities. I'm looking to run to help the team, not just pad the stats.

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