Padres Prospect Interview: Lance Zawadzki

FORT WAYNE, IN: Wizards' shortstop/second baseman Lance Zawadzki is the type of player scouts love to recommend. A player with terrific tools but for a variety of reasons wasn't able to put it completely together in college. Consequently, it's a chance to get a player with a much higher ceiling than normally would be available later in the draft.

The Padres drafted Zawadzki in the fourth-round of the 2007 draft. The Framingham, Massachusetts native originally intended to go to LSU, turning down a chance to play professionally with Montreal, but left without playing a game to attend San Diego State before finishing up his career at Lee College in Tennessee, a NAIA.

At SDSU, appendicitis cut into his first 11 games, but he still managed to hit .287/.333/.434. His sophomore year was his best where he was a first-team All-Mountain West selection, hitting .335/.401/.548 despite a dislocated knee and pulled hamstring. His last year as an Aztec, injuries shelved him again as he ended up at.243/.332/.379.

Zawadzki was drafted by St. Louis in the 15th-round of the 2006 draft, but when he couldn't get the deal that he wanted from the Cardinals he elected to go to Lee College to finish his collegiate career where he hit .461 average with 42 of his 106 hits going for extra bases. He led the Flames to a 51-15 record as Lee won its first Super South Regional Crown.

The switch-hitting Zawadzki has plus bat speed and raw power with an arm many scouts graded as a 70 on a 20-80 scale. He has decent speed and is considered to be a solid athlete.

Injuries limited Zawadzki to only 25 games in Eugene, as he hit .267/.339/.386. This year, he started out slow but has improved every month. In July, he put together his best month at the plate hitting .337/.422/.539. Despite his plus arm he has an organization high of 27 errors but most believe as his repetitions increase his fielding will significantly improve.

If Zawadzki, 23, can stay healthy he could rise quickly in the system.

Could you tell us a little about your background?

Lance Zawadzki: I went to San Diego State my first three years and then finished up at Lee College in Tennessee for my last year. I was drafted by the Padres in the fourth-round last year and was at Eugene. I pulled my quad before the first game, and I pulled it again when I tried to come back to soon. So, I went down to Arizona rehabbed and played about 10 games down there. Then I came back to Eugene for the last 25 games.

You have been playing quite a bit of short with Cumberland going down.

Lance Zawadzki: Drew [Cumberland], Andy [Parrino] and I have all been rotating between second and short, but now with Drew getting hurt I've been playing more short. We're all kind of learning both sides of the infield.

My guess is you feel most comfortable at short because that is where you have played the most?

Lance Zawadzki: Yeah, I guess, but it really doesn't matter to me either way. It's not a big deal either side of the bag.

Your offense has picked up this year from last, what is the reason for your improvement?

Lance Zawadzki: My first 150 at-bats, I really struggled here and was just trying to do too much. I spent a lot of hours with Tom Tornicasa, our hitting coach, getting here early and staying late just trying to work out and get back on track. It was really just a question of putting in the work and getting comfortable.

It seems like it can be a little more work for a switch-hitter because you have two sides of the plate to take care off. It seems that you have to work twice as hard.

Lance Zawadzki: It is when something goes wrong on one side its usually going to affect you on the other. It can be tough, but that is probably the reason why there are not that many switch-hitters.

Do you ever get in a slump that is just on one side?

Lance Zawadzki: You do. You can go on a five-game stretch where you are just facing all righties or a lot of lefties. So you have to make sure that you get your BP in on both sides. Because you can get to a point where you haven't faced a lefty in a few days then suddenly you have to go up there right-handed when you haven't been swinging on that side for awhile. That is just the way switch-hitting goes you get in a groove on one side then you have to turn around.

When did you start switch-hitting?

Lance Zawadzki: I've been switch-hitting ever since I could hold a bat. My dad kind of stressed that.

Harold Reynolds, who was a switch-hitter, claimed that one of the keys to switch-hitting is having a different stance for each side of the plate. Do you find that is true?

Lance Zawadzki: It's different for everyone. I've watched a couple of big leaguers and some are mirror images of each other from both sides of the plate and some guys are completely different, like Chipper Jones. Others like Gary Matthews Jr. are the same from both sides and that seems to have worked for him.

With me when I had trouble earlier this year, I went back to a mirror and I felt good left-handed but not right-handed. I tried to mirror that swing on my right side and it's actually worked out really well for me.

What is the biggest part of your game that you need to work on defensively and at the plate?

Lance Zawadzki: It all goes back to consistency both ways because we play so many games. This is the first time any of us have played over 100 games, and I think the biggest thing is to go through the same motions every time and to get into that groove.

It's easy to write that you need to focus but you are playing the middle infield and you have to be in on every play and every at-bat. How do you work on the mental part of the game?

Lance Zawadzki: I think the 140-game season is more of a mental toll on your body than a physical one. It's just trying to take the game pitch-by-pitch instead of inning-by-inning. If you start looking at the big picture too much your mind starts to wander and that is where you get in trouble.

How do you keep up your strength throughout the season? It seems after a long day at the park the last thing you want to do the next morning is to get up and work out?

Lance Zawadzki: It is tough, and it's hard to workout but you really need to go. As much as you may not want to go, if you don't, your body is going to start to break down. That is a big part of it. You have to push yourself but it's just as important to get your sleep and eat right.

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