Padres Prospect Interview: Brad Chalk

FORT WAYNE, IN: One of the more frequent criticisms of the San Diego Padres this year has been on the team's lack of speed, both on the base paths and in the field. The organization is trying to rectify this situation. and the best place to view it is in Fort Wayne.

The Wizards have several players that can run: Drew Cumberland, Lance Zawadzki, and Danny Payne, but centerfielder Brad Chalk can run with anyone and may be the best at incorporating speed into all facets of his game.

On any ball that is hit to the left side, Chalk appears to have a 50/50 chance to beat it out; and with several talented players that can play center, Payne, Luis Durango and Robert Perry, he has gotten the most time of anyone. Chalk takes good routes to balls and has a solid arm – he may be the organization's best defensive outfielder.

In high school, Chalk made all-state three times and was the Player of the Year in South Carolina his senior season. He played three years at Clemson, finishing off at .366/.483/.453 before being drafted by San Diego in the second-round of the 2007 draft.

A back injury curtailed most of his debut season with the Eugene Emeralds, limiting him to only 22 games.

Offensively, the best feature to his game is his ability to get on base. The big challenge for Chalk will be to try to incorporate more power into his game for the upper levels, to get into hitters counts, and drive the ball into the gap.

He appeared to be turning the corner, hitting 11 extra base hits in July, more than he had in the first three months combined but has not connected for a single extra base hit in August. Chalk does, however, have 18 stolen bases on the season without being caught.

Chalk is the type of player that people can get excited about at this level. You can see the talent and especially the potential to get better. The question is how much he can improve without taking away from his strengths.

You have to be a lot happier with how the year has been going compared to last. What happened last year in Eugene?

Brad Chalk: The big thing with me coming up to Eugene was that I was coming off of my back injury. I was definitely able to play, but my back was still nagging at me all throughout the year. Also, it was my first taste of professional ball.

It must have also screwed up your timing coming off of an injury then trying to catch up with the rest of the guys.

Brad Chalk: That is what is tough, you just have to pick it up and play it out.

The first thing you notice about you is your speed but you also have a very good on-base percentage. It seems like you place quite a bit of emphasis on being selective at the plate and getting on base.

Brad Chalk: Early on in the season, I was getting away from my strengths and trying to do too many things; but my game is getting on base and scoring runs. I'm getting back to that, getting my mechanics better, which will allow me to become more consistent.

In spring training, the Padres were trying to work with you on pulling the ball and using your speed for balls hit into the gaps. Have you tried to do more of that since you've been here?

Brad Chalk: Definitely, that is one of the big things we are working on is staying back and extending through the ball, driving the ball gap to gap. In batting practice, I can do it, but in games I start to revert back to old habits. I always grew up as someone that would hit the ball the other way and run. Here, they are trying to instill in me to look for balls that I can drive in hitter's counts. As I progress in my career, I'm going to have to do that to keep moving up the ladder. They have really explained it to me clearly, so, right now, it's just a matter of getting it done.

How do you work on driving the ball and not taking away your strength, which is hitting the ball the other way and getting on?

Brad Chalk: That is tough. Earlier in the year, you're trying to work on getting stronger and incorporating what they are teaching you so that is one of the big things I'm trying to do here. At the same time, they want to keep my strengths too, which is being selective and not going out of my zone.

You don't strike out too much, your strikeouts are about the same as your base-on-balls which is very good. What is your two-strike approach?

Brad Chalk: Just choke up, expand the zone a little and just react. Protect away, react in. Don't expand the zone too much and chase.

You've played very well defensively in center field this year. What makes you a quality defensive player out there?

Brad Chalk: Mainly just doing the work that it takes day in and day out. You just can't sit around and expect to do well in the game unless you are out there. That is one thing that people don't understand. When you are here, you see how much work guys put in during batting practice. We are out there getting reads before the game.

So when you talk about putting the work in is it mainly during batting practice where you are doing your work?

Brad Chalk: Pretty much because we don't have scheduled practices because we are playing every day. You go out there during batting practice and get as many balls as you can and afterwards Tourny [Wizard's batting coach Tom Tornincasa] hits us balls in the outfield. You really work on taking the right routes to balls and getting behind them.

You played at Clemson in a major college conference with quite a few talented players. What is the biggest difference other than the talent of playing in the minors compared to playing in college?

Brad Chalk: The biggest difference is playing every day and the travel. At Clemson, we played every Friday, Saturday and Sunday and maybe a game during the week. Here it's every day, you're traveling, you're working out and maybe you only had four or five hours of sleep. It's full time.

What type of routine do you get into when you are at home?

Brad Chalk: We have workouts twice a week at around 10, and then maybe get some lunch. Then go back on the field at 2 or 2:30. Hit off of the tee for a little bit and get some early BP. Then we stretch a little around 3:30; take an infield or an outfield. Then we go into our pre-game BP until around 5, eat, stretch at 6:30 for the game at 7 and go at it.

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