Padres Prospect Interview: Chris Wilkes

Everyone thought San Diego Padres prospect Chris Wilkes would end up playing football. They were wrong, and Wilkes proved how good he could be with a sensational debut season.

You had an excellent season. What really stood out is how many ground ball outs you were able to collect.

Chris Wilkes: I am not really a strikeout pitcher. They do come sometimes but usually what I am able to get is ground balls. The two-seam runs in on righties or changeup away to lefties – those are the two pitches that worked well.

One thing that Grady Fuson had said is you really bought into the changeup. For a young guy, that is pretty rare.

Chris Wilkes: That is by far my best pitch. It works. I throw it when I am behind in the count or the first pitch of a count. It is my best pitch and works well for me.

What might be a little surprising is that you don't have the big velocity. You are a former quarterback with a big build. Those two seem to click in my brain. How close is it between throwing a baseball and throwing a football?

Chris Wilkes: The football helps my changeup a lot. I know pitchers that have thrown the football to help their changeup. I think it helped me a lot. It is a natural throw for me. Throwing footballs also made my arm stronger. It has been a plus.

So you are saying you were never Brett Favre and more Chad Pennington?

Chris Wilkes: Yes, exactly!

What are the big things you worked on at instructs and what will be that third pitch?

Chris Wilkes: The slider is not my best pitch, but I can throw it for a strike when I have to. Usually, I can throw it as a first pitch to a righty to keep them off-balance and make sure they aren't waiting on my changeup. The slider is what I have been working on.

What is it that you need to perfect with the slider to make it effective?

Chris Wilkes: The slider – sometimes I will come off it and won't throw it with the arm speed I need to. I am not throwing it like a fastball and try and aim it more than throw it.

Grady had also mentioned only seeing you work out.

Chris Wilkes: That is correct. The Padres never saw me throw in a game. I threw a bullpen for them. I pitched in front of a scout that lives close to me. He asked me to come to the school and throw for him. I didn't know if I was going to be drafted. It would have to be a good amount of money and good position for me to go. They called and I was more than happy.

You come into baseball and walk eight all season. That is pretty ridiculous.

Chris Wilkes: Yeah, everything is falling in place. It is working for me real well. I love the system I am in and have no regrets at all.

Did you expect that kind of success?

Chris Wilkes: No, not at all. I thought coming here – a young guy against guys that are professional athletes that I might get knocked around. I got a good defense – that also helped. I loved it. ‘Hit me if you can, here it is.' I loved it.

how close were you to attending Ole Miss?

Chris Wilkes: I was pretty close – if the money and situation weren't right. I knew this was my chance and this was where I wanted to be. I needed to take it.

It is kind of an interesting turn since a lot of people had tabbed you for football all along and never took the baseball thing seriously. And here we are.

Chris Wilkes: Right. See, I never was able to do the baseball stuff during the offseason. During the fall it was football, and I played baseball for January, February, March and April and then it was back to football. I loved it and I knew I wanted to play baseball.

You had a closeup view of what Jaff Decker was able to do this season. What did you see that made him so impressive?

Chris Wilkes: Just the way he gets on base. He waits for his pitch to hit and is not going to give in or swing at junk. He waits until he gets his pitch and if he doesn't get it, he will take his base.

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