Padres Prospect Interview: Luis Durango

SAN ANTONIO, TX.: Outfielder Luis Durango, 23, has won three short-season batting titles, hit .431/.506/.514 in limited time in Lake Elsinore last year and has career minor league numbers of .352/.428/.421; but he didn't make the Madfriars.com Top 20 or rank high in any other minor league publications.

Why?

The quick answer is as gifted as he was at the plate, he's a difficult guy to project. One, he had a weak arm which was compounded by the fact that he took bad routes to the ball and only his great speed saved him from making even more errors.

At the plate, he did have gap power, but was tentative on the base paths which led to steal totals that were lower than he should have had along with a subpar rate [49 out of 73].

So regardless of what he hit, it was hard to see him as anything more than a left fielder, which makes it very difficult to break into the major leagues.

Hitting .352 is .352, and the 5-foot-9 switch-hitting Durango's bat has not slowed down in Double-A San Antonio. What has changed is that his defense and abilities on the basepaths have picked up.

When Durango first signed with San Diego, he couldn't throw the ball 100 yards, which has increased enough for the Missions to feel comfortable putting him center field a few days a week; so there has been substantial improvement.

On the basepaths, the speed is still there. What has changed is his ability to read pitchers and knowing when to run. He has stole a Texas League leading 17 bases and paces the organization in thefts.

A special thanks to Ernesto Frieri for translating.

When I saw you last year in May in Fort Wayne you were struggling some but after I left you went on to put together a very good season in the Midwest League and hit very well in Lake Elsinore. What was the reason for the big turn around?

Luis Durango: In Fort Wayne, the climate was very cold early on and was very different for me being from Panama. When the hot weather came around, I started to feel better and my performance picked up.

You have much speed, but where do you get all the power from such a slight frame?

Luis Durango: I don't know, but I practice everyday with the hitting coach to get more discipline on my swings and try to drive the ball. Also, I've tried to lift more weights to get stronger, but the main thing is to keep better balance on my swing, which I am learning every day.

The biggest improvement has been defensively, especially with your arm and routes. How did you improve so much?

Luis Durango: Everyday in spring training I worked very hard on my throws and my routes with Tom Gamboa [the Padres Minor League Field Coordinator]. It was very good for me, in the morning and after the game.

Do you prefer playing center field where you can take greater advantage of your speed?

Luis Durango: I love to play center field because I can move my feet and cover more distance. Playing the corners is where teams look for more power hitters, and I'm not a power hitter. I think I'm a fast guy that can hit the ball on the ground and make things happen on the bases.

Your base stealing percentages have gone up this year. Are you begining to think more about the situations you are running in rather than just trying to beat all the throws with your legs?

Luis Durango: I've really tried to think about game situations, what is the count, who is the hitter and what is going on in the game. The other night, I was thrown out trying to steal third and it was more of a mental mistake, it wasn't the right situation.

You have accomplished so many of your goals so quickly, what do you see next in your future?

Luis Durango: I want to keep playing my game, keeping the ball on the ground and using my speed. I think I have been moving really fast, this is my second full season league and I am in Double-A. I need to keep working on my fielding and arm.

I know how to work, so I think I have a good chance to keep improving.

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