Padres Prospect Interview: Eric Sogard

SAN ANTONIO, TX.: "Professional hitter" is a common term that is heard around minor league ballparks, but it is rarely explained and is even a rarer sight.

A professional hitter is a batter that doesn't give away at-bats. He makes a pitcher get him out, not the other way around. If he gets hit pitch in an at-bat, he makes them pay. If not, he trots down to first base.

This type of batter has more walks than strikeouts and many times more extra-base hits than strikeouts as well.

One of the closest players the Padres have in this organization to that model, is Eric Sogard, the second baseman for the Missions.

Sogard was drafted out of Arizona State University in the second-round of the 2007 draft. The left-hand hitting second baseman was decent in Eugene/Fort Wayne in 2007, but had a very big year in Lake Elsinore in 2008, hitting .308/.394/.453 with 42 doubles to lead the Cal League and a 79/62 BB/K ratio to go along with a ratio of XBH/K of 55/62.

So far in San Antonio, he's picked up where he's left off, finishing off April at .306/.444/.458. The big question about him has always been if he has the ability to stay at second defensively, but so far he has looked the solid and his bat will play in the majors.

Sogard was on the disabled list with a strained groin but returned to the team on May 15.

When you first got drafted by the Padres, you put up some decent numbers in Eugene and Fort Wayne, but really had a big year in Lake Elsinore. Even at Lake Elsinore, where you had some very good numbers, you hit over .330 for three months and .243 for the other two. What caused this?

Eric Sogard: I was just working hard in the off-season after the Padres signed me. It was really the first time I had any time off and I gained about 15 pounds. I thought it really helped me in Lake Elsinore.

As for having those good months, bad months; I don't know. I just went out there and tried as hard as I could everyday. Sometimes more balls drop in than others.

I know, but I don't recall ever seeing someone hit exactly .243 for two different months and then having the success you had in the others.

Eric Sogard: [laughs]. I know, I don't know how it happened either. You just have to keep battling and work on getting things turned around.

Even when you were having bad months, your OBP only dropped below .361 once. You led the Cal League in doubles with 42 but were also in the top five in on-base percentage. What enables you to draw so many walks?

Eric Sogard: It's something I take a lot of pride up there is in seeing a lot of pitches and working the count. I do feel that I have a good eye and use that to my advantage. I do see a lot of pitches each at-bat and I think that will help me down the line. If it works out that the pitcher gives in and throws four balls then I'm on my way down to first base.

Now this philosophy is a big controversy in San Diego. You're not up at the plate looking to take a walk, but in reality you are looking for a certain pitch to drive. For example if you have four at-bats in a game and you hit the first pitch to the wall in each at-bat, then no one is really going to get on you?

Eric Sogard: Exactly and that is just baseball. If you are up there and you have a good at-bat regardless of the outcome, that is what you can control. They say the baseball gods will even everything out and that is how it goes.

You played shortstop at ASU and last year you played on some pretty tough infields in the Cal League. What have you done to improve yourself defensively?

Eric Sogard: Through college I got to play a lot of places. In my sophomore year, I played every infield and outfield position. My junior year I actually got to stick at second base and Andy Stankowitz worked with us on the infield and it really helped me to pick up my game. I've been starting to get more comfortable out there at second.

So you have worked with Gary Jones the Padres roving instructor quite a bit?

Eric Sogard: Oh yes. He knows the game really well and a lot of the little things that really help you improve.

What are some of the things defensively that you have improved since college?

Eric Sogard: Defensively all around, especially early in my college career it was tough to get each position really down, the little details, because I was moving around so much. I just had the position down in general.

You are one of the few players that wears glasses. Is there a reason you don't have contacts or have had LASIK surgery?

Eric Sogard: Contact lenses have never really been my thing, I see twice as well with glasses as with contacts. I got used to glasses when I was a sophomore in high school and never really had a problem with. LASIK is something that I might look at down the road.

How did you get to be a left-handed batter?

Eric Sogard: Apparently, my dad said when we were playing whiffle ball in the back yard I used to throw and bat left-handed. I still can throw left-handed, but I wanted to be an infielder so I learned how to throw right. My brother and I are both left-handed hitters.

How big an adjustment is that from college, the amount of games that are played professionally?

Eric Sogard: It is a huge difference. In college you play weekends, then you get five days to analyze what you did wrong and really work at it. If you are in a slump, if there is something wrong with your swing it is really difficult to make that adjustment on the fly. You have to really strive for consistency.

Is it tough to pace yourself for the amount of games. Is that the biggest adjustment of the first full season?

Eric Sogard: That is the biggest adjustment. You hear everyone talking that it is a long season, but until you play it you don't know how long it is. I thought my body held up pretty well and hopefully I can do it again this year.

How tough is it going to be to keep on the weight that you gained in the off-season in this heat?

Eric Sogard: I'm used to the Arizona heat, but this is a little more humid from what I understand, but we'll see.

What is the biggest thing you need to do to improve your game and take it to the next level?

Eric Sogard: Just come out and work hard everyday. The biggest thing is the mental aspect, not letting little things affect my performance, such as what I did the last day. There is always another game, another chance to improve.

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