Padres Prospect Interview: James Darnell

San Diego Padres prospect James Darnell is one of those rare potentials – the five-tool type. He has all the skills and is beginning to put them together with consistency in Fort Wayne.

There were some adjustments you made during instructs to hit the breaking ball better. What were those adjustments?

James Darnell: I think that it's pretty much improved from instructional ball. I think that anytime you get that many repetitions and you get great ides from the coaches – they have a lot of good stuff – and I was fortunate in college to see that a lot too so I think it's adjusting overall to the pro-game and putting good swings on my pitch being ready for it.

When you take live batting practice against your pitchers, what are you hoping to accomplish? Because you're not necessarily swinging. Maybe you swing once or twice, but really you're just tracking the pitches.

James Darnell: Yeah that's exactly it. It's seeing how good you can see the baseball. You know, pick up spin, pick it up right out of the pitcher's hand. Try to recognize things really quickly. Fastball, curveball, changeup, whatever he's throwing. To just be ready for it, it takes practice. So when you get in the game, you feel good. You feel comfortable.

You already have shown power to all fields but can also add some weight to your upper half. How do you balance how much weight to add so that it benefits you and doesn't restrict what you want to accomplish?

James Darnell: I just try to take it one day at a time. I love to work hard. I love to get in the weight room and get my work done and run and do whatever I have to do to be a better player. But that's one of the things that the guys told me, as you just mature and get older and older every year, you keep putting on that frame and keep growing. But it's a process.

In a limited sample, you hit better off righties than lefties. Any reason why that you can pinpoint?

James Darnell: I don't really know. It's such a small amount of at bats. Jim Lefebvre, who I really love working with, is the big league hitting coach now. I worked with him in instructional ball, and it was awesome just picking his brain for experience. I think he's doing a great job and that's one of the things he said to me, ‘when you get a season where you get 500 at-bats or a 1,000 at-bats, and I haven't had anything close to that. When you see that, then we can really look at what you're doing. But right now, you just go out there and try to just take apart whoever you can.

You have powerful legs and Greg Riddoch mentioned he was teasing you about having four sets of thighs. How does the leg drive help you in your swing?

James Darnell: It's great. It's a long season and you've got to be strong mentally and physically. I try to do everything I can to prepare early and during the off-season. I love doing it. That's the best part about it. I'm really excited about this year, and I wanted to do the best I possibly could to get prepared and help these guys win. That's what it's all about is winning and working hard and being the best team guy you can. It's a game where you have to have a strong core and strong legs, and that's what I try to do.

You have shown to be studious in your approach to the game. What are you looking for when you are in the dugout watching the opposition?

James Darnell: Just any little thing to pick up, to give me an advantage to make me a better player. When I was growing up, I loved Cal Ripkin and Tony Gwynn, but I try to kind of model myself after Cal Ripkin by working hard. I've read his book and one of the things he says is ‘always be watching the game and how you're doing because you never know when you're going to see a tell from somebody, or you're going to see something that will help your teammates out.' so that's what I try to do.

I try to get into the game as much as possible. I try to take one pitch at a time and sometimes you pick something up, sometimes you don't so you just go with it.

Do you also keep a journal, and if so, what are you writing in there?

James Darnell: In college, I didn't do it as much, because they did so much background for us. They would come to us and say, ‘here's what we got' but here, at the start of the season, that's one of the things they were telling us because you can see over a period of time what these guys are doing to you, and what to do in certain situations. Information is power. With it you can do so much.

As long as you don't do to much at the plate.

James Darnell: No, when you're at the plate you've gotta let it fly, but when you're back on the offseason analyzing and figuring out how to get better, when you have that info, that just helps out tons.

You came out to the early hitter's camp. What were you able to accomplish by coming out early and did it involve mechanical changes?

James Darnell: It's great. We do a lot of tracking. It helps to see the ball and take some good swings off these pitchers.

This is a real talented group of pitchers, and a lot of guys out here they got their stuff together so you just want to try and put good swings on the ball get things moving early. You're not really trying to do too much, but when you get to camp you might feel that pressure if you haven't had enough swings so when you get out there early it just takes that pressure off. You just work.

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