Padres Prospect Interview: Brad Chalk

LAKE ELSINORE, CA: Brad Chalk was taken in the seventh-round of the 2007 draft by the San Diego Padres out of Clemson University.

Chalk, 22, is the quintessential leadoff man/center fielder with plus speed and an ability to get on base. Last year in Fort Wayne, he hit .275/.354/.340, stealing 19 bases in 21 attempts. Defensively, he takes good routes to balls and makes the most of an average arm with his quick release.

Although the Padres were impressed with his performance, they also worked extensively with him during the past season and in the Instructional Leagues to get him to drive the ball more in hitters counts to take better advantage of his speed.

This year, he has been one of the better players in Lake Elsinore, winning the everyday center fielder job, and, most importantly from an offensive standpoint, driving balls into the spacious Diamond, which has led to him ranking among the team leaders in extra-base hits, despite not having hit a home run.

When we spoke to you last year you were making a big effort to drive the ball more without taking away from what you do well, get on base. Obviously this year you have been hitting more doubles and triples is that still a big push for you to improve your game?

Brad Chalk: Yeah, it is to try to shoot the gaps. It's a daily process and it hasn't come easy. I always want to go back to my old habits, but that is the whole point of playing everyday, you have to get better everyday and it reflects in your work ethic.

Of course it is easier to write about whether you should try to turn on a pitch or try to slap it the other way. How do you determine what you are trying to do for each at-bat?

Brad Chalk: You actually have to really pick and choose your situations. You want to fail so you can learn from your failures. That is the reason why most of us are in the minor leagues, to learn more about what we can and can't do. You won't know your limits until you push yourself. I know that I can hit the ball well on the ground, but I also want to see if I can hit the ball for a little more power.

If you don't just look at home runs, you are hitting for power. You are leading the league in triples and second on the team in extra-base hits. Is that the part of your game you are starting to see improvement?

Brad Chalk: Definitely. It's simple hitting mechanics. If I don't get on my front foot as much and keep my hands back, I can drive the ball. I'm starting to see that I can do that part of the game as well.

You talk about learning from your failures, but you were 17-for-17 in stolen base attempts before getting caught, so are you not learning anything?

Brad Chalk: [laughs] I kind of pick my situations where I run. I try to pick my battles in watching certain pitcher's tendencies and what counts they are in. I haven't always been like that; its also been a learning process. The little things are what I have really been fortunate to have picked up along the way from all of my coaches.

You are talking about the mental approach. The scouting reports are obviously not as detailed as they are in the majors, so is it mostly by remembering what you saw a certain pitcher do the last time you faced him?

Brad Chalk: We usually have to watch on them, and the first few innings I am really trying to watch for certain things they do, a particular move, what they like to throw in certain counts. I can use it not only when I am on base, but also as a hitter.

It seems like the Padres really preach about knowing when to run and what your success rate is. For example you could steal 40 bases, but if you are caught 25 times it doesn't really benefit the team.

Brad Chalk: It doesn't do any good. We have played teams where if someone is on base they are stealing. On second with two outs and they are trying to steal. What is the point? You aren't going to do that in the major leagues so why are you doing that here? Everything we are doing here is about making yourself a better player to get to the major leagues.

I can understand that is why the Padres have that philosophy. They want you to understand baserunning, anyone can go out and run.

In the California League, it seems like not only is there a lot of ground to cover at the Diamond but there are some interesting wind patterns all over the league. How has that been?

Brad Chalk: Lancaster was a zoo. I've never experienced anything like that. We went out there early and there were 50 mile per hour winds. We didn't even take BP, we just worked on fly balls. They were hitting warning track balls that were jam jobs. So we pretty much just played 10 feet from the wall and kept everything in front of us.

This is your second full season of pro ball. What is the biggest difference in your off-season workouts as compared to last year or what you did before the season when you were at Clemson?

Brad Chalk: You have to train a little more for the 140 games. We play everyday and you don't have days off like you do in college, where you have a mandatory one day off a week and sometimes two or three actually. You have to break your body down and build up for the whole season. You really are trying hard to maintain your conditioning, but you also need to know when to pull back.

You have a nice on-base percentage and it seems like more power is starting to come. Is your biggest focus still about getting on base first or looking for something to drive?

Brad Chalk: Lately, I've been seeing a lot of strikes because the guys behind me have really been swinging it well. So I can't sit back and just look for a walk, if the pitch is there, I'm swinging.

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