Padres Prospect Interview: Jaff Decker

Fort Wayne, IN: Arizona Rookie League MVP – the encore so far for San Diego Padres prospect Jaff Decker has been the nomination to the All-Star game in the Midwest League. No sophomore slump here.

Talk about the back injury and how that came about.

Jaff Decker: The back was aching a little bit and I tweaked it a little bit and played through it and then hit a double and tweaked it a little bit too much. I had to come out and was tight ever since.

Talk a little bit about the adjustments you have had to make coming into the Midwest League. It seems like you had to get your feet wet early on and then turned it on.

Jaff Decker: It is a blast. I have real good guys surrounding me to help my numbers go up. It has been a real easy transition. I have real good friends here in Tekotte and that has made it a real easy transition. We have a great group of guys.

The power numbers have gone up this season. The first day I got here – and you were out sick – everyone I talked to commented on the 450-foot homer that this Jaff Decker hit into the right field bleachers. It seems like you are being a tad more aggressive this season. Is that a fair assessment?

Jaff Decker: I think so. Me and (Bob) Skube worked this offseason on getting that one pitch and not missing it. I really took that into consideration in the games. I think that is one reason my power numbers have gone up.

At the same time, your numbers with runners in scoring position are a little bit down. Do you feel like you are putting too much pressure on yourself to perform in those situations?

Jaff Decker: A little bit. I feel like I have hit a lot of balls hard with runners in scoring position that haven't gone through. I hope they start falling – broken bat base hits. I feel like I have hit a lot of balls hard but they haven't gone through so far.

You talked about pitch selection – it doesn't seem like you had bad pitch selection last year given your walk-to-strikeout ratio. Do you feel like you have even refined that more?

Jaff Decker: I think a little bit. It all goes back to what I did in the offseason. I really worked on getting that one pitch to hit. It really comes down to when it is a 1-1 count – the pitcher still has to throw me two more strikes. If it is 1-0 – he still has to come to me three more times. I think it has come down to realizing that he has to throw three pitches in the zone and I need to wait for that one pitch to hit.

Have you noticed anything different between the Arizona Rookie League and the Midwest League, besdies the cold to begin the year?

Jaff Decker: I think that most pitches throw really hard with plus pitches in Arizona. You get a few guys that can throw a curveball for a strike but the guys up here do it all.

Do you feel like you are seeing more breaking balls now than you did in Arizona?

Jaff Decker: I do. It's funny. I will be ahead in the count and see a changeup or curveball instead of that fastball. It is not only the pitch that I want to hit but the location too. That is something I am working on too.

You made it to the All-Star game but didn't get a chance to go.

Jaff Decker: I went home and did some rehab there. I wanted to be healthy for the second half and not tweak it all year.

You are playing against guys that are three, four, and five years older than you but still get named to the All-Star game. What does that mean to you?

Jaff Decker: It means a lot. There are great players out here – like a Sawyer Carroll who was named. I have always played with guys that are older than me and tried to be better or the same caliber as them. It means a lot to me.

Do you think starting the year extended – did that take away from your rhythm early on?

Jaff Decker: I think it did. But – being down there with Flo (Jose Flores) again and Skub, they really helped me get back into it quickly. They spent extra time with me early and after the games. They helped me get back into the swing of things pretty fast.

What do you need to do to take your game to the next level?

Jaff Decker: I think I need to get into better shape and keep playing and getting more games under my belt.

Better shape – what does that mean?

Jaff Decker: Lose a little weight – get the quickness back up. I have lost 10 to 15 pounds, so I am getting there. I need to be ready for the long stretch of the season.

Will that allow you to stay more limber – is that the goal?

Jaff Decker: Yes – they want me to get more flexible. Keep the same gameplan I have now and keep my body and mindset on the whole season.

There have been some concern about your swing and the mechanics of your starting position. Yet, no changes have been made to it and it looks like you are in a strong position to hit. Do you kind of fear that day that maybe it breaks down in Double-A and now I have to change?

Jaff Decker: A little bit. I have talked to my dad a lot about it. It is one of those things that is so unique. You don't really see that many people doing it.

I have looked at video and once I come to the ball and approach the ball it is pretty much the exact same that most hitters have. I start a little bit different but get to the same spot.

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