Padres Prospect Interview: Blake Tekotte

FORT WAYNE, IN: After a brutal first two months with an OPS below .600, TinCaps center fielder Blake Tekotte, 22, got back on track with a torrid June and has hit reasonably well ever since.

Tekotte starred in both football and baseball in high school, leading both teams to state titles and was twice named all-state in baseball. After turning down several scholarship offers for football, Blake went to the University of Miami where he was a three-year starter for the Hurricanes, hitting .353/. 468/.590 in his final year stealing 27 bases in 33 attempts along with a 45/39 BB/K ratio.

The Padres selected him in his junior year in the third-round of 2008 draft where he also put up solid numbers in his first year in Eugene, hitting .285/.379/.456 and was the MVP of the Instructional Leagues.

The left-handed hitting Tekotte is considered a solid center field prospect that takes good routes to balls and can run. On offense, he has shown more pop than expected along with an ability to steal bases this year, but he will have to improve upon his stolen base percentage to be more effective at higher levels.

You struggled the first two months and then really came on in June. What was the reason for the turnaround?

Blake Tekotte: I think I was putting a little too much pressure on myself at the beginning of the season. Trying to set the table because we have a lot of talent here. I wanted to be on base as much as I could and was just trying to do too much. I was swinging at pitches that I usually don't and wasn't the working the count.

When things started to click it was from working with Torni [Tom Tornincasa, the hitting coach] and Dougie [Dascenzo, the manager], just trying to get my foot down a little bit earlier to see pitches better. I started to see more pitches, get some walks and get better pitches to hit and driving the ball.

You know when you guys say it started to click after two months most of you that I meet are pretty bright guys. I know after a bad at-bat you are analyzing it – what you did and didn't do. Is the process to turn it around just that long, even though you are coming in early and taking extra work in the cage?

Blake Tekotte: Baseball is a funny game, you can love it or hate it. It definitely keeps you humble. Its a mind game but you have to come in with the same attitude, to try to get better. Work on stuff in the cage, in BP and just stay within yourself. Don't try to hit home runs in BP, work on going to the opposite field, then go gap to gap. Occasionally, I'll hit one over the fence.

You are describing yourself as a "punch and judy" hitter and you are one of the leaders in home runs and extra-base hits.

Blake Tekotte: [laughs] When the pitchers try to throw me in a little bit, I'll use my quickness to turn on the ball. If it gets up in the air it might go out, if not, hopefully, it will go down the line for a double.

I don't see myself as a power hitter, but I will take it.

I don't think I've ever met anyone in baseball who considers himself a power hitter. A guy could hit 80 out it would be, "I'm not a power guy." I guess when you try to go for too much power is how you get yourself in trouble.

Blake Tekotte: You have to stay within yourself and try to swing at good pitches or you can really screw yourself up.

The outfield defense here seems pretty good, especially with Dan Robertson in right and Jaff Decker in left who played a little center last year in the AZL. Do you ever worry about running into them out there?

Blake Tekotte: I have a pretty good idea of there range from all of us playing together. The three of us can cover a lot of ground out there. Its good knowing that I don't have to go to far into the gap for a ball out there because one of those two guys is going to be there.

What is your biggest strength and weakness defensively?

Blake Tekotte: I think I get really good jumps on balls, I think I have pretty good instincts. For weakness, I can try to do too much sometimes with my arm. I feel pretty comfortable with my glove, I just have to work on not trying to do too much and hit the cutoff man.

I really love playing center but want to learn how to play the corners to help me get to the big leagues. I had a really great outfield coach at the University of Miami that helped me out quite a bit and became much better there, and obviously Dougie here too.

Being in center field you have a great view. Are you aware of what the pitcher is trying to do to get an extra step?

Blake Tekotte: Dougie played in the big leagues, so its always good to pick his brain. Its all about knowing who is up, who is a hard thrower. If someone is going to be a little late, you want to play him to the opposite field gap. That makes you look like you have more range than you do. Its always better to be thinking of things ahead of time.

Being from Missouri, it must have been fun to go the University of Miami to play ball.

Blake Tekotte: Oh yeah, it was a no brainer when I got that call to get out of the cold weather and take a trip down there. It really is a great program and an opportunity that I couldn't pass up. It was one of the best decisions that I made in my life.

What type of adjustments did you make going from aluminum to a wood bat.

Blake Tekotte: Growing up, my dad played at Illinois State and was a pretty good ballplayer. He always wanted me to use a wood bat in BP because he thought it forced you to be more precise. I've always swung wood bats and like it quite a bit. I feel like you can't get those cheap hits and its more of a challenge. Its just something I feel is more mental than physical.

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

Blake Tekotte: I think it was just my natural side and actually switch-hit up to my sophomore year of high school before I gave it up. I didn't hit the ball as much as I would like to right-handed and the first game I faced a lefty hitting lefty I went 4-for-4, so I thought ok, I'm a lefty.

What is the one thing you really need to improve upon to keep moving up the ladder?

Blake Tekotte: Just being consistent, which I think is what upper management is looking for. Its a grind that 162-game season and you have to develop that consistent approach here.

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