Padres Prospect Interview: Nate Freiman

First baseman Nate Freiman was an eighth-round draft pick by the Padres in the 2009 draft after a four-year career at Duke University. The first thing anyone notices about Freiman is he's big, not quite Kyle Blanks big, but 6-foot-8, 230-pounds big.

In his senior year with the Blue Devils, Freiman hit .352/.470/.703 with 20 home runs and was second team All-ACC, behind Dustin Ackerly of North Carolina who ended up being the second overall pick in last year's draft. At Duke, he finished as the team's all time leader in home runs with 43 and has the second highest career average at .356.

The native of Wellesley, Massachusetts was also a four-time academic All-American and was originally supposed to split time between first and the mound when he came to Duke, but an arm injury in his freshman year limited him to the field.

Freiman, 23, lasted until the eighth round of the draft because, despite his gaudy college numbers, many scouts weren't convinced of his bat speed or his ability to close holes they believed were in his swing. Additionally, a fourth year senior that will need some development time in the minors is considered a risky pick.

Last year in Eugene, he put up quality numbers, leading the Northwest League with 68 RBI and 33 extra-base hits while placing second with 11 homers and hitting .336 with runners in scoring position.

This year, he is off to a hot start in Fort Wayne and is definitely someone to watch. We caught up with him at the end of spring training.

You had a very good year in Eugene last year, what did you see as the biggest difference between college and the pros?

Nate Freiman: The biggest difference is the amount of days you play. In college, you may play four or five times a week, here it is seven. You have a bad game one day the key is for it not to affect you the next game. You have to play each game, learn what you can and then move on.

How about the difference between aluminum and wood?

Nate Freiman: It's a big difference, but again it is one that you get used too.

You didn't seem to have a big problem making the adjustment.

Nate Freiman: Wood is fine and I enjoy hitting with wood. Metal is fun to hit with in college, but I'm starting to get used to it. I still have a long way to go, though.

What has been the biggest change in your game since you first signed with the Padres to now?

Nate Freiman: I've been doing a ton of work on my swing because at my size I have a lot of moving parts. I'm trying to get them all moving in the same direction. We have some good coaches and I've really been working with Torni [Tom Tornincasa, the hitting coach for the TinCaps] who will be my hitting coach in Fort Wayne.

You are such a big guy at 6'8", how do you protect such a big strike zone?

Nate Freiman: I have a long reach too, it's big, but I can cover it. Its big, but it is something that I have been dealing with my whole life. I can't go up there psyching myself out on the strike zone because then I will expand the zone.

How about defensively, how has your game changed?

Nate Freiman: In high school, first base is where they stick someone who can't play anywhere else. In college and at this level, it is a really big part of the infield. You are starting double plays, picking balls out of the dirt so its something that I have really been working at.

So the advantages are you give your infielders a really big target the disadvantages are you have to pick things out of the dirt.

Nate Freiman: That is fine. I used to be a catcher. I have no problem getting down there.

What is the biggest thing you are going to work on to improve this year?

Nate Freiman: Just consistency. I'm going to try to avoid stringing some bad nights together which I think is all mental. You have 140 plus games, each night is different.

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