Padres Prospect Interview: Cedric Hunter

San Diego Padres prospect Cedric Hunter dropped in the prospect rankings after a tough 2009 season. His hand-eye coordination is so good that he was hitting himself into outs. He vows to be more selective moving forward.

Gaining weight and adding strength seemed to be the Padres mantra for you during the off-season. Do you feel like you accomplished those goals?

Cedric Hunter: Definitely. I don't think the weight thing was it. I came in last year at about 210. I weight a little bit less this year, actually, but strength wise, I am stronger. That is definitely something we wanted to work on, staying at a perfect weight of around 205. I definitely feel stronger. The biggest key was trying to maintain and stay consistent through the whole year.

I also need to be more consistent with the outside pitch. That is the biggest thing for me.

It seems like you have great hand-eye coordination and that is a blessing but can be a detriment when you swing outside of the zone. Is that a fair assessment?

Cedric Hunter: Definitely. That is another thing I have had to work on. That is a big key right there for me. I get myself out. I put a lot of balls into play but have to stay off the pitches I don't need to hit.

How difficult is it to change that approach when in your mind you know you can get the bat on the ball?

Cedric Hunter: In your mind, you can hit anything. That is what the pitcher wants you to do. It is definitely a big help to me if I can control the strike zone and get more walks like I need to and be that type of hitter.

What was the AFL experience like for you?

Cedric Hunter: It was a great experience. I faced some real good pitching. I felt confident about it. I felt like I did pretty good. It was a good experience. It was fun meeting those new guys and having fun.

How have you matured as a baseball player since entering professional baseball?

Cedric Hunter: A lot. I have learned a lot from day one and am still learning. You can never stop learning.

One thing that Tony Muser said is you ‘hit good pitching.' That is a pretty big compliment. When you hear something like that how does it make you feel?

Cedric Hunter: I do feel like the better pitching the more locked in I am. In the Arizona Fall League, I felt like I was more locked in and seeing the ball better.

What was the confidence level like for you? There were some struggles, but in August you really started driving the ball.

Cedric Hunter: My head was moving a lot. Every day watching film, I finally picked up on something and corrected it. I got going late in the season, and that is all you can really do is finish strong. That is definitely what you want to do at the end of the season.

What was it that you saw needed to be changed?

Cedric Hunter: It wasn't much. My head was moving a lot before I got to hit the ball. It was still moving. I slowed my body down and it didn't move as much. I was seeing the ball a lot better and that helped me hit.

There was a perception, and whether it was fair or not you tell me, that you were a bit stubborn and reluctant to listen to the coaches. Is that a fair assessment?

Cedric Hunter: I wouldn't say stubborn. I would say that the coaches didn't really want to say much because I was successful. They told me maybe later on that I needed to work on some stuff. It wasn't a big issue or anything. Keeping my head still is the big thing.

Orv Franchuk said you were ‘one of the best outfielders' he has ever seen, and he has been around the game a long time. That is something you have worked at. Can you talk about the work you have put in.

Cedric Hunter: When I first signed, I was pretty athletic in the outfield but wasn't as good as I am now. I put in the work and put what they taught me into application.

I think my biggest movement was in Lake Elsinore when I learned to turn my back on the ball, run to a spot and pick it back up. That was a huge thing for my game.

How do some of the situational drills in batting practice help you?

Cedric Hunter: It helps out a lot. It puts you in the game situation mentality to get you ready for the game. You want to be prepared mentally and physically.

What are the 2010 goals?

Cedric Hunter: The 2010 goals are to steal 30 bags, not thinking about power numbers at all, I want to score 100 runs for my team and get on base, and I am not thinking about batting average at all – just doing my job and getting on base with walks, getting to second base and letting everything else happen.

Does this small ball mentality that the Padres are preaching for Petco Park work to your advantage?

Cedric Hunter: It definitely does. Petco Park is built for a hitter like me – a line drive guy. A lot of power guys have struggled there because it is huge. San Antonio – I am just trying to do my job and get on base.

We all know you have a lot of great teammates and this does not take away from anyone you don't mention. If you could have one hitter hitting behind you in the lineup all season to offer protection, who would it be and why?

Cedric Hunter: I would say Craig Cooper. He is a guy that I have a lot of confidence in. It doesn't matter what the situation is, he is going to come through. He showed that all of last year. I know if I was on base, he was going to drive me in.

Who is the one pitcher you are glad you have as a teammate and why?

Cedric Hunter: We have a lot of dirty guys. I would probably say Brandon Gomes. His splitty is stupid. It is a great pitch. In the back of your mind, you are just thinking about it every time he throws.

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