Padres Prospect Interview: Nate Freiman

San Diego Padres prospect Nate Freiman was clutch last season as the Northwest League RBI leader. He is, however, still working on some changes to a length swing to enhance his enormous talent.

We are a year into your assimilation into professional baseball. What holes do you still see in your swing, and what adjustments are you making?

Nate Freiman: Timing is always an issue. Being late with your front foot, getting your hands back, being ready to hit a fastball. That is something that I am constantly working on.

Is it hard to maintain a consistent swing plane given your size. Depending on where your hands are, things change.

Nate Freiman: It is always hard to maintain a consistent swing plane. There are great drills for that off the tee. Every hitting coach in the organization is knowledgeable and I try and get as much work in with all of them as I can.

One thing that Greg Riddoch mentioned after the Eugene season was that you needed ‘that intrinsic feel' to things you are being taught. What does that mean?

Nate Freiman: I would say that is fair. I do need to do something before I feel comfortable with it. It is hard to hear words and apply them to physical actions. That is why I love hitting balls off the tee. I love taking ground balls because when somebody gives me something to work on, I like to do it until I can feel it.

Is that part of the process of being analytical. You almost have to see the video to put the stamp on it.

Nate Freiman: I wasn't allowed to watch video in college for that reason. I watched it for the first time last summer in Eugene. And sure enough, I was looking at every little thing.

Right now, I am working on keeping it in a more big picture sense. I look at video and try nat to be too analytical in the batter's box.

Is that tough to do? You are born analytical.

Nate Freiman: It is something else to work on. You work on physical stuff and work on mental stuff. That is one of the mental things on my plate.

One of the things you were doing last year was dropping your hands in your load and almost getting out of position. Talk a bit about the evolution.

Nate Freiman: I started in Eugene with my hands almost over my head. That got axed almost immediately. I had them lower. Then the problem was I would start with them lower, and when I would load, I would drop them even further. That is one of the main mechanical things I am working on – not in terms of timing or approach but strictly mechanical. That is a big thing for me.

During instructs, you guys were doing situational hitting drills. You had a field day and led all hitters in ‘points'. How does that help you and what can you take into a game?

Nate Freiman: The bottom line is hitting off a machine, the wind was blowing out, it is not a direct correlation to the game. People talk about being a five o'clock hitter but it matters what you do at seven o'clock. Home runs in batting practice are fun, but what is important is to get on top of balls in the game. You can't read too much into that. Because I hit a home run in batting practice doesn't mean I will hit one in the game. You have to work on stuff and always have a plan.

Each at-bat, you have a job to do. A guy on second with nobody out, your job is to get him to third at the least. If you score him it is a bonus. A guy on third and less then two outs, your job is to score him.

When I go up to the plate, on my way to the batter's box, that is my first question. Is there a situation here? If the answer is no, well, how do I get a good pitch to hit off this guy.

Talk about pitch selection. It seems like you have an affinity towards going after that low pitch when maybe you should be leaving it alone.

Nate Freiman: That is one of the things I am working on as well. Get my pitch to hit and not swing at pitcher's pitches and make bad contact. It is important. That goes back to timing. When you are late that is when you expand your strike zone. When you are ready to hit or early, you have a better look at the ball and more of a chance to let a pitch that is on the black go.

You mentioned taking a lot of ground balls earlier. How have you improved since we last saw you in Eugene?

Nate Freiman: I have been working on my footwork around the base, my range, making better throws to second base. Really important is picking balls out of the dirt. Infielders make an off-balance throw in the hole, I have to scoop it. That is an important part of playing first 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?

Nate Freiman: I was lucky enough to hit behind Vince Belnome and Edinson Rincon last summer. I must have led all minor league baseball in at-bats with runners in scoring position. It was incredible – a hitter's dream. If I had to have a hitter behind me to protect me – there are a lot of good hitters in the organization.

Vince Belnome – even though I like hitting behind him – he is dangerous.

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

Nate Freiman: I love the guys out here. I love playing defense behind Jorge Reyes. He gets the ball and is on the mound before you even realize what is happening. He throws five pitches in five seconds. The tempo of the game is unbelievable. He is good too. He works so fast it is nice to play defense behind it.

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