Padres Prospect Interview: Cedric Hunter

San Antonio, TX: Cedric Hunter was drafted in the third round of the 2006 draft. In his first two and half seasons, Hunter, a speedy center fielder, put up some numbers that bordered on dominating, especially in the Arizona League. and, in 2008 in Lake Elsinore, where he led the Cal League in hits and was beginning to show more power along with improved range and arm strength in the outfield.

Unfortunately, the move to San Antonio and the pitcher friendly Nelson Wolff Stadium sent his numbers spiraling downward, as he finished the year at .261/.294/.331 in 2009. The big knock on Hunter last year was he simply swung at to many pitcher's strikes, and although he didn't strike out much, 47 strikeouts in 626 plate appearances, he didn't drive the ball much either with 28 extra-base hits.

This season, he's been turning it around with his return to the Texas League, and many who watch the team on an everyday basis believe that he has not only been the team's best hitter but best all-around player. Hunter, 22, has shown much more patience at the plate and is driving the ball more into the gaps.

You are off to a much better start this year than last. So what is the biggest difference for you this year than last?

Cedric Hunter: I'm just trying to not put too much pressure on myself. Last year, I think I tried to do way too much, and this year I kind of know what I need to do and am trying to stay strong mentally.

You talk about staying strong mentally. Last year was your first down year so what did you do to prevent from getting to down?

Cedric Hunter: I think that was a big thing for me to figure out how to deal with failure. I did fail some the last few years, but not nearly as much as I did last season. I just really had to work to get over that hump and just look forward to the off-season so I could improve.

Most people have said that you got stronger in the off-season and you could see that in spring training, but you really don't look any heavier. Was that part of the plan?

Cedric Hunter: I'm around the same weight as I was last year, but its more good weight. Last year, I tried to put on a bunch of pounds like they wanted too, but this year I just tried to stay more consistent with the weight; more reps instead of trying to go really heavy.

After watching you play for a few years, it looks like you are much shorter to the ball than previously.

Cedric Hunter: Yeah that is something that I have really been trying to work on. They have been messing around with my swing a little, just to try to get me a little shorter and quicker to the ball.

One thing I've noticed is that you tend to take your outside foot and turn it in when the pitcher is getting into his windup; in a way it reminds me of a jumpshot in basketball and you turn your outside foot in as you go up. Do you ever worry about snapping your ankle and do many players do that?

Cedric Hunter: A lot of hitters kind of point their toe up a little to build some momentum, but no I haven't torn up my ankle yet doing it [laughs].

Everyone always talks about this park being so tough to hit in. What makes this park so difficult?

Cedric Hunter: Basically the wind blows in consistently every day. You can crush balls that would be out anywhere else and they are staying here. You can hit a line drive in the gap and it stays up a little longer, allowing it to be caught.

It blows in from right-center and the only way most of us are going to get one out of here is down the left field line.

So, when you hit here, you have to shoot for low line drives.

Your power numbers are up from last year. Is it because you are being more selective or stronger? In the past it seems like your greatest strength was your greatest weakness. You can get your bat on a lot of balls, but not all of them are going to be the type of contact that you want.

Cedric Hunter: I think its both. I got stronger and more selective. If you get a better pitch to hit you are going to do more damage. I'm just trying to stay in my box and not swing at pitcher's strikes.

The organization this year has put much more emphasis on running. You have always said that you wanted to run more and in the spring you said that stealing 30 bags was one of your goals. Is that something you are really trying to add to your game?

Cedric Hunter: Yeah, that is definitely something that I want to add. For our organization, we really don't have guys that can steal 30 or 40 bags in the big leagues so that is something that I would really like to work on becoming.

What is the biggest part of your game that has improved since last year?

Cedric Hunter: I think my arm. Its just a huge part of playing the outfield. I think playing long toss and some of the shoulder exercises that I did in the weight room have helped. Also its about getting your footwork right and being in the right position to make a lot of throws.

Who is the most underrated player on the team and why?

Cedric Hunter: Andy Parrino. He came up because someone was injured just to fill in but he has ended up being one of our best hitters at times. I've never really played with him a whole year, but I like hitting behind him. I know he's going to have good at-bats, he is going to hit in the clutch and he's dedicated to playing everyday. He's a switch-hitter, can play multiple positions, and he has really shown me something this year.

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