Padres Prospect Interview: Wes Cunningham

Wes Cunningham hit over .400 in successive years, begging the question: why did he last until the 17th-round before the San Diego Padres scooped him up.

Congratulations on getting selected by the Padres in the 17th-round. What were your initial thoughts after that happened?

Wes Cunningham: I was ecstatic. My dad was at home doing some paperwork and watching it with me on the computer. I saw my name pop and we looked at each other. I still have not completely come down from it.

How agonizing was it waiting for that name to pop up?

Wes Cunningham: It got longer and longer. I was sitting on the computer and there were only so many things I could do to try to pass the time. As soon as a I heard my name, it made it all worth while.

Talk a little bit about your game. What do you feel are the strengths of your game?

Wes Cunningham: Most definitely the biggest strength of my game is my bat. I hit from the left side of the plate and I have learned to combine my speed with power over the past two years. My sophomore year I hit for a good average but there were a lot of singles. I would get hits where I could but they were singles. In finishing up I learned to hit for a lot more power. I would say my game revolves around my bat. Playing the field is just something I get done and I get by with, but my biggest strength is my hitting.

You mentioned you learned to hit for more power. You went from two home runs your first year to 22 this year. Was that just maturing into the frame or did you make some changes mechanically?

Wes Cunningham: I did not make any specific changes, per se. I definitely worked out harder than the first three years. I took everything very seriously. It think it was more a matter of learning to duplicate my good swing more often. My swing did not change too much. During batting practice I could always hit them out without a problem, but during a game my swing did not seem to be what I had practiced. But during my senior year, I focused a lot more and put my good swing on more pitches.

You were on a team that played .500 baseball all year. Were there times where you were being too aggressive?

Wes Cunningham: I love the pressure and the support from my team, but sometimes I felt like I did try to do a bit too much and I may have taken myself out of a few at-bats. As the year went on, I became more patient and waited for my pitch more often.

How important is that pitch selection going to be to your overall success moving forward?

Wes Cunningham: I think that if I swing at my pitches, at the pitch I want to hit, and I do not get over-anxious, then I see myself being very successful. When I get my pitch and I put my swing on it then I am successful most of the time. It is a matter of picking out my pitch and being extremely patient at the plate.

You mentioned integrating speed into you game. I believe you were 10-for-13 this year. You come into an organization that really stresses pushing the envelope. How can you turn that into an advantage for you?

Wes Cunningham: On the base paths, taking an extra base is always the first thing in my head. This past year, I only had 10 steals, but we did not have the green light and I was not able to run as much as I like. I believe for me personally on the base paths I am looking to take the next base and make something happen.

Talk about the transition to the wood bat?

Wes Cunningham: I played with wood last summer. I had a lot of success with it. I was out in Kansas, in the Jayhawk League last summer, and I ended up being the player of the league out there. Came out of there as the number one prospect. It took me a while to focus on barrel and balls up, but once I got the hang up it, I learned to focus more and use the whole field. With metal the margin for error is bigger. You can put a bad swing on it and still get a base hit.

You talked a little bit about your defense. What needs to improve out there as I do not think people really realize what goes into being a first baseman?

Wes Cunningham: Mainly, at first, it is getting more consistent. I talked to a Padres scout, and he said they were going to put me out in left field. I have played outfield and I played outfield this summer and a couple of years ago. I will play anywhere they want me – if they want me at first or in the outfield, I feel comfortable either place.

Talk about the experiences playing in the outfield?

Wes Cunningham: Yes. Two years ago I mainly DH'd, but I was listed as an outfielder. This summer, out in Kansas, the scout said they wanted to see me in the outfield so I ended up splitting time about 50-50 between the outfield and first base. I feel comfortable about my arm from the outfield and I get to utilize my speed a little more. I am willing to play wherever they need me.

Who would you compare yourself to in the Major Leagues. Is there someone comparable or someone whom you try to emulate?

Wes Cunningham: I do not think it is any one person. Oddly enough, I tend not to watch too much baseball in my spare time. I have never had a favorite team or been someone who follows it a lot. Comparing myself would be a stretch, I believe.

What is best moment in baseball and why?

Wes Cunningham: This summer my team won the National Baseball Congress World Series and I scored the winning run in the bottom of the 11th inning to win the championship. It was one day before I had to go back to school and the entire team dog piles me at the plate. It was after midnight and that was probably my best moment in baseball. Our team put together a phenomenal summer. We went 41-9 and I played with a great bunch of guys. On paper, we may not have looked like the best team, but once we got out the field, we competed better than anybody. Winning the championship was my best moment to date.

What do you look forward to as you head into professional baseball?

Wes Cunningham: I look forward playing every day. There were times this season where I would not have a great day or great outing at the plate and you would have to wait a couple days. I love going from one day to next and waking up every morning and play baseball.

I do not think these last three years, you have had too many bad days at the plate. You hit .380, .411, and .408. That's pretty good.

Wes Cunningham: Believe it or not, I did put a little more pressure on myself than necessary. But I made up for the bad days with even better days.

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