Padres Prospect Interview: Mykal Stokes

When the San Diego Padres took Mykal Stokes, they were eager to see if they could tap his immense potential. Drafted by the Yankees in 2008, scouts have been awed by his tool set but were a bit down on his production. Stokes is hoping to prove the Padres right by taking a chance on him.

Congratulations on getting selected by the San Diego Padres. What was the overall feeling? This is not your first go-around. You were taken by the Yankees in 2008.

Mykal Stokes: I was excited. I was watching the draft on the computer. I felt that I was going to go a little bit earlier, but just being drafted is overall a great feeling. For someone to notice you and draft you, it is great feeling. I was excited during the draft and it was a great feeling.

Does it get any easier the second time around?

Mykal Stokes: Yes, it definitely does. The first year I got drafted was really exciting because I had never experienced anything like it before. The second go-around with the Padres was still exciting. The feeling does not change much. I expected to get drafted this go around. It was a good feeling.

How have you matured as a baseball player since that first time coming out of Tustin?

Mykal Stokes: My work ethic has changed. I got drafted out of high school and I knew going into a junior college, that if I worked that much harder, there was a possibility that I could much earlier. I matured in my work ethic by working hard every, getting in the batting cages, hitting off the tee, and trying to get bigger.

People have said that you have an ideal body and frame and that they are waiting for you to break out. Do you feel that is a fair assessment?

Mykal Stokes: Yes, I do. A lot of people have told that I need to hit the weight room and try to get bigger. But I just turned 20 and I need to give it a couple of years. I weigh 185 lbs right now at 6'3". I have some room to gain at least 20 lbs and that would be great. I need to give it some time for my body to grow out.

The first time you did not sign, you went to junior college. Where did you have an opportunity to go from junior college?

Mykal Stokes: Long Beach State, Oklahoma State. I was looking forward to signing this year, which I did.

Talk a little bit about your game. Where do you see your strengths lying?

Mykal Stokes: I feel I have great range in the outfield and I get great jumps off the bat. I cover the gaps well. I feel that my arm has gotten stronger over the years and plays at third base and plays at home, I feel I can throw a guy out. My overall instincts on the base paths are good. I am not the fastest runner, I am an average runner, but I feel with the jumps I get on the ball, I can steal a lot of bases. I am not your power hitter, but I can hit a couple of balls out of the yard. I spray the ball all over the field and my bunting game is pretty good. My strongest aspect is in the outfield covering the gaps.

The Padres mentioned to me that you have easy power. What does easy power mean?

Mykal Stokes: When I am the plate it does not look like I am trying to overswing. I have quick hands. I put the ball on the bat and the ball just flies. I am not trying to muscle up. It is a smooth swing and wherever the ball ends up, its ends up.

Is there someone in the Major Leagues that might be comparable to how you play?

Mykal Stokes: I have been asked this question before. I believe it is Torii Hunter. I feel the way he gets the jumps off the balls, it is the same way with me. His hitting ability - he hits home runs - but most of his game is hitting to the gaps. I would say Torii Hunter.

What would your teammates say about your demeanor and the type of player you are on the field?

Mykal Stokes: They always said I was someone you could look up to. When situations would get rough, I would never get down on myself. I would keep focusing because I know I have other opportunities to get the job done. They would look up to that and my work ethic on the field. A lot of guys told me that they know I stay after practice, I hit before practice. A couple of guys would stay after with me. I think those are the type of things that they look up to with me.

What is your best moment in baseball and why?

Mykal Stokes: Last year, 2009, our baseball team won the state championships in Fresno. That was one of the best group of guys I have ever played with. A lot of memories from that team. The overall feeling of being in center field. Brett Wallace, who actually got drafted by the Dodgers in the third round last year, was pitching and closed the game up. He threw that last pitch, struck the guy out, threw his glove in the air, and we all jump on him on the mound. It was an overall great feeling. That was one of the best moments I've had.

Is there a weakness in your game that you need to shore up moving into professional baseball?

Mykal Stokes: Getting used to the wood. I have swung wood over the years. I went to Alaska over the summer and swung wood there. I struggled the first couple of games, but only the first couple of games. Then as you progress, traveling and taking BP, I got used to to the wood and feel that I did well. That is my only weakness going but it is something I can improve at as we go along.

You mentioned your speed is fringe average, but you have the ability to get good reads and get good jumps. How does that come about? A lot of it I presume would be studying everything that is going on in the game and having a good feeling for what is going on.

Mykal Stokes: A lot of studying goes into it. When I am not on the base path,s I am in the dugout getting reads. I am having competitions with the guys inside the dugout, playing games about how who could get the best jump if we were on base. I am in the dugout really paying attention to the moves that the pitcher has. What does he do when he is picking off to first base, or any base. How high is his leg kick? As soon as I see his leg kick and see that it is really slow, I know I can steal a bag, no problem. It would be overall studying the pitcher.

How important is pitch selection to the overall future of your game.

Mykal Stokes: Pitch selection is a great key. First pitch curveball, you want to lay off that. A lot of guys in the MLB, it seems like they always take the pitch, even if it goes right down the middle. I am up there to swing the bat. That might be another weakness I have. I swing at first pitches that aren't my pitches to hit. If I am going to swing at the first pitch, it needs to be right down the middle. Pitch selection is going to play a big role because it will be the difference between me swinging at the first pitch and rolling over, or me getting into a good count and maybe getting a walk or potentially a base hit. Pitch selection is a big factor.

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