Q&A With Rays 19th Round Pick Miguel Beltran

The ink has already dried on Miguel Beltran's professional contract and he will be flying to Port Charlotte on Sunday after being drafted in the 19th round by the Rays. Inside, Beltran, who led all of college baseball in home runs and was the NAIA Player of the year, discusses his approach to hitting, his love for playing defense, how he got the nickname "El Gato Grande" and more.

School: Oklahoma City University
Born: 3/2/1990
B/T: L/L
HT/WT: 6-3/225

• In 2012, named NAIA Baseball Player of the Year after leading all of college baseball with 27 home runs and batting .388 with a .826 slugging pct. in his second season at Oklahoma City University.

• Hit .346 with 13 home runs, 66 RBI ,18 doubles, two triples and had a .996 fielding percentage as a junior in 2011. Was named second-team all-Sooner Athletic Conference and to the SAC gold glove team.

• In a 2011 game against St; Gregory's, tied NAIA single-game record with 13 RBIs, two grand slams

• Played in 2009-10 for Compton College (JC) and combined to hit 9 home runs with 78 RBI.

• Majoring in kinesiology.

• Nicknamed "El Gato Grande" (the big cat).

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Rays Digest: Can you tell me a little bit about where you were and what you were doing when you found out you'd been drafted by the Rays?

Miguel Beltran: Actually I was just hanging out with my roommate, I think we were watching a game or something. I was watching the draft tracker, but I hadn't refreshed it and I knew the Rays were coming up in the next couple of picks, but since I hadn't refreshed it, I wasn't really paying attention. That's when J.D., the scout called me and told me he drafted me and I wa s all excited and stuff.

Rays Digest: You had a fantastic season this year for Oklahoma City University and you led all of college baseball in home runs. Can you tell me a little bit about yourself as a hitter? Obviously you have a lot of power, but what is your approach to attacking hitters?

Miguel Beltran: My approach is pretty easy, I don't try to over-think anything when I'm up there. I feel like when I'm up there and I'm thinking way too much, I struggle more. So, I go up there and get a good pitch and try to put a good swing in the ball.

Rays Digest: You played with catcher Dane Phillips who was drafted in the early rounds by the Padres. I actually interviewed him before the draft. Have you had a chance to talk to him and share your experience together?

Miguel Beltran: Actually, I have not. We sent a couple of text messages back-and-forth congratulating each other and stuff like that, but we haven't really had a chance to talk.

Rays Digest: Have you thought about whether or not you are going to sign with the Rays?

Miguel Beltran: Yes, I am. I'm going to sign. I'm going to be a Tampa Bay Ray. (Beltran signed on Friday afternoon)

Rays Digest: If you could tell me a little bit about your strengths and weaknesses as a player, what kinds of things do you want to work on once you get into the organization?

Miguel Beltran: One of the biggest things is my plate discipline that I need to work on. I struck out a lot last season and there was at bats where I didn't feel comfortable. I really want to work on my plate discipline and not chasing balls down low and not swinging at the high fastball. I feel like I'm a good hitter for the most part. One of the things that most people don't know about me is that I love to play defense. I get more mad making an error than striking out. I don't like to make any mistakes on defense.

Rays Digest: I was actually just going to get that. The Rays are known as an organization that stresses defense and it's been a big key to their success. Is defense something that you try and work on just as much as your hitting?

Miguel Beltran: Yeah, I take a lot of pride in my defense. I know that playing these past few years at Oklahoma City, that every infielder had complete faith in me in knowing that I'd catch anything that they'd throw at me. Like I said, I take a lot of pride in defense and I don't like to make a lot of errors.

Rays Digest: You were named the NAIA Player of the Year and you were the seventh player from Oklahoma City University to get that distinction. Can you tell me a little bit about what that honor means to you?

Miguel Beltran: It's a great honor, I mean not a lot of people have gotten it. For Oklahoma City I'm the seventh one and actually when I got the call from J.D. I was sitting next to Kirk Walker. Kirk Walker was our shortstop last year and he was the sixth Oklahoma City player to win NAIA Player of the Year, so it was pretty crazy. But it's a great honor and I'm happy to have been chosen for that award.

Rays Digest: Can you tell me a little bit about your background? Where did you grow up and how did you end up at Oklahoma City?

Miguel Beltran: I'm from Long Beach, California. It's actually pretty crazy how I came out to Oklahoma City. I had my two years done from JUCO and I really didn't have a place to play. So a Miami Marlins scout that knows Keith Lytle, our assistant coach, gave him a call. I didn't really think I was going to be out here for longer than two years, but I'm actually planning on during the off-season hanging out here and working out. So, it's pretty crazy.

Rays Digest: Can you tell me a little bit about how you got your nickname, "El Gato Grande"?

Miguel Beltran: I get that question all the time. (laughing) Our starting catcher, Chad Carman, who got picked up by the Phillies in the 24th round, he gave me that nickname when I started a Twitter. I didn't have a name for my Twitter and I didn't just want to be Miguel Beltran, so I texted Chad and asked him "what's a good name for Twitter?" He texted me back, "El Gato Grande". So of course there was already an "El Gato Grande", so I had to put my number, 21. So that's how it all started.

Rays Digest: So if my Spanish is right that translates to "big cat", which of course was the nickname of Andres Galarraga, who was also a power-hitting first baseman. So it seems like an appropriate nickname for you.

Miguel Beltran: Yeah it works. (laughing)

John Gregg is Publisher and Senior Editor of Rays Digest. You can follow him on Twitter at @RaysDigest. He can also be reached via e-mail at raysdigest.com@gmail.com.

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