Justin De Fratus Q/A

I was fortunate to be able to ask personal favorite Justin De Fratus a bunch of questions, and he provided some great answers. I’m going to put this up now and leave it at the top for a few days, so enjoy. I’ll start my 2008 draft recap on Monday or Tuesday, so check back for that.

Q/A below…

phuturephillies: The Phillies took you in the 11th round of the 2007 draft out of Ventura College in California. What were your thoughts heading into the draft, had the Phillies been in contact with you, and what was your immediate reaction to being selected?

Justin De Fratus: Just like everybody else is, I was very excited in anticipation for the draft. I hadn’t been drafted before so I really had no idea what to think other than to just trust my agent on what to expect. Well, after I got the phone call from Tim Kissner (the scout who signed me) telling me that the Phillies were going to select me, I was more relieved than anything. It was nice to finally be able to just relax and enjoy it with my family and friends.

pp: You grew up in California, what was it like signing and then reporting to Florida for the GCL season, and then subsequently ending up in Williamsport PA this year? How have you handled living on the other side of the country?

JD: Well, in my opinion, there is no better weather than what you get in California, so when I reported to Clearwater for mini-camp and GCL the humidity hit me hard. I had never been exposed to that kind of weather. Williamsport had pretty decent weather so that was a nice change especially after extended spring training. As you can probably tell, weather is really my biggest concern when it comes to leaving home. Being away from my family and friends is pretty tough too, but that’s getting easier and easier with every year that I’m gone. I’m kind of just used to being away from them now.

pp: For those who haven’t seen you pitch, instead of us guessing, would you tell us what pitches you feature, what type of velocity you normally sit at, what type of movement you have on your fastball and things of that nature?

JD: I’m a pretty standard pitcher as of now. Fastball, Slider, Change-up. This season in Williamsport, I was usually in the 89-93 range topping out at 94 and if I remember correctly, I think I got up to 95 once. I have always had a pretty straight fastball but in the last two seasons I have been working pretty hard on getting better downward angle towards the plate and better late life or late jump on my fastball and it has really gotten a lot better.

pp: So far you’ve compiled an impressive strikeout to walk ratio, with 96 strikeouts to only 25 walks in 116 innings pitched. How important is staying ahead in the count and being aggressive in your game plan?

JD: I feel its very important. Not only because it digs batters into an early hole, but also because it keeps my defense alert and ready. If I’m throwing strikes then my defense doesn’t get bored. Nobody wants to be out there with a pitcher that doesn’t throw strikes. It doesnt give you a chance to win.

pp: You haven’t been a big groundball pitcher in terms of your ratios, but you’ve done an exceptional job of keeping the ball in the park, allowing only 2 HR in your professional career. Do you attribute this to anything in particular?

JD: In all honesty, I didn’t realize that very much until you brought it up. But, now that you have me thinking about it, I would have to say it’s not so much of what I’m doing as opposed to what the hitters are doing. At the levels I have played at so far, it seems like every hitter is trying to just crush every pitch instead of looking for a pitch they can actually do something productive with. So i guess I would have to say the flyballs are a result of big swings. Bowman Field is a big yard too, so balls stay in pretty well.

pp: What has been the biggest adjustment for you since turning pro, compared to the way you approached pitching in high school and in junior college? How has the daily regiment of pro baseball helped your development?

JD: In high school and college I was able to just blow my fastball by everybody. Obviously, I can’t do that here because everybody can hit a fastball that isn’t located, and sometimes they even hit the one that is located. Now that I’m in pro ball I focus more on utilizing my change-up to upset the hitters’ timing. Playing everyday and just being around the game every day and seeing all the things that happen throughout the year has really helped my performance. I am more prepared each and every outing mentally and physically.

pp: Lefties have fared a bit better against you than righties so far this year, not a surprising split for most righhanded pitchers. What types of things are you working on to better attack lefthanded batters?

JD: I haven’t necessarily done anything just for lefties. Right now, I am just trying to get people out in general. I would have to say that my change-up has improved immensely over the last season as well as my fastball command. So I’m sure my numbers will improve.

pp: Baseball America, in a pre-draft scouting writeup, mentioned that you showed good velocity early in starts but tended to lose a bit of your velocity after the first few innings. Can you pinpoint a reason for this, and is it something you’ve spent extra time working on thus far?

JD: I can tell you exactly what it was. Poor conditioning and workouts. I came from a program that didn’t have a permanent pitching coach so it was hard to get into a real routine. My velocity now, stays with me throughout the game and I’m very happy about that. Just having a conditioning plan for each and every day has really improved my endurance.

pp: You’ve started your pro career off with two solid seasons. What are your goals for 2009, both in terms of where you want to get to within the organization and what you want to improve in terms of your overall pitching game and approach?

JD: Well, first and foremost, I want to have a good off-season. I want to get stronger and be in a lot better shape than what I was this season. As far as ’09 goes, I would like to atleast start in Lakewood and hopefully get an opportunity to end in Clearwater. Pitching-wise, I would like to be able to command my fastball on both sides of the plate and up and down, continue to work on my change up for more consistency, and I would really like to develop my slider some more. It turned in to a pretty good strike out pitch for me this year and if I can keep improving with it, I might be able to become a little more dominant.

———–

Big thanks to Justin for doing this, and hopefully we’ll be able to touch base with him again in 2009.

27 thoughts on “Justin De Fratus Q/A

  1. Good Interview. I liked his honesty in his answer about conditioning and his velocity. Shows alot about his character.

  2. Nice work on this, James, and big thanks to Justin for participating.

    Justin sounds like he has great self-awareness: he realizes both what he does well and what he needs to work on. His K:BB ratio is among the best in the system, and if he continues to work on getting a better downward angle on his fastball — as he mentioned that he’s working on — then his GB% could continue to climb. As it was, his GB% improved each month this year, so that certainly bodes well going forward.

    Best of luck to Justin going forward, and thanks again to him for doing this.

  3. Good interview, good questions. Justin is right behind the more memtioned pitchers. I always thought this was a good sign. Good luck next year.

  4. I have to admit i chuckled a little bit. I dont think most young players know to much about splits or other sabre. numbers.

  5. nice to see him so conscious of his conditioning. reading between the lines a little bit there, it seems like he was saying he wasnt in great shape to begin his pro career. even with that, he put up very good numbers overall, and especially good groundball numbers. It’ll be interesting to see what he does next year, since he mentions his offseason will be spent beefing up his conditioning.

  6. This interview is another example to me, of how hard it is to project prospects. You have to get into there mental makeup, and physical growth, and also listneing to this kid, what kind of baseball shape there in, which is different of just being 6” 4 two hundred lbs. that’s good looking shape but is he in baseball shape. to me it just has shown me how hard it is to scout and draft.

  7. Great catch on the interview.

    Hopefully he’ll make the majors soon so he can complain about the weather with Sarge.

    In all seriousness hopefully the conditioning helps a lot this year, a double-jump is important given his age.

  8. I’ve mentioned Mat Olson who was a 2005 13 rd pick out of high school. This guy had good talent, better then many we are discussing today. After reporting to Clearwater, he started complaining about the facilities. Apparently his High School had a better set up. He became disappointed and complained in what he perceived a favoritism for the Latin American players. This turned into some bad feelings between American and Latin players. Something the Phillies have fought hard to avoid. The final straw was when Olson’s father came to camp and started complaining about his son’s treatment. That was it,. they let him go. All the money, time, and training out the window. I really believe this caused some problems between the scout who signed him and the organization. They thought it should of been know about his attitude.

  9. Great stuff James. Sometimes you will see pitchers make excuses about why they didn’t succeed but this guy admits that he was out of shape and that he needs to work his butt off! De Fratus moves up in my book, character and a strong head on your shoulders counts for ALOT.

  10. Airbornranger. It seems to me that a lot of these pitcher,throw from 92 to 94. Is it the breaking stuff or location in your opinion. That separates the prospect from the org. fillers.

  11. Command and location play a big part. Getting movement especially late movement is a factor. Having above average off speed stuff is a key. Command is the answer.

  12. Ya, what does ‘standard pitcher’ even mean? I usually thought ‘standard’ was fastball, changeup, curve, but I could be wrong.

  13. Great straight forward content that tells you all you could want to know about a guy in the minors- would be great to keep adding these over the winter- too bad everyone scatters in the off season.

  14. A lot of pitchers don’t throw a true curve-ball anymore because it’s a dangerous pitch (tends to hang in the strike-zone) when not thrown well. The slider has basically taken over that role.

  15. Very nice piece . Good luck to all there young guys. It is so tough mentally especially when u near the show. Some of you may know of PAT BAYLESS long ago. The only thing that they
    should be critized about is not trying.

  16. “I thought a cutter ran to the opposite direction of a slider.”

    A ball that ‘runs’ goes the opposite direction as a slider. Making a ball cut or run is just a matter of shifting the fingers off center of the ball. A slider- i’ve never figured out how to throw one, but it involves an offcenter grip with a snap of the wrist – where a curve the fingers roll off the top, the slider spins off the side.

  17. A cutter and slider both move in the same direction with a slider having more movement and a bigger break..

    The major difference is that at fish mentioned above, the cutter is simply thrown by off-setting the fingers on the usual fastball grip but the ball still comes off the end of the finger tips. The grip is what gives it the cut..

    A slider is thrown by coming around the side of ball to create the spin but you do not want to “snap” the wrist but keep the wrist stiff (snapping the wrist causes many elbow injuries in pitchers who throw sliders incorrectly). The hand coming around the side of the ball is what gives it the spin.

    The pitch you typically see that runs the opposite direction is a 2-seam fastball where the pressure is put on the middle finger giving the ball that sinking, running action.

  18. “A slider is thrown by coming around the side of ball to create the spin but you do not want to “snap” the wrist but keep the wrist stiff (snapping the wrist causes many elbow injuries in pitchers who throw sliders incorrectly). The hand coming around the side of the ball is what gives it the spin. ”

    but that still entails the hand and wrist having to rotate around the ball correct? you can’t get a spin off the side by simplying throwing with a stiff wrist- either the arm or hand has to rotate (I ask because i’m curious, not because i already know the answer)

  19. You are actually using the middle finger to get the rotation on the ball by pulling it down around the side of the ball. The idea is that the ball comes off of the side of the hand because it is held off-set rather than off the end of the fingertips like a fastball.

    The key to avoiding injury is to keep the hand on top of the ball and NOT turning the wrist at release but you do need to “pull down” to get the rotation. The way I was taught was to think of trying to touch you fingers together by pulling you middle finger down to your thumb. By doing this the ball will automatically spin off the side of the hand.

    Its a bit hard to explain without visuals. I found this site which isn’t the greatest but it does have a couple of pictures showing the grip.

    http://www.pro-baseball-drills-and-equipment.com/slider.html

    As you stated, rotating the wrist is the natural tendency (and is a common occurance, even with major leaguers) but it is also what puts the strain on the elbow and creates injuries.

  20. Hope I can go with my son Elson to see you playing. Hope Uncle Ron can also be there. How does it feel to reach your goals?

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