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.
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.