Interview with Jaff Decker: Padres Prospect and Future MLB Superstar
Wednesday December 14, 2011
Jonathan Hacohen: Get ready folks, as you are in for a big treat today. Exclusively on MLB reports, we have one of the top prospects in the game, outfielder Jaff Decker of the San Diego Padres. Jaff was recently featured by us prior to this interview. As a former 1st round pick of the Padres (2008 draft, 42nd overall), Jaff came to professional baseball as a very highly touted talent. After working hard and improving every year in the minors, Jaff is on the verge of cracking the Padres lineup in the near future. I had a chance to take some time to speak with Jaff recently. We discussed his childhood, learning the game of baseball, getting drafted in the 1st round, his career to-date and future plans in baseball. Despite being featured in many baseball publications and rated as a top prospect in the game, it was refreshing to find that Jaff has not allowed his notoriety to get to his head. He is a down-to-earth person, who genuinely works hard and takes nothing for granted. He believes in himself and his abilities, but with a strong sense of humor and humility. I project that Jaff will have a long and productive career in the big leagues. He has the talent, work ethic and focus to succeed in baseball. Attention Padres fans: Jaff Decker is knocking on the doorstep and will be a big part of your Padres team very soon.
Featured on MLB reports, I am absolutely thrilled to present my interview with Jaff Decker. Former 1st Round Pick. San Diego Padres Outfield Prospect and Future MLB Superstar:
MLB reports: Welcome to MLB reports Jaff. It is a pleasure to be speaking with you. As you are a highly rated prospect in the game, do you receive many requests for interviews at this stage of your career?
Jaff Decker: It has definitely started to pick up more and more as I have moved up each year in levels, especially with the teams I have played on the last couple of years. Winning 2 championships out of 3 years has really helped the interviews out.
MLB reports: It is impossible to have a conversation about Jaff Decker without first discussing the walks. You had 85 walks in 2009 and 103 this past season. How did you become a walk/obp machine? At what age did you develop your strong batting eye?
Jaff Decker: I would have to say it is pretty hard to go without talking about the walks I have had the past couple of years. Good and bad. My dad has taught me everything I know about the game of baseball and the hitting aspect of it. He has always taught me great fundamentals and has preached to me that “a pitcher has 3 pitches to get you out. As the pitchers pitch you, work the count. A walk is just as good as a hit.” But I am also learning to be a little more aggressive in the count as well, which I have worked real hard on by watching film and working on pitches.
MLB reports: I often use Nick Swisher and Adam Dunn as comparisons to you. What current and former players did you grow up idolizing and/or patterning your game after? Have the names that I mentioned come up before?
Jaff Decker: Yes, actually Nick Swisher has come up a lot. I really enjoy watching how hard he plays the game and how much he enjoys playing this great game. Growing up though the years, it was always Barry Bonds, Ken Griffey Jr. and Tony Gwynn. I had so many opportunities to watch them play being from Arizona, so I always watching them during the spring. Funny story: when I was about 5-years-old, I caught a home run ball over Tony and actually got the ball signed by him after that inning. That will always be a great moment in my mind.
MLB reports: You were a 1st round pick in 2008. One of the highest honors a young player can experience in the game. Did you know that you would be drafted that high going into the draft and were the Padres the team that you expected to take you?
Jaff Decker: Being drafted where I was a great accomplishment. We had a huge party at my house during the draft and all my family and friends were there to experience it with me. When my name finally got called, it felt like the house was shaking (laugh). To answer your question, I actually had no idea that the Padres were going to pick me there. There were many teams that had talked to me before. But they (the Padres) kind of flew under the radar and I couldn’t be happier with this organization.
MLB reports: What was the first “big” purchase you made after signing with the Padres?
Jaff Decker: My first and only purchase was a car. Everything else has been put away. But I did have to promise my mom who is a teacher that I would go back to school after I was done playing (grin).
MLB reports: You started off the first two seasons of your career with a bang. How did you find your 2010 season? What was that season like and tell us about your strong finish that year.
Jaff Decker: I had battled an injury during the first half of 2010 and I struggled a little bit. It (the injury) did get to me a little bit, as I was not helping the team like I knew I was capable of doing. So I had a few days off at the all-star break that year and went home. Just like when I was younger, my dad spent those 3 or 4 days putting in many hours in the cage with me working on the fundamentals and just the mental side of hitting. When I came back, everything fell back on track. The big thing was not trying to do too much at the plate and just trusting myself and to start using the whole field again.
MLB reports: Your 2011 season was magical in my eyes. You crossed the magical 100 walks plateau, while flashing strong power, driving in and scoring runs at a healthy clip. Looking back on this past year, what are your feelings? Satisfied? Areas of improvement?
Jaff Decker: I don’t think I’ll ever be 100% satisfied. I felt that I had ups and downs all year and my struggles related to being too patient at times at the plate. There were points that I would know when I was getting pitched around. No excuses at all, but I became a little complacent with what I call “maybe pitches”, that were called strikes by the umpires, but in my eyes were balls. We also didn’t play in the most hitter-friendly ballpark. I did feel though that I came up with some big hits at times during the season. But I still need to work on different parts of my game to get to where I want to be and stay there.
MLB reports: In my estimation, you clearly put yourself in the driver’s seat going into 2012. You are turning 22 in February. What are your goals for the upcoming year?
Jaff Decker: I would have to say my goals would include coming to spring training in better shape again. I love proving people wrong and to show them that I can be a five-tool player, even without being 6 feet and built like a specimen. But I want to work hard to prove them (the critics) wrong and I just try to soak everything I can in. I work out at a place with many proven big leaguers. I just can sit and listen to what they say for hours because I know they have been there and who better to learn from than them.
MLB reports: Have you watched and/or read Moneyball? You have been labelled a Moneyball-player throughout your career. Thoughts?
Jaff Decker: Yes I have seen the movie (big laugh) and I loved it. I love seeing that a ballclub can be put together that is not based on how you look, but how you control the game of baseball. Because by no means when you look at me, am I built like a brick house. But I’ve been taught how to play the game the right way and I think it’s helped me get to where I am today.
MLB reports: Is conditioning a strong concern for you, either as your own goal or anything communicated by the team?
Jaff Decker: Conditioning is huge for me. Like I said earlier, I am no way a guy you look at and say he could be a model (chuckle). I do have to work harder than some other guys and be smarter how I treat my body. I am learning how to do that and love seeing everyone’s faces when I show up after a long hard offseason of workouts and preparation.
MLB reports: You hit .236 this past season, but have a career .273 AVG. You also have a .411 lifetime OBP. How do you view OBP, strikeouts, batting average and home runs as part of your game? If the walks and home runs remain consistent, is there any concern that your average needs to be raised?
Jaff Decker: I believe that I had a slight down year in the average department, but I know I can hit a whole lot better than I did. I felt like I came through with runners in scoring position and by walking, I got on base for the middle of the lineup behind me. Getting on base equals scoring runs (laugh). But my power was there throughout this year. It was just about taking what the pitcher gives me, even if it’s a single the other way instead of a double in the gap.
MLB reports: Long-term, do you project that you will remain in the outfield? How important is defense to your overall game?
Jaff Decker: I believe I can handle my own in the outfield. I have worked very hard every year and tried to learn a lot from other guys. A big part of my game on defense is getting good jumps and routes on balls, because I can run well- but not blazing. I need that to become a great outfielder and that is what I have worked very hard on every year to become better at. I love being able to take hits away from opposing batters, especially if they (the other team) are taking them away from me (big laugh).
MLB reports: The MLB reports crystal ball sees you arriving in San Diego as early as this upcoming year and latest 2013. When do you see yourself arriving in The Show? What do you need to do to get there?
Jaff Decker: That is great to hear (big grin). I know I can play this game with the best of them. I always have and when the chance comes, I don’t plan on missing it. I have some things to iron out and I am working day and night to become that complete player that I know I can be.
MLB reports: Did you always know that you would be a professional baseball player? What would you be doing right now if you weren’t playing ball?
Jaff Decker: Honestly I get that question a lot. I have asked my mom and dad the same thing. They said they knew the time I first stepped on the field and was diving for balls, throwing guys out and just had a natural feel for the game. Even when I was 4 or 5, I was playing with older boys and having to lie about my age so I could play with them. I have always loved this game since I can remember. I was constantly standing in front of the television and mimicking all the big leaguers stances. I was even sleeping with my new bats or gloves. There is honestly nothing else I could be doing right now… or ever.
MLB reports: Last question Jaff: What legacy do you want to leave in baseball? What do you need to do to have a successful baseball career?
Jaff Decker: I want to be remembered as the guy that played this game to the fullest, had fun doing it and played the best I could every time I stepped in-between the lines. Even if I didn’t have my best stuff every game, you can always say that I went out there with everything I had to be great.
Jaff Decker: Thanks again Jonathan and I look forward to being back on MLB reports soon. Thanks for everything. I have really enjoyed speaking with you!
Thank you to Jaff Decker for taking the time to join us today on MLB reports. We highly encourage our readers to post at the bottom of the article any questions and/or comments that you may have for Jaff. You can also find Jaff Decker on Twitter (@JaffDecker22). He may be a top MLB prospect, but yes- he does answer back!
Jonathan Hacohen is the Lead Baseball Columnist & Editor for MLB reports: You can follow Jonathan on Twitter (@JHacohen)
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Posted on December 14, 2011, in Interviews with MLB Stars and tagged adam dunn, barry bonds, baseball, first ound pick, jaff decker, mlb, nick swisher, outfield, padres, prospect, tony gwynn. Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.