Daily Archives: November 27, 2011

Interview with the King of Swag: Cardinals Prospect Chris Swauger

Sunday November 27, 2011

 


Jonathan Hacohen:  We are proud to welcome to MLB reports: Chris Swauger, outfield prospect in the St. Louis Cardinals system.  When your nickname is Swags and your parent team wins the World Series, life is very sweet.  Swags was originally a 26th round pick for the Cardinals in the 2008 draft.  A steal for the Cardinals, Swags recently completed his 4th professional season.  2011 was his first full season in AA ball and Swags definitely did not disappoint.  Hitting .296 on the season, Swags popped 12 home runs in only 114 games, with 56 RBIs, 52 runs scored, .343 OBP and .442 SLG.  Swags also showed a good eye at the plate by only striking out 67 times.  The upcoming season represents a big one for Swags, as he looks to move up to AAA Memphis and eventually, the show.  One of the most down to earth people that I have ever met, Swags had me in stitches every time we spoke.  In my estimation, Swags represents everything that is good and real about the game of baseball.  While he is 110% devoted and dedicated to the sport, he does not take himself too seriously and keeps the game fun and loose.  Get ready for some great baseball talk- Swags is definitely one of a kind!

Featured on MLB reports, I proudly present my interview with Swags, aka Chris Swauger – Cardinals Prospect:

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MLB reports:  The year is 2008.  You find out that you are drafted by the St. Louis Cardinals.  How did you find out and first reactions?

Swags:  Honestly, I was convinced it wasn’t going to happen.  After a few months of every scout telling me I was one of the best seniors available and would go in the top 10 rounds, I sat at my computer for almost two days waiting.  I nearly went blind tracking it into the 20th round and just walked away from the computer.  After being told by my mother to get a real job, I happened to walk by the study where the online radio broadcast was being streamed and heard my name.  I figured it was a mistake and checked the Draft Tracker.  There was my name in the 26th Round by the St. Louis Cardinals.  As upset as I was before, my emotions turned to pure elation that I would have a chance.  They say senior-signs play for a plane ticket and a jockstrap.  My jockstrap must have gotten lost in the mail.

 

MLB reports:  Going to school at The Citadel:  Pretty cool!  Can you drive a tank or fly an airplane?  What kind of military training do you have?

Swags:  Let me clarify that I PLAYED BASEBALL at The Citadel.  That is completely different from being a regular cadet.  I did get some mandatory ROTC Training and ran a few obstacle courses, but the only tanks and planes I can pilot are the GI Joe models stuffed in the attic with all my old baby toys.  However, I can shine shoes, sweep floors, and make hospital corners on beds with the best of them (I may be qualified to open a retirement home with that type of training).  Basically, I gained a great understanding of discipline and time management going to a military school and it has absolutely made me the man I am today.

 

MLB reports:  Did you know that the Cardinals were going after you in the draft- where did you think you were headed?

Swags:  I had gotten a letter from the area scout, but the first time I talked to him was when he called me to congratulate me on being selected.  I honestly had no idea where I was headed I just wanted to play.  I had no idea who wanted me or where I would go.  And, for 784 picks, I was certain I was going to graduate school.

 

MLB reports:  As a 22-year old rookie- you played in Batavia the year you were drafted.  Tell us about your experiences in Batavia, New York and what the heck is a Muckdog?

Swags:  First of all, a Muckdog is a CHAMPION! One of the best experiences of my life was that championship season in Batavia.  It was my first dose of professional baseball and I got the prescription strength.  First day of practice our cleats were clicking on the rocks in the outfield that used to be a parking lot.  I was fortunate enough to get a host family that provided me with transportation, a 1989 Huffy 5-speed mountain bike.  The swiveling seat and rotating handlebars came standard on that model.  A kickstand did not.  The good news was that I could be anywhere I wanted in Batavia in 20 minutes on that hog.  The lack of anything really fun to do made our team rely on itself for entertainment and with a group like ours that was not hard to find.  In an attempt to keep this interview below an NC-17 rating, I will not go into detail but I will say the shenanigans involved a one-eyed dog, two broken chandeliers, swimmies, M-80s, Cinnamon Toast Crunch, and a clothes hamper being mistaken for a urinal.  As far as on the field, we started the season with more errors than hits in our first 3 games, rattled off 12 wins in a row at one point, and rode solid pitching and clutch hitting to a championship celebration.  We were rewarded with a trophy, banner, and a Venezuelan flag.  Not sure how that snuck in there.

 

MLB reports:  You have posted some nice numbers every stop so far in your career.  What is the key to your game- will it be Bautista home run power, Rickey Henderson speed or Willie Mays defense?

Swags:  I appreciate the compliment but I don’t think i deserve to be mentioned with those names just yet.  There is no doubt the key to my game is hard work.  I will admit I am talented and would not be here if I were not, but work ethic that I learned at the Citadel and with the Cardinals is the only reason I am still around.  I have no problem with that.  I would not change one thing about my career path thus far.  I would change about 20 things.  I would have gone in the first round, signed for $4 million, would have been 6’5″…

 

MLB reports:  From Batavia you went to Quad Cities, Palm Beach and Springfield.  Compare the four teams you have played for so far- which has been your favorite and why?

Swags:  There really isn’t that much difference between the teams I have played for in my career.  That is a testament to the consistency that exists within our system.  We preach executing the fundamentals…and don’t be afraid to hit a 3-run homer.  Each team has been my favorite at the time because each stop has its own new experiences and team personality.  Looking back I would have to go with Palm Beach because I’m a native Floridian and I loved getting to play in front of my family and friends quite a bit.  The weather wasn’t too bad either.  I lobbied for shirtless BP a few times but our coaches had no concept of tan lines.  I still cherish the memories of the other places as well.  The atmosphere and the people in Quads and Springfield were unmatched.  Batavia became like a home to me, if only because I was on a first name basis with all 50 residents.  Everywhere I have gone I have enjoyed and will continue to do the same.

 
 
MLB reports:  Do you see yourself playing outfield long-term:  corner or centerfield?

Swags:  I see myself playing catcher if that’s what I have to do to get to the big leagues.

 

MLB reports:  How long have you been playing this game Chris- was baseball always the “plan”?  Why not rock star or monster truck driver?

Swags:  Rock-star is still my back-up plan.  I only recently learned to drive a stick-shift, so I will require more education in order to get in a monster truck. “The Plan” with baseball started out with making my high school team.  Then, it was try not to embarrass yourself in high school.  Then, it changed to try to play in college.  Then, it became try to get drafted my junior year.  Then, it became well, there’s always senior year.  Then, it was woohoo I got drafted.  Then, I thought does this really count as a signing “bonus”? Then, it switched to wow I never knew how bad I was at this.  Then, I got better.  And THAT has been the key to the whole plan and why it is still in progress.  I AM A WORK IN PROGRESS.  There is an end game, but “the plan” keeps adjusting with every pitch, out, inning, game, and season.

 

MLB reports:  You just finished off your 2nd year in AA- will we be seeing you in Memphis in 2012?

Swags:  I hope so because I certainly don’t want to gain Double A Veteran status.  I think I have earned a spot in Memphis, but this game is fickle sometimes and our organization has a tremendous amount of talent.  That being said, if my career turns into a NASCAR race (aka another lap around the Texas League) the only thing I can do is be thankful to still be playing and fighting for an opportunity.

 

MLB reports:  Watching your team win the World Series must have been cool.  They won it 2006 before you were drafted and again in 2011.  How badly did you want to be on the field playing with the big club in October?

Swags:  To play in a World Series is every 6-year-old’s dream.  Conveniently, I still act like a 6-year-old so it’s still my dream. It was great getting to see some guys that I have played with get to experience that and I hope and pray I get that opportunity some day.  It’s what gets me up in the morning; that and the rooster that lives next door to me right now.

 

MLB reports:  You have a great name for baseball:  do teammates call you Swag or Swags?  Do you have swagger my man?

Swags:  Swag, Swags, Schwaugs, Schwaaaaaaaaugs, Swagga, and Swagness.  The only name I’ve never heard on a baseball field is Chris.  As far as the swagger goes, that must be a rhetorical question.

 

MLB reports:  What do you need to do to make it to St. Louis and play in the show?

Swags:  The entire starting outfield to get hurt.

 

MLB reports:  Toughest pitcher you have faced in the minors?

Swags:  That would have to be an old St. Louis farmhand who now plays in the Angels organization, Matt Meyer.  In only a couple of at bats against him, he has effectively gotten me to swing at a pitch that hit me, shattered two of my bats, and is the reason I started wearing a shin guard.

 

MLB reports:  Longest home run you have hit in your career?

Swags:  In Batavia, I hit one on the basketball court behind right field.  I was told later that it went through the hoop and  gave someone an H in HORSE.

 

MLB reports:  Do you remember your first professional home run- what was the home run trot like?

Swags:  I remember the home run and the advice I was given prior to it.  I was in Batavia, getting ready to face my first knuckleballer.  My hitting coach said, “See the ball at your eyes and swing as hard as you can.” I was fresh out of the Citadel and pretty good at following orders, so I went up there and tomahawked the first pitch I saw out to center.  I remember running around the bases with a huge grin knowing a career in beer league softball was waiting for me if the MLB didn’t work out.

 

MLB reports:  What song plays when you come up to bat?

Swags:  “Here Comes The Hotstepper” by Ini Kamoze.  My goal is to make everyone in the stadium’s head perk up and then immediately start bobbing. Done.

 

MLB reports:  Any superstitions/rituals you have before and after games?

Swags:  I try to stay away from superstitions and rituals because it always ends up being too much to keep up with.  For some guys it becomes an obsession.  I once had a summer ball coach question guys who wrote Bible verses on their shoes.  He said “I guess everyone needs a crutch in life.”  I think he has reserved his spot in hell.

 

MLB reports:  Final question:  if you could change one thing about baseball- what would it be and why?

Swags:  I should be allowed to eject the umpire.  Self-explanatory.

 

Thank you again to Chris Swauger 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 Swags.  As well, please follow Swags on Twitter (@CSwag8)

Jonathan Hacohen is the Lead Baseball Columnist & Editor for MLB reports:  You can follow Jonathan on Twitter (@JHacohen)

Please e-mail us at: MLBreports@gmail.com with any questions and feedback.  You can follow us on Twitter and become a fan on Facebook .  To subscribe to our website and have the daily Reports sent directly to your inbox , click here and follow the link at the top of our homepage.

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Ask the Reports: Sunday November 27th

Sunday November 27, 2011

Jonathan Hacohen:  Posted every Weekend: Your top baseball questions from the past week are answered. E-mail all questions to mlbreports@gmail.com, message us on Twitter and post on our Facebook Wall!

Let’s get to your top questions of the week:

Q:  I know this is off topic but with the Houston Astros moving to the AL West and constant interleague play, what exactly is the point of an American League and a National League, besides of course the DH?


MLB reports:  The existence of the designated hitter is the key to separate the American League and National League.  Without the DH, there is no difference between the leagues.  Otherwise, having separate leagues would simply be a way to divide up the divisions and teams.  With daily interleague games coming, the mystique of having separate leagues is starting to fall by the wayside.  An idea that was thrown around was to have the DH in play in National League parks and no DH in American League parks during interleague play.  That would create strong interest in the different styles of play in the different parks and peak strong interest in interleague play.  But unfortunately, it appears that idea has been scrapped for now.  Long term, baseball needs to decide if it will have a designated hitter or not.  There are arguments on both sides.  Traditionalists like myself would like to scrap the DH all together and introduce National League style baseball throughout baseball.  With the in-game moves and decisions that must be included with the pitcher hitting, I prefer the NL game.  But others see pitchers hitting as hurting the game with “automatic outs” and risking the health and safety of pitchers by having them hit in the NL.  This argument will continue likely for decades until a resolution is agreed upon one way or the other.  Until then, we will continue to have two different leagues in place.  One has a designated hitter and one does not.  With the increase in interleague play, the line separating the leagues has become even blurrier.  Great question!

Q:  What’s the scouting report on Luis Valbuena?  Andrew
MLB reports:  The newest member of the Toronto Blue Jays will be turning 26 this week (November 30th birthday)- so be sure to wish him a Happy Birthday!  Born in Venezuela, Valbuena is a utility infielder at this point in his career, playing second, short and third.  Coming up originally with the Mariners originally in 2008, Valbuena was traded in December 2008 as part of the Franklin Gutierrez swap.  Since then, Valbuena has played parts of three seasons with the Indians.  In 229 career games, Valbuena has 13 home runs, 57 rbis, 84 runs, .226 avg, .286 obp and .344 slg.  Considering that he was designated for assignment, the Jays picked him up for cash considerations makes sense.  He has shown little at the major league level thus far, but is young and known for a strong glove.  Valbuena has shown steady improvement in the last three years in the minors, with a breakout season in AAA Columbus in 2011.  Valbuena popped a strong 17 home runs in 113 games, with 75 rbis, 64 runs, hitting .302 with a .307 OBP and .476 SLG.  If those numbers can be replicated to any degree at the major league level, the Jays may have a hidden gem uncovered.  At worst, we could be seeing another Ramon Santiago type player or the Venezuelan John McDonald.  The Jays need a backup infielder on the roster and Valbuena could be the answer.  Or possibly their next starting second baseman for the next five seasons.  Doubtful…but it could happen!
Q:  Would Yonder Alonso look good on our team?  Would Xavier Nady be a good fit with the Indians or does the Tribe want something more? Martin
MLB reports:  Wow, that is a mountain of questions!!!   Firstly, Yonder Alonso would look great on the Indians.  In fact, he would look great in 29 other lineups.  The kid is a future superstar, no doubt in my mind.  It is just a question of finding him a permanent home.  The Reds have tried him in left field, but do not see him as a long-term solution there.  The team will either have to move him, or open up first by trading franchise star Joey Votto.  At this point, it looks like Alonso will be the one to go.  I am a big Matt LaPorta supporter, but long-term he does not appear to be the solution for the Indians.  He can always move to the outfield or DH, but a change of scenery is likely the best option for him.  LaPorta never lived up to the expectations of being traded for C.C. Sabathia and both the team and player need to move on.  The Indians have prospects to move, although not as many after all their 2011 swaps including the Ubaldo Jimenez trade.  I can’t see the team wanting to trade more parts, as they cannot deplete their farm.  Given what other teams can offer for Alonso, mainly the Rays, I don’t see an Alonso move in the future of the Indians.  It would be a nice acquisition, but not likely to happen.  Nady on the other hand would be a nice low risk pickup.  If healthy, he could bring the leadership and experience the team needs.  Championship teams need strong extra parts and Xavier Nady would be a strong fit in that regard.  As long as comes cheap and doesn’t expect to start, I would say that is a done deal.  The team may look for one or two more strong bats for its lineups, but that would not stop a potential Nady signing.
Q:  Can’t help but think of Scott Kazmir (compared to Gio Gonzalez being looked at but several teams in a trade).  Brandon
MLB reports: Poor Gio Gonzalez.  Why the harsh words? In all seriousness, I see where you are going with the comparison.  High walk, high strikeout pitcher.  After a 3.23 ERA in 2010, Gio lowered it more to 3.12 in 2011.  He has enjoyed near identical 1.31 WHIPs the last two seasons.  He does not give up a ton of hits, but the walks are very high.  He led the league with 91 walks after allowing 92 the year before.  The home/road splits tell a big part of the story.  This season, Gio went 10-5 at home, with a 2.70 ERA and 1.227 WHIP.  On the road, Gio went 6-7 with a 3.62 ERA and 1.424 WHIP.  Pitching in the Oakland ballpark clearly has a strong effect on his numbers.  Similar splits are found in his 2010 numbers as well.  Thus the conclusion is likely that taking Gio Gonzalez out of Oakland and putting him in a hitter’s ballpark (say Wrigley, Fenway or the Rogers Centre) and his numbers will likely balloon.  Pitching in Oakland likely masks much of his warts.  He just turned 26 in September so he still has time to develop.  The next two seasons will tell the tale.  He could become a superstar or the next Scott Kazmir.  Until those walk totals start to drop, you could be on to something.  The kid has a ton of talent, don’t get me wrong.  But he is far from a sure thing.  Until then, your comparison could be close.  Thank you for the comment!
Q:  (Final question:)  Will Kurt Suzuki ever become a superstar?  Bill
MLB reports: Thanks for the question Bill.  I chose this question because I have pondered that question for many seasons.  Suzuki, a 2nd round pick of the A’s in 2004 is now 28-years of age.  They say catchers take longer to develop than other hitters.  Suzuki has been steady behind in the plate, seen as strong defensively and a good game-caller.  The question has been the offense.  The perception has been that Suzuki has pop in his bat and able to take walks in the “moneyball” mold.  Looking at the numbers, that has not transpired in reality.  Suzuki had a career high 15 home runs in 2009 and walked a career high 44 times in 2008.  Suzuki has essentially regressed to a hitter that walks 30+ times, hits a dozen or so home runs in a year, has a .300 or so OBP with a SLG under .400.  He will play in the majority of his team’s games though.  Welcome to Jason Kendall territory.  That is where Suzuki is headed.  My heart says that he will still become a Jason Varitek type hitter as a catcher.  But my brain sees Kendall.  There are a lot worse things in life than becoming the next Jason Kendall.  But for a catcher that had high expectations, more was expected of Suzuki.  I can’t see him ever becoming a superstar at this point.  But I can see a 15-year major league career in his future, built mostly on his catching abilities.

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Jonathan Hacohen is the Lead Baseball Columnist & Editor for MLB reports:  You can follow Jonathan on Twitter (@JHacohen)


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