With Spring Training quickly coming to the final turn, Royals baseball is just about back. One of my favorite times of the year though is Spring Training. Some people want it to be shorter. I say extend it. I love watching my favorite major league players play in the same game as my favorite minor league guys.
One of those minor league guys that I was excited to watch this spring was Royals catching prospect Chase Vallot. Vallot is one of the most highly touted prospects in a Royals system that lacks impact bats such as his. Shaun Newkirk of Royals Review recently released his top 25 Royals prospect list, and had Chase all the way up to number two on his list.
Chase was kind enough to sit down with us for an interview before Spring Training started. Here’s what he had to say entering the spring:
Q: How do you mentally prepare yourself before every at bat?
CV: “It’s honestly something I still struggle with. You can’t let previous mistakes or times at bat get to you. You have to be able to forget things quickly. You can’t go into the box thinking about your last at bat. You have to be able to compete fight and not let the pitcher beat you.”
Q: In the age of advanced stats and saber metrics, is there anything about your game that you’ve made changes to?
CV: “From high school to now my game has been relatively the same. Get on base and hit the ball hard. This past year my batting average was a huge disappointment to me. The home runs and the walks are there, but the strikeouts are what killed my average. One thing my coaches and I kind of talk about is, ‘Look, your BABIP is around .300, you need to start being more aggressive.’”
Q: Your walk rate is obviously incredibly impressive, where do you think you learned to command the strike zone like that?
CV: “That’s something a lot of coaches tell me is that I have a good eye for the plate. I know the strike zone because I’m behind the plate for 9 innings. I know where the umpire likes it, but it does get me sometimes because I have a different umpire every night.
Depending on the situation I feel that some teams just try to get me to chase. I’ll have teams throw me 3-4-5 straight sliders and I just have to be disciplined to lay off of them.”
Q: How are you feeling? You missed the second half of last season with injury, any update on how your back feels?
CV: “At one point last season when I tried throwing the ball down to 2nd base it felt like someone stuck me in the back with a knife. I walked in my next at bat. I hobbled into second, my back is killing me, and I had to stop at 3rd on a ball I should’ve scored on. Jamie Quirk came out and got me between innings. Went on the 7-day DL. Tried getting back into baseball motions but it would tense up and I couldn’t go 100%. Doctors diagnosed me with a stress reaction. Only treatment they could give me was rest.
I feel great now, though. I’m all cleared, I’ve been working out and the body feels good. I’m ready for baseball to start.”
Q: How do you personally feel about your ability to stick at catcher?
CV: “I love to catch. I literally wouldn’t want to play any other spot on the field. Being back there calling a game with that kind of responsibility makes me feel accomplished. The relationship that I developed with the pitchers is what its all about. Helping each other become the best that we can be.
Coming out of high school my catching was brutal. I am lucky enough to have a catching coordinator who is amazing. I owe a lot of where I am to him. It’s incredible the amount of faith that they have in me to reach my full potential. This past year was probably my best year defensively before the injury. From receiving to calling a game I feel so much more comfortable.”
Q: Who is the best pitcher that you’ve faced?
“Touki Touissant or Dane Dunning.”
Q: Who is your most underrated teammate?
“Cristian Castillo. He doesn’t throw very hard but he has a feel for what he’s doing out there and he commands the ball very well. He throws a lot of changeups so his fastball actually plays up a tick.”
Q: What is your mentality like heading into Spring Training?
“Just to stay focused and not try to get inside my own head. Not over thinking anything. Go out there have fun and be glad that I have the opportunity to play baseball for this first class organization. Being able to go out there every day and play the game that I love is incredible. I hope I get to go back to big league camp this year so I can learn from guys like Salvy and pick their brains.”