Monday, July 1, 2013

An Interview with SS Joe Sclafani

Joe Sclafani has been a pleasant surprise this season for the Lancaster team. After starting the season with 19 games at Quad Cities, Joe was called upon to help fill in for some injuries on the JetHawks. He made the most of the opportunity and, although he has slowed down a bit as of late, he is hitting .331/.457/.496 in 38 games for the team. I'm going to round up his 197 at-bats to 200 and tell you that he leads all Astros minor leaguers in OBP for those with 200 at-bats +/- with a .449 combined mark for his time at Quad Cities and Lancaster.

Sclafani is sneaky good. Hitting Coach Darryl Robinson admits that when Sclafani first came to Lancaster, he had trouble placing him from Spring Training, but now he's a fan, "Great kid. He fits right in. He came in. He works hard. He's a gamer, my kind of player. Just like the rest of these guys."

I asked Robinson about Sclafani's power potential which seems to be emerging as of late, "I think he's going to develop more [power]. He's got a great bat path. He's going to get stronger. He's going to understand his swing a little bit more. He's going to swing the bat a lot better. He's doing well right now, but there's more in there."

Joe Sclafani - June 2013
Photo by Jayne Hansen

I got the chance to talk with Joe recently about his season so far and a few other topics. Here is what he had to say (edited for brevity and clarity) ~

On making the most of the opportunity at Lancaster: "I just worked really hard to put myself in a good position. In Quad Cities, when you were there, I wasn't playing a lot. Other guys were playing well. I worked hard during early work and stuff so when I got the opportunity to come up here and actually play a little bit more on a consistent basis, I think that hard work wound up paying off. It's always nice when you get an opportunity and I was fortunate to really take advantage of it. [I've] tailed off a little bit, but that's OK. I know my role here and my role's get on base, be ready whenever I need to. I step in for guys when they're nicked up so I'm embracing it and, hopefully, I will continue to do well."

As a switch hitter, he's been better from the left side of the plate this year. Is that normal?: "I think last year my average was actually better from the right in Tri-City. It's just tough sometimes because you don't get consistent at-bats from one side or the other. The case here, so far, is that I've been getting a lot of at-bats from the left side so I feel more comfortable there, but from the right side, honestly, I'm still seeing it OK. I think over time, it will even itself out."

Is he comfortable playing second base as well as short?: "We worked really hard there. I haven't played a lot of second in my life up until Spring Training, but we worked really hard on it, and it's a work in progress still. There are plenty of things I really need to work on, but I definitely feel more comfortable now."

What has he been working on this season?: "My goal has always, as a guy who hits at the top of the order, I need to get on base a lot. That's why I'm not over aggressive at the plate. I just like to get on base. I have a little bit of power here. Who knows where it's come from, but it just means I'm seeing the ball well. I'm hitting it hard and starting to drive it a bit better so hopefully I can continue to get better at that."

How has he adjusted to full season ball?: "It was a little bit of an adjustment at first, but the way I've looked at it is [to] just kind of break it up. First half is a short season, second half is a short season so I'm already done with one of them and I was fortunate enough, I did pretty well. I've enjoyed it."

What Astros pitcher would he least like to face?: "Honestly, I'd probably say Vince Velasquez. He's got electric stuff. When he's locating that fastball, he's tough to hit. I've seen him just make people look silly, but there are a lot of guys that I could say ... [David] Rollins from the left side if I had to bat right-handed. [Luis] Cruz, he likes to come in all the time; when he's spotted up, he's really tough to hit."

Who on the team makes him laugh?: "[Chris] Epps makes me laugh the most. [Brandon] Meredith is always joking around. [Matt] Duffy is kind of a sleeper in that area. He makes me laugh all the time."

What would he do if he couldn't play baseball?: "I'd be in the real world working behind a desk every day. I was in the interviewing process just in case I didn't get drafted. A lot of my friends work on Wall Street. That's probably where I would have wound up had I not done this. Going to Dartmouth, one of the biggest benefits is the networking. You meet a ton of people ... and before you know it, you get an interview [through your contacts]. So I'd probably be in some big city doing something; somebody would be foolish enough to let me handle their money. [What was his major?] Government, but I [took a lot of] econ courses."

How did a Florida guy end up at Dartmouth?: "My parents spent a lot of money on letting me go to showcases and tournaments. I was fortunate enough, I went to something called Headfirst which is one of those big showcases, but for guys who got a certain score on a SAT or were really interested in going to those schools. All the Ivies were there, a ton of really good D2, D3 schools, liberal arts schools in the northeast were there. I had a few good days and I was fortunate enough to have a lot of options in the Ivy League. [I] went to Dartmouth, fell in love with it the second I stepped on campus and it was the best decision I ever made because it was the best four years of my life."

Something that most people don't know about him: "I have a twin sister and she goes to Grad school at Dartmouth right now."


Sclafani is definitely a smart guy. Do I say that because he went to Dartmouth? Well, maybe a little. Do I say that because he understands his role and has a plan to make the most of his talent? Yeah, kind of. Do I say that because he's a fantastic conversationalist, inquisitive and engaging? Partially. Do I say that because he has Plan B already figured out in case baseball doesn't work out for him? To a certain extent. But it was the final thing that he said to me that convinced me that Joe is a very, very smart man, "We have the best job in the world so I can't complain." Sclafani has all the options in the world, but he's smart enough to appreciate what he's doing right now and to embrace it for all its worth. He will never have to look back and say, "What If?" That's pretty smart.

1 comment:

  1. Sciafani has been hitting at the top of the Bite's batting averages this season. What is strange is the Bite's fired their new manager (a Houston Astros baseball scout) not two weeks into the season. Wonder what that was about?