Astros Prospects: Joe Sclafani Interview
In 2012, the Astros drafted a shortstop out of Dartmouth College in the 14th round of the MLB draft. This player was Joe Sclafani, who has been successful so far in his young career. In 2013, he hit .283/123 runs/8 HR/77RBI/29 SB in 157 games and followed that up by hitting .315/52 runs/3 HR/40 RBI/9 SB in just 98 games in 2014. Astros fans might remember the name from reports from the Arizona Fall league, where his play has opened some eyes. An interesting fact about Sclafani is that he is striving to be a multi-position player.
CTH: What have you been doing this offseason to get ready for 2015?
Sclafani: Every offseason the player development staff for the Astros are really helpful in providing detailed guidelines in what they’d like each of us to improve upon going into the following year. For me personally, I continued to work extremely hard defensively.
My role now is to be ready to help out anywhere on the field, so I’m constantly working on improving myself at all the spots on the infield, as well as getting some outfield reads. Overall I worked hard in the weight room to get myself into the best physical shape I can be in because staying healthy is the most important thing during the grind of a full season.
CTH: I see that you play shortstop, third base, and second base. Which is your favorite to play?
Sclafani: Well I was always a shortstop throughout my life. It wasn’t until a couple of years ago that I started mixing it up at different positions because of the tremendous depth in the Astros system. So I’d have to say that shortstop will always be my favorite, but I’m enjoying learning all the ins and outs of the other spots on the field as well.
CTH: Do you see yourself settling in at one position, or do you see yourself becoming a Bill Spiers type of utility guy?
Sclafani: I think I’ve alluded to this above, but I’ll touch on it again. The quality of players in the Astros organization is incredible, so making myself more versatile was integral to my value as a player. Being in the same draft class as Correa and Fontana opened my eyes early on that I might not stick at shortstop, so I’ve really embraced the utility role because I feel that’s the best way I’m going to be able to contribute to my team.
CTH: Your numbers from last year was down at quad cities, but increased at Lancaster. What was the difference between the two parks?
Sclafani: There’s an established statistical edge to playing in Lancaster, but that really didn’t affect my numbers as much as you’d think by just looking at it on paper. Early on in quad cities, I was having good at bats and hitting a lot of balls hard, but with no real results. That’s just baseball. I didn’t change anything when I got to Lancaster, I was just more fortunate with balls finding holes and whatnot.
CTH: I’m assuming you have played with Brett Phillips, what is he like as a teammate?
Sclafani: I actually have not gotten the opportunity to play with Brett, but I’ve been around him in spring training. He’s a bit of goofy, but a great guy and tremendous competitor. I’d love to have him as a teammate and I’m sure pretty much everyone feels the same.
CTH: What player that you have played with or against, has really impressed you?
Sclafani: I got the opportunity to play against Kris Bryant in a few series last year when he was in Iowa and he was really impressive. Great approach and the ball really jumps off his bat.
CTH: Your play at the Arizona Fall League opened a lot of fans eyes to you. What led to your success?
Sclafani: Nothing different honestly. I just worked hard when I wasn’t playing (I was on the taxi squad for the first month or so) so that I’d be as sharp as I could be when I got a chance to play. I just tried to stay consistent in my approach, have good quality at-bats, and hit the ball hard. Fortunately for me, I was able to have a good bit of success down there.
CTH: As a hitter and fielder, what do you think about the pitch clock? Did you get to talk to the pitchers about it?
Sclafani: The pitch clock really didn’t affect the game all that much from a playing perspective. There were a couple instances early on where pitchers were late getting that first pitch thrown, but overall I think the effect was minimal once everyone got used to it. A couple of guys might’ve had to make minor adjustments, but it didn’t have a huge impact in my opinion.
CTH: Which other former Astro went to Dartmouth?
Sclafani: I think I’d be in a lot of trouble if I didn’t know this one…Brad Ausmus of course.
CTH: Are you glad you attended college for 4 years? Did you get your degree?
Sclafani: I loved everything about going to school there for four years. And I’m happy to say that I graduated and have my degree, yes.
CTH: What is your best asset as a baseball player that you can offer my Astros in the future?
Sclafani: Number one probably my versatility. I think I give any manager plenty of options to use me in a variety of ways. Number two I’m a competitor. I’ll do whatever it takes to help my team win.
CTH: What part of your game do you feel needs tweaking?
Sclafani: Just continue to improve defensively all over the diamond. I need to be a good defender at many positions, so that’s constantly what I’m working on. You’re also always tweaking your game offensively, just trying to get any edge you can to be better. Baseball is tough, you can’t ever get complacent.
CTH: Who was your favorite ball player and who do you emulate your game after?
Sclafani: As a Yankee fan growing up, Derek Jeter was always my favorite player. It’s probably cliche to say, but I try to emulate my game after Ben Zobrist. He’s able to compete at such a high level day in, day out regardless of where he’s playing on the field. That’s what I’d like to be as well.
CTH: Name three things Astros fans need to know about Joe Sclafani?
Sclafani: I’m not sure there’s anything you’d NEED to know about me, but some random things are that I have three siblings (including a twin sister), I love to read, and I’m a dog person (I like all animals though).
CTH: Did you ever consider playing basketball in college? Being a two sport star?
Sclafani: I did consider playing basketball in college actually. I was recruited by some smaller schools and even a couple of mid majors before I decided to forego playing basketball my senior year and concentrate on baseball.
CTH: My editor did a big piece on you earlier in offseason. He wanted to ask you how your dad has helped you make it to where you are now?
Sclafani: My dad has been with me every step of the way. He’s thrown thousands of pitches to me as well as hit thousands of groundballs. But most importantly, he taught me the importance of being mentally tough and not letting the inevitable failures of this game get to you. All you can do is control your preparation and your effort. After that, you just hope you put yourself in the right position to have success.
Thanks Joe Sclafani for taking the time to answer these questions. He said he is striving to be like Ben Zobrist, and playoff teams need players like that who can play multiple positions. Scalfani is another of the Astros prospects who completed four years of college. As a teacher, I tip my Astros cap towards you sir. I’ll even let the Yankee fan information slide, as long as you support the Astros.
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Next: Next Top Prospect After Correa