Keeping up with the Astros Prospects: Nick Tanielu

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It’s been a while since I did my last Keeping up with the Astros Prospects interview. One of the players I was working on when the playoffs were happening in the minor leagues, then the playoffs started going on with the Astros. We were never able to find a right time, but now that things have settled down, I was able to interview Astros third base prospect Nick Tanielu. Drafted in 2014 by the Astros, the player they call “Lu” is part of the best farm system in baseball. He may not be on the top prospect list, but he’s one of those talents that the Astros seem to have plenty of, a winner.

Being one of the few Quad Cities River Bandits to stick around all season, he has seen people come and go. However, through that time, the attitude of the River Bandits never changed, they were on a mission. They were on top of the standings for most of the season and finished with one of the top records in baseball. While Tanielu is not an A.J. Reed power type player, he is a player that makes contact and has a knack for getting on base while driving in runs.

His stats at the Rookie level are impressive, with a slash line of .308/ .354/ .434/ .789 with six home runs and 70 RBI (via Baseball-Reference). The Washington State alum always aspired to play for Alabama, but fate led him down a different path. Let’s see what he has to say.

CTH: To start off with the most important question, I see you played at Washington State but you are a big Alabama Tide fan, what gives?

Tanielu: I was born and raised in Alabama, and Tide blood ran through our families veins. My grandpa, dad, and entire family always talked Tide football. During my Sophmore year in high school, we moved to Washington state. I finished my high school there and was in talks with Alabama to get a scholarship, but it never happened. If I had the money, I would have just paid to go to Alabama, but that’s how I ended up at Washington State.

CTH: What was your second year like of professional baseball?

Tanielu: The first was an eye opener, it was the first time really away from the family and on my own. The second year was better for me because I played with several players who I knew from Tri-City, but I didn’t let it affect me when most of them got called up at different points during the season. We had the best winning percentage in the minor leagues; we are proud of what we accomplished.

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CTH: I hear you made a cameo on another Astros minor league team after Quad Cities was eliminated.

Tanielu: Yes, I got called up to play with the Corpus Christi Hooks as a backup player for the playoffs. I didn’t play, it was very different from Iowa, being with the older guys was great to see what they do.

CTH: I think that’s what happened to Colin Moran too, he got called up to go the Fresno.

Tanielu: Funny you said that, I was actually there when he got the notice that he was getting called up to play with the team that eventually won the Triple-A Championship. He told me, sorry Lu, I’m going up to Fresno.

CTH: I interviewed Justin Ferrell, and he told me that you were very inspirational for him in a game that he was struggling in. Do you see yourself as an on the field mental coach?

Tanielu: Yes, especially with pitchers, sometimes they are on and sometimes they are off their game. It’s really a mental game between the pitcher and the hitters, I just like letting them know that we are behind them. Ferrell was probably our best pitcher for the whole season; we really missed him in the playoffs. I told him, “I know you are struggling, but you are the best, we’re behind you, and we will get out of this.”

CTH: Were you rooting for the Houston Astros in the playoffs?

Tanielu: Yes, I think all of the minor leaguers had varying interests in the Astros’ playoffs. They made a great push towards the World Series but just came up a little short. There was a buzz throughout the Astros system before the season started that the Astros would be a surprise team. The future only gets better, with the best young guys yet to come up. Making it as far as the Astros did was a remarkable thing.

CTH: Have you ever been in a game that was in the bag, and then the bullpen just imploded?

Tanielu: Yeah, my last playoff game, they tried to stop the winning run, hold the tie. However, a couple of errors made the game more of a mountain to climb. But that’s baseball, you can’t take a knee like in football or just dribble out the shot clock in baseball, you have to get the final outs.

CTH: What’s your best attribute of a baseball player?

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Tanielu: I’m always positive with my teammates, always working to get better. I also feel that players can lean on me, and I can lean on them too. Just the relationship I have with my teammates helps in those close games to stay loose.

CTH: What’s your key to hitting?

Tanielu: I believe in attacking the ball while other hitters like to take the first few pitches to see what the pitcher has. I like to think ahead, and I don’t get scared of the situation. That’s what the Kansas City Royals did in the World Series; they weren’t afraid to get behind in the count. You have to put the ball in play more often, strike out less often, a ball in play at least gives you a chance of reaching base.

CTH: What are three interesting things that Astros fans should know about you?

  • Big Alabama Football fan.
  • I like watching the WWE; favorite is the Rock even though he doesn’t do that much recently.
  • I like to throw down with anyone in a rapping competition; I can break into rap at any time.

Next: Houston Astros: Who’s a Better Option, Scott Kazmir or Wei-Yin Chen?

Thanks Nick for taking the time to interview with me. The Astros drafted Tanielu in 2014. Hopefully, he gets to try out some of his flows at some point with George Springer. Tanielu is one of the reasons the Astros have a top farm system.

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