One of the top collegiate hitters in the 2009 draft class, Rich Poythress is a 6-foot-4, 245-pound first baseman who has spent the last three years at the University of Georgia. He has been on the pro radar since his high school days, as he participated in the Perfect Game USA showcase event. But he decided to take the college route to gain more experience and refine his plate approach. Poythress, who had a 14.8% walk rate, 13.7% strikeout rate, and .388 isolated power this season, chatted with me about his skill at third base, growth since high school, and thoughts on the draft.
We've also published the raw audio file from this interview.
Adam Foster: Hey Rich, thanks for setting aside some time for us. I've heard you've been a busy man doing interviews of late?
Rich Poythress: I haven't been too bad.
AF: I wanted to start by asking you in general, what motivates you?
RP: Just my main goal is to play every day in the big leagues. It's something I've grown up wanting to do and it's my dream and something I think I'm capable of doing. I've got a long way to go before I get there...gotta get a lot better, gotta do a lot of things. In general, I would say that that's probably it.
AF: Is it correct that you have a family member who's played pro baseball before?
RP: Yeah, my dad played with the Chicago Cubs' organization in the 1970s.
AF: What advice has he given you about becoming a professional baseball player?
RP: We could probably write a book about it, especially since the time I've been a little kid. With this last year, I think he's seen that I'm pretty much ready to start my professional career. And he's just excited for me. His biggest advice here lately has just been to let whatever happens happen. You really can't control what goes on in the draft at this point. So I'm just really trying to enjoy the experience and see what happens on Tuesday.
AF: I understand that you were not drafted out of high school. Is that correct?
RP: Yes, I was not.
AF: What kind of player were you in high school?
RP: I was a pretty good player. I had to develop a lot. I had power and could hit a little bit. But I couldn't hit the ball the other way very well and had a lot of aspects in my game that I needed to polish up.
AF: And what's changed the most since high school?
RP: I think approach. My approach to the plate: not trying to do too much, hit the ball the other way, taking what the pitchers gives you. Just experience. The more at-bats you get under your belt; everything. Baseball's a game of adjustments and learning. So the more at-bats you get, the more experience, the better player you're going to become.
AF: Could you provide some more detail on how your plate approach has changed from your sophomore year to your junior year in college?
RP: They were very similar. I think the difference in numbers is just solely because like I said: at-bats and experience.
AF: How do you prepare for games?
RP: I'm big on just relaxing and staying calm. I'm not a big guy on getting too hyped up and all that. I tend to play better when I just take it as a normal day, stay in my routine and just get ready to play.
AF: Can you describe your experience level playing positions besides first base?
RP: Yeah, I played third the past two summers -- one in the Coastal Plain League and one in the Cape. I feel comfortable playing third base. I think that that's a position I could also play at a high level. It's a little bit of a transition from first, but something that I definitely feel comfortable in the fact that I can do it.
AF: Have you had any conversations with professional teams about potentially playing third base for them?
RP: There was, especially in the fall. I haven't heard much about it as we rolled into the spring. From what I've heard, most of the teams that like me want me to play first base they feel like I'm a pretty good first baseman. So it seems to be that they would rather have me other there where they know I'm a pretty good first baseman rather than try to change my game a little bit. I think that the main tool's obviously the bat and I don't think they want to do anything to jeopardize that.
AF: It's my understanding that the University of Georgia plays a bit as a pitcher's park. Is that correct?
RP: It's somewhere in the middle. I wouldn't call it a pitcher's park and I wouldn't call it a hitter's park. It plays pretty true.
AF: Who are some of the best pitchers you've faced this season?
RP: Scott Bittle, Drew Pomeranz, Mike Minor...the guy from Arkansas (Dallas) Keuchel...ummm Anthony Ranaudo, Luis Coleman. I would say those are probably the best guys I've seen.
AF: There are some pretty talented arms in that group and probably some guys you could bump into potentially in pro ball.
RP: Yeah, absolutely.
AF: There's a lot of excitement around Gordon Beckham right now. What can you tell us about Gordon Beckham that the typically fan wouldn't know?
RP: That Gordon's a pretty down-to-earth guy. He's pretty calm. He usually likes to be by himself (laughs). And he's actually not as big a fan of the spotlight as you'd think he would be, especially with as good of a player as he is. All the things have happened to him in the last year, and he's really done a pretty good job of staying in touch with me. We pretty much talk once a week and he's definitely been a good guy for me to talk to, especially going through this whole draft experience.
AF: What advice, if any, has he given you?
RP: Just to -- similar to my dad's -- just to let it happen. You can't change anything, so to just just go out and play and do my thing. And now to just sit back and enjoy it. Because, like I said, this is a dream come true, so you might as well enjoy it.
AF: Playing in the Cape and other collegiate leagues, you have made any other contacts with guys who are in pro ball right now?
RP: I think most of the guys I played with are my age, so they're probably looking at the draft this year or going back for a senior year.
AF: What are some of your thoughts entering Tuesday? Your season is unfortunately over now, but what do you have on your mind?
RP: I'm just ready to see what happens...ready to find out. There's a lot uncertaintly just wondering what's going to happen. It's exciting to see what's actually going to happen and what organization I'm going to start my career with.
AF: Have you had any private workouts with any teams?
RP: No, I haven't. I think that even though we ended up a little early, I think most of the teams had already had their workouts. And the ones that didn't, had them very shortly after that. So I think that most of the teams that like me got in enough to see me and know what I'm capable of.
AF: I don't know if typical baseball fans understand that you guys start your college season pretty early in the year, relatively to pro ball, and you guys are doing fall leagues before that. It's my understanding that essentially if you were to sign right away and play out the season, you'd be playing almost a consecutive year of baseball. Are you mentally prepared for that; is your body prepared for it?
RP: Yeah, absolutely. It's definitely tough and it's a grind and that's part of the game of baseball. You play every day. A lot of people don't understand the physical aspect of baseball because it's not a contact sport or a sport where you're running a ton like basketball or soccer. But you play 162 games in eight and a half months and people don't understand that it wears on your body. It's tough.
AF: Especially if you're a 6-foot-4, 240-pound dude running around the bases?
RP: (Laughs) Something like that.
AF: Do you have any nicknames Rich?
RP: Ummm, not really.
AF: Can I try one on you?
RP: ...yeah, go for it.
AF: How do you like The Kodiak Bear?
RP: (Laughs) That's pretty good.
AF: We're going to see if we can make it stick here at Project Prospect.
RP: OK. I like it.
AF: Glad it has your approval. Last one for you. When do you expect to be drafted?
RP: It's one of those things where -- I talked about uncertainty -- there's a wide spread of opinion. It could happen anywhere from the late first round to the early second round or somewhere in between.
AF: Well, I think you could go even before that.
RP: Well I hope so.
AF: I really appreciate your time Rich. You're a nice guy. It's refreshing to talk to someone who's so candid. It's always fun talking to college players because people change a little when they get to pro ball. Hopefully you stay the same and hopefully you have a lot of success.
RP: Well thank you very much. I appreciate it.
Adam Foster can be contacted via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.