LF Kyle Waldrop just finished out a full season at hiA Bakersfield by proving he is one of the Cincinnati Reds’ top outfield prospects. The 6′ 3″, 190-pound Waldrop was drafted out of high school in the 12th round of the 2010 First Year Player Draft and had stops in the AZL (2010), then Billings of the Pioneer League (2011) and Dayton of the Midwest League (2012). Putting the brief, 7-game AZL stint aside, the other two stops were very successful, though Waldrop didn’t show the power that the Reds expected when they drafted him. In 117 games at Dayton last season, he hit just eight homers.
Power hitting wasn’t a problem this season at hiA Bakersfield as the 21-year old Waldrop broke out for 21 round-trippers while posting a line of .258/.304/.462. The batting average may not look impressive, but Waldrop recovered from a tough start to heat up along with the California weather, killing the ball in July and August. The Fort Myers, FL native improved his OBP and SLG every month from April through July and in August he batted .296/.333/.500, “down” from July’s .308/.333/.567.
As the Bakersfield Blaze finished their season in Visalia against the playoff-bound Rawhide, Kyle Waldrop took time out before a Sunday night game to talk with HotStoveHeat.com.
You’re having another great second half, just like last year, putting it together after a rough start. Do you know why it has taken you some time to get the bat going?
I don’t know, it kind of upsets me, starting off slow. But I would say every year, playing in a new place, it takes some time to adjust to the league and the pitchers.
You were committed to play football at South Florida but you chose to play baseball instead. How did you arrive at that decision?
I talked a lot with my dad and we thought in the long run I would be a better baseball player so that is why I chose baseball.
Speaking of college football, yesterday was a big day, the opening weekend. Do you miss it at a time like that?
Yeah, definitely, watching football you get pumped up. But I don’t regret that I didn’t go there to play or anything like that.
How do you like playing in Bakersfield’s Sam Lynn Ballpark?
It’s not bad. It’s different, but overall I like it there. The fans are really die-hard fans, the ones that do go to the games.
Is there a park in the Cal League that you like and hit better in?
Not necessarily. My favorite parks were Lake Elsinore and Rancho Cucamonga. I thought they were the nicest parks around.
How about this one? Is Recreation Park more of a hitter’s park than any of the other Cal League parks?
At times. I feel like it has its days when the ball carries, and when it is carrying I feel like it is one of the better hitter’s parks.
Do you look through the Reds organization at the other players they have at various levels above you to see what your path is to the major leagues?
I don’t worry about that stuff. The only thing I can control is how I prepare myself and things I can work on. The guys that are above me or below me, that’s out of my control. So I just go into every year wanting to do the best I can and whatever happens happens. They tell us all the time “you’re not playing for the Cincinnati Reds, there are 31 other teams out there.” Trades and other stuff, all that stuff happens. So that’s how I look at it.
What MLB team were you a fan of growing up?
Honestly, I didn’t really have a favorite team growing up.
So when you got drafted by the Reds, that was as good as any team as far as you were concerned?
Yeah, anyone that drafted me, that would have been fine.
Having grown up in Florida, what do you think of this heat that you play in here in the California League?
It’s different. It’s like…they’re both hot. (Laughs). But in Florida, with the humidity, you sweat a lot more so it’s a little different.
How about for playing baseball? The ball flies a little more in this heat doesn’t it?
Yeah, it’s perfect weather for baseball. The best thing, though, is that it doesn’t really rain here. In Florida you get tons of rainouts and delays.
Baseball America mentioned that your throwing arm isn’t a plus tool but they expect it to improve as you adjust to playing baseball only. Do you work on arm strength?
Yes, we’re always working and I’m just trying to better myself every year. So, yeah, I work on arm strength.
So is arm strength something that you can make a big improvement on by working on it? I don’t know that anyone can make themselves throw like Yasiel Puig, but how big of an improvement can you make?
Oh, yeah, that (Puig’s arm strength) is just God-given. You kinda have what you have, you can’t really make yourself throw 10 MPH faster. I would say my arm has gotten stronger but not a LOT stronger this year.
Finally, do you have a timetable in mind when you expect to make it to the major leagues?
Not necessarily. Obviously, you want it sooner than later. Like I said, I’m just trying every year to do the best I can and whatever happens happens.
Thanks to Kyle Waldrop for taking the time to talk and to Dan Besbris and the Bakersfield Blaze as well as Josh Jackson and the Visalia Rawhide for the access.