Prospect Q&A: Padres First Baseman Nate Freiman

We caught up with low Class A Fort Wayne's Nate Freiman last week after he and the rest of the Midwest League enjoyed a rare breather. The MWL opened with 16 games in 16 days.

That pace did nothing to deter Freiman, a first baseman who hit in 15 of those contests, batting .422/.449/.625 with three homers and four doubles over 64 at-bats. He endured a rough spell immediately afterward, going just 3-for-26 (.115), but the Padres credit the righthanded batter with having "unreal power" and a strong work ethic.

San Diego tabbed Freiman in the eighth round of last year's draft, taking him after his senior year at Duke. In his pro debut for short-season Eugene, he led the  Northwest League in extra-base hits, total bases and RBIs—and for good measure he paced all NWL first basemen in fielding percentage, assists and double plays. The 23-year-old is no stranger to cold MWL springs—he grew up and played high school ball in Wellesley, Mass.

Congratulations on your fast start.

Thanks, but it's so early still.

Where did you watch Duke's NCAA Basketball Championship game (in which the Blue Devils defeated Butler 61-59)?

"I watched it during my first night in Fort Wayne, back in the hotel room. We had just gotten back from spring training in Arizona."

You're listed at 6-foot-7. Did Duke basketball coaches ever try to recruit you to play for them?

"No, never. Not once. I think with all the players they bring in to that program that they had it covered."

Your Duke bio mentions that you ran track in high school. What events did you participate in?

"I ran the 200 and 300 (meter) dash and some 400 4x4 relays—sometimes the 600. But I really just did it to stay in shape for baseball. Plus our baseball coach was one of the track coaches. But I was never very good at track."

You guys opened the year by playing for more than two weeks without an off day. Had you experienced anything like that in baseball before?

"Yes. I think we've played for 16 days straight, and I think our next off day here is in three weeks. But yeah, last year, it was 20-something games in a row in the Northwest League. In the Cape (Cod League), we played for two weeks in row."

What's been the biggest change from playing as an amateur to playing as a pro?

"Definitely the wood bats. Using wood every day has been an adjustment. A metal bat just makes your life so much easier, but you're not a real hitter unless you hit with wood."

What have the Padres asked you to work on with Fort Wayne?

"I have a lot of things I'm working on. The big thing is being more consistent with my swings. Instead of taking a good one, then a bad swing, the idea is to be consistent mechanically. Also, I'm working on being the best defensive first baseman I can be. I feel like that's underrated"

"With a lot of first basemen, it's hit, hit, hit. And playing the field is second. But if you can pick a ball out on a bad throw, instead of making an error, then the inning could be over."

What has it been like playing in Fort Wayne? (The TinCaps are reigning Midwest League champions and have drawn 4,229 per game this year, the third best attendance mark in the MWL.)

"It's a great atmosphere here with thousands of people here every night. Even when we had a light rain on opening night, we still had a packed house. It's a good sports town—they actually have three minor league teams: the TinCaps, a minor league hockey team and an NBA D-League team."