Right-handed starter Blake Billings joined Right Field Bleachers for a phone interview this evening. The 19-year-old prospect from Tuscaloosa, Ala. was drafted by the Brewers in the 19th round of the 2008 draft.
The 6'5” pitcher went 10-3 with a 1.52 ERA and 112 strikeouts in 92-1/3 innings in his senior year of high school in 2008.
He threw three shutouts and one no-hitter on the way to Hillcrest High School’s Class 6A baseball championship. And he didn’t slow down after joining the Rookie League Arizona Brewers in July, posting a 2.25 ERA and 15 strikeouts in just 12 innings.
Currently working out in Arizona before minor-league Spring Training begins, Billings hopes to start the 2009 season in Appleton with the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers.
You can listen to the interview here:
Hi, this is Jared with Right Field Bleachers and we have Blake Billings on the phone. We’re just going to ask a few questions to the Brewers pitching prospect.
First off, Blake, you’re working out down in Arizona. How has that been going for you so far?
It’s been going well. It was kind of new because I was just out of high school and this is the first time I’ve lived on my own, but other than that, I’ve adapted pretty well and I’ve gotten pretty used to it. It’s really enjoyable and I’m liking it so far.
And you’re just about to start your first Spring Training with the Brewers. Are you looking forward to that?
Yes, I’m really looking forward to that. I know a lot of players that are in the minor leagues and they say that Spring Training is one of the most fun times of the year so I guess it’s something to look forward to.
Sure, and you’re getting a chance to meet a lot of the other players in the organization. How has that been so far?
It’s been pretty fun and exciting, you know, I guess.
You were drafted last year in the 19th round by the Brewers. Did you have any indication going into the draft that they were thinking about taking you?
Yeah, they were actually the first team to really contact me back in February, so I kind of figured it was probably going to be the Brewers that took me. They were kind of the No. 1 team that really called me all the time and did stuff like that.
OK, and what was your reaction when you were picked?
I was actually in Boston, MA. We were out on a senior trip, and I was eating at a place called Chicago’s Bar & Grill and the scout that drafted me, his name is Joe Mason, he called me and let me know that he was going to take me.
He told me that it looked like the money was going to be right, and I was just really excited. I was bouncing around Boston. We went to a game that evening and watched them play the Mariners. So, it was an exciting time in my life.
Yeah, was a tough decision for you to choose to sign or did it all fall together pretty quickly for you?
I had the set signing bonus, and I wasn’t going to take anything less than that. When they called me and told me that they had the money for me, I was like, “You know what? This is what I want to do. This is what I’ve always wanted to do.”
And I’ve heard from a lot of different scouts and a lot of different players that the Brewers have one of the best farm systems out of all 30 teams. So, it just kind of worked out for the best.
Sure, and your high school teammate (outfielder) Wayne Dedrick was drafted by the Brewers in the 30th round. Was that pretty special for you guys to get picked by the same organization?
Oh, that was amazing. The guys out here ask us how we pulled that one off. We were just blessed, really lucky to have that because when we got out here we both knew each other really well.
I mean, we’ve lived across the street from each other. We’ve been going to the same school forever so it was kind of nice to know someone out here already.
Have the Brewers given you any indication where you’ll start out playing this year?
No, they will let me know after Spring Training in April, so I’ll know then.
Do you have any hopes for where you’ll end up?
Well, I would love to be on a full-season team such as Wisconsin, the Timber Rattlers or whatever, the Low-A club. But, you know, my goal is just to make it to the big leagues and however long it takes is however long it takes.
I just want to keep playing ball for as long as I can. As long as God let’s me play, I want to keep playing.
Can you give me a little scouting report on yourself? What kind of pitches do you throw and what are your strengths?
I’m a four-pitch guy. I throw a fastball, curveball, changeup, and splitter. And, for me, it’s kind of like what day it is. Some days one pitch works better than the others and some days it doesn’t.
For me I like to spot up. I usually don’t walk many players and stuff so it’s kind of whatever.
I think I read your fastball tops out in the low 90s. Is that about right right now?
Yeah, that was last season. I think the highest I hit was like 93 or something. Hopefully it gets better as we go along.
And I’ve also read that control is a strength of your game. Do you think that’s accurate?
Yes, I mean, that’s kind of like the main part of my game. If I have control, then that’s how I get guys out. I’ve never been much of a strikeout kind of guy, but I like to get groundballs and flyballs and stuff and let the defense play.
Is there any part of your game that you think you need to work on in particular?
The main thing for me is consistency, being able to locate all four pitches. I guess the people that are pitching in the big leagues right now, their greatest attribute is probably consistency. They can all throw strikes every day and locate all of their pitches every day.
Last year, you had a great start to your minor-league career with the Arizona Brewers. Can you talk about that experience a little bit?
That was really nice to know that I can compete out here. You know, coming out of high school you never know. You never know what’s going on. You didn’t really know what to expect. And after going out there, you know, your first outing, I was extremely nervous.
I didn’t want to mess up. I had a good first outing and it was all good from there.
Yeah, and what does that kind of a start do for your confidence going into this year?
Well, it’s kind of nice. You always have that in the back of your mind, but the farther you move up, the better the competition gets so you just kind of have to step it up and get on whatever level you’re at and try to get better.
Obviously, being in the minors is not the goal you want. You want to be in the big leagues and that’s my main goal and that’s where I want to be.
Have you been up to Milwaukee at all? Have you seen Miller Park?
I actually haven’t. I have not been to Milwaukee. Mr. Mason, the scout that drafted me, really had no reason for me to go because the cross checker and all had seen me pitch and I guess they had liked what they had seen so they just did not invite me to the pre-draft camp.
So, I imagine you’re looking forward to checking that out when you get the chance?
I mean, that’d be amazing to be able to pitch in Milwaukee and pitch in front of all of those fans. That’s something to just look forward to. That’d be a dream come true.
In Milwaukee, as a pitcher, a starter, you’d have to take some swings, too. How do you handle the bat?
Ha, um, I wasn’t much of a hitter in high school. I was just mainly a pitcher and that’s all I did. So, you know, it’d just be another exciting moment I guess, something that’s a little different for me.
And when you’re up with the team, what do you think your at-bat song would be?
I’m not real sure.
Well, you’ve got some time to figure that out I guess.
OK, well, is there anything else you’d like to add? Anything you think Brewers fans should know about you?
I guess just know that I love the game and I’m looking forward to moving up and being a part of the Brewers organization and ultimately get a chance to play with the big league club one day.
Well, thank you very much and good luck going into this season.