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February 1, 1997

Interview with Frank Catalanotto

by Keith Law

This week, Frank Catalanotto was kind enough to sit down for an interview with our own Keith Law. Here's a brief transcript of the interview, and Frank's entry from Baseball Prospectus '97. Our thanks to Mr. Catalanotto for his patience and generosity.


Year Team 	  Lge	 AB   H DB TP HR  BB SB CS OUT   BA  OBA   SA  EQA EQR Peak
1994 Fayetteville S Atl	482 143 18  4  4  32  2  2 341 .297 .340 .376 .243  50 .277
1995 Jacksonville South	508 116 14  3 10  47  9  4 396 .228 .294 .327 .208  39 .233
1996 Jacksonville South	511 145 24  3 17  63 11  7 373 .284 .362 .442 .268  69 .296
1997 Detroit	  AL	449 119 27  2 14  53  6  4 334 .265 .343 .428 .259  57
You have to love a left-handed hitting second baseman with broad offensive skills. When a hitter improves tremendously in his second year at a level, it's sometimes written off as a fluke, but I think Catalanotto's progress was legitimate. He was just 22 last season, and the breadth of his improvement is very impressive.

The Tigers are making noises about giving Mark Lewis' job to someone else, so at the very least Catalanotto could be looking at a platoon role in Detroit next year. I like him a lot; he's in much the same position that Bobby Higginson was in two years ago, and we know how that turned out. A real sleeper.

Gone to Oakland in the Rule V draft, and will compete with Brent Gates for the 2B job.

BP: We were all kind of outraged when Detroit let you go through the Rule V draft.

FC: Yeah, you know, they told me I was a shoo-in for the roster, you know, to make the team and all. My manager [Larry Parrish] told me so, the scouts told me so, the assistant GM - everybody. Then I saw the list and that's when I found out.

BP: Did they ever call you to explain?

FC: After I saw the list, I called Larry Parrish. He said he was in the meeting room when they were filling out the roster, and I was on everyone's lists to make the team. But when my name came up, Randy Smith - who's only seen me play six times... I'll admit, I didn't play that well when he saw me, but when my name came up, he said no, because he'd never seen me play good. The scouts said, "But you've only seen him play six times," but he said don't put me on the roster.

But I'm excited about Oakland. I looked at my stats versus the other guys, and I think I've got a real shot.

BP: Have you heard from Sandy Alderson or anyone else from the A's?

FC: Not Sandy Alderson, but I've talked to just about everyone else: their scouts, the assistant GM, the trainer, etc. They said I have a great change to win a job if their team stays the way it is right now. If they sign a big-time second baseman, then that's a different story, obviously, but right now, all they really have is Brent Gates, and they said he's coming back from a broken leg, so it's up to me, and the job is mine if I can perform.

Their spring training starts on February 20th, but I'm heading off two weeks early to get used to the warm weather, and to meet some of the guys, since it's all new to me.

BP: You had a close call there with Kevin Elster.

FC: Yes - my knees were shaking when I heard they were going to sign him!

BP: I guess the key was that they didn't retain Mike Bordick.

FC: You know, I've never understood the hype around Bordick. I've seen his numbers, and he just doesn't look that good.

BP: One of the reasons we think you're a good prospect is because you walk a lot. Since Detroit isn't really big on that - I mean, they just acquired a bunch of guys with .290 on-base averages - did they every try to change your approach?

FC: Oh yeah. This past season, my manager, Larry Parrish - he was my manager in the second half of the year, after our first manager, Bill Plummer, was fired - changed my overall approach, to get me driving the ball. He said that the game is changing, and that a second baseman who just hits .300 and fields OK isn't anything special - they can replace you with some kid from the Dominican who can steal 50 bases. So he wanted me to be a different kind of second baseman, by hitting more homers and doubles. He told me, "Go ahead and jump on the first pitch, or drive the ball early in the count." So I was more aggressive, and started getting some good counts and really hitting the ball for power.

BP: Did you find your strikeout rate spike when you did that?

FC: Yes, but that's what happens when you're more aggressive, and hitting more homers.

BP: Did anything else contribute to your power surge last season? Were you working out more?

FC: I did work out hard last offseason, but I really credit it more to a different mental aspect. I really changed my game, from being a slap guy to driving the middle-in pitches to right.

BP: Of the pitchers you've faced this year, who really impressed you?

FC: Well, I faced Chan Ho Park in the Arizona Fall League [1995], and he threw the hardest I've ever faced. I think he was hitting 99 that day. But as for guys I faced this year, Curt Lyons threw very well. Then there's one of our guys named Brian Moeler. Mac Suzuki threw the ball well, although I don't think he had great stats.

I faced Billy Wagner back in spring training 1993, and he just made me look silly.

BP: What's your take on Bubba Trammell?

FC: Oh, he's the real deal. I think he's gonna be a superstar. He's not very agile out there, but he could hit. That's the most impressed I've been when watching another hitter hit. I don't know how it'll go, but I think he should make the team this year... There's going to be a crowd in left field, with Phil Nevin and Melvin Nieves, but he may make the team as a 4th outfielder. Then again, they may just send him down to get some at bats.

BP: How about some of the guys the Tigers just traded to the Astros?

FC: Well, there's Nitkowski, CJ's a great guy, with great stuff. I think he's going to be a top-line major league pitcher. I faced him in spring training, and he was pretty tough. Trever Miller - well, I guess all major league teams like lefthanded pitchers. He doesn't throw real hard, so I just don't see him being very good. Then there's Daryle Ward, a class-A first baseman, but he's been battling weight problems. Who else was in that deal?

BP: Jose Lima.

FC: Oh, Lima's got a great changeup. His fastball is kind of straight, though.

BP: Thanks for taking the time to talk to us. Best of luck to you!
Related Content:  The Who,  BP,  Frank Catalanotto

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1997-11-10 - Transaction Analysis: October 21-November 6
1997-09-29 - NL East Expansion Draft Analysis
1997-09-29 - C'est la Rotisserie
1997-02-01 - Interview with Frank Catalanotto