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Ryan Ludwick is an outfielder in the Oakland Athletics system. The
A’s selected him in the second round in 1999 out of UNLV, and he’s been
working his way up the system by hitting for power and playing notable
defense since then.

Ludwick is currently in the Texas League at Midland, where he’s hitting .269
with 33 extra-base hits in 249 at-bats and 33 walks. He is highly regarded
by the Oakland organization as a power/speed guy with the ability to play
plus defense.

Gary Huckabay: Has Oakland management given you any specific things
they on which they want you to work?

Ryan Ludwick: They want me to cut down on my strikeouts and steal
more bases. I’ve never really been taught how to steal bases. I used to kind
of get by on my athletic ability, but as you play pro ball and move up, the
catchers get better and better, and the pitchers are more creative about
using slide steps. I’m working on reading moves, getting better jumps, and
just making those adjustments that you need to constantly make. I’m
learning. The A’s are happy with my defense and the other parts of my game.

BP: Is there a particular coach that’s been helpful? How have they
been helpful?

RL: I’m really lucky to be in the Oakland organization. We have the
hardest working coaching staff in baseball. Dave Hudgens [roving hitting
instructor for the Athletics] and Keith Lieppman are really helpful. They’re
all friendly, know how to teach, and are out there from early in the morning
to really late every day they’re out here. Quality guys all the way through
the organization.

BP: How has your approach to hitting changed from league to league as
you’ve moved up the ladder?

RL: It’s changed a ton. In high school and college, I was pretty much
a free swinger. I used my athletic ability: see a fastball, lay an aluminum
bat on it, and hit it a ton. Now, I don’t miss pitches as often; I can pick
up balls in my hitting zone much more quickly, and I’m more selective. A big
part of developing is being able to play every day.

BP: What has the culture shock been like? You’ve moved up pretty
quickly. Do you have a target date for making it to the majors?

RL: Not that bad, really. My brother [Eric Ludwick, former
Blue Jay pitcher now playing in Japan] explained to me what to expect at
each level in terms of changes in the game, the preparation, and what
everything was like.

It would be nice to get a September call-up, but I can’t focus on that. No
matter what, I need to do my job and play well.

BP: Who are some guys you’ve played against who you think are going
to be quality major leaguers?

RL: A couple of guys from Round Rock really stand out–Tim
Redding
, for sure. Redding throws 91-93, can reach back for a little
more than that, and has a good change and curveball. He’s the best pitcher
I’ve ever faced. As a hitter, Jason Lane is amazing. He just hits and
hits and hits. Average, power, plate discipline.

BP: On what do you need to improve, and how are you going to do it?

RL: Well, the A’s want me to cut down on my strikeouts, so I’m going
to focus on that. That means concentrating with two strikes, trying to relax
at the plate, and most importantly, getting a lot of repetitions with a
consistent approach. I think it’s just going to take some time to develop
that consistency a little more.

BP: What’s taken more of your time than you expected?

RL: Nothing, really. I have a routine that I follow, and once I get
into the practice of it, it’s not that hard. I wake up, hit the gym, come
back and have lunch, relax a little, go to the field, hang out in the
clubhouse some, hit BP, get some time in the outfield, come back and eat the
spread, then relax and go play baseball. I’ve been playing year-round
baseball since I was in high school, so the adjustment might be easier for
me than some guys.

BP: How has the expansion of the strike zone affected you? Do you
really notice it? Is it more difficult to lay off pitches on the edge of the
zone?

RL: It’s kind of erratic. The strike zone is new to the umpires, too.
Some nights, you may get a pitch called a strike that’s been a ball before.
Other nights, you won’t. We’ve been taught to lay off that pitch all our
lives, so a lot of guys just freeze on a pitch up in the zone, and sometimes
it’s a strike, sometimes it’s a ball.

I think the zone is going to evolve back close to where it was before —
you’re still seeing that pitch three inches off the plate called a strike.
Eventually, the strike zone will probably be a little taller than it was,
and a little narrower.

BP: Ryan, thanks very much for taking the time to sit down with us.
Good luck, and we hope to see you hitting bombs for Oakland ASAP.

Gary Huckabay is an author of Baseball Prospectus. You can contact him by clicking here.–>