Interview with MLB Draft sleeper Ty Barkell

USC Aiken/College Baseball Lineup

After receiving an anonymous tip on my old website, I decided to track Ty Barkell's progress at USC-Aiken this season. Needless to say, I'm impressed.

Back in January, I brought you an interview with one of the 2014 MLB Draft's top prospects in Kodi Medeiros. Today, I am bringing you an interview with one of this year's draft sleepers in Ty Barkell. Though USC-Aiken is just a Division II school, his hitting statistics are nonetheless impressive. College game film of Barkell is extremely limited (aka non-existent), but based on a YouTube video from a Colorado high school All-Star game (embedded below), his career statistics, and his answers to my probing questions, I would highly recommend keeping an eye on Barkell, especially as the draft progresses to the later rounds.

Player Profile:

Three-Year College Career Statistics:

G

AB

R

HR

RBI

BA

OBP

SLG

OPS

ISO

163

649

123

26

152

.353

.399

.550

.949

.197

High School All-Star Game Video:

Colorado Springs All Star Game - Ty W Barkell (via TySBarkell)

The video is pretty long (just over seven minutes), so your best bet is fast-forwarding to the 3:38 and 4:45 marks to see two home runs, and then the 2:05 and 6:45 marks for opposite-field hits—a double and single, respectively.

Interview:

Viva El Birdos: Coming from a Division II school, I can imagine it wasn’t all that easy to get MLB scout exposure. How frustrating was this for you and did it affect the way you played?

Ty Barkell: To be honest, I have always believed that if you were good enough, the scouts will find you at any level. Even though USCA is a Division II school, the level of play in our conference is very good. Our conference is filled with guys who could have played Division I. Also, having played with four draft picks in my three years at Aiken has given me numerous opportunities to perform in front of scouts. So it wasn’t as frustrating as some people would think. I am extremely blessed to play where I have the last three years. Scouts or no scouts, I am going to play ball the same way every single day—to the best of my ability and just hope that is enough for someone to give me a shot at the next level. I know that I am ready.

VEB: What is your favorite part of playing the game of baseball?

TB: Simply put, winning is everything. There is no better feeling than shaking the other team’s hand knowing you just beat them. I am truly blessed to have played on three teams here at USCA that won a lot of games. Aside from winning, baseball has been all that I have ever known. Baseball is a lifestyle and is year-round. I love being able to play as many games as I do and that I am able to play the sport year-round. If I go two days without picking up a bat, I go crazy with boredom.

VEB: Please list five OFF THE FIELD strengths you possess:

TB: I consider myself a very hard worker, both on and off the field. I believe my grades (both high school and college) demonstrate that I try to be the best at everything I do. My dad has always said, "If you’re not getting better, you’re getting worse", and that is the motto that I try to live by every day.

I’m a good student, so I constantly find myself learning something new and applying it to my life, both on and off the field. This game is so complex and the details are endless. Why not try and learn as many as I can?

I am extremely competitive. Even in a small game like ping pong, I play like it is game seven of the World Series. My friends hate being around me if they beat me because I don’t even want to be around them if I lose.  Everything in life has a winner and a loser. I’ll do everything I can to make sure I am the winner.

I am a very honest person. Even when I have to say something that a family member or friend doesn’t want to hear, telling them the truth is my only option. I despise cheaters and liars.

Lastly, I am extremely independent. Moving 1,600 miles away from home would be tough for most kids. But, I have been raised to be independent and am very comfortable living on my own. I actually prefer it. Yes, I miss my family, but they understand that I am away chasing my dream. There is time for family later in life.

VEB: How many MLB teams have talked to you so far regarding the draft? What have they had to say?

TB: So far I have talked with only three different teams. They all typically ask the same questions. Most of the conversation is aimed at them finding out my signability. As I have told all of them, I am extremely signable. I want to play pro ball over anything else in this world, so the round and the money truly do not make a difference to me. If I get drafted, I will sign. All that I ask is that the team is fair with me and that they give me a chance. Other than the three teams calling, I have filled out informational stuff for 12 teams and for the major league scouting bureau. All of which ask for the same types of things.

VEB: What skills do you possess that you think best translate to professional baseball?

TB: Growing up, I played on a lot of very good teams for baseball, basketball, and football. In doing so, I have learned how to play on the biggest of stages and in big-time situations. I thrive under the pressure, and to be honest, I think I’m a better player when the game is on the line. I’m able to slow the game down in big situations, and that is what the all-time greats were able to do. Also, at all levels I have successfully hit for average and power. This is a must to play in the big leagues.

VEB: What parts of your game do you feel still needs the most work?

TB: In baseball you are constantly judged on 5 tools. My weakness of the five has always been running speed. I constantly am running short sprints and doing drills to continue to improve this part of my game. I have made huge strides in this area, but I know I still have a ways to go.

VEB: What position do you think you could play professionally?

TB: I have only played first base at Aiken. Obviously I know that I can play first base, but the other two positions that I would be confident in playing are third base and right field. In my opinion, my arm strength translates to the next level, and it is strong enough to play all three of those positions. In high school and all the way growing up, I played shortstop and third base, so the transition would be very comfortable for me. I also played outfield my sophomore year in high school, so playing right field would not be new to me. I believe I can play all three of those positions at the next level.

VEB: Your career college slash line is .353/.399/.550. That’s impressive, but how is your hitting with a wood bat? How much game experience do you have with wood bats?

TB: I have a ton of experience with wood bats. For three summers I played for Davy Jones baseball club based out of Denver, CO. Each summer, we played at least 60 games against top competition across the country. We swung wood bats over 50% of those games. My numbers speak for themselves as I currently hold almost all of the career and single season records for the program that has been around nearly 20 years. Most of which was done using a wood bat. Last summer and so far this summer, I have played in the CPL (Forest City Owls [2013], Edenton Steamers [present]). Last year, my success with the wood bat got me named to the All-Star team as a starter. After just one week into this summer, I have been named hitter of the week for the league. All of this demonstrates that I am a comfortable with both metal and wood bats. I prefer wood bats and I have felt that way since I was fifteen years old, when we first started using them.

VEB: What is one player in the big leagues you most compare your style of play to?

TBMichael Cuddyer. He has the ability to hit for power and average like I do. He demonstrated this by winning the National League batting title last season. The other reason I chose him is because he is the ultimate team player and truly understands how to play the game. He knows when to shorten up and move a guy over as well as when to try and lose a ball out of the yard. He will do whatever it takes to help his team win, and I truly admire that.

VEB: Growing up, which player did you look up to most?

TB: Troy Tulowitzki, I love everything about his game, and obviously I grew up in Colorado and am a fan of the Rockies. He just does it all. He is the best at his position both with the glove and with the bat. The guy is a Gold Glover and Silver Slugger and plays the game the right way. I have tried to mirror a lot of his swing into mine over the years. We both stand upright and use our leverage to generate backspin. When he makes adjustments, I try and reflect them into my game as well.

VEB: If you could hold a pre-draft conversation with an MLB General Manager, what would you say? Basically, in 5 sentences or less, what are the main reasons why a major league team should draft you?

TB: Having played at a Division II school, I feel like I have been somewhat overlooked. I would tell a general manager, if you take a chance on me, it will not cost you much, and I promise you the rewards will be great. I really believe in my abilities, and I am very confident that some day I will play in the major leagues.

VEB: As an outsider, what is the one thing that stands out the most about the Cardinals organization?

TB: Their history of great players and championship teams. Every year they seem to be a legitimate contender. This reflects on how great and deep their farm system is. They continue to produce superstars, and that shows how great their scouting system is. It would be awesome to go to a team that is always a contender like the Cardinals.

VEB: Five to six years from now, you find yourself walking to the plate for your first big league at bat, what would you choose as your walk-up song? (For the sake of this question, use songs that are currently out, obviously)

TB: To be honest, I would probably still use the one I have had my entire college career (Stronger, by Kanye West). It seems to have worked but the song doesn’t make a difference to me. At that point, I probably would be thinking about the situation and what types of pitches he just threw the guy in front of me and probably wouldn’t even hear the music. Your pre at bat approach is almost as important as the actual at bat. You can’t just walk up there without a plan.

Final Thoughts:

Still not convinced that a Division II baseball player from USC-Aiken will get drafted? Honestly, this belief is completely understandable. However, three USC-Aiken players were drafted last season (including one in the tenth round), and there is a possibility for another (Barkell) to get drafted this year. I thank Ty for being so thoughtful in his responses to the questions from Viva El Birdos and wish him the absolute best during the MLB Draft process.

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