By JAY LeBLANC
July 28, 2008
Growing up in Ontario, Nick Weglarz looked up to the Montreal Expos’ Larry Walker and later the Minnesota Twins‘ Justin Morneau because they were Canadians who rode their sweet left-handed strokes to big league stardom. Now that Weglarz is following in his countrymen’s footsteps as a top prospect in the Cleveland Indians organization, kids in the land up north may soon be looking up to him for the very same reasons.
Weglarz was considered the top hitting prospect in Canada when the Indians drafted him in the third round of the 2005 draft, but his pro career got off to a slow start. He hit just .231 with two home runs as a 17-year-old in the Rookie-level Appalachian League in 2005 and then missed almost all of 2006 after breaking a bone in his right wrist. Weglarz bounced back strong in 2007 with the Class A Lake County Captains, hitting .276 and ranking among the leaders in the South Atlantic League with 23 home runs and 82 RBI before earning a late-season promotion to the advanced Class A Kinston Indians. Baseball America ranked him as the No. 6 prospect in the Indians’ organization during the offseason.
Back with Kinston, the 6’ 3”, 245 pound Weglarz is having another fine season. Through 99 games, he’s hitting .273 with 10 home runs and 38 RBI, and he ranks fifth in the Carolina League with 66 runs scored. Outstanding plate discipline - he’s second in the league with 67 walks - has helped Weglarz post a .400 on-base percentage, good for fifth in the circuit. He was recently chosen to play for Team Canada at the Beijing Olympics, and while it will cause him to miss a few weeks of the minor league season, he’ll have the honor of representing his country and will benefit from facing top international competition. I recently had a chance to speak with the 20-year-old:
Q: Could you share your thoughts about being selected to play for Team Canada at the Beijing Olympics?
A: I think it’s an honor to go and play for your country. It’s a once in a lifetime opportunity, and I’m very proud to go and represent my country.
Q: What was your first reaction when you learned you’d been drafted by the Indians? Did you know they were looking to pick you?
A: I knew they were interested, but when I got the phone call and I heard my name being drafted, I mean, it was unbelievable. It was shocking at first; I couldn’t believe it happened, and then it finally sank in once I got down to Rookie ball and started learning what it was all about.
Q: You missed nearly all of 2006 after breaking a bone in your wrist, but you bounced back with a great 2007 season. Why do you think you were able to come back so strong?
A: I think it was just … I got to work out hard. I came back at the end; I played in instructional league in 2006 and I just worked hard all winter and came to spring training in good shape and ready to go, and it just carried over into the season.
Q: Could you describe your approach at the plate? Do you try to get into the pitcher’s head, or do you just react to what’s thrown?
A: I don’t react to what’s thrown. I wait for my pitch, and if it’s not there, I’m not going to swing at it even if it is a strike until I’ve got two strikes on me. If I’m swinging at borderline pitches on the black with less than two strikes and I put it in play, I consider it a wasted at bat. I wait for my pitch - a pitch I can do something with - and put a good swing on it, and if it’s anything else, I won’t swing at it.
Q: What are some aspects of your game that you’re trying to improve upon this season?
A: I’d say just being consistent. I try to be consistent every day with my approach at the plate, and just try to solidify it as best I can.
Q: Is there any player, past or present, that you either look up to or try to model your approach after?
A: Well, being Canadian, growing up I always watched Larry Walker play, and even Justin Morneau, when he got drafted and was working his way up through the minors, because I played first base for most of my high school career. I looked up to those two players and Mark McGwire, because I was a kid when he was in the home run chase and all that stuff. Those are the three players I probably looked up to the most.
Q: How soon do you think you’ll be ready to help the Indians?
A: I mean, the decision is not up to me. I’d be happy to help them out today if they asked, but I just worry about where I’m at now and I try not to think about the future or worry about anything other than the game today, and I try to go out and do my best.
Jay LeBlanc is an assistant news editor at The Washington Times and Mayor of the National Pastime web community. His Prospect Q&A column runs every Monday and Thursday throughout the season. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Photo by Amanda Rice
Be sure to check out our previous National Pastime Prospect Q&A’s: Matt Wieters, Orioles; Ross Detwiler, Nationals; Adrian Alaniz, Nationals; Jake Arrieta, Orioles; Greg Golson, Phillies; John Shelby III, White Sox; Brandon Erbe, Orioles; Chris Marrero, Nationals; Jason Donald, Phillies; John Ely, White Sox; Nolan Reimold, Orioles; Michael Burgess, Nationals; Wes Hodges, Indians; Colton Willems, Nationals; Chris Tillman, Orioles; Dominic Brown, Phillies; Brandon Hicks, Braves; Jordan Zimmermann, Nationals.