By JAY LeBLANC
July 7, 2008
Cleveland Indians third base prospect Wes Hodges, one of the latest in the long line of outstanding baseball players to come out of Georgia Tech, is the definition of a gamer. After breaking a bone in his wrist as a high school senior, Hodges - a right-handed hitter - switched to lefty and hit .430, impressing the Chicago White Sox enough that they selected him in the 13th round of the 2003 draft in a futile attempt to persuade him not to go to college. During his junior year with the Yellow Jackets, Hodges refused to come out of the lineup despite a stress fracture in his leg. Playing in the ultra-competitive ACC, he still managed to hit .329 with 11 home runs and 68 RBI in 58 games.
Hodges has continued to mash since Cleveland made him a second-round pick in the 2006 draft and is now ranked by Baseball America as the team’s No. 4 prospect. The Indians showed confidence in Hodges by having him make his professional debut last season with their advanced Class A affiliate, the Kinston Indians, and he responded by hitting .288 with 15 jacks and 71 RBI, earning Carolina League Post-Season All-Star honors.
Hodges is in the midst of a fine season with the double-A Akron Aeros, hitting .307 with 10 homers and an Eastern League-leading 69 RBI. He was selected to play in the circuit’s All-Star Game as well as this Sunday’s XM Satellite Radio Futures Game at Yankee Stadium, and is one of 60 players currently being considered for the 24-man U.S. Olympic Team. Hodges has clearly established himself as the Tribe’s third baseman of the future, and could be in line for a September call-up. I recently spoke with the 23-year old:
Q: What was your first reaction when you learned you’d been drafted by the Indians? Did you know in advance that they were looking to pick you?
A: Yeah. My agent, the night before, was talking to me about my thougts on playing for them, and I was excited.
Q: You played in one of the best conferences in the country, the ACC, with Georgia Tech. How did that prepare you for your pro career?
A: It was good because day in and day out, we would play against good competition, facing some of the best pitchers in the country, so it definitely helped prepare me for pro ball and what we see now.
Q: Is there any player, past or present, that you’ve tried to model your approach after?
A: Not really. There’s guys I look up to - I guess anybody that’s in the big leagues I’d like to model my game after, but there’s not one specific player.
Q: Could you describe your approach at the plate? Do you come into an at bat looking for a specific pitch, or do you just react to what’s thrown?
A: It’s different. Sometimes I’ll look for a certain pitch, sometimes I’ll look for a certain location, sometimes I react. It just depends on the situation, the pitcher and the situation in the game.
Q: What are some aspects of your game that you’re trying to improve upon this year?
A: Everything. Defensively, just using my legs. Offensively, using my legs - that’s really the biggest thing.
Q: When do you think you’ll be ready to help the big league club?
A: Whenever they need me. It’s up to them, and it could be this year or it could be three years down the road. It’s not really up to me, so I’m not really going to worry about it. I’m just going to come out here and have fun every day and play hard and whatever happens, happens.
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.