2007 Draft Spotlight: Phillippe Aumont
Canada's top junior pitcher, Phillippe Aumont, sat down with Baseball Analysts three days before traveling to the Dominican Republic with Baseball Canada's Junior National Team for the annual Dominican Summer League tour. The junior team will play eight games on its tour against major league Dominican Summer League teams. Included in the schedule are games against affiliates of the Toronto Blue Jays, New York Yankees, Minnesota Twins, Philadelphia Phillies, Texas Rangers, Cleveland Indians, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim and the Seattle Mariners.
Upon returning to North America, the French Canadian from the City of Gatineau, Quebec has the potential to be one of the top 10 picks in the 2007 Major League Baseball amateur draft on June 7. According to Baseball America, Aumont really began to make a name for himself when he appeared in a high school all-star game in Cape Cod and in the East Coast Showcase last summer.
Aumont said his career highlight to this point was winning a bronze medal with Team Canada at the 2006 World Junior Championships in Cuba, with a 6-2 win over Mexico.
Baseball Analysts: Thank you very much for taking the time to speak with me; I know you're really busy.
Phillippe Aumont: That's all right.
Baseball Analysts: So, what are some of the things you have been doing in preparation of the upcoming draft?
Phillippe Aumont: I went to Florida in March and then I went to Florida again in April with the [Canadian] Junior National Team... I also threw at the [Triple-A] Ottawa Lynx' stadium. And I'm going to the Dominican Republic this Wednesday with the national team... We'll be playing against the Dominicans down there.
Baseball Analysts: What has been the most challenging competition you've faced recently?
Phillippe Aumont: In April, I faced players in [Major League Baseball] extended spring training.
Baseball Analysts: Which club's extended spring training did you attend?
Phillippe Aumont: Me, I faced the [Atlanta] Braves and Detroit Tigers.
Baseball Analysts: Do you remember any particularly difficult batters that you faced?
Phillippe Aumont: Yeah, I don't remember the names but there was one Detroit Tiger - the lead-off hitter. He was so comfortable at the plate and for a pitcher, when you throw hard, most batters are not comfortable and you can see that. But he went to the plate and was really comfortable. He wasn't swinging at the two-seamer outside or the pitch inside. He was patient and looking for a specific pitch.
Baseball Analysts: And what was the outcome of the at-bat?
Phillippe Aumont: He got a hit against me - the only hit of the game.
Baseball Analysts: How many innings did you throw?
Phillippe Aumont: Three.
Baseball Analysts: Of this past month, what was your favorite part?
Phillippe Aumont: My favorite part was in Florida. That was a nice trip and there were a lot of people there. You know if you can dominate there, you can be one of the best players.
Baseball Analysts: How has your life changed in the last year? Your draft stock has improved significantly and you're pretty much guaranteed to go in the first 10 picks of the draft.
Phillippe Aumont: I don't know, really. I just continue to work hard and never give up... But I try not to do too much.
Baseball Analysts: Are surprised at how much you've improved in the last year?
Phillippe Aumont: Yeah, I am very surprised. I didn't expect that, but I learn quick so I think that's helped me to improve myself.
Baseball Analysts: What do you think is the thing you've improved upon the most in the last year?
Phillippe Aumont: I think it's controlling everything: my emotions, controlling the game and controlling my pitches and being able to throw my curveball for strikes. I've been working on my change-up. When you get to the higher levels, you need one. You can't win, really, with just a fastball and a curveball. You need three pitches, maybe four and good fastball movement. That's what I've been working on.
Baseball Analysts: So, what pitches do you have in your repertoire right now?
Phillippe Aumont: I have a fastball - two kinds of fastballs: a four-seamer and a two-seamer. The two-seamer is 92-93 [mph] with movement. The four-seamer goes up to 98 [mph]... I have a slider, that's kind of a slurve and goes up to 80-81 [mph]. And a change-up, 82-83 [mph].
Baseball Analysts: Are you working on any other pitches or are you just looking to improve the ones you have?
Phillippe Aumont: The priority is to work on these pitches. But I am working on an off-speed pitch. It's a splitter that I used as my change-up before. But I stopped that because I have a normal change-up now, a circle change-up. But I'm still working on the split-finger.
Baseball Analysts: How does the level of competition compare between Canada and the U.S.? Have you seen enough competition in the U.S. to tell the difference?
Phillippe Aumont: In Canada we have a... how do I say in English... different view of baseball. We have a lot of training on routine plays and stuff like that. And when you see American guys, they have all this stuff and they're all so cool. They want to look like [Derek] Jeter and all that. They're not the same guys, you know. I went to [amateur] showcases and it's a different world.
Baseball Analysts: They have more confidence or they're more cocky?
Phillippe Aumont: Well, I don't want to say cocky. Some of the guys are, but most are not. They're really, like, uh...
Baseball Analysts: Flashy?
Phillippe Aumont: Yeah.
Baseball Analysts: And in Canada it's more laid back?
Phillippe Aumont: Yeah... We don't have big stars... no big star shortstops or big star third basemen. It's just normal guys who can play baseball and compete against everybody.
Baseball Analysts: Have you played baseball your whole life, or did you grow up playing hockey or other sports?
Phillippe Aumont: I started to play [baseball] at the age of 11. And I was not a pitcher at that time. I started to throw the ball on the mound at 14.
Baseball Analysts: You've only been doing it for four years, then?
Phillippe Aumont: Yeah, it's just my fourth year as a pitcher. Before that I was a center-fielder.
Baseball Analysts: Really? Do you still enjoying going up to the plate to hit?
Phillippe Aumont: Not now, you know, because the draft is coming. People don't want me getting injured, especially my adviser and my coach on the national team.
Baseball Analysts: Did you have a favorite team growing up?
Phillippe Aumont: No, not really.
Baseball Analysts: Did you have a favorite player or a pitcher that you modeled yourself after?
Phillippe Aumont: Randy Johnson, a little bit. Because he's tall and at that point I was a little bit wild.
Baseball Analysts: Did you ever get a chance to see him pitch in person?
Phillippe Aumont: No, never.
Baseball Analysts: Do you think you have the ability to throw harder some day or are you comfortable with the level you're at right now?
Phillippe Aumont: I know I need to work on a lot of things and for sure it's one of my goals. Once in my life I would like to top 100 [mph]. I'm comfortable with where I am; hitters don't hit me.
Baseball Analysts: So it's not about throwing harder for you?
Phillippe Aumont: No. In the major leagues, not everybody can throw 96-97 [mph] and they still get guys out.
Baseball Analysts: Right now, what do you think is your best pitch? Is it your two-seamer?
Phillippe Aumont: Yeah, my two-seamer.
Baseball Analysts: And that's because you command it the best?
Phillippe Aumont: Yeah, and there is a lot of movement on it.
Baseball Analysts: Do you think you still have room to grow or fill out? You're about 6'7'' right now?
Phillippe Aumont: I don't think I'll get taller, but I'm 228 lbs right now, or something like that, and I want to get up to 240, 245.
Baseball Analysts: You seem to have a lot of intelligence from a pitching standpoint for your age. A lot of young pitchers think they just have to throw really hard all the time to succeed. Where does that pitching philosophy come from?
Phillippe Aumont: In my first year with the national team I was just trying to throw the ball really hard and I wanted to make the team. [Head coach] Greg Hamilton took me aside and said, "Phillippe, just throw the ball. You're 6'7'' and you don't need to throw that hard. You have good movement on the fastball. When you're on the mound, be aggressive, don't be intimidated and try to intimidate the batters and you will be a success." That's when I started to think like that. And day after day, I just try to focus on that.
Baseball Analysts: When you're standing on the mound, what's the most challenging part of pitching?
Phillippe Aumont: That's a good question. The hardest thing to do is to not think. You need to be clear in your head. You need to stay focused and not think about your mechanics or think about getting your fastball over and stuff like that. You want to have nothing, nothing, nothing in your head. The second you have something and you start to think about other things you'll start throwing balls, balls in the dirt, wild pitches, then they get a hit and you'll start to be mad. That's a hard thing to do - not think - but if you can do it, you can be successful.
Baseball Analysts: Do you have a preference where you would like to be drafted? Do you want to go in the top five or the top 10, or does that matter?
Phillippe Aumont: For me, it doesn't matter where I go. Baseball is baseball for me. Every team plays baseball, every team has coaches. The biggest difference, I think, is the uniform. But I would like to go to Washington.
Baseball Analysts: You'd like to be picked by the Washington Nationals?
Phillippe Aumont: Yeah, I'd like to go there. I don't know why.
Baseball Analysts: Are they one of the teams that have shown a lot of interest in you?
Phillippe Aumont: I don't know, really... Some teams do their jobs behind the scenes and you don't see them. They don't talk to you or to anybody and you don't know they're there. And some of the teams are right in front of you.
Baseball Analysts: Have you had any private workouts with teams?
Phillippe Aumont: Yeah, I did twice. One with Cleveland and one with the New York Yankees.
Baseball Analysts: Was that exciting?
Phillippe Aumont: Yeah, it was nice. You can visit and see how everything works. You see the fields and there are players everywhere.
Baseball Analysts: Do you have any plans for draft day?
Phillippe Aumont: We have two options. We could go to Orlando or we can stay in Gatineau [Quebec, Canada] and have a big party and celebrate with friends and family.
Baseball Analysts: Are you leaning towards one in particular?
Phillippe Aumont: For now, I haven't been invited to Florida. Nobody has yet, not even David Price. I don't know why it's late like that... I'm waiting but I expect to be here. It's more fun when you're with your family. But if I go to Florida, I'll be with my adviser [Dan Lawson], my girlfriend and my tutor.
Baseball Analysts: Have you had a chance to see any of the other high school pitchers expected to go early in the draft?
Phillippe Aumont: Yeah, I played with Rick Porcello, Matt Harvey; I played with - well he's not a pitcher - Josh Vitters. All those high schools guys are in the top 10 or 15. Jarrod Parker was another one. I saw them in the East Coast Showcase, in the Cape Cod [High School Classic] and the World Junior Championship.
Baseball Analysts: How do you feel you compare with some of those other high school pitchers?
Phillippe Aumont: Well, now I don't know. Last year I was comfortable to be there. I wasn't embarrassed because I was performing and they were performing well too. We were all on the same level. It's been a year and things change.
Baseball Analysts: What goals do you have long-term in professional baseball?
Phillippe Aumont: It's not something I'm really thinking about now. For sure I want to be drafted as high as possible and I want to play in the big leagues, for sure. But I want to go step by step and be ready for the next level. I don't want to go places when I'm not ready. For me, there is no rush.
Baseball Analysts: What do you think is going to be the most challenging part about playing professional baseball full-time?
Phillippe Aumont: Just the routine. It's hard taking the bus, being away from home and staying at the hotel. I'm tall and I don't fit in the bus very comfortably.
Baseball Analysts: Thank you very much for your time.
Phillippe Aumont: No problem.
Baseball Analysts: Best of luck with the draft.
Phillippe Aumont: Thank you.
A special thank you to Dan Lawson, Bob Elliott and Jim Callis for their assistance in arranging this interview.