2008 Draft Day Spotlight: Kyle Skipworth
On the heels of yesterday's Q&A with Brett Lawrie, we have the good fortune to spotlight another high school catcher who is projected to be taken among the top ten picks in the First-Year Player Draft on Thursday. Kyle Skipworth of Patriot High School (Riverside, Calif.) was named as the Gatorade National Baseball Player of the Year and is currently ranked as the top high school senior in the country by Perfect Game Cross Checker and the ninth best prospect overall by Baseball America.
Skipworth, a 6-foot-4, 200-pound lefthanded-hitting catcher, produced a rate line of .543/.627/1.117 while leading his Warriors to a 27-3 record and the California Interscholastic Federation Southern Section Division IV state postseason tournament semifinals. He went 51-for-94 and produced 11 doubles, 2 triples, and 13 home runs while walking or getting hit by a pitch 23 times, scoring 51 runs, and driving home 47. Kyle also set a California state record this spring when he put together a streak of 18 consecutive hits in 18 official at-bats, reaching base safely in 25 straight plate appearances during this span.
A member of the USA Junior and Youth National Baseball teams, Skipworth is a veteran of the showcase circuit. Baseball America has called him "the best high school catcher in the nation" and concedes that he could be "the best prep prospect at that position since Joe Mauer was the first pick in the 2001 draft." A four-tool catcher, Skipworth hits for average and power and fields his position and throws well. Kyle has a plus arm and a release time of 1.90-1.93 on throws to second base. Skipworth, in fact, was rated the No. 1 throwing arm at last summer's 17-and-Under World Wood Bat Association Championships in Georgia. He has gunned down more than 70-percent of would-be base-stealers in his career.
According to Baseball America, Skipworth's hitting and power both grade out in the 65-70 range on the 20-80 scouting scale. The only tool he lacks is foot speed. Kyle is unaware of his home-to-first base times but told me he has run a 7.07 in the 60-yard dash. However, as reported by Baseball America, "Skip" has plenty of bat speed, quick reflexes, superior hand-eye coordination, and athleticism (as suggested by his 31-inch vertical leap at one of the showcases).
Rich: How does it feel to be named the Gatorade High School Baseball Player of the Year?
Kyle: It's an incredible honor. To put my name on the trophy with all the past winners like Alex Rodriguez and Gary Sheffield, it's almost like living in a dream now. Looking at the trophy in a couple of years and seeing my name next to theirs . . .
Rich: . . . is quite an honor indeed. Well, there is no doubt that this is an exciting week for you. After winning the award last night, you can now turn your attention to the Major League Baseball Draft on Thursday where you're projected to be selected among the top ten players overall. Where will you be on draft day?
Kyle: I'll be at home with a small group of family and friends just watching it from the couch.
Rich: I'll bet everyone is excited for you.
Kyle: Everyone is really excited. We're going to have the whole chips and dip and everything like that. It's going to be a nice all day long kind of thing.
Rich: I don't think you'll have to wait too long before your name is called.
Kyle: I'm hoping for that, too. [laughs from both ends]
Rich: Do you have a preference as to which team drafts you?
Kyle: No. Whichever teams drafts me I'm going to be an immediate fan, and I'm just going to go out and play with them.
Rich: Which teams have shown the most interest in you?
Kyle: Really, from about five through ten, I've gotten a lot of interest.
Rich: Well, I imagine you will be picked somewhere in that area.
Kyle: That's what it looks like right now and what I'm hoping for, but I know things can change. I'm just going in with an open mind. Whatever happens, I'm going to be happy regardless.
Rich: How many teams have asked you to work out for them?
Kyle: I've had contact from ten to fifteen clubs to come work out, and I've had questionnaires and interviews from everyone.
Rich: Do you have any private workouts scheduled for Tuesday or Wednesday?
Kyle: Not today or Wednesday. This past weekend I flew to Washington D.C. and worked out for the Nationals at their field.
Rich: What are you planning on doing between now and the draft?
Kyle: Tonight, I have a Senior All-Star Game. Tomorrow, I start my first half of senior finals. Thursday morning, I have my last half of senior finals before the draft . . . and I'll just be at home.
Rich: You signed a National Letter of Intent to play baseball at Arizona State this fall. How many colleges recruited you, which ones did you narrow the choice down to, and why did you decide on ASU?
Kyle: I actually decided on ASU before my junior year even started. It was always my dream school. It was just a perfect fit for me and my family. It was far enough away from home, and I love everything about the school and the way they play baseball. As far as being recruited, I received letters from every school in the Pac-10. I probably have two or three shoe boxes full of letters, including Miami, Florida, Fullerton State . . . any school you could really imagine I got at least something from them or talked to a coach.
Rich: Is your first choice to become a Sun Devil or play pro ball?
Kyle: My first choice is I want to play pro ball. I mean, I'm in a win-win situation. The worst case scenario is I get a free tuition for four years of my life.
Rich: Are you hopeful of signing and playing at the professional level this summer?
Kyle: Yes, that's my number one goal.
Rich: Who is your adviser?
Kyle: Joe Longo and Andy Shaw from The Gersh Agency in Beverly Hills.
Rich: Are you going to leave the negotiations up to them or will you and your parents be actively involved?
Kyle: It will definitely be a full circle. I will get input from my parents and I will go through my advisers because that's what they are there to help me do. But, for the most part, it's going to be myself and my family. The absolute final say will be me.
Rich: OK, let's step back for a minute. When did you become a catcher?
Kyle: My junior year. Prior to that I had played third base and the outfield.
Rich: When did you learn to bat left handed?
Kyle: Ever since I can remember hitting. My brother and sister were both righthanded. When I was a kid, I would just grab it lefthanded to be on the opposite side of the batter's box from them.
Rich: Sounds like what the golfer Phil Mickelson did as a kid except he was the mirror image of his righthanded-swinging dad in their garage.
Kyle: Yeah, that's what I've heard.
Rich: Do you pattern your game after anyone?
Kyle: I sort of pattern it after Joe Mauer.
Rich: Ahh, another tall, lefthanded-hitting catcher.
Rich: You wear No. 9 on your jersey. Is there a story behind that?
Kyle: My brother wore it, and I've just always worn it.
Rich: Oh, I was wondering if perhaps you were a fan of Ted Williams or somebody?
Kyle: No, no . . . They've always told me that Ted Williams wore it, but I've always worn it since the very beginning.
Rich: Who has had the most influence on your baseball career?
Kyle: My dad, without a doubt.
Rich: What are your greatest strengths as a player?
Kyle: I'd probably say my hitting and my arm. I can hit for a high average if I need to or, if I get the good pitch, I can definitely take it out of the park. For the most part, I think I hit righties and lefties pretty good. I personally don't feel I have any weaknesses but there are always things you can work on. I think I am pretty solid in the hitting category.
Rich: In what areas can you improve your skills the most?
Kyle: I can improve on striking out a little less. Sometimes when I do get in a home run mode, it seems like I tend to swing the bat as hard as I can on every pitch. But every now and then, with two strikes, maybe I should shorten it up a hair and go for a line drive in the gap rather than one that goes over the fence.
Rich: What is the biggest difference between hitting with an aluminum bat and a wood bat?
Kyle: I would say bat control. With an aluminum bat, you can get jammed and still hit a double in the gap or a blooper. With a wooden bat, you have to square it up every time. You have to have bat control with the barrel, and you have to put the barrel on it at all times; otherwise, you're hands are going to be hurting.
Rich: Do you look for certain pitches or locations when you are ahead in the count?
Kyle: Definitely. When I'm ahead in the count, I look for anything straight or up whether it be a fastball or a changeup . . . something that would be easy for me to elevate and drive in the gap.
Rich: Do you change your approach at the plate when behind in the count?
Kyle: Behind in the count? Not so much. I really concentrate more on covering the outside pitch and not pull off anything. You have to fight off anything that comes close.
Rich: Tell me about the home run you hit off Quenton Miller last summer at the Aflac High School All American Baseball Classic in San Diego on national TV that catapulted you into the spotlight.
Kyle: If you can describe the ultimate adrenaline rush, that would have to be it.
Rich: You also hit another home run in the Urban Youth Academy that garnered a lot of attention from scouts.
Kyle: I hit a pretty mammoth home run to the opposite field. Everybody knew I had power from center to right but, when I hit that one to dead left field, that was kinda like 'This kid can really hit.'
Rich: You were the quarterback of your high school football team as a sophomore and junior but chose not to play last fall. Was that due to the broken hand you suffered last summer or did you just decide to concentrate on baseball during your senior year?
Kyle: No, I decided to just strictly concentrate on baseball my senior year.
Rich: Was that a difficult decision to make?
Kyle: Well, to be honest, we have a below-average football team so it was really an easy choice for me. I have a chance to make a very good living and have a very good senior year. This type of opportunity comes once in a lifetime, and I'm just gonna take it and run with it.
Rich: Good for you. What do you like to do in your spare time?
Kyle: As far as my spare time, I'm with my baseball friends all the time. Music, go out with girls, just normal things like that.
Rich: It was reported on the Aflac website that you don't have a driver's license by "personal preference." Please explain.
Kyle: Oh, no, no, no, no. I have a license. I have a '79 Corvette.
Rich: [laughing] That's a nice car to have.
Kyle: Yeah, yeah. [with excitement] Oh, it's awesome. You turn that thing on, you just want to take that car out to drive just because.
Rich: [more laughs] That sounds like a car you're dad would have driven one time.
Kyle: He's told me the stories about all the cars he got to drive in his day but, unfortunately, he never got the chance to drive the '79.
Rich: You have two older siblings, one of whom served in the Army in Iraq. Is he home now?
Kyle: He actually just left this morning. He was here for a week. He's going home for about two days, then he's heading off for his second tour.
Rich: Was he with you last night when you received your award?
Kyle: Yes, that was awesome. I was under the assumption that we were going out for a family dinner for his going away dinner. And then they surprised me with it.
Rich: Very nice. When do you graduate?
Kyle: I graduate this Friday and then I walk June 11th.
Rich: What do you plan on doing between the time you graduate and the time you sign?
Kyle: Stay in shape. Start working out again. Hit in the cage, stuff like that. Maybe get in a couple of pick-up games that I know my buddies are playing with teams . . . just anything to stay in shape.
Rich: Thank you for taking the time to talk to me. All of us at Baseball Analysts wish you the best of luck in your future endeavors.
Kyle: Thank you very much and you're definitely welcome.
Photo credits: Gatorader/Zach Cordner (top left), Heather Skipworth (above), and Gatorade/Susan Goldman (linked in opening paragraph).