In an effort to produce better and more unique content about the Pittsburgh Pirates, Buried Treasure has reached out to members of the Pirates organization for interviews. The response was awesome, starting with our first volunteer, Pirates farmhand and pitcher Michael Colla. Moving into the future, the hope is to have more interviews similar to this one. This particular interview is with our second volunteer, Mel Rojas Jr. It's after the jump. Enjoy!
Buried Treasure: In 2010, the Pirates draft you with their third round pick. What thoughts are going through your head? Were you at all worried about signing with the Pittsburgh Pirates considering their recent history of being a losing organization?
Mel Rojas Jr.: No, I didn't have any worries. I was actually excited to sign with the Pirates. Everybody expected for me to demand a 7-figure signing bonus, but I signed for basically slot money. I didn't care too much about the bonus, I was just excited to join the Pirates and play professional baseball.
BT: Talking about you as a player, from a scouting perspective, give me your personal take on your strengths and weaknesses.
MR: Well, I'm a 5-tool player. I just need to keep on developing my ability to make the most of my tools.
BT: Do you have a favorite part of baseball? Being at the plate, out in the field, or on the basepaths?
MR: Yes, two actually. I love being in the box hitting and being in centerfield.
BT: From a statistical standpoint, there are two items that standout, at least in my eyes, that could be issues going forward. First, strikeouts. They aren't out of control and you've improved each year since you've turned pro, but can you talk about addressing the issue or, I guess, not addressing the issue? Do the Pirates have a plan in place to help you with that, or is it just, let your strengths shine and outweigh any potential issues?
MR: Well, the strikeouts come from bad plate discipline and bad pitch selection. I have been working on it this offseason and I also feel like I'm more mature as a hitter now. I'm sure I'm going to keep getting better at those areas of my game.
BT: The second issue is handedness splits. In your pro career, you've hit right-handed pitchers pretty significantly better than left-handed pitchers. As a switch-hitter, that would suggest you are better batting left-handed. Has there been any discussion about scrapping being a switch-hitter?
MR: Not at all. I love switch hitting, therefore I'm working hard this offseason to get better. I know I can get better, so I will.
BT: Speaking about switch-hitting, when did you first learn to hit from both sides of the plate? What's the story behind it?
MR: Well, I started switch-hitting when I was 7 years old. In little league, one day my coach asked me to try hitting from the left side. I tried it and hit a line drive base hit so ever since then, I've been a switch-hitter.
BT: Thus far, you've been a one level per year guy. Will that trend continue in 2013? Have the Pirates indicated to you where they want you to start this coming season or do you have any idea on your own?
MR: Well, I haven't talked to them about it yet, so I don't know, but I would like to keep that trend going. I know I'm ready to play wherever they send me though.
BT: What have you been doing this offseason to prepare for the season?What are your goals for this season?
MR: Well, I've been working on stuff I felt I need to work on. My goal for right now is to develop all my tools because I know that when I develop them, I will be what everyone is expecting me to be. That's not bragging either, lol.
BT: Of the home parks you've played in during your time in the Pirates organization, do you have a favorite one?
MR: I really liked State College, but unfortunately the Pirates are no longer affiliated with the Spikes.
BT: Have you ever felt that the Pirates put you in a situation where there was an unnecessarily high risk of injury?
MR: Not that I can think of.
BT: Growing up with a father who played baseball professionally, how did that affect your baseball development and your life in general? Does he still have input into your game at this point in your career?
MR: It was great growing up with a father who played baseball professionally. When I was a kid, I didn't know how great it was until now. I remember my friends telling me, “I'm jealous, I wish my dad was a major leaguer too.” Back then, I was like “what? whatever,” but now I understand how great it was. My dad still has a lot of input in my career. He calls me every night after my games to see how I'm doing and how I feel about the game. He also gives me as much advice as he can.
BT: Do you have any information or stories you can tell me about any of your teammates? Here's your chance to poke fun at someone.
MR: Haha, I wish I had one in mind right now, but I don't. Sorry.
BT: Are there any other sports you are good at or enjoy playing other than baseball?
MR: I'm good at playing basketball and I enjoy watching football
BT: Were you best basketball player on the Marauders last year?
MR: I believe so, ya.
BT: Will you be watching the Superbowl? Can we get a prediction?
MR: Hmmm, I honestly didn't watch the playoffs, but I think the Ravens are going to win the Superbowl.