By now, it's pretty clear what this series is about. This is the fifth installment of an interview series that poses questions to members of the Pirates organization and gets answers back. First was pitcher Michael Colla. Outfielder Mel Rojas Jr. followed him. Third was pitcher Zack Dodson. Fourth, pitcher Mike Jefferson. Now, infielder Kirk Singer. Enjoy after the jump.
Buried Treasure: Starting off at the beginning of your pro career, you were drafted by the Pittsburgh Pirates. At that point, the Pirates were mired in losing and were one of the most ridiculed sports franchises in America. Did you have any worries about joining the Pirates organization?
Kirk Singer: Honestly, that thought didn't even cross my mind. I wasn't even thinking in terms of the major league affiliate at that point, I was simply happy to be drafted by an organization that caters so well to their farm system, like the Pirates do.
BT: From a scouting perspective, give me your personal take on your strengths and your weaknesses.
KS: My strengths: From a makeup perspective, I'm mentally tough and I'm able to get the most out of myself when I need to - if I only have 60% that day, then you're gonna see 100% of that 60%. From a physical standpoint, my strengths are my arm strength and ability to play the left side of the infield. At the plate, it's my ability to be a situational hitter and get my job done so the big guys behind me can do their job.
My weaknesses: I'm a streaky hitter, that at time struggles with consistency. My swing can be too long, which stems from the fact that I'm skinny – my size is also a weakness - so I have to manipulate the barrel a little more the most. I do like to use my size as a chip on my shoulder.
BT: Do you have a favorite part of baseball? Being at the plate, out in the field, or on the basepaths?
KS: Out in the field, that is where I truly take pride in doing my job. I like to think that I do it better than most.
BT: Looking at your stats, you had issues with strikeouts at both State College and West Virginia, but you seemed to do much better in Bradenton. Can you talk about that? Did you change anything in your approach?
KS: First off, I personally don't feel that the strikeout rate stat is an important one - or at least as important as everyone makes it out to be. That said, yes I did strike out more at the lower levels because I didn't have an actual two-strike approach. Instead, I stayed with the same swing and approach regardless of the count. As I moved up the ladder, the coordinators stressed a two-strike. I really bought into it, and it helped. I owe my success to them.
BT: If you can, elaborate on what you mean by your statement that the strikeout stat is over-emphasized.
KS: If you're up at the plate worrying about not striking out then you are up there with a passive approach. Hitting is an aggressive act. There's such thing as having a great at-bat that results in a strikeout. Now granted, sometimes a situation calls for a simple ground orfly ball and a strikeout is not an option, but besides that, an out is an out. I hear bloggers and computer guys talk about the strikeout rate stat often when it's actually a rarely talked about stat on the field.
BT: Have the Pirates indicated to you where they want you to start this coming season or do you have any idea on your own?
KS: I won't get an indication usually until the last week of spring training. Obviously, I hope to in Altoona this year as soon as possible. However, I think it's realistic to assume I'll start in Bradenton with the hope that I can earn a promotion. All that said, if I come out hot in spring training, who knows how things will shake up. Ultimately, I have a very solid trust in the Pirates to know where I need to be.
BT: What have you been doing this offseason to prepare for the season? What are your goals for this season?
KS: I've had a solid training regiment this off season and I feel very confident about it. Although I don't lift the heaviest weights, I've been lifting smart. My group of ballplayer friends and I have been at the field and in the cages just about every day getting prepared as well.
My goals are to be more consistent at the plate and be more in control of my emotions on a night to night basis in an effort to be more consistent. Another goal is to end up at Altoona, all while doing everything I can to win games for the team that I am on.
BT: Do the Pirates as an organization put any emphasis on winning in the minor leagues, or is it all about player development from your experience?
KS: We put a lot of emphasis on winning on a nightly basis, with the hopes that at the end of the week and season, player development is the ultimate result. It's always re-stated that all we want to do is win in Pittsburgh, but the way to do that is by learning how to win at the lower levels.
BT: Of the home parks you've played in during your time in the Pirates organization, do you have a favorite one?
KS: Nothing compares to the State College field/facility so far, I loved it. However, Bradenton and the surrounding areas is my favorite place to live; it feels closer to home for me. The people in West Virginia were extremely supportive, so there's been a positive at each stop so far.
BT: The big and potentially overblown story of the past season outside of the major league collapse has been the Hoka Hey “circus.” Can you and will you comment on that?
KS: The part that I went through, it really was a good team building week for the players and it gave us some really good stories and built bonds that will last for a very long time. Also, not much phases you after you've been through a bunch of tough workouts such as the ones went through. Never did I think I was put in any harm or forced to do anything. At the end of the day, it's a fun thing to look back on.
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.
KS: Off the top of my head, no, at least none that are appropriate for me to share.
BT: Going back a bit to your college days, you went to Long Beach State, known for recent baseball alumni Troy Tulowitzski and Evan Longoria, among other things. Did that history have any impact on your or do you have any other comments?
KS: It had a huge impact. I wanted to go there since I was born. I was a bat boy during the Coach Snow glory years. Evan and Troy are friends of mine now, as we all share the same agent. Both are very helpful and always are there if I need them. I strive to be like both of them on and off the field.
BT: Are there any other sports you are good at or enjoy playing other than baseball? How about watching?
KS: I surf and golf; both are passions of mine and I try to do both every chance I get. I watch any sport I can, although my favorite to watch is baseball.
BT: Last question, what's your golf handicap?
KS: I'm about a 5 handicap.