I will be running a new interview with one of the best MLB draft prospects 2010 has to offer each Sunday and Wednesday up until June, and you can click here to find an up to date archive of them all.
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Kevin Levine-Flandrup: Are you still 5’9”, 175 lbs?
Sean Coyle: Yeah, my weight is 175-180 lbs, somewhere around there.
Kevin Levine-Flandrup: Besides baseball, are there any other sports you play?
Sean Coyle: Back in the day I used to play basketball, and then through 8th grade I played football, but in high school it’s just been baseball. I actually played a year of soccer as a freshman, but the majority has been just baseball.
Kevin Levine-Flandrup: What specifically drew you to UNC?
Sean Coyle: Obviously a lot of people think that it was because my brother is playing ball there, and that is when I first saw Carolina and I started thinking about it, but even if my brother hadn’t gone to Carolina it still would have been the spot for me. Between the coaches, the education, the facilities, and the recent history of success that Coach Fox has brought to the program, it was pretty much a no-brainer.
Kevin Levine-Flandrup: How much have you thought about the draft? Some guys say not at all, others say it’s the last thing they think about before they go to sleep every night. Where do you stand in that spectrum?
Sean Coyle: I think about it. I watch Major League Baseball whenever I can, which is pretty much every night, and I think that I have a shot to be out there on the field as a professional baseball player, possibly come this spring. That’s something that people like me have dreamed about their entire life, so I think about it. When I’m on the field, or when I’m at practice, it’s probably one of the last things on my mind – my focus then is only on how we can win and how we can be better. But I think about it – it’s almost inevitable, really.
Kevin Levine-Flandrup: What is the image you get in your mind when you do think about it?
Sean Coyle: I just think about walking up to the plate, the stadium is filled, and I’m making a living out of what I love to do. There’s nothing better to think of than doing something that you love as your job. It’s fun to think about.
Kevin Levine-Flandrup: What are the positives and negatives of being a prospect from the northeast?
Sean Coyle: I’d say the positives are our season is a lot shorter than other guys’ obviously, so when we get out there we play hard because our time is limited – we’re not out there 12 months a year, we’ve got maybe 7 months. A negative is that because there’s not as much baseball to be played, the competition, especially in school ball, isn’t as high as it would be in California and Texas where everyone’s got a D-1 pitcher throwing 90 MPH and you’re seeing that every day. If you look at southern California, there’s probably eight or nine guys projected to go very high in the draft, and we don’t have that in the northeast. It makes it a little tough to get locked in once you get to the high level competitions in the summer – it takes a little bit of time to get used to before you’re up to speed.
Kevin Levine-Flandrup: How many teams have you heard from?
Sean Coyle: I’ve heard from pretty much every team, at least 28 or so through the questionnaires and things. I’ve probably had most of them come for home visits.
Kevin Levine-Flandrup: Were the Yankees one of those teams?
Sean Coyle: Yeah, I’m pretty good friends with Matt Hyde, the area scout for the Yankees. He was the coach for my area code team, which was the Yankees, and we got to work out in the new Yankee Stadium before we headed out to California, which was a thrill. So yes, I’ve been in contact with him and got to know him throughout the week of the Area Code Games tournament.
Kevin Levine-Flandrup: What were the Area Code Games like for you?
Sean Coyle: Oh, it was a blast. I mean, to meet all the players that you’ve heard about from the northeast, then to get together when none of us really knew each other and spend a week getting to know each other, staying in the hotel, hanging out, going out to dinner, and playing ball all day – it was a lot of fun.
Kevin Levine-Flandrup: Obviously you guys use wood in the Area Code Games – is that something you have a lot of opportunity to do on your own time?
Sean Coyle: I’ve hit with wood in the cages in the winter time ever since I was eight years old. For the last three or four years I’ve been playing wood bat all summer, and basically the only time I use a metal bat is in school ball, so playing with a wood bat was really nothing new to me.
Kevin Levine-Flandrup: Does using a metal bat in school ball feel like playing with a cheat code in a video game?
Sean Coyle: Oh man, it’s just this feeling you get when you hold a metal bat. You look at it and you know that the sweet spot is two to three times as big as your wood bat, so it’s kind of tough to stay within yourself, but it’s a lot of fun to go out there with a metal bat.
Kevin Levine-Flandrup: How would you describe yourself as a hitter from a technical standpoint?
Sean Coyle: I like to stay simple. I have a pretty basic square stance, bend in the knees. I like to think of myself as a patient but aggressive hitter, aggressive when I get my pitch, and just try to hit the ball where it’s pitched and not try to do too much with it. In hitters counts, basically anything without two strikes, I’m looking to hit gap to gap, try to drive the ball over someone’s head. With two strikes I like to put the ball in play because I run pretty well and if I can at least put one on the ground I have a chance to leg one out or something - if you strikeout there’s no shot at getting on a bag.
Kevin Levine-Flandrup: What about opposite field? Is that something that’s an integral part of your game, is it something that you’ve been working to get better at, or is it something you really don’t focus on that much?
Sean Coyle: It’s actually something that I’ve worked on a lot over the last two years. Pitchers, especially in high school baseball, stay away, away, away, so to add the opposite field to my arsenal was something that I really needed to work on. I think I’ve done a great job with the help of my coaches to drive the ball the other way, and I’ve been doing it a lot better lately.
Kevin Levine-Flandrup: I know you had led off for Team USA, but where do you hit in the lineup now?
Sean Coyle: I led off my freshman, sophomore, and junior year, and this year I’m batting third.
Kevin Levine-Flandrup: Why the move? Did you lose some guys or are you developing more power?
Sean Coyle: I’d say it’s a combination of both. My brother was always the two or three hitter in our lineup and I was leadoff or second, so he graduated last year, and we also got some good guys who were able to jump up to the top of the lineup. We’ve got one guy who’s a leadoff-type, and another who’s a great situational hitter with a great eye, and I just fell into third.
Kevin Levine-Flandrup: We touched on speed a little earlier, but how big of a role does it play in your game? I saw you had clocked a 6.53 60 at a Nike event – is that your best time?
Sean Coyle: I love to run, so speed is something I love to incorporate into my game. I love to steal bases, I love to leg out singles, so it’s a pretty major part of my game. The fastest legitimately timed 60 that I’ve had clocked was a 6.40 at Perfect Game Nationals, and I was a 6.48 at Jupiter in the fall.
Kevin Levine-Flandrup: What is your outward personality on the field? What does someone who watches you play see in the way you conduct yourself out there?
Sean Coyle: I’m a pretty emotional player. I try to stay positive, to keep my team up, be a sparkplug in the lineup to get things going when we’re down, or keep it going when we’re up – I just try to be a team leader. I’m not fist-pumping or anything [laughs], but I have fun out there and I think that shows.
Kevin Levine-Flandrup: Defensively you’ve played both positions up the middle. Where do you prefer to be, and what does defense mean to you?
Sean Coyle: I take pride in my defense. I was brought up by my dad, who was a SS/2B his whole life, and his dad was a SS/2B his whole life, and I learned that defense is a huge part of the game. Sometimes I think that gets lost in the whole scheme of things because everyone wants to see homeruns and stuff, but I think that if you can get it done defensively that’s a huge addition to your game.
Kevin Levine-Flandrup: Did your dad or your grandfather do anything with baseball professionally?
Sean Coyle: No, they didn’t. My dad played at the University of Pennsylvania and was a team captain there, but nothing professionally.
Kevin Levine-Flandrup: Speaking with some of the other guys on Team USA who were down in Venezuela with you like Garin Cecchini, Karsten Whitson, Kevin Gausman, and Jameson Taillon, they all raved about the companionship that developed amongst the members of that team. Did you have the same experience?
Sean Coyle: Oh definitely. We had a group of 20 awesome guys on the field, and 20 great guys off the field. We’d have fun playing games, then we’d go back to the hotel and just have fun hanging out with each other, and that was a huge part of our success. Being able to stay up and support each other – camaraderie is key and it was one of the greatest experiences ever. We ended up being pretty close to each other after that month of playing ball together.
Kevin Levine-Flandrup: Did you notice any differences in the pitching from the different countries you faced?
Sean Coyle: Not really. It was basically the same guys – curveball, fastball, changeup. They were all good pitchers and they were all coming at you, but it was pretty similar. I didn’t notice anything that jumped out at me about different guys throwing different stuff depending on what country they pitched for; it was pretty standard.
Kevin Levine-Flandrup: Is it safe to assume you’re a Phillies fan?
Sean Coyle: Yes it is , especially with the recent history [laughs]. But, yeah – the Phillies are my team in the National League and the Yankees have been my team in the American League, growing up at least. My dad grew up a Yankees fan in Scranton, and there are a lot of Yankee fans in addition to the Phillies fans there, so those have been my two teams.
Kevin Levine-Flandrup: So what the heck did you do last year?
Sean Coyle: [laughs] I had to go with the home team, I had to go with the Phils. Either way I was happy though. I just wanted the parade – I wanted it to be in Philly.
Kevin Levine-Flandrup: Who are the players that you look up to in terms of their skills or the way they play the game?
Sean Coyle: Being from around Philadelphia, Chase Utley especially. He plays the game hard and he’s just so talented, so he’s fun to watch. Derek Jeter is probably my other favorite player. Those would definitely be the two guys.
Kevin Levine-Flandrup: Have you gotten any comparisons from scouts?
Sean Coyle: Probably just because of my size people have said a Dustin Pedroia type, which is flattering because he’s such a good ballplayer. Jimmy Rollins, too – when you’re from Philadelphia and playing middle infield you’ll hear Rollins or Utley, and Werth if you’re playing rightfield [laughs].
Kevin Levine-Flandrup: If you could skill one skill from anyone else in your draft class, whose skill would you steal, and why?
Sean Coyle: Man, so many…I would probably say Kaleb Cowart’s arm. I was in Jupiter with him and we were throwing from the outfield in alphabetical order. Of course it was Cowart then Coyle, and he goes up there and he lights the gun up at 99 MPH, then he gets another one and he lights it up at 100 MPH. I was behind him and had to go next, and here in front of me I’ve got a guy throwing the ball 100 MPH. I thought that was just awesome.
Kevin Levine-Flandrup: Who is the toughest pitcher you’ve faced?
Sean Coyle: I’d probably say Karsten Whitson through the USA trials. I didn’t get to face Jameson Taillon, I kind of wanted to but it seemed like every time I\it ended up with the inning ending and me on deck, with a new pitcher coming in the next inning. I wanted a piece of J-Mo – you can tell him that, actually! [laughs] Karsten is an impressive pitcher, though, and he’s got great stuff.
Kevin Levine-Flandrup: Everyone wants to help their team win, but what is your biggest focus as an individual this year?
Sean Coyle: I’d probably say just staying within myself, not trying to do too much, and just playing my game. I don’t want to try to go out there and turn heads or wow anyone, but instead just go out there and play my game and have fun.
Kevin Levine-Flandrup: Is signing a contract out of high school something that you’d consider if the terms were good?
Sean Coyle: I would definitely consider it – I want to play in the Major Leagues, and the opportunity to play professional baseball is something that I’m really excited about. Whether it works out or not, I’m just trying to live in the moment and have fun with it.
Kevin Levine-Flandrup: Finally, you have these two amazing opportunities in front of you, yet they also come with some pressure. How do you balance that pressure with just trying to be a normal 18 year old?
Sean Coyle: A lot of people say to me, “man, that must be stressful, you’re going to have a big decision to make,” but I’m just glad I’m in this situation where I have the chance to make this decision. I think that I’m blessed to be able to have this decision, so it’s my senior year, I’m going to go out there and have fun with my friends, and I’m going to have fun on the baseball diamond with no worries – this is one of the most carefree times of my life and I’m just going to live in the moment, you know? Just have a good time, do my work, and keep my eyes on the prize.