In advance of Thursday's draft, we will be conducting Q&A interviews with many prospects who are projected to be drafted in the first round of next Thursday's draft. For a complete listing of these interviews, click here.
Next up is Cody Sedlock, who served as the ace of the Illinois Fighting Illini as a junior this spring. Sedlock, a Sherrard, Ill. native, pitched to a 2.49 ERA in 14 starts (101.1 innings) for the Illini this year en route to being named Big Ten Pitcher of the Year. For more on Sedlock, check out Minor League Ball's scouting report.
Sedlock is projected as a mid-to-late first rounder, with MLB.com recently pegging him as the 17th overall pick, and Baseball America predicting he would go 34th overall. He spoke at length with MLBDD this week:
When did you first get into baseball as a kid and realize you loved playing the game?
"From the beginning I knew I had a passion for the game. I started at like 5 years old, playing T-ball."
Who was your favorite team growing up? Favorite player?
"I've always been a Cubs fan. Growing up when I was really young I loved Sammy Sosa."
What has it been like for you being a Cubs fan this year with all the team's success?
"It's been rough my whole life except for these last couple of years. They're always fun to watch. They're so young and talented, it's unreal."
Ever think it will be tough to put that fanhood aside once you might be suiting up for one of the other 29 organizations in a couple of weeks?
"No, it won't be hard. I'm just a baseball fan in general. Whatever team wants to take me in, I'll be happy."
What was the moment you realized you could make a long-term pro career out of this?
"I'd probably say I knew I had it in me junior year of high school. I saw how much netter I could get every year if I worked hard enough and put my mind to it. I got better every year and it really started to click. I started being able to be a top draft pick at the end of last summer."
Why did you choose Illinois? What other schools were you looking at in high school?
"I've always been an Illinois fan growing up. It was a dream come true to go to Illinois. I was also considering Bradley and Notre Dame. I actually committed on my visit, I loved it."
This year you had a fantastic season (2.49 ERA in 14 starts). What was they key to going from a relative unknown to a projected first-rounder?
"I'd say it was deception on my fastball and just fastball command in general. I think that was the biggest thing I improved on and took that next step with."
What does it mean to be named Big Ten Pitcher of the Year?
"That means a lot. Obviously at the beginning of the season you don't think you're going to be Big Ten Pitcher of the Year. The goal is to win the Big Ten. Essentially, we didn't get that but it's a great honor considering how many great pitchers are in the Big Ten."
A lot of top prospects in this draft are from warm-weather states like California, Florida and Texas and play year-round. You didn't have that experience growing up in Illinois, a cold-weather state. How do you think your development was different than that of some other top guys?
"I think it has actually helped me a bunch. All those guys, they play baseball year-round and I think they kind of forget the fact that it's supposed to be a fun game. They kind of get burnt out on it. I've actually heard that from a lot of people I've played with who grew up in Florida. They really don't enjoy baseball. We only play six months of the year up here, and I enjoy every minute of it. You're only throwing, at a young age, during those six months. I think it helps your arm."
You've been both a starter and reliever during your time at Illinois. What's your preferred role at the next level?
The sinker-ball and inducing ground balls is a huge part of your game. We've seen major-leaguers kind of get away from that in recent years with the influx of a lot of power pitchers. How important is it for teams to have guys who can get the ball on the ground consistently?
"I think it's huge. For me personally, I learned at the end of the season when to get soft contact and when to get strikeouts. It's one of those things where the quicker the out you can get in the count, the better."
Illinois had a couple of top pitchers selected high last year, with Tyler Jay going 6th overall to the Twins last year and Kevin Duchene going to the Athletics in the 5th round. What advice have you gotten from those guys on what to expect next week?
"I'm really good friends with Ty Jay. The process is a little bit different for me than it was for them, because we were still playing when the draft was coming up [in 2015]. Basically the advice I've gotten from those guys is to focus on the team, and focus on your best effort to pitch and do your own thing. You can focus on the draft after."
What's your biggest strength as a pitcher?
"My competitiveness. People say I pitched way too many innings this year or threw way too many pitches. Personally, I think that just shows that I want to be out there. If they need another inning out of me, I'm going to say yes."
Do you think that could be a concern for teams heading into the draft, considering you pitched over 100 innings this year?
"No. Not at all. Especially considering every single start, I got stronger. I think they should look at it as more of a benefit than a downfall."
What's your greatest weakness at this point? What do you want to improve upon the most?
"I'd probably say working into counts where I can use my changeup more. I really wanted to use it more but it was one of those things where I didn't really need it so I didn't throw it much. I really want to work on that and develop that."
If you had to pick a major-leaguer (current or former) that you had to compare your game to the most, who would it be?
"Jake Arrieta, absolutely. Same frame, same repertoire. We're both guys who pitch from the right side of the rubber. I don't throw across my body as much as he does, but we both throw aboutt 50% fastballs and two-seams with pretty good movement. About the same velocity, though he might throw a couple ticks higher than I do. Slider, curveball and we both have a changeup in our back pocket that we can use."
What are your expectations heading into the draft? Do you have specific teams with strong interest?
"It's one of those things where wherever the cards fall, I'll be happy. Just knowing I'll be pitching somewhere next year and this year, it's a great feeling. It's what I've been looking up towards. Since the season's over, there's not really much more I can do. Just sit back and hope I can get put in a situation where a team looks at a big part of their big-league team in the near future."