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. For a complete listing of these interviews, click here.
Next is Zack Collins, a junior catcher from the University of Miami (FL) who is projected as the top catcher of this year's draft. Collins, a Pembroke Pines, Fla. native who stands 6-foot-3 and weighs 220 lbs., led Miami to No. 1 Regional seed on the way to the Hurricanes' Super Regional berth against Boston College. For more on Collins, check out Minor League Ball's scouting report.
Collins has as much raw power as anyone in this draft class, and is projected by every major outlet as a mid-to-high first-rounder. In the latest mocks, Collins is projected to go 10th to the White Sox (by ESPN and Baseball America), and 14th to the Indians (by MLB.com). BA recently ranked him as the 16th-best prospect in this year's draft, and he spoke at length with MLBDD on Monday:
When did you first get into baseball as a kid and realize you loved playing the game?
"I started playing when I was like two-and-a-half. My dad has always worked with me. I've pretty much had a passion for it ever since I was that age. I started playing travel ball around seven or eight, and it's really just taken off since then."
Who was your favorite team growing up? Favorite player?
"I'm going to have to go with the Marlins, even though they weren't very good. I went to a World Series game in 2003 and I've always lived here [in Miami]. I have to stay with the hometown team. For a favorite player I have to go with Chipper Jones. I played infield a lot and he was one of the best when I was growing up."
When was the moment you realized you could turn this into a long, professional career?
"I would have to say high school, when a lot of the scouts came up to see me. Committing to college, somewhere around 10th or 11th grade I realized I could be pretty good and that I could make it a career."
What is your biggest strength as a player?
"Definitely my hitting. Hitting for average, hitting for power."
Biggest weakness? What do you want to improve upon the most?
"I wouldn't say a weakness, but what I want to improve on most is my catching. Defensive skills, in general. Whether it's receiving or blocking, or just being quicker. Everything."
Why Miami? Which other schools did you consider?
"I grew up going to a lot of Miami games. I know a lot of alumni that went there and played there for a long time. It was hard to choose another school. There were other schools that were interested. Being that I grew up here and went to all the camps down there, it was kind of like my dream school."
Miami has historically had a great sports atmosphere, with a strong football team, and, in more recent years, basketball success as well. What's it like to be at a school with such a vibrant sports environment?
"It's great. Another thing is that the academics are really good, too. Those are the two best things that every kid is looking for going into college. It's great that everyone supports all athletics there and that everyone is pretty good."
The ACC is a really competitive conference, and the top three catchers in this draft (you, Virginia's Matt Thaiss and Clemson's Chris Okey) are all part of that. How beneficial is it for you to go head-to-head against those guys, specifically?
"It's big. Just to be seen playing next to those guys. To watch them play and look at their strengths and weakness and learn from them also. It's been great to play in the ACC, obviously it's one of the best conferences. It helps me out a lot, and it's fun to play in."
Some scouts say you have the best raw power in the whole draft. Where do you think that power comes from, is it in the genes or is it something you've worked hard to develop?
"I would say that I've always had some sort of power. Recently, in the last couple of years I've developed the ability to hit the ball with power the opposite way. I think that's helped me out a lot these last couple years being that pitchers can throw outside and I can still hit it out of the park to any field."
A lot of guys with power strike out a lot. How important to you is it to have plate discipline and be a complete hitter?
"It's really important. A lot of guys just free swing, and strike out a lot and don't get on base a lot. I think teams are looking for complete hitters nowadays, and a lot of teams are trying to get guys who can get on base, score runs and help the team win."
Which major-leaguer, current or former, do you compare your game to the most?
"I would have to go with Brian McCann. Lefty hitter, catcher. Hits for power. I would have to go with him."
There are a lot of scouting reports out there that say you project more as a first baseman at the next level. Where you do envision yourself playing in the pros, and are you open to a move to first?
"I see myself playing as a catcher in the big leagues. Wherever the team needs me, I'll play. Whether it's first base, left field, right field, shortstop. I don't really care, as long as I'm playing in the big leagues and helping out the team."