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 up is Jordan Balazovic, a 6-foot-4, 180lb right-handed pitcher from St. Martin Secondary School in Ontario, Canada. Balazovic is an Auburn-commit and is considered one of the top Canadians in the draft. He has shot up draft boards recently thanks to an extremely productive summer in the Dominican Republic with Baseball Canada earlier this year. The 17-year old went nine shutout innings over two games while allowing only four hits, one walk, and striking out eight.
While Balazovic is the highest-ranked prep school Canadian and has been rocketing up the rankings, he currently sits 127th on MLB.com's Prospect Watch. Baseball America is only slightly lower on him at 134th. That projects him to go somewhere around the fourth-to-sixth rounds of the draft, with the possibility of going on the first day. Scouts particularly like his plus fastball and ability to throw all of his pitches for strikes. Balazovic took the time to discuss the draft with MLBDD on Wednesday:
How did you get into baseball?
"My whole family either played baseball or softball. That goes for my Mom and Grandmother too. My Grandfather played in the Cleveland Indians organization as an outfielder. My Dad also played baseball. When I was three they got me my first baseball glove. Started tossing back then and I loved baseball ever since."
Was there someone in the family that started leaning you towards pitching specifically?
"I think when I was around 12 years old I started working on mechanics with my coaches and my Dad at home. Back then I was still working on everything, but I always thought I was better at pitching than hitting. As I got older I started really working at the pitching aspect at things and started developing that as an asset."
Who was your favorite team growing up? Favorite player?
"I would say the New York Yankees while I was growing up. At least back then. Now it’s between them and the Toronto Blue Jays. As for my favorite player, I did like Derek Jeter a lot. How could you not? I used to like CC Sabathia a lot also when I was younger. More recently I really like watching Noah Syndergaard. Now that I’m focusing on mechanical things and the approach of major leaguers, I like the way Syndergaard attacks the strikezone. The movement on his pitches makes him a fun guy to watch."
Why did you choose Auburn?
"I had a really good connection with Auburn Assistant Coach Brad Bohannon. He used to be with University of Kentucky and we were in contact back then too. He transferred over to Auburn and came to see me at one of the Perfect Game showcases. We talked a little bit and pitching with a school like Auburn seemed like a great opportunity. I like the school, the field, how competitive their baseball program is, everything. It was a great fit."
What is your biggest strength?
"Attacking hitters. I don’t throw as hard as some of the pitchers in this year’s draft. So I have to pick my spots and attack the zone. I feel like I do that really well."
What about your biggest weakness?
"My breaking ball. I didn’t start throwing a curveball until I was 14. Even then I still relied on my fastball and changeup. It’s more like a slider right now and I’m working on the spin and placement. It’s improved a lot lately, but I’m still working on refining it."
Do you know any of the other Canadians in the draft?
"I played with Josh Naylor before he got drafted in the first round last year. We both went to the Ontario Blue Jays and were on the development team together. I got a chance to play against him as well. As for players who are draft eligible this year, I’m on the same team as Luke Van Rychegam and Nick Howie. We’re all close friends. We’ve known each other for a couple years and it’s definitely a tightly-knit group."
As one of the few Canadians in the draft, have you found that there are any extra obstacles?
"Not really. There are a lot of great schools here too. T12 did a lot for me this year. And going to the Perfect Game showcases gave me some great exposure. T12 Team Canada called me about a week after those showcases and asked if I wanted to join the international team. So, I joined their U-18 Junior National Team and pitched for them in Dominican. They helped me out a lot there, that’s where it all started."
Has Baseball Canada helped in the draft process? Has being Canadian offered any advantages?
"A lot. You get to play all of these minor league teams and learn what competition is like at the next level. It gives you a lot of exposure to scouts and sometimes General Managers as well. It’s good when you’re young to get that type of exposure. They’re doing phenomenal work."
Is there a team that seems to have scouted you more vigorously than others? Have any teams expressed interest?
"There’s a couple of teams I’ve been talking to more than others. You never know what’s going to happen with the draft. I’ve moved up a lot in the rankings quite a bit over the last year. We’ll have to see how the week goes."
Who is your most comparable major leaguer in your opinion?
"I’m a tall and lanky guy so by body type I get compared to Clay Buchholz. Mechanically I think I resemble Aaron Sanchez. He’s slow and calm off of the mound. I think I’m a lot like that too. We’re a similar height. I think the movement on our pitchers is similar as well."
Out of curiosity, are you into the sabermetrics stuff? Do scouts discuss this with you?
"Honestly, we don’t really focus on it too much. I was doing a workout recently where they actually measured my spin rate though. The guy I was discussing it with didn’t give me numbers or anything but he told me my spin rate was really good."