Leading up to Day 1 of the MLB Draft on June 12, we will be conducting Q&A interviews with many prospects who are projected to be first-rounders. For a complete listing of these interviews, click here.
Next is Huntington Beach (Calif.) HS first baseman Nick Pratto, a 6-foot-1, 193 lb. Southern California commit. Pratto, who won the 2011 Little League World Series in Williamsport, is one of the best pure high school bats in the country and is expected to focus on hitting after entering the year as a two-way player.
Pratto’s projections vary a bit, with some reports noting he has a chance to be a top-10 pick. Baseball America (12th-Pirates), MLB.com (20th-Mets) and ESPN (24th-Red Sox) all project him as a mid-to-late first-rounder at the moment. Be sure to check out Pratto’s full scouting report over at SB Nation’s Minor League Ball.
When did you first get into baseball as a kid and realized how much you loved the game?
“I’d have to say I was about 8 years old. It was my first little taste of travel ball and playing a lot of games at one time. For me, that was so much fun and really where I learned to love the game.”
Did you have a favorite team growing up? A favorite player?
“I never had one specific favorite player, but I was always a Dodgers fan.”
For you, was there a turning point moment when you realized you could become a first-round draft pick?
“Going into this season, I kind of had my own expectations. I always thought I was gonna go in the first round, whether other people said it was the second or the first, I thought I was borderline coming in. I think it was the beginning of the preseason where I believed I had solidified myself.”
What led to your decision to commit to play for Southern California?
“I’ve grown up a USC fan my whole life. I had a lot of faith in their program and their coach. I was just really comfortable around that campus.”
You were a member of the team that won the Little League World Series six years ago. How has your life changed since that experience?
“So much. That’s really where I learned to compete on the big stage, and just become a team. It was a bunch of kids from my hometown. We started from normal, average kids and became champions. That was a big step for Hagen [Danner] and I to learn how to play the game on the big stage.”
In the LLWS, you hit a walk-off single in the bottom of the 6th with the bases loaded and two outs to clinch the championship. Looking back at that, it must have been a ton of pressure for an 11-year old. Are you ever afraid of stepping out on the field after something like that so young?
“It was a weird moment for me because I remember not expecting to get up. I was the last possible hitter to be able to get up. I remember walking up to the plate surprised that I even got that opportunity. I was waiting in the dugout just wanting it. I walked up to the plate and it wasn’t even like the stage mattered. I just walked up like it was a normal at-bat.”
You mentioned Hagen Danner, one of your high school teammates who is also a projected first- or second-round pick this year. How have you guys fed off each other as this process has gone on?
“It’s always good having somebody going through it with you. Hagen and I have done a good job of keeping each other up and helping each other grind through this.”
What would you characterize as your biggest strength on the field?
“I’d have to say my competitiveness and leadership. Every team I’ve been on, it seems like I’ve taken on that kind of role. I’ve always pushed everybody to be at their best.”
On the other side of that, what do you want to work on the most at the next level?
“Just really hitting the ball. If you hit, you’ll play. That’s what my main focus will be.”
What factors will go into your decision in a couple weeks when it’s time to either go pro or go to school at USC?
“There are all kinds of things that factor into it. Which team, where, and the money, obviously. You need to be able to start a life. All those contribute to my decision-making.”
Historically, there haven’t been a ton of high school first baseman be successful major-leaguers after being picked high in the draft. What makes you different? Why will you be a guy who breaks that trend.
“The makeup. That really sums it all up. Anybody who knows me would say that I work extremely hard. I wouldn’t let failure be something that would happen.”
You had the unique experience of transferring in the middle of high school, from Mater Dei to Huntington Beach. Take me through that decision?
“Coming to Mater Dei, they were coming off an extremely good year with talent on the team. I came with really, really high expectations and the program didn’t meet my expectations. I wasn’t having a good time and it was time for me to go back. Time to just go play with the original guys.”
If you had to pick a major-league comp for yourself, who would it be and why?
“I’d have to say Anthony Rizzo right now. I think the approaches and the swings are similar. I expect that’s how I’m gonna be in the major leagues right now.”
What advantages do you have as someone who grew up in an amateur baseball hotbed like southern California?
“We separate ourselves from the others just being the best all-around baseball players. Just knowing how to adjust and get out there everyday against really good competition.”
You were formerly thought of as a two-way talent, with some thinking you could pitch in the pros as well. How does your experience as a pitcher help you in the batter’s box?
“It creates the best ballplayer. Having experienced both sides of the ball, it comes easier what to expect from pitchers and how to position yourself on the field. It’s just baseball IQ.”
What’s it like going through this very important process as a high school senior... having something like prom three days before getting drafted?
“It’s been hectic. Once the season ended, the workouts and the phonecalls and the meetings. It’s hectic, but it’s a tradeoff and reward.”
Heading into the draft, any expectations as to where you’ll fall on the draft board? Any goals?
“No, I’m just going into it expecting the best and just seeing what happens.”