Welcome everyone to another Project Prospect interview.
If you are new to what Project Prospect is, it is a full interview segment that tells stories about prospects in Major League Baseball’s minor league system’s. The prospects will join an site reporter and talk about their baseball days growing up, in high school and college as well as talking about their MLB Draft process. This will be an ongoing segment on the website. If you are a Minor League Baseball prospect and would love to get featured in an interview please contact us on Twitter @365SportsNet.
Justin David Kish: First off I want to say thank you so much for your time for doing the interview with us. How are things going for you today?
Caleb Baragar: Things are well Justin, finally back home at my parents house in Michigan able to relax a bit before starting the off season training.
Justin David Kish: Can you take us back to where baseball was first brought to your attention?
Caleb Baragar: It was back my parents signed me up for a coach pitch league when I was 9, I got a later start than some other kids since I never played t-ball. Interestingly enough my dad never really played baseball growing up, nor my mom softball so I don’t think either of them saw me really falling in love with the game.
Justin David Kish: What was your Little League Baseball years like growing up?
Caleb Baragar: I played little league for 4 years until I was 13 and then I started playing travel ball. I was pretty young when I was playing so I don’t really remember too much, other than when I was 11 I was pitching and threw a wild pitch, went to cover home and got smoked in the face with a ball. This was just great because my aunts wedding was three days later and I had a nice black eye for all the pictures. The little league I grew up in (Georgetown Little League) had a pretty big following around the community, if you were a kid growing up in Jenison it was almost a guarantee that you’d play on a team there at some point in your life. As I got slightly older it became apparent to my parents that the talent level at our little league was a bit below mine so they looked for other options, i.e. travel baseball. I found a team out of Grand Rapids that I played for for a year and then that team disbanded. After being told I was not good enough to play on two other teams I found a home with the Grand Rapids Flames who saw some potential in me, where I played the remainder of my high school travel years with, along with my 18U playing for another Grand Rapids team that finished 46-7. That team, Diamonds, is really where I saw myself turning into a PO, it was run much like a college team.
Justin David Kish: Growing up in Jenison, Michigan was the Detroit Tigers your favorite baseball team growing up? And who was your favorite player as a kid?
Caleb Baragar: Actually no, I grew up a huge Cubs fan, My dad was raised a Cub fan by his father so mine did the same to me. I actually never had even been to a Tigers game until I was senior in high school and went with a couple friends. However growing up my parents would almost always take a trip to Chicago and take me and my brother to Wrigley. Growing up my favorite player was Sammy Sosa, he had that signature hop every time he hit a home run and I can remember playing ball in the front yard with my dad and brother and emulating him whenever I would square up a ball.
Justin David Kish: You played your High School ball at Jenison High School. Tell us about your experience with the team?
Caleb Baragar: High School baseball was a little different for me, My freshman year I split time with the JV and freshman team, I would pitch and play first for the JV while always being DH’d for but then when I was on the freshman team I would be the DH. Very confusing for me to say the least as high school freshman. My sophomore year I played the first part of the year on JV then was moved up to varsity, I remember thinking about how big of a jump that would and was pretty intimidated because I was not a very big sophomore, not even 6ft and about 150lbs. My last two years at JHS were pretty normal on the field, our team was very average with not a lot of kids going to play at the next level, so it was kind of frustrating seeing kids give up or not care as much as I did. We finished middle of the pack both years, but interestingly enough two different teams from my conference won the state title those years.
Justin David Kish: During your time at JHS you pitched two no-hitters would you consider those two games the hardest games of your high school career?
Caleb Baragar: Sadly no, the team I threw the no hitters against was not very talented, I think they were also both 5 inning mercies. I also walked 6 in one of the games so my coach was pretty hot with me after. Not my greatest high school baseball memory.
Justin David Kish: Before embarking on your College Baseball career, can you tell us about your last time on the mound at JHS?
Caleb Baragar: The last time I pitched in a JHS uniform was kind of different. We were playing in districts and my coach had opted to save me to pitch the second game against Hudsonville ( the team who went on to win state my senior year ) but actually had me throw the last three innings against the team we played the first game. So I pitched the last three innings as we beat West Ottawa 2-1, and then had a 30 minute turn around to play Hudsonville. I pitched all 6 innings against them as we lost 2-0 giving up the two runs after two walks and two missed fly balls ended up costing us the game. I just remember being so exhausted after those games, I think I threw around 150 pitches that day.
Justin David Kish: Now some High School prospects speak to MLB scouts before making the decision to head and play College Baseball. Did you ever speak with MLB scouts about being drafted out of high school?
Caleb Baragar: Not a single one, I was just an average left handed pitcher coming out of high school, I had honestly never thought about playing professionally.
Justin David Kish: During your College Baseball career you played for Jackson Community College and then later transferred to Indiana University. What offers weighed in on you after high school?
Caleb Baragar: I didn’t have many high school offers, the only scholarship offers I had were to Junior colleges and I had virtually no D1 contact with schools. I even had a D3 coach tell me during a visit I was wasting my time talking to junior colleges because I would never get the chance to pitch at a D1 school.
Justin David Kish: You were a very dominate pitcher for Jackson CC in 2013 and in 2014. You had a combine record of 11-1 and even through consecutive no-hitters in your time. Did you feel that you had to move up in competition to up your chances to get drafted and that is what led you to transfer to IU?
Caleb Baragar: Yes and no, I had a couple draft looks in junior college, but playing D1 baseball was also a goal of mine, I think it was being told by so many people that I couldn’t do it so I wanted to prove them wrong. I did know tho I had a lot of work to do tho in aspects of pitching. In Junior college I was always hurt myself (walks, HBP’s) and my fastball command was atrocious to say the least. I really wanted to go somewhere that I knew I could perfect that so that’s why I chose IU. Interestingly I was recruited by Tracy Smith the now ASU coach but he had left during the summer when I transferring in that fall so I kind of went in blind with a new coaching staff. Thankfully I clicked with them really well and loved getting to play under Chris Lemonis and his staff.
Justin David Kish: What was the transition like for you going from playing at the Community College level to now playing at the highest level in College Baseball?
Caleb Baragar: The hitters were a lot smarter. The took more pitches and wouldn’t bail me out of situations, the biggest thing I noticed was I couldn’t just baby in pitches anymore and I was forced to throw strikes. I have to thank my IU pitching coach too, Kyle Bunn, because he told me right away when I got there if I didn’t throw strikes, I wouldn’t touch the mound, so that made me throw a lot more strikes as well.
Justin David Kish: Indiana has an amazing coaching staff and being a pitcher, did you add any new pitches to your arsenal during your time with Indiana?
Caleb Baragar: I didn’t add any new pitches, but I did learn a new grip for my slider which allowed me to throw it a little harder and let it be sharper as opposed to just kind of hooking it in there.
Justin David Kish: You spent your Junior year with Indiana tell us about your experience with the team did you learn anything new about yourself during your time there?
Caleb Baragar: I learned that if I didn’t have a specific routine each week my performance would be inconsistent week by week. That was the biggest jump from my junior year to senior year. I had learned that I had to focus on everything I did through the week and not just go through the motions.
Justin David Kish: Lets jump into the MLB Draft. You made the decision to come out of college and enter into the 2016 MLB Draft. What teams did you speak with during the build-up and who had early interest?
Caleb Baragar: I had either spoken to or met with 30 of the 32 teams before the draft and about half of them had seemed to express a lot of interest. It almost got a little overwhelming for a while during a fews of classes I was having to schedule group project meetings around my scout meetings during my free time at night.
Justin David Kish: You were selected by the San Francisco Giants in the 9th round of the draft. How did it feel on being drafted by the team and tell us about the phone call you received telling you that they will pick you?
Caleb Baragar: This was kind of different for me, it was nearing the end of day two and I was getting a little tense since the main reason I came back to IU was to get drafted in the top 10 rounds. I started to receive phone calls from some other teams asking if i’d sign for this much or in this round. Then I got a text from my agent saying he was trying to work something out with the Giants. A minute or so went by and I was watching the draft on my lap top and I told my mom to sit down and watch the Giants pick, my name was called and it was the greatest feeling of my entire life.
Justin David Kish: Its every kids dream to sign an MLB contract. What did signing your first professional baseball contract like for you?
Caleb Baragar: It felt surreal, growing up a kid I never actually thought I would get the chance to do so, I was so happy I was blessed with the opportunity, and happy to be a part of a special organization.
Justin David Kish: You are currently in your first year of Minor League Baseball and you have played for the San Jose Giants and in the Instructional League (changed this, I didn’t play in the fall league). How has your transition been for you?
Caleb Baragar: It’s been more fun than I could imagine. The biggest thing with me is not trying to over think the competition and when I jumped from the AZL to High A that was my biggest point of emphasis, don’t overcomplicate it, the game stays the same, its still a 5oz baseball and the hitter has to hit my pitch. I did love the change from AZ to San Jose, it was awesome playing in front of the people there and getting to interact with the fans before and after the game, I had really missed that part of baseball.
Justin David Kish: Sometimes down the line in pitchers career they make the case to be either a relief pitcher or a starting pitcher have you decided on if you wanna pitch out of the pen or is starting games your bread and butter suite?
Caleb Baragar: Honestly I think I could do both, I really do like starting a lot because it allows me to keep my routine and it’s what I have known for so long. However I did make a few relief appearances this year and it was a lot of fun getting to let me adrenaline flow in a close game and getting to leave it all out there for just an inning or two.
Justin David Kish: Caleb once again I appreciate your time, before we let you go what are we to expect from you going forward in your career?
Caleb Baragar: You’re welcome Justin, thank you for having me. As to what you can expect, I am just going to continue to work hard like I have been and try to stay as consistent as possible. If I do those two things everything else will fall into place and I will continue to be successful on the mound.