MadFriars' Spring Training:  Rob Kral

Kral hit 16 HRs in 2013 between LE and SA

Peoria, AZ:  Rob Kral, 25, was drafted in the tenth round of the 2011 draft out of the College of Charleston.  After redshirting his freshman year and seeing sporadic playing time the next, the left-handed hitting catcher came into his own during his final two years with the Cougars hitting .344/.489/.614 in 2010 and .319/.471/.563 in his final season in 2011.

He didn't get many opportunities to show what he could do professionally in his debut season until uber prospect Austin Hedges went down last May and he was able to play consistently for the first time.  Kral hit .296/.437/.566 in the first half with the Storm and finished the year with 16 home runs which was good enough for fourth overall in the organization.

He started off well in San Antonio before a concussion threw off his timing to finish a disappointing .154/.313/.308.

This season Kral, whom many in the Padres' organization has one of the best plate approaches in the system, will begin the year in AA San Antonio seeing time behind Austin Hedges at catcher and splitting time with Lee Orr at first base.

You caught a lot when Austin got hurt and when he came back you went to first base and even began taking fly balls in the outfield. What is the plan for you this season?

Rob Kral: Right now all I have been doing is catching. I've been taking ground balls by myself when BP is going on but as far as I've been its just catching.

I've been wondering a little what is going on with that but I'm sure I will find out soon enough. You have to do what you are told.

Has it changed your off-season preparation any since you could be at somewhere other than behind the plate?

Rob Kral: I mixed in working out at first base much more. I started working on defense a month before I started hitting with blocking, receiving for catching and taking ground balls at first.

Also I tried to put on a little extra weight through lifting because I might be at a corner spot and want to be able to generate a little more power; those are just a few of the things that I tried to do.

That has to be a huge change from just catching because anywhere else than behind the plate is vastly different, especially just getting used to the mitts.

Rob Kral: When I first started I was catching them right in the hand and was getting a few stingers [laughs]. So that was a bit of an adjustment. I had to learn to use that big mitt.

Overall it wasn't a bad adjustment. The stress level is a lot lower than behind the plate.

There are a few people the organization that catch and play multiple positions, like Cody Decker. Both of you have kind of hyper personalities so how was the adjustment to somewhere with a little less action?

Rob Kral: You get to be a little more social at first. (laughs). It was a fun position I hope I get to play there again.

People aren't that chatty with you when you catch?

Rob Kral: No, not as much or maybe just not with me [laughs]. I try to keep it loose but some guys can get upset when you are talking.

First half you hit really well and in the second you tailed off. Was it more of a case you wore down or that the bounces just weren't going your way?

Rob Kral: A little bit of both. When I first got to San Antonio I was seeing and hitting the ball well and then I got a concussion that kept me out for a few weeks.

Right when I came back I was in at first base and DH and I just couldn't get my timing back from having those few weeks off. From there it just snowballed. I started to get it back a little around the playoffs but by then the season was nearly done.

What is the biggest thing that you learned from last year that you are trying to build on this year?

Rob Kral: Learning how to keep yourself fresh the entire time. In August I was dragging some even without the concussion. Your preparation is huge and just getting the feel of playing a hundred games in a season is amazing and really beneficial to learning how to play as a pro.

When we talk to you guys you are putting in a lot of work even before the game. Lifting, hitting, various drills and especially if you are a catcher bullpens and maybe working with a roving instructor - all before playing a nine inning game.

Oh yeah and its in San Antonio where in the summer it is over a hundred degrees most days. So how do you stay "fresh"?

I mean to me it would be pretty easy to not get up for that morning gym workout.

Rob Kral: It is tough and a lot of days it doesn't feel good at all. You are working on your upper body and then your legs and you start to feel like jello even before you hit the field. You have to learn how to play when you are a little tired. And when you get a chance to sit your butt on the couch and watch television you take it.

Rob Kral: [laughs] Oh yeah, no question about that.

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