In five years with the organization, Johnston has put up a career line of .266/.324/.405, his best year coming in 2007 in Lake Elsinore where he hit .292/.357/.433 as he has gradually moved from the middle infield to third base.
San Diego has always liked the size the 6-foot-3 Johnston brings to the table along with his superior hand-eye coordination. His biggest problem is attempting to curtail a very aggressive approach at the plate to a more refined pitch selection the Padres preach; namely picking a good pitch to hit.
The Bourne, Texas native is back for his second year with the Missions after setting personal highs in home runs (16) and RBI (66) last year.
Because of his grip it and rip it approach, Johnston is never boring to write about; one month he is the player of the month, the next he may be in the disappointment category. Either way he keeps things interesting.
Last year you ended up being up and down on a month to month basis, but in the end you finished second in home runs and second in RBI. So what went right for you, and what didn’t?
Seth Johnston: Last year was an interesting year.
You are a fun guy to write about, there isn’t a whole lot of middle ground.
Seth Johnston: [laughs] Yeah, well that is kind of how it went last year. Last year was more the first month and half I played well, the next two were pretty bad, and the last month I played pretty well.
Your stats in August were pretty good, .312/.350/.473.
Seth Johnston: I went through a lot of changes last year. Last year, I had a leg kick and it can be the best thing in the world or the worst thing. If you are going right and the timing is on it can really help you, but at the same time one thing is off and it makes you very inconsistent seeing the baseball. In spring training, I got away from it so to see the ball better.
In this organization, they preach seeing a lot of pitches and making the pitcher throw you your pitch. The thing I need to be is to become more selective at the pitches that I swing at. Last year when I was going right, that is what I was doing was hitting the pitches that were in the zone. That is pretty much the way it works with everybody, when you are swinging at pitches in your zone, you are going to hit them with more authority.
When I have seen you in the past, your greatest strength also seems to be your greatest weakness. You have very good hand-eye coordination which allows you to get your bat on more pitches than most guys but at the same time you often don’t wait enough for a pitch you can really drive.
Seth Johnston: There is no question that I have always been an aggressive hitter, but I have tried to become more patient. With two strikes, that ability can help you, but at other times I tend to roll over on pitches. The key is early in the count you have to swing at something that gets more of the plate, you can’t just swing at something on the black. Because you just can’t do much with a pitch that is there.
Are you working on getting to the point where if you swing at the first pitch during you first four at-bats and all are hit hard for outs, that you are going to be comfortable that you did all you could control?
Seth Johnston: If you get a good pitch you need to hit it, regardless of whether it is the first pitch of the AB or the eighth. If its in the zone, its in the zone. If you go 0-for-4 and hit four line drives at someone, its a good day no matter what anyone says or writes.
Hey, it is a lot easier to write about that approach than to do it. It still must be tough if you go 0-for-4 regardless of how hard you hit the ball.
Seth Johnston: No matter how long you play the game, 0-4 is 0-4; you always want hits. That is one thing about being in the minor leagues – a lot of it is about development. As hard as it is to get through your head, that is all you can do hit the ball hard. Like anyone else baseball players are pretty greedy, you want those hits and all you can do is what you control.
When you first came up you were a middle infielder, and the past few years they have been putting you at third and now even some talk of playing you in the outfield and at first. Guys who play at those positions usually hit with much more power so has that changed your approach at the plate?
Seth Johnston: It really hasn’t changed my approach mentally, but it might have some because physically I have developed some. Last year, I hit more home runs than any other time in my career and I feel like I’m capable of more.
It makes you respect so much more what guys like Kyle Blanks and Chase Headley did here; it shows what kind of hitters they are. As I’ve grown up physically, I think it has worked out as I’ve moved to the corners, where as you said earlier, you have to hit for a little more power.
A long time ago I spoke with you in Fort Wayne about how tough it was to play third, since you have been there now for the past few years, how is it now?
Seth Johnston: It is a lot different from playing in the middle of the field because at third you are just right on top of it. For me, the first half of last season is the first time I’ve ever played third base everyday. I struggled a little there and it wasn’t until the second half where I finally got comfortable and played well. I think it is something for me that I just had to learn how to play it.
If you are trying to hit for more power, as much as you like coming home to Texas, this is not the best park for a right-handed hitter.
Seth Johnston: Especially for me, I like hitting to right-center...and take a look, that is a big space.
I’ve heard a lot of right-handed hitters say that, when they are on the ball goes to right-center.
Seth Johnston: Last year, six or seven of my home runs were to the opposite field. When you are really going well that is the best thing for me, you know your swing is really on. Last year, I struggled mentally with how this park plays and you just have to get over it. If you can get this out of your mind, you are going to be ok. The other night with less than two outs and a runner on third, I hit one that would have been no doubt home run in about any other park, but it was just a long fly out to left. The difference was I was happy with driving in that run in, whereas last year I would have been throwing my helmet.
You have to make adjustments to hitting more hard ground balls and line drives as opposed to fly balls. As we talked about earlier, it will get you ready for PETCO Park.
Is there a danger when you go to other parks that are more hitter friendly that
you can develop a home approach and one for the road?
Seth Johnston: It can be and there are some guys that try to do that, but it can get you into trouble. If you are a home run hitter, you are going to get your home runs. When you square up a ball, it is going to go out. If you are trying to hit home runs it just doesn’t work for me.
Has it been fun coming back to Texas where you grew up and played college ball?
Seth Johnston: It has been nice and a luxury that I don’t think many people have. My parents have been out here a bunch to see me play, which has been great. It’s weird playing here because I remember coming out here as a kid to watch baseball when they played up at St. Mary’s and that was awhile back, so its kind of interesting to come out and play for the Missions, but the ultimate goal is to make it to the majors.
If there ever was a place for me to repeat, this is it.
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