Joey Terdoslavich isn’t worried about his low walk rate or his numbers against left-handed pitchers. The 24-year-old Atlanta Braves prospect expects those issues to work themselves out during the season. The reason? He’s a master craftsman with a baseball bat in his hands.
Terdoslavich went into last night’s game hitting .328/.349/.578, with eight home runs, for Triple-A Gwinnett. The numbers don’t come as a surprise. Outside of a rocky 53-game stretch to start last season — the switch-hitter had been double-jumped from High-A — he has always swung a potent bat. Following last summer’s demotion to Double-A Mississippi, he hit .315. Two years ago, in Lynchburg, he hit .286 and had 74 extra-base hits.
The biggest question for the 2010 draft pick is defense. He has bounced between the infielder corners since signing out of Long Beach State and is now trying his hand in the outfield.
Terdoslavich talked about his game during a recent visit to McCoy Stadium in Pawtucket, R.I.
David Laurila: Do you look at hitting as more of an art or more of a science?
Joey Terdoslavich: A little of both. There’s obviously a science to it — you have the speed of the pitch and your timing. As far as the art part, everybody is different. Not one guy is the same as far as mechanics and approach, so it’s your own art. I look at hitting — my swing and my approach — as my craft, much like a carpenter or electrician would. It’s my specialty, my thing, my deal, the way I go about my business.
DL: Are you the same from both sides of the plate?
JT: I’m a little different. Left-handed, I’m kind of locked in right now. I’m just trying to get some rhythm going. But right-handed, I’m try to simplify everything and see the ball better. As the season gets going, I’ll feel more comfortable from the right side, because I’ll get more at bats from that side. Right now, I only have 25 or 30, as opposed to over  left-handed.
You can’t replicate game-action in the cage. It’s like anything you do. A coach can hit you fly balls, or he can shoot them out of a machine, but neither is the same as them coming off the bat. Same thing with a pitching coach throwing you BP. It’s different than someone on the mound trying to get you out. The only thing that’s really going to prepare you is real at bats.
DL: Are you a natural right-handed hitter or a natural left-handed hitter?
JT: I don’t know. I’ve been doing it my whole life — since I was very little — since I was too young to remember.
DL: Do come from a baseball family?
JT: My mom’s brother is Mike Greenwell, who played for the Red Sox. My dad played basketball, but he loved baseball and really became a student of the game. He’s taught me everything I know. My dad knows my swing better than anybody else, because he‘s seen it more than anybody else. He knows what I’m doing that maybe made me miss a pitch, or what is making me successful at a given point in time. If I go through a little funk, I’ll say, “Hey dad, what’s the deal?” He’ll say, “Your bat is moving a little too much,” or, “You need to see the pitch, up. You need to wait.”
DL: Your uncle Mike was a gap-to-gap hitter who didn’t draw a lot of walks. Do you see yourself as similar?
JT: I think I’ve walked a decent amount. Not this year, but I’m also not missing a lot of pitches. But he could hit. I’m too young to have seen him play, but I’ve seen video and he could mash the ball all over the field. I don’t really compare myself to him. I don’t like comparing myself to anybody. I look at it as “I’m me and he’s him.”
DL: Are you usually attacking the first pitch in your zone?
JT: It depends on the situation and who is on the mound, but I’m really just looking for a good pitch. It doesn’t matter what the count is a whole lot of times. If I get a good pitch, and see it well, I put a good swing on it. So far this year, I’m not missing a lot of those pitches — whether I get a hit, line out, fly out, whatever — and I think that’s what’s going on with my walk rate. I’m not really worried about it.
DL: Do you look middle and adjust, or do you look for pitches in certain zones?
JT: I look fastball and adjust to everything else. I don’t look to zones, particularly. If there’s a guy on second with nobody out, and I’m hitting left-handed, I’m going to look for a pitch in to try to get him over. If I’m hitting right-handed in that situation, I’m looking for a pitch away, to drive the other way. So there are situations where I do, but for the most part I’m just looking for a good fastball to hit. If they make a mistake with another pitch, I’ll make an adjustment and go after it.
DL: How do you approach staying back on off-speed when you’re sitting fastball?
JT: I trust my hands, knowing I can still get to the fastball. If they flip a curveball in there, I can still stay back — keep my hands back — and wait for it.
DL: Two seasons ago you hit 20 home runs in the Carolina League, which isn’t particularly hitter friendly.
JT: I hit 20 mistakes. Home runs are mistakes. They’re pitches I got a little under and they carried. I don’t really know the history of the Carolina League as far as home runs, but they do say it’s a pitcher’s league. But the 20 home runs are the most I’ve ever hit.
DL: What happened last year?
JT: I had some physical flaws in my swing. I had a little hitch going on that was making me miss pitches I should have been driving. I let my swing break down from both sides of the plate. From there, mentally… I knew what was going on with my swing, but I couldn’t fix it. It was a bad habit I had to work at every day, and finally, toward the end of Triple-A, right before I got sent down, I figured it out. I finally got it right. Not 100 percent, but it was to where I could be successful. This off-season, I continued to work on getting that hitch out of my swing. Now it’s gone.
DL: How did you develop the hitch?
JT: It started almost as a way to get a little more power, then it just became part of my swing. When a hitch becomes part of your swing, it’s very hard to be successful. It’s not so much that I was trying to do something different, but subconsciously I was trying to get more power. I came into camp a little lighter to play third base, and I felt I needed to get a little more juice. I was trying to get a little more going with my swing, instead of just staying with my approach.
This year I came into camp back to my normal weight, and feeling like I can stay with my normal approach. I can wait on pitches. I feel stronger and don’t have to try to generate anything more.
DL: How has changing positions impacted your career?
JT: I got drafted as a third baseman and played third my first year. I went to first base in Lynchburg — I had never played first before — but it went pretty well and I had a great year. Then they decided to move me back to third base, and I wasn’t quite ready to play third again. I struggled over there, including offensively. They moved me back to first base in Mississippi and I got back on track offensively. First base is a little less mentally and physically demanding position. That helped get me back into the swing of things.
This off-season they told me I’d be moving to the corner outfield. I still took ground balls at first and third, but my sole focus was to become the best corner outfielder I could be. Now I’m getting comfortable out there. I’m getting to that point where I have a good idea of what to do on balls, on reads. I’ve progressed and am going to continue to work at it. Wherever they want me to play, I don’t care. If they think it’s best I play catcher, or centerfield, I’m going to be the best I can at that position.
DL: What if you end up in the American League and that position is designated hitter?
JT: If I’m in the big leagues, I don’t care. That’s been my dream since I was little. I want to play in the big leagues, regardless of the position. If it came to that — if I had to be a DH — I’d DH. But right now, I’m with a National League team. I have to just keep getting better.
David Laurila grew up in Michigan's Upper Peninsula and now writes about baseball from his home in Cambridge, Mass. He authored the Prospectus Q&A series at Baseball Prospectus from December 2006-May 2011 before being claimed off waivers by FanGraphs. He can be followed on Twitter @DavidLaurilaQA.