The San Diego Padres selected a little known first baseman with their 15th round selection in the 2015 draft. Not much was known about Brad Zunica except that he had tremendous power.
At 6′ 6″ and 250 lbs, Zunica is a big target at first base. He has a very powerful stroke and, at the age of 20, just seems to be blossoming into his potential. His sophomore year in college at the State College of Florida, Zunica hit 13 homers and drove in 54 runs while batting .311 on the season.
Zunica however did not start his collegiate career at SCF. He originally left his senior year in high school to enroll at the University of Miami. Zunica always wanted to be a Hurricane and jumped at the opportunity to play for the team. He ended up playing sporadically his freshman year and in the end decided SCF was a better fit for him.
The Padres scouts noticed the power potential and have worked with Zunica on his plate discipline. The coaching staff has worked on getting Zunica a little more balanced and still in the box. He had a very pronounced bat waggle that was reminiscent of Gary Sheffield.
The left handed hitter and right handed thrower is working hard on his defense. That is a small issue for him, but he can easily correct that with some hard work. The 20-year-old had a batting line of .271/.329/.496 in 35 games and 129 at bats in the AZL. He also smacked seven home runs and drove in 24 runs. The middle of the order type bat is there, if he can continue to progress in a positive manner.
Mr. Zunica has a fantastic attitude and will likely go far in the professional level. His mindset is correct and most importantly his power is legit. As he grows and gets even stronger, he could really bloom into a crown jewel in the Padres farm system. We want to thank Brad for taking the time to talk to us.
You skipped your senior year of high school to attend the University of Miami. Tell me a little bit about your thought process in making that decision.
Basically, Miami was my dream school growing up. They came to me and asked if I wanted to graduate early and come on down. School was always a big part of my decision. They offered and I jumped at it. Things just didn’t work out in the end.
How tough was it leaving Miami and attending State College of Florida?
It was my decision to leave. I took some advice from some wrong people. At the end of the day, it all fell back on me. I definitely learned a lot from that situation. But I couldn’t have gone to a better system and I am happy with it.
Tell us about the State College of Florida and how that system was the right fit for you.
I give a lot of credit to the coaches there at SCF. They had a big impact on making me feel “wanted.” It was great spot to be in, the coaches there have your backs and made me feel comfortable right away.
Was it a tough decision when the Padres drafted you in the 15th round? Was returning to school a possibility?
There was always the thought I could return to school but at the end of the day, professional baseball was always my dream growing up as a kid. They gave me the chance and I really couldn’t say no. I am happy with what I decided.
Anybody on the AZL coaching staff help you out in particular this half season?
All the coaches went out of their way to make me feel comfortable. My manager Brandon Wood and I just talked a couple of days ago. We have a good relationship going. Ben Fritz the pitching coach had an impact on my season as well.
Any particular players you bonded with on the AZL team?
Jacob Nix, Austin Smith, Tyler Moore, Jordan Guerrero, Kyle Overstreet. I still keep in constant contact with them. Being able to build relationships with guys that you can go to and trust is nice.
You pitched some in high school and college. Do you ever miss being out on the mound? Describe yourself as a pitcher.
I pitched in high school and at SCF. I was never one with big time velocity but I know how to pitch. I throw strikes. I can get people out. As far as missing it, no I don’t really miss it. I have always been a hitter first.
What are your strengths within the game of baseball right now?
My power and size stick out to everybody. I can use the whole field and drive the ball to all sides of the field.
What would you consider your weaknesses are in the game? What are you working on most?
Defense is something that has never been my strong suit. On my defensive side, I could use some work and this offseason I have been working very hard at it. I feel a lot more comfortable on the field. From a hitting standpoint, I could probably cut down on my strikeouts.
What are you looking forward to the most in your first full season of professional baseball?
Playing everyday and just getting to live out my dream. Just seeing what the game of baseball has in store for me.
You recently joined the inspiration academy coaching staff. Tell me about working with kids and what kind of impact that has on you.
That was an opportunity that came up and I took it. Coaching has helped me reflect on what I have learned and I enjoy helping kids. Seeing their progress is very gratifying.
What motivates you in the game of baseball to be the best player you can be?
Baseball is something I have been doing since I was five or six years old. Just waking up every day and doing it is just second nature. Waking up and doing it is something I want to do, not something I have to do. That’s what helps me the most.
Any interaction with A.J. Preller and if so what are your thoughts of him?
I had met him a couple of times at some pre-workouts for the drafts. One time during instructionals as well. He seems like a cool guy. He seems like he knows what he is doing.
What kind of advice would you give someone trying to be a professional baseball player?
In baseball you have to give it 100 percent. In baseball there are sacrifices that you are going to have to make. If you are willing to make them, then go for it. If you are not willing to give it 100 percent then I would suggest looking for another career.
A version of this interview first appeared on EastVillageTimes.com
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