The Mets selected right-hander Corey Oswalt in the 7th round of the 2012 MLB Draft out of James Madison High School in San Diego, California.
Throughout high school, Oswalt was primarily a position player, playing third base and shortstop. He had committed to play at UC Santa Barbara as a position player, however, he attracted attention on the mound prompting the Mets to select the six-foot-five righty with an over-slot signing bonus.
To date, Oswalt has pitched for five of the Mets affiliates, posting his best numbers in 2014 while with the Brooklyn Cyclones. In 12 games, 11 starts, Oswalt went 6-2 with a 2.26 ERA (4th in New York-Penn League), with a 1.03 WHIP (4th), and .218 batting average against (3rd). He followed that season up with a strong ’15 campaign with the now defunct Savannah Sand Gnats, posting career high in wins (11), games started (23), innings pitched (128.2), and strikeouts (99).
Oswalt’s battled injuries in his young professional career, however, the Mets wanted to test the now 23-year-old with top competition in last fall’s Arizona Fall League. He tied for second in wins (4), third in innings pitched (27), along with 21 strikeouts and a 1.33 WHIP while playing for the Scottsdale Scorpions.
Feeling healthy and ready for the 2017 season, Oswalt took some time to speak with me earlier in the week to discuss a number of topics including converting to a pitcher, having early interactions with Paul DePodesta (the Mets former vice president of player development and scouting), and of course, some analysis on Tim Tebow.
MMN – Thanks for taking some time today Corey, I hope all is well. You were an infielder in high school, playing shortstop and third base when you weren’t pitching. Did you expect moving forward in your professional career you’d switch to pitcher full-time? What was that process like?
Corey – When I was younger I pitched, and then once I got into high school I focused more on being a position guy, playing everyday. In high school, I played shortstop and during the travel circuit I played third base and during the All-American and the showcases I played more of third.
But it was about a month or two before my high school (senior) season I consulted my parents a little bit and my agent. I always had a strong arm, and I was committed to go to college as a position player actually. It might boost my draft stock a little bit with pitching, I mean, I’ve always loved to pitch.
I threw a couple bullpens before the season, played in one more showcase game and then I just got way more attention for it (pitching). Once high school season came along I threw maybe 20-25 innings and I loved it, just as much as I loved being a position guy, and kind of just went from there.
MMN – I read that Paul DePodesta personally scouted you a few times before the Mets drafted you in the 7th round in 2012, can you tell me a little about your interactions with him and what it meant to have a member of the front office dealing with you directly?
Corey – It was great, he’s a San Diego guy, he lives in San Diego. He was able to come and see me during high school and came and visited me at my house. It was awesome just knowing that I had a guy that had my back in the front office type of thing, who really liked me so it was just an advantage to come out.
MMN – For fans that might be new to you, can you give me a brief scouting report on yourself? What are some of your strengths and weaknesses, and things you’re still trying to improve upon?
Corey – When I was drafted at the beginning I always had a strong arm but I needed to develop into being a pitcher. So my first few seasons I kind of really focused on just being able to command my fastball and just getting my feet wet the first season.
After the first season I was like ‘alright I can really do this’ I mean I had glimpses of it, but I didn’t really know like how to pitch or do exactly – so the first few seasons till Brooklyn I was more just a command guy, just because I didn’t want to walk anybody. That’s always been my big thing, not walking guys, but now that I’ve gotten older and stronger now I’m turning more into power and starting to strike guys out more. As my body’s developed I’ve become more of a pitcher, it just took a little bit of time.
MMN – You’ve battled some injuries so far in your minor league career, how difficult is it mentally to be pitching well but then have to lose time on the DL? How does one stay mentally strong when these situations occur?
Corey – I have full faith in my ability so it’s just one of those things that’s part of the game. Just a great, great training staff that have really helped me out at certain times with treatment and stuff. Once I went down, even before the All-Star break (of last season) I didn’t know exactly what the injury was or anything, thankfully it was minor.
I just had to gain my strength back and I was just looking forward to getting back on the mound before the season ended, and hopefully pitching during the offseason and I was able to do that. I was fortunate enough that the Mets sent me to the Fall League, and I was really happy about that to get some more work in. It’s just one of those things where you kind of got to get through it, just grab through.
MMN – Throughout your time in the Mets’ system, are there certain things the organization focuses on or asks their pitching prospects to focus on, almost like an organizational philosophy?
Corey – For the most part, for me at least they’ve let me just kind of gradually develop, just mature. Commanding the strike zone, not walking guys, getting ahead, that kind of stuff. But other than that, go off of as I’ve gotten stronger and stuff, and learn how to pitch and know myself. But I think commanding the strike zone is a big part of the Mets’ (philosophy).
MMN – Growing up, who were some of your favorite players? Any that you model your game after today?
Corey – My favorite pitcher always been John Smoltz. I’ve always loved him, he was my favorite player so I kind of molded myself off of him a little bit, just with my delivery a little bit just because he was my favorite. But then I developed into my own, but he was definitely my favorite player.
MMN – You were selected to participate in last year’s Arizona Fall League, talk to me about that experience and what you were able to take away from it.
Corey – Yeah it was just a great opportunity the Mets gave me to send me there. It was awesome, competition’s top level, (a) lot of big time prospects so it was really fun to go up there and compete and see what I got, and see if I matched up with some of these guys and that kind of stuff. I feel as though I was able to, did good, and I was just able to compete with them and it was really good time.
MMN – You had an up close look at Tim Tebow and the attention he generates. Can you talk a bit about Tebow as a teammate and some of the things you took away from his performance?
Corey – Yeah he’s just a great guy, it was just awesome to see how he goes about his business and that kind of stuff, and just kind of hear from him and see where he’s been through, in ties to football and just life in general. It was a really good opportunity to meet him, get to know him a little bit, and just the kind of competitor he is and how hard he works.
MMN – How was the offseason for you? What’s a typical day-to-day routine like when you’re training?
Corey – Well this off-season’s been a little different just because I was out in the Fall League, I only took like a month off of throwing. But yeah, I work out four days a week, and then I work out with a couple other minor league guys from other organizations, so I just go out every morning to my workout facilities, get a few hours in, and just try to gain some strength as well as flexibility.
Then around New Year’s is when I started throwing again, the Mets have a throwing program, so I just follow that a little bit and go with it and get ready for the season.
MMN – Thanks for your time Corey, really appreciate it!
Corey – Yeah no worries, thank you I appreciate it.
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