It shouldn’t really come as a surprise to anyone, but the Astros have done well developing college outfielders at the minor league level. It’s not always a quick process either. We have seen it recently with guys like Chas McCormick and Jake Meyers who debuted at 26 and 25 year old, respectively, last year in Houston. Both players made an immediate impact at the big league level. Another college outfielder drafted by the Astros who has chance to follow that kind of progression is Joey Loperfido.
Loperfido was drafted by the Astros in the 7th round of the 2021 draft after a dominant season at Duke which saw him slash .374/.474/.612 with 19 2B, 3 3B, 8 HR, and 12 SB in 53 games helping Duke to a 33-22 record. The lefty hitting Loperfido is slashing .303/.382/.434 with 12 2B, 4 HR, 30 RBI and 14 SB in 54 games. While in Fayetteville a couple of weeks ago, I got the chance to catch up with Loperfido and ask him some questions. Let’s get to the interview.
Astros Future (AF): You returned to Duke for senior season. Was that always the plan or did the pandemic kind of force your hand?
Joey Loperfido (JL): “I definitely thought I would be picked in the five round draft (in 2020), and then as things progressed and the opportunities weren’t really what I wanted, I decided to go back to school and put my best foot forward and obviously wanted to be drafted.”
AF: Did you hear of any draft round projection for you in 2020?
JL: “I thought towards the back end of it (2020 draft). Got some good exposure to some teams during the shutdown, some live at bats and stuff like that, you never really know until you go through it and you’re hearing different things but I thought I would be selected. But couldn’t be happier that I decided to go back to school and obviously an awesome year for Duke my senior year with the program and then to be selected by the Astros this past summer was awesome.”
AF: Can you explain the adjustment and differences between college ball and professional baseball?
JL: “I think just learning to play everyday. In college you have a weekend series, an off day and then a mid-week game and then usually another two off days, a travel day. But playing every day is different. You know it feels different on your body and then your approach every single day is going to be tested because the competition is better and I think as a hitter your margin for error is a lot smaller and your window for success kind of becomes more refined too. I think the biggest thing for me as a hitter between when I got here last summer and then opening up the season here is just kind of simplifying things. I had kind of a big forward move in my swing last summer and over the off-season worked with the organization and then at home to kind of quiet and simplify things down. Really just to be more consistent, make your moves kind of fit your routine each day and free yourself up to go compete in the game, then asses the results, watch the video and go do it the next day.”
AF: You’ve played some first base, second base, and all positions in the outfield. Do you value that versatility in yourself?
JL: “Absolutely. I think all it can do it help you and being versatile can open up different pathways up and just try to help the team win. I think it you look across the big league today and even across the organization, there are guys that have had success being able to play multiple spots and maybe where they started out playing when they first broke into the minors isn’t where they ended up playing in the major leagues. Just trying to open up different doors and pathways for yourself and ultimately help the organization win.”
AF: Is there a position you feel most comfortable at and are you looking to add any more?
JL: “I think playing the hot corner would be fun but I love playing center field. I like going to get balls and kind of letting my athleticism play in the game and I’m a big football fan, a big eagles fan, and I think you’re kind of a free safety out there.”
AF: What do you feel is your biggest attribute on the field as a player?
JL: I think I’m kind of somebody that can do a little bit of everything. I think my biggest positive attribute is that I can impact the game in a lot of different ways whether it’s on the defensive side of the things or at the plate with some power or just the ability to get on base, drive in runs and make things happen. My senior year in college I hit leadoff and I’ve kind of hit more in the middle of the lineup here in Fayetteville but I just think I can beat you in a lot of different ways and my ability to find consistent success and I think I’m good at being the same guy every day, which Coach Pollard at Duke preached. Being even keeled through everything.”
AF: You’ve been hit by pitch a lot in your career. Is that something you take pride in? Finding ways to get on base or was it just bad luck?
JL: “I think it’s a little bit of both. But if you can get on base and you have the opportunity to make something happen and score runs for the team you’re going to do it and I grew up a big chase Utley fan and he got hit a lot and I think he took some pride in it. So yea, I definitely take some pride in being able to get on base.”
AF: What are your goals for the remainder of the year?
JL: “Talking with the Astros mental skills program and everything like that before the season, I didn’t really want to put a numerical or this is where I want to end up, this is the affiliate I want to finish with goals on myself. I just didn’t want to put a cap on my abilities as a player and also I think this goes for a lot of minor leaguers, you work so hard in the off-season to limit yourself I think would be to discredit that hard work. So, I think there is going to be ups and downs, there’s going to be failures and going to be successes, but I think at the end of this year with the work I put in and the success I found early this season I think I’ll be happy with how things worked out.”
AF: Is there anything you are working on right now?
JL: “I think just approaching every day. I think I found a process here that works really well for me and that starts when I wake up in the morning to when I’m driving home from the ballpark. So just approaching every day with a good mindset and being able to free myself to go compete on the field.”
Loperfido has put together a strong first season in the Astros system and I don’t think he will be in Fayetteville much longer. He has all the physical tools to make it to the big leagues, now it’s just about putting them on the field, which he has done so far this season. Keep your eye out for him as he progresses through the Astros’ system.