Jacob Faria was the Rays tenth round pick in the 2011 June Amateur Draft out of Gahr High School in Cerritos, California. In three years pitching for the Gladiators he was 18-3 with one save and made 21 starts while posting a 1.75 earned run average.
According to Wikipedia, Gahr is one of the most ethnically diverse high school's in the country, with minorities making up over 70 percent of the school's population. It has also graduated quite a few current and former Major League players including: Bret Barberie, Shane Mack, Kris Medlen, Tom Nieto, and Al Osuna, as well as former Seattle Seahhawks quarterback Jim Zorn.
Faria began his professional career last season as a 17-year-old in the Gulf Coast League and more than held his own pitching to a 2.78 earned run average in 15.2 innings.
He was kind enough to talk to me over the phone last week from his home in California where we discussed his preparations for the 2012 season, his decision-making process in deciding to sign with the Rays, what his first taste of professional baseball was like and much, much more.
The entire interview is after the jump.
John Gregg: First off, I've seen you listed on some sites as being 6'5 and your Baseball Reference page says 6'3. Exactly how tall are you? Are you still growing?
Jacob Faria: It's more around 6'3 -6'3.5. When I was measured at 6'5 it was with my spikes on. It's a little closer to 6'3.5 or 6'4.
John Gregg: You were a two-player in high school right?
Jacob Faria: Yeah. I pitched and then my senior year I played first for like the first half of the year.
John Gregg: OK. Obviously you were drafted as a pitcher. Could you tell me a little bit about what kinds of pitches you throw? Give me kind of a brief scouting report on yourself.
Jacob Faria: In high school I was throwing a four-seamer, a two-seam, a slider and a change-up. But after I signed and went to the Gulf Coast League I focused more on just the four-seam, the slider and the circle-change. I'm not really like a power guy. I pitch to contact and let my defense work for me. I'm just trying to hit the glove or get it in the general area of the set-up. Just having command of my pitches and making the hitter hit it where I want them to.
John Gregg: Some of the scouting reports I've read have said that your four-seamer has a lot of sink on it and generates a lot of ground balls. Is that kind of your general approach when you're pitching is to kind of pitch to contact and let the fielders do the work behind you?
Jacob Faria: Yeah exactly. I'm trying to jump ahead, but I'm also trying to get them to swing at my pitches. If they end up grounding out early it's a lot better because I get through the inning a lot quicker and it limits my pitch count and stuff. I'm just trying to let them make contact. I'm not trying to strike anyone out.
John Gregg: I haven't seen you pitch live yet. I certainly hope to during Spring Training. But a couple of the scouting reports I have read on you describe you as having kind of a "funky arm action". Can you kind of describe your delivery and your mechanics a little bit?
Jacob Faria: My senior year I threw a lot across my body. A little bit like a Jered Weaver-type-mechanics. I stepped across and I'd whip my arm around. That's what was getting a lot of run on the fastball. When I got to Florida they had me lined up straight to home plate. So now my arm action is more like three-quarter, but I'm still keeping a lot of run on it. I'm more in line with home plate now instead of throwing across my body.
John Gregg: So you pitched like 15 innings for the GCL Rays last year - and your statistics were pretty good - you had a 2.78 ERA. How did you like your first taste of professional baseball? How was the experience for you?
Jacob Faria: It was good. I enjoyed it. Just getting the feeling of throwing every day, and playing every day was great. The first batter wasn't ideal. The first pitch I threw was a home run, but other than that it was great. For the most part - I was lights out. It was even better because a lot of the guys I were facing were rehab players. So being able to get those guys out was pretty cool too. The first guy I faced was a AA rehab-guy - I don't remember who it was. My first start of the year - my first batter was Cesar Izturis. It was cool because of some of the guys I was playing against and getting to meet a whole bunch of different guys from different backgrounds and different countries. It was awesome.
John Gregg: So Cesar Izturis was the guy who took you deep on your first pitch? (laughing)
Jacob Faria: No. My first appearance I came in in relief. It was a AA rehab-dude who took me deep. I left a fastball middle-in and he just turned on it. He was a first-round pick a couple of years ago. He turned on it and it was a bomb. But Izturis - he ended up rolling over on a change-up to first base which was pretty cool.
John Gregg: I'm looking at your stats now. That was the only home run you gave up, so it looks like you recovered pretty well from that. (laughing)
Jacob Faria: Yeah. It was good to get it of my system on the first pitch of my career. (laughing)
John Gregg: I would imagine that being a ground-ball pitcher and having a lot of sink on your stuff that giving up home runs and long fly balls is probably not the norm for you if you hit your spots. Is that a pretty true statement?
Jacob Faria: Yeah. I mean most of the time my pitches are going to be down in the zone trying to get them to roll over on it. If they do end up getting under on it, it's either because they were trying to hit up or - like you said - I missed my spot. It's exactly as you put it. If I miss my spot they're going to hit in the air.
John Gregg: You made a couple of starts last year. Do you know at all if your role with the Rays is going to be as a starter or as a reliever long-term?
Jacob Faria: For right now - I'm not too sure. From what I've read from different articles and stuff that's what it's looking like - that I'm going to be a starter for now. Which is good - I'd rather be a starter then pitch out of the bullpen. But either way is fine for me. But for right now, I think they're going to have me as a starter.
John Gregg: Describe how the whole draft process was for you last summer and your decision to sign with the Rays and what that was like for you.
Jacob Faria: Well before the season started it was college for me and that was it. But after almost every start there was about ten or eleven scouts there, so that was when I really started thinking and weighing the options of playing professional baseball or going to college. The biggest factor in my decision was the fact that it was the Rays, because they have such a great track record for developing young arms. Just how they are with young talent. That was the biggest factor for me. I mean it would have been great to go to Cal State-Fullerton and play for Coach Vanderhook, but there was no way I could have passed up this opportunity to start my career.
John Gregg: That was going to be next question. You were committed to Cal State-Fullerton and I believe that one of the coaches there left and went to Tennessee?
Jacob Faria: Yeah. Coach Serrano. He was the one who initially recruited me and we he left Coach Vanderhook called me...
John Gregg: Did Coach Serrano leaving factor into your decision at all to sign or -was it more like you said - having to do with the track record of the Rays developing pitchers?
Jacob Faria: It was more having to do with their track record,. Because either way - Coach Serrano is a great coach, but Coach Vanderhook is also very good as well. He knows everything and knows what he is talking about. So it was more the Rays' track record with developing young arms.
John Gregg: Chris Devinsky also went to Gahr High School and was drafted by the White Sox in the 25h round. Do you guys stay in touch and kind of support each other as you're both beginning your journeys into professional baseball?
Jacob Faria: Before the draft I was at Cal State-Fullerton all the time and I talked to him and his Dad a lot. During the season we really didn't talk to each other that much. But since we've been home, I'm at Gaht every day and he's there all the time too. So we're always talking about different levels - he was in Short-Season A . So he was telling me what that process was like and staying overnight in different places. So we talk a lot about what goes on and stuff and different things about what happened during our seasons.
John Gregg: I follow you on Twitter and it seems like you have been working out a lot based on your tweets. What sorts of things are you dong this off-season to prepare for Spring Training?
Jacob Faria: The Rays gave us all workout booklets. So I'm going off that for the most part but I'm also going to EM Speed and Power Training. It's just working on conditioning and doing a lot of sprints and getting stronger. There's a whole bunch of pro guys form out there over there every day. So I'm at the gym constantly. I'm over there for 2.5 or 3 hours a day working out all the time.
John Gregg: I also saw a tweet about you having to go to work or something. Do you have a job this off-season?
Jacob Faria: Yeah I did. Early to mid-November I think it was I got a job at a sports store. It's like a smaller version of Dick's Sporting Goods. I just got the job so I'd have a little extra cash in the off-season.
John Gregg: I always ask every player who is on Twitter the same thing. What are your feelings about it and how are you using it to market yourself? And do you enjoy the interaction with the fans? Or is it more of a casual thing for you?
Jacob Faria: Right now it's more of a casual thing. Every once in awhile I'll put something on there about what I'm doing. I like to let people see what I'm doing and that I'm staying busy and working out and stuff. It's a little bit of a marketing thing to get my name out there, just to so people can see that I'm not just sitting at home doing nothing , that I'm staying in shape and getting ready for the long haul of the season.
John Gregg: Going back to your decision regarding the draft - you were drafted in the 10th round. Was there any consideration on your part to maybe go to college and try and perhaps improve your stock a little bit in the draft in future years? Or were you just happy to go to the Rays and get your career started?
Jacob Faria: I did think about going to school. I would have loved to go to Cal State-Fullerton and win a National Championship. But I had to look at it like - am I gong to get better and am I going to stay healthy? Or am I going to get hurt over the course of the college season? If I was a position player...no doubt I would have gone to school. But being a pitcher - like I said with the Rays track record of developing arms - if I do end up getting injured some how we have the best doctors available in sports. They are going to get me back as quickly as possible, where as if I was in college I'm not sure what kind of treatment.... I mean all my friends in pro ball told me that the medical situation there is the best, so that was a big factor in it. What would I be like in three years if I did go to school?
John Gregg: Yeah that's a really good point that I don't think a lot of people think about. I mean you could go to college and have to go though Tommy John surgery or something like that and then never have the opportunity to be drafted gain because you're hurt. I think a lot of guys take the opportunity when it's presented to them because otherwise it might not come again.
Jacob Faria: Yeah exactly and that was a huge, huge factor. I can either get better...or I can get hurt and get worse. I couldn't risk not having the chance ever again.
John Gregg: You signed fairly quickly compared to a lot of other guys in that draft, but you only threw 15 innings last season. What was your situation like after getting drafted in terms of playing time?
Jacob Faria: I signed like 10 days after the GCL season started. Then I went like a week and a half with their throwing program and just getting my arm used to throwing every day. I was throwing a good amount of innings and then I actually ended up getting "dead arm" like the last week and a half of the season. So that took away two of my last starts.
John Gregg: More than likely you will be at Princeton next year or perhaps even Hudson Valley. Do you have any indication where you might be in 2012? Or is that a decision that is made during Spring Training?
Jacob Faria: That's more of a decision that is made during Spring Training. I've heard from a lot of veteran guys that it might not matter how well I do during Spring Training . That since I was a high school draftee that I'll go straight to Princeton. So I'll probably be in Princeton, but hopefully I'll have a good enough spring where I'll go to Hudson Valley.
John Gregg: The Rays - as you said - are notorious for moving pitchers very slowly through the system, but it does seem to pay off in the long term with development. Just a few personal things. What sorts of things do you like to do other than pitching? What are some of your hobbies?
Jacob Faria: I'm always at the high school field. If I'm not working out, I'm helping the coach and watching practice or helping them fix the field. Most of my days are spent on a baseball field. I don't really do a lot of stuff other than that. I'm always hanging out with my brother. So he and I go do things together. We go to the movies - or we both love to eat - so we go eat all the time. Or we just drive around and hang out friends that want to hang out.
John Gregg: It sounds like you kind of live and breathe baseball. Is coaching something you'd be interested in doing when your pro career is over?
Jacob Faria: Yeah. Baseball's been my life for as long as I can remember. I want to keep it that way. For however long I play - after that - my plan has always been to go to school and get my teaching credentials and be a high school teacher and high school baseball coach.