Third baseman Kody Hoese went from zero homers as a Tulane freshman to five as a sophomore to 23 as a junior last spring, when he set American Athletic Conference records for homers, total bases (1,832), slugging (.779) and runs (72). He slugged his way into the first round, signing with the Dodgers for $2,740,300 as the 25th overall choice. Though he was bothered by a minor elbow injury, he batted .299/.380/.483 and advanced to Class A during his pro debut.
MLB.com: What led to your power explosion as a junior at Tulane? Was it a matter of getting stronger or more mature, was it understanding how pitchers were trying to work you, did you change anything in your swing or approach?
Hoese: I think it was a combination of all of those, but it was mainly the offseason between the sophomore and junior year. I really kind of figured out what I was doing at the plate, really recognized what I could drive and potentially what to lay off in good hitter's counts. Then again, like you said, the maturity and the power just came after that sophomore year.
MLB.com: Did you play summer ball? Is that where you learned those things between the seasons?
Hoese: I went up to the NECBL [New England Collegiate Baseball League] with the Newport Gulls. I hit seven home runs and it just started clicking there. And then it led to the fall and going home for the winter for that break, I just continued to lift and get stronger. And then it just carried on into the junior year.
MLB.com: How much Draft or recruiting interest did you draw out of high school in Indiana?
Hoese: Not too much Draft interest but recruiting interest. I was recruited my sophomore year in high school. I ultimately chose Tulane at the end of my sophomore year.
MLB.com: Speaking of the Draft, you were Draft-eligible as a sophomore at Tulane. Did you have much contact with scouts that year? You had a decent year but not a great year, and the Royals took you in the 35th round. Was it just a case of what you would have been able to get wouldn't have been enough to sign you away from Tulane?
Hoese: Exactly. I probably had five or six teams interested in me that I was talking to consistently by the end of sophomore year. It just came down ultimately to I didn't get what I was asking for and I knew I could improve and get better my junior year, so I chose to go back and it worked out.
MLB.com: Were you prepared for what I assume was an onslaught of Draft interest during your junior year? When did you realize that you were going to go pretty high in the Draft?
Hoese: Halfway through the year, I started talking to some [scouting] directors, the bigger guys, and then I knew it got pretty serious then. And you can't really not see it when everyone is videoing you off to the side. There were a lot of guys coming in and out, watching games, a lot of meetings. So I knew halfway through the year.
MLB.com: When did you find out it was going to be the Dodgers?
Hoese: I knew the Dodgers were very interested and I knew leading up to the Draft, there were a few teams in front of them that were pretty interested too. I knew if it came down to the Dodgers, they were going to take me on Draft day. But like everyone, I didn't really know who exactly was going to take me on Draft day.
MLB.com: In your pro debut, you had to deal with some kind of elbow injury? Had that bothered you in college?
Hoese: It was just some inflammation. It kind of just approached at the beginning of pro ball. I think it might have just been from the long year. At the end of the year, it just kind of flared up on me.
MLB.com: Playing through that, you still put up pretty good numbers. What were your impressions of your first taste of pro ball?
Hoese: I just tried to keep it simple. Just going back to college, I stuck with the same approach, the same mentality going into every game. Going in, they gave me a lot of freedom with what I was doing and what I was trying to do, so that helped me out a lot, giving me the freedom to do stuff rather than being hands on right away, which I really appreciate from them. I was just expecting the same thing as college, just stick to my approach and go out there and play and have fun.
MLB.com: Have the Dodgers talked to you since your pro debut about anything they'd like to adjust or see you work on? As you probably know, not that they're going to make everyone hit the same way, but the Dodgers have had a lot of success at getting the most out of players. Gavin Lux is an example of that and he's another guy who was a first-round pick.
Hoese: Yeah, we're pretty good friends. I went to a little hitting camp for a week during instructs time and I worked with [big league assistant hitting coach] Aaron Bates a lot there. We worked on a few little things, just more consistent barrel path through the zone, a lot of barrel path stuff. That was about it for now. I was talking to a lot of the hitting coaches and they were like, we're going to let you go out your first year in pro ball and do you, and then we'll go from there and adjust, whether it's the level of competition or making some swing adjustments here and there. As of right now, they like what they see, they tell me, and they're going to let me go out and do my first year of pro ball.
MLB.com: In terms of your game, how do you evaluate your strengths and weaknesses? What do you think you need to work on the most at this point?
Hoese: I think strength-wise, I'm a pretty good hitter. I don't consider myself very much of a power hitter. I know a lot of guys do. I like to think of me as more of a gap-to-gap hitter, more of a hit guy first rather than just produce all these power numbers. When I'm doing cage work and all that, I'm not just a drop-and-let-it-fly guy. I work the middle, I work right-center, I work all parts of the field. Hitting's not just yanking pull-side home runs. I think that's a strength of mine, just being very versatile in the box and being a very versatile hitter. I can handle a lot of pitches and different parts of the zone.
I don't really know if it's weaknesses more than just improvements that I need to make. Probably just some footwork stuff with defense because I know they're saying I might have to play some shortstop this year and move over there a little bit just to get my feet wet. With all these shifts nowadays, third base is going over to second base and playing deep. Just getting more comfortable on the field and defense will probably be an improvement I need to make.
MLB.com: How did you spend your offseason? What was your routine like getting ready for your first Spring Training?
Hoese: I was out in L.A. They had a few of us Minor Leaguers there for some workouts for two months. We worked out at the stadium every day. We basically just lifted and then we hit and then did some defensive work with some of the coaches out there.
MLB.com: Everything is on hold right now with the coronavirus. What are you doing now that you're back home in northwest Indiana?
Hoese: I have a little gym in my basement that I'm working out in because all the gyms are closed. Hitting and defense, I have a little place that I go to around the corner from my house. It has some cages and I can throw in there, get some ground balls.