There are plenty of Minor Leaguers who have been traded at least once in their careers, but not many can say they've been traded for a Cy Young winner before setting foot on a big league field. Jake Odorizzi can.
Selected by the Brewers with the 32nd overall pick in 2008, Odorizzi turned down a chance to play football and baseball at the University of Louisville to pursue his dream of playing pro ball. Over the following two years, he established himself as one of the top prospects in the Brewers' system before being included as one of the main pieces dealt to Kansas City in exchange for Zack Greinke.
In his first season with the Royals, Odorizzi proved that he was a player worth dreaming on, as he went 10-7 with a 3.73 ERA between Class A Advanced and Double-A. He also led the organization in strikeouts, fanning 157 in 147 innings. Though he suffered some struggles following his promotion -- he compiled a 4.72 ERA in 68 2/3 frames, partially because he surrendered 13 home runs in that time -- he improved at the end of his stint with Northwest Arkansas, taking a no-hitter into the seventh in his final start.
Odorizzi enters the 2012 season ranked as Kansas City's No. 4 prospect and MLB.com's No. 47 prospect overall. MiLB.com recently spoke with Odorizzi about the depth of the Royals' system, his preparations for Spring Training and his hopes for 2012.
MiLB.com: Pitchers and catchers report this week. Have you done anything to get ready?
Jake Odorizzi: I've been out here in Arizona since just about the 10th of January, just throwing outside and working out, doing some conditioning. It's nice weather compared to Illinois. We have a pitcher's camp that starts on Tuesday. It's a little introduction before actual camp starts. I'm just looking forward to getting going.
MiLB.com: What have you done in general to keep occupied this offseason?
Odorizzi: Working out a lot, watching my diet, trying to eat a little bit better and put on some weight. I'm just trying to take it easy. I play video games to pass the time. I'm taking it easy and enjoying the offseason.
MiLB.com: With Spring Training so close, have you thought at all about goals for this year?
Odorizzi: My main goal is I want to be able to make an impact on the Major League team sometime this year, whenever that may be. I just want to be able to help the Major League team out. Hopefully, we'll be in contention this year.
MiLB.com: What, if anything, are you still trying to work on or fine-tune?
Odorizzi: More or less just fine-tune some things, work on my offspeed pitches and refine them. Being more consistent -- be more consistent with my secondary stuff. There's always room for improvement with that kind of stuff. That's my main point of emphasis.
MiLB.com: How do you spend a typical off-day during the season?
Odorizzi: The main thing is sleeping in. We usually get back late on the off-days. Get up, hang out, go get some food. I usually watch whatever sporting event is on TV that day. Mainly it's about relaxing. You find something to do that's not too stressful.
MiLB.com: You've been a pro for a few years now. What's the best professional advice you've ever gotten?
Odorizzi: It's tough to pinpoint one. All the guys that have been there already and worked their way to the Majors, I think I've gotten something from everybody. All the advice has been very beneficial. I hope to get more of it once spring starts. I'm going to try to take in as much as I can and use it to improve my game.
More or less, [the advice is that] you get out of it what you put into it. It depends on you and what you want to put into it. If you want to get the max out of it, you have to put the max into it. That's basically the main thing I've heard from a lot of people.
MiLB.com: What's your favorite park you've played in so far?
Odorizzi: I think my favorite one is our field in Northwest Arkansas. It's pretty new, and very, very nice. All the fans there are very supportive -- they always come out. We never have a thin crowd. I think that's my favorite place to play so far.
MiLB.com: Following your promotion this year, you struggled at first but ended on a strong note. What was the biggest change in the level of the competition?
Odorizzi: Just the hitters and their approach. That's the biggest challenge at Double-A. The hitters are much better. I think it just took me a while to get used to the level of competition. Toward the end of the year, I was much more confident and having better results. It took a little bit longer to adjust than I would have liked, but in the end I adjusted, so I'll look to continue that wherever I start this year.
MiLB.com: When you were drafted, you had an opportunity to play baseball and football at Louisville. What made you decide to sign a pro contract?
Odorizzi: I put a lot of thought into it, and the way I thought about it was that there's three years in between high school and college when things could happen -- good or bad. You don't really hear about too many good ones. You go to college and do what you're supposed to do, or you hear about guys that get hurt or something happens to them.
I wanted to start my pro career, and I knew that's what I wanted to do, so why put it off for a couple years? Who knows, I might've done extremely well and shot through the organization. All the opportunity is right here rather than waiting three years to go through it later on. I think going from high school was very beneficial for me.
MiLB.com: When you were traded from Milwaukee to Kansas City, you went from one of the shallowest farm systems in the league to one of the deepest. Did that take any pressure off, going from being "the guy" to just one of the guys?
Odorizzi: A little bit. I was kind of happy about that, because being around better competition, you have guys to push you and make you better just from that internal competition. Everyone's friends, but you always want to push yourself and push against other people. I enjoyed coming here and knowing there's a great level of talent in Minor League system. Being included in that is kind of an honor.
MiLB.com: And what was your overall reaction to the trade?
Odorizzi: I was a little surprised when I originally found out, but after a couple minutes, I was excited. I knew Kansas City had a great organization. I hear great things about the team, the management, the staff. There's a lot of opportunity to be had over here, and I was looking forward to Spring Training. I was ready to go right after getting traded -- I wanted to jump in. Overall, I'm happy with the trade and glad it happened.
MiLB.com: Did you have a favorite baseball team or player growing up?
Odorizzi: My favorite team growing up was the Cardinals. I went to a lot of games as a kid. Growing up, I got to see lot of the guys that had been through St. Louis. One thing about pro ball is that you have to switch [allegiances], especially if you don't play for [your hometown] team. So that's when that ended.
MiLB.com: Last one: What's on your iPod these days?
Odorizzi: I usually am more of a Pandora listener. That works out a little bit better. I've got a little bit of everything on there. Country, rap, rock, all the basics. Whatever I'm feeling is what's going to be played. You can have some random stuff mixed in there, and you can just go with it.