*Note: this conversation took place on Thursday morning, June 10
For Part One of this interview, please click here.
OaklandClubhouse: It has been a strange year in the system with all of the injuries and some of the underperformances by some of the top prospects. Are you disappointed with how the season has gone thus far in the minor leagues or is it too early to make that sort of designation?
Farhan Zaidi: I do think it is early and I think every year you have a mix of guys who perform beyond your expectations and maybe other guys who, because of injuries or other factors, don't quite match up to your expectations. I do think that there is plenty of time for that to change. I think that is kind of the reality of the game. You come in every year and you have a set of expectations for players and some guys have really good seasons and some guys, unfortunately, don't have those really good seasons that they expect from themselves or that we were hoping for.
I think it always winds up being a mixed bag. I think the injuries this year are a little more than you would expect in a normal year. But I wouldn't say that it is an overall level of disappointment or anything like that. I think that the players that we have that have struggled a little bit are all players that we are optimistic will get back on the right track.
OC: Two of the A's top prospects, Chris Carter and Michael Taylor, have struggled at times this season, Carter to hit for average and Taylor in general. Are you worried at all about their performances?
FZ: I've had a chance to watch Carter a few times, both on the Minor League Baseball website and in Sacramento and when you see him actually in person, and I don't know whether I've just gotten good looks, but he doesn't look like a guy who is hitting .230. He makes a lot of hard contact. He has really good at-bats. To be honest, he's a guy who I am not worried about the performance at all because I don't think the batting average is indicative of his overall batting performance.
As for Michael, there is always a transition, I think, coming into a new organization. He had a lot of expectations put on him and he obviously hasn't been physically 100 percent. He's a guy who was actually up in Triple-A last year [in the Phillies' organization] for 100-150 at-bats and he did very well. I don't think that we have any doubts that he is ready for this level and can flourish at this level. It's only been a few days since he has been back [from the disabled list for a calf strain] and they have been working him back into the line-up. I feel pretty good that at some point he is going to get it going and get his numbers to the level we think they should be.
FZ: I think at some point performance does matter. We are an organization that generally takes pride in having success at the minor league level and winning games. That's not just an ego thing for us where we like looking at the boxscores and seeing our teams are winning games. I think we view it, and I've always viewed it, as a critical part of development to put players in successful, winning environments. There's always got to be a balance between development and performance. Unfortunately this year we have losing records at basically every level. Guys are given some leeway from a player development standpoint, but, at some point, if we think a) that they would benefit from moving down a level to regain confidence and then come back and get another shot at it, and secondly, if we think that their struggles are having an effect on the overall team's performance then I think that is where sometimes you are compelled to make a move.
It's a very delicate balance and those are subjects of pretty extensive internal conversations. I don't think anyone is down on Corey or Adrian as prospects. We still think that they factor very much into a major league future. Neither of them are guys that, quite frankly, have a ton of Double-A at-bats, let alone Triple-A at-bats. For them to go back, and what Corey is doing since getting there is terrific [hitting nearly .400 with three homers] and I fully expect Adrian, when he gets in the line-up there [note: as of Thursday when this interview was conducted, Cardenas had not yet reported to Midland] to perform, as well. Our hope is that these guys will be back in Sacramento at some point this year and be back in big league camp next spring and still very much be part of the equation for the big league club going forward.
OC: Turning to the major league team, it's fairly tight in the division right now, maybe as a lot of people expected that it would be. If in a month, it is still the same deal and the top three teams in the division are all still within a few games of each other, do you think the A's are in a position where you would make some moves to make a push or is it one of those things where if, say, Brett Anderson isn't back yet, the assessment might be even if you are only a couple of games out that it is not really going to happen this year?
FZ: I do think that the division is playing out like how a lot of people anticipated and what we anticipated, as well, quite frankly. We did think that we were going to be competitive going into the year and we thought that the other three teams in the division could make cases for being the strongest team in the division. The standings and where we are is right around where we expected.
I think that we've shown in the past the willingness and ability to go out there and make additions that we think would help the team if we were in this sort of position. I think it is going to be a constant process of evaluation. We have to evaluate our needs. We have to see what is available. We have to judge whether the price for making those additions would be worth what we would be giving up.
There are a lot of close divisions around baseball and there are going to be a lot of buyers around the deadline. If we are there and we are one of them, we certainly won't rule it out, but we also don't want to make an addition for the sake of making an addition and then ultimately realize that we didn't really improve the team that much in the process. Our plan was to be competitive this year.
That was the same thing that happened last year and what we didn't anticipate was the Angels being as good as they were and really running away with the division. As we sit right now, the Angels are playing well and the Rangers are now five games above .500 [as of Thursday morning], but it doesn't look like there is going to be that runaway team this year. I think it is going to be something that we continue to look at over the next month and a half.
OC: What about Ben Sheets? Performance aside, it seems from the outside that he is a positive clubhouse influence and maybe fits into the team a little better than Matt Holliday did last year. Do you see Sheets as having a positive impact on the clubhouse?
FZ: I think they are different personalities. I think that Matt really led by example. He was maybe the hardest working player that we've had here. Certainly as hard-working as anybody else. So I think that Matt led in his own way. I think that Ben is more vocal. He's a guy who, if you are in our clubhouse for any period longer than 30 seconds, you will probably hear him.
I think that is a good thing. We have a good clubhouse but it has been a relatively quiet clubhouse for the past few years. We don't have a lot of rah-rah guys. We have great guys, but that is not necessarily their personality. Sheets is a guy who has a lot of energy and enthusiasm. He's a prankstser. And he's been around a long time and we don't have a lot of experience on this team. I think that gives him a lot of credibility with the other players, certainly with the other pitchers.
And you make a good point. I do think that he has really embraced being here. Seeing what a competitor he is, you can tell that he really missed the game last year when he was away from it. I think he has embraced being here, he's embraced being back on the field and he's definitely brought a positive energy to the team and the clubhouse which isn't lost on us. I think we've all noticed it. The coaching staff has noticed it and appreciated it and the players definitely love having him around.