Mike Rizzo on the Instructional League

The Instructional Leagues are underway, and the prospects are getting their work in, but what does it really mean? FutureBacks talked to Diamondbacks Director of Scouting Mike Rizzo about what the goal of the Instructional Leagues are, how they decide who gets the invite, and who they are looking forward to working with.

Mike Rizzo's schedule is hectic, but that's nothing new.

"I'm up with the Big League club right now," Rizzo said by phone, "and as soon as the season finishes up I'll be back down in Tucson watching Instructs."

For Rizzo it's just a typical week.  Frequent Flyer miles don't even begin to tell the tale of Rizzo's travels, which don't stop once the season is over.  He'll spend October shuttling back and forth between the Phoenix area, where he'll evaluate prospects in the Arizona Fall League, and Tucson, where the Instructional Leagues take place.

"The Instructional League really aren't about evaluation," Rizzo says, "we evaluate the players during the season, in Spring, really all year long, and this League is about taking what we have seen, focusing on specific deficiencies we've spotted during the season, and working on them."

Rizzo sees this league as an opportunity to set up next season.

"We really get a chance to delve into things with the players, and get them one on one, sometimes even four on one, instruction."

While many of the pitchers have already thrown a lot of innings, Garrett Mock threw 170+ by himself this year at Hi-A Lancaster, the Diamondbacks aren't necessarily worried about long outings or complete games.

"We're definitely monitoring the pitcher's game time innings, and they'll all be on pretty strict pitch counts, but this is really an important time for the pitchers.  We've got a lot of great coaches down there, and a lot of great pitching coaches down there.  What we'll do with these guys is focus on a pitch, or on a certain aspect of their delivery, and really try to refine it.  It's not about the quantity of innings there, it's about the quality of innings."

The Diamondbacks choose who gets invited to instructs carefully.  Only 36 players were invited, and none of them were taken for granted.

"We look for good players, players who we feel can really impact our system, and guys who have specific things we want to work on."

It's an exciting time for Rizzo.  While he's seen every one of these players before, the opportunity to see them all in one place, under the best tutelage the Diamondbacks can offer, is a rare opportunity, and for at least a week, it's not just the 36 players invited to Instructs.  Also working out with the Instructional League will be the six players headed to the Arizona Fall League.

"We bring the players that we feel are our better prospects, and guys that really need the work.  It's all about getting the most bang for our buck.  But there are some situations where it just makes sense.  Jesus Cota and Jaime D'Antona both live in Tucson, so it makes sense for us to invite those two, because both of them are talented players who can use the instruction.  With Cota, we're really looking for him to get some more instruction at first base, and just get both of them as many reps as possible before they go on to play Winter Ball, or just shut it down for the season.  It's just a bunch of really good players, really good guys, and we get to see them all in one place."

Naturally when you have a collection of top prospects, the cream of the crop draws attention, but that's one of the reason the Diamondbacks keep the group so small.

"We don't consciously say we're going to spend more time with the best players, but I think everyone, including the players, recognize who the really top prospects are.  You look at a guy who's got average ability, and there's only so much you can do for that guy, but if you see somebody with exceptional stuff, with something special, and you want to work with them as much as possible.  It's the great thing about this league though, there are so many coaches that just because you're working with one guy you can still work just as hard with another, which is just something you can't do during a season."

"You get to experiment with guys in ways that you can't do during a season when players are trying to win games, and this is just a great vehicle for that.  Pitchers especially benefit, because they have three or four pitching coaches and those guys feed off one another.  A kid gets to sit down with each one of those coaches and take it what they have to offer."

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