Interview With Jack Hiatt | Part Three

SFDugout.com concludes its three-part interview with Jack Hiatt. We talk with him about more prospects, guys who may not be as well-known, including some guys that don't have the pure stuff but have done well. We also ask how important it is to have great managers in the minors.

This spring, SFDugout.com sat down with Jack Hiatt, the Director of Player Development for the San Francisco Giants. He graciously took the time to answer a wide range of questions about the Giants' farm system, and how things will look this year. Our discussion with him will be published in three parts over the next week.

You can read Part 1 of our Interview here.
You can view Part 2 of our Interview here.

(Interview Conducted on March 14th)


This spring, SFDugout.com sat down with Jack Hiatt, the Director of Player Development for the San Francisco Giants. He graciously took the time to answer a wide range of questions about the Giants' farm system, and how things will look this year. Our discussion with him will be published in three parts over the next week.

You can read Part 1 of our Interview here.

(Interview Conducted on March 14th)


SFDugout.com: Let's talk about another guy from San Jose, who went in the opposite direction. Did anything just turn on for Nick Pereira and the year he had in San Jose? And what do you think was different when he got to Fresno?

Hiatt: Well, we saw him in Salem-Keizer, and all of us loved his toughness and his stuff, and his command. He's a battler. And he made the jump, which is hard, all the way from Salem to San Jose. But he made it look so easy in San Jose, hard slider, good fastball, that eventually the need was there for a Triple-A pitcher, and he was the closest guy in the system to that job. He started getting tired about that point, so his stuff wasn't at its peak when he went there. The peak was at the first part of the year when he was strong. And he got to the PCL and, much better hitters, he did not command his fastball well. That's probably from being tired, and trying to muscle and throw harder than he was capable of. So, in his first full year of pro ball, Triple-A is a bit to swallow. But you couldn't tell him that he can't win, so he still battled out there.

We hate to see him struggle, we don't want him to struggle. We want him to win. So we'll see what this year brings for him.

SFDugout.com: Is he in the competition to return to Fresno, or is there a good chance he might return to Connecticut?

Hiatt: Well, school's still out, but Double-A is not out of the question.

SFDugout.com: Alright. And speaking of Salem-Keizer, of course, last year Salem-Keizer's team was record setting in all sorts of ways. It was really led by some older players, with a lot of experience but not as heralded stuff, like Adam Cowart and Adam Witter. Are they going to be broken up between Augusta and San Jose this year?

Hiatt: Well, there'll be some guys like Burris that'll make the jump all the way to the Cal League, and there'll be others. As a whole, they'll stay together. But, there'll be certain people that'll get a chance to play at a higher level. The rest of them will probably play in Augusta and do very well. They're going to have another nice team in Augusta, and they won a ton of games, too. That's going to be a fine club in San Jose, they look very good so far.

SFDugout.com: San Jose is traditionally one of the powerhouses.

Hiatt: It sure is. Excellent club.

SFDugout.com: What do you see for Witter in his future? Is he going to be able to stay at catcher?

Hiatt: Yea, I think so. Adam Witter is a great kid, and catching has not been easy. He's been lucky to have Steve Decker as his first manager. Steve helped him tremendously. He's a little crude behind the plate. His strength is the bat, and he can swing. Everyone is looking for a frontline catcher. He can come up with 15 home runs in half a year, that's 30 in a total year, you've suddenly earned yourself a reputation no matter how bad you are behind the plate, or how good you are. I mean, Mauers are hard to find. We're just hoping that we can continue, and there's no secret, no short cut, he's gotta catch. So he'll be catching, not every game, but he'll be catching some games this year, and seeing how he handles himself, how he gets better. Critiquing him all the way, finding out what we need to do. There's something there to work with.

Now, catching is the toughest job in baseball to learn how to do. There isn't a secret, you've got to catch 500 games in the minor league to be ready to go to the major leagues and start calling ballgames, in my opinion. At least that. There's so much to it. The blocking and the throwing is what you see, but there's how to call a game, and how to nurse a pitcher through problems, and taking charge of a game. If some guys fall short in one of those avenues, they don't play up there. So it's not just catching the ground ball, throwing it and getting a base hit. There's all those subtle things you have to be to put on a game at a major league level. And they expect it from you. So it's difficult to project how good he'll be. We know he's got enough bat. It's just how well he adjusts to catching.

SFDugout.com: I guess the next question will be about the other Adam. Adam Cowart has easily the most unique throwing motion I've ever seen. He makes Lincecum look downright normal. Of course, 80 mph fastballs don't always play well at higher levels, but with his motion, there's a lot of question. What do you think about him as he's going to advance? And, do you have any comment, there's a rumor going around that he might be going back to an overhand delivery?

Hiatt: Well, I haven't heard that. So…at least, I haven't heard that. I think his uniqueness is what makes him so effective. He's another guy that you keep moving and seeing how much success he has. That's what happens when you're not a hard thrower. If you keep getting hitters out, there's something you're doing right. And you just keep moving him to the next level to see how he's going to do.

It's a lot like Billy Mueller in the minor leagues. He hit .300, we'd say ‘Well, at the next level, he isn't going to be at .295'. .300! ‘Well, now, this next level…' .300! "Well, I don't know if he's going to play in the big leagues…' .300, and he leads the American League in hitting. So, if you look at his tools, this young man's fastball is not major league average. Yet, hitter's don't take good swings. So you move them until they finally meet their maker. Hopefully it's in the big leagues, that he gets his chance to get people out. You never know, it's a funny game. Velocity isn't the whole thing, there's location. And he's got location. He can locate, he can hit a gnat's rear end flipping it up there. And he's got great movement. He's unique. I never thought he could pick people off from that stance, but he can, he does. Quick as a cat, from that spread position. I saw him do it. It may be mirrors, but he can do it. He's got great command, and he's also very confident, so we'll see.

SFDugout.com: I think the nickname, I think that Lussier gave him, ‘Crouching Tiger' is very appropriate.

Hiatt: Yea, that's a good one. ‘Cause he's aggressive. He don't like to lose.

SFDugout.com: Alight, let's go back to Burris for a second. You mentioned him a couple of times, and have implied that he might be on his way to the California League this year. What are your favorite things, and what are your primary concerns about him?

Hiatt: I don't have any concerns. The only thing I worry about is that we move him too fast. He's going to want to move. He's going to show people he's ready to go. He's a great shortstop. And he has tremendous confidence in his own ability, he has no nerves in his body. He plays the game, and he can raise havoc on the bases. He can completely turn the game around with his speed. Whether he's just taking a big lead, and they're trying to pick him off, or whether he steals the base eventually. The guy behind him gets all fastballs. He affects the game at shortstop. Got the bases loaded in the ninth inning and hit the ball to him, and he acts like it's the first pitch of the game. Boom, bang, you're out. That's unusual for a young boy of his age and his experience. He's got the gift. He's got instincts galore, that you can't teach, he's got ‘em. He's just the whole package. He's a great leadoff hitter, an outstanding bunter, he's not afraid to walk. He gets on, and he's got a hell of a chance to score. He's just the whole package at shortstop.

I know this game is kind of evolving towards power out of every infield position, but he is the whole offensive package as far as setting the table for the guys who can drive runs in. And he is a table setter. And he's going to be a dandy. I saw Royce Clayton when he was a kid here, I saw the guy over there playing first base for us now when he was playing shortstop. I saw Mike Caruso, I've seen Mike Benjamin, all these guys. I've gotten the chance to watch them play the game. Ramon Martinez. These guys are all great players, they have great skills, and this kid's right with them. Uribe. He's in their category, he has the ability to do things, like Maury Wills. He can flip the ball over to third base, he can bunt and flip it over there, steal a base and we win 1-0. He has that ability. Hard to find, great draft. All he needs to do is play. There's no weakness, he just needs to play. He needs to experience and play, he needs to fail, he needs to succeed, he needs to do the whole gamut. Be critiqued. Know how to do certain little things, and learn what pro ball's all about as far as taking care of yourself. He's going to be fine. I wish I had his career in front of me. But he's going to be a dandy. And he's a worker. And he's a gentleman. Imagine a guy taking care of Villalona? I mean, here's a guy, he might be on the shortcut to the big leagues, but he's going to take care of a 16-year old guy? That tells you a lot about the heart he has. So we're very proud of him.

SFDugout.com: That's good to hear, very encouraging.

Hiatt: Yes, it is.

SFDugout.com: Alright. I'm taking up a lot of your time, so I'm just going to name off a couple of players if I can get your thoughts on them. Sharlon Schoop?

Hiatt: Good looking player. He has grown 3 inches and put on 30 pounds since he signed a contract. He's strong, he's got power for his position, short and second. He's got soft hands, a very good arm, got a chance to be a dandy. We want to get him out into the system. I don't know where he'll finish, but he is going to play this year.

SFDugout.com: Clayton Tanner.

Hiatt: Clayton Tanner is an outstanding young arm, a left-hander. He's mature beyond his age, he's on a mission. He's not content. He reminds me of Matt Cain. Matt Cain used to drive me nuts because, no matter where he was, when I came to town, it was "When am I going to go to the next level?" I'd say ‘Just relax, we'll move you when we're ready." And this young man just reminds me so much of him, ‘cause he asks questions like, where did he come up with that, for his years. He's got great stuff. Excellent fastball with great life. Good breaking ball, good command. Confident. And being left-handed, he's just going to get bigger and stronger, and throw harder being 19-years old. I'm looking forward to watching his career.

SFDugout.com: One of my personal favorite guys, just because I went to CSM…what about Michael Mooney?

Hiatt: Mike Mooney had a great year last year for Roberto Kelly. He played right field like he owned it. He's one of the best at going into that right field corner, digging a double out and throwing the guy out at second. He does that as good as anybody. He's a very good outfielder with a better than average arm, he's got power, he can steal a base. He plays hard at all times, he's getting more mature with each year going by. He's going to get a chance to play in the California League. He'll do real well. I suspect he's got a chance to have a good year. It's a big year for him. He needs to have two years in a row where he does things. He's got a chance to hit some home runs in that ballpark, which will add to his resume.

SFDugout.com: And playing at home has got to be huge.

Hiatt: Yes. And he played in a park last year that, if you hit it twice you couldn't hit it out of there. Augusta is a huge ballpark. But San Jose he'll have the advantage to hit one or two. He's liable to hit quite a few in that league. He's strikeout, but he's got some tools. Catch, throw, run, field, power. That's what you're looking for. It's just consistency. We've got to find it.

SFDugout.com: Alright, one last player, Ben Copeland.

Hiatt: Very, very good player. Line drive hitter, gap-to-gap, getting stronger. He's liable to hit some home runs before he's all through. Good outfielder, good thrower. He was part of an outstanding outfield last year between him, Antoan Richardson and Mike Mooney. What I love about him is he plays the first game of the season as hard as he can, and the last one as hard as he can. Put him on the field, whether no one's out here or it's 100,000 people, he's going to give you 1,000%. And that's what's going to get him to the big leagues. And he's a good player. He's another left-handed hitting outfielder of quality to go with the Westons and the Felmys, the Schierholtzs and the Ortmeiers, switch, and Freddy Lewis. I mean, you're talking some guys who have some tools and ability and strength and power. So, we're delighted.

SFDugout.com: One last question, then. Right now with the newcomer in Fresno in Dan Rohn, four of the six managers you have in your system have won ‘Manager of the Year' in the past two years. How is important is having managers like that?

Hiatt: Well, it's tremendous. It helps our kids focus. These guys know how to work. The key is focusing on one day at a time. Other guys have a tendency to dwell on yesterday and worry about tomorrow, instead of concentrating on today. A manager that can get them to focus day in and day out, through the grind of traveling and minor league baseball is difficult. These guys are all unselfish men. They want their players to succeed, and that's what we like. We like them to teach. These guys are all teachers. Danny is a marvelous addition. Played for me when he was in the minor leagues with the Cubs. I was his manager. He was a bear-down guy then and he is now. He's a very good baseball man, and he manages very nice with the guys we have in that room.


We'd like to thank Jack for taking the time to talk to us here at SFDugout.com on behalf of all of our readers.


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Love me, hate me, idolize me, or laugh at me, just don't ignore me. Let me know what you think: write me at kevin@ugcfilms.com .

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