First off, your impressions of Michael Garciaparra. Do you think the progress he showed late last season is an indicator that he's ready to jump up a level?
Chris Mehring: Short answer - Yes. Longer answer - Michael's offense really picked up late in the season because he never got down on himself. There was a point where he was below .200. Then, he went on a hitting streak of over 10 games.
Did his defense improve too?
Mehring: Defensively, yes he had a lot of errors and some of them were throws that should have been made easily. But, that stopped as the season progressed. He's ready for the next level.
What's your take on Rene Rivera? Does he have the overall game to succeed in the big leagues?
Mehring: Give Rene about two more years and he'll be in Seattle. He threw out nearly 40 percent of base stealers last season. He can call a good game and offensively he puts the ball in play. He can act his age every once in a while, but he's only 20. I think he should put up some good numbers in Inland Empire this season.
He had 28 XBH in about 400 Abs. Since he is a catcher and they take longer to develop offensively, what kind of hitter do you see him being?
Mehring: Renee doesn't have a lot of pop right now. He is a line drive hitter and like I mentioned he puts the ball in play. I can't really put a number out there to say he'll hit 20-30 HR. But that being said, of the nine homers he hit they all went a looooong way.
What are your impressions of TJ Bohn? He seemed to have one of the most impressive offensive seasons. Also, where does he project in the outfield?
Mehring: He has the arm of a true rightfielder. He had something like 15 or 16 outfield assists. His power numbers are going to keep going up. I think he projects to a rightfielder, which is kind of stacked up in Seattle right now.
What kind of hitter is he?
Mehring: TJ struck out a lot, and I mean a lot. But he also came up with big hits at key times. He tied a game against South Bend with a homer in the bottom of the eighth and won it with a homer in the 10th. Lots of doubles. He can find the gaps.
Where do you think he'll end up? Inland Empire or San Antonio?
Mehring: I see TJ starting with the 66ers.
Who are the top pitching prospects currently on the roster? It is hard to imagine even more great pitching talent stacked up behind the stuff everywhere else in the organization.
Mehring: Okay, I'm going to leave Felix out seeing as how much he was discussed last week. And he made only two starts with us. Bobby Livingston, TA Fulmer and Miguel Martinez would probably best answer the question.
Could you break down each of those three?
Mehring: Bobby won 15 games and only walked 28 batters in 178 innings. He doesn't throw hard but he finds a way to get the job done.
TA is a bulldog. Five complete games at the Low-A level is very rare. Good fastball and gets the strikeout.
Miguel spot started, long relieved, set up, did just about everything. He's a lefty that knows how to pitch. I see Miguel starting '04 in Inland Empire as a reliever.
I'd also add Cesar Jimenez to that list. Cesar was young and lost some tough decisions last year. He has very good breaking stuff, and is also a lefty.
What player on the 2003 roster did you feel had the highest upside, or "ceiling"?
Mehring: I already kind of answered that earlier, so I'll give you a top three: 1) Rene Rivera, 2) Gary Harris, 3) Bobby Livingston.
Which player didn't receive the publicity that he warranted through his play?
Mehring: I haven't heard a lot of people talk about Harris. Gary can flat out play. Harris is a pure centerfielder. He made some catches last season that I don't know how the heck he got to the ball. He's a contact hitter and he'll take the extra base if the defense hesitates. Very smart ballplayer.
Tell us about Rich Dorman, a player you say impressed you in the short time he played for the Timber Rattlers last season.
Mehring: Dorman is competitive and can bring it. The only times he gets in trouble is when he starts to overthink a situation. When he trusts his stuff, his is unhittable. He throws a fastball-slider mainly. Throws in a changeup every now and then.
Do you believe Felix will return to Wisconsin to start the year or will he get promoted to Inland?
Mehring: I see him starting the year in the California League. We would love to have him though. But, April in Wisconsin isn't all that conducive to young arms.
Corey Harrington, what is your take on him and where does he project?
Mehring: Corey Harrington was a special player last year. He would play anywhere he was needed. Outfield, short, second. He jammed his ankle pretty bad in Peoria on a slide into second right before the Major League all-star break and never got going after that. Corey worked to get healthy again and will probably be in Inland Empire to start '04.
I was curious about Cesar Jimenez. What does this guy got in terms of pitches? Velocity? And what future does he have in the majors, if any?
Mehring: Cesar didn't strike me as all that hard of a thrower. Very good breaking stuff. Right now he probably projects as a reliever if he makes it to Seattle. Plus, he has very good control.
How far down the scale does baseball rank in Wisconsin? Is it Packers No. 1, 2 and 3 and then somewhere around 10 or 11 Timber Rattlers?
Mehring: Argh. You had to ask. Packers are the undisputed No. 1 in this state. We love them. Brett Favre plays his celebrity softball game at our stadium in June.
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