Q&A with Gary LaRocque

Mark Healey sat down for an interview with Mets' Director of Scouting Operations and Assistant General Manager Gary LaRocque in a recent issue of Mets Inside Pitch to discuss the Mets' farm system and their prospects. Mark shares his interview with NYfansonly Club Members right now.

Mark: For the past few years the Mets organization has come under criticism, specifically in the area of the amateur draft. Has this year's overall body of work changed that perception?

LaRocque: I believe it has, you know there are several publications out there that have us ranked in the top five organizations. It all goes back to the scouts, and all the people that have worked with the players in each stage of their development. Patience is a key word that has to be taken seriously, especially for players that are at different points in their careers.

Mark: In past years, the Mets' A-level teams received little, if any attention by fans of the major league team. Certainly having a a short-season team in Brooklyn (in the New York-Penn League) has raised the awareness of how the draft is conducted,, and its eventual results. Does that make your job any harder?

LaRocque: "Not really. We all go about our jobs in the same manner. Our goal is to develop as many players as we can, and get them to the major leagues. If anything, having a team in Brooklyn excites the players we draft, and there is a real desire to want to play there.

Mark: Of the offensive players drafted this season, first baseman Ian Bladergroen's year at Brooklyn stood out. Talk about some of the things that the organization took from his first season of pro ball.

LaRocque: He had a very steady year, a consistent year, and did a nice job defensively at first base. He enjoys swinging the bat, and he's certainly put himself on the path to success. He's a great young man, he works extremely hard, and he's coming off a real fine year. It's going to be interesting where he (and the rest of the Cyclones) end up in our A structure (Single A Capital City, Single A St. Lucie) wind up.

Mark: Are you surprised by Mike Jacobs' breakout season?

LaRocque: Not really. We've always thought him to be an exceptional offensive player. And Mike had the kind of year at the plate that every player dreams about. He keeps getting better each year. What stood out this season is his work defensively (behind the plate). The pitchers like to throw to Mike. At the end of the season, he was even playing well at first base. So his season was a two-fold success, both offensively and defensively.

Mark: Double-A Binghampton skipper John Stearns was very vocal this season about wanting to make Jacobs " an all-around player". Obvicusly, based on the year that he had, Stearns played a huge role in that. How important is it to have that kind of person, a four-time NL All-Star catcher for the Mets, that kind of intense competitor at the AA level?

LaRocque: "John's got a lot of energy, he loves to manage. He treats ever game just the way it should be treated, and goes at it with a great amount of intensity with an incredible amount of intensity. The players respect that they like that, and I think it showed, especially with our better prospects. Jacobs, Justin Huber and Craig Brazell all has great years, and oart of that was being tutored and helped along by John and the coaching staff.

Mark: St. Lucie 3B David Wright had an outstanding season, and is considered the Mets' third baseman of the future. What are some of the qualities that make him such an attractive prospectn and is he strictly an offensive player?

LaRocque: "Over the course of the season, I think David gave everyone a glimpse of what defensive consistency is all about. Defensively, he had really good year at third base. He also worked very hard in the offseason, and made sure he was ready for full season baseball. Offennsively, he progressed as the season went along. He went though a mid-season lull, but bounced back to really help his club down the stretch to win that division. His numbers are solid, he's got a great attitude and is a tremendous competitor.

Mark: In the space of the last three seasons, the Mets have vastly improved ther stockpile of young pitching prospects. At every level of the Mets' farm system this season, there's been at least on pitcher at each level that's shown promise. The most outstanding of which was Matt Peterson. What are some of the things that have played a role in his improvement from year to year?

LaRocque: "He's gained maturity, he's gained velocity…he just really had a tremendous season. With that, he's gained a great deal of confidence. His stuff has always been good. He has a good breaking ball, and his fastball is starting to lengthen out some. He's doesn't have a lot of fear right now, and based on the year.

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