Q&A with Kingsport Manager Mike DiFelice

InsidePitchMagazine.com recently caught up with Kingsport Mets manager Mike DiFelice. The first-year manager spoke about the dynamics Alonzo Harris brings to the field, the power shown by Jeff Flagg, the potential he sees in 2009 4th round pick Darrell Ceciliani, and much more. Look inside for all the details.

InsidePitchMagazine.com: One guy that has garnered a lot of attention so far this season is Alonzo Harris. He brings a few elements to the game, speed, average, and he's a smaller guy that has shown power this year. What do you think about what he brings to the field and how he's handling the bat right now?

Mike DiFelice: I think Alonzo has shown that he has quick hands and power and he definitely has the ability to use his speed both on the bases and on defense. He's been a nice surprise so far. This is my first time seeing him playing every day and he really comes to play every day. He's still learning his position at second base in terms of what he can and cannot do, but I tell you what, he has a chance to have a very successful career.

Inside Pitch: What are your thoughts on Jeff Flagg? He's a big guy, power hitter in the heart of your order with more collegiate experience than most of the guys on your roster. What do you see from him as he hits for a high average and power? And what do you think of his overall approach to hitting?

DiFelice: With Flagger, the thing that has really impressed me about him is how athletic he is for such a big guy. At his height and weight, he runs well and moves well and has better feet at first base than I thought he did. Now, I'm still learning the scouting end of the game in terms of seeing tools at an early age, but one thing I do now is that every guy who gets to the big leagues has to have that one thing whether it's speed, an arm, or hitting ability.

Flagg has that one thing that no one else in (the Appalachian League) has and that's power to all fields. This guy, there is not a minor league or big league ballpark that can hold his power when he really squares a ball up. He can hit the ball out anywhere. He's definitely making a lot of strides and he's swung the bat outstanding for us. He's hitting over .300 and he's learning how to be more aggressive instead of worrying about whether he'll get a curveball or fastball.

He's letting his swing speak for itself and I think that's really showing on the field. He had six RBI the other and the most impressive thing he's getting better at is realizing he's an RBI guy. He knows when he's got a man in scoring position and less than two outs, he doesn't need to hit just a sac fly or a home run, he's taking what the defense is giving him. Those are things he's learning on a day-to-day basis. He should be a middle of the order hitter and he's starting to respond to that.

Inside Pitch: Darrell Ceciliani is a young guy, recently highly drafted, who got off to a slow start but has really picked up as of late. He's another guy who brings a number of elements to that game. What do you like from what you've seen so far from him?

DiFelice: I think the sky is the limit with this guy. I'm very impressed. He obviously got off to a bit of slow start, and he wasn't doing much prior to the draft, so you could tell he was a bit behind when it came to playing shape. But the one thing that impressed me early on, when he really wasn't hitting, is that he was still getting his walks. In his first 20 or 25 at-bats, he only had a few hits but he had nine walks so it showed the ability to take pitches.

He's a prototypical leadoff hitter and right now he's our best defensive outfielder. He's the best defensive outfielder I've seen in my short career in the Mets organization. This guy can go and get them. Every night he's running down a ball in the gap and the ceiling is ultimately high for him. He has the ability to be a real special player all the way around.

Inside Pitch: Another outfielder with good upside is Cesar Puello. He's another young guy who is still a bit raw. What are your early thoughts on him?

DiFelice: I think he's another guy that can really do some things long term. Looking at him physically, you can tell he's above everyone else at such a young age. He has all the tools and the thing that I've been impressed with him is that he comes to the field and is quietly playing every day. He's playing a solid nine innings and we're starting to see signs of patience at the plate and not as many wild swings as you would expect out of a young guy.

A lot of young hitters, and we have our share here, they want to go up there and swung at the first three pitches no matter where they are. Alonzo still has a tendency of doing that but once I think ‘Zo learns that he can go up there and take strike one, you'll see more walks out of him and he'll drive more balls in the gap and hit more home runs. Puello is right on that schedule. He's done a little bit better job as of late. He's getting more patience at the plate. He's got an arm, he can run and he's another high ceiling guy for me.

Inside Pitch: Another young guy who just arrived on your roster is Richard Lucas. Here's a young guy, drafted in 2007 and missed a lot of time last season. What do you like from his early, hot start? What do you think he can do to keep the momentum going?

DiFelice: I've been really impressed with Lucas. This is the first time I've ever seen him, these ten games or so, because he was nursing an injury during Spring Training. So I've really liked what I've seen because I didn't know he had the plate discipline he's shown. He's got a nice approach at the plate, he knows what he wants to do, he likes the ball up and when he gets it, he's done a nice job of driving the ball.

I've also been pleasantly surprised with how he's handling third base. He's got nice range, he makes the throws he needs to, and it's still early but time will tell with him.

Inside Pitch: Being a former catcher yourself, you're carrying four catchers on the roster. What can you offer about your guys behind the plate and how do you go about managing all four when it comes to playing and making sure they get their appropriate reps?

DiFelice: Well, it hasn't been easy. Earlier in the year, Michael Moras established himself as the guy who needed to get playing time behind the plate because he's made many strides back there during Spring Training, Extended Spring Training and I think the organization, from the start, has really liked his bat. I think he's a Paul LoDuca type of player as he develops offensively. He hits the ball to right-center, he's hard to strike out and he's made great strides behind the plate. He's really taken leadership behind the plate, he's throwing and blocking the ball better, but we've missed him recently as a bout of appendicitis has knocked him out for the last three weeks. So in the next four days he'll probably get back in there.

John Freeman was our draft pick and John I've really been surprised with. Sometimes your first take of pro ball, you get that wood bat syndrome and the prospect of having to come out here every day kind of got to him early. He got frustrated offensively, but he made a major adjustment separating his game offensively and defensively. I've really been proud with how he's come about behind the plate, calling the game, blocking the ball, throwing. Offensively, I've liked what I've seen. He's got a real nice swing. A good, typical left-handed swing but he worked through the wood bat syndrome and I could see John moving up the ladder fairly quickly.


Amazin Clubhouse Top Stories

\r\n \r\n\r\nInsidePitchMagazine.com: One guy that has garnered a lot of attention so far this season is Alonzo Harris. He brings a few elements to the game, speed, average, and he's a smaller guy that has shown power this year. What do you think about what he brings to the field and how he's handling the bat right now?
\r\n
\r\nMike DiFelice: I think Alonzo has shown that he has quick hands and power and he definitely has the ability to use his speed both on the bases and on defense. He's been a nice surprise so far. This is my first time seeing him playing every day and he really comes to play every day. He's still learning his position at second base in terms of what he can and cannot do, but I tell you what, he has a chance to have a very successful career.
\r\n
\r\nInside Pitch: What are your thoughts on Jeff Flagg? He's a big guy, power hitter in the heart of your order with more collegiate experience than most of the guys on your roster. What do you see from him as he hits for a high average and power? And what do you think of his overall approach to hitting?
\r\n
\r\nDiFelice: With Flagger, the thing that has really impressed me about him is how athletic he is for such a big guy. At his height and weight, he runs well and moves well and has better feet at first base than I thought he did. Now, I'm still learning the scouting end of the game in terms of seeing tools at an early age, but one thing I do now is that every guy who gets to the big leagues has to have that one thing whether it's speed, an arm, or hitting ability.
\r\n
\r\nFlagg has that one thing that no one else in (the Appalachian League) has and that's power to all fields. This guy, there is not a minor league or big league ballpark that can hold his power when he really squares a ball up. He can hit the ball out anywhere. He's definitely making a lot of strides and he's swung the bat outstanding for us. He's hitting over .300 and he's learning how to be more aggressive instead of worrying about whether he'll get a curveball or fastball.
\r\n
\r\nHe's letting his swing speak for itself and I think that's really showing on the field. He had six RBI the other and the most impressive thing he's getting better at is realizing he's an RBI guy. He knows when he's got a man in scoring position and less than two outs, he doesn't need to hit just a sac fly or a home run, he's taking what the defense is giving him. Those are things he's learning on a day-to-day basis. He should be a middle of the order hitter and he's starting to respond to that.
\r\n
\r\nInside Pitch: Darrell Ceciliani is a young guy, recently highly drafted, who got off to a slow start but has really picked up as of late. He's another guy who brings a number of elements to that game. What do you like from what you've seen so far from him?
\r\n
\r\nDiFelice: I think the sky is the limit with this guy. I'm very impressed. He obviously got off to a bit of slow start, and he wasn't doing much prior to the draft, so you could tell he was a bit behind when it came to playing shape. But the one thing that impressed me early on, when he really wasn't hitting, is that he was still getting his walks. In his first 20 or 25 at-bats, he only had a few hits but he had nine walks so it showed the ability to take pitches.
\r\n
\r\nHe's a prototypical leadoff hitter and right now he's our best defensive outfielder. He's the best defensive outfielder I've seen in my short career in the Mets organization. This guy can go and get them. Every night he's running down a ball in the gap and the ceiling is ultimately high for him. He has the ability to be a real special player all the way around.
\r\n
\r\nInside Pitch: Another outfielder with good upside is Cesar Puello. He's another young guy who is still a bit raw. What are your early thoughts on him?
\r\n
\r\nDiFelice: I think he's another guy that can really do some things long term. Looking at him physically, you can tell he's above everyone else at such a young age. He has all the tools and the thing that I've been impressed with him is that he comes to the field and is quietly playing every day. He's playing a solid nine innings and we're starting to see signs of patience at the plate and not as many wild swings as you would expect out of a young guy.
\r\n
\r\nA lot of young hitters, and we have our share here, they want to go up there and swung at the first three pitches no matter where they are. Alonzo still has a tendency of doing that but once I think ‘Zo learns that he can go up there and take strike one, you'll see more walks out of him and he'll drive more balls in the gap and hit more home runs. Puello is right on that schedule. He's done a little bit better job as of late. He's getting more patience at the plate. He's got an arm, he can run and he's another high ceiling guy for me.
\r\n
\r\nInside Pitch: Another young guy who just arrived on your roster is Richard Lucas. Here's a young guy, drafted in 2007 and missed a lot of time last season. What do you like from his early, hot start? What do you think he can do to keep the momentum going?
\r\n
\r\nDiFelice: I've been really impressed with Lucas. This is the first time I've ever seen him, these ten games or so, because he was nursing an injury during Spring Training. So I've really liked what I've seen because I didn't know he had the plate discipline he's shown. He's got a nice approach at the plate, he knows what he wants to do, he likes the ball up and when he gets it, he's done a nice job of driving the ball.
\r\n
\r\nI've also been pleasantly surprised with how he's handling third base. He's got nice range, he makes the throws he needs to, and it's still early but time will tell with him.
\r\n
\r\nInside Pitch: Being a former catcher yourself, you're carrying four catchers on the roster. What can you offer about your guys behind the plate and how do you go about managing all four when it comes to playing and making sure they get their appropriate reps?
\r\n
\r\nDiFelice: Well, it hasn't been easy. Earlier in the year, Michael Moras established himself as the guy who needed to get playing time behind the plate because he's made many strides back there during Spring Training, Extended Spring Training and I think the organization, from the start, has really liked his bat. I think he's a Paul LoDuca type of player as he develops offensively. He hits the ball to right-center, he's hard to strike out and he's made great strides behind the plate. He's really taken leadership behind the plate, he's throwing and blocking the ball better, but we've missed him recently as a bout of appendicitis has knocked him out for the last three weeks. So in the next four days he'll probably get back in there.
\r\n
\r\nJohn Freeman was our draft pick and John I've really been surprised with. Sometimes your first take of pro ball, you get that wood bat syndrome and the prospect of having to come out here every day kind of got to him early. He got frustrated offensively, but he made a major adjustment separating his game offensively and defensively. I've really been proud with how he's come about behind the plate, calling the game, blocking the ball, throwing. Offensively, I've liked what I've seen. He's got a real nice swing. A good, typical left-handed swing but he worked through the wood bat syndrome and I could see John moving up the ladder fairly quickly.
\r\n
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