Q&A with Farm Director, Bobby Williams

In his first season as Washington's Director of Player Development, Bobby Williams seems to have a lot to look forward to in the Nationals' farm system. With some of their low level talent beginning to come into their own, Washington's farm system truly looks to be on the rebound. CapitolDugout.com recently caught up with Williams for an in-depth Q&A session.

CapitolDugout: There are some players that obviously did not make it onto full season rosters. Which players might we expect to see joining the full season ranks in the coming weeks and months?

Bobby Williams: Cory Van Allen is recovering from a foot injury and should join the Hagerstown rotation by late April. Garrett Mock is progressing well in Florida and we will be excited to get him back pitching this season, hopefully by early May. Hassan Pena is a hard throwing right-hander that should be ready by mid-May.

We have some good young arms in Colton Willems, Glenn Gibson, Desmond Jones and Cole Kimball that weren't quite ready to break with a full season club but will probably pitch in Vermont when the short-season starts or they could possibly end up in Hagerstown. Stephen Englund and Esmailyn Gonzalez are both making progress in Florida and will more than likely play in Vermont this summer.

CapitolDugout: Stephen King seems to have impressed quite a bit to have jumped straight to full season ball. What type of play should we expect from him this season and what type of player could he develop into?

Williams: Stephen had a good spring. The consensus was that he would be able to handle the jump to our low-A club in Hagerstown. The thing everyone has to remember is, last spring he was playing SS in high school. He signed late, so this is his first experience in pro ball. We have to be patient with him. He is a big kid with tools. He is solid defensively with a strong arm. Offensively, he takes aggressive swings and should hit for some power. We are excited to see how he handles this jump.

CapitolDugout: Looking at the Hagerstown pitching staff, which names stand out to you and why? It seems to that there are some good arms there that could really take off.

Williams: The Hagerstown pitching staff has some good young arms. Anchoring the rotation will be Marco Estrada. He missed time last year due to injury but should bounce back and have a good year. He has a consistent delivery, poise on the mound and the ability to throw three average pitches for strikes. We picked up a very good arm in a trade with the Dodgers last year, Jhonny Nunez. He is a hard thrower with a live arm. He keeps the ball down and forces contact. He has good command of a live fastball, a solid changeup, and has a good breaking ball as well. Edulin Abreu is another pitcher who throws hard and has good stuff. He does not have much experience pitching in the U.S. but he has raw ability and with more experience, has a chance to be good. Another pitcher who lacks experience but has a very good arm, is Juan De Los Santos. He has a live arm and his fastball is 91-96 MPH. Command has been an issue for him but he has made progress this spring. He will pitch out of the bullpen. Yunior Novoa is a big, left-handed starter who will be pitching for the first time on a full season club. He looked good in his first start this season. He will be another one to watch.

CapitolDugout: Adam Carr has already moved up rather quickly. What type of pitcher do you project him to be and is there any chance he will continue to get at-bats this season?

Williams: Adam Carr has a chance to move through the system quickly. He started his pro career last year in the GCL and finished up in Savannah. He currently is pitching out of the bullpen in Potomac. He has a chance to be a power arm. His fastball is 90-95 MPH. He has the ability to spin the ball throwing a curveball, as well as a hard slider. He is working on improving his changeup. At this time, Adam will focus his efforts on pitching and the next at-bats he gets will probably come in AA.

CapitolDugout: While some criticize the farm system, the group of prospects in Hagerstown is real impressive. Do you expect that playing together, guys like Chris Marrero, Stephen King, and Justin Maxwell could make a lot of progress this season?

Williams: We are very excited about our Hagerstown club. There is no question that there is quite a bit of talent on that club. Marrero is a good looking young hitter with a fairly advanced approach for a hitter his age. He will hit for average as well as power. He is also learning to play left field. King is another young kid who we think has a chance to be a very good player. He has tools but also is a baseball player. Maxwell has battled injuries but showed signs last year of being a special player. He has all the tools and if he stays healthy could move through the system quickly. Leonard Davis had a good year in ‘05 and was off to a good start last year before injuries slowed him down. He swings the bat aggressively with pop to all fields. I look for him to have a good year. Mike Daniel swung the bat well last year in Vermont. He is very athletic with tools and has a nice swing with the ability to drive the ball. Our two catchers in Hagerstown should be solid. Erick San Pedro has had unfortunate luck thus far in his pro career battling injuries every year. He has talent and defensive ability. He had a great spring, improved his conditioning and is moving around much better. I anticipate him to bounce back and have a good year. Jhonatan Solano is a solid receiver, blocks well and is quick behind the plate. He plays the game with a lot of energy and should be fun to watch. This will be his first experience playing in a full season.

CapitolDugout: What pitchers do you expect to step forward this year in the farm system and begin realizing their potential?

Williams: We are excited about the staff in Potomac. John Lannan has really improved since his first season in pro ball in '05. He has developed a consistent, efficient delivery. His curveball is much improved and he is throwing with a lot of confidence. RHP Craig Stammen has progressed every year since being drafted. He got a taste of high A ball last year at the end and should do very well there this year. He has good makeup, works hard and has good mound presence. He is durable, has an average fastball with good command and has a sharp curveball. Look for Clint Everts to have a good year. Health should not be an issue for him. He has plus off speed pitches in a curveball and changeup and is regaining velocity on his fastball. Shairon Martis will be young for high-A but should meet the challenge. The Potomac staff should do very well.

CapitolDugout:  Who in the farm system stands out to you as having the most raw, untapped offensive skill set and what could they do to begin making those tools more playable?

Williams: Stephen Englund came into pro ball last year as an 18-year-old out of high school. He struggled some last season but came into spring training this year much improved. He has gotten a lot stronger and has filled out. He has made the most progress of any of our young hitters. He really swings the bat aggressively and will hit for power. His pitch selection has improved. He just needs to continue to get at-bats and more experience.

CapitolDugout: Looking at Mike Hinckley and Clint Everts, do you feel that they are looking as if they could return to form in 2007? What do you think is the key to them doing that?

Williams: Absolutely. Clint Everts is still young and has put his arm issues behind him. Health should not be an issue for him. He has plus off speed pitches in a curveball and changeup. He has regained velocity on his fastball as well. He has pitched well this spring and has gotten off to a good start this year. This is a big year for Mike Hinckley. He is healthy and confident and looked good this spring. We put him at a level that should challenge him but where we think he can have some success. Both pitchers are confident and throwing well and I look for them both to have good years.

CapitolDugout: Right now, Collin Balester seems to the top pitching prospect in the organization. At this time next season, are there low level pitchers on the horizon that you feel have that type of ability who could compete for that spot?

Williams: I anticipate Colton Willems moving through the system quickly. He has everything you are looking for in a pitcher: big frame with room to fill out, long arms, clean delivery. He can throw three pitches for strikes. He already has good command of a 90-94 MPH fastball. He can throw his changeup for strikes and is developing a plus curveball. We will take it slow with Willems to start but he could move fast. This kid is going to be a good one. Glenn Gibson is another one to watch.

CapitolDugout: What are your thoughts on Desmond Jones. I understand he has an excellent young arm. What do you think the future may hold for him?

Williams: I haven't had a chance to see Desmond Jones pitch yet. He will start the season in extended spring. He has a good arm, throws hard and has a good breaking ball. The reports out of Florida have been positive. I will be looking forward to seeing Desmond pitch this season.

CapitolDugout: What are the organization's plans for Esmailyn Gonzalez this season and what are your expectations and hope for him in 2007?

Williams: Esmailyn will begin the season in the extended spring program. He has already made significant progress since reporting to Florida for the Accelerated Development Program. We felt that he would be better off starting the season in Florida where he will get intense instruction and extra work. He will be able to play five games a week and get plenty of at-bats. Defensively, he has the ability to play for a full season club right now. He has tremendous defensive ability. He has very good actions and a strong arm. At this point, his bat is a little behind his defense but he has been swinging the bat well so far in extended and is making progress.

CapitolDugout: What is the current status of Ryan Delaughter?

Williams: Ryan Delaughter is in extended spring training playing RF. He is working hard and making progress offensively. He shows good power potential and makes hard contact.

CapitolDugout: What are your thoughts on Glenn Gibson? What type of pitcher could he develop into?

Williams: Gibson has a chance to be a left-handed starter in the big leagues. He is very young, throws strikes with his fastball and has the makings of an excellent curveball. He will start in extended and will probably end up as a starter in Vermont.

CapitolDugout: Are there any other pitchers currently in extended spring training that caught you eye?

Williams: Robert Almonte is in extended and pitched pretty good the other day. I got a brief look at him before I left Florida and he looks like he has a good arm.

If you wish to contact Frankie Piliere, he can be reached at fpiliere44@yahoo.com

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