Randy Smith: He's definitely a third baseman. Despite being a little thick in the lower body, he will surprise you with his quickness and he has a strong, accurate ram. He's a solid defender who will hopefully advance to the Cal League next season. At the plate, he really has a unique ability to get the barrel of the bat on the ball, and he could move up quickly.
Wes Cunningham put together a pretty good year and seems to be a "San Diego" type of player – high OBP and hits the ball into the gap. What did you think about him and could he be a candidate to play second as some have speculated?
Randy Smith: He's a good athlete, and we kept him mainly at first base in the Instructs. Right now, that is our biggest challenge with him – to find a position that he is comfortable defensively. Once we find that we can experiment with a few more positions. Offensively, he had a good year, has some pop and moved the ball around the field. Right now, we are working on getting him to stay back a little more and get a little stronger.
Are there plans to make center fielder Rico Noel a switch-hitter?
Randy Smith: He is an outstanding center fielder. He can really run, and we have started the switch-hitting process. The big thing with a guy like him is keeping the ball on the ground to take advantage of that speed.
This year you had one of the most talented pitching staffs in a long time in Eugene, but the person who ended up having the best season was Matt Branham from South Carolina Upstate. What made him so successful?
Randy Smith: As with some of the guys in the AZL, it was another credit to the scouting department. He has a good arm, good command of his breaking ball and he throws the ball down and for strikes. He's a pretty solid pitcher and another guy who we are counting on throwing some innings for us next year.
How has Keyvius Sampson's rehab been going and do you expect to see him pitching next year in Fort Wayne?
Randy Smith: The biggest thing for me that stuck out with Keyvius is the growth we saw this year in his maturity. His work ethic was tremendous and the maintenance program for his shoulder went really well. I just came back from watching him throw a 30-pitch bullpen session that was impressive and we expect him to pick up where he left off next season in Fort Wayne. He has always had good velocity and the ability to throw strikes; this year he has also really become a student of the game.
Right-hander Adys Portillo made some strides this year, but still seemed to struggle with his command at times. What is the biggest thing that the organization is working with him during the off-season?
Randy Smith: Mainly just a combination of getting more rhythm and fluidity in his motion. He has a very good work ethic, and even when he misses, he is always around the zone. During the year, he had a good six- or seven-start run where he threw really well. We are going to continue to work on his breaking ball and change; but in our eyes, he is still a blue chip prospect especially when you consider he is only 18.
Dexter Carter is someone that the organization had some high hopes for starting the year in Fort Wayne but struggled and was sent down to Eugene. What did you think of his season and where do you think he improved?
Randy Smith: Dex did struggle and it wasn't an easy year for him. We are tying to get the delivery a little cleaner and not throw across his body as much. He's a great kid but he needs to take things a little more seriously at times. We have seen some flashes of what he can do, but we need to see more consistency and a place to start is knowing when its time to have fun and when its time to go to work.
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