Randy Smith: To me the most improved player in the system was Hagerty. Honestly, I wasn't sure if he could be an everyday catcher at the beginning of the year, but the improvement he made at blocking balls and in his release times have been tremendous. We had some of his release time clocked at 1.9 in the Instructs, so he kind of picked up where he left off when he came down here. Right now, he is a good defensive catcher that is a switch-hitter with power that can drive in runs. I think he has a real shot to become an everyday catcher on the major league level.
Nate Freiman put up some really strong numbers at first base and seems to be closing many of the holes in his swing that he had coming into pro ball. He was a little old for the league at 23. How do you see his future?
Randy Smith: Nate has been pretty consistent with us since he has been with us. I thought he had a pretty good year in Eugene last year too. He hits .300, drives in runs, and, as you said, has closed some of the holes in his swing. I think next year as he continues to improve and playing in the Cal League his numbers will go up, especially for power. This year, he showed some leadership, especially defensively with a very young infield in Fort Wayne.
Third baseman Edinson Rincon was up and down this year and struggled in the field. What did you think of his year?
Randy Smith: He was a 19-year-old kid in a fairly advanced league. He had a good number of home runs and RBI, and even though the numbers don't show it made some improvement on defense. We are still high on him, great makeup and good bat. He can get a little pull happy when he tries to do too much and this fall in the Instructs we were happy to see him start going to right field a little more. Edinson just has to realize we are not asking him to hit 30 home runs yet, just make good solid contact.
You have to be happy with the .360 OBP of Jonathan Galvez, but he struggled in the field with 43 errors. How did you see his year?
Randy Smith: Galvy has always had good plate discipline from the time we first had him in the DSL. He improved quite a bit defensively in the second half, and he is getting bigger and stronger. Because of his bat, there are a variety of places where he could eventually end up; second, third or short. As he gets stronger and older, we are going to see many of his numbers go up.
One of the big stories of the year was the emergence of Matt Lollis, who started the year in extended and may have ended up being the best pitcher on the TinCaps. What made him so successful this year?
Randy Smith: Fastball command. He throws it for strikes on both sides of the plate. He is one of the few guys that we allow to throw both a slider and curve, and his changeup keeps getting better all the time. As you know, he has a huge body and he throws in the low-to-mid-90s. He could move fairly quickly, but the key with Matt will be to maintain his conditioning. We are working on him to improve his nutrition and keep his weight in a certain range.
Jerry Sullivan had a nice year in the Midwest League. What are his strengths and weaknesses?
Randy Smith: He has a very good arm and his secondary stuff is good. He can get a little fastball happy and gets away from mixing in his other pitches. Part of that was on the pitch counts that we had these guys on; in a shorter period of time its sometimes difficult to really get your other stuff involved. But overall we were happy with his year; at times he was running it up to the mid-90s.
I thought Michael Watt had a fairly underrated year; he threw a lot of innings and had a good K-to-BB ratio. What did you think of his year?
Randy Smith: Well like you said, those two stats were pretty impressive to me. He is a young guy that could have been promoted if we had a spot for him in Lake Elsinore. He is a young guy that knows how to pitch, stays away from the big innings and his fastball had a little more velocity this year. He throws three pitches for strikes and we expect some good things from him in the future.
Miles Mikolas is a big guy and seemed to improve as the season went on. What is the biggest improvement you hope to see in him at the start of spring training?
Randy Smith: His confidence would be one. In the spring he was ok and when we put him in the pen instead of the rotation we thought going shorter would help him. His velocity and curveball just got better and better. But the big thing with Miles is that I think he just got comfortable in the role that we put him in which enabled him to perform better.
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