Randy Smith on Lake Elsinore Storm prospects

We went over some of the top hitting and pitching prospects from this years' California League Lake Elsinore Storm with Randy Smith to get his impressions on their seasons and what they have been doing in the Instructional Leagues.

If you throw out Jaff Decker's first fifteen games in May, after he missed all of spring training, he hit .292/.421/.558, which is really good for someone that was only 20. Throw in the fact that he came into camp in great shape and you changed his stance slightly, what did you think of his year?

Randy Smith: Well once he got the rust off of not being in spring training he was great. I think at the beginning of the year he was a little pull happy, especially in May, but then he went back to using the whole field he really took off. As you said, we closed his stance up which got him to the ball a little quicker.

Drew Cumberland finally put together the type of year everyone thought he could before he got hurt in San Antonio. One, how is his health now and two, what position do you eventually see him ending up at?

Randy Smith: Health wise he ran at full strength in the Instructs so we were happy with that. We want him to go back home, rest, get better and hopefully come back and play a full season next year. He did everything we asked him to this year, especially in increasing his stolen bases and bunting more for base hits. Defensively his future in the big leagues is probably at second, but we will probably keep him at short next year because it is easier to move from short to second than the other way around. At short his arm strength and accuracy has improved.

Everyone always likes what Dan Robertson brings to the table and in Instructs you had him playing some second base. What were the reasons behind the move and where do you see him playing next year?

Randy Smith: He is the type of guy that you have to rip the uniform off of and we thought since he can already play all three outfield positions being able to play second would add to his value. We played him at second some in the Instructs and are going to continue to do that in the spring. In AA he probably will be in the outfield but if we had to put him at second I'm sure he could do the job there. He can play.

Quite a few people have raved about Cole Figueroa's game; his defense and ability to get on base. The only negative you can really see is that he doesn't seem to have that much power. Can you see him developing more gap-to-gap power?

Randy Smith: The first thing that comes to mind with Figgy is that he really knows how to play the game, to take what the other team gives him and not try to do too much. I don't know if I am ever going to see him as a power guy but I could see him driving more balls into the gaps. What he needs to do is continue to get better at what he was doing this year; getting on base, moving runners along, getting bunts down and continuing to be a plus base runner. If he can keep doing that he's going to be ok.

I've always been a big fan of catcher Robert Lara's ability behind the plate. This year he was much better offensively than last year in Fort Wayne. What is the next step he needs to take?

Randy Smith: Lara did have a nice year. Defensively he has plenty of arm strength but is going to have to continue to get better at blocking balls and calling games. He has the ability it's just a question of being more consistent. With the catching position we really put a lot of emphasis on what you do defensively, so that will come first but at the same time we were pleased with what he accomplished at the plate.

You guys took an unusual and aggressive step in promoting Cody Decker from the AZL to the Cal League, where he had a pretty good year. What were the reasons behind it and what are the next steps Cody needs to take?

Randy Smith: Last year Cody was an experienced guy and probably could have played at another level if we had room. Going into spring we had him running with the Fort Wayne guys from last year and in the end he just looked so good we thought it would be a nice fit with him and [Allen] Dykstra. He had a good year, especially in terms of home runs and RBIs. He is a little bit of a streaky as a hitter but he put up some good numbers this season.

Brad Brach broke the Cal League record for saves and has had a great career so far in the organization. He lives on the outside corner with his four seam fastball, what pitch is the organization working on for him to throw inside?

Randy Smith: Brad works quickly and really pounds the zone. I think he can throw the four-seamer to both sides of the plate. He has a very good splitter which we see in the bullpen, he just needs to use it more in games which I think can develop into a swing-and-miss pitch for him. As his numbers indicate he had a good year this year and his velocity continues to go up.

One guy that amazed both of us was Nick Vincent, who had another good year in Lake Elsinore. Just how deep is the organization's bullpen for a guy like him not to get promoted?

Randy Smith: We had quite a few guys that earned promotions, especially in the bullpen, that we just didn't have a spot for. I really liked what Nick did this year, especially with his cutter and he is a guy that we are counting on next year in San Antonio.

Both Erik Davis and Anthony Bass were the two mainstays of your staff this year. Can you give us a quick rundown of their strengths and weaknesses?

Randy Smith: Davis has led the organization in wins the past two years, so yeah it is strange that he doesn't get more attention. For Erik his change is his bread and butter and he needs to use his fastball a little more but we really like what he has done. Bass is a guy with a plus fastball and good slider who keeps putting together strong performances. He is someone we like quite a bit and expect big things from next year.

Where do you see Rob Musgrave next year in the bullpen or in the rotation and why?

Randy Smith: Right now we think he has a little more value coming out of the pen. He has a good change and his fastball is running a little more than in previous seasons.

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