Questions for Randy Smith: Northwest League

Randy Smith is the Padres' Director of Player Development and more than anyone else in the organization sees everyone, multiple times. Based out of Scottsdale, Arizona he was kind enough to take the time to speak with us on the prospects at each level of the system.

Today he discuses how many of his top picks in the 2011 draft performed in Eugene.

At the beginning of the year I asked about who impressed you the most, one of the guys you said was Spangenberg. You were fairly adamant that he was going to hit – no weasel words or equivocations, but he was going to hit. You have done this for a long time, what made you so confident?

Randy Smith: I listened to the scouts and watched him on video, so I liked what I saw there. In person you see him, he just has a great approach and knows the strike zone. And he can run, really run which kind of surprises you.

I think next year you will see his power numbers go up too. He just does a lot of things that will make him successful and be the perfect guy for PETCO Park.

Despite having some problems off of the field, Donavan Tate had a pretty good year, especially in cutting down on his strike outs and drawing walks. What were the reasons behind his improvement and what is the biggest thing you are working on him with besides staying on the field?

Randy Smith: That is the number one thing for Donavan, stay on the field which is a big reason why he improved. He had a nice run last year through the Instructional League and the spring and then getting hurt was a big setback for him.

With Donavan just playing baseball is going to make him better. The tools are there, it's just about playing ball every day.

He hurt his wrist the first game back and toughed it out before we finally shut him down in mid-August.

Jace Peterson was considered a better athlete than baseball player when he was drafted and although he hit .243, he also put up a .360 on-base percentage and stole 39 bases in 49 attempts.

What did you think of his performance this year?

Randy Smith: Ask anyone up in Eugene and they will rave about him. I think in the end his baseball skills will exceed his tools. He had a really good August and is another guy that by playing more baseball will improve his skill set. Remember he never got to play in the summer because of football and when you show him something once, he gets it.

Another guy that had some strange numbers was his college teammate Lee Orr. He hit .219, but had an on-base percentage of .364, slugged .414 and stole 18 bases in 20 attempts. What did you see?

Randy Smith: Orr is another physical guy with raw skills and power. He just needs to play and get at-bats so we can find out what we have. We have quite a few outfielders next year so he might see some time at first base too so he can get in games.

Some late round picks showed some ability for you this year – Casey McElroy, Justin Miller and 3b Travis Whitmore. Where do you see them playing next year and what did you like about their performances?

Randy Smith: McElroy is just a baseball player. Physically he doesn't really stand out but he can flat out hit. He hit in college and he hit in Eugene. Defensively if he gets to it while playing second or short, he will make the play.

Whitmore was an all-star and can play anywhere around the diamond. Again, where he plays is going to depend a lot on what happens in the Instructs and in spring.

Miller had some of the most impressive college stats of anyone we drafted and kept it up in Eugene. He's better in the outfield than at second right now but that is also something we are working on here.

John Barbato had kind of a strange year – some good K/BB ratios but also left the ball over the plate a few too many times. What went right for him this season and what went wrong?

Randy Smith: With John it's just a question of learning how to compete on a daily basis in pro ball. His velocity is 88-91 one day and then 93-95 the next day. He's a big kid and has been working on his agility and learning how his body works.

Two middle picks had good years Matt Andriese and Cody Hebner. Can you give us an idea of what they throw and the organization's projections.

Randy Smith: Andriese had a great year, fastball, change and curve guy. He has a good feel for pitching and we were real pleased with the way he performed. Hebner is a guy that really competes with a good fastball and quick arm.

Chris Wilkes is a guy many people may have lost track of with all the injuries, but he did a great job out of the pen this year.  Will you look at a possible move back to the rotation next year, or is his future at the back-end of games now? What was he working with in terms of velocity and his breaking pitch?

  Randy Smith: I think his home will be in the pen. His velocity went up to 92 to 93 and he stayed in good shape. The key for him is to stay healthy so he can keep making the strides that we saw this year.

Obviously a disappointing year for James Needy, but he went down to AZL and then did a nice job in his return at the end of the year.  What did you ask him to focus on when he went back to the desert?

Randy Smith: James just needs to pitch. He missed all last year with his knee and showed some good things this year. When he was struggling in Eugene we sent him down to the AZL where his velocity was in the low 90s. We sent him back to Eugene at the end where he threw better.

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