MadFriars' Interview: Shawn Wooten

FORT WAYNE: Shawn Wooten played parts of six seasons in the major leagues and parts of fourteen in the minors including his last year with the Portland Beavers in the Padres' organization.

After taking a year off, he returned to baseball last season as the hitting coach for the Eugene Emeralds and this year led the Fort Wayne TinCaps to a first round playoff victory.

We caught up with Shawn during the last series of the year to get his opinions on some of his players.

Tell us a little about Rymer Liriano?

Shawn Wooten: The last two years I've gotten to see him really develop [Shawn was the hitting coach for the Eugene Emeralds in 2010] and he is one of the few five-tool players that I have ever seen.

I can't believe a guy that size has stolen 62 bases.

Shawn Wooten: He looks and runs like a running back. You usually get guys that either have a long stride or a quick first step and he has both. That is the big reason he can do what he can do on the field.

He has come a long way attitude wise; getting the guy over and really playing the team game. Its tough for a lot of kids at this level to understand that especially from Latin America who haven't played as much as the American kids.

Its been fun to watch him because he can change the game in a heartbeat. He gets on first steals second they throw the ball into center field and he ends up on third base. Ground ball and its one nothing.

What he can do at the plate - particularly in laying off of the off-speed and he still needs to get better at that as he moves up. He needs to keep playing and understanding game situations and he'll be there.

Defensively he's played some center field in addition to right.

Shawn Wooten: In the outfield he's kind of like a shortstop with unbelievable range. Because he gets to a lot of balls that other guys can't get too he makes a few more mistakes or errors.

He is a big strong guy that is stopping and making cuts. He takes a lot of pride in his defense and sometimes he can improve his routes a little. He can play center in the big leagues but will probably end up in right because of his size and plus arm.

Cory Spangenberg started out slow and then really picked it up in August. Did he end up putting a little too much pressure on himself when he first got here?

Shawn Wooten: A little bit of that. Its tough to be a number one pick.

This is tough place to come in the middle of the season right out of college too.

Shawn Wooten: Yeah especially when you look at the pitching in this league this year. Its tough to be a first rounder with the pressure. He does well in Eugene with a lot of the same type of guys that are new to the pro game and then comes to this with the stadium, pennant race and it gets tough.

One of the first things we did is put him in the two hole and let him know that we didn't need him to be the guy the way he was in Eugene. We had speed and power but he still put some pressure on himself but he got his mechanics straight and really has produced for us.

He does some things that I haven't seen in that if he hits a ball to the shortstop he can beat it out. He has a nice swing and is going to be a good hitter. He's still working on his defense which at this level is probably going to be the last thing to come.

But he is taking a lot of ground balls and he really wants to learn. He looks like a second baseman along with his actions. The good thing about him is that he has a lot of speed.

Connor Powers has really impressed in how well he has played this year especially for someone who didn't make the team out of spring training.

Shawn Wooten: He came in last year and sometimes it becomes a long season coming into pro ball after a full year of the college season. Also you can try to do too much to try to impress people.

He came into spring after losing about twenty-five pounds with more of a wood bat swing. He drove the ball but didn't make the team out of camp - some of it had to do with his numbers last year and some of it had to do with the team that we built here with four outfielders and Wes Cunningham here.

We got some injuries and promotions and he has been huge for us. He has been one of the more consistent hitters for us. Driving the ball where its pitched and not trying to pull the ball too much. He's played a really good first base and been very impressive.

Luis Domoromo also gets quite a bit of attention. He's in left now but could he play center and right too?

Shawn Wooten: Center probably no but he can play right and is better suited for the corners. He's not as quick on his first step as Rico [Noel] or Rymer but he positions himself well and he will catch what is hit to him.

He's a nineteen year old kid that is in the top twenty in a very pitcher heavy league so that is pretty good. I think he will develop more power, he drives the ball to the opposite field very well.

His approach is a lot older than his age. Its just the strength and the number of at-bats is what he needs.

I was impressed by Rico Noel who struggled earlier in the year but seems to have turned the corner. What has really impressed me is how many bases he has stolen and how few times he has been caught. Shawn Wooten: He's one of the few guys that I've seen at this level that has a very good idea of what he wants to do on the bases in terms of when to run, in what count and so on.

Twice he's run on a pitchout, once they got him and the other time he beat it out. He knows what he is doing out there; he's a baseball player. Its pretty rare for someone with that type of speed.

He knows when not to force it and I use him as an example with the younger guys, particularly with Liriano. A few times I'll have Rico come by and tell Rymer about why he did something because it helps hearing from a teammate instead of from me all the time. When he first came here he was spinning on a lot of balls and having them go into the air and Kory DeHaan [the TinCaps hitting coach] and he have worked really hard to get back to that good athletic position to hit without trying to do too much.

His confidence has picked up and he's put together a pretty solid year.

Tomorrow we talk with Shawn on his pitching staff.

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