Questions for Randy Smith: Midwest League

The Midwest League is the first full season league where players get a full taste of being a professional from spring training to playing nearly every day from April through Labor Day, and sometimes beyond.

This year San Diego had one of its more talented teams in Fort Wayne and we got some impressions from Randy Smith on what he saw there.

Rymer Liriano, a player that you have seen quite a bit of in the past, had the type of season that all of you in the organization always believed he could. What was the most surprising thing about his play this year to you?

Randy Smith: The fact that he was the MVP and one of the best prospects in the league. With Rymer it's all about growing up and learning to lay off of the slider. He has a chance to be a franchise type player. Just a tremendous year and he can really develop into anything that he wants to be.

Connor Powers literally came out of nowhere to hit .330 this year. What was the big adjustment he made in the off-season and in the Instructs which led to a big year this season?

Randy Smith: First he got his body into shape, he lost a bunch of weight. He came in here with zero expectations and just worked his tail off. He took advantage of his time in extended and put himself on the map with not only what he did offensively but how he played third and first. Just a real nice year but he deserves all the credit and we are really pleased with the results.

Spangenburg hit .154 in July then .354 in August. What was the big change and how was his defense?

Randy Smith: He's not the prettiest defensive player but he makes all the plays. We are going to continue to clean him up and improve his double play pivot. Right before he got promoted he was in a little bit of a slump in Eugene and it kind of carried over to Fort Wayne, but as the numbers indicate he finished up tremendously.

OF Luis Domormo is pretty young for the league and put some decent numbers. What is your take on him?

Randy Smith: Luis has a real advanced approach to hitting for someone that is only nineteen. He's going to get stronger as he matures and right now has very good strike zone knowledge. He's going to get a chance to make the Lake Elsinore team but whether he is there or back in Fort Wayne he will play every day at one of those places. He has a real good foundation to be a good player.

Huge season by Keyvius Sampson this year. What was the biggest factor in his success?

Randy Smith: The biggest thing was staying healthy and taking the ball every fifth day. His change-up really developed to go along with a plus fastball and plus command. His curve ball and two-seam fastball is still in the developmental process but the first thing you want a young pitcher to do is command the fastball. You worry about movement down the road.

Zach Cates, a converted catcher, is still pretty new to pitching. What was the biggest step forward he took this year?

Randy Smith: For him it was transitioning to becoming a full time pitcher. Knowing what it was like to have to take the ball on a regular basis. Right now we have been working with him on fastball command and developing a more consistent breaking ball.

Adys Portillo had one of the highest K/9 rates in the Midwest League this year, but obviously is still just figuring out what it means to be a pitcher.  What were the goals you had for him coming into this year and where did he fall short?

Randy Smith: He's 19 and can hit a 100 MPH on the gun, so we like what we have to start with. The big thing for Adys is he has to develop other pitches and command that big fastball better.

We changed him from a curve to a slider and the change-up has improved but it has a ways to go. He has to be able to mix his pitches better and his performance has not caught up with his skills. Hopefully we can marry his skills and performance together but his work ethic and makeup are off of the charts.

The most interesting thing I thought about the second half team Fort Wayne put on the field was it seems like the type of squad your organization always talks about; pitching, athletic, defense and speed. Are we seeing here the type of teams we are going to see in the future?

Randy Smith: We talk about development for PETCO all the time and defense and base running are a big part of that discussion. You have to give the scouting department credit for drafting the type of athletes that can play this type of game and we can see that the tools have improved on both sides of the ball and the development staff for doing something with them when they get them.

The TinCaps scuffled a little when they lost Tate and Williams but really picked it up down the stretch. The experience those guys got in the last thirty games when they were fighting to make the playoffs was invaluable and the coaching staff – Shawn Wooten, Willie Blair and Kory DeHaan just did a great job with all of them.

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