Questions for Randy Smith – Texas League

In 2009 the Fort Wayne TinCaps were one of the best teams in the minor leagues winning 100 games behind a prospect laden team featuring Jaff Decker, Blake Tekotte, Simon Castro, Anthony Bass and Brad Brach.

While Bass, Brach and Tekotte made it to San Diego for parts of the 2011 season the core of the team was intact for most of the year in AA San Antonio where they again won a championship, the Padres second in San Antonio.

We talked with Randy Smith, the Padres head of Development, about some of the Missions' futures in San Diego.

Is it possible Jedd Gyorko's not even the best hitting former Mountaineer middle infielder in the system?  With Darnell going down, is there any thought about getting Belnome out to the AFL?

Randy Smith: Vinnie was just unbelievable this year. If he hadn't gotten hurt for nearly two months he would have ended up with the same numbers that [James] Darnell was putting up in San Antonio.

When he came back he didn't miss a beat and just kept hitting. You have to like his power, good strikeout to walk ratio – he just had a great year. Defensively the biggest thing for him is foot speed and range. If he gets to it, he will catch it. This year he played some third and first in addition to second and did a nice job there too.

What's the status on Beamer Weems, who was having a solid year before that brutal injury?

Randy Smith: Beamer looks like he is going to be ok but he needs to regain his strength. He showed some power that we haven't seen before since he gave up switch-hitting.

And we all like watching him play defense.

There's been talk that the organization asked Jaff Decker to make some changes to his swing before the season. Was that the case and what outcomes are you hoping to see as a result?

Randy Smith: He's a young guy for AA and showed some flashes of what we expect of him this year. The big thing with Jaff is that he needs to understand that double to left-center is better than a warning track out to right. We would like him to see him use the whole field more.

Overall we are pretty happy with his development. He's gotten into very good shape and is a good outfielder.

A great year by Blake Tekotte. What is the biggest thing he needs to work on going forward?

Randy Smith: Kind of the same thing with Jaff, use the field more especially at the major league level. Blake has a speed game; line drives, bunts and stolen bases. He has some pop – hitting nearly twenty home runs in that park is impressive – but his strength can also hurt him. I can't see him doing that in PETCO which is why I want to see him with more emphasis on the speed part of his game.

Casey Kelly had a pretty good year in terms of his durability and K/BB ratios. However he could be a little too hittable at times. What does he need to do to miss more bats?

Randy Smith: Casey just has a real easy delivery that generates some good velocity. Sinkerball pitchers are going to give up more hits just because that is the nature of how they pitch. We are really pleased where he is now especially in only his second full year professionally as a pitcher.

Right now we are working on a few things mainly pitching off of the plate for effect; high and inside, down and away to get batters to swing at things outside the strike zone.

But I thought he had a really great year.

Right now Robbie Erlin and Joe Wieland looked great after coming over from Texas. What did you see from them that impressed you?

Randy Smith: Both of them are really poised. Wieland has pure stuff; four pitches, low to mid 90's fastball, power slider, curve ball and change. Erlin is the same way; a lefty who hits his spots well, mixes in a breaking ball and change.

Every time those two kids take the mound they expect to win.

How does Juan Oramas continue to fly so far under the radar despite strong showings at every stop?

Randy Smith: That is all right he can stay there until he reaches the big leagues [laughs]. He was a little hurt coming out of spring training but he really picked it up. He understands now that he is much closer to the big leagues and has great poise.

Your bullpen was really strong this year. Which pitcher stood out for you the most and why does Nick Vincent continue to have great success all the way up?

Randy Smith: Vincent, like so many of the pitchers that we had this year in San Antonio, just pounds the zone. His big weapon is his cutter, which is a fantastic pitch. He's primarily a fastball/cutter guy and throws very few pitches to get outs.

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