Randy Smith on the 2012 Fort Wayne TinCaps

We caught up with Randy Smith, the Padres' Director of Player Development and International Scouting from his headquarters in Peoria, Arizona for the third segment of our six part interview on the top prospects in the system.

This week we take a look at the Fort Wayne TinCaps who lost in the championship series to the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers three to one. This season the TinCaps had the best pitching staff in the system top to bottom as well as San Diego's top position prospect in the draft, catcher Austin Hedges.

Austin Hedges hit better than expected at Fort Wayne this year. What was the most impressive part of his game that you saw?

Randy Smith: The consistency of his game. He kept his head above water all year and had a good year at the plate in his first full season. I was also impressed how good he was behind the plate. He is going to do nothing but improve.

You have described Yeison Ascensio as a "Vlad Guerrero" type of player in that he will swing and barrel up anything. How do you work to improve his plate discipline without hurting his aggressiveness? Won't you be taking away one of his strengths?

Randy Smith: We aren't going to take away any of his strengths. He is a contact guy - his walk rate actually did go up from last year, it was small, but it did go up [laughs] - but he doesn't strike out much either. He can barrel the ball from his neck to his toes.

He won the first batting title for the TinCaps and had 21 assists from the outfield.

Jace Peterson played more baseball this year than at any time in his life. How did his defense at shortstop improve during the season?

Randy Smith: Jace is a leader and a very interesting player. He will be a good player when all is said and done and did get better as the season went on in the field. He finished second in the league in stolen bases so we liked what we saw this season.

What was the big adjustment that Travis Jankowski made after struggling early in the year?

Randy Smith: Part of the reason was just all of the stuff that goes into coming from college baseball to the pro game. Additionally his swing path improved, which is mainly the difference between swinging with a wood bat as opposed to an aluminum bat. He had a very good August and September.

I remember talking to you about Matt Wisler in spring training and how you had high expectations for him going into this year. What caused him to pitch so well in the Midwest League?

Randy Smith: He has a great arm and a clean delivery and can throw strikes with all of his pitches. His body is going to mature and our job is to make sure his innings workload doesn't outpace his physical development.

Another guy that really turned it around this year was Adys Portillo. One, how much bigger has he gotten since he came into the organization and how were you able to improve his fastball command as much as the organization did?

Randy Smith: He has a great body and has really filled out since we signed him at sixteen. He's very intelligent and a hard worker which is a great combination to have. His mechanics came along and he was able to repeat his delivery more consistently. His change and curve really improved and I thought his last start in San Antonio was also strong.

John Barbato had a very good year coming out of the pen this year for the TinCaps. Why was he so much better out of the pen than as a starter?

Randy Smith: Aggressiveness. He was much more aggressive coming out of the pen than he was as a starter where somedays it was there and others it wasn't. He has a good fastball and curve so we were very happy with what he did this season.

Matt Stites is another one of the seemingly endless supply of quality bullpen arms you guys have developed. Why has San Diego been so successful in finding and developing bullpen talent?

Randy Smith: A lot of credit has to go to our scouting department and the pitching coaches that we have in the organization who are able to develop them once we get them.

A guy like Stites was a starter in college and we just thought he was a much better fit coming out of the pen. He's been doing that since Eugene and its turned into a really good role for him.


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