This week we take a look at Eugene, the last year the Padres will have them as a Northwest League affiliate before moving onto Tri-City in southeastern Washington.
Top pick Trea Turner was only in the Emerald Valley for 23 games - and this year’s Ems team again didn’t make the playoffs - but there were some quality players in 1B Marcus Davis, CF Auston Bousfield and a solid pitching staff led by Michael Kelly and Zech Lemond.
Marcus Davis had a big year. What are you looking for him to build on for next year?
Randy Smith: Marcus has come a long way and we are having a much different conversation now that we did last year. Going forward we see him as a first baseman and he has to continue to work defensively at that position.
At the plate we would like to see him do a little more damage with power and RBI and maybe put up a few more extra-base hits. But if Marcus performs like he did this past year in Eugene, he is going to be fine.
Auston Bousfield really came on during August. With Michael Gettys having a good chance to start the year in Fort Wayne in center is there an opportunity for him to begin the season in Lake Elsinore?
Randy Smith: Sure and we used to do that all the time with college kids in Eugene to move them up to Lake Elsinore. He will be given a chance to compete for a spot in High-A and he could make it. Auston finished strong and we had a lot of good reports on him and we will find out some more when we have him in mini-camp.
Nick Torres was considered by many the best bat in the draft by the Padres. He didn’t have a great year numerically but also seemed to be battling some minor injuries. What did you see?
Randy Smith: Nick is a strong kid but we need to work on getting him to incorporate his base a little more, which is what we were focusing with him during Instructs. I think next year we will see some more power out of him.
When I was in Eugene I spoke with Eddie Rodriguez, your roving infield instructor, and he stated that Franchy Cordero was making progress defensively. The numbers are the numbers, but what progress did you see from him defensively?
Randy Smith: I think the biggest improvement we saw from him this season was mental toughness, because he didn’t have an easy year. He’s starting to get back to where he was defensively and he’s becoming more consistent in knowing what plays he can and can’t make.
Franchy is a big guy and sometimes he can get a little too straight up when he throws. The time off he had after he broke his hand may have really helped him in the long run take a break so he can make a clean start.
Again, he has tremendous ability and potential. I think he will be a better player going forward because of his experiences this year.
You have to feel good about this performance, what made Michael Kelly effective this year where in others he has struggled?
Randy Smith: I think Michael’s biggest thing was he just went out there and threw instead of overthinking everything. He just turned 22 and has a lot of talent. His velocity was down a little this year but his breaking ball was much better. He needed a year where he gained some confidence and now he has a chance to go to Fort Wayne and get over that hurdle. For the most part, he was pretty consistent all year.
Why was Bryan Verbitsky so much more effective out of the bullpen than as a starter?
Randy Smith: He was just much more aggressive. He likes the role and is comfortable with it. Also his stuff plays up, he can go hard for three to six outs and doesn’t have to worry about pacing himself.
I really liked what I saw from Seth Lucio. He has a great four-seam fastball but needs to work on his other offerings. What is the next pitch you want to see him develop?
Randy Smith: He is an aggressive pitcher and will go right after people. I think his next pitch is his slider and harnessing his fastball command.
Zech Lemond seems like he was very advanced for this level. How quick do you think he could rise and will he go forward as a starter or a relief pitcher?
Randy Smith: He’s going to start. We want him to use his change-up more, but he has a pretty good feel for what he is doing. We are going to give him a chance to compete for a slot on the Lake Elsinore rotation and hopefully we will go from there.