Randy Smith on the 2014 San Antonio Missions

We caught up with Randy Smith, the Padres’ Director of Player Development from his headquarters in Peoria, Arizona for our fifth segment of our six part interview series on the top prospects in the system.

This week we take a look at San Antonio, where the Missions experienced much of the same problems as the big club; good starting pitching, a great bullpen and an offense that had difficulty scoring runs.

Austin Hedges had a tough year at the plate. In the past he has been really impressive in the Instructional Leagues. What are the goals to work with him this off-season offensively?

Randy Smith: He was out at our hitter’s camp and had him leave his glove at home. With Austin it’s all about approach; use the middle of the field and hit line drives. He got into some bad habits in San Antonio of trying to swing uphill too much. That is not a good ballpark to try to force the ball out.

He also caught a lot of games and the heat and length of the season may have caught up with him a little bit. He left here with a flatter swing plane and hopefully will be ready to hit next season.

Rymer Liriano sat out all of last year recovering from Tommy John surgery. What impressed you the most about him and what does he still need to work on going forward?

Randy Smith: Rymer just continues to grow up and mature as a person and as a player. His recognition of the breaking ball has improved and that might have hurt him a little when he came up to the majors.

In the minors about all they would throw him were breaking balls, so he kind of got into the habit of leaning over the plate and hitting the ball to right. In the majors they started to bust him inside with the fastball and he was letting a lot of balls go by.

He has the bat speed and strength to handle inside pitching and we will get him back to that. He’s going to contribute next year on the big league level.

Alex Dickerson really came on at the end of the year after missing most of the season with a broken ankle? It’s a really small sample, but what type of player do you see him being next year and why?

Randy Smith: He’s a big strong kid that can swing the bat. He has some good pull power and can also drive the ball to left-center. He really impressed me once he got healthy, especially when he started to get his legs under him.

Travis Jankowski missed so much of the season with injuries. What are the plans for him this winter?

Randy Smith: He came into Spring Training a little stronger and we thought he was going to have a really big season. He hurt his wrist making that catch against the wall in Frisco and was out quite awhile. When he came back he re-aggravated it, so it was a tough season for him.

When he’s healthy he is a tremendous defensive outfielder and a solid offensive player. He, like many of the guys that we have talked about, needs to understand what type of hitter he is; get on base and keep the ball out of the air.

What improvement did you see from James Needy this year as opposed to last?

Randy Smith: Because of his height James gets a really good angle on his fastball which generates a lot of groundballs. His slider improved as did all of his pitches. He had a really good year and I think he’s just going to get better.

Bryce Morrow, who was undrafted and signed out of the Independent Frontier League, had one of the better seasons in the organization. (1) How was this guy not picked and (2) what type of pitcher is he?

Randy Smith: The biggest thing about Bryce is that he knows what he is doing on the mound. He can add or subtract off of his fastball to go along with good command.

I think he only had two bad outings all year. He’s not going to knock you out with his stuff but he can really pitch.

What happened with Johnny Barbato and will he be ready for Spring Training next year?

Randy Smith: He’s been throwing a little in the Instructional Leagues and he will be ready for spring. We shut him down when he had a sore arm, but he was able to stay with the team and rehab it.

When he was out there this year he showed good fastball command and his curve really came along. Johnny really likes the relief role and that is where we are going to keep him.

Last, Josh Geer had a nice year. What type of future do you see for him?

Randy Smith: Josh is a great guy and has just done so much for the organization over his career. I thought his stuff looked really crisp this year, especially his fastball command. He fields his position as well as anyone we have and right now he just needs to be in the right place at the right time.

We all hope its with the Padres but if it was with another organization all of us would be happy for Josh to get another chance at the major leagues.

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