Randy Smith on the 2014 El Paso Chihuahuas

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

This week we take a look at the El Paso Chihuahuas who were a resounding success in their first year in the Sun City. The team consisted of some top prospects in Matt Wisler and Jace Peterson along with a few players that received quite a bit of national attention.

Cody Decker led the organization in home runs and was third in RBI. He has put up numbers similar to this in the past as well. What part of his game is the organization looking for him to improve upon next year so he can get an opportunity at the big league level?

Randy Smith: With Deck he has continued to put himself in positions where people have to notice what he is doing. As with some other guys, right now he just needs an opportunity.

As for what he can improve upon, offensively if he can narrow his peaks and valleys that will help. Defensively he has really helped himself out by playing so many positions and if he can continue to improve it’s only going to help him.

He has put up numbers every year, it’s just going to be he needs to be in the right place at the right time.

Going forward, where will Jace Peterson be playing?

Randy Smith: I think Jace is a shortstop. He’s played multiple positions to increase his versatility because one of the best ways to break into the big leagues is as a utility player.

He kind of had a tough year because he was called up to the big leagues with only a month of playing time above A ball. But he’s a tough kid and made the best of it. Jace put up some good numbers in AAA and I think he has a strong future. He’s a really a good kid that just plays to win all the time.

Rocky Gale has always been one of your better defensive catchers, what finally clicked for him at the plate?

Randy Smith: Kind of what we have been talking about with other players that have done well; he stayed within himself. He went gap-to-gap and kept the defense honest.

Everyone is really happy for him because he is the consummate professional. He never complains and, as you said, is a really good defensive catcher.

I really hope he gets a chance at the next level.

Next year you will have quite a few players that can play second base. Are there any plans to try Taylor Lindsay at other positions?

Randy Smith: Taylor played a little bit of third base for us and we plan on using him there more next year. He’s going to see time at both second and third this spring and his versatility is a good thing. He’s a very talented kid and I think we are going to see better numbers from him next season.

What was the biggest improvement you saw in Matt Wisler this season?

Randy Smith: He made more quality pitches as the season went on. He learned that what is “down” in AA is a little different at the AAA level. Basically, Matt just figured out more about pitching and his future is very bright.

Everyone loved the story on Jason Lane this season. Does the organization plan to have him back and does he have a shot to make the big club out of camp?

Randy Smith: Jason was very consistent on the mound and, as his numbers indicate, was pretty good with the bat too. In addition to that he was just so much help with everyone because he is like another coach out there. He is a great sounding board for both the hitters and catchers and sets a great example with his work ethic.

He will be back and I think he can contribute at the major league level.

Juan Oramas was up and down this year. What does he do well and what does he need to improve upon?

Randy Smith: He needs to show up in better shape. Juan pitches better when he is in shape. He came back pretty quick from his Tommy John surgery and many of the guys that went through it with him still are not all the way back.

The year was a bit of a bump in the road for him but when he is on he has a good fastball and a quality curve.

Two interesting bullpen arms you have are Dennis O’Grady and Jerry Sullivan what did you think of their season and what do they need to improve upon to take the last step to get to the big leagues?

Randy Smith: With Sully he just got healthy, which is huge for him. He finished very strong. He has a good fastball and splitter and it really helped him to trust his stuff and block out distractions.

O’Grady has no problem being aggressive. He had a nice year and is a good athlete. Right now with Dennis it’s just a question of refining his stuff.

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