MadFriars: Sam Geaney on the AZL Padres

We caught up with Sam Geaney, the Padres’ Director of Player Development for the first segment of our six part interview on the top prospects in the system. Today Sam chats about the Padres’ prospects in the Arizona League for this season.

In general, because of the pitch and innings limits in the AZL, what is the main thing that you are looking for in pitchers?

Sam Geaney: It’s pretty specific to each guy. We look at their work load and how much they have already thrown before they came to us. We try to not define their roles too much at this point. A big part of what we are doing is getting them on a five day schedule as opposed to pitching once a week. We get them comfortable with a throwing program and starting to learn what they need to do as a professional.

Despite the record, you did have some good arms with the AZL Padres. What can you tell us about Emmanuel Ramirez? Do you see him as a starter or reliever going forward?

Sam Geaney: He is a guy that everyone needs to put on their scouting tabs. Everything works with Emmanuel. He has a true curve ball and his stuff is solid all around.

A left-hander out of Illinois State, Will Headean, is another guy we liked. What did you see in him?

Sam Geaney: Our scouting guys just did a great job of identifying guys on the third day of the draft. I just really can’t say enough about how pleased all of us on the development side where with some of the picks.

Getting Will and others like Phil Maton all had a certain type of physicality in the draft that is great. They have talent, can throw strikes and have an idea of where they want to throw the ball. It gives us a huge advantage on the development side.

The two big pitching prospects down there, Austin Smith and Jacob Nix didn’t have the greatest numbers. What did you see about them that you liked and what do they need to work on moving forward?

Sam Geaney: We were pretty happy with both of these guys. Jacob has a great breaking ball and Austin is very athletic, an engaging personality and he is embracing everything that pro ball has to offer. He has also has a quality curve ball and change-up.

We have an innings limit for both of them so we will kind of pick back up with them during the spring. The day after we signed them - and remember both of them had thrown some innings before they came to us - was about a gradual buildup.

Brad Zunica is going to get a lot of attention because of his size. Why did you decide to start him in the AZL and what clicked for him in his second month down there?

Sam Geaney: Again, our scouts did a good job of identifying talent in the later rounds of the draft, in this case power. We thought starting him in the AZL was an age-appropriate level. He had some moving parts in his swing that we started to get ironed out. He’s kind of streaky and we kind of got him focused more on the process about the routines he is developing and consistent at-bats as opposed to just focusing on the results.

The big thing is trying to make sure he has a consistent approach at the plate and a swing that will work going forward.

Most of us liked Jhonatan Pena, but don’t know a whole lot about him. What can you tell us about him?

Sam Geaney: He was one of the better stories in the system. He is a guy that grinded his way to where he is now and will be part of our instructional league program. He has strength in bat to ball, doesn’t have a picture perfect swing, but a good strong athletic body. He has a good feel for hitting and is getting a chance to play on the field.

Two high draftees Josh McGee and Aldemar Burgos struggled in the AZL. What did you see from them this season and what will they be working on in the off-season?

Sam Geaney: Just getting them into pro ball was the biggest thing. Getting them used to knowing that it’s now their job and a craft that they have to work with. Both have some interesting pieces. Josh is quick, athletic and has more of a slashing line drive stroke. Aldemar is really a good vibrant kid, athletic, good stride.

They both have the talent, it’s just going to take some time to develop.

Any sleepers?

Sam Geaney: Rodgers is a converted catcher with a live arm. He has a fastball that sits in the mid to upper 90’s, so we like him. [Nathan] Foriest is a very tough at-bat for a lefty. His action is kind of funky and his fastball sits at 90 to 92 MPH.

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