MadFriars: Sam Geaney on San Antonio

We caught up with Sam Geaney, the Padres’ Director of Player Development for the fifth segment of our six part interview series on the top prospects in the system.

Today Sam chats about the Padres’ prospects in the Texas League for this season.

  The Missions had a tough year, but there were quite a few prospects who made their way through this level.  Let’s start with Hunter Renfroe, who struggled early the season but really came on in the second half.

  What changed?

Sam Geaney: I don’t know if you ever open the season and hope someone struggles, but Hunter really learned a lot about himself through his struggles in his first two months; particularly about his swing.

Players tend to become more open minded about making changes that will help them in the big leagues when things aren’t going right for them at this level. He learned a lot about his swing and a lot of credit has to go to the coaches and roving instructors that we have that worked through his struggles with him. We would much rather he go through this at Double-A than in the majors. His main problem is he can get a little too rotational with his upper half and he is so strong he doesn’t really need to do that to hit home runs. He made some adjustments and I think that is why you saw the success he had in the second half in San Antonio and later on in El Paso.

Travis Jankowski came back from a nearly career ending injury last year and made it all the way to the major leagues. Talking with people last year whom saw him play since he came into the organization in 2012, what has been his biggest improvement?

Sam Geaney: I think a lot of people really failed to grasp just how serious that injury was. I had a little familiarity with Travis from my time in Oakland but to watch him play this year was impressive. With him what always stands out first is the defense that he brings to center, he can really play out there.

This year he got a little stronger and has started to drive the ball more. As you said, he got to the major leagues this year and put himself in a great position for the future. Remember, he started the season with his main goal was just to stay healthy - so he kind of surpassed that.

I know he’s not in the system any more, but did you guys have an idea of how good Trea Turner was going to be?

Sam Geaney: He’s a really outstanding player and was great with us on and off the field. We are happy with the guys we were able to acquire and happy for Trea on the way his season went.

Yeison Ascencio always puts up some interesting numbers (.301/.329/.434).  Do you think he will ever get enough plate discipline to make it to the major leagues?

Sam Geaney: He has a really unique profile and I’m not sure it’s as simple as just learning to take more pitches. What is different about Yeison is yes, he doesn’t walk much, but he also doesn’t strike out a whole lot either. [Editor’s note: In 496 plate appearances Ascencio walked 14 times but only struck out 40 times with 37 extra-base hits.] He puts the ball in play and gives himself a chance.

Hopefully if we can get him focused on driving the ball with a little more authority we might see an uptick in his selectivity at the plate.

You picked Colin Rea as someone to watch at the beginning of the year. 

Did he exceed your expectations?

Sam Geaney: When I took over he was one of the guys that Randy Smith [the Padres’ former Director of Player Development] and I talked about quite a bit. Randy really liked him and always thought he was a bit underrated; so I kind of had an idea.

There was one outing where he pitched towards the end of Spring Training in the big league camp where we really started to see it come together for him both from a physical and mental standpoint. The biggest thing with Colin was a transformation with his confidence that he built on throughout the season. With that in place, his getting to the big leagues wasn’t a big surprise.

How would you describe Justin Hancock as a pitcher and what do you see in him going down the road?

Sam Geaney: Both Colin and Justin are really close friends and work out together in the off-season. Justin got off to a strong start and split time between Double-A and Triple-A this season.

To me the big thing for Justin is to just become more consistent with his breaking pitches and really learn to rely upon all of them. He has some good velocity with his fastball but sometimes can get locked in on just one pitch.

Before he got hurt James Needy looked like he was turning it around in San Antonio.  What was the difference between him in San Antonio and El Paso?

Sam Geaney: Ultimately it comes down to pitch execution. James isn’t someone that is going to blow people away and I thought his stuff was fairly consistent between the two leagues. He did pick up in San Antonio, we got some mechanical issues taken care off, but a lot of is just there is less margin of error in Triple-A as compared to Double-A.

That initial adjustment can get to a lot of guys.

Two pitchers that also got some interest are Tayron Guerrero and Casey Kelly.  What did you think of their seasons?

Sam Geaney:  With Casey it is a little bit of a broken record, but the main thing was just getting him healthy and back to the big leagues. We were able to stretch him out and the velocity is still there and the breaking ball is starting to return. I didn’t have a ton of familiarity with him but it was a productive year with him.

Tayron, as you know, just has a tremendous arm. The main thing that comes to mind with him is an outing that I saw him have against Corpus Christi in Double-A where at one at-bat he must have thrown 15 or 16 pitches, nearly all of them around 100 MPH - and he ended up getting the guy. If you are aware of where he started, that is big achievement for him.

He comes from a really small island off of the Caribbean coast of Columbia [Bocachica] and didn’t start playing baseball until he was 18. He’s also the only baseball player to ever come off of the island. So he is 24, but young in terms of baseball.

For him to get to Triple-A this year is a big step for him along with getting former big leaguers out at that level. Going forward I think Tayron being able to have more control with his slider is the key. He’s going to play winter ball in Venezuela which really should help his development.


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