Today Sam chats about the Padres’ prospects in the Midwest League.
Michael Gettys really improved this year with a 100 point increase in his on-base percentage but some national pundits were not impressed. How about you?
Sam Geaney: With the exception of maybe Franchy Cordero, the strides he made in the system were unrivaled. We started to see it happening in Spring Training with a few mechanical things but then as the season went on it became apparent that it was going to be sustained.
Other than the mechanical adjustments that he made in the spring with Lance [Burkhart, his hitting coach last season in Fort Wayne and hitting coach/manager in Lake Elsinore this year] a lot of the improvement also had to do with how he approached his off-season and of course the growing maturity and mental awareness that he showed thought the year.
For example, he used to go home and lift really heavy weights and now he has geared his physical training more towards baseball and has gotten leaner and stronger with his core strength.
But, the biggest improvement with Michael is just how much he has grown mentally in understanding the game.
We weren’t sure Brad Zunica was going to last the whole year in the Midwest League, but he hung in there. What did you like and what are you looking for him to improve upon?
Sam Geaney: Our guys did a lot of work with him on his swing and getting him to cut down on some of the movement. When he got to the Midwest League some of the velocity and off-speed was really affecting his ability to be on time.
Like a lot of young players Brad is only a few years out of high school and is adjusting to playing against much better competition and learning how to deal with both success and failure. We liked what we saw.
He’s probably the toughest critic on himself, but he’s learning how to work to improve on what he needs to get better at. He had a little bit of a wrist problem toward the end of the year which was hampering him, but he had a good year. We also liked the improvement defensively.
Austin Allen had a big year with the bat. What made him such a good hitter?
Sam Geaney: He sees/tracks the ball very well, is on time and he has a good idea of what he is trying to do at the plate. Offensively he got off to a very good start and when he is consistent with his up the middle approach he is a very tough out.
How was his progress behind the plate?
Sam Geaney: It was very good. We thought he improved at least a half a grade on the scouting scale. Really everything picked up as the season went along - there were some minor regressions - but he, and his bat, are ready for the next level.
Ruddy Giron struggled at the plate from the second half of last year until the second half of this season. What were the problems and what caused him to break out of it?
Sam Geaney: Some of the expectations may have been a little high just because of the great start that he got off to last year when he first got to Fort Wayne. It took awhile, but the league started to make some adjustments to him and Ruddy had some things he needed to address on both sides of the ball.
There was a lot of work going on behind the scenes on getting him in a better position to cover the plate and in a good hitting position that really started to come together at the beginning of July. The second half it really came through and carried over to Lake Elsinore.
The one thing that has always been consistent about Ruddy is his attitude and work ethic which is the same regardless of the results.
Carlos Belen was another player that was much better in the second half than the first. What was the change?
Sam Geaney: It was kind of the same process as with Ruddy. The thing about Carlos is that any time he steps on the field, he is usually the most talented guy there. The big improvement with him this year was just learning how to prepare and how to focus during games. He realized that by doing that he was putting himself in the best position to succeed.
The tools are all there and aren’t going anywhere. Our job is to continue to find ways to bring them out.
I thought Alan Garcia was a better player than his numbers indicated. What were the reasons why you kept him in the Midwest League as opposed to sending him back to Tri-City?
Sam Geaney: Even though Alan may not be one of the faster guys in the organization, he is one of the better outfielders based on his arm, routes and knowledge of the game. We had some guys that may have had to be at levels they shouldn’t have been just because of our personnel needs, but I do think the year was a positive one for him too.
He is another guy who is very young, but also talented. The key will be for that talent to come out on the field more next season.
For pitching how much is the organization influenced by Tampa’s model, of generally keeping young pitchers at the same level for a full year or are you much more individualized in your approach?
Sam Geaney: Everything we do is always trying to figure out how to get the most out of the individual, but we also do look at the macro - or big picture - as well. We like keeping guys together as they move up because we believe they learn more and push each other and become better than if they were more on their own.
We kind of had that philosophy at Fort Wayne this year and you will probably see it again next year with some of the pitchers that we have in our system.
What was the most impressive thing about Jacob Nix this year?
Sam Geaney: He had a tremendous year and we liked how he competed and threw the ball over the plate. There were times when he had all three of his pitches working and looked really good. There is not a whole lot more you can ask of a young pitcher; he stayed healthy, took the ball and got better.
He had some of the highest average velocity of anyone in the system.
It seemed like Austin Smith was moving from an athlete/thrower to a pitcher this year. What did you see in his development?
Sam Geaney: I think he had an up and down season. He is very talented guys and found that when he prepared the way he needed to he pitched well. When I say he pitched well, he executed his pitches, which is what we are more concerned at this level as opposed to results. He’s a very young pitcher, he pitched well in the Instructs and I think he will take a lot of positives into next year.
How is Logan Allen’s arm and what did you see from him this year?
Sam Geaney: He ran into some health problems mid-year but we were very happy with his rehab starts. He pitched on Thursday in PETCO and looked great and touched 95.
We are working on getting his delivery a little more consistent and a tighter breaking ball; specifically a shorter, harder curve ball. He works quickly, sometimes a little too quickly, but we are really happy with his progress.
Some Padres’ fans look at Anderson Espinoza’s statistics and ask what is all the excitement about? Ok, so tell us, what is the excitement about?
Sam Geaney: [laughs] Anderson has one of the easiest mid-to-upper 90s fastballs you will ever see. On the scouting scale [20 to 80] he is a 70 athlete with an 80 makeup. He has an infectious personality and is a blast to be around. He has one of the better changeups in the system and the one thing that we have been working on is improving his breaking ball.
We found some grips that he can work with during the Instructs and we think you will see improvement with that pitch next year. His athleticism helps him to repeat his delivery and he is a bigger guy than his listed height - which is what he was when he was 15 or 16 years old. He is probably about six-foot-one and a very solid 200 pounds.
All the boxes on what you look for in a pitcher are checked with him.
Tomorrow we look at the Padres' top hitters for their California League affiliate, the Lake Elsinore Storm.