Padres Interview Exclusive: Tye Waller
Tye Waller: The best way to describe my job is that I am a type of General Manager for all of the Padres minor league teams. This includes not only all of six of the teams in the minor league system, but also for developmental teams in Venezuela and the Dominican Republic. My duties are to work with the staff and attempt to come up with a plan for every player in our system on how they can improve their abilities.
We have four staff members at every level in addition to roving instructors who visit all of our minor league teams at least once a month. I try to visit each team in the organization at least once a month to monitor the progress of our players.
John Conniff: In recent years the Padres have drafted heavily with college players, but according to Baseball America four of your top prospects, Josh Barfield, Freddy Guzman, Ben Howard and David Pauley are high school players. Additionally, many minor league pundits would consider Sean Thompson and Justin Germano top players in the system as well. Will the Padres begin drafting more high school players as the big league team improves?
Tye Waller: That is a tough question to answer. Bill Gayton is in charge of selecting players and tends to favor college guys. However, if the right player comes along, such as Barfield a few years ago, we would probably take him. It all depends where you draft them and what their values are. Its really attempting to have a balanced approach, a good player is a good player.
John Conniff: Both Josh Barfield and Khalil Greene were consistently ranked in the top 100 MLB prospects. What skills does each of them have that stands out to you, and what do you think they need to work on?
Tye Waller: Khalil Greene made adjustments throughout his time that he has been with us. He started out slowly in Mobile last year, but made adjustments in his game and kept his confidence. The next step is for him to do it at a MLB level.
Josh Barfield makes adjustments and changes on an at bat basis, daily, weekly and monthly basis and at the end he puts up some great numbers. He needs to continue to improve defensively at 2b so he can stay at that position as he moves up. Josh Barfield defensively had the best fielding percentage for second baseman in the league. I believe he will be a major league second baseman. Really, a great guy, very hard worker.
John Conniff: A frequent criticism of the Padres system is that there are a lot of players that are too "old" for their leagues. This was particularly true for the Fort Wayne team in the Midwest League. Does the team look at the age of the players in the league and how would you respond to this critique.
Tye Waller: Because we tend to draft players out of college we had some players that were slightly older than others in the Midwest League. However, a lot of our "core" players Kennard Jones, Luis Cruz and Paul McAnulty were not old players. I look at our guys as individuals because as college guys we try to push them depending on their development. The average age of teams throughout our system not old, especially when you look a the core players or prospects.
John Conniff: The Lake Elsinore team made quite a few errors last year, what do you think was the cause of this?
Tye Waller: The faster surfaces in the California League caused a lot of the errors. However that isn't an excuse, we are working with a lot of the guys Sain, Barfield, Furmaniak and Johnson to improve defensively.
John Conniff: Last year Mobile was scheduled to have 7 of the top 10 prospects in the Padres organization for 2003. Phillips ended up being part of the Trammel trade and Bozied was sent to Portland. What happened? Why was the team not as successful as it could have been.
Tye Waller: I don't think the team ever recovered from its bad start. At the beginning of 2003 we really thought the Mobile team would be our best team. Players like Vince Faison, Todd Donovan and Ben Johnson really struggled, which resulted in us not having enough offense. If you look at the games most were very close, but the pitching couldn't carry us the whole year. We're trying to change that this year and placing more emphasis on plate discipline, getting your pitch to hit, not the pitchers. We need to get the most out of every position player this year.
John Conniff: This years Portland team will be returning quite a few guys from last year - Tagg Bozied, Bernie Castro, Tank, etc. Does the organization worry about players getting stacked and not being able to fulfill their potential and how do you prevent this?
Tye Waller: I can remember when guys had to repeat a level, because someone above them was so good. I think this will make players force there way into the upper levels. It's really a good thing for an organization to have so many talented players. I want guys when they go to the next level to be prepared to play at there immediately.
John Conniff: Jake Gautreau, the number one pick from 2001, was very inconsistent last year. Although he was one of the team leaders in most offensive categories, including home runs and RBI's - he still struck out 131 times in 438 ABs. What type of future do the Padres see for him?
Tye Waller: I believe we will see improvement from Jake at the plate this year. He needs to show more plate discipline, he just tried to do too much last year. You can't hit a five run home run. Defensively Jake made some strides, but we feel its going to make him even more valuable as a player if he can play both second and third base.
John Conniff: Final question, in the March 17, 2004 edition of the Union Tribune Padres farm director Bill Bryk picked pitchers William Ponce and Brian Whitaker as his "picks to click" in 2004. Who are yours?
Tye Waller: I like Brian Whitaker a lot too, good sinkerball, slider pitcher. He is really improving as a pitcher. Kennard Jones is another player who should get some attention, a very hard worker, very focused on what he is trying to become both on and off the field.
John Conniff can be reached at email@example.com