Mid-season Mobile update with Padres' Tye Waller

San Diego Padres' Director of Player Development, Tye Waller, joined up with John Conniff to get a mid-season update on the prospects within the system. Waller touched on how Mobile is one of the toughest places to hit and spoke regarding players such as Greg Sain, Josh Barfield, Ben Johnson, Todd Donovan, Brad Baker and more!


Every year so many guys go up to Mobile from Lake Elsinore with great offensive stats and really struggle, why? Is the pitching that much better in the Southern League?

Tye Waller: I think the best players are in AA, tool wise. The weather is tough, ballparks much more difficult than in the Cal League, where a lot of the numbers can be exaggerated. When a player goes from the California League to the Southern League they shouldn't hit as well.

Greg Sain and Josh Barfield are both having good seasons in terms of RBI's and power, but are striking out quiet a bit - how are the Padres trying to address this?

Tye Waller: I really don't worry about the strikeouts as much as I do as what happens when the ball is put in play. The real question is how are they striking out that is really the true indicator. Are they striking out on a certain pitch? Are they missing the ball? You really have to look at all of the variables. Both Sain and Barfield are aggressive hitters that expand the zone, which is why they strike out in bunches. Also, guys are now pitching around Sain because of his power. With Greg Sain I always knew that he had power, not as much power as he's shown, but I always knew that he could hit. He just needs to be more consistent with the bat. If can hit for that type of power and drive in runs, he will find a place to play in the major leagues.

Josh Barfield's walks are up too, but he also needs to learn to control the zone. He's starting to come around and I think you will start to see his average climb. I think he will hit around .270 and .275 by the end of the year.

For the past three years the Padres have played Greg Sain at catcher, third base and first base - but this year primarily at first base. Does the team still plan to have him catch much in the future?

Tye Waller: We will have to make a decision on that, he needs to be an everyday catcher if he is going to become a catcher, but we also need to have that bat in the line-up everyday. The problem with Greg catching every day is his body becomes sore, which affects his hitting. Right now his best position is first base.

Ben Johnson is another prospect in Mobile with a lot of tools, who seems to be on the verge of becoming a better player. Besides cutting down on his K's what does he need to work on?

Tye Waller: Ben is basically the same type of player as Barfield and Sain. Ben is still a very young player, and his power is starting to show up. Like Josh and Greg, he needs to get better plate discipline and still needs to improve in other areas as well. It is important that he continues to refine his game ever more and develop into a guy that can hit 20 to 25 home runs. Again, he is so young you never really know what he may develop into.

Any reason why Brad Baker hasn't been promoted to Portland yet? He's currently leading the Southern League in saves and his overall stats are very impressive.

Tye Waller: What we like to do is put guys in roles where they can be challenged and be the most effective. We think being the closer in Mobile with the game on the line is more of a challenge right now to Brad than going to Portland and being a middle guy. Right now, we are trying to get him to use his fastball more and not rely on his changeup as much. In a sense, we are teaching him how to be a closer and we don't want to rush players before they are ready.

Todd Donovan was having a good year, before he went down with an injury. How does he fit into the Padres future plans?

Tye Waller: Hopefully he comes back and can get some playing time at the end of this year with Mobile. Todd is finally buying into the plan about what type of hitter he should be. He's they type of player that needs to keep the ball out of the air and take advantage of his speed. If he can play the kind of defense that he is capable of at higher levels and maintain his hitting, which he was doing before he went down, he could have a chance.

John Conniff can be reached at Conniff@sandiegosports.net

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