Interview: Mobile hitting coach Arnie Beyeler

The unforgiving Southern League has been a place where San Diego Padres' prospects see their numbers take a dive. But are the numbers a fair representation of success for Luis Cruz, Drew Macias, and Michael Johnson – to name a few? We asked Double-A hitting coach Arnie Beyeler about those players and more in a recent interview.

How do you measure success throughout the season?

Arnie Beyeler: Mainly with the guys getting better with their mechanics and learning how to have better at bats, seeing pitches, getting into good counts, swinging at good pitches, recognizing pitches – from that standpoint usually when you do that stuff right the numbers take care of themselves.

More and more people are getting off the batting average and getting on on base percentage, slugging percentage. We kind of look at that stuff. We keep a quality at bats stat that for us as a team is a measuring stick more than the numbers. Guys getting deep into counts, moving runners, and all the stuff that doesn't come up in the boxscore.

I think your team was second in the Southern League in walks and might have been first if Brett Bonvechio had been there all season. Is that part of the plan?

Arnie Beyeler: Yes, there is no doubt that Grady stresses that a lot. That is a big part of seeing pitches and working good at bats by the more pitches you see and becoming more confident in your ability even if you do end up hitting with two strikes more. It gets the guys used to hitting with two strikes earlier in their career so it is not a big issue. Guys hit with two strikes all the time anyway. Percentages say you are going to hit there. Getting to two strikes for the right reasons – not just taking pitches but because you are not getting a quality pitch to hit. That is one of the things that factors into things.

Jacksonville had a good year and a lot of good at bats and they were first in quite a bit of the league. We held onto that second spot pretty well and the guys did a good job with that and it was a good deal.

A guy like Luis Cruz who was the youngest guy on the team has a lot to learn in all aspects of hitting but during the year he had a tale of two seasons. He had a slow start, was hotter than anyone through the middle and tailed off at the end.

Arnie Beyeler: A young kid and he is still learning. He has all kinds of ability and probably has more power than a lot of guys we had on that team. He really needs to learn, and got better with it as the season went, to use his strength of getting into counts and getting a good pitch to hit. He is a good example of a young kid who needs to work through the system and improve his at bats. And he did that this year. When he had the hot streak and the good couple of months he was doing a great job of getting good pitches to hit and using his ability of using the whole field and playing the game.

As all hitters do, sometimes they get caught up in the numbers and want to be a little bit more productive and you end up chasing poor pitches and trying to be too aggressive and things like that. You hurt yourself that way. But he had a solid season. From a developmental standpoint he did a real good job and got better. He is a strong candidate to get promoted and end up in the big leagues soon.

Drew Macias is a guy who is learning how to fit into his body after gaining some weight this past off-season. He had good parts to his season and not so good parts.

Arnie Beyeler: Another kid that is starting to mature and learn his swing. Again, when he gets ahead in the count and gets some good pitches to hit he can really drive the ball. He really made some improvement this year on using the whole field and the whole thing of quality at bats.

He is a dangerous hitter. He can drive the ball out of the park and can also bring some speed to the table and is also a solid defensive player. Another kid that hopefully we can see in the big leagues some day pretty soon and has a lot of ability.

Michael Johnson is probably the most unlucky player in this organization. It is tough for him to find his rhythm when he is injured all the time. What did you see from him?

Arnie Beyeler: That seems to be the history with him. Going back to the Cal League days he got hurt against us while we were playing him. He is a guy that has a target on his back and whenever things are going good for him he gets hurt. It is a tough thing.

He is a good kid. He works hard. He brings a lot of ability to the table and we just have to keep him healthy and see where he ends up.

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