Randy Ready: You are talking about a big boy and a very athletic young man. He got off to a nice start for the first couple of months and then lost some confidence, as is part of the cycle of a hitter, and then started to regain it after a two or three week period and was on his way up when the ankle injury hits, which would have been about the end of July.
He should be all tuned up now. Our last game, the doctor had given him the green light to go again. I don't know if we would have advanced if we would have activated him. I think with six weeks off, his timing was going to be a little roughed up. We were erring on the side of caution with him and making sure the wound was completely closed after they did everything and he was going to be ready for Instructional League, unfortunately.
Daryl Jones, his first base partner, had a great start to the year and a not so good middle of the year.
Randy Ready: I chalk that up to age and maturity. One of the toughest assignments in professional baseball is your first full season. So here is DJ – gets off to a great start, has a nice first half, good numbers, makes the all-star squad and then I think his confidence and ability to adjust and the day in wear and tear started to get to him. I don't think it was as much physical fatigue but maybe mental fatigue. I think that would be a feather in the cap for this young man being in his first full season.
If you come off the Eugene numbers and obviously his first year was nice but last year in Eugene was a struggle for him but he bounced back and was prepared in spring training with how he wanted to go about his business. I think that carried through for him over the first half of the season. Unfortunately, mentally, physically, he hit the wall and never really got it going. He swung the bat ok but the adjustments were tougher. Again, tough assignment in that first full season. You have to give him a "B" on the full year.
Seth Johnston's year was a tale of two seasons. Talk about his season.
Randy Ready: Seth, we had a position change. He came out and got off to a good start. He was a good RBI guy and a good clutch performer and that continued on through the whole year. He hit over .300 with runners in scoring position and had big two-out RBI's. Seth was always cool under pressure.
Defensively, with the position change, sometimes that carries over to the offense and in this case it did. When he settled down things were started to stabilize, he was playing consistent baseball. Then the hamstring injury caused him to miss three weeks and he came back and paid dearly for it over the first ten games and then started to swing it well down the stretch as we headed into the playoffs.
Mike Sansoe progressed from the start of the year to the end of the year. He really poured it on down the stretch on the run to the playoffs.
Randy Ready: Sansoe was a guy that with everyone in the outfield mix was just getting part-time play, mostly against left-handers and we tried to plug him in to a position to have success. Every time he faced a right-hander he chased outside of the zone and really wasn't making adjustments. Then, all of a sudden this kid gets an opportunity with Alley going down and Diaz going down and he stepped up his game and turned it on down the stretch to put himself back on the map again.
You mentioned Javis Diaz. He was a big sparkplug for you guys.
Randy Ready: He was. There was some question about his defense but he played fine in the outfield in his routes and threw the ball well. At the top of the order, if he got on base, he could wreak havoc.
I think the biggest detriment to Javis was just out of the 110 at bats he had there was 33 strikeouts. If he gets the opportunity to put the ball in play and utilize his speed that will be a big advantage for him.
I know Mike Baxter came out of the Vanderbilt program as a first baseman and maybe this is a fault of mine but I always imagined he would put up better power numbers, even with the move to the outfield. Is that a concern, especially at the corner outfield position or am I off base?
Randy Ready: You can never rule that out but you have to learn how to hit before the power will come. Mike had a big spring and I think that is what got him off to a slow start. He used a lot of those extra base hits in spring training and when the season started it wasn't working out for him. He hit the hardest .230 in the league up until the last six weeks of the season when he ended up almost hitting .260.
Mike's makeup is a big advantage for him. He comes ready to play and prepared to play day in and day out. Obviously, the power numbers – I wouldn't rule it out. There is some power to come. I don't know if it is going to be 30 to 40 if that is what you want from your corner guy but he has a lot of intangibles that can make up the difference as an every day player.
Randy Ready: David came in and was a big, big spark in the middle of our lineup, especially to protect Venable in that three-hole. He came up and had 40 RBI's in the 50 games he played. A mature kid and I think he definitely needed to be promoted out of the Northwest League. He played consistent baseball and contributed daily for us and played a nice third base. This kid – everyone is looking at this kid from every club and scouts are saying, ‘this kid is a prospect.'
You touched on Will Venable. Let's talk about the special season he put together in Fort Wayne. He is the minor league hitter of the year in the system.
Randy Ready: He could very well be. I would endorse that. Where he started to where he was going in the middle of the season and where he ended, great strides. Athleticism. He was our leader on and off the field. He was our go to guy. I think the players responded well to him and I think he responded well to the call and saying, ‘Let's get this done. Let's play to the best of our ability and see how it shakes out.' William did that all year long.