Catching reigns in the Padres' system

Finding quality catching is one of the toughest things to do within a farm system but the San Diego Padres have stocked their system well over the last few years and roving instructor Carlos Hernandez is excited about the young talent. Brian Hernandez, Clint Naylor, Matt Stocco, Nick Hundley, Colt Morton, Luke Carlin and Brandon Gottier are just a few names in the pipeline.

How has Brian Hernandez handled his role coming from the draft? He obviously started lower than he probably would have liked.

Carlos Hernandez: Brian came from the draft. This kid has big tools. I think he has a big future. The way he works, the way he wants to learn and the way he does the job at that age is pretty good. He is taking it serious. He knows he has to work hard to make it to make it to the big leagues. He has what we are looking for. Defense, he knows how to call games, he throws the ball pretty well to second with good accuracy. He hasn't played much but he showed that he can hit too. I think he has everything. He just needs to explode that talent and the only way is playing more.

Clint Naylor's work in Peoria was impressive. He had to work multiple games in a row when Ali Solis and Hernandez were down. Talk about his game.

Carlos Hernandez: Naylor is 17-years old. He just turned 18 and he never played that many games. At that age it is real hard…remember those kids are playing every day. His body is not used to it. It is demanding and this is professional now. He has to learn how to block, he has to learn how to call games, he has to know how to develop a relationship with the pitchers – they have to understand that the pitchers are their best friend. He has to try and learn how to show the pitching staff that he is back there for them. The pitcher has to have confidence in him and the way to do that is showing he can block and he will take care of the game.

It is a long process but everybody is happy with these kids. They know that baseball is all about being professional. It is hard to make it to the big leagues and take care of your family after that. There is a lot for any baseball player to learn. These kids are top of that. They know this is a job and that they have to improve every year and learn as much as they can. What are your thoughts on Matt Stocco? He obviously has a great arm, but what are the challenges?

Carlos Hernandez: We are still working with him. His defense has seen a lot of progress. Throwing people out – we are working on some of his mechanics and we have to take advantage of the kind of arm he has. He is a serious kid. He doesn't complain about anything – and you are going to see guys that complain about everything. He plays when he needs to play and when the manager tells him to play. This kid has a real good work habit.

Stocco has the tools.

Nick Hundley has made some big strides – what is his future potential like?

Carlos Hernandez: Unbelievable. I see the reports everyday and everyday it is something good talking about him. Defensively and offensively and he is swinging the bat well. Hundley – what I like about him is he knows he can do the job. If he makes an error or does something bad, he knows about it and tries to work on it. He knows he has the tools. He has shown to the organization – he has big talent and a bright future to be a big league catcher.

The big thing with Colt Morton has always surrounded his mechanics and footwork. What has the progress been like?

Carlos Hernandez: If you see the difference, and I didn't know him before this year and what I hear before because he was too big he wasn't good at blocking, throwing and that kind of stuff. But he has made a big, big improvement this year. His blocking – his throwing the ball is right there to the base. Sometimes you have to know that the pitcher does go too slow to home and they don't have a chance. But every time they have a chance, like Morton, he is doing a tremendous job. He is calling good games.

This is what I like. He has shown he can be a big league catcher.

The best defensive catcher in the system has been said to be Luke Carlin. Do you agree with that assessment? And if so, what makes him so good?

Carlos Hernandez: Right now, Luke is the best defender. I enjoy working with him. He is a guy that when I go to Portland or anywhere else to see him play, he already has a couple of points he wants to work on. We were working on a pickoff play to first base. He wasn't real comfortable doing it. We did it one day and he threw the guy out at first base that night. He was excited like I was too.

We are very happy with Luke. He has shown how much he wants this game and that he wants to be up there everyday. He has shown a lot of progress. I think it was a great job that he did this year.

Brandon Gottier got a shot down the stretch. What have you seen with him on the catching front?

Carlos Hernandez: He has shown a lot of progress in throwing and blocking. He is a kid that can call and control the game. He works well with the pitchers. I think he needs more hitting but that is not my job. He has a lot of progress and had a chance to show he can be a good catcher.

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