Grady Fuson Q&A

Untouchables on the Padres' farm? How close are Matt Antonelli and Chase Headley? What players fell shy of expectations? How can Tim Stauffer and Mike Thompson get back on track? What happened in Portland this year? Is the depth of the farm system where it should be? We asked Grady Fuson, the Padres' vice president of scouting and player development, all this and more...

Is there ever an untouchable in your own minor league organization?

Grady Fuson: I think there can be numerous untouchables depending on where your club is, what your near, close, needs may be.

Nobody is ever untouchable because it is hard to say what kind of deal. If you get Sandy Koufax, nobody is untouchable.

If you are fighting a playoff spot and lacking a fifth starter and have a chance to pick up a good one – hey, you have to look at some things.

No matter what goes on down here, we always have to remind ourselves it is all about the big leagues.

When you look at a club like ours – we are destined to be a byproduct of our own scouting and player development.

When you look at the needs of the club next year, we are not sure what is going to happen in centerfield, second base, third, left. Some of these players become semi-untouchable based on their level of play and how close we feel they could be from the big leagues.

How close are Matt Antonelli and Chase Headley from the big leagues?

Grady Fuson: I think him and Chase are really close. You could probably say that forever until they get there and figure out what happens after two months.

The best thing we can do for the players we have done. We have drafted makeup. They are both offensive. They both control the strike zone, which is not going to change. Once you learn the strike zone and figure out the rhythm to it that is locked in. You got it. It gives you an easier way to trust what a player may go up and do.

Is Chase done building his body to a strength where he needs to perform over 162 games? No, he is not. He made major steps this year. He is committed to making major steps next year.

Is Antonelli a finished product at second base? No, let's face it. He has only been over there for a few months. Does he certainly have the chance to be a very good one? You bet. There are certain nuances that he is missing and lacking. That takes time.

Back to your question – I think they are both teetering on being very close.

Who are some of the guys you had bigger expectations for coming into the year?

Grady Fuson: Much larger expectations this year on Nic Crosta. He has had some personal issues he has had to deal with – some medical issues. That is obviously part of it. The half-year he put up in Fort Wayne a year ago, the way he got his feet wet in Lake Elsinore last year and picked it up towards the end. Those things were really promising.

There has been really no disappointment in Double-A. (Mike) Ekstrom, who was our Pitcher of the Year, didn't walk into the Double-A level and carve it up, but the good signs are he knows where he is at, he knows what flaws need to be fixed, and when you look at his last four or five starts – they have been better. That is what you are looking for. You are always looking for players to be better in August than they were in April.

Disappointed in some of the pitching in Fort Wayne. There were a lot of problems, a lot of hickeys that went wrong there. Guys struggled with the strike zone. Guys weren't backing up quality innings, much less quality starts. A setback with Drew Miller for a while. Aaron Breit got hairy for a couple of months but he got better.

I was hoping for Daryl Jones to take the next step, which he didn't, and we lost the last month.

Losing (Rayner) Contreras with a month and a half to go hurt. He is really making himself a player.

I am not disappointed in Triple-A. I am disappointed in some of the veteran pitching – their performance level. (Tim) Stauffer has been up there enough to go back and really compete at Triple-A.

What is it for Stauffer that he needs to get back to that next level?

Grady Fuson: If I knew what button to push I think we would have pushed it. It is one of those things where it is hard to figure out what is going on in his head. With young players like that who have gotten to that level, have had a taste of the big leagues and have come back down, go back up and get beat up and come back down – if you are not strong mentally you get lost.

I think somewhere along the line over the last two years he has lost a lot of confidence, a lot of his own personal security of what kind of pitcher he needs to be.

I think the same is true with Mike Thompson. Mike Thompson has plenty of arsenal to always be sitting at the Triple-A level ready to make an emergency start or something of that nature.

What happened in Portland this year? When you think about our six-year free agent acquisitions at the beginning of the year, my only disappointment is the club itself didn't stay together. When you at how the lineup should have been: (Paul) McAnulty, (Jack) Cust, (Vince) Sinisi, (Adam) Shabala. Shabala is the only real disappointment. The way the infield should have worked with McAnulty or someone else at third, Manny Alexander with (Luis) Cruz – to nurse (Cruz) along. (Craig) Stansberry has been a great acquisition. (Brian) Myrow missed the first month and a half. Both catchers were adequate. And Oscar Robles.

The reality is that club was hardly ever on the field. They were probably on the field for four days all year. I knew it wouldn't be the most powerful club, but it certainly should have been a much better defensive club. It should have been on-base oriented.

And it should have been a pitching rich club when you think of Stauffer, Thompson, (Jack) Cassel, (Clay) Hensley, (Jared) Wells in the rotation and the bullpen was all put together by numerous guys who have a history of nailing it. Low walks and low bombs. It has really been the second year in a row where that Triple-A club has really scuffled pitching-wise.

The good news is kids are on the way who are either spring or mid-summer away from having a big influence from our own system at the Triple-A level.

Is the depth of the farm what you envisioned and at a point where you thought it would be? Once you have performance and players at Double-A and they graduate to Triple-A or the big leagues, now you know you have some depth underneath. I still think we are a draft away from being complete.

I am hoping this draft will plug in some starting pitching. This draft is going to get down to (Mitch) Canham, (Kellen) Kulbacki, (Danny) Payne, (Drew) Cumberland, and how they come out of it – at least up top.

Right now, it doesn't look like we did a lot middle or late in the draft. No real major surprise. But you never know. It is hard to go out there the first summer and get a good read.

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