Dascenzo on Fort Wayne Wizards prospects

How tough was it to manage a losing ball club? How big a blow was the loss of Rayner Contreras? Did Drew Miller impress? What happened to Rolando Valdez at the end? Javis Diaz and baserunning 101? Did Cedric Hunter have a good year? Where does Daryl Jones go next? We talked to Fort Wayne Wizards manager Doug Dascenzo to find out the answers.

How difficult was it managing a squad that seemed to struggle to stay healthy?

Doug Dascenzo: Of course it was difficult. But that is part of baseball. Injuries are a part of the game and you have to deal with it as best you can.

When you lose Rayner Contreras – actually Tom King first went down with a shoulder injury and Contreras ended up missing the last two and a half months. And Schmidt comes in out of the draft and has a little bit of a tender elbow so he got shut down there.

You end up losing three or four guys and that ends up being pretty huge. It was difficult but you have to, in some kind of way, overcome it. We weren't able to do that this year.

It had to be a big blow losing Rayner Contreras when he really just started hitting his stride.

Doug Dascenzo: He is an amazing talent, no question about it. He has all the ability in the world. He has age on his side. He is young. He has been over in the states for only a couple of years. He is playing against these guys – we are very excited about what we saw from Rayner this year, even though it was on a limited basis.

You have seen Drew Miller for two years now – how has he grown as a pitcher?

Doug Dascenzo: I think he has made tremendous strides. That is another injury where we lost Drew for a little while but he came back strong. From last year to this year – last year being his first and as with all first year guys they are not real sure of what to expect. We saw that a little bit from Drew last year but this year after being in it for a year he definitely knew what he needed to do, wanted to do, and went out and did it.

He is a tremendous young arm we have in the system that we are excited about.

Rolando Valdez had an excellent year, despite some struggles down the stretch. What were your impressions of him?

Doug Dascenzo: He is a great competitor. He really gets disgusted with himself a lot when he doesn't get the job done but that just shows you the passion and competitiveness he has in him. To be a converted guy who was an outfielder before all this – he has a great arm. He has great command of his fastball, a good curveball and a great changeup – when it is on. When you look at Rolando Valdez, when he has it going on, he is pretty special.

How did you work to improve the baserunning skills of Javis Diaz?

Doug Dascenzo: As a basestealer, we talked to him at the beginning of the year. He got off to a horrible start as far as that area of his game. It was basically all in his stance. He didn't have a whole lot of balance in it. His stance never produced any kind of power or thrust, even though he had a lot of speed to do it.

He got himself into a real nice position in his stance that gave him a lot more power and thrust to break out of the block and started getting a lot better jumps. I thought he really took off after mid-May. When you couple his raw speed with some real good jumps and good technique it is pretty tough to throw him out.

A .282 average for Cedric Hunter in the Midwest League at his age was fantastic. What impressed you about the young outfielder?

Doug Dascenzo: I thought the way he went about it – he has great presence on the field. Nothing seemed to shake him up. At least he never showed it. For him to be a second year guy fresh out of high school and hit .280-.285 is pretty impressive.

Fort Wayne – the ballpark there is a pretty tough place to hit. To be honest, the grass is a little slow and I think he hit seven homeruns – that shows you what kind of talent this young man has. He has a good line drive swing. He does not back down from the game. He competes very well.

When you are talking about a high school kid competing against 23 and 24-year-old pitchers and having success doing it you have to be excited about that.

What does Daryl Jones need to do to take the next step?

Doug Dascenzo: He got off to a horrible start and if you talk to him he would say the same thing. He started to turn it around in month number three, right at the end of the first half. He started to swing the bat very well and exceptional at times.

He simply has to hit. He has to swing the bat. He has to produce. He has to hit some balls out of the ballpark and of course play some good defense.

He lost some time this year and has to get back and be ready to go in Spring Training and show people he can swing the bat.

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