Lower levels offer lots of prospects

Former Eugene Emeralds hitting coach and current AZL Padres manger Jose Flores spoke about the reactions of Kellen Kulbacki, approach of Danny Payne, Andy Parrino MVP, future success of Yefri Carvajal, makeup of Eric Sogard, improvement of Brad Chalk, attitude of Lance Zawadzki, surprise in Drew Cumberland and struggles of Felix Carrasco.

Kellen Kulbacki had a slow start but turned it on down the stretch. What adjustments did you and he make?

Jose Flores: With him it was just pitch selection and recognizing what they were trying to do to him. Kulbacki was always in that ‘driving in' frame of mind sitting in the four or five-hole, knowing there would be runners on to drive in. He needs to be more selective on what he is trying to do with runners on and no runners on.

There were days he would first-pitch swing in four consecutive at bats. He needs a little more patience and when he gets into a fastball count that he has to be ready to recognize it and put a good swing on it.

When he came on at the end and starting getting his home runs, the majority of the homers he hit were solo shots. Why? He was jumping on that first pitch fastball or jumping on a fastball count. He started reading it and reacting to it.

For him, it is a matter of being confident. Once you gain that confidence it is tough to give that back because you know what you are looking for, what you are seeing, you are recognizing and attacking it. His hitting was a lot more pitch recognition, knowing what you want to hit when ahead in the count and being ready to hit every pitch – assuming every pitch will be a fastball.

He has really come along. Outfield-wise, he has improved 100 percent. That was one of his flaws, I thought. He wasn't really fast in reacting to balls in the outfield. His first step quickness – he has made some unbelievable plays in the outfield.

He is going to be someone to watch.

Danny Payne seemed almost too patient from the start. How were you able to get him swinging at pitches he could drive?

Jose Flores: He is going to be one of those philosophy guys – the more pitches he sees, the more walks, on-base percentage.

He needs to know, as he gets older, those things are going to have to change with his approach. The worst thing you want to do as a hitter is to not always be hitting behind in the count. He found himself hitting behind in the count. How aggressive can you be when you are behind in the count? How many balls are you going to pull and drive? When you are behind in the count, you take a two-strike approach and don't try to do too much with the pitch. You try to put the ball in play and hope for a hit or maybe even drive it.

You are not really going to drive a lot of pitches when you are behind. You might get it every other at bat but not every time.

Andrew Parrino seemed to hit the ball hard when he connected and was a gamer. Is cutting down on his strikeouts the key to his success?

Jose Flores: Parrino was my MVP after Durango. He was my best player offensively and defensively. He was really steady at short – made the plays and put the ball in play and hit the ball well.

He did a real good job down in the Instructional League.

As he gets older, he needs to understand what they are trying to do because he is always being moved around in the lineup. It is hard to adjust when you are being moved around. It is easy to get comfortable if you know you are hitting ninth everyday. You know how they are going to pitch you in the nine-hole.

For him it is going to take time to adjust to where he hits in the lineup, who is in front of him and behind him, and what they are trying to do. I think with Andy it is about more time, seasoning, more at bats, and how they are pitching him on a daily basis.

Yefri Carvajal seemed to swing at just about anything. What will be the key to his success moving forward?

Jose Flores: The key with him is he needs to continue to get more at bats. A lot more times to recognize off-speed pitches. The key for him is to start really recognizing those things – knowing in certain situations that they are going to throw him that breaking ball. When is the best opportunity in the count to sense when a breaking ball is going to come.

He is a great fastball hitter. As you get older and move up in levels, you are going to have guys who are more consistent throwing breaking balls over for a strike first pitch or any count they want.

His key is to have more patience and not going up there with a 2-0 count or 1-0 count that they are going to automatically throwing him a fastball. He is in that gear where he says, ‘Ok, they are going to throw me a fastball. They are behind in the count and have to throw me a fastball.' No matter where it is, he is going to be swinging at it.

Patience – he has to learn and understand which pitch he hits the best and in what location. Whether it is a fastball middle-in or middle-away, a little high or a little low – whatever he thinks his red zone is that is where he needs to look for that pitch when he is ahead in the count.

Eric Sogard has good command of the strike zone. How can he take his game to the next level?

Jose Flores: Sogard – great makeup. An old school kind of player that will always give you 100 percent, whatever is in his tank.

Sogard is going to have to work on middle, middle-away pitches and driving the ball that way. He had a little bit of lag when he goes the other way. He needs to focus on letting the ball get there and taking the same approach where he is hitting over the ball instead of underneath the ball so he can have more drive the other way.

He is not a guy that chases out of the strike zone. As he gets older and start recognizing the pitches being thrown to him on a regular basis, I could see him shortening up even more so to focus on the one pitch, one spot theory all the time.

He has great command of the strike zone. He knows what he is trying to do up there. He will put a bunt down when he needs to. He is an all-around player – a baseball player.

You only had Brad Chalk for a bit down the stretch. What were your impressions of him?

Jose Flores: I could see Chalk being a big leaguer once he understands he can pull the ball and hit the ball hard.

He had back problems in Arizona before coming up. The way he moved around and approached the game was a little different. He looked like he wasn't aggressive, taking command of the outfield and running routes. He is an ‘eight' runner – which is above average big leaguer. The way he ran the bases didn't give me that impression. He wasn't aggressive. He didn't run enough for a guy with that type of speed. He has to incorporate all those intangibles into his game – whether it is hitting the ball into the hole and running or in the outfield or laying down a bunt.

The routes he ran in the Instructional League were great. He was getting good jumps on the ball, showing off his speed, laying a few more bunts down.

His biggest problem is he is a shifter – he is shifting and slapping the ball the other way. He doesn't need to do that all the time. I can see him driving the ball into the gaps and really staying behind the ball and squaring it up instead of cutting himself off on his swing. When he does that there is no juice in his bat. They are going to start pounding you in. Get that little extension to go the other way.

He was staying behind the ball better and starting to come around (at Instructs). He understands what we are trying to get out of him. I see him as a big leaguer.

Lance Zawadzki was another young man you had down the stretch. What does he need to do to be successful?

Jose Flores: He is one of those guys that needs a lot of help on the mental side of the game and his approach in the game.

You don't know what you are going to get from him everyday. He is a guy that you have to continuously keep your arm around him, pumping him up to get the best out of the guy.

If he goes 0-fer, he is pouting and thinking no one likes him. The war is over. It is not that – it is we will get him tomorrow.

He has potential. He has pop in his bat from both sides of the plate.

Has anyone surprised you among the players you have not seen before?

Jose Flores: No one really jumps out at me as the next big prospect. I see a lot of talent that if they can make the adjustments they know about and really grasp could take it a long way.

Drew (Cumberland) impressed me in different ways. He can fly, really fast. He needs a lot of work defensively. I know he is only 18. I look at him and know he is going to mature. He has a great work ethic. I think he has a future.

Felix Carrasco – it didn't seem like he was doing a whole lot of anything. They had even changed him so he was hitting left-handed all the time. I didnt see it.

Jose Flores: He is switch-hitting again.

When he went up (to Eugene) he wasn't the Felix Carrasco of the year before that everyone was raving about. He gained 25 pounds. He got lazy. His work ethic was questionable. The league was a little overwhelming. He couldn't make the adjustments coming from Arizona where you only play day games to playing only at night, playing in front of fans was a change – all in all I think Carrasco needs to go back and work hard to get that weight off. He lost a step and is only working at first base to give him an opportunity to maybe make a team.

Really focus on what goes on between the lines and not what goes on outside the lines.

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