Smith discusses Padres international talent

The San Diego Padres international talent has made tremendous strides under the direction of Randy Smith and his staff. And there is a new wave of talent ready to hit the states, including Jose De Paula, Junior Veras, and Al Angelucci. spoke with Smith about the newcomers and many old favorites.

Since locking up the names around July 2, did you sign any other players out of Latin America?

Randy Smith: It is a 12-month process. We have already signed nine guys this year – as of November 1. We are constantly looking at signing players. (Wilton) Lopez, who was just put on the 40-man roster, we signed about this time last year.

Is there anyone that excites you at this early stage?

Randy Smith: It is early. There are guys we signed that are exciting – nine guys from four different countries. Three are from Columbia, two from Venezuela, three from the Dominican, and one from Australia.

There are two pitchers out of the DR that are good bodied guys with arm strength that we feel pretty good about, Juan Herrera and Pedro Martinez.

Talk about the Australian kid you signed.

Randy Smith: Al Angelucci. Trevor Schumm signed him. Signed a guy before Christmas over there. 6-foot2. 190-pounds who was an outfielder that showed arm strength and Trevor decided to try on the mound. This kid, in the three weeks he has been on the mound, looks like he has been there all his life. In the bullpen I saw, he was 89-91 with some life and there is probably more in the tank. He had a really good-looking curveball and a feel for a changeup. I think it was pretty good eyes by Trevor to put him on the mound, and this kid has taken to it like a duck to water.

He is going to turn 20 at the end of July. A converted guy who never got an opportunity as a position player. Trevor saw him throw and said we would like an opportunity to look at you on the mound and here we are now.

Good body, good athlete – it looks like he was born to pitch. I was pleasantly surprised what he showed in the bullpen. He was 90-91 and I think there is more in there and potential for a very good curveball. In that short a time – to be able to spin the ball so tight? Trevor kept telling me and to be honest I was a little skeptical.

Naylor caught him. He said the same thing we were all saying, ‘That stuff would compete well in Arizona.'

Any chance we will see any of these guys in the states this year?

Randy Smith: I would say that more than likely all the Latin guys will pitch in the Dominican Summer League, especially with the new complex opening up and this being their first year.

Angelucci – there is a chance he pitches here because I think he is ready to face the competition here rather than pitching in the academy in Australia. He might be the one guy heading this way.

We talked about the Dominican team being a young group last year. Are we going to see any of those kids graduate to here?

Randy Smith: I would think the one guy that jumps to mind if Jose De Paula, the left-handed pitcher. He was terrific down there and is ready to handle the move here.

Osuna is another. He pitched in the Dominican last year and would probably pitch over here – a Venezuelan kid that has a good feel for pitching and has had two good years and is ready to make the next step.

Junior Veras is a pitcher from the Dominican we signed last year that is probably ready to come over. He didn't pitch a whole lot last year. He had some injury problems – cut his hand and some problems with that. But he is 6-foot-2, 190-pounds with an average fastball, good slider and throws strikes.

For Jose De Paula - how has the changeup progressed in the last year? I remember you mentioned that as a pitch you would like to see improvement with.

Randy Smith: Last year, he primarily got by on his curveball and fastball and would mix in the changeup. That is still a work in progress and be something that when he gets over here will use more because he will probably need it more.

This guy has a good feel for pitching. I don't think it will be an issue for him moving forward.

You look at Viloria. The changeup came real fast for him. I think it could be a similar situation.

The hitting wasn't great in the DSL and it was a young team but Daniel Garce had a good average. Is he a candidate to come over?

Randy Smith: I like Garce. He probably needs another year in the Dominican, realistically, to give him a chance to play on a regular basis again. He has some life in his bat and is an interesting kid.

Is Murray Hopley going to finally play?

Randy Smith: He is coming off his arm stuff. He should be ready to go in Spring Training and has to show everyone what he is capable of doing. It seems like he has two strikes on him and it isn't necessarily his fault. He is healthy and in shape. He says his arm feels great. We will see what he can do.

This guy is a baseball player and has some bat potential. We have to get him on the field, and he has to show us what he can do.

What happened to Felix Carrasco this year?

Randy Smith: Carrasco – out of shape in my opinion. He had the knee injury, which hurt his mobility and got heavy trying to come back from that. With the knee problem and extra weight, he just did not have a good year.

I think he will come back with renewed enthusiasm and in better shape, and we will see what happens. He has power, he has some agility for a man his size.

He had a poor year and needs to regroup.

John Hussey had a terrible year from a confidence standpoint but rebounded in Instructs. Does he get it?

Randy Smith: Hussey got the Most Improved Player in Instructs.

He has great mechanics, good stuff, he just needs to realize he doesn't have to do anything more. That is the thing – he hasn't realized he is doing enough.

Last year in Arizona, he was fourth or fifth in ERA and still not convinced. The thing for him is confidence and maturity. He is starting to get a little older but hasn't filled out like he can. When that happens, I think his velocity is going to go up more.

For him it is all about confidence.

The stuff is there. He has a chance to have three average to above-average pitches with the fastball, curveball and changeup. It is a question of him taking it across the line and believing in himself.

You mentioned to me that Juan Chavez and Jose Paulino were guys who could be interesting – do you still feel the same?

Randy Smith: If you look at Chavez, De La Cruz are interesting guys arm-wise. Garce, interesting. Paulino has to show me a little bit more. We have some guys who will be in there second year in the DSL and other like Liriano who enters his first year that will pop up and be guys that can come over and contribute.

We have always talked about Clint Naylor gaining weight. Is that still an issue?

Randy Smith: He has done that. I just saw him in Australia. He has put on about 20 pounds. He is stronger up top. I actually think he needs to loosen up and get into game shape when he shows up in March.

Clint realizes he had to get stronger. He had a tough year last year with the foot bothering him all year. The bat speed has to pick up. He has to show everybody he can handle the bat. He has a very good understanding of the strike zone but needs to start driving the ball and showing us he has some bat potential.

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