Manager Doug Dascenzo on Wizards prospects

FORT WAYNE, IN: Doug Dascenzo is ending his second season as the Wizard's manager, his third as a manager in the Padres' system and his tenth year in the organization. He played seven years in the majors as an outfielder, primarily with the Cubs; and even appeared twice as an emergency relief pitcher with his last year coming with the Padres in 1996.

As the manager in the Padres' first full season affiliate, his job, more than any of the other four affiliate managers, is to teach a crew of former high school players, Latin American phenoms and many players coming off of three or four years of college at major universities how to play the game the right way, the professional way.

Frequently, that means explaining to players that what has worked for them in the past and would probably be effective in the Midwest League won't help them get to their ultimate goal.

The first guy I want to talk about is Drew Cumberland who has been getting a lot of attention because of his performance and age. What can you tell us about him?

Doug Dascenzo: He's been having a nice year, and it's so impressive when you think he was playing high school ball just last year. He has great speed, good bat control, and I think he will develop a little bit of power down the road. I don't think he's going to be a masher, but he's going to hit for a good average, get on base and score runs.

Defensively, he moves around great out there, and he's been working on his throwing, which was one of his weaknesses right now. He had to work a little more on his arm strength so he can play on that side of the field more solidly.

You sound pretty confident that he can stay in the middle infield.

Doug Dascenzo: Oh yeah. I think so, I don't know if it will be at short or if he will have to move to second. If he's going to stick at short, you're going to have to see a little more arm strength, which he is aware of and working on.

One of the things that I was impressed about when I spoke with him was that he seems to have a very good understanding of what it takes to succeed in professional baseball because of his brother playing six years of minor league baseball and other members of his family.

Doug Dascenzo: It's like any profession. When your kids grow up doing the same thing that their fathers or other family members have done, they are going to be ahead of the game. Being in a baseball family and baseball situations, you can see it when he plays the game by his instincts. He's not as much in awe as other guys who might not have been exposed to it, which sets him apart from a lot of high school players.

How about you're other two middle infielders Andrew Parrino and Lance Zawadzki?

Doug Dascenzo: I think Lance has all the potential in the world there is no question about it. He has power from both sides of the plate, plus arm, plus runner. Some of the things he needs to work on are his fielding techniques, he tends to field the ball behind his body, whether it's a forehand or backhand play, so that is one of the things he needs to work on. He needs to get to be a more solid defender fielding the ball because he has plenty of arm to play short. Again, being a switch-hitter than can run with power is very interesting.

You guys have him batting third in the lineup so you must think he has some power.

Doug Dascenzo: It hasn't really showed up yet in the stats, but he definitely has the raw power to do it. When his swing is right and he gets more at-bats to do it there will be games down the road where you will start to see it.

Parrino has been a nice surprise for such a low round draft pick.

Doug Dascenzo: He's a baseball player; there is no question about it. He's an average runner, can play anywhere on the field, I'm sure he could play the outfield if we needed him there. He's a real good defender, good glove guy, switch-hitter and a good player to have on the team because he can contribute in so many ways.

Another player that has flown under the radar this year is Justin Baum. When you look at the numbers he's the type of player you guys like, takes his walks and hits the ball into the gap.

Doug Dascenzo: He's a gap type hitter with some occasional home run power. He has some loft in his swing, and I think it's only going to get better as he learns his strike zone better. His weakness is his defense, which he has really worked on. He's gotten a little bit better but has a ways to go. His throwing has been inconsistent, and he needs to get that down. He's an offensive player that can drive in runs but also score runs. When he gets on base, he somehow finds a way to get across the plate.

This is my first chance to see two players that I've heard a lot about: Yefri Carvajal and Felix Carrasco, two of your free swinging Dominican players.

Doug Dascenzo: They are a couple of guys that are playing their first full years of pro ball. When you talk about them, you have to talk about the experience factor because the college guys have played more baseball at a higher level than some of our Latin American players. To see the success that Carrasco has had as far as power numbers and driving in runs, we call him a clutch hitter because with runners in scoring position and two outs he gets the job done.

Defensively, he has a few errors, and he needs to work on moving around the bag a little more. He's another switch-hitter who right now is better from the left than right side.

I didn't know until the other day when I interviewed him that his natural side is his left side and that he didn't begin hitting from the right until a few years ago.

Doug Dascenzo: Really, that is interesting. I didn't know that either, you would assume it would be from the right. In any event, he can hit the ball a long way along with Yefri Carvajal. Carvy is another good one, a very strong kid with a lot of power potential. His weakness right now is plate discipline and learning what pitches he can really handle and laying off of the breaking ball.

He's improved quite a bit this year. He has a tremendous throwing arm and more times than not it's accurate, but that is usual for a player at his stage. These guys don't have that many games under their belt, and it's nice to see them competing and have success against players with more experience.

How about Luis Durango, the Northwest League batting champ last year? He was kind of been caught up in a numbers game with all the outfielders that you have here.

Doug Dascenzo: I wish we had two DH's so we could hit 10 guys, but he did a nice job of making the most of the playing time when he got it. With Payne, Chalk, Perry and Carvajal it's kind of been a bit of a rotation. In the beginning, when it was cold, he struggled some with a lot of the other guys, but once it warmed up, he got going and has done a nice job since. On his defense, he needs to work on his routes and angles, but he throws the ball surprisingly well for a player his size. He has an average arm. He's a speed guy that needs to learn how and when to steal bases instead of just accumulating them. He has a few things he needs to work on, but this was also the place where you do that.

Before I get to your centerfielders I wanted to ask you a little about Robert Perry, who I always thought was a very versatile player.

Doug Dascenzo: He's a solid player that can play anywhere in the outfield. He's got a short, quick swing that occasionally will pop one out of the ballpark. He understands the game, can steal a base, and it's real nice to have a guy like him on the team because you can put him anywhere and not have to worry. He's picked it up since coming back from Lake Elsinore and is having a nice year. Good teammate and nice guy to have on the team.

How about Danny Payne and Brad Chalk?

Doug Dascenzo: Danny has been hampered by his leg injuries three different times so we really haven't gotten a chance to get him out there much, but there is no question that this kid can swing the bat. He has some power for a short but stocky guy. Throws the ball very well and is a good defender. Right now, he just needs to get out here and get some at-bats under his belt.

How about Chalk?

Doug Dascenzo: Chalkie has come a long way. He's worked very hard, great defender, plus runner, learning how to steal bases, understanding what it takes to steal bases. I believe he hasn't been caught yet. Plus, plus range in the field. His arm is a tick below average, but very accurate. A good base runner, kind of a slash hitter but we are working with his foundation to give him more leverage so he can hit the ball with a little bit more authority and drive the ball into the gaps a little more. We need to get him in the weight room so he can get a little bit stronger and he has a good frame to put on some more weight. It will be a year or two before we really start to see him drive some balls.

What do you mean by understanding when to steal bases?

Doug Dascenzo: We can put anyone out there and just have them run, but to have the success rate that you need to have to steal bases there is a lot more to it than that. Understanding when the pitcher is going to be his slowest to the plate, recognizing that situation and not missing the opportunity to run in that situation. It's knowing how well the catcher throws and what the count is; for example if it's 0-2 and you are a known base-stealer there is a good chance there could be a pitch out because you are a fast guy.

Knowing the first and third situation and nobody out and a left-handed hitter up is more of a hitting situation than a stealing situation because if he pulls it on the ground it's a hit, or if it's in the air it's a sac fly. Those are just a few of the things that you are looking for.

If a pitcher is slide-stepping to the plate on the first two pitches and both are balls and he does a conventional leg kick on the third pitch, which takes him 1.5 to get to the plate, then I'm stealing on that pitch and I'm safe on a 2-0 count.

Our hitting philosophy is to look for a pitch that we can handle but the batter takes it, and now we have a runner on second with a 2-1 count. Because both players recognized that the pitcher had a leg kick on the third pitch and that is how you get ahead.

Your point is that someone just doesn't trot down to first thinking "I am a fast guy" and take off. It's great that you have speed and now we have to build upon it.

Doug Dascenzo: We have a player like Andy Parrino, that isn't the fastest guy in the world, but is a green light guy because he understands when to run and when not to run. He can steal 15 out of 20 or 20 out of 25.

Cumberland was 16-for-20 before he went down.

Doug Dascenzo: There is a difference between accumulating bases and learning to become a base stealer. At some point in time, you have to learn that. It's the same philosophy with our pitching and hitting programs. At some point in time, you have to learn what pitch you can hit. You just can't step up there and do it your way and hit .340 in this league, do it in the next league and then hit .180 in Double-A when you should have been learning how to hit down here.

What we are teaching them is what it's about and how to play at the major league level. So, we may not have a big quantity of numbers, and we are talking about base-stealers with all the speed we have here, but we aren't going to steal third base with two outs because there are hardly any reasons to do that.

If you are Drew Cumberland on second base with two outs, you don't need to steal third because you are going to score on a base hit. More importantly, they don't do that at the major league level, so we are going to teach it the major league way.

I wanted to talk to you about Mat Latos, who really hasn't gotten that much of a chance to pitch since he pulled his oblique. What did you think of him?

Doug Dascenzo: He's got an outstanding arm. Throws the ball in the mid-to-high-90s, nice sharp breaking ball, but he has to learn the changeup and learn how to pitch. He can go out there right now and throw his fastball and get these guys [Midwest League hitters] out all day long, but at some point in time, he has to get a third pitch and learn how to pitch to get major league hitters out. He's shown that he can throw some good quality changeups; he just doesn't throw them enough because he wants to go back to his comfort zone. He has a great arm, but he can blow guys away all night long, but that really doesn't help his development.

Jeremy Hefner has probably been your best pitcher this year how does his future look?

Doug Dascenzo: He has three pitches that he can throw over the plate. He has a plus changeup, plus slider and his velocity doesn't blow you away, but he has a good differential in speeds between all three of his pitches. So, you have three pitches with three different speeds and that is what gets guys out. He moves his fastball around, great kid and pays attention.

His velocity is in the high 80's?

Doug Dascenzo: Around that but he's touched 90, 91. It has a lot of angle and tilt on his pitches so that helps out a lot as well.

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