Interview with Paul DePodesta Part II

Paul DePodesta answers whether the Padres think Will Venable can be an everyday centerfielder in the big leagues, Matt Antonelli's tough year in Portland, and if San Diego will ever move Kyle Blanks to the outfield.

Triple A: Pacific Coast League: Portland Beavers

Will Venable has had a big season with the Beavers. Do the Padres see him as more of a left fielder than can play center or as an everyday centerfielder?

Paul DePodesta: Right now, given where his offense is, we definitely feel that he can play every day in centerfield. It's something that we had talked about when he was in Fort Wayne, and he had played there a little bit in San Antonio. Last year, he played primarily in right field and did an excellent job there. Given our Portland roster and the needs at the major league level, we felt we had nothing to lose to challenge him out there in center field, and he has certainly rewarded our faith.

He's really played very well defensively, and his offense has been everything we had hoped for this year after a bit of a struggle for him last year at San Antonio.

When we talked to Grady Fuson before the season in 2007, he said that he hoped Venable would just hit in San Antonio but that he expected him to really put up numbers the next year in Portland. You can speak to this better than most having played baseball at Harvard, what is the competition like in the Ivy League and how amazing a jump is this for him?

Paul DePodesta: There is no doubt just in raw baseball terms he was relatively inexperienced in terms of baseball, even though he was slightly older in age. He's a tremendous athlete, makeup, great worker and just real natural instincts for the game, which is the reason for his success in center field. Last year, we jumped him from Fort Wayne to San Antonio, which everyone knew was really going to challenge him, but everyone thought he would be better off at the end of the day.

I think it's an unusual situation because of his age and background. He was fairly inexperienced, but he has made quite a leap, and he has put himself in a position that he is knocking at the door on the major league level.

Since the Padres sent Paul McAnulty down he has put up some serious numbers, including a .748 slugging percentage compared to a .341 in San Diego. With Chase Headley in LF is there a chance P-Mac could become an effective player off of the bench for San Diego?

Paul DePodesta: I certainly think he could because he has hit everywhere, in the organization and in college. Even in San Diego, when you take a look at his numbers in left field, when he started and played left field, his numbers were pretty good [.268/.413/.454].

His OBP was pretty good, which has always been a big strength of his.

Paul DePodesta: Absolutely. I think he can be an effective hitter at the major league level, and he's also played a very solid left field, which I think has been overlooked. He was a DH in college, but he has played quite well out there this year and certainly can play quite a number of positions along with a solid left-handed bat. I wouldn't be surprised if he winds up with a nice major league career.

Wade LeBlanc has picked it up the past few months, how has his two-seam fastball been developing?

Paul DePodesta: I think to some degree it is the key for him. There is little doubt that he has an outstanding changeup that has really helped him move through the levels and will help him on the major league level. I think the two-seamer will help complete his reportois and certainly has helped him through the course of this year. I think we all knew that we were pushing him to some extent this year to go to the PCL. He only had about 50 or 60 innings in Double-A, and it been a little bit of an aggressive move, but we thought he could handle it. He did struggle early but has really taken off and done an outstanding job. He's one of those guys that rose to the challenge and made him that much better because of it.

Peter Ciofrone had a twenty-seven game hitting streak and has hit for more power ever in his career. What has been the reason behind this?

Paul DePodesta: Not necessarily, but for the slugging we have a theory that guys like Peter who have a good foundation, the power will come. He has always had a very good approach at the plate and has always controlled the strike zone and had that foundation of being a good hitter and this year that power has finally come. He's had a fantastic year, no question about it.

Matt Antonelli is finally coming out of a long slump in August, after struggling since the end of July last year in San Antonio. We've talked to a few people in the organization who believe that he was having trouble hitting the outside pitch. Do you know of any adjustments that he has made to finally start producing?

Paul DePodesta: I was up there fairly recently and talking to Randy Ready [Portland's manager] about him, and he said that he was having great BP sessions but was having trouble taking it out into the game, so it was starting to come.

I think early in the year when he got off to a slow start, he started to hear from a lot of people. A lot of people were telling him what he was doing wrong or what he should be doing, and we finally got to the point where we said let's just leave him alone. Let him take BP, but let's not be in his ear and tell him to make all of these adjustments, and I think it's paid off. He's had a great August so far and the one thing that never wavered with Matt was his plate discipline.

Month to month he had terrific plate discipline, which encouraged us all along that he was going to pull out of it. He's shown that he has power, and early I think a little bit of was bad luck and then it just started to snow ball. Hopefully, he can finish up the year the year strong.

Double A: Texas League: San Antonio Missions

We get this question all the time from our readers and I've asked it previously to both Grady Fuson and Gary Jones, so why not try for the trifecta with you?

Kyle Blanks is having a big year but every time we ask if the team has any plans to move him to the OF so the big team can play both Adrian Gonzalez and him at the same time, the answer is always no. Why is that?

Paul DePodesta: [laughs] I defer to Grady on that one because this is really his area. Like you said, Kyle has had a tremendous year and something that gets overlooked is that he is only 21, which probably gets overlooked because of his size.

He's a big man who is really a good hitter, kind of the same with Ciofrone. He really is a good hitter and showed that in Fort Wayne, the Cal League, and now. The power has started to come on as the year has started to go on. The key is he has that foundation of being a good hitter first. That will really help him going forward. The combination of size, age and performance really makes him a good prospect.

I think this is also the first time he has gotten the chance to play every day defensively at first base. In Fort Wayne, he shared time with Daryl Jones and last year with Craig Cooper. He's really taken advantage of this opportunity and done a great job, and this may be part of the reason why some people are reluctant to move him to a different position because this is really his first exposure to playing first the whole year.

As you know, he does move well, not only for a big man, but for anyone. So, he does have that flexibility even if it isn't in the plans right now.

Will Inman has had a good season but he does something unusual for Padres' pitcher at this level, he has quite a few walks [66/127 BB/K]. What is the reason behind the high number of walks and what is the team doing to improve his command?

Paul DePodesta: Walks have never really been an issue for him until this season; it was actually one of his strengths that he walked so few people. I don't know what exactly it is, but part of it may be that Will likes the punch-out. He's racked up plenty of them over the course of his career and this year. He certainly tries to be fine with his stuff, and when I've seen him pitch, he certainly is fine, the ball doesn't see the center of the plate very often. It may have just gotten him in a little bit of trouble this year but then again this is a guy given his age and performance at each level of the minor leagues he's still someone that we are very high on and think is going to perform.

Chad Huffman has had a good but not great season. He's had some strange splits hitting really well on the road but not that great in San Antonio. Did the organization expect some higher production from him or has had a series of nagging injuries like last year?

Paul DePodesta: San Antonio is a tough place to hit and especially for right-handed hitters. We're very pleased with the year that Chad has had. We sent him up to San Antonio at the end of last year in his first full season and kind of challenged him and he did well. We think he's going to continue to move up, and I wouldn't be surprised if his numbers, which are already very good, will surge next year in Portland. He's another guy that has that foundation of being a good hitter, actually he's bordering on being a professional hitter, and I think he has a chance to be that on the major league level.

Drew Macias seems to have turned the corner this year in San Antonio, he's one of the leaders in the Texas League in walks, is hitting for a good average - .293 and as always is playing a good defensive center field. Is there any reason why he is playing so much better this year?

Paul DePodesta: I'm not sure; he's also hit for some more power this year. He's really put it together. Last year, it seems that Drew really started to embrace the hitting program here and it showed. A big component of that program is doing damage; it's not centered on getting walks. It's about letting certain pitches pass until you get one that you can do something with. I think this year after embracing the program last year, he's really brought it all together and has done as much or more than anyone can ask of him. I think that is more of a reason than anything else. He's always had the skill level, he's always been a good defensive player, he's always been able to run and I think he can put the bat on the ball.

In Part 3 DePodesta gives us his assessment of Cedric Hunter, how Cesar Carrillo is progressing from his Tommy John surgery and sleepers in Fort Wayne.

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