Interview with Paul DePodesta Part III

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

High A: California League: Lake Elsinore Storm

Cedric Hunter has had a big year in Lake Elsinore. We thought he would have a pretty good year in the Cal League because you didn't have a real strong team in Fort Wayne last year. How has his defense looked, and why doesn't he steal more with his speed?

Paul DePodesta: I'm not sure why he doesn't run more because he is on base pretty often. He has played a very good centerfield and he has been better than some people thought he would be at the beginning of the year. The thing that has always impressed me about him when I've seen him play is there is just not a lot of weak contact. He puts a lot of balls in play, and he is just one of those guys that has a knack for putting the barrel of the bat on the ball. He puts up quality at-bat after quality at-bat and puts the ball in play somewhere hard. He's a young guy just 20 years old, and I think he's had an outstanding year. His power right now is just developing and has really started to come the second half of the year. Although San Antonio is a tough place to hit, I wouldn't be surprised if his power numbers continue to increase there and over the next few years. I would say almost more than anyone in our system he has the knack for putting the bat on the ball.

How bad was Kellen Kulbacki's shoulder? Also his offensive stats speak for themselves how has his defense been in RF?

Paul DePodesta: Good, injury wise he has been coming along. He's been hitting without any pain. Last time, they tried to progress him and then he started getting pain again in BP, so we didn't want to take any unnecessary risks. Like you said, his offensive production speaks for itself. I don't think you could ask anything more of someone in their first full year of pro ball. Based on his plate appearances, he was leading the Cal League in batting average, on-base percentage and slugging, so those are tough to improve upon.

He's also played a very good right field. He has a good arm and has a handful of assists out there and has played well. When you take a guy pretty early in the comp round who you think is a pretty polished bat you hope that he is going to go out and put up some numbers, but you couldn't ask for more than he has done this year in the Cal League.

Drew Miller has pitched well at times this year but also struggled as evidenced by his 5.98 ERA. Sometimes he has dominated other times he's just gotten hit pretty hard. What has been his biggest problem this year, has it been trying to throw more two-seam fastballs or is the Cal League just that tough on pitchers?

Paul DePodesta: I'm not sure, but there is no question about the stuff. He is in the low-to-mid-90s, good breaking ball and change. As you said, the Cal League can be a pretty tough place to pitch. We are pretty aggressive in developing our pitching prospects and making them pitch, rather than just getting by with stuff, and I'm sure that is part of it. We can look past some of the numbers on Drew in terms of his ERA, he's still striking guys out, he's controlled the zone pretty well and his stuff is all there. He's only going to continue to get better.

We had a chance to see Cesar Carrillo a few times before he got hurt, and he was amazing. How far back is he from surgery and when do you think we will see him return to form?

Paul DePodesta: We certainly hope so. We know it's a process, and he is fighting through that process right now. I saw him a few weeks ago, and the first inning or two his command was off, and quite frankly, he just wasn't as firm. Then the next two innings we saw flashes of what he was, hitting the corners, good velocity, very good sink and an outstanding changeup. It seemed to all be coming together then in the next inning he got tired and the command wavered.

You know they often say with Tommy John that the last thing to come back is the command. He's still building up his arm strength, he is now touching where he used to sit, and we expect next spring he will be sitting in that area and the command will be back to what it was. Like I said, he's fighting through it right now, and I think we will have a much better read come next spring.

Low A: Midwest League: Fort Wayne Wizards

I was really impressed with Jeremy McBryde when I saw him in Fort Wayne this year, although his stats don't really show it. Are his secondary pitches finally coming along and do you expect a big year from him next year in Lake Elsinore?

Paul DePodesta: Yeah, I think he's a bit of a sleeper right now in terms of someone that hasn't gotten a whole lot of attention. He has good stuff and throw a lot of strikes, in some ways maybe too many strikes; which is a great problem. I would expect that he is someone that will have some very good years going forward. We are very high on him.

When the team drafted Lance Zawadzki the knock on him was the he hadn't yet played up to his tools because of injuries and some other issues. The past few months, he's starting to show some of his potential. He plays the middle infield, has a good arm and some power, what do you think of him?

Paul DePodesta: I think you summed it up really well. The first two months were a struggle for him, which is typical of lot of players in the Midwest League whether it's the weather or just adjusting to the better competition, but he has really turned it on in the last few months. He's done a nice job of controlling the zone, he's hit for power and is 24-for-26 in stolen bases and is a switch-hitting shortstop with a plus arm. It's a nice package and has been pretty exciting to see it come together in the past few months.

Before he got hurt you had to be impressed by Drew Cumberland. Do you think he has enough arm to stay at shortstop?

Paul DePodesta: He was another guy for who it was just starting to come together before he got hurt. Obviously, we are very high on Drew, we took him early in the comp round last year, he's only 19, and we knew we were pushing him to put him in the Midwest League. We wanted to get him the experience, and quite frankly, he has exceeded our expectations in what is a tough league for hitters. It's too bad that he has been set back by injuries, and recently, just as he was getting set to come back, he was set back by another freak injury with a dislocated finger.

Hopefully, we can get him on the field more next year. The tools are all there, plus speed, the arm, although it doesn't play plus is good enough for him to stay at short, but the rest of his game exceed its actions and will certainly give him a chance to stay there, and if not, we definitely think he can be an offensive second baseman or even center fielder.

Mat Latos didn't get to pitch much this year in FW. How has he been looking in his rehab and where do you expect him to start next year?

Paul DePodesta: The last question you would have to ask Grady in terms of where we expect to start him next year. He's another guy we wish could have stayed healthy a little more. He had an oblique injury earlier, which is always a little tricky, we brought him back and then he tweaked it again. This time we've taken it really slow with them.

The other night he went five innings and was everything that we have seen in the past. He punched out nine, didn't allow and hits or walks. So he is certainly back and will get a few more turns before the end of the year. We will see where we can start him next year, but there is no doubt that the stuff is electric and that he has very good command considering how big the stuff is. It's a pretty exciting package.

For our final segment Paul DePodesta let us know who may be the best player to come out of Eugene, what happens if Arizona's Jaff Decker goes 0-for-50 and even breaks down some prospects from the Dominican League.

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