The story of the year in Eugene has been the play of Dan Robertson, a 33rd round draft pick. I know you saw him play recently what impressed you about him?
Paul DePodesta: Sparkplug. He's the type of guy that is an engine that doesn't stop. He's beaten out infield singles, he's stealing bases, and he's just a baseball rat. He is real easy to like when you go see him play just because he plays so hard. He also does a lot of interesting things; he controls the zone very well, has some speed, little bit of power and can play some defense. Other than the ridiculous batting average that is leading the league there are some other tools behind that. I think it's fair to say he's been a nice surprise, but those guys that play all out all the time can play above their tools.
Blake Tekotte has also performed very well in Eugene can you also give us you're scouting report on him?
Paul DePodesta: Quite frankly, Blake has been pretty awesome. We were pretty excited to get him. He was the top centerfielder on our board; he was sort of a target guy for us. So far, the only thing that has surprised us about him is the power. We had a lot of confidence that he is surprisingly strong and can do some damage out of the leadoff spot, he can really run, play defense, find a way to get on base and disrupt the other team; but he also has some real pop in there. I was just writing this for my blog: if Blake were qualifying for the league rankings in the NWL he would be leading the league in slugging to go with a really good on-base percentage and batting average. He's really been fantastic.
With so many talented OF's both in Eugene and in Arizona does the team believe they will keep both Logan Forsythe and James Darnell in the infield? I mean right now you look like the organization could have a pretty serious logjam in the outfield next year in Fort Wayne and Lake Elsinore, which is a good problem to have.
Paul DePodesta: [laughs] Yeah it's a high class problem. We've had a number of extra picks the past few years and fortunately a number of those guys have done well in addition to a bunch of international talent, and I'm not even talking about the guys we have added this year. A couple of the players that have been a little under the radar, Yefri Carvajal, Luis Durango, Jeudy Valdez and Felix Carrasco also are there. We have a lot of guys in addition to the draft guys that are going to create a lot of competition for at-bats, which I think is a fantastic problem to have. I don't think anyone has ever been in a position where they say, "Gee we have just too many good players."
With Darnell and Forsythe, we think, at this point, they will both be at third base, but I will say in drafting both of them they have the athleticism to move around. I really don't know where it will shake out, we don't like to move guys around too quickly, but we both think they can both play third. We'll see where that ends up taking us the next couple of years.
Simon Castro is someone we have always liked; the question has been how well he can find the plate. How has he been progressing this year?
Paul DePodesta: I think he's progressed quite a bit. When I was up there and saw him, it was clearly the best that I have seen him. He was much more on line with home plate and had a much better consistency from pitch to pitch. He flashed a couple of very good changeups, which was encouraging because it is something that we have emphasized with him because his stuff has previously been pretty much all hard. Again, it's a guy with a mid-90s fastball so we have been really impressed with the progress that he has made this year. He's not to a point yet where he is Greg Maddux with his command, but he's made good progress. With his big stuff, if he can keep going in that direction, it will be an exciting overall package. He's a big tall guy with a very quick arm and good stuff, if he can continue to make those strides, he will be fun to watch.
Jaff Decker has had the best debut of any of your picks this year. The most impressive thing about him is he seems to be a poster child for the team's approach of patience and power. Did the team see that approach from him in high school?
Paul DePodesta: Yes we did. The one difference is in high school – I think he hit around 20 home runs in about 60 at-bats. He was a very patient guy that had quite a bit of power. In terms of the high school hitters, he was the target guy. He had a really good approach at the plate and has quite a bit of power to go along with it. He's leading the league in nearly every offensive category.
He can play some defense too; the organization has been rotating him in all three outfield spots.
Paul DePodesta: We've been giving him some exposure in center field as well as the corners. He threw 92 as a pitcher in high school so he has an above average arm out there, and he can run a little bit too. He's seven out of eight in stolen bases and is a better athlete than given credit for. Just because he's not 6-foot-2 and lean, some people don't see it, but this guy is an athlete. He just has an unbelievable eye combined with some real power. For a kid to walk into Arizona and play with a wood bat for the first time to do what he has done is pretty remarkable.
Again, I was writing this for my blog this morning to put this in perspective what his on-base means he has a .523 on-base percentage, which is very good. To get an on-base percentage of .400 is very good. If Jaff were to go 0-for-56, he would have a .400 on-base, which I think is just stunning for someone in their first half of pro ball.
Catcher Robert Lara appears to be a huge steal in the draft. Why wasn't he promoted to Eugene and do you see him having a chance to be the starting catcher in FW next year? Really how many of these guys do have a chance to go from a complex League to the Midwest League because that is a huge jump.
Paul DePodesta: It is a big jump from the Arizona League to the Midwest League, especially for position players. I think we have a handful of players here this year that could do it and Robert could be one of them.
Last year, Carvajal essentially did it, he didn't have too many at-bats in Eugene along with Cumberland.
Lara has played extremely well; he's controlled the zone, playing a premium position defensively. He's a little older than some of the players in Arizona, but it doesn't take away what he has been able to do offensively. I think he's a guy that would certainly be able to make that jump.
Can you tell us a little about outfielder Jason Codiroli and Aaron Murphee?
Paul DePodesta: Jason Codiroli is someone that we took a little bit later, outside of the first ten rounds. He's a centerfielder, he can run, does a nice job of controlling the zone. Not a lot of power but has a solid foundation. He's one of those prototypical top of the line-up guys, someone that can run, get on base and play some good defense.
Murphee is a big guy with big power. When we drafted him we were intrigued by the power. We knew he had big numbers in college, has a propensity to strikeout some, but we thought it was a worthwhile trade off with the power that he has. It will be interesting to see how that develops.
Paul DePodesta: Osuna has really done a nice job of commanding the zone. Good sinker – just has a nice compliment of pitches. The sinker is probably the best pitch but everything projects as being at least average. He gets a lot of ground balls.
DePaula is a lefty and another guy with good command. Good changeup, and he has really come on during the season. At the beginning, I think he was a little tentative in terms of attacking hitters and has really turned the corner. They are both interesting guys, young guys with good command, good changeups and could be guys that have a chance to move for us.
Final question on two players that the organization has in the Dominican League, second baseman Jorge Minyetri and pitcher Pedro Hernandez., can you tell us a little about them?
Paul DePodesta: Jorge Minyeti is a switch-hitting middle infielder that has mainly played second base there, because of Jonathan Galvez. Good hands, good middle infielder actions, and he will certainly stay there. He can even play short in many situations. He's a very good looking young hitter, excellent command of the zone, good feel for the barrel of the bat, has some power and an interesting guy. Everyone is very curious to see what he will do when he comes to the States because he has really had a very good year.
Pedro Hernandez is a lefty from Venezuela, really put together; he's a little more physically mature than some of the other guys. Very good strike thrower, has a feel for the change, has a very good curve and is a guy that is pretty polished that is showing based on his performance there. He was an All-Star, and given his repertoire, he will usually pitch in the high-80s, occasionally touching 90, but given his command and his feel, he has a chance to move up. He's really not that dissimilar to DePaula, not in terms of body size, but in terms of a lefty with a real good feel for pitching, changeups and an idea of what they want to do out on the mound.
Again, many thanks to Paul DePodesta for taking time out of his day to speak with us.
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