Randy Smith on DSL Padres prospects

Randy Smith has been an integral part of the revival in the Dominican Republic. The San Diego Padres international scouting director talks about the newest crop of prospects that signed this year as well as those who played in the Dominican Summer League this season.

You brought Luis Domoromo, Alvaro Aristy and Adis Portillo to PETCO Park – what was the reason behind the move?

Randy Smith: The reason that we did it was to introduce them to San Diego and show them where they're going to be playing. That was part of the thing when we signed them, we said ‘look, we'd like to bring you to San Diego, show you the ballpark, get a physical, and get a chance to take some BP on the field.' It's another selling point, plus from our standpoint, with the money we've invested in them, we want to make sure we got a good look at them.

How did they come away from that experience? Did you get a chance to talk to any of them? Did you say "wow, so what do you think now?"

Randy Smith: It was a great experience for them. Obviously, they were impressed with the ballpark and the city. Getting a chance to hit on the field was a special thrill; meeting Hoffy (Trevor Hoffman) and (Jake) Peavy and Bud Black, it's a nice little head start for them.

You have your reports, you've seen them. Has anything changed from the time you signed them until now in how you feel about those guys?

Randy Smith: No, we continue to be impressed with their physical tools; we thought they had good makeup. I would say a lot of those things are just reconfirmed after the weekend. For 16-year-old kids, they all handled themselves particularly well. I'm impressed with the way they carry themselves.

Jorge Minyeti had a great season down in the DSL. Were you expecting the kinds of strides he made this year?

Randy Smith: He had a terrific year as you said. I've always liked him. When we signed him, I thought he was a guy that profiled well for what we're trying to do; a guy who can play up the middle and has some pitch recognition, strike zone discipline, a good little line drive hitter. He's gotten his hands and his wrist and forearms stronger. He had a terrific season.

Jonathan Galvez had one bad month and then turned it on near the end – what was the reason for the poor showing in July?

Randy Smith: I think it's like we talked about. With the way our division is set up and the age of the Washington pitchers in particular, it's actually tougher to hit in the Dominicans than in Arizona. They're seeing a lot of release players, 21, 22, 23 that can spin a breaking ball, have some velocity.

It's just like Liriano, those guys have a reputation and they get pounded with the breaking ball. He became a little frustrated not seeing the fastball, probably didn't lay off the breaking ball as much as he should. He's another guy with very high on-base percentage, and I think has plate discipline and pitch recognition. He scuffled, and had a bad month; that's kind of typical of, really, any player. I think he's pleased with how he finished up. I think he's right on track.

Rymer Liriano broke the DSL Padres home run record but also had a ton of strikeouts. Is that a concern?

Randy Smith: No, not really at his age. You've got to remember he started the season at 16, turned 17 in the middle of June or towards the latter half of June. Again, the power numbers, I think he got a little pull conscious at times and they also fed him a steady diet of sliders. He, like Galvez, had a reputation within the division that he's a guy that can do some damage and probably saw more breaking balls than anybody else. I think that in the long run it will probably help him.

Juan Oramas pitched like Johan Santana this season. What has been the key to his success?

Randy Smith: He's a guy that knows how to pitch. He's a somewhat physically mature guy; good changeup; breaking ball that he throws for strikes; his fastball has improved a little bit this year, but is still fringy average I would say. I think the biggest thing for him is he can get the off-speed stuff over and pound the strike zone.

Pedro Hernandez walks just eight on the year and throws strikes. Is he an advanced feel pitcher or is it his stuff?

Randy Smith: A little bit of both. He's got an exceptional changeup, a good breaking ball and he's got a good fastball, a projectable kid, he just had a fantastic year; 74 strikeouts with I think six walks, that's a tremendous, tremendous ratio.

Pedro Martinez is seen as someone with a lot of upside. Was there concern about the high walk totals?

Randy Smith: Well, a converted guy, his first full year on the mound. I think he's just got to learn how to harness his stuff. I think, we obviously still like him, still think he's got a lot of upside, think he's a major leaguer. It's a question of just harnessing his stuff and getting him in the strike zone. With more experience that should happen. He needs to get in a little better shape too. To me, the two things he needs to work on is firming up his body and gaining experience on the pitching side.

He needs to work on are getting himself into top condition, top shape, and just getting experience on the mound. There's no questioning his stuff, it's just really experience on the mound, harnessing it and getting it in the strike zone.

Does the same also hold true for a guy like Juan Herrera?

Randy Smith: Yeah, Herrera, his ball moves so much, I think that's part of his issue with the walks. He's got to learn that he doesn't need to aim for thirds. I think he just needs to throw the ball down the middle of the plate and let the ball work for him. He started the year at 16, so he's probably one of the youngest guys, if not the youngest guy in the league. He's got great stuff; he'll be in instructional league here in the States. I think, really for him, it's just experience and realizing maturity, realizing that he's got a whole lot of life and to let the ball work for him.

You mentioned to me during the season that Erick Ojeda was a guy who made a lot of progress. What kind of progress is that?

Randy Smith: Just maturity. He has come so far since we signed him; a big kid out of Columbia. He has firmed up his body; he's a man; he's in the strike zone a lot more consistently; he's working down in the zone better; velocity has come up. He's still got a ways to go, but we're very pleased with his progress. We kind of figured he was a three-year DSL guy when we signed him, and he pitched pretty darn well this year. He still needs to continue to make some strides before he's ready to pitch over here.

Is there anyone else down there that impressed you despite what the numbers might say?

Randy Smith: There are guys that we like, obviously. I thought (Juan) Chavez and (Luis) De La Cruz were two guys that we value and have high hopes for. Both are good body guys with good arms; starting to figure it out.

For Juan Chavez, it seemed like it was the homer that got him down.

Randy Smith: Yeah, he gave a bunch up. I'm looking at eight of them right now. The thing for Chavez, he's a converted guy; he was an outfielder that was converted. Sixty innings, 46 hits, 52 punch outs, he threw the ball over the plate. Pretty good, all in all I'd say a pretty good year. A substantial improvement from a year ago and he's still got some room for some growth. I was pleased with his progress.

Luis De La Cruz, I guess just getting it in the strike zone. I think he hit 12 batters this year. But, outside of that, if he could get it in, they weren't hitting it.

Randy Smith: I think both of those guys, they're both big kids; both strong; both with good arms. It's just experience and maturity and, like you said, getting it in the zone and making quality pitches. Those are two guys that, as I said, we value and think have a chance to be pretty good pitchers down the line.

What can you tell us about the newly signed Yefri Pena?

Randy Smith: Pena is a guy we have had an interest in since April. We had him in our big international workout. He's a strong kid, power potential, third baseman, runs pretty decently. We stayed on him and were on him in July.

He had higher expectations, and we continued to follow up with him and check in with him on a regular basis. He finally said, ‘hey, I want to be a Padre, I'm ready to sign.'

His demands were more reasonable to what we thought the tools were. He is one of the profile guys for July 2nd; another one we're very pleased to add to the group. He's 6-foot-2, 185, probably 190-pounds, he's a big kid already.

Has there been anyone else you have signed that you are excited about?

Randy Smith: Since July 2nd, that's been the one with significant upside I would say. We did sign a kid, I'm not even sure that we've got the paperwork dry yet, a kid from Columbia. Big 6-foot-7 guy, 19 years old, basically we like the body. His last name is Ceren, first name is Maury. 6-foot-7, rail thin, like 165.

That is pretty thin.

Randy Smith: He's got some curveball potential. Right now, he's throwing 86, 87. Hopefully he's going to put some weight on, get some pro instruction and maybe we have something.

You mentioned I think Juan Herrera coming to the States for instructs. Are there any other guys in the DSL coming for instructs here Stateside?

Randy Smith: Yeah, there will be more; the guys that you would expect to be coming, Galvez, Liriano, Aristy, Domoromo, Portillo, Hernandez, I think that's it. It would be Hernandez and Herrera from the pitching size, Galvez and Liriano position player wise, and then the three new guys.

The three new guys coming here too? That's going to be interesting.

Randy Smith: These guys are 16, they have a chance to be special kids, and I think that's the way any organization would handle players of that caliber and that upside; you want to get some exposure to the States. Obviously they're quite young.

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