Fuson on Eugene Emeralds prospects

We sat down with Grady Fuson, the San Diego Padres vice president of scouting and player development, for his thoughts on this year's Eugene Emeralds.

Level: The Northwest League is the higher of the two Rookie Leagues or short-season league teams of the Padres. At this level, you will see college players that the organization took in the draft along with players from last year's Arizona League team who have been playing games in extended spring training.

With players coming in from long college seasons, the organization will usually try to keep the players at the position they were drafted at and do little to tinker with their games. The key part is to get the players into the system and used to the rhythms of the professional game, which means getting used to playing every day.

Season Recap: The Emeralds had one of their best teams in a recent years and featured the Northwest League Player of the Year, Dan Robertson – a 33rd-round draft pick. Rob Musgrave also made the post-season All-Star team on the back of a fine debut season. Eugene also got solid performances from Simon Castro, Blake Tekotte, Sawyer Carroll and Pablo Menchaca.

The Emeralds went 40-36 and were in the Northwest League playoff hunt until the very end. If the team had been able to get a few more of the 2008 draft picks in earlier, they may have won it all. There was that much talent in Oregon this summer.

This has to be the best outfield that you guys have had in a long time in Eugene. Tekotte, Carroll and Robertson all put up some great offensive numbers this year. What stands out about each player for you?

Grady Fuson: Robertson just had a magic year. He's a gamer, sparkplug and was the MVP of the league. His game needs very little maintenance; he's short to the ball, understands the zone, tracks balls well and has a good arm. There are just so many things in his game to like.

Tekotte was a bigger name coming out of the draft. He's a plus runner, gets off of the ball well. He has a slasher swing, but with surprising power. He's similar in a way to Robertson but different too.

Carroll is more of the prototype big corner outfield guy, 6-foot-4, plus power, good arm and he put up some good numbers when he was in Eugene this summer.

You played Cole Figueroa equal amounts at second and shortstop. Which position do you see him playing more of next year?

Grady Fuson: It's one of those things we are going to have to figure out in instructs and in the spring. We have some shortstops in [Drew] Cumberland, [Beamer] Weems, [Jeudy] Valdez and Figueroa, and we have to figure out how we get these guys playing all the time. Weems is a guy that is the best pure defensive shortstop that we have; he can flat out play, but his bat is a bit of a reach. Valdez is more of a grooming guy, and Cumberland is someone that we really like with tremendous athleticism.

Figueroa is more polished at the position, knows how to react, controls the zone very well at the plate and has a quick arm and bat. He doesn't have the speed of the others but he can play.

Matt Clark was able to take advantage of some late signings and get some playing time in Eugene. He's got some good size and put up some power numbers at LSU, what do you guys project for him?

Grady Fuson: He profiles well at that position. He has huge raw power, but has a lot of work to do with his approach and defense. We all know that the power won't play itself out if he doesn't refine his pitch selection at the plate.

Rob Musgrave made the NWL all-star team and led the team in wins and strikeouts. He threw quite a few innings do you guys have any plans to start him next year and if not where do you envision him?

Grady Fuson: It's most likely that he will be a starter in Fort Wayne. His innings were so high in college we tried to limit his work in Eugene. We didn't want him to have a big inning summer, but we tried to use him in a competitive role. He's a very polished pitcher, good leverage, throws downhill and he doesn't really need the instructs this fall.

Simon Castro really came on this year. What was the reason for his success?

Grady Fuson: Simon is really starting to grow and mature as a person and a pitcher. We all know that he has a gifted arm, but what good is velocity if he can't control the zone?

We worked hard on his delivery and finish, and he really improved all summer long, from the beginning to the end of extended and from the beginning to the end of the season in Eugene. His slider is still a work in progress; sometimes it has some bite and fell, other times it can get sweepy and big. His changeup is also starting to come around.

James Darnell hadn't played in that many games, but he put up some numbers. Is the performance he put on right now what you envisioned for him?

Grady Fuson: He is a good athlete, has good size, life in his body and is a good defender. He didn't play that many games because he signed late, so I wasn't that surprised to see him put up the numbers that he did. If he did it for the whole summer, then, yeah, that would have surprised me.

We asked Paul DePodesta this and wanted to get your opinion. With so many talented outfielders 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.

Grady Fuson: It's a good problem to have [laughs]. I've said all along that we are trying to build a system that not only produces players for the big league club but also has depth. As for Forsythe and Darnell, both performed at a high level in college, both play third base and are athletic. Darnell is probably the more athletic of the two and we kind of thought of him the way we did of Antonelli in that this guy could make the majors in a couple of different positions, all the outfield, third base and even possibly second.

So, if next year you had to pick either Darnell or Forsythe to move to second, it would probably be Darnell?

Grady Fuson: Possibly, but right now we are getting ready to kick off a five-week instructional league so we will have more time to figure out where everyone has a chance to end up.

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