Fuson on Portland Beavers 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 Portland Beavers.

Level: At this level, the roster is usually divided evenly between prospects up for their final year of seasoning and players that have some major league experience that serve as a type of taxi squad for the big club.

Although Portland is not considered a bandbox, it's a much better place to hit than San Antonio. Some of the other venues in the league, Las Vegas, Colorado Springs and Albuquerque, will see the ball really fly.

Season Recap: With the Padres having a down year, many players that the Beavers counted on to be on the team for more of the year were called up quicker than expected. Consequently, Portland finished with the only losing record in the organization at 70-74. The offense was paced by Brian Myrow, who put together his second strong season leading the league in walks and OBP. Paul McAnulty, after being sent down, put up some great numbers in the final two months, and Peter Ciofrone had a 27-game hitting streak. On the pitching front, Josh Geer led the league in innings pitched and Wade LeBlanc finished second in strikeouts.

Will Venable put together the type of year you thought he had a chance to when you did a pre-season interview with us in 2007 before he began with San Antonio. There are not many players that are his age that can improve as much as he did in the short time he has been in the organization. What did you see in him that made you believe he had a chance to develop the way he did when so many others, including myself, didn't?

Grady Fuson: You have to remember that you are dealing with a very good athlete that has tremendous aptitude and who really wants this, and when you put those all together, you have something pretty special. When you are not around players everyday, it's hard to appreciate just how special this is. We are really happy at what he's done and how he's performed for us on the big club.

Matt Antonelli had a tough year except for the last month of the season. Why did he struggle and what was the reason why he finally began to pull out of it?

Grady Fuson: If I was that smart, I would have figured that out a long time ago. With any other kid, it would have broken his spirit, but Matt actually came out ok. He started off slow and then really began to put too much pressure on himself, and it came back to bit him in the butt. Things just started to go awry, and he became stiff and rigid with his load and timing. The whole process began to be trying to get Humpty Dumpty back together again.

He started to put it together in the last month, and we brought him up. He's done some positive things but also had some tough at-bats and knows he has to get some things cleaned up in his swing. In the off-season, his first priority is to get some rest, and then we need to get him on a program where he is moving in the right direction.

Nick Hundley has certainly appeared able to master the defensive demands of what is required behind the plate to be a major league catcher. What do you project him to be offensively?

Grady Fuson: I don't think any of us are asking him to be a superstar at the plate, but I do think he has a chance to hit between .240 and .260 with some homers and walks. Add to that what he brings to the table defensively, an ability to handle a pitching staff, control the running game, and his leadership abilities, and that is a pretty good piece of the puzzle.

Peter Ciofrone had his best year in the organization, especially in hitting for power. He didn't get a September call-up and is eligible to become a minor league free agent. What are the organization's plans for him?

Grady Fuson: We really would like him back, and with Peter it's always been about defining a position for him. Until this year, he's never really defined himself as a defensive player. This year, he got stronger and seemed to be able to focus better on every at-bat. As I said, we would like to bring him back, but if we do, he is going to need to play every day.

Paul McAnulty returned to Portland and put up some very good numbers but also wasn't part of the September call-ups. What about his future with the organization?

Grady Fuson: I've been a P-Mac guy for a long time. I've always appreciated what Paul could do. He's always been able to hit, and I think when he was in the big leagues he was trying to do too much and didn't really put it all together. He went down to Triple-A with a much different attitude and really put up some numbers. When we started to look at who we were going to bring up in September, we just didn't think there would be enough at-bats for him, and we wanted to take a look at some other players. However, just because he wasn't up there in September doesn't mean that he is not wanted or will not be on the roster next year.

Josh Geer didn't have the type of year in Portland that he did in San Antonio last year but has been very impressive in San Diego. Why do you think he has been better in the National League than he was in the PCL this year?

Grady Fuson: It's been a small window of opportunity for him, but he has pitched well. The downside is that he's thrown a lot of pitches in not that many innings. If you can conquer pitching in the PCL, which Josh did, then pitching at PETCO is gravy. The big leagues are all about minimizing the bad, and Josh is one of those guys that can minimize damage.

Wade LeBlanc in the second half in Portland began to put up the type of numbers that he has throughout his professional career. Was his improvement mainly due to his ability to master the two-seam fastball and add it to his repertoire?

Grady Fuson: I don't know if he has mastered it. The one thing that was evident with Wade is inconsistency of fastball command, and those things are going to get him into trouble. Without it, he can't get to the changeup and breaking ball sequences that make him successful.

He has put together some good outings, but you can tell when someone starts backing up quality starts, as he did in the second half in Portland, then you know he's ready for the next step.

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