Greg Riddoch: He was the best outfielder in the league defensively. He's maybe one of the best defensive center fielders I've seen in a long time. This guy can really play – I bet he had about five or fix, you know those all spread out, stretched out dive catches? He had two or three catches running into the wall, jumping up against the wall and catching it, coming down and firing the guy out, from, you know, taking the next base.
He just had unbelievable, phenomenal year for a guy who's not – just because of his size everybody goes, ‘Well …' and who knows? What's he going to do in 162 games with that small body? But we'll get a chance to find that out.
He plays all three outfield spots above-average, has an above-average arm, especially for his size, and is accurate, he's smart, knows how to play the game, knows how to steal a base. I mean just go on and on and on about this kid, but I'm sure people stay away from him because he's 5-foot-9.
You have to love this kid and his desire to attack.
It's funny: we played this, at the end of the year after we spent our fine money on extra dinners and stuff like that for everybody, we had 180 bucks left in the fine kitty and so we chose up teams: pick four pitchers, and those four pitchers got to pick a regular player and then they had to pick a pitcher and then they had to pick a regular player until we had four complete teams. And the last couple of the days of the season we had batting practice: team one played team two, we threw the batting practice and the coaches judged whether it was a base hit or not and a double or drove a run in or an out and we played three-inning games.
Team 1 played team 2, they went in the field and the other two teams came in and played and then the two winners played for the championship and then the championship team got the 180 dollars out of the fine kitty to split amongst them.
But his team got eliminated before the championship game and he was so mad and wouldn't even talk! I was on him like smell on a skunk, because he's one of those guys: he just does not accept anything but the best. And he was MAD! And this is a stupid BP!
That's what drives him: is that, just like Tony Gwynn. I've used Tony and Freddie, two of my favorite kids as examples.
Freddie McGriff being 6-foot-6 and chiseled, he was probably 6-foot-3 in junior high school, but when he approached the game because of his God-given ability, you know, he would run the race to win the race. So, if he was running a 100-yard dash and he got to the 75 yard point and he looked back and he was 10-feet ahead of everybody, he'd just put it in cruise control and take the trophy home because he had this unbelievable God-given talent. Which is OK, but he never really figured out what it's like to push to the end. Because he's been the best at 75%, what reason would there be to tax yourself any further?
Now, Anthony plays the game in the same scenario: he would run a 100-yard dash and ask what his time was and then go back to the beginning and try to beat his own time. That's the way he's put together: he is milking every ounce out of average ability to be an All-Star where Freddie's doing it at 75% and still achieving the same goals. Freddie has never pushed himself beyond, so what reason would there be when you're the All-Star first baseman? Why should I do anymore? And they're both great people, but it's just a different approach to it and that's what Daniel is.
Daniel's similar to what Gwynn is: he's playing against himself all the time instead of just the other team. He's trying to beat his own personal best every day. That's why the kid got signed. People saw that. I absolutely love having him. He broke all the records in the league. And you know the record he broke was a 1972 record where they played 80 games! We only played 76 and after 76 he played in 72. So he broke an 80-game record that's been there since 1972, and with a lot less games than that record was set at. Aw, it was great. I think he could go to the California league, I recommended that he go play center field up there in California league and do a good job next year.
Blake Tekotte showed some pop in his bat through the year. What impressions did he leave?
Greg Riddoch: Well, just for his size maybe. He's a thin-framed guy. He learned a lot of stuff this summer about the pro game versus the college aluminum bat thing. He's got some sock in his bat and he's a better-than-average runner.
He gets good jumps on the ball, but the things we really stressed this summer were that you can't glide to the ball. Sometimes because he's so good at judging the ball, he'd take off and then he knew ‘I'll get this,' and so he put it in cruise and just kind of jog to the ball and catch it. And there will come a time when that will extend his range if he just goes lights out to every single ball, then nothing will be able to get by him. And he can turn and go get the ball as good as anybody in the league when a ball's hit over his head and then the angles and the gaps, has enough arm to play center field.
A left-hand hitter, he's good getting to first base. Going to be a good base-stealer; doesn't know a whole lot about it yet, but he's going to be one. So, I mean, this draft: if we do this again, we're ready to rock!
Hell, the kids I had before were good in Fort Wayne, and these guys are equal or better! If it were up to me - If I'd had that – if Darnell would've been there instead of only the last 14 games, if he'd been there for 14 games prior to that, played 25 games, we'd have probably won by three or four games, our division, ‘cause he can really play and he can hit.
You mentioned him so let's discuss the name. James Darnell came in and seemed to be a catalyst for the squad while playing solid defense. How good can he be?
Greg Riddoch: I think he's got a tremendous athletic body. I tease him a little bit like Robbie Blauer: he's the only guy I've ever seen with two sets of thighs, two above and two below the knee. ‘Cause he's built like a rock.
I was so impressed the first day that he got there and the other team was warming up - and I'm on them all the time about watch the other team's warm up, watch batting practice, see what they're tendencies are, watch what the pitcher does in the bullpen while he's warming up for a game, and here he is, without me even mentioning it to him, he's down at the end of the dugout outside with his bat timing every pitch of that guy warming up, a la Tony Gwynn. And so I just told him, I said, ‘You know, you've had good tutelage, you better thank the people along the way that have helped you establish this routine that you have cause it's going to create success in your future because you do have a plan when you come to the park every day.' And that kid does.
Great personality, great make-up, good third baseman, good range, accurate arm, plenty of arm.
You didn't see us down at the end, man, but we went like 20-4 and we're still adding to that, and then we got Figueroa, Figgy from University of Florida, he can really play short, got good instincts for a little guy, plenty of arm. I heard some reports he couldn't throw: he's got a laser from the hole, and he's learning to play second base.
And Beemer Weems, he's another guy: he can pick it; we just got to get the bat going. So we'll make decisions on whether to keep him on both sides or just the right side.
To come all the way from where we were 12 or 14 games under 500 to go 40-36 and tie for the division lead the last day of the season was neat. A long way away from where we were.
Sawyer Carroll did just about everything he could when he was with you guys. What were your thoughts on him?
Greg Riddoch: Oh, yeah, he did. He's a good one. Tekotte and him are kind of similar in what they need to do. They float in their swing a little bit. Their body floats forward and their eyes and head float forward a little bit and so it's hard when you do that to handle the outside third of the plate. So a lot of teams started pitching both of them away on that outside third.
In college, they do a lot of switching when you got left versus right. And they just need to see a lot of left-handed pitchers to become better at hitting pitchers from the same side.
Tekotte and Sawyer both the same way. Both are good players, good defense, and accurate arms. Like I said, man, we're starting to back up some outfielders where we're going, ‘Holy, Jiminy Christmas, what do we do here?'
And the two third basemen. I didn't get a chance to see (Logan) Forsythe because they only played three games and it's the middle of the third game and he got hurt. But everybody raves about him, he's our Olympic third baseman, good makeup, good enough arm, good hands and good bat, really never got to see him play so the big problem as I see it next year is which one goes to Lake Elsinore and which one goes to Fort Wayne?
Matt Clark is a big man with raw power but seemed to struggle a bit defensively with you.
Greg Riddoch: Yeah, a little bit. And then especially his defense at digging balls out of the dirt. We did a lot of that stuff every day. For 15 minutes I'd take the first baseman and just fire balls and try to throw curveballs so they'd hit and tear him at different directions so that they'd learn to pick balls in the dirt, which he got way better on immediately. Still has a ways to go with his defense as far as his foot quickness ‘cause he's a big, Clydesdale-looking guy over there at first base with some pop in his bat.
He didn't get there until over halfway through the summer, either.
Emmanuel Quiles showed his athleticism but remains quite raw at such a young age. You mentioned once that you see a future big leaguer there. Why?
Greg Riddoch: Well, he has naturally quick feet and quick hands, and plenty of arm to be able to throw guys out. His downfall right now is playing against 23-year-old guys when you're 18. It'd be like when you're a senior in high school playing the seventh graders. What chance would they have? But, he competed – I don't know what he ended up, about .212, something like that offensively.
We probably had five or six different other organization people say, ‘Gee, I've never seen a kid, a catcher with this quick of feet before.' Good arm, I think he led the league in runners thrown out percentage.
The pitchers hold runners, too, but they blame it on the catcher if the pitch is too slow the plate – the catcher has no chance. But he has great potential to be a major leaguer behind the dish.
All three outfielders, almost the whole infield, the catcher, the starting nine guys are all good-looking prospects. You could say every kid from the catcher, to first to second to short to third and all three outfielders have a real good chance to definitely play higher.
Jeudy Valdez has the raw talent but his head and the mental side of the game seems to get in the way of his success.
Greg Riddoch: Yeah, a little bit. But he's a young 19, too, and to be against these college guys be like ninth graders playing against seniors again. And I've had guys in the past like Erick Davis hit below .200 one year, at 18 years old, and struggle like hell, and next year he was the MVP of the league. I think he hit 15 bombs with 58 stolen on bases and hit .358 or something like that his second year after hitting below .200 the first year!
I've recommended for both those of guys to repeat that league again because then Q will be 19 and Valdey will be turning 20. But Valdey, he learned to play second base this summer, and he has looked better at second base than at short. I know he has more confidence at second than at short at the moment. The shorter throw and stuff like that. It was good to let him play a lot of games at second, too.
Talk about this story on our subscriber-only message boards