Dascenzo on Padres Low-A hitting prospects

Coaching prospects that are entering their first year of full-season ball isn't easy. The San Diego Padres placed veteran Doug Dascenzo in the role with the Fort Wayne Wizards (now TinCaps) where he cared for the likes of Drew Cumberland, Justin Baum, Felix Carrasco, Yefri Carvajal, Brad Chalk, Luis Durango, Andrew Parrino, and Lance Zawadzki.

When healthy, Drew Cumberland has some exciting tools that will keep you watching. What did you see from him during his time with you?

Doug Dascenzo: First of all, he's definitely a baseball player, no question about it. Hands down, coming from a family that has a history of being in professional baseball, you can tell that he's been around it, wasn't in awe of anything. He's ahead of the game in that sense. When you couple that with his ability to do a whole bunch of things, run like a deer, hit the ball all over the field, you've got a very exciting player there.

Justin Baum led the team in RBI and was a clutch performer for you. What enabled him to be so successful?

Doug Dascenzo: He was probably not as successful if you were to ask him. He missed a lot of opportunities. I think he came through, obviously, more times than not. Being a first year guy, like all the first full season guys, like the rest of the guys, I know for a fact that he has learned a lot from the opportunities he had this year. Again, he was successful in the clutch, knocking in a bunch of RBI. But, he also realized he let a lot of opportunities go. He learned from that and that will make him that much better for next year and the upcoming years.

Felix Carrasco won the home run derby but didn't seem to be the same guy in the second half. Was part of that just grappling with full-season ball for the first time?

Doug Dascenzo: Yeah, I think it has a lot to do with the fact that when you start to play these teams the second and third time, they kind of get the book on you. One of the things that he's going to have to work very hard at is staying in the strike zone and quit chasing down out of the strike zone because that really, really limited his home run total numbers because he struck out 160 times. If he can learn to do that a little bit, I think that will utilize and that will increase his power numbers.

Even as good as they were for a first-year full season guy from our Latin American program, with the 16 home runs, it can get a lot better, so he just needs to be a little more disciplined. Again, we can say that about a lot of the guys. It was a good experience for him, and hopefully he can learn from it and take that into next year as well.

Yefri Carvajal didn't show as much power as hoped – what is the key to his success moving forward?

Doug Dascenzo: No, he didn't. We know he's a strong, young man, and both of those words you've got to put emphasis around, particularly the young part. He learned an awful, awful lot. I think this year he worked and worked and worked all year long trying to get the swing that he wanted to get. Even though his numbers were good; you look at them, .270 as far as an average goes, and the power wasn't quite there yet. He kind of got his hits.

At times, he showed flashes of power and gap power and home run power. I think once he settles down his approach, his stance and where he needs to clean all that up and sticks with it and is comfortable with it, I think that's the most important thing. I think you'll start to see the power numbers come up.

Brad Chalk steals 19 straight bases before getting caught in the final two attempts – what happened?

Doug Dascenzo: Actually, it was 18 straight that went into the game. He goes and steals second base, he's safe and the umpire calls him out, so it was a bad call there. He gets on later in the game and steals second cleanly, for his 19th and we let the reins go on him and gave him an opportunity to try and steal third base, but he didn't quite make it to try and get his 20th one of the year.

He's come such a long way, even though he missed quite a few games wit us too, so some of the numbers are down because of that. He learned. I think he needs to be a little more aggressive as far as going.

Anytime we talk about stealing bases, you're going to have risk involved. If you're going to steal 40 or 50 bases, you're not going to steal 50 and not get caught zero. We've got to be careful to not kid ourselves, particularly where he was at with the 18-0 thing. He learned a lot about that as well as working on his swing, getting a better foundation. I think he ended up hitting .275 this year and he steals 19 out of 21.

Luis Durango got off to a slow start before turning it on down the stretch. What changed?

Doug Dascenzo: I think all the hitters started out slow. If you look at the month of April, they pretty much all started out slow. You've got a lot of these guys from South Carolina; you've got the Latin program guys there, Carvajal, Carasco, Durango. It is freezing cold in April – it was just cold.

Not only are these kids figuring out a new city, entering their first full season and then they've got to deal with another thing that they're not used to, and some of them never saw snow until we got to Beloit. There are a lot of things that are involved there. So, once the temperature got warmed up, got up there a little bit, we got into the middle of May, all these kids from the Dominican Republic, Durango from Panama, Chalk and Pelzer and all these guys from South Carolina, they started to heat up as well.

I would bet to say that next year as a whole, this group will move onto Lake Elsinore, which they should, being a warm weather deal from the get go, you could have a really, really magical season with that group of kids next year.

Andrew Parrino was plug-and-play for you. How valuable is it to have someone like him where you can insert anywhere?

Doug Dascenzo: I don't know if you can put a number or amount of value on somebody like that that can go around and can play all three positions, probably could play in the outfield if he needed to; a switch-hitter. Those guys are golden.

To be able to do it, particularly early on, and have a little more success than he ended up having at the end of the year when he was playing every day, is really a nice thing to have when you can stick a guy in there and get him in there three, four, five days a week and let the other guys rest a couple of days. At that time, he was playing right around .290, .300 for you. You don't miss a beat, you're kind of killing two birds with one stone when you put in the utility guy and rest the regular guy and he's performing at pretty much the same level while you're giving the regular guy a day off. I don't know if you can put a number on that type of talent.

Lance Zawadzki grew more confident as the year went on and moved to Double-A for the playoffs. What toolset did you see with him?

Doug Dascenzo: Again, I think for somebody coming out of spring training, he was hampered by coming off of a hamstring injury from a year ago. Wasn't real, real sure I don't think mentally out of the gates to kind of test it. We kind of pushed him; we convinced him it was strong. But, again, the individual has to go out there and prove it to himself, and he did that.

He didn't have a good first half at all. He surely came on in the second half. When you see guys do that, when you see a Cumberland get a feel for the league and then starts to produce at the middle of the season and you see a guy like Zawadzki who checks the league out and then starts to tear it up in the second half, you're talking about some baseball players there.

They're looking at it, they're keeping notes, they're keeping mental notes. They know how a pitcher's going to try to attack them and their ready for them when they come around the second time. You've got some people there, some ballplayers there, some young talent there that's paying attention to the game and they're laying in the weeds when they come back around again, so that was nice to see in how Lance did that and somewhat how Cumberland did it before he got hurt and he ended up missing the second half of the season.

But, Zawadzki didn't hit the home runs that we thought he was going to hit this year either. But, I think those are going to come, there's no question about it. He's got tremendous power from the left side. He can hit you from the right side too, but not as much as he does from the left side. And he really played a really nice short, even though he had the 32 errors the last six weeks of the season, played a really nice shortstop.

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