Eugene Emeralds Notebook III

Eugene, OR: For the first time in five years, a Eugene Emeralds game at Civic has been rained out. So – who is impressing in Arizona and around the system? Has anyone not met expectations. Several weigh in.

  • Padres vice president of scouting and player development Grady Fuson has been in town for the entire homestand. It is the first time he is seeing the group since he drafted them.

    "It is what I thought," Fuson said. "There are a lot of very good athletes here."

    Fuson noted that the Padres and sixth-round pick James Needy are the closest among all unsigned picks – but the numbers still need to work themselves out. He remains confident that they can sign all of the other unsigned players on their wish list.

    Fuson spent time in Arizona looking at the new recruits in Peoria and was impressed with undrafted first baseman signee Jonathan Alia.

    "He is a physical specimen that just needs some things cleaned up," Fuson said. "Things are already starting to click for him."

    Also high on his list is Wande Olabisi – a player he is eager to see progress given his athleticism and toolset.

    Also in town is pitching coordinator Mike Couchee. Couchee came in from Arizona where he came away impressed with Tom Porter and Jon Berger.

    "Both of them could pitch up here (in Eugene)," Couchee said. "I like (Robert) Poutier as well."

    Porter was taken in the 40th-round and Berger was a 33rd-round pick. Poutier was taken in round 29.

  • Minor league field coordinator Tom Gamboa has been disappointed in Kellen Kulbacki – mostly due to the lack of playing time.

    "We are in July and he doesn't have a homer," he said. "It is through no fault of his own. He was injured in spring, we got him back and he started out like he has the last few years – slowly - and then he got injured again."

    Kulbacki is hitting .201 across 36 games and 134 at-bats with the Missions, notching six extra base hits over that span. He has traditionally been a slow starter but has missed 50 games to injury.

    Matt Antonelli is another sore spot for many in the organization. The second baseman got off to a torrid start professionally has stalled the last two years.

    Confidence – or lack thereof – has been one of the key components to his lack of success. Since taking a tumble, Antonelli has not been able to fight his way out. It has led to fundamental flaws.

    "His mechanics need help," Gamboa said. "We might have to do a complete makeover of his swing mechanics. On the plus side, his defense has improved tremendously.

    "Here is a guy that hit about .300 in Double-A (.294) – if you can hit in Double-A it is a good bet you can hit in the majors."

    Getting to the majors has been a difficult proposition considering he hasn't hit above the Mendoza Line with Portland.

    There is frustration from all parties, and Antonelli is hard on himself – likly more than anyone else. That has led to him swinging outside the zone, changing mechanics to try and find a consistent approach and getting even further out of whack.

    There are, however, more positives than negatives.

    "Cory Luebke has been dominating," Gamboa said. "This is a kid who very well may have taken a step back last year and we had to send him down to Low-A. This year has been a different story.

    "He is working his fastball to both sides of the plate and is throwing inside with conviction. Throwing in at 92 (mph) has gotten a lot of people out. He has been a pleasure to watch.

    Luebke owns a 2.13 ERA across 17 starts and two leagues this season. The left-hander has shown command of all his pitches and has gone deep into games with regularity.

    Shortstop Lance Zawadzki tore through the California League during his brief stint there. The offensive force collected 10 homers and 34 RBI in 36 games with the Storm.

    In 39 games with San Antonio, he is hitting .333 with 16 extra base hits – driving in 26 to give him 60 RBI across two leagues.

    "We always knew he had an impressive toolset," Gamboa said. "He has put it altogether. He hit the heck out of the ball in the California League.

    "His defense has also improved. He has better footwork and balance."

  • Fans of the big league club should take note that a chunk of players are making their names known on the farm.

    Third baseman James Darnell and Logan Forsythe are proving their worth. The pitching depth is vastly improved. There is significant talent at every level – with the possible exception of Portland. And there is impact talent.

    "I told Darren Balsely that in two years he is going to have plenty of choices," Couchee said.

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