Smith on Padres Latin American talent in US

San Diego Padres international scouting director Randy Smith is pleased with the progress of the Latin American talent coming through the pipeline in the United States, especially the names littering the lower levels.

Are you surprised by the struggles of Adys Portillo?

Randy Smith: Yes and no. Again, he would be a high school junior. I saw him (on July 8). At times he showed the stuff that proved why we like him so much – the good arm and movement. I think a lot of it is location. He needs to pitch in more. Mechanically, he is off a little bit.

He was sitting 94, 95 at the end of the Instructional League. Sitting – not touching it. (On July 8), he was 88 to 93 – which for a 17-year-old is great. His location was off a little. His changeup has improved.

It is a matter of getting him straightened out again and focused. He is still a premium, blue-chip guy.

I have been very happy with the progress of Rymer Liriano this year. Has the key been not trying to hit home runs?

Randy Smith: Part of it is just maturity. He just turned 18 on June 20. The Dominican guys have a tendency to try and hit the ball out more than over here. The dimensions are similar but down there they free swing a little more.

One thing was him not seeing any breaking balls before. They breaking balled him and (Jonathan) Galvez to death, especially the Washington teams. He is better for it. He is still chasing. If he gets a fastball, he is killing it. He is laying off some of the breaking balls and hitting some breaking balls. It is at-bats and maturity.

I am real pleased with where he is and how he is carrying himself on the field. He has hit some balls hard and is playing hard, doing the right things. His work ethic has been tremendous.

Jonathan Galvez is another talented kid offensively – we know that. How has he been defensively?

Randy Smith: Well, he was fine when I last saw him. I still have the same concerns I have always had. I think he might be better suited for the other side of the bag than short. The development staff thinks he is making progress there. In my opinion, he still has funky throwing action.

He is filling out, maturing – the maturity from last year to this year has been very impressive. (He and Liriano) have grown up tremendously.

He is a real threat at the plate. He smoked the ball to right center and short-hopped the wall at the track. He lined one up the middle for a hard hit single and then hit a line drive down the left field line. He did everything he was supposed to do offensively. The only bad at-bat was the first one when he put a check swing on it to ground into a double play.

The defense will sort itself out. I am more interested in the progress than the results. Derek Jeter made 56 errors in the Midwest League and turned into a pretty decent shortstop. It is really just trying to see the progress and not getting caught up in the numbers. I am not convinced yet – but I am convinced he is going to be a pretty good hitter.

I guess the same question can be asked regarding Edinson Rincon. That boy can hit but he is not as sure-handed. Is it arm, footwork?

Randy Smith: It is not the arm – he has a cannon for an arm. Some of it is footwork, some is that he has only played a limited amount of third. He needs to work there and didn't get a lot of one-on-one instruction because of the knee injury. We will have to see. I think it is more a question of feet, quickness, getting in position to field and throw.

He has incredible makeup. It is the one thing that stood out from day one. He has a great work ethic, intelligent – mature well beyond his years.

It is a premium bat that will hit for average and hit for power. The position will sort itself out over time.

Perhaps I am a little bit surprised at the progression that Emmanuel Quiles has made at the plate. He has always been a great defensive catcher but the offense seems to be catching up.

Randy Smith: He has made progress. Hopefully, it continues. He has tools to work with, that is for sure.

Pedro Hernandez skips a league after working in the DSL last year. Has the challenge simply made him try and do too much and pitch above his stuff?

Randy Smith: I think he is facing older hitters and more experienced hitters. He got beat with his changeup a couple of times and backed off that a little bit.

He has had good innings and a bad inning. I think it is a matter of gaining confidence and trusting your stuff. Yes, you are going to get hit on ocassion. He hasn't experienced a whole lot of that in the past. Just because they hit a certain pitch, doesn't mean you don't throw it again. I think he will figure it out.

I was pleased and surprised that they jumped him to the Northwest League. I thought he would be pitching in Arizona. He is a guy that has a good idea with good command. Eventually, it is going to sort itself out. Hopefully, he gets back into the rotation before the year is out.

His velocity has picked up – he was touching 91, 92, which is an increase from what it was in the Dominican. A left-hander with potentially three pitches.

Simon Castro has been a guy who has made solid progression in every season. It is vivid and evident. The walks are down, strikeouts are up.

Randy Smith: Makeup, intelligence, work ethic – all there. You look at the struggles he had in the Arizona Rookie League and watching him there when people weren't sure about him.

A lot of these guys – there is so much to adjust to the first year in the states. The different culture – a lot to throw at a young guy. Many times, you can dimiss the first year.

Castro – very pleased. The command has come, the slider has gotten sharper, the changeup has improved.

A lot of these Latin guys – it takes a while to get through A-ball – once they get it, they take off. He is a guy that could move pretty fast.

What is your take on Yefri Carvajal?

Randy Smith: A little bit disappointed. He is 20 years old and back to what I just said – it may take him a whole to get all of this figured out.

Tremendous power potential. I think he will hit for average. His pitch recognition has to improve. He shows it in the Instructional League and then falls into bad habits in season.

I am still really high on him because of the upside and the age. He does not have a ton of at-bats. It is a question of when the light will come on. Hopefully it comes on this year. Even next year he is 21 and is the same age as a college guy. I think he is going to figure it out. He has the bat speed and the power.

At what point do you start to worry?

Randy Smith: There is a point but we aren't even close to it. Again – he hit 270 and was leading the team in doubles and had some RBI in the Cal League. He wasn't failing. And he is hitting about .270 in Fort Wayne.

It is not like he is hitting .220. He has done some damage.

I go back and look at a guy like Kirby Puckett. The most home runs he hit in the minors was seven. I have never been worried about Carvajal's power. I have never been worried about Rincon's power. I know it is there. If they never hit double digits in the minor leagues, it doesn't mean they can't hit a ton in the majors.

With Carvy, he has to start showing continued progress. He is not failing at levels and has been an MVP at Instructs. I expect him to put up some numbers and do some damage. I am still on the wagon.

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