Fuson on Padres Prospects

Eugene, OR: San Diego Padres vice president of scouting and player development Grady Fuson likes what he sees of his new recruits and sees progress in a lot of the players he has drafted in the last three years.

You saw the players in Eugene for the first time as a product of the system recently. What was your first impression?

Grady Fuson: First impression is pretty much as expected. As much as we did in the draft last year infield wise early, we didn't do that much this year. It is interesting to get my eyes around Chris Tremblay and Vince Belnome.

I like what I see with Jason Hagerty. That was a target guy to get, certainly at catcher. I like Nate Freiman and the big, raw juice – keeping the first basemen going somewhere in the system.

Outfield wise, they are all second level draft type guys. Matt Vern was a guy we had interest in and we knew he hadn't played much outfield. Timmy Holt, the area scout, was adamant about his athleticism.

One of the targets in this draft was right-handed corner power – whether they played first, third, left or right. Thinking about the things we have done the last couple of years with the runners, the on base guys, legit center fielders with Brad Chalk, Blake Tekotte and Danny Payne. They are starting to come – all of them.

Chalkie is having a great year. He is aggressive on the base paths. He still has to become more physical but he is playing great center field. Tekotte has really picked it up. He concerned me the first half. He has it together. Payne has been a struggle since the day he signed but in my last trip to Elsinore – he is close to breaking out and doing some of the things he is capable of doing. He is starting to climb out with a great on base percentage, hitting some homers, is a good outfield and is healthy.

This year was a little bit different, with the exception of the guys you don't see that haven't been signed yet with Tate and Williams. What we are seeing are the second tier guys and I am happy with what we have to work with. That is what is important when you get into that secondary stage of the draft. Give us something in development that we can work with.

I think Vern is going to be interesting to play with over time. Freiman too.

Bo Davis is an exciting, old school, run through the wall type of guy.

There are some guys in Arizona that fit the same bill. So far, I am pleased.

You got a chance to go to Arizona before going to Eugene. Have any the kids there made a lasting impression?

Grady Fuson: Number one, walking out in BP, there are about five or six guys – even though they are not overly polished – when they hit the baseball, it has the right sound.

Cody Decker is physical, Jonathan Alia is physical, Jhonaldo Pozo is physical, Wande Olabisi is physical and Rymer Liriano. There are some guys there. When they take BP, it is loud for rookie level. With that being said, most of them are raw and have issues. There is a lot of mechanical, fundamental work that needs to be cleaned up.

When you look at Cameron Monger and Olabisi – those are two physical outfielders that have speed and raw power. It is up to us over time to build upon that and see if we can turn that into baseball players.

You have four guys in the top seven in all of baseball in on base percentage. When you come to Eugene for the first time and get a chance to speak with many of the newcomers, is that one of the focal points for your message?

Grady Fuson: We start these guys off from the get go – in minicamp – whether it be pitching or hitting, go over our plan, our mantra, the things that these players need to know. They will hear the same things from the time they come in to the time they leave this organization. These are the things we are going to pound you on.

From there, we explain to them why these things are paramount in our system and in their career. It is not just talking about on base. It is talking to them about what learning about the strike zone's importance is.

They are all going to have different degrees of power they are going to display, the walks they have, but the bottom line is our ability to get the largest degree of skill out of them.

I have always said that when I was around the drafting and development of (Jason) Giambi and (Miguel) Tejada and (eric) Chavez – we knew that Tejada was never going to be a guy that walked like Giambi. At the same time, I will always say that if Tejada wasn't in the type of organization that he was, he wouldn't have even walked even close to the amount that he does walk. Now, you end up with an All-Star that still walks 50 or 60 times a year.

Once people start seeing the success that comes out of this, it is like a disease that runs through the system. They all start to grab on, knowing they are going to be measured on their ability to control that zone.

We explain to everyone, not everyone that is in the big leagues are hitters. But, if you hit .250 with a high on base and you are scoring runs and are a good defensive player, there is a role for you in the big leagues.

Why is there no role right now for Sean Kazmar? We all know he can play defense. He should be a quality utility guy. He is not a big offensive player but on top of that his on base is down, his run scoring are down. He brings nothing as far as quality at-bats to the big leagues.

That is why it is such an important thing for Sean Kazmar to grab onto. He has been sporadic. There have been more times where he has been off that than on. That has hurt him. You think about all the infield changes in the big leagues, you would like to believe his talent warrants an opportunity.

You can't give them too much too quick in their first year. At the same time, that is what this level is about. This level is about getting their legs underneat them in all phases. Not only what the professional ranks are all about but also what we are about as an organization. What our expectations are and how they will be trained in this organization during their career and what they will be held accountable for.

When you look at these guys for the first time, how quickly can you make a determination on whether one guy will get it fast and another guy will take a little longer. A Matt Vern looks like he is buying into the program quickly and it may mean he struggles but also could mean he turns things around quicker.

Grady Fuson: One thing that is different from a scouting end is you don't really get around players all that much. Sure, you talk to them. Our area guys figure out their signability and go to homes but as far as learning that little trick word about aptitude, you don't really know until you get around these players and throw little things there way and start seeing how easy they can make that adjustment.

At the same time, a lot of first year players are still in their shell. That is why I always keep our staff far enough away – let's not become Johnny Evaluator too quick. The scouts have already done their work. Let the scouts do their work. Our job is to play them, to get to know them, lets write down our checklist as we go through the summer. The ones we invite to Instructional League, we can sit down and put a plan together after we have seen them for 100 or 200 at-bats. Now, we know where we need to go.

There is always the little, smaller things that we want players to start hearing, that we want to infiltrate their brain as to where this needs to go, what we will be talking about and see which players make that adjustment quicker than others.

Aptitude is a big thing in the learning curve of life, whether it is baseball or any part of business we do. It is hard for scouts to figure that out. It is easier for us in development to get our hands on whether this guy has a chance to pick some things up whereas this group over here are slower learners – they just don't grab onto things as quick as you would like.

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