Grady Fuson: He is a little bigger than 5-foot-10 and is just really an intense player and competitor. He was successful in college and in high school and is one of those players that when he hits the ball it just makes a special type of noise. I can't say enough of what an intense player this guy is. When he first came out with us, he was so gung-ho he literally swung at everything before he calmed down a little, and as you can see put up an offensive display in that league that no one has seen for awhile.
As to his future, right now, he's earned his promotion up to Fort Wayne and we'll go from there. He's an older kid, but it's not where you start but where you finish.
Rymer Liriano is another player that just had a very big season. He split time between all three outfield positions, but mostly played center. Can you give us a brief scouting report on him and where do you see him playing next year?
Grady Fuson: He's always been one of our most physically developed players in terms of speed and strength. He's really more of a corner outfielder that can play center, and I think being there a lot this summer really helped his game. It is really rare to see someone hit the way he did, with the power that he has, at such a young age. He has a very good arm for right field, above average runner and made immense improvements in letting the ball travel to him at the plate; before he was a little out in front. There is an emotional side to him that we still have to get our hands around and that is really the only limitation to his potential.
Jonathan Galvez has gotten some attention this year. Where do you eventually see him ending up defensively and how would you describe his offensive potential?
Grady Fuson: One of the things we have always liked about him is that if he can gain some strength he could be a player. He has an advanced recognition at the plate and has the feet to stay at shortstop, but his arm is a bit inaccurate. This is his second full year with us and I think he lost a little ground defensively this year with us, mainly by attempting to be a little too flashy in the field, but we are working on that. There is quite a bit of upside to this player that we like.
Cameron Monger is another guy that had a nice year, what do you see as his strengths and where do you see him ending up next year?
Grady Fuson: I put Monger and [Wande] Olabisi both in the same category, they are both guys that underachieved in college but each has tremendous physical skills. Monger got a chance to play a little more in college that Olabisi, but one of the reasons that we drafted these guys is that we thought we had enough gamer guys to take a chance on two big physical guys. Both can absolutely fly, have strength, but their approaches and swings have to be broken down and remade for them to have a chance. It's a gamble, but a low risk gamble. If they can ever put the package together that will be something.
With two high draft picks, Donovan Tate and Everett Williams, and some very good outfielders both here and in Eugene - how do you see the outfield in Fort Wayne shaping up next year?
Grady Fuson: A lot of it will depend upon Instructs since we really haven't had that much time with Tate or Everett. A winter of both of them working in the off-season combined with how they come in and compete in spring training will give us a better idea. In a perfect world, I would never be part of drafting a player that I didn't think had the ability to be in Low-A the next year, but sometimes with high school guys their timing comes at different times. Right now, Williams may be a little more prepared but we are a long way from making any decisions.
Adys Portillo was the highest profile pitcher that you have had at this level in a long time. On the positive side, he struck out 44 batters in 52.1 innings on the negative he was 1-9 with a 5.13 ERA. What did he do correctly and what does he need to improve upon?
Grady Fuson: The stuff is still there, it comes and goes from time to time based on delivery and tension level. Really, he's like any kid that we sign that is given a lot of money, the competition turned out to be a little tougher than he initially thought. He wasn't just going to come in here and breeze through it. Mentally, he held up really well, wanted to compete and found out that this is real baseball. He learned that if he started pitching behind too many times in the count, he can get hurt. The numbers don't show that he was very dominant at times, and although there is a ways to go, there is a lot to like.
Grady Fuson: Deiber's more of a stuff guy, 91-93, very competitive and really there is no telling where he will be kicking it off next year. He still needs some polish, but some things click at different times.
Pedro is a different story, we challenged him in Eugene, he has a little more polish and is a good strike thrower and his fastball comes in around 88-91. At Eugene, I think he did what a lot of players do, gave the league above a little too much credit and got away from doing what got him there. We brought him back to the AZL, got him grounded again, and he will be ready to compete next year.
How has James Needy looked this year and where do you see him pitching next year?
Grady Fuson: I see him competing for a Fort Wayne job next year. He has a breaking ball that we need to tighten up a little, has a good change and throws very well on a downhill plane. Has big velocity, remember he is 6-foot-6, and the second time I saw him, he was a little more aggressive with a much better finish on his pitches.
Is there any other pitcher that impressed you this year that you believe went unnoticed?
Grady Fuson: There were a few guys; Stalyn (Valdez) is close to Deiber, has a lot of stuff. Rafeal Arias kind of came out of nowhere, started at 87 and ended up touching 95. Really an interesting prospect and is someone that we will be looking at next year. Matt Lollis is a very big guy, his nickname is "Old Country", and at 6-foot-7, 230-pounds is a load and someone to watch.
It's a pretty good jump from the AZL to the Midwest League. What are the types of things the organization looks for when determining whether or not a player will be promoted to that level?
Grady Fuson: It's really not any different than any other league. When we talk about position players, the big question is can they control the strike zone enough to keep their heads above water and give themselves a chance to compete? On the pitching side, it's about a degree of command of the baseball. Sometimes, guys are going to be erratic in the zone, but are they hitting their spots enough and are they ready for a breakthrough.
A good example is Simon Castro whose changeup has been improving at a rapid pace, a great worker both mentally and physically, and he put it all together in Fort Wayne this year.
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