Fuson on Lake Elsinore Storm prospects

While people vilify former San Diego Padres vice president of scouting and player development Grady Fuson for his draft choices, they may want to look at the Lake Elsinore Storm roster where they may have put together the best starting five ever assembled. That doesn't even take into account the hitters. MadFriars.com spoke with Fuson about the Storm prospects.

We talked about this before that you had the best pitching staff at the beginning of the year in a long time at Lake Elsinore. What stood out for you the most on their performances this year?

Grady Fuson: We had high expectations for the whole group. Every one has velocity, size, strength, and are all different in their own ways, but at the same time all are considered starting pitching prospects.

Cory Luebke really found his way this year with his delivery. We got him more on line, which really improved his command and leverage. The big thing with Cory now is that we are trying to separate the velocity between his slider and change, both are around the same with him right now. In San Antonio, he was playing around a little bit with different grips on the change.

Wynn Pelzer is someone that everyone I speak within the organization is very high on. He had a good year this year, but where do you see the biggest improvement with him coming from?

Grady Fuson: The big thing with Wynn was calming his delivery down, bringing more timing and rhythm to it. He has a lot of fast twitch muscles; the key is to get everything in the right spot as he is accelerating. His fastball is moving everywhere in the strike zone. There is so much movement in his arm. Wynn is a bit on tinkerer, so we are getting closer to getting more things solidified. His change is coming. He has a strong, durable, and really electric arm, and his slider is also developing.

Do you see his future in the pen or as a starter?

Grady Fuson: If you put a gun to my head today, I would probably say in the pen; but we still have to test it. If his change and slider continue to improve he could end up as a starter, and I will take a chance of getting a major league starter any day.

How is Jeremy McBryde's health and do you expect him back for spring?

Grady Fuson: We definitely expect to see him back. The muscles around his back were just slow to heal, and he was feeling much better in the Instructs.

Bryan Oland was very dominant in the first half but saw his ERA go from 1.34 in the first half to 5.55 in the second. What happened?

Grady Fuson: I can't really put my finger on it. He has good stuff, throws a hard sinker and good splitter. He may be a little upright in his finish, which I think may have hurt him some later in the year.

Matt Clark was a late round pick in 2008 and really got some attention with his ability to drive in runs. He showed some real power but what part of his game are you looking for him to improve upon next year?

Grady Fuson: He may have been drafted later, but we gave him a pretty good amount above slot, so this isn't unexpected. He's big, physical, and has some power. He's working more on improving his swing so that it will help his overall average, mainly by letting the game come to him instead of trying to force things. When he got his pitches this year, he showed an ability to crush them.

Defensively, I don't think he's ever going to be a star, but I do think he can do the job there. He's been working on improving his footwork and technique.

Beamer Weems tailed off in the end, but for most of the season you had to be impressed with not only his batting average but his ability to get on base? What does he need to do to continue to put up good offensive numbers?

Grady Fuson: Beemer needs to become more physical. He ran out of gas at the end of the year and lost too much weight in August. He hasn't been as serious as he needs to be on his strength program and ended up ruining what looked to be a tremendous year. We were really happy with what he was able to do at the plate for most of the year, with his average and getting on base, especially from the left side.

Brad Chalk showed quite a bit of improvement this year, especially in the number of extra-base hits. He's done about everything that you have asked, what are your next goals for him?

Grady Fuson: He's another guy that needs to continue to get bigger and more physical and has only touched where he needs to be. I let him know that he doesn't even need to show up to spring training unless he is coming in around 190.

This year, I think he saw what the added weight could do for his game at the plate. He has really an unusual style at the plate, his lower half is never going to assist him at the plate, but we are attempting to change some parts of his swing in what he has done his whole career. Right now, the arrow is pointing up, he makes tremendous contact, has speed, plays a good center field, and did a good job of keeping the ball out of the air.

Does Craig Italiano stay in the bullpen or as a starter?

Grady Fuson: We think he is a bullpen candidate. I saw him out of high school, power stuff with a horrendous delivery. When Oakland had him, they did most of the heavy lifting, they retooled his motion and got him though some injuries.

The player we have now is not going to be an effective three-pitch starter, but he has the makeup, the late inning mentality to be something very good out of the bullpen. Right now, when he comes in, he throws between 92 and 98 and really attacks the zone. He could use some more work with his breaking ball, but we expect to see him move up the ladder pretty quickly.

Jeremy Hefner won 14 games for Lake Elsinore and is a little under the radar – how has he picked up the curveball and what needs to happen for him to see continued success?

Grady Fuson: He is still coming along, and he would be the first one to tell you that he was a little disappointed that the curve didn't show up a little earlier. He struggled with it against righties, he just couldn't get it on line. He has a sinker and a change, and started to develop a little more confidence in attacking the strike zone with his fastball, which has some life and is around 90.

We actually let him use his frisbee slider for two games, and he got in trouble with it and was really glad to go back to his curve.

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