Flores on AZL Padres hitting prospects

Former AZL Padres and current Fort Wayne TinCaps manager Jose Flores expressed strong opinions on his cast of hitters, identifying strengths and weaknesses – including the Arizona Rookie League MVP.

Jonathan Alia – an undrafted kid comes in and plays pretty darn well for you. What did you see from him?

Jose Flores: Well, like you said, he was an undrafted kid. He had a big, physical body. Strong kid. I liked him. He came a long way as far as defense goes. When I first got him, they told me we got him because of the bat. Obviously, in college, he wasn't even playing 3rd base he played first base if I'm not mistaken. We liked his makeup and hit bat. We didn't know how much we were going to get on the defensive side.

So like I said, he came a long way defensively, as much as anyone can in a short period of time.

His bat was – you could tell why we got him as a hitter. He has good pop, good power. He still had the college swing with him because of the aluminum, but again he came around, he worked hard, he did what we asked him to do, and as a prospect, I don't know how far he'll go because with a bat like that you need to find somewhere to play, especially in a national league team.

But I like him enough to where I think he can do something with it because of his work habits. because of how much he wants to learn and get better. The kid's out there trying every single day at a position where he hadn't played in three or four years. And yes there were times that he looked like he'd never get it. But you know what? At the course of the season in our schedule of 56 games, the kid really came out and did what he could and did it the right way. I was impressed with him. I like the kid.

He is a strong kid. Defensively, below average, but again I think his bat... he's got something in his bat that's a little different than the next guy. So he's going to be someone to watch as far as how he develops defensively, and how much more we can get out of him offensively as far as putting up power numbers.

Then you have Cody Decker who wins the Arizona Rookie League MVP. He may have been older for the league but there is no discounting his season.

Jose Flores: Absolutely not. Decker, to me, he was my best player, on and off the field, clubhouse guy. Last year my guy was Kevin Hansen. Even though he didn't have the numbers, last year it was Hansen. This year, just because of his makeup and the way he carries himself and the way he goes about his business, it was Cody Decker.

The kid is just... he comes out to play every inning of every game. And I haven't seen that at this level. Granted, he's a little older and he comes from the good school, UCLA, but you don't teach those kinds of things that he was bringing to the table every day. Whether it was coming to play and not getting his results but being a team guy and cheering for the next guy every single day. every at bat for somebody else. To me, that opened a lot of eyes and it did for my coaching staff as well.

We talked about it all the time about how this kid comes out to work and it wasn't a good day for him, he'd bring it to the ballpark the next day. Or he'd didn't take it to the next at-bat if it happened.

The kid is just a player. He's a gamer. Doesn't look pretty defensively-wise and I thought I'd label him a prospect. It's still early. Obviously he's 23. But he can hit.

If you compare Alia and Cody Decker side-by-side, obviously, Decker is a couple of months older than Alia, but I think it's going to take Alia a longer amount of time to get to where Decker is right now. And I think Decker will only get better with obviously a long season of pro ball, his first year under his belt now.

Knowing all you've got to do is prepare for March, for the rest of the season, and not get ready in January like you do in college. He can hit. Period. Again, it's going to determine how he does as he gets higher and how he starts to handle the off-speed pitches more consistently than he did down here this year. Again, if you look around he was probably a man amongst boys in the league this year.

Jonathan Galvez had 20 errors this year. Was that a case of being too flashy?

Jose Flores: So much talent and ability this kid has. I think a lot of it has to do with style. He likes to look pretty but he should just get the job done, get it over with. He likes to take his time sometimes between balls to kind of show off his arm. But all of us know that he doesn't have a plus arm. I don't know what contributes to that, or where he gets it from, but a lot of errors were throwing errors because of him not realizing how fast the guy can get down the line or how much time he took to throw that ball.

Out of 20 errors, I would say that maybe half - 15 - are probably throwing errors. Six or seven might have just been routine ground balls that I guess is lack of concentration. At this level, at this age for him, I thought that sometimes he would take his at-bats out to the field and that would in turn get him out of focus with his concentration and what he has to do on the defensive side.

He's a ballplayer. I think it's a maturity issue with him. And I think that, hopefully, after grilling him all year, because he was one of my guys that I was on all the time, hopefully, he understands how seriously he should be taking this because of the ability he has to hopefully do something in this game.

He has a lot of pop for his size and if you look at him he's about 150-pounds wet. But the kid drives the ball. The kid hit the ball out of the yard just like anybody else. So, it's just a matter of him maturing, getting a little bigger, stronger, and definitely working on his mental side of the game. That's going to determine whether or not he can become a prospect earlier or later.

Rymer Liriano – the one thing that impressed me about him is he cut down on his strikeouts as the season wore on.

Jose Flores: Yeah, and I think a lot has to do with patience and understanding of what the program is all about. About the patiently, aggressive program that we preach to all of our rookies and all of our organization.

I think the more and more we had one-on-ones with him as far as the hitting approach and the hitting program, the more and more he understood it. And I think the scenarios on situational hitting dictated what pitches he wanted to swing at. I think that helped him lay off some real good pitches that he probably would have swung at at the beginning of the year and last year when he was in the Dominican. So the kid came along.

He hit over .330 all year. He didn't go below .330 all year. Look at his numbers from the Dominican last year and this year. He's just a different ballplayer.

The kid's got power. He's got size. He can run, he can throw. To me he's like a five-tool player. I've never been around someone who has that potential. And this kid has them all. Power, run, throw, field.

For him, it's just the mental side of the game and maturity. And as we joke around in the clubhouse… I saw him for the first time last year in the Dominican instructional league, the first name that came to mind was a young Sammy Sosa. It doesn't mean he could hit 60 Homers, but he's got that body. People have told me that he's bigger now than Sammy was at his age so I can imagine how much bigger and probably stronger Liriano is going to get in the years that are coming.

The kid's impressive. The maturity part again, he's going to have to grow on that, but the kid's an athlete. He can play. He can do it all.

And to me, outside of Decker he was my player. As much as frustrated as he can get you, the kid can play. He hustles his butt off. He works hard, he does all the extra things he needs to do to get better. The kid is a workaholic.

Cameron Monger is a kid that didn't get a whole lot of playing time in college and was a bit raw. Obviously, unbelievable speed. What did you see?

Jose Flores: He was a pleasant surprise for me and for all of us I believe. I've never seen a white kid run that fast. This kid runs like the wind. You hit the ball on the ground, and he's either going to be safe or it's going to be a bang-bang play and I'm talking about balls to the pitcher. This kid is just is impressive.

He's got a ways to go. He's very athletic, and he will pick it up faster than what we are probably thinking. He came around, I think he hit close to .300, about .295, .290, whatever it was. But like you mentioned, for a kid who hadn't played much in college, he came here and he took a pro game. He made a good adjustment. It wasn't like say an Olabisi. He took the game more in stride and went with it and he got results.

He understood that his legs were part of his game. Eliminating balls in the air was one of the things we worked on a lot. He drove the ball into the ground a lot so he could use his speed.

In the outfield, he covers everything.

On Wande Olabisi – is it about him trying to hit everything out of the park?

Jose Flores: He was a little bit different. Yes, we drafted him because of his athleticism but he doesn't have instincts for the game. That is pretty hard to teach. They are similar in terms of speed. We always wondered who would win in a race.

Olabisi is a stronger kid than Monger but he doesn't have the intangibles that Monger has. Monger can put a bunt down and run. Monger can hit a sacrifice fly to right field if he wanted to get the runner in from third. Olabisi doesn't necessarily know the plan that has to be put in play every day to get better.

Even though he did get better, it wasn't an overwhelming getting better. When you expect something and don't get it – that is kind of the way we felt. He is putting in all this time and putting in all this work but still not getting results. He didn't catch on as quickly as Monger did. I am not taking anything away from him. His instincts, as far as how to run, when to run, what pitches to swing at, what pitches to lay off – that stuff is a ways away.

You had Ryan Skube who is the son of your hitting coach, obviously. How difficult was it in that kind of circumstance to balance everything out – not showing favoritism while still getting him his playing time?

Jose Flores: It was kind of scary for me the first time. I never had a situational like that, especially with him being my hitting coach. I got help from Tom Gamboa and other people as far as how to handle that situation. They basically said, ‘Treat him as a freshman on the varsity team. He is probably is going to get his at-bats but he won't be the everyday guy.' I took that into consideration and I did get him his at-bats. As much as I wanted to get him more at-bats, at that time and through the sequence of the season – before the season started, they told me certain people had to play all the time. Taking that into consideration, I went with who was producing, who was adjusting and getting better as far as what was going on with our program.

It took me a little while longer to look at Skube. Looking back early in the year, he was a one-dimensional type player and I questioned him on the defensive side. He came along defensively, however, and did a really good job.

Offensively, getting the aluminum swing out and using the whole field is what I looked at because that is the type of player he is going to develop into.

In the long run, he did his job as a first year guy. He has a ways to go defensively and offensively – hitting the ball the other way, hitting it where it is pitched, working on separation. All things that are going to help his game as he develops and gets bigger and stronger. Defensively, same thing. Get better on the pivots, routine ground balls and moving side to side.

The kid is a good player. I think he will develop quicker because of his dad and showing what he needs to do. He also has the hunger.

I know you only had Everett Williams for four games but what were your initial impressions?

Jose Flores: Athletic. Nice build. A nice, strong body and showed some good pop during BP. BP can be looked at different ways but he looked like he had some pop both ways – left center and right center. It looks like he can run. His defensive work was ok. He needs some work positioning himself for fly balls and getting his maximum effort on his throws. All those things they worked with him in the Instructional League.

He looks athletic. He looks like a ball player. Four games is a not a lot. He does look like a guy who likes attention.

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