Dascenzo on Fort Wayne hitting prospects

Doug Dascenzo guided his team to a Midwest League championship and has since been promoted to the San Diego Padres Double-A level. We caught up with the skipper to discuss prospects from the Fort Wayne TinCaps.

You only had Vince Belnome for 10-15 games down the stretch but he ended up being an integral part of your playoff lineup. What did you see out of him?

Doug Dascenzo: What we saw was pretty much exactly what he did in Eugene hitting-wise, a very selective type hitter, great approach to the ball. A lot of power for someone that hit the ball the opposite field and have the ability to hit it over the fence is really something special. Greg Riddoch said that he could do that, and he came right up and did it and he almost hit a homerun to straightaway center field in Game three against Great Lakes to end up being a two-out, RBI double to tie the game up at 3-3.

A very good approach, good solid hitter and a great, good ballplayer. Just like a lot of them.

Sawyer Carroll was with you for a bit and ended up being an All-Star. He wasn't that great last year with you but performed quite well this year. What changed?

Doug Dascenzo: Last year was his first season, this year is his second season. Number one, last year on his defense really, I think he played 12 games for us last year – 12 or 14 games, and I think 10 out of the 12 (10 out of the 14) they were left-handed starters and pitchers in those games. So it was really kind of an unfair type of deal last year. I think deep down in side was probably just the same guy but he just kind of got a bad draw last year coming up at the end of his first season. However, this year going through Spring Training, getting to know the organization a little bit more; knowing the guys a little bit more, he was just a lot more comfortable and knew exactly what he wanted to do. So anytime somebody jumps a level like he did last year you just don't know how they're going to handle it; and on top of that he had some pretty tough assignments as well. This year we saw a guy who was very selective at the plate, had the ability to hit the ball to all fields, a lot of doubles, into the gaps the other way, a lot of doubles to the pull side. I don't know how many homeruns he ended up hitting for us this year in Fort Wayne, 7 or 8 maybe, something like that. He'll learn to pull the ball as he moves up the ladder, some more pull power.

Yefri Carvajal comes down to you after struggling in Lake Elsinore. It seemed his confidence was shaken but he turned things around towards the end. Did you see that as well?

Doug Dascenzo: Yeah, we did. He had a nice little spurt the last two or three weeks of the season and got him to be able to be the DH at least in the first round of the playoffs. He was kind of up and down all year long. I think he actually number-wise didn't do that bad when you look at his numbers up in Lake Elsinore. I think he ended up finishing there like .260, but the power that he does have just wasn't showing up. That just had a lot to do with, I think, his approach and what's going on. It is something that he needs to continue to work on and to refine. I think once he does that we should be able to see some of the power go up a little bit more.

There is no questioning the power of Matt Clark. He led the Midwest League at the time with 55 RBI. What did you see from Matt that makes you believe he can continue to have success?

Doug Dascenzo: First of all, he's got a good swing. His pitch selection, just like a lot of these guys this year, was very good, and it is just going to continue to get better. His swing is very good, and he's a big strong kid so there's power in there as well.

His father played at the Major League level, so I don't think the professional ball awed him at all. Pretty much like most guys whose father's play at the professional level. So he's kind of had a head start in that department.

He's someone that drives a lot of RBI and really has a good game plan. He knows what he wants to do and when he gets the pitch he wants to hit he doesn't miss it. You have those guys here and there and he's definitely one of them. He's an RBI hitter and actually did pretty good at first base too. We are looking for good things from him in the future.

Drew Cumberland – is it all about staying healthy with Drew?

Doug Dascenzo: I think at this point, yeah. He's had a couple of injuries this year and last year, but our feelings are still the same. This guy's a spark plug type player and he can do a lot of things, but it's hard for him to do that when he's not on the field.

I think one of the things really is kind of the way he plays, I think that the tendency or the likeliness, the history actually says, hopefully, it's just bad luck because he can do a lot of things for a team: steal bases and score runs, and maneuver the ball around the field, and be a hit-and-run type guy, and his shortstop abilities have come a long way from a year ago. His arm strength has done a lot better. He's bigger and stronger than he was a year ago. So I think it's a matter of him staying away from the injuries.

The knock on James Darnell a season ago was that he struggled adjusting to the breaking ball. Was that something that was evident to you?

Doug Dascenzo: I think he does okay with the breaking ball because he doesn't miss any of the fastballs. That's one way people look at it. So, here' a guy who, I don't know where he finished in the rankings, but at the time, I think he was in the top five in all of baseball and on-base percentage or something within the halfway point along with Logan Forsythe. One way to conquer the breaking ball is not miss the fastball, and he can do that. So that just comes with time.

I think if you're concerned, you might want to be careful when you start talking about guys that can hit the breaking ball because what happens is they start to swinging at it, and the higher you get up, the better breaking balls you see, and then maybe they're not hitting as well. So I think you have to be careful when you start looking at saying either someone's a good breaking ball hitter or not a good breaking ball hitter because we're more concerned with dominating a fastball and getting a good pitch to hit. That's what he can do and he did it all year this year.

Jaff Decker hits .299 for you at 19 in the Midwest League. That is not easy, especially when there was just seven or eight guys all year who hit over .300.

Doug Dascenzo: Yeah, I think he finished 10th in the league in hitting and like you say, to be 19 years old and be able to come up here and be productive like that says a lot about this kid.

Sixteen home runs, a couple of them in the playoffs, and made a lot of good throws defensively. He still needs a lot of work and he knows that to get a little bit better out there defensively, but as an offensive player, this guy has the ability to hit the ball over the field, with power, high average. He's a good one.

Allan Dykstra – something changed in August where things began to click. That has to help his confidence going into the offseason. What did you see that helped him make that turnaround.

Doug Dascenzo: Well, you know what, his confidence never dipped much at all. Even from day one. He was disappointed, of course, from what actually was happening the first half of the year, but he never really had any confidence issues whatsoever. That was one of the amazing things, because when you see somebody that's hitting .200 or .190, you would think the guy would come to the field and be down all the time and he never ever showed that. So it was always a work in progress.

He never ever backed down from the work and he got rewarded for it in the end. I think he ended up hitting 320 in August, 319 or 320. He hit a few homeruns down the stretch and got some big key hits in the playoffs. So, you never know when you're going to find it, and he found something in August and the reason he found it is because he kept looking for it. That says a lot about that individual.

Cole Figueroa is a guy that seems to have a plan of attack each time he comes to bat. He knows what he wants to do and is very good at executing it. There was no better player for you in the playoffs either.

Doug Dascenzo: No question about it. Here's another guy where his father played in the Major Leagues, at the Major League level, comes from a baseball family.

Just a very, very good, solid player; instinctually off the charts. He's always in the middle of everything. He played a great shortstop for us when Cumberland went down and really was, like you say, one of our key hitters down the stretch into the playoffs.

He got the big two-out, two-run double in game three in the bottom of the eighth, put us up 5-4, but can do anything you want on a baseball field. He's one of those guys where you might have to watch him more than a series to actually find out the value he does have. He's got a nice career ahead of him.

Does the same hold true for a guy like Dan Robertson. He seems to be consistent in his approach – a simple swing that just produces with a little pop.

Doug Dascenzo: Just a simple blue-collar type of player; hustles his butt off on defense, offense, line drive type hitter. I don't know how many home runs he ended hitting up. He could surprise you here and there, but that's not his game. His game is to get on base, get around the bases, score a run.

A very good defensive player, can play in all three positions. A very, very accurate arm, solid average strength in it. Made a lot of key throws, will throw runners out at various bases. A spark plug kind of like Cumberland and Figeuroa. We didn't have one or two guys that were like that on this team. We probably had six or seven or eight of them. That really, really pushes everybody else.

During your best stretch of the year, your hottest hitter was Blake Tekotte. My guess is it had to do with gaining timing while losing some of that wrap in his swing – something I know he worked on the better part of the year.

Doug Dascenzo: Yeah, his problem a lot of times is that his swing gets a little bit long. He starts to go out to try and get the baseball rather than, there's a happy medium there, to kind of stay there and let your swing work for you.

Right after the first half at the start of the second half, he provided a little bit of power for us. I think he ended up with 13, and he really got locked in for about six weeks from the start of the second half. He didn't miss a fastball for six weeks in a row. Of course, he played great, great defense, which I believe is another part of the TinCaps success this year.

They only made 130 errors on 140 games on the season, and anytime you make the least amount of errors, or lesser errors, you've got a chance to win ballgames. He's got a very good accurate arm. It doesn't possess all the strength that you would like to see, but it is very, very playable. He also led the team in stolen bases. A very good all around player right there in the middle of the field.

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