Wickham on Padres prospects

Mike Wickham has been an integral part of player development in the San Diego Padres system. We caught up with the director of minor league operations to get his thoughts after the first month-plus of the season.

What are your impressions through the first month-plus of the season in Fort Wayne?

Mike Wickham: We are happy for the most part with the way things are going. We knew Fort Wayne had a lot of young players, especially the Latin crew we have out there. They are probably going to take a little while to get going for a couple of reasons. One being it is a big jump, two, the weather is cold and it will be an adjustment for them.

Guys like Rymer Liriano, Jonathan Galvez and Edinson Rincon. Everett Williams started late and was sick. They are hanging in. We expect them to be more of a second half team once they get their legs under them.

That was kind of expected.

Is Lake Elsinore having the type of season you expected?

Mike Wickham: We are pleasantly surprised. The majority of that team was in Fort Wayne and won the championship. They are off to a hot start and in a groove. They are playing well. They are running on full cylinders. They are pitching; they're hitting.

Drew Cumberland is all-world right now.

San Antonio has the pitching but the lineup seems to be a bit stale, which is surprising since it came into the year with a lot of talent?

Mike Wickham: If I had anything I wasn't expecting, it would be the San Antonio crew getting off to somewhat of a slow start. All of those hitters there, with the exception of Cedric Hunter, started out slowly.

That park is a pitcher's park and plays like Petco Park. It is tough on left-handed hitters, especially left-handed power hitters. A lot of those guys are left-handed: Matt Clark, Kellen Kulbacki, Brad Chalk, Sawyer Carroll. Hunter has hit for a high average but has been more of a singles/doubles than home run guy to date. Luis Martinez is having a good approach. He is a solid stick. He was a big league defender already.

Logan Forsythe getting hurt didn't help, and, of course, James Darnell is on the DL too.

On paper going into the season, that is obviously a very talented group of players. Clark is someone who has the talent to do better. Same with Sawyer Carroll. I like the approach and they are getting good swings.

Mitch Canham has struggled – another lefty getting crushed in that yard. He has been disappointing in terms of approach and output. The pitching has been outstanding there. With Luebke getting ready to come back the first of June – he will go, most likely, into that rotation, which only strengthens that staff. Then there is the quality of the bullpen. Everyone of the starters is quality. Solid starters and solid pen – we didn't need to score runs, right? And we haven't scored runs.

Has there been any surprises for you thus far from a specific prospects success or lack thereof?

Mike Wickham: I wouldn't say I was surprised by Cumberland. We all expect him to be this kind of player, if he can stay healthy and stay on the field. That is what he has done.

Hunter – who had somewhat of a down year last year – it has been nice to see him pick it up and swing it the way he has the second time through the Texas League. He is only 22. He is still young. Some people view that as a negative – someone repeating a league. He has come back a lot stronger, has more confidence, the plate discipline is better and you see it paying off.

When does it become time to cut ties with Yefri Carvajal or make a decision on his future?

Mike Wickham: Everyone is disappointed. We sent him to extended for two weeks to try and build an approach there.

He has the physical tools. He has the strength, the arm strength, he has an aggressive swing – he has not recognized pitches to help him.

We thought we got somewhere two years ago. A decision has been made. We sent him to extended for two weeks for a hitting camp.

It seems like there have been more injuries this season ever this year. A freak coincidence?

Mike Wickham: I think so. This is my 12th year dealing with minor league business where I have been hands on with it. Some years, you get nothing. That was last year. We had no injuries in the system. In '08, it was a miserable season from the ring of the bell until the end. Everything went wrong, from catchers to infielders to pitchers. It was the worst season I had ever had. I told Grady, ‘This was miserable.' We were always looking for players outside the organization – some work, some don't.

A lot of times, there is no rhyme or reason to it. Logan Forsythe breaks his wrist. Jesus Lopez nicks his finger with the ball. Cumberland – who knows what he had. Four middle infielders down. They were coming out the woodworks from extended. Why is it middle infielders? Why isn't is catchers or pitchers? Well, it wasn't this month but it might be next month.

You go with the ebb and flow. Nothing shocks me anymore.

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