Couchee on Padres prospects

We caught up with the Padres' roving pitching coordinator Mike Couchee in Eugene on his impressions of two of San Diego's top pitching prospects Keyvius Sampson and Matt Lollis in the Northwest League this season.

Keyvius Sampson was one of your top draft picks last year and everyone has described him as athletic with a live arm at the time of the draft. How has he progressed from last year?

Mike Couchee: I didn't get a chance to see him that much until the Instructional League and we were pretty careful with how much he threw there. I really got a chance to see more of him in spring training and in extended.

His delivery is much better as far as his direction to the plate. He had a tendency to get across his body and kind of go side to side. The fastball command wasn't nearly as good as it could be or will be. On opening night his command was much better after the first two innings when he was a little excited.

He does have a very live arm and his secondary pitches have come a long way. A year ago, he didn't know what a changeup was and he threw some good ones on his first start.

For his breaking pitches he throws a curveball. As an organization, we have talked about being fastball dominant and out of 81 pitches I think he threw 68 fastballs. He commanded it to both sides of the plate well.

If you guys have a choice between breaking pitches do you usually pick a curve over a slider because it is such a different looking pitch?

Mike Couchee: It really depends on the type of pitcher that the guy is and the quality of the slider or the curve. If they are both good, then we have no problem with someone using them both. Matt Lollis is a good example of someone who throws both.

The problem we run into sometime is that instead of having one good breaking ball you end up with two bad ones if you don't have the right mechanics. If they can distinguish between the two, we don't have a problem with that.

When I spoke with Grady Fuson at the end of last year on the AZL prospects he mentioned Matt Lollis as someone who has some work to do but if he can come around, he could be someone to watch?

Mike Couchee: He is someone to watch and is coming around. I mean he is a horse.

This is a big man, at least 6'9" and around 280?

Mike Couchee: [laughing] He's listed at 250 and he's bigger than that.

But he's not a fat guy.

Mike Couchee: No and I met his father and his dad is a big guy too. He's just a big kid and is one of the better athletes we have in the system. As you saw, he can really field his position.

Tom Bradley [the pitching coach for Eugene] said that he was around 91 to 93 the whole night and they expect him to add a little more velocity.

Mike Couchee: Oh I think there is more in there. This is a kid that will probably end up pitching at 94 or 95 instead of touching it.

I can't see this from the press box but how much was he hitting the corners compared to throwing it in the big part of the plate and hitters at this level can't catch up to it?

Mike Couchee: He's pretty good command wise side to side. His biggest asset is that he is so big and throws at such a downward plane the angle of his fastball is tougher to deal with than the velocity. Even if it is in the middle of the plate it is through the hitting zone so quickly its tough to hit.

He seems like he's more than just a thrower if you guys are letting him throw both a curve and a slider.

Mike Couchee: There is no question he has pitching ability and really such a good athlete. He might be one of those guys that is really able to distinguish between throwing the two.

What is his biggest improvement since you guys signed him? Is it his fastball command?

Mike Couchee: I think it would be his fastball command. In Instructional League he really worked his tail off to get a repeatable delivery and with that comes fastball command.

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