TigsTown Q&A: CEO/GM Dave Dombrowski

I had a chance to catch up with the Tigers' President, CEO and general manager Dave Dombrowski, last week while he was in Erie catching some SeaWolves' games. He was kind enough to sit down with me for a couple minutes and discuss the draft, some of the Erie prospects, the state of the farm system, and what his plans are for the July 31st trading deadline.

TigsTown: Mr. Dombrowski, thank you for your time. Let's start off by talking about some of the guys you drafted and the organization's continuing philosophy of drafting power pitchers in the early rounds.

Dave Dombrowski: Really, our philosophy is such that David Chad runs the draft with our scouts. We're on the same page in the regard that if we are going to take pitching high, we like power pitching and that's what we ended up taking with Turner and Oliver in the first couple of rounds. We really don't target a specific position or college or high school, we just take the best available prospect when it's our time to draft. It just so happened that Turner was the best available guy. He's a very difficult sign, as people realize. Oliver is the same way. It's a situation where we can hopefully sign those guys as the time goes on and they're the type of pitchers we like coming into the organization with some power arms.

TT: Turner has drawn some comparisons to Rick Porcello from the media being that both are very highly touted pitchers coming out of high school. In your opinion, is that a fair comparison?

DD: To compare anyone to Porcello is a tough comparison. When you're pitching in the big leagues two years out of high school, that's a very unusual situation. We think he's very talented. He has that type of arm. He's in a position where he's very highly touted and we think a lot of him, but we think that Porcello was a little more advanced as far as his development was concerned. Although, we do like Turner and think that he could come very quickly as a high school pitcher but comparing him to Porcello is a bit of a reach.

TT: It seems like you've drafted a lot of players with family ties over the years, this year you picked the brothers of Shawn Roof, Alex Avila, and Rick Porcello. Can you talk about this a little bit?

DD: It's one of those things that you have to separate a little bit. When we drafted Alex Avila we thought he was a legitimate prospect and someone we think has a legitimate chance to be an everyday catcher at the big league level. Some of those others, as you get further down in the draft, you draft them to do some people a family favor. Maybe you're watching them play, but I don't realistically think that some of those guys are going to sign at this point. They'll probably go off and go to college and continue to develop at that level.

Eric has a chance to play in the organization, kind of like Shawn, and we'll continue to see if they keep developing and we'll see what happens.

TT: Let's switch the focus to Erie now. What are you thoughts on Ryan Strieby and where he projects long term and short term? Also, could you elaborate on the organization's decision to move him to left field?

DD: Well, we like Ryan Strieby a lot. We think he is going to be a big league player. He's got tremendous power. I was surprised he didn't get a little more attention last year because he would have broken some Florida State League records if he wouldn't have broken his hamate bone the last month of the season. He's not only a power hitter, he's a just a good hitter. He moves well for a big guy and really, he's a very good first baseman. It just so happens that we have a pretty solid first baseman in Detroit that is solidified, young, and going to be there for a long, long, time. So we figure we'd experiment with him left field and see how he moves around out there. He's done it some and we'll see. It's an experiment. A lot of our people feel that he'll be able to do it because he does move well for a big guy. He's very athletic for that type of individual and with the way he swings the bat, if he can go out there and play left, a guy like Greg Luzinsky playing left field is what comes to mind. But we think it's worth the experiment and has a chance to work.

TT: Are you surprised with the speed that Casper Wells got back to Erie and the things he has been able to do in the first home stand here?

DD: With the hamate you're never really sure. Sometimes those things allow you to come back quickly and sometimes they don't. I was just talking to Tom [Brookens] and I think I'm a little surprised that he was able to come back so quickly and apparently this one worked quick and worked well and he's a fast healer. He works really hard so we thought he'd be a little quicker. It just so happens that this one looks like it turned out well for him. We know that when he's back playing he's a very good player and good all around player for a ball club so we're happy to have him back in the line-up.

TT: Can you evaluate Scott Sizemore's progress so far and elaborate on where he ranks in the organization, and do you view him as a possible candidate to replace Placido Polanco when or if he leaves next season?

DD: Well, it's too early to tell at this point. I think Sizemore is going to be a big league player, and an everyday player at that. He's done a lot of things well for us. He's a good offensive player, a good defensive player, he has some pop, he's a heads up player. This club is blessed with a lot of good positional players, and a lot of good pitchers too. We got some good prospects and think that Sizemore has a chance of being an everyday player for us soon and we'll see what happens next year.

TT: You've been very high on Cale Iorg in the past for obvious reasons. He has a ton of tools, but he's gotten off to a really slow start this season. Are you at all concerned about it and do you still hold him in the same esteem?

DD: No, we aren't concerned. Ideally you'd like to see every one of your players hitting .300. He's played outstanding defense and he has a great attitude. We know that he's a very talented individual. This level is a tough level. It's a tough adjustment level. In Cale's case, he's a guy that just needs to keep playing. He's struggling offensively but we think he'll continue to improve. We think he's still going to be a fine big league player. He hadn't played baseball in two years, and I think all of the sudden you find yourself in Double-A after only playing one full year, and he was hurt at the end of year, and you're playing catch-up. I think he'll continue to adjust and get to big leagues.

TT: Can you give an overall assessment on how you view the farm system? Coming into the season a lot of people viewed it as one of the worst in the league.

DD: We feel very good about the farm system. David Chadd and his scouts have done a tremendous job for us, and it starts with them as the backbone. Then Glenn Ezell and the development team develop those guys. I think what happened is that a lot of people got away from us as we traded a lot of our young players for big league talent, then all of a sudden they looked past our system. But all of the sudden it's developing once again and a lot of our players are helping us at the big league level. We have some real core players that are there in Cabrera and Granderson and you see a group building around them. There's a lot of contributions from the young players around them and there's a lot more coming. So, we are very excited about that situation. I think we're in a position where we have a chance to be good for a lot of years if these young players continue to develop, which we think they will.

TT: You have a lot of good things going on with this farm system and seem to be pretty pleased with it. Is the emphasis in the coming years going to be to build the team from within, or will you continue to look to add pieces from outside sources?

DD: We really have always put that emphasis on building from the farm system, however in our situation having lost for a lot of years, we really tried to speed that process up. Sometimes when you're trying to speed that process up you're in a position where you are signing more free agents and trading your young players away to try to add to that. Of course we made the World Series in 2006 because of that and we had a good club in 2007. Last year we thought we were going to have a fine club but it didn't work out for us. Now we are in a spot where we've had some of those young players- the Verlander's, the Jackson's, Zumaya coming back, Perry coming up, Granderson, a Cabrera to build around, an Inge who is singed for a few years - so you're in a spot where you can build around those guys and bring some of the young ones up. Really, all in all, it's what we'd prefer to do. I'm not saying we wouldn't look outside the club for help, but you really want to build from within.

TT: Moving onto the big club: A lot of people projected the Tigers to struggle a little bit this season. What do you think the difference has been?

DD: The key for us has been our pitching. Our bullpen has been pretty solid too, but it starts with Verlander and Jackson as the 1-2. Those guys have been dominant. Verlander has been as dominant as any pitcher over a time period here over the last seven or eight starts. He's been phenomenal. With Jackson following up behind him, he slipped a little bit in his last start, but he's been tremendous for us. Those guys behind them have the power arms and have been solid, but it's been led by Verlander and Jackson. Our bullpen has benefited with getting Zumaya back in there and being healthy. Rodney has been solid back there. Ryan Perry has been a pleasant surprise; he's been able to add to that power end of the bullpen. We like our ballclub and the power arms. We've been carried so far by our pitching and our defense. Our offense hasn't been as good as we thought it was going to be.

TT: Do you plan to add a bat to bolster your struggling offense?

DD: Right now it's too early. We're hoping that Magglio will get going, he's been scuffling for us. Marcus Thames just came back about a week ago and he's been swinging good for us. Carlos Guillen is still in the rehab process, so we'll see how that goes along. He could be that bat we've been looking for. We'll continue to keep an eye on everything we have going, but our offense will be something we keep an eye moving ahead.

TT: So if some of these players fail to return, can we expect to see the Tigers' shopping around come July 31?

DD: We're always looking to see how teams are doing and that process is just starting to happen now. So we'll see. It really depends on where a lot of teams are by mid-July. The talks are just beginning right now. We're always looking to get better but we need to see how some of these guys come back first, and I think a couple of them will get it going in the second half.

TT: But if they don't?

I don't have a crystal ball, so I can't say right now.


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