16 September 2011
* I'll start with the more general questions in no set order and try to move from there. There were a lot of responses to things that espoused an organization philosophy with regard to player development. One thing Pedro got on the table right away was a reference to the training program they instituted a few years ago and that at the end of the season, they bring in each guy to work with their people and equipment to determine a plan of action for the offseason in terms of skills and conditioning. He admitted that without the game situations, there's only so much that can be done, but the goal is to provide some kind of input for each to take on their own. Suffice to say, it's a more proactive approach than just waiting on a guy to spend an offseason going nuts in a weight room so that he can show up to spring training In the Best Shape of his Life.
The second general question regarded Ackley/Seager/Vasquez and the point that guys who were on a college diamond two years ago are in the big leagues right now. Pedro wasn't particularly elaborate in his response here, he just gave the standard credit to McNamara and said that if you draft good players, they'll move fast. Sort of a no-brainer response which acts as a subtle indictment of the previous regime. I would say that as the younger core of this team starts to coalesce a bit, they may be more willing to invest in a longer development cycle for guys with good make-up but raw skills at present. We've seen a little bit of this in June's returns as they were willing to take the time with guys like Marlette, Cohoes, Guarnaccia, White, Scammell, and Valenza (maybe even Marder) who had interesting physical talents, but otherwise weren't quite there yet.
The third general question was probably one that everyone would be most interested in hearing a reply to, what with the recent concern over aggressiveness, and that was "hey buddy, are you training these kids to do that?" The answer of course, was no, and to a lesser extent, yes. What he talked about was the notion of controlled aggressiveness and having guys on the look for their pitch and attacking said pitch. That isn't quite happening now. Big surprise, huh? Again, the refrain was that it needs to be individualized and guys need to understand who they are as hitters and what they can do and what they need to work on, and perhaps to lay off certain bendy things that look funny. That means that there are probably will continue to be some strikeout prone hitters in the system and they'll do what they can to temper that. It's not so easy as going out there and saying "hey you, swing less stupid." Coaching is rarely that simple.
The fourth general point may be me combining a couple of things (my notes, as ever, are barely comprehensible and written in code). It sort of ties into the second point, about drafting good questions, but the question was posed about what kind of adjustments guys need to make getting up to this level. Pedro pretty much said "the game is faster in the big leagues," which is a funny way of looking at it, but probably entirely accurate. There's less margin of error with guys making mistakes and the process has weeded out those that couldn't adapt. As Pedro said, adjustments need to be made on the fly and there isn't really a comfort zone as there might be elsewhere. But when the question came up of how many at-bats or innings they wanted to see from a guy before he moved up a level, the answer that came out went back to the old "it depends on the individual and no ideal number exists," which made me happy. It's not really a point of discussion that we can use to go "graaaagh that's too long and studies have shown…" or "no way that's too fast I can't handle it", but I don't really care about that as most of those debates are silly. I guess we'll just have to trust them on this from now on!
* When Francisco Martinez came up in the conversation pretty early on, Pedro immediately noted that other people had seen him play, but he hadn't made it out there yet to give his own evaluation. Consequently, what we got were some stock quotes: above-average tools, lots of power (probably raw power as opposed to game power at this point), can run a bit, etc. The only thing that I would say was new to me was the news that Martinez would play for Magallanes in the LVBP this winter. Now, someone is probably saying in response to that, "why not Lara? Don't we have the agreement with them?" and yes, we do, but it's been fairly common each year to have prospects who have hooked up with either their local team or a team that they've had a previous relationship with. If Martinez wants to stick with Magallanes, that's okay by me.
* Catricala was the next player-specific question, which isn't so surprising as there are a few people in Internetland who are wont to talk about him. Pedro didn't really have anything to say that any of us wouldn't have already expected. "He's hit at every level" (oh yeah?), "he's sort of versatile in that he can play third, first, or left" (yeah, and…?), "his bat plays at those positions" (oh good), and "we'll move him as his performance dictates" (okay!). This seemed to be more of a primer for those who had never heard of the guy before, so it was unlikely to satisfy any of the people who pose me these questions and might have been listening, For what it's worth, he seemed more effusive about Martinez' tools as a third baseman, so you might think that he's more a LF/1B type except that we have like a billion players vying for that job.
* The responses on Taijuan Walker were way, way more interesting in the greater scheme of things because there was the implicit assumption that we already knew who the guy was and the kinds of pitches that he threw. The latest is that he's moving to Arizona to be in close proximity to the training facilities, which I feel like I could add any number of exclamation points to the end to. We knew he was an interesting physical talent, but he's fully committed to this pitching thing and doing all he can do and that is just dope. The word is that that really intended to hold him back and put him in Everett, but after a few starts in extended they just looked at each other and decided that holding him back further would be foolish. Even though he's still really young, he'll move as his performance dictates.
* As Walker questions come, so Paxton questions followed. The first question was "were you surprised?" and the answer was no, no one was surprised. What they like about him beyond the stuff is that he's a competitor (okay…) and supposedly has this sort of presence on the mound and in the clubhouse. He wants to beat the batter on every pitch, which is good, I think. From here, he's going to get his own recommendations from the training crew and go through his offseason work, which is a roundabout way of saying, "no winter ball for you". * I think everyone's clear now on the bullpen needing help where it can get it, because we have a substitute teacher and a bartender out there now and they're two of our best guys. For that reason, Stephen Pryor came up next, and the biggest bit of news there is that he's headed to Lara for the offseason. What followed was a brief outline of him and his abilities, and I started to tune out, but then they mentioned that he was a little sore in the minicamp and this was the reason he was down in extended to start the year and was slow to get going. Back when he began his year in High Desert, he was in his spring training mode, much like what we saw with Guti to start the year.
* Next up on the docket was Littlewood and his conversion to catcher. I'm pretty sure I've already talked about it a bit, citing that physically it makes sense, good hands, kind of big/durable, good/accurate arm, but lacking speed, which might hurt him long-term up the middle. Pedro was pretty insistent that Littlewood could play up the middle and that there wasn't a question of that, and I guess I'll defer to his judgment, though from a tools standpoint they thought that catcher would be a fit, with good catching being hard to find (WE DRAFTED SO MANY). This was all something that came up in spring training. So, Littlewood sat down and talked with Roger Hansen and they started doing some drills and the like. I suppose the big thing is that he was reportedly excited about the transition and wants to go forward with it, which is really different from a lot of the "well, okay, if you really want me to…" sorts of transitions we've sometimes seen at the major league level these past several years. * A question was posed towards the end which was, in so many words, "Carlos Triunfel: what's up?" Pedro's response was pretty much what I expected it to be. There was little mention of his offense, but the matter of his recent injury history came up almost immediately with the discussion of a lost year of development, etc. Something that will probably surprise some is that Pedro said, paraphrased, "if he plays himself off shortstop, he will do it in the big leagues." This syncs up with the whole "keep guys at their most demanding defensive position" thing that the org has adhered to coming up (Seager is sort of an exception, but rules are bent to accommodate openings).
* Towards the end, x questions in, we finally got to the question of Nick Franklin, and with it, official confirmation of concussion, then food poisoning, THEN mono. Important matters of chronology there. The question was framed around whether he would be more offensive-minded or if he was the whole package, and that wasn't answered directly. Pedro talked about how the numbers weren't there in Adelanto, but they loved the process, and I agree to a certain extent in that the process seemed to be present early on, but then all the injuries. As one might expect, he was also trying to rush his way back way too quickly and was pretty much on the first plane out as soon as they cleared him. There was some discussion of loving his play at second and seeing little lost in the transition.
* The next question was the inevitable segue from the previous point, which was "can you see Ackley in center in five years? Would that be crazy?" The answer was no, not crazy, but it's probably not going to be necessary considering how far he's come in the past few years, and the fact is that they love that production from him at that position. I don't think anyone's going to disagree at this point. * The final question was how involved Eric Wedge was in the player development, which I suppose is a relevant item as the pitching philosophies that were disseminated to the minor leagues were often the same as those held by the pitching coach in recent years. The question was answered via various managerial platitudes. In my notes, I have "CLEAN FUNDAMENTAL BASEBALL" in all caps, and that should convey what it needs to. There are certain expectations held and they'll tell you what they are and how to get there, the Mariners way thing that he's talked about before. They like that he's taken interest, because rookies are something one should have to deal with every so often, and they appreciate that he's fiery and the like while I sit and think to myself "you know, the way 'fiery' is spelled is really peculiar". I wonder now how the old "bring back Lou" crowd is faring with a fiery new manager. They probably would still like more. I don't know.
And that's the outlined version of it, or as much as I was really paying attention to. Again, there was nothing revelatory that caused me to fall out of my chair and scream "now I get it!" (Walker moving to Arizona came close). Good notes overall, and probably fit well with the level of knowledge that his audience had anyway. Trying to talk too much about Campos or someone like that probably wouldn't have gone over as well.
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