Flores on AZL Padres pitching prospects

Chris Wilkes

Jose Flores may have been a hitting coach before becoming manager of the AZL Padres but he is moving forward in his help of pitchers, including names such as Stiven Osuna, Jose DePaula, Chris Wilkes, Eric Gonzalez, and Brad Brach.

Stiven Osuna was outstanding for you and kept the ball in the park. What did he do so well?

Jose Flores: I've loved this kid since I met the kid. He's the type of kid that's going to come out and compete for you from the minute he takes the rubber. He's a guy who's going to pound the strike zone. He doesn't have overpowering stuff, it just seems that he just spots balls, throws every pitch with a purpose, with what he's trying to pitch to that hitter, regardless if you're a nine-hole hitter or a four-hole hitter. He just has a purpose of what he's trying to do every time he throws that pitch.

What impresses me about him is that he has no fear. He's like, ‘Hey, here it is, if you hit it, you it hit.' He's not a nibbler where he's going to try to look for every pitch to be on the corner, inside, or whatever.

He just came mentally prepared to play and pitch every time he was out there. What was special about him was that his demeanor was so much older than what you would see from a 20-year-old. He seemed more like a veteran type guy than anybody else we had on our staff. I think that helped him. He has good mound presence, he has focus. He's just a different type of kid than you see out there from the other starters that we had. That's what impresses me about him. He comes out there to compete every single day. No matter if we're playing the worst team in the league or the best team in the league. It just seemed that every night, it was the same effort no matter who he was facing.

If he ran into trouble, it was no fear, it was, ‘Ok, I'm down 2-1, I'm going to dominate the next five innings that I have.' It was incredible to see in the kid that he can control when he gets in trouble. We call it damage control. If he gives up a run in the second or a run in the third or back-to-back innings, he just shuts them down. He doesn't let that faze him. That's what impresses me about him.

Jose DePaula threw a lot of strikes and seemed to improve as the year went on. What does he need to work on to keep progressing?

Jose Flores: Jose was a little different. He is an immature 18-year-old kid. It just seemed like you don't know what you're actually going to get when he gets up there. When he's on, he's pretty much untouchable. He mixes pitches well; he's got an outstanding changeup. He's got a nice little slider that cuts into righties that gives them trouble.

At times, he gets himself in trouble because it just seems like he doesn't have an out pitch. Several times during the season, pretty decent hitters have 10-11 pitch at-bats off of him, which puts his pitch count way up, where we monitor those things to where he sometimes just goes four innings because after four he's already thrown 75 pitches.

The times that he was dominant, he pushes maybe six innings because he gets hitters out and he's working ahead in the count. Again, his immaturity is what kind of held him back this year. We see big things out of him once he matures and understands what his best pitches are, how he dominates, and how he can get hitters out taking less than an 11-pitch at-bat so he can progress in a game.

He came on towards the end; I just don't know sometimes what he's bringing; if he's competing today, if he's just going through the motions today. He showed no life a lot of the times that he pitched; he was like, ‘Ok, it's my turn in the rotation; well I'm going to take my chances today. If you beat me, well, hey, it wasn't my day.' That's not what we try not to encourage. We want you to be upset at the fact that you might have got your butt handed to you today, but at the same time you want to make sure that you show some sort of emotion out there instead of just, because that goes along way with a lot of our staff.

Pablo Menchaca disease.

Jose Flores: Pretty much, yeah. It's something that needs to be worked on, that has been addressed to him this year. It was funny because, after I did address that thing, we had our Latin guy talk to him, then Dr. Ray. He came out and dealt for like three or four starts in a row, and I was like, ‘Wow, ok, what a big difference' because now, he's throwing with emotion, now he's throwing with a purpose instead of just saying, ‘Ok, it's my turn in the rotation' and just throwing. It was funny because the last week of the season, we were a game out and it was his turn to pitch against Texas. To me, I don't think he knew how big that game was for us. He came out and threw four innings, threw about 87 pitches. He was flat, he didn't know what he was doing, he wasn't covering bases, he wasn't backing up this. It just seems like this guy took two steps back after taking a giant step forward. Again, his immaturity is a factor for him. It's all going to depend on how much he matures over the offseason and how much he remembers of what he did wrong that he can correct coming into spring of next year.

Chris Wilkes was excellent for you and really seemed to grasp the changeup and keeping the ball down. How did he do so well?

Jose Flores: He was special to watch. You look at him and Osuna, you know what you're going to get. You put those two guys out there and you know exactly what you're going to get. What I like about Wilkes is that he challenges. He's not afraid to throw it. He doesn't walk many people. Again, he doesn't have any overpowering stuff. The thing that impresses me about him, for an 18-year-old to establish the changeup the way he has and throw it at any time in the count, whether you're down 2-0 or down 3-1 or 0-0, he's not afraid to throw it and he throws it for strikes at this point in his career. It's only going to get better as he gets going.

He's the kind of guy that doesn't show any fear. He shows emotion. If you get him hey, he's right back at it the next inning, or the next outing. For an 18-year-old, it was pleasant.

I'm not sure I've seen any kid come out and throw that many ground balls. Is that life on his pitches moving down?

Jose Flores: Well, his changeup is outstanding. The majority of his ground ball outs are on his changeups because of the movement he has on his changeup. Again, he throws it at any count. When you're a hitter and you're sitting on a pitch 2-0 you're thinking fastball and he throws you a changeup that runs in on you or sinks down, you've got something working that night. At times he does leave it up, but then he's an 18-year-old kid who throws it where he wants and knows he has a good chance of getting that ground ball out or getting an out period on that pitch.

Eric Gonzalez was a go-to guy for you down the stretch. What made him so successful?

Jose Flores: Eric came along just fine. He was good to watch. It was unfortunate that he missed maybe a month of the season waiting on his working visa. When he got a chance, he's one of these guys that, ‘Give me the ball and I'm going to get it done.' Regardless of the situation, if we're down, if we're up, if we're tied, ‘Give me the baseball and I'm going to get it done.' That's the mentality that he had.

He came out there and threw strikes, doesn't nibble, again, comes right after you. It was good to have a guy like that that we have to lead and we know we have a guy that we have enough confidence in to put him in there with a one-run lead in the eighth knowing that he's going to get us to our closer in the ninth. He was that guy, he was our go to guy whether we needed him for 2.5 innings or three innings or that one inning.

Was there any other pitcher who impressed you, regardless of what the numbers were?

Jose Flores: I like Brad Brach. He's out of a small school, late draft pick, he started out as the set up guy to Colin Lynch, but Lynch couldn't handle that role, so he became the closer.

What I liked about him, he came out and he just had that bulldog mentality. Whether we're up nine or down nine, whenever we used him, he came in with that purpose of, ‘Here it is, see if you can hit it.' He attacks the strike zone, he works fast. He has you on your toes when you're on defense. You don't have to be waiting in between pitches. It's like a second and a half before the next pitch is thrown. He just works that fast and throws strikes. To me, our staff liked him because he had that mentality of, ‘Give me the ball, next pitch; give me the ball, next pitch.' He got the job done. He had some big saves for us this year and again, he comes in and works hard every day.

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