This year, Eugene, despite several promising prospects such as Jerry Sullivan, Chris Fetter, Edinson Rincon and Vince Belnome, still wasn’t able to escape last place in the Northwest League’s Western division finishing the season at 34-42.
What stood out for you the most with the Emeralds this year?
Chris Fisher: On the negative side, the bullpen was a disappointment, and it cost them a ton of wins. This year, it was really a big struggle to get innings, and frequently, we were moving starters back to try to rectify the situation. Many of these guys’ arms just wore out. Also, the infield, especially Rincon at third was a little porous. If he was in there that night, you knew there was a good chance of an error out there.
On the positive side, it was a very resilient team. Many of them, especially in the middle of the order, had a very good idea of the strike zone. Nick Greenwood and Chris Fetter were really effective for us on the mound and Rincon, who struggled at third defensively, can really hit.
Edinson Rincon is widely considered one of the best prospects in the system but there are some questions about his defense. What did you think?
Chris Fisher: He is a very young guy and offensively he really appeared to just soak everything in. He was very patient at the plate, and you would seldom see him swing at anything outside of the zone. Really, I can’t emphasize enough how strong the middle of the order was for us this season with him, [Vincent] Belnome and [Nate] Freiman.
I know it’s a cliché, but when you watch Rincon take BP the ball just sounds different coming off his bat.
Defensively, he was just not comfortable at third base no matter how many ground balls they hit at him every day, and they did hit him a ton of ground balls. Greg Riddoch told me once that the situation reminded him of Eric Davis, who played in Eugene in the early ’80’s. He was at shortstop and struggling, but once they moved him to the outfield, his career took off.
He just doesn’t have the reaction time or really the hands to play there. For example, when he would make a routine play, it was like wow. It seemed like everyone was always holding their breath when the ball was hit to him.
Vince Belnome was the type of player everyone enjoys reading about. He was fourth in the league in OPS as a second baseman. What can you tell us about him?
Chris Fisher: Vince is a really disciplined hitter and was by far the best hitter going the opposite way this year. He also has some power going the opposite way there. He is one of those guys who really takes care of his business on his own, very soft spoken and knew what he had to do to get better.
Defensively, I thought he was a very solid player defensively.
Nate Freiman, the massive first baseman out of Duke, was thought to have quite a few holes in his swing but put up some good power numbers this year. What made him so effective?
Chris Fisher: Nate is just so big and strong, he really is a power guy. He knocked in a ton of runs this year. I thought he had the most impressive home run this year in Vancouver, which was just a straight shot over the center field wall.
I’m not sure what made him so effective. He did have some holes in his swing, but really worked very hard to improve upon it. He’s a very intelligent guy.
I know you only saw Everett Williams briefly, but did anything really stand out about him when you saw him?
Chris Fisher: We only had Everett for a few games so its hard to really get much of a read. Obviously, just being out of high school and sitting out for awhile he was a little behind the other guys. So he didn’t look real comfortable at the plate and a little overmatched. Although defensively he looked very good.
Nick Greenwood was the best starter this year for the Ems. What made him so effective?
Chris Fisher: His off-speed stuff is really good, particularly his changeup. He is kind of a backwards pitchers, he uses his off-speed to set up his fastball. He can throw three pitches, fastball, curve and changeup at any time in the count. To me, he seemed somewhat like Jamie Moyer. He would get guys out consistently out of either the bullpen or as a starter. He just has such confidence with all of his pitches.
How about Jerry Sullivan, the Padres’ third round selection in this years’ draft?
Chris Fisher: Once he became a full time starter, he kind of got settled in. He was just much more comfortable in that role than coming out of the pen. He got his confidence back and getting engaged in the middle of the season seemed to help him too [laughs].
He’s a real workhorse with great stuff, but he sometimes tends to go for the strikeout too much, which affects his ability to go deep into games. Also, like most young guys, he could work on his off-speed stuff a little more.
Chris Fetter was with Eugene for the majority of the season and showed more velocity than advertised. What did you see?
Chris Fisher: He’s another guy who just pitched with a ton of confidence. He just pumped fastballs constantly, which he really commanded well. Occasionally, he would start to go away from it and try throwing his other pitches, but our pitching coach Bronswell Patrick really emphasized that he throw and command the fastball.
Being 6-foot-8, he really gets a good plane from which to throw the ball, which makes him difficult for hitters. At one point this season, he had 25 scoreless innings.
Although they were only in a few games, Jorge Reyes and Keyvius Sampson are two young pitchers that are very highly regarded in the organization. What did you see from them?
Chris Fisher: Keyvius pitched for us for two games and he looked good. He is very calm and collected out there. Jorge Reyes I really liked. He has a fastball in the mid-90’s and worked very fast, probably more so than anyone else in the league. He has an array of pitches, and I think he can be a very good pitcher down the road, as long as his secondary pitches continue to develop to catch up to his fastball.
Last question, who was your top pitcher and top player this year. Also, who was the top prospect you saw this year in Eugene?
Chris Fisher: For top pitcher I would have to go with Greenwood, he led the league in ERA, but Fetter was awfully close. For players, I would go with Belnome, but with Rincon right on his heels, but he also really needs to be in the outfield.
For top prospect, I would go with Nick Greenwood, mainly because he is left-handed with a plus change, and I think he can either start or be effective in relief as he goes forward.
Talk about this story on our subscriber-only message boards
Join MadFriars.com on Twitter at http://twitter.com/madfriars