Three Strikes with Randy Smith, Director of Player Development and International Scouting:
There has been quite a bit of criticism of the shape that Jaff Decker is in. Can you talk a little about what he looked like at the beginning of spring?
Randy Smith: No question he looked great, and you can tell that he really put the work in this winter. It’s something that he is really going to have to work on throughout his career. Its really unfortunate that he pulled a hamstring early in camp, he is still about three weeks away.
Last year’s number one pick Allen Dykstra struggled at the plate until the last month of the season. Do you expect to see him get off to a much better start this year?
Randy Smith: We certainly hope so and are expecting. Hopefully some home cooking will get him rolling.
Chris Fetter is a type of under the radar prospect. Can you give us an idea of what type of pitcher that he is?
Randy Smith: The first thing anyone notices about Chris is this is a really big guy. He has three pitches, good arm and is a bit of a sleeper. I saw him throw fairly consistently in the low 90’s and I’ve heard he can go higher.
*Starting the year on the DL
MadFriars.com Top 20 Prospects in Lake Elsinore (3): Jaff Decker #2, Drew Cumberland #15 and Anthony Bass #19. Also keep an eye on Blake Tekotte, Cole Figueroa, Jorge Reyes, Aaron Breit and Allen Dykstra, all of whom we identified as potential sleepers.
Catch a Rising Star: Jaff Decker – Came into the camp in the best shape of his life and should put to rest all of the erroneous John Kruk comparisons. Shedding about 15 pounds should allow everyone to see what a complete player he really is.
Pitching: An interesting staff comprised of two college pitchers who put up some very strong numbers in Fort Wayne, Bass and Davis, a former number one draft pick in his second year off of Tommy John surgery, Schmidt, and two pitchers with potentially big upsides Reyes and Fetter. The 6-foot-8 Fetter is going to attract attention because of his size and big fastball. He’ll be a little old for the league at 24, but he is very much a late developing player who is just really learning how to master his mechanics. Reyes only threw 13 innings in Eugene last year but has electric stuff, and if he can find the maturity and the consistency needed to be a professional, he could be the find of the year. Both Bass and Davis succeed without overwhelming stuff and the Cal League is the place where the rubber meets the road with these types of pitchers. Both will have to rely upon their secondary stuff more than they did previously to succeed at this level. Schmidt put up very good numbers before tiring out in Lake Elsinore in the second half. He should be much stronger this year and hopefully can regain the form that made him a top draft pick. Bach was the best closer in the system as well as the league fastest interview and will pound the strike zone. Herr, his diminutive lefty set-up man was a big reason he was able to get as many save opportunities as he did. Alexis Lara was dominant in the second half last year and could be even better this season with the addition of a slider. Last, Aaron Breit had a nice year both in relief and as a starter last year for the Storm. Schumacher was dominant last season after adding a cutter.
Position Players: Flat out the best offense in the system and should be even better than last year in Fort Wayne. Any discussion of the position players starts with Decker, who at 20 has an advanced approach at the plate and should result in more power at the Diamond, which favors left-handed hitters. Both Dykstra and Tekotte made significant swing adjustments last year that resulted in better production once they were incorporated. If Cumberland can make it over the 80-game mark, he could show some of his vast athletic talent, speed and an ability to hit the ball into the gaps. Figueroa is an exceptional talent, with the ability to play both second and short and has a very quick short stroke. Belnome was the best hitter in Eugene last year, and if he can pull the ball, he is definitely someone to watch. DH/1B Cody Decker broke quite a few records in the Arizona League and is going to make a significant jump to High-A. If Carvajal falters, Decker will be the best right-handed bat in the lineup. He could also see some time in left field.
On the Spot: Yefri Carvajal – Despite being the perennial favorite of half of the MadFriars.com staff and to paraphrase Kevin Goldstein of Baseball Prospectus, he has more tools than the local Home Depot, Carvajal has yet to put together a season worthy of the lofty projections, despite the many opportunities that have been provided the past two years. Still only 21, he’s going to get another opportunity for everyday at-bats, but time is running out if he doesn’t put up some numbers to justify it.
Under the Radar: Blake Tekotte – Great range and overcame a wretched first two months to still put up some decent numbers. He has some pop and the team believes it corrected a few hitches in his swing.
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