A reason for optimism with hitting prospects

Sam Carter

While the Fort Wayne Wizards roster produced a terrible won-loss record, Bob Skube sees reason for optimism in the hitters. Tom King, Jesus Lopez, Jeremy Hunt, Robert Perry, Eric Sogard, Sam Carter, Justin Baum, and Luis Martinez all made strides.

You lost Tom King when he was smoking the ball and he never quite reached that level when he came back. Was that a confidence thing or the injury still bothering him?

Bob Skube: I think it was kind of like the Cedric Hunter incident. There were not a lot of quality hitters in the lineup and Tom was thrown into the three-hole, four-hole, five-hole. He was coming off the injury where he didn't have as many at bats as he should have – he was dealt a lot of breaking balls and off-speed pitches in hitters' counts because there wasn't anyone around him.

He made huge strides too. We are trying to get him to see more pitches, take more walks, and get his on-base percentage up. He did that and accomplished that in the last month of the season.

Jesus Lopez was more patient than I have ever seen him. He really made tremendous strides in that area. As a guy that is very good at situational hitting and seemed to not hit the ball enough the other way – how were you able to reach out to him?

Bob Skube: Our gameplan with Jesus at the beginning of the year was to have him pull the ball more and drive it into left-centerfield more. Through those strides in his hitting plan he accomplished a lot.

He probably, for me, was my prize pupil of the whole year. You can talk about Cedric and Tom King and the other guys – but that guy learned more about hitting than anyone on the team. He was the most disciplined guy at the plate. He recognized his pitch – and knew what pitch he wanted and jumped all over it when he got it.

If he could have 30 percent of his hard contacts fall in, he would have hit .275 or .280. I have never seen a guy line out as much as he did in the last two and a half months of the season. There was a streak of 25 games where he had two or three hard contacts every game. It was incredible.

He got his average up to almost .250 but tailed off and ended up at around .240. It was impressive. With his ability to play defense, if that guy can hit .270 at Double-A or Triple-A, he has a chance to be put on the roster. His defensive ability is phenomenal.

Jeremy Hunt had a pretty good season. What did you change with him through the year and what do you expect of him in the future?

Bob Skube: He didn't play really at all in the first six weeks of the season and then he got a chance to play a little bit and then ended up back on the bench. When Daryl Jones got hurt, he pretty much played the rest of the year and ended up leading our team in home runs with 14. He has big league power.

I think he is a player without a position at this time. Anytime you don't have a place you are running out to every day it plays on your mind and affects you to. He played first, third, DH, and could never settle into a position.

If he can learn a defensive position and command a position for a whole season I can see him hitting 25 homers.

Robert Perry you had for a handful of games but seemed to bring some energy. What were your impressions?

Bob Skube: Great guy. Very competitive. He really wants to learn during the game, even when he is not in it. He constantly was coming up to me and pointing out things the opposition was doing in hopes that he could help some of our own hitters out.

He has a lot of talent. Anytime you put him into the game, you expect him to do something to help you win that game.

Eric Sogard came to you late as well and performed well. What does he need to do to take his game to the next level?

Bob Skube: Eric is what we call in baseball ‘a player'. He is just a guy that has a lot of instinct. He is not a big bruising guy but is going through an adjustment in his hitting. He was down at Instructs and absolutely had a spectacular Instructional League.

He has a lot of instinct – another gamer, another player. As a manager you say, ‘This guy can play for me anytime because he is not going to be out of position. He is always going to make contact when he needs to and he is going to surprise you with some power into the gaps while hitting some home runs.'

How does he keep the glasses on is the question.

Bob Skube: (laughter) That is out of my ballpark.

Sam Carter was an all-or-nothing type for you. He either hit it far or struck out?

Bob Skube: That is pretty much it in a nutshell. He is an extremely powerful young man. He can hit the ball as far as anybody. He showed us that this year. He is another guy that didn't get to play much early on and showed what he had when he got his opportunity, ending up with 12 or 13 home runs.

He was a big influence in the middle part of our season when we were playing well and we rode his shoulders.

How can you cut down on his high strikeout totals? Those strikeouts are going to kill you eventually.

Bob Skube: He has to learn to trust his hands more. He wants to get out and chase breaking balls in fastball situations. He needs to learn how to stay away from breaking balls and not miss his pitch to get into a count where the pitcher can throw him breaking balls.

You had Justin Baum for a handful of games. What did you see out of the young man?

Bob Skube: He was in Instructs also. He is a very interesting young man. He has some extreme power, again for not being a big guy. He had a lot of doubles for us and did a good job at third base.

He worked on everything at Instructs – his defense, his swing, learning how to backspin some balls and maybe hit some more home runs.

At Instructs, did anyone there surprise you - someone who maybe you had not seen in Fort Wayne?

Bob Skube: I really like Kellen Kulbacki. He has done a good job. Andy Parrino has done a good job. We have a nice pool of young players and it is getting better every year.

Luis Martinez was with you down the stretch. Did he get a chance to make a good impression?

Bob Skube: He has to be one of our bright spots in the whole organization – being a catcher and displaying his ability to be a young hitter and doing what he has done in Instructs and throughout the whole season in Fort Wayne.

When I saw him it seemed he was a little late on some fastballs and adjusting to that.

Bob Skube: He has learned to take what the pitcher gives him and he stays to the opposite field. He hits the ball hard and hits it into the right-centerfield gap. He has learned how to be a good situational hitter and he has some pop.

His discipline at the plate has been right up there with Lopez. He has made huge strides.

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