Fuson on Fort Wayne Wizards prospects

Jackson Quezada

We sat down with Grady Fuson, the San Diego Padres vice president of scouting and player development, for his thoughts on this year's Fort Wayne Wizards.

Level: The Midwest League is the first full season affiliate in the system – a 140-game season where players learn the nuances of professional baseball: the daily games, practices and constant pressure to perform over a grueling season. This league is seen as more of a pitchers' league where hitters are still getting used to the wood bats and the early season cold weather makes hitting difficult.

Season Recap: The Wizards, in their final season in their home stadium, the Castle, and using the nickname the "Wizards", put finished the year at 71-69.

The Wizards best prospects were pitchers, among the strongest staff's in the organization, with Mat Latos, Jeremy McBryde, Wynn Pelzer and Jeremy Hefner. Latos was injured for most of the year, but McBryde, Pelzer and Hefner were all major contributors. For the position players, middle infielders Drew Cumberland and Lance Zawadzki were the two best prospects.

Mat Latos was very impressive in his rehab starts in Arizona and Eugene. Where do you think he will begin next year?

Grady Fuson: We'll see where he winds ups after instructs and spring training, but there is a good chance that he at least starts in Fort Wayne next year. With Mat it's a question of how well his health holds up and how he is maturing as a pitcher.

Did his secondary pitches improve from last year?

Grady Fuson: Yeah, his slider and change have gotten better; it's all about the learning process and he's starting to get it.

Jeremy McBryde pitched pretty well this year but seems like he has the stuff to really become a special pitcher. I know you had some problems with him relying upon his fastball too much and not throwing enough of his changeup. His numbers picked up quite a bit after the All-Star break; did he start to get on board with the program?

Grady Fuson: Certainly with the changeup. He put up some crazy numbers, the strangest that I have ever seen in the long time that I have been doing this. He had an incredible amount of strikeouts against hardly any walks but also had some high hit totals. It was his first full season, and he got better over the course of the year.

Wynn Pelzer and Jeremy Hefner both had very good years. What do they need to improve upon to continue their success?

Grady Fuson: With Pelzer it was just a question of getting healthy. We had seen this type of velocity from him when we scouted him last year, but then he got hurt and wasn't able to go through the short-season or instructs. This guy has been as electric as anyone in our system with velocity, location and a good slider. He's been nothing short of impressive.

Hefner's velocity has improved every year and he's now sitting at around 89-92. He has good command, a good change and really the only thing to tweak is his breaking ball; and that is to solidify the arm angle slot. They both pitched well after being promoted to Lake Elsinore and some of the high run totals aren't really accurate because they were unearned runs.

Jackson Quezada led the organization in saves and your pitching coach Tom Bradley talked about how much more effective he is this year with his slider and changeup. What do you see as the reason for his improvement?

Grady Fuson: We've been waiting for him to break through. He's intelligent, got a good work ethic but something has always stopped him in the past. He would start to show some promise then hit a wall. This year, he had a couple of bumps, faced them down, and got back up on the right path. He found ways to overcome obstacles.

How is Drew Cumberland's health; and what position and where do you expect him to play next year?

Grady Fuson: It's good. We should have him at instructs, and we definitely plan to keep him at short. We had hoped to get him back to Fort Wayne at the end of this year but his thumb injury took a little longer to heal that we thought initially.

Lance Zawadzki seemed to begin to touch the potential that the organization believes that he has this year, especially in the second half at the plate. Do you see him developing into the type of hitter that can put the ball into the gaps consistently?

Grady Fuson: Without a doubt. Lance has a nice skill set, strength in his swing and is a gamer; he really has a strong passion for the game. What you are seeing now is someone that has talent that is starting to put in a consistent performance on the field.

How about his defense? He made 32 errors this year but seems to have the intangibles to become a good middle infielder, quickness and a strong arm.

Grady Fuson: It's not uncommon for shortstops to have a boatload of errors in lower levels. I had guys like Miguel Tejada in Oakland that had over 40 errors in the Cal League; Scott Brosius had over 40 in the Midwest League; both of them turned out to be solid major league players defensively. That is what the minor leagues are about is taking ability and grooming it into consistency. It takes time, but when you have a player like Zawadzki with a combination of skill, work ethic, and passion, the more years they play you will see the error totals go down. It's about developing consistent reads, pace and tempo with your arm – you don't need to throw every ball 100 MPH.

Yefri Carvajal put up some good numbers for a 19-year-old but has yet to really hit for the power that the organization envisions. Why do you think he hasn't put up the power numbers the organization thinks he will yet?

Grady Fuson: With all of the talent that he has, he still has a bad move in his swing where he doesn't want to separate. He is the master of hitting a hard chopped ground ball to third base and not getting the barrel on the bat. Everyone wanted this to move at a quicker pace with the level of talent this kid has, but sometimes certain players are going to take longer.

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