Smith on Padres Prospects

Rymer Liriano

With a growing stable of Latin American prospects in the San Diego Padres system at all levels, international scouting director and new director of player development Randy Smith is enjoying the fruits of his labor, crediting the player development program for bringing out the strengths. We spoke with Smith about many of the bright prospects.

What is the biggest thing you have seen in the progression of Rymer Liriano?

Randy Smith: Pitch recognition and plate discipline. To me, the tools and the numbers, none of that stuff really surprises me because this guy from the time we signed him was a five-tools, pretty special, physical guy.

He's a young one. It's just a matter of him laying off the breaking ball. He started hitting some breaking balls out of the ball park. He started to hit breaking balls the other way. He still needs to cut down on the strikeouts and improve the walk rate, but the year he put up for a young 18-year-old, pretty darn good year.

Corey Adamson came over and didn't get a whole lot of playing time. A lot to process, I would imagine?

Randy Smith: He came over here pretty much stone cold because it's their winter, and he hadn't seen any live pitching. We really wanted to just get him over here, he's in the middle of his senior year of high school, just finishing... took some time off to come over here, and I think the exposure, just to see what it's like on a daily basis will be huge for him. Come Spring Training and we'll go from there.

He's just a raw athlete that needs to play. Just in terms of the body, bat speed, foot speed, that stuff, I think he's just fits in well with everyone else. He just needs to play.

I think just the experience... and that was one of their concerns that he would come in and might not be ready to perform. I said, ‘We don't care if he gets zero hits. What we want him to do is just experience seeing 90 mph fastball on a regular basis. Seeing a good breaking ball on a regular basis. And just seeing what it's like being in professional baseball.'

The games he got into and the time he spent here is going to pay off down the road.

Rafeal Arias struggled in extended but came out and had a superb season.

Randy Smith: I give the DSL staff a lot of credit. Varo (Evaristo Lantigua) and (Luis) Amancio stayed with this guy when most people were getting a little frustrated with him. And he's got a plus arm fastball, 92-95, sometimes more, with a very good slider. And he had a tremendous year. Put himself on the map.

Again, we've got to credit Varo and Amancio down in the DSL and of course this guys here. Really, I think the guys in the Dominican did a great job of developing him and sticking with him. It pushed him.

Did you get a chance to talk to Pedro Hernandez after his tour in Eugene to get a pulse on why he struggled and perhaps didn't trust his stuff?

Randy Smith: I think he tried to be better than what he was. His stuff works anywhere. His velocity has actually increased.

He's a smart kid with a good feel for pitching, and I'm glad to see him come back to Arizona and jump right back in and have success again.

I thought it was a big leap for him. I was surprised. I was happy that the staff told him he could go there. I was actually surprised because he hadn't gotten his feet wet here before. But I think he was good for it.

I think he's a guy to keep your eye on. He and (Jose) DePaula both. DePaula is a little more physical, and his stuff is probably a touch better, but it's hard to complain about Hernandez' pitchability and ability to throw strikes.

You mentioned Jose DePaula and he only got into a couple of games before getting hurt. How is he progressing?

Randy Smith: He was back here in instructional league, still has a little tenderness, but they think that they can get him back on the mound here in the next ten days to two weeks and go from there.

I think this kid is a guy that can really take off and move really quick. He's got great size, the velocity has increased, he's got a good breaking ball, good feel for the changeup, he could be a three-pitch left-hander that all of a sudden just starts moving through the system. He does have that ability to throw strikes. He just needs to get healthy.

Was Adys Portillo's season a dissapointment for you considering all of the hype and the money the Padres paid to sign him?

Randy Smith: Hard to call it disappointing. I would have thought the numbers would have been better. I saw a number of his starts. His velocity crept up. When he got in trouble is when he didn't pitch inside enough, and I think he worked really hard on developing his changeup. I just think a 17-year-old kid who would run into one bad inning and couldn't turn the faucet off.

But this guy is still going to be very, very special. No real negatives other than the won-loss record. but ERA, hits, strikeouts, and that stuff, all ok, walks got better as the season went along. All in all, I thought he did ok, and I'm sure he feels a lot better, and we'll probably see a much more relaxed kid going forward where his natural ability can come out.

This guy in my opinion is still a blue chip prospect.

We haven't seen Euclides Viloria in two years. What is his status?

Randy Smith: I feel bad. This is a kid that obviously had a great debut and had some shoulder problems since we got him back. It looked like he was ready to roll starting in June but then had a setback. I think he's very frustrated, and we all feel for him.

He had another little cleanup, more of a bursitis problem than anything else. So, hopefully, he can get back on the mound. This guy's got a feel for pitching: good curveball, good velocity before he went down in June – was back up to solid average, a touch above. Good feel for the changeup.

He just needs to get healthy and get out there and see what's going to happen. He's awful frustrated, as I can certainly understand. At this point, it's hard to say what his future's going to be because we have get him out there.

Edinson Rincon had a terrific season in Eugene. Outside of his defense, there was little to complain about.

Randy Smith: Numbers defensively, you gotta look at them and see where they're coming from and what they actually mean. (Derek) Jeter, 56 errors in the Midwest League and became a pretty good shortstop. So, I think sometimes those numbers can be a bit deceiving.

This kid, from day one, from the time we saw him, tremendous work ethic, pitch recognition, plate discipline, that was evident at 16. He's just taking it to the next level. He's healthy all year, the power is starting to come.

I think this guy is just going to be a tremendous hitter. And hopefully at third base, but if not, he can play somewhere, whether it's the outfield, he runs decent enough, or first base or who knows. He can throw, he moves well enough. I know (fielding coordinator) Gary Jones is still confident that he's going to end up a third baseman. But we'll see. Again, an awful young guy who put up fantastic numbers in Northwest League and really has maturity--he's a leader. Eighteen years of age and already shows leadership ability.

Emmanuel Quiles has shown improvement from year one to year two. Do you take an interest in him?

Randy Smith: He came from the draft, so he's not really one of mine, but I've watched him from the get go and to me the defense, the arm strength, he showed power.

I think it's great to see him put up some offensive numbers this year and also for a catcher to grasp the English language is going to make everything better. It's going to help him with coaches on both sides of the ball. And it obviously helps his rapport with the pitchers. This kid to me is a very interesting young guy.

Simon Castro has progressed so much in the three years he has been here. It is almost night and day.

Randy Smith: He and Rincon from day one, those are the two guys whose work ethic and intelligence just separated themselves from just about everybody from the get go.

Castro, I think he's got a chance to be a front line starting pitcher. And I don't think that's too far away either.

Great body, three good pitches, the ability to strike guys out, the command ... I think he walked 11 guys in April in 16 innings and the most walks after that I think it was eight or nine one month. And the innings were more than 30 so the command is no longer an issue. He's got his delivery. He could still tighten up the slider and get a little more consistent with that, but that's a wipeout pitch at times.

I've said this privately, and I guess I'll say it publicly now too. I think he could possibly be the Mat Latos of 2010. This guy just jumps all the way up and makes an impact. This kid is special.

Alexis Lara has seen times where he has been inconsistent. Something changed halfway through this year, and since then, he was a dominant force.

Randy Smith: The biggest thing for him was throwing the ball over the plate and confidence. I talked to the staff a lot about these guys who revert back when they've been in jams. But these guys haven't been in jams before. These guys don't have game experience. I think for him it was learning how to pitch a game and pitch with runners on base, and that type of stuff.

But his numbers are absolutely sick. From the All-Star break on...even before the All-Star break, an 0.52 ERA, a .105 average against... his career average against is under .200, going back to Eugene a year ago.

His stuff has always been good.He's got a fastball approaching the mid90s, a plus changeup, and a slider that's average to above. He put himself on the map with what he did this year, that's for sure. Certainly deserves an opportunity to move up the ladder and see what happens... He's a slight frame guy, but boy he's got a fast arm.

How rewarding was it for you to see Luis Durango go up – he goes 3-for-4 in one game and scores the winning run.

Randy Smith: Yeah, he scored the winning run, stole a base.

It's great to see any of our young players go up to the big leagues, whether it's an international player, a drafted guy, or a guy we trade for, because that's our future, and to be successful in San Diego, we're going to have to rely on young players.

I get a kick out of any of the young guys that do well, but to watch... I just watch the video on MLB of Luis, and he was obviously pretty excited when he scored the winning run, but I just think it's great.

Here's a kid that's had to overcome some things, and I think he's getting a little bit better every year. This year, he's among the league leaders in on-base percentage, runs scored, stolen bases, which is exactly what a leadoff hitter is supposed to do. I think he had his best year to this point in center field. His range factor was better, his fielding percentage was better, his stolen bases the secondnd half of the year – I think he was 18-for-21.

The things that he's had to improve on he's getting better at, slowly but surely. The outfield play and the base running was really the last couple of things he needed to finish off, and he got better. He's not a finished product yet, but he's getting there and who knows what he'd going to be. He could be a Ralph Gar type of guy, he could be a Brett Butler, a Juan Pierre, somebody like that, but who knows? I don't know.

If you can run like that, if you can get on base, he's just an exciting guy to watch. For a young guy who I think we signed for $10K it's just great to see his hard work getting him to the big leagues.

It was a fun day (when he went 3-for-4) because there was a bunch of texting and emailing going on, the international staff and some of the development guys. It was just kind of fun. I got a couple emails from a scout from outside our organization and from somebody within our organization and then everybody started back and forth. It's great to see. Good for him.

What's next for Yefri Carvajal?

Randy Smith: Talk about a guy that had a disappointing year. That's a guy that had a disappointing year. The one thing I'll say about him is that he showed some serious fight back in August...I went in there and saw him in August. you look at August till the end of the regular season, early September, he hit close to .300 over that period of time.

The tools are still there. He's a young guy. He's got to produce, though. He killed in instructional league and then goes out in the season and struggles for whatever reason it is. The bat speed is still there. The arm strength is there. The power's there.

He's got to take that plate discipline that he showed us in the fall and carry it into the spring. I'm certainly not going to give up on the guy, but he's also getting to a point where he's got to produce. I'm still high on him because of his raw ability. Like I said, some of these guys do not progress in the timetable we want them to progress. Unfortunately, they all move at their own pace.

And next year, whether he goes to Cal league or Midwest or wherever, he'll be the same age as guys that were just drafted, so it's not like he's 25 years old and hasn't done anything. He's still a young guy. He has to produce. That's the bottom line.

I'm still on him. I just can't be as high on him as I was in the past because the production hasn't shown up yet. But I still like the raw tools.

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