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Tony LaCava has a new job, although his title is still VP Baseball Operations he is now responsible for the farm system, replacing Dick Scott.  I caught up with Tony last week and he graciously gave us some of his time to answer some questions about the farm system.  Tony was a little cautious in our discussion, he was reluctant to get too excited about any player but he did let us know that JP Arencibia just had Lasik surgery.

BB: How much of a change is this new role for you, were you not responsible for the farm system in the past.  Did Dick Scott report to you?

TL: No not directly.  I worked closely with him but he reported directly to JP.  In many ways I worked closely with him, I also scouted the affiliates and I too reported to JP on that but he didn't report directly to me.

BB: So now that you are four months in to your new role are there many changes we will see in minor league operations?

TL: I am not sure how many of the changes will be visible to you, I don't think many of the changes will be visible to you.  We made some changes to the staff and assignments.  We are excited about the guys we added, we wish the guys well who were here in the past and they were good people too but we are excited about the new direction.  Doug Davis and Charlie Wilson are going to split up the day to day duties that Dick had and they will report to me.  I will be in Toronto quite a bit working closely with Alex on the major league team and Doug and Charlie will handle day to day.

BB: Will they be doing the same things?  Up to now Charlie has been more administrative and Doug more on the field.

TL: Well Doug has never been field coordinator and that's what he is listed as but he will take on many of Dick's baseball responsibilities and the instruction part.  He and Charlie worked together on putting the staff together, I was involved too, but quite a bit of it was done by those guys.  So we really like the staff we put together but the biggest change you will see is we will slow down the promotions of the high school players.  We're going to be a little more careful with those guys in how we bring them along, maybe be not so aggressive. I think the way the college guys have progressed is fine. But the high school player, and the international player, I think we need to be more careful in how we move them, not be so aggressive, let them get their legs underneath them and have some success.

BB: If we can go back to the organization for a minute you have done a great job at developing pitchers and you have left most of your pitching coaches in the same positions. The turnover has been at the hitting coach position, is that because you needed to do a better job of developing your hitters?

TL: I can see where people would look into it and see that but those coaches did a great job and worked hard with our hitters. We were hoping for better results but some of the slow results was due to the aggressive promotion of some of the kids and I wouldn't point any fingers at the guys who were here who worked hard and truly cared. I can see where people look and say that you changed all the hitting guys and that was to do with the performance but it was more coincidence.

BB: Many experts have not given the system a very high ranking this winter, what is your assessment of the system?

TL: The system is certainly improved after the trades. The Halladay trade and the even the Rolen trade with Stewart and Roenicke improved the system and and we also put a lot of talent in the big leagues last year. A lot of the pitchers who got to the big leagues last year such as Cecil and Zep, as well as Travis, don't count for the rankings this winter. Of course we would prefer to have them in the major leagues rather than in the minor leagues but when you do graduate that kind of talent obviously your system does not look as good as it would have if those players were back down there. We are also excited about having nine picks in their first three rounds of the draft if Barajas signs somewhere, that should be another chance to add talent.

BB: With regard to the high school hitters, especially Jackson, Ahrens and Tolisano, they have had a couple of full years now, and some people believe a hitter is a hitter, and the fact that none of them have hit over .280 yet suggests that it will be a big climb for those guys to reach the big leagues.

TL: We certainly think they have talent and ability, but we will try to slow them down a little bit. They are only 21 years old and they have played at the high A level. They are still young enough.  They will be playing this year at the age where college kids gets drafted. And they already have several years under their belt. This will be a big year for them and I expect them to prove, and hopefully show everyone, what we believed in them when we drafted them.

BB: Is there a chance that some of those guys will have to go back to Lansing?

TL: We are going to be open-minded to whatever it takes.  We will see them in spring training, put the pegs in the holes, and put guys at the appropriate levels and not worry about rushing them, and make good decisions about where they need to be and take a lot of things into consideration.

BB: You have a potential logjam at shortstop in Dunedin.  Justin Jackson will be back from injury and Tyler Pastornicky had a very good full season in 2009 including a few strong weeks in Dunedin.  Have you thought about what to do or have you considered a position change?

TL: No we are not looking to switch anybody right now, it's a nice problem to have.  These things usually work themselves out and I think the most important thing is placing their bats where they need to be.  That's what we will do, put the bat where it needs to be.  Positionally they will be able to get work at whatever position we put them at, if it's not full time at the shortstop position and if it's twice a week there or whatever we decide is best.  You could look back at the Cleveland Indians and they had John McDonald as an everday shortstop and Marco Scutaro at second (BB: in the minor leagues) and you can see that didn't hurt Scutaro from being an everyday major league shortstop.  The most important thing is to put the bat where it needs to be and work to stay sharp at the defensive position even if you are not playing it every day.

BB: You have a lot of 2009 draftees who haven't appeared in a game yet, Jenkins, Marisnick, Hobson, Webb and Hutchinson.  You have seen them in instructional league and mini-camp.  Is there any one of these players who has exceeded your expectations?

TL: Jenkins obviously was our first round pick and Marisnick is a potential five tool guy so we are excited to have those guys.  Hobson has a chance with the bat as well.  There is a young international signing that we made last year, a kid named Nesi who is only 16, he is a catcher from Venezuela who we like quite a bit.  Webb and Hutchinson are guys we took later (in the draft) who we like quite a bit and I am probably forgetting a guy or two.  We don't want to make too much of them yet, they haven't played or pitched an inning yet so we certainly need to see them and get a read on them.  Instructional league is one thing but now let's get a look at them in spring training and ultimately in games.

BB: Marisnick by my count is the fourth or fifth speedy high school outfielder you have drafted in the last few years with players like Eiland, Brisker, Kenny Wilson and maybe even Michael Crouse.  How does Marisnick differ from those guys?

TL: All those guys have physical talents.  Kenny Wilson is not as big as those guys but he is the fastest of the group.  The others are tall, athletic and tooled, they are in the same mould.

BB: In the last few years the organization pushed some of the high school guys to Lansing because the season there started earlier.  Are you saying that this year you are less likely to push those guys to Lansing?

TL: That's probably a fair statement, we are going to go case by case but as a rule we need to see that those guys are ready to go to that level.  It is a very big jump to go from high school to the Midwest League.  It is a tough league for young hitters. 

BB: Any of the 2009 draftees, who played in 2009, catch your eye?

TL: I think Goins has a chance to be a good player, we are really happy to have him.  Ochinko had a great year there, he looks like he will be a good get in a round where you don't expect a guy of his talent to be there.  His off the field stuff is great coming off that LSU championship, I think he has some intangibles as well.  Schimpf is also off that LSU team and we are excited about him.  Those guys have only played a half season and I might be forgetting someone too.

BB: Is Ochinko still a catcher?

TL: We like him as a catcher but he can also play third or first.  He has some versatility but we see him as a catcher first.

BB: Is Brett Wallace now a first baseman or are you going to leave him at third?

TL: We are going to move Brett over to first.

BB: Moises Sierra had a great year last year but some rankings don't rate him highly, Baseball America didn't put him in their top ten.  What does he have to do to prove the doubters wrong?

TL: I am not sure because we sure like him.  We thought he had a great year for us, he was young for the league, but he got a little tired at the end.

BB: I think they question his ability to hit for enough power to be a corner outfielder.

TL: As you know power is often the last thing to come.  We are most concerned about him being a good hitter first and I think he has proven that he is a good hitter and he has the typical right field tools, he has one of the best arms in the minor leagues and we are hoping he can take the next step.

BB: Your two top catchers, JP Arencibia and Brian Jeroloman, had mixed years in 2009.  Arencibia had trouble being more selective and Jeroloman being more aggressive.  What do you expect from them in 2010?

TL: Every year you play hopefully you learn and get more experience.  For JP a full season in AAA is going to help him going forward.  He improved defensively and finished strong.  He had a couple of health issues, a kidney issue that was taken care of and I know he just had Lasik surgery.  It will be fun to watch him and we expect big things out of him.  Jeroloman is as good a defensive catcher as there is in baseball and he needs to work on his offensive game and we still believe in him and we are just going to keep running him out there and hopefully he finds his way.

BB: Is Justin Jackson ready to go?

TL: Yes he is, he is taking swings and I can't wait to see him.  I think it would be a mistake to give up on a kid with that talent.  I wish he hadn't been injured last season.  People don't realize it's tough to hit when your left shoulder isn't right for most of the year so hopefully he'll rebound from that.

Thanks Tony from Batters Box.

An Interview with Tony LaCava | 27 comments | Create New Account
The following comments are owned by whomever posted them. This site is not responsible for what they say.
Mike Green - Tuesday, February 09 2010 @ 09:31 AM EST (#211727) #
Good answers from LaCava on the broader questions.  It sounds like he will have relatively little to do with the day-to-day management of the minor leagues, but I hope that he will have input on key placement issues.
ayjackson - Tuesday, February 09 2010 @ 10:32 AM EST (#211730) #

I guess one could hypothesize that Lasik surgery could improve strike zone judgement.

I am still a bull on Jackson and its nice to see the slowing down on teenage promotions through the lower levels of the farm.

I was thinking if they drafted a SS like Colon this year, he'd be the same age as Jackson and Pastornicky. 

Shoeless Joe - Tuesday, February 09 2010 @ 10:41 AM EST (#211731) #
Thank-you BB crew for this interview, as there was some nice little tidbits of information.The most interesting points to me where:

1. They're not going to rush prospects anymore which is great. Hopefully this leads to Marisnick not falling to the same fate as Eric Eiland, Kenny Wilson, etc.

2. Jackson will be ready to start the season, and it seems might split SS/2nd with Pastornicky at Dunedin.

3. Ochinko might be able to play a passable third, and all things considered would be our top third base prospect if they moved him over to the hot corner.

Mylegacy - Tuesday, February 09 2010 @ 02:35 PM EST (#211733) #
I've got no problem with not moving a guy up "fast" - however - I disagree with NOT MOVING a guy who has clearly caught on to the level he's at just because they want to move him slowly. That's a very different piece of peach cobbler.

BUT - as fans who don't actually see the guys play we may think a guy is ready because he's "smokin' the ball" but his defensive play might still need a lot of work. The bottom line is we have to trust the team to move guys based on their individual needs - not their age or experience - if a late bloomer starts to blossom - let the kid move as fast as his competency will take him.

No question this is going to be the best year of watching the Baby Jays play we've had in a decade - at least. Start the season already -eh?

TamRa - Tuesday, February 09 2010 @ 03:42 PM EST (#211734) #
JPA had Lasik?

I'm gonna probably get way too excited about that.

Jackson is still a top 10 guy for me, I'm excited about this year for him.

I like that Ochinko CAN catch and that they'll develop him there for now but given the guys in front of him, I also am excited about the possibility he gives us another alternative at 3B in a few years, Even though I'm trying to give Aherns the benefit of the doubt.

Alex Obal - Tuesday, February 09 2010 @ 04:40 PM EST (#211737) #
This guy is the poster boy for Lasik surgery.
Alex Obal - Tuesday, February 09 2010 @ 04:50 PM EST (#211738) #
Also, although I think Marco Scutaro may have been a special case, the answer about Jackson and Pastornicky sounds reasonable. The odds of their bats progressing at exactly the same rate aren't great.

There's a lot to be optimistic about in this interview.

ayjackson - Tuesday, February 09 2010 @ 05:22 PM EST (#211739) #
Thanks for that Alex.  Not too many years ago, I was diagnosed near sighted with astigmatism as well.  My golf game has gone too hell in a hand basket as well.  Maybe Lasik is the answer for me too.
ayjackson - Tuesday, February 09 2010 @ 07:38 PM EST (#211741) #

Project Prospect has there Top 50 list up on their website.

I find it amusing that in October, when Drabek was a Philly, he was their 10th ranked pitcher, right behind Madison Bumgarner (#23 in their prospect list).  Now, without anybody throwing a pitch, he doesn't make their top 50 prospects.  More evidence of ignorance to things north of the border.

TheBunk - Tuesday, February 09 2010 @ 10:24 PM EST (#211745) #
I wouldn't even take project prospect seriously.
Sneeps - Wednesday, February 10 2010 @ 03:54 AM EST (#211747) #

"though I'm trying to give Aherns the benefit of the doubt."

Still calling him Aherns after this many years?  LoL.

timpinder - Wednesday, February 10 2010 @ 06:18 PM EST (#211764) #
TheBunk - Wednesday, February 10 2010 @ 07:03 PM EST (#211765) #
brent - Wednesday, February 10 2010 @ 10:26 PM EST (#211766) #

Doug Davis and Charlie Wilson

Does anyone know these guys? Could someone give details or anything? 

#2JBrumfield - Thursday, February 11 2010 @ 03:13 PM EST (#211776) #
Great interview Gerry and thanks for linking the Span article, Alex.  USA Today Sports Weekly has come out with its annual 100 Names You Need to Know list for the 2010 season.  Three Jays made the list in Marc "The Big" Rzepczynski (like that nickname, it's right up there with Chris "The Big" Lubanski), Brett Wallace and Kyle Drabek made the list.  Say what you like about the tenets of this list, at least it's an ethos. 
Dewey - Thursday, February 11 2010 @ 04:35 PM EST (#211778) #
Say what you like about the tenets of this list, at least it's an ethos.

O.K.  I give.  What exactly does that mean?  Anything?
Nick Holmes - Thursday, February 11 2010 @ 05:09 PM EST (#211779) #
O.K. I give. What exactly does that mean? Anything?
It's a [modified] quote from The Big Lebowski. Like all things Coen-related, the meaning's open to interpretation.
Mick Doherty - Thursday, February 11 2010 @ 05:46 PM EST (#211780) #

Say what you like about the tenets of this list, at least it's an ethos.

The literal translation -- see, my incomplete doctoral work wasn't ALL for naught -- is basically this:

Say what you like about the doctrines or principles of this list, at least it's an underlying sentiment that helps define the beliefs of a particular group.

Yawp, that t'ain't muchly clearer, iddit?

Dewey - Thursday, February 11 2010 @ 06:51 PM EST (#211782) #
Sorry, Mick; but what "list" is being mentioned here?  Da Box?  The 100 names?  Neither?  I'm as uncertain as you clearly are.

As for allusions to the Coen brothers, *if* that's what's going on here---like many of the other too-cutesy allusions sometimes made on Da Box--the writer is simply trying way too hard, or he just doesn't give a bleep about his audience.  Either way, it's annoying.

Gerry - Thursday, February 11 2010 @ 08:01 PM EST (#211783) #

Does anyone know these guys? Could someone give details or anything? 

Meet Charlie Wilson - Local Boy Makes Good

Doug Davis - Former major league player, former Blue Jay AA and AAA manager.

brent - Friday, February 12 2010 @ 07:26 AM EST (#211784) #

Big thanks, Gerry.

Stop by the Southpaw for a ranking that shows just how many C type prospects that the Jays have. It's almost unbelievable.

ayjackson - Friday, February 12 2010 @ 06:28 PM EST (#211790) #

My favourite day of the year.  No more checking the mail everyday.  The Prospect Handbook has arrived!!!!

Drew Hutchison - prospect #31 for the Jays.  HS Pitcher signed in the 15th round for second round money.  The Jays bought out a strong college commitment.

ayjackson - Friday, February 12 2010 @ 08:03 PM EST (#211791) #

I see Chad Jenkins has an invite to spring training despite there being 30-some-odd other pitchers in camp.  Farquar's got one too, and not surprisingly, Drabek and Stewart.

Oh can you feel it!!!

TamRa - Friday, February 12 2010 @ 10:32 PM EST (#211792) #
Drew Hutchison - prospect #31 for the Jays.

I mention over 50 names and STILL miss someone...

Mike Green - Saturday, February 13 2010 @ 10:57 AM EST (#211794) #
Hutchison was a late sign, at the time when the early rounders were passed on, and so there was nary a comment about it.  Here's an article from a local newspaper when he was signed.
Mike Green - Saturday, February 13 2010 @ 11:27 AM EST (#211796) #
The compensation rules actually provide for interesting incentives.  The Jays drafted Eliopoulos in the second round and Hutchison in the fifteenth round.  If they are in essence equivalent pitching talents and the club has to choose between one and the other, the compensation rules provide for an incentive to sign Hutchison. 
ayjackson - Saturday, February 13 2010 @ 12:40 PM EST (#211799) #
Good point Mike.  I'm not sure I've seen that point made before.  Better to sign Webb, Hutchison and Marisnick and lose out on Paxton and Eliopolous because you get another crack at those picks next year.  Of course, that assumes we couldn't sign them all last year.
An Interview with Tony LaCava | 27 comments | Create New Account
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