BB: Next year when you will have teams in the GCL, Bluefield and Vancouver, is there a progression there or are two of those teams equal in level?
DD: No there is a progression there. The GCL team would be lowest rookie level team, Bluefield would be next in line as a short season rookie club and then Vancouver is the short-season A club. The Vancouver club and the Lansing club would be more comparable I think, talent wise, it just happens that one is a short season team and one is full season.
BB: You are back with Las Vegas for at least another two years. Is there anything you can do to alter the run environment there? Could you look at a humidor or doing something with the infield there?
DD: That's a possibility but I don't mind Las Vegas. I played in that league, Las Vegas isn't the only place in that league that is a difficult place to pitch in. But I think the field surface is something that needs to be addressed and that's not an easy fix because of the climate. It's so hot and so dry that makes it very difficult to maintain thick grass, everything gets very hard and dry and dusty and it's hard to maintain the smoothness of it. I think we can address that a little bit so that if the pitchers can keep the ball on the ground we can have a surface that is conducive to making a play that a normal infield would give us. I think we need to spend time, they are willing out there to do something with us, so if we put our heads together we'll see what we can come up with.
BB: How do you evaluate a hitter in Las Vegas?
DD: I think you have to pay attention to different things. The home runs can be skewed a little bit, you have to see them. I don't think they were at all for JP, his power is legitimate. Once the ball is in the air it doesn't tend to come down as quickly as it does in other places. From an average standpoint, because of the infield, more balls tend to find their way through the infield than they do on a regular surface. I think you have to evaluate the hitter himself, you have to evaluate bat speed and how the ball comes off the bat. It's not the easiest thing in the world but it's do-able.
BB: This year the organization made a decision to slow down how fast they promoted prospects. Are you happy with the policy or is there a place somewhere in between that will work?
DD: I think we worked toward the right level. My biggest thing is that the player will tell you when he is ready to go and we shouldn't be the ones forcing the issue. There are some guys you can push through, Travis Snider was one, but there are other guys who when they get to a level they struggle. I want to avoid that, I want to keep players at a level where they are able to compete and they are able to excel. When it's time to move we will get them out of there. I don't think there is a science to it, I don't think there is any perfect solution, I think it's a case of really paying attention as a group of evaluators in the system.
BB: Brian Dopirak missed half the year with an injury, and he is a free agent. Have you spoken with him about coming back?
DD: Yes we have, he is somebody we would love to bring back. Everything worked out very well for him and us together, we were able to give him a second chance and he made the most of it. He has done a tremendous job, he has worked hard and he has put up the numbers everywhere he has gone. I think he was struggling with his knee this year, more than he wanted to let me know. I glad he finally decided to get it fixed, but I think Brian fits in very well in this organization and we would love to have him back.
BB: Adam Loewen, in the middle of the year, looked set for a breakout but he struggled over the last month or six weeks. Why did he struggle?
DD: There are not many players who have gone through what he has done. I really believe two things happened to Adam this year. I think he finally transitioned from being an pitcher to being a position player. Then everything went according to plan but when he got to that 350-400 at-bat total the tank started to run a little bit dry. It's a long season and I don't attribute it to anything other than that, I really think he got tired.
BB: Moises Sierra is not going to the AFL, is he going to play winter ball?
DD: I believe he will play winter ball. The plan for Moises was to get him a little bit of playing time before the end of the season, which we were able to do in Dunedin. It wasn't a terrific amount of time but at least we got him to the point where he feels like he can go ahead and play and I can do everything I need to do and not worry about re-injuring anything. Now the game plan is to let him to through instructional league, he is going to play a lot in the games we have scheduled down there, and that will be a stepping stone to winter ball. I hope he plays a lot down there and I expect that he will, and hopefully when he comes back to spring training he will be 100% ready.
BB: Travis D'Arnaud hurt his back. Are you expecting him back 100% next year or is it going to be a chronic condition?
DD: That's a tough one for me. I was a catcher and I had a few back issues during my playing career and I know it's not an ideal situation being a catcher and dealing with a back problem. I think we have a good handle on it, I don't think it will be a chronic issue. He knows he needs to spend time on his conditioning, his core program, and from our perspective we know not to run him out there six or seven days a week, to give him a rest here and there. I fully believe he will play a full season next year.
BB: Is he in instructs?
DD: No he is not. He is still rehabbing at home, we will bring him in for the last week to let him know we haven't forgot about him.
BB: Yan Gomes replaced D'Arnaud and did a nice job for you. How are his catching abilities?
DD: This is Yan's first full season and he handled himself extremely well. Yan swings the bat, he is an offensive guy, very good bat speed. The catching part is certainly something we will continue to work with him on. He is in instructional league as well and his focus will be catching. He has arm strength, he has every attribute you want out of a catcher. We just need to get him to where on a day in, day out basis he can go out there and be consistent.
BB: Is Asher Wojciechowski recovered enough to be in instructional league?
DD: No, not so much because of the injury he had, mainly because of the number of innings he pitched in college. We saw him pitch in Auburn and his stuff was pretty good but the best thing we could do for him was to send him home, let him have a full off-season, let him come back and integrate him into our program in the spring.
BB: Eric Thames is here as a Webster Award winner. What does Eric have to do to make it to the big leagues?
DD: The biggest thing for me with Eric is baseball experience, he hasn't played a lot. This is his second full season but last season he was injured half the time. The numbers themselves are tremendous, what he was able to accomplish this year but my biggest accomplishment for him was the fact that he went out and played every day. I think he believes now he can do that and he doesn't have to worry about getting injured. I think he is learning about baseball, about what he needs to do on a daily basis to be ready to play. He has all the ability in the world, once he does that then it becomes a consistency issue. Can he go out there every day and do what he did offensively while continuing to improve as an outfielder.
BB: Henderson Alvarez, didn't have as good a year in 2010 as he did last year. What are you going to be looking for him to do in 2011 to get to AA?
DD: Henderson's biggest thing is maturity level. We got him to a high baseball level at a young age. We would just like him to progress and mature as a person and as a baseball player and then continue to do what he has been doing because when you grade out his tools he has major league stuff today. He just needs to be able to walk out on that mound every fifth day and bring that to the game and maintain it for a six or seven inning period. I think the maturity level will continue to get better as he grows and you will see a pretty good pitcher out there.
BB: There was a report in a paper here that Zach Stewart was told to be ready to pitch out of the bullpen next season. Are you aware of that?
DD: No I am not, I am not ready for him to pitch in the bullpen next year. People pay attention to what he has done over the last few years and we had him in the bullpen last year in Las Vegas. That's also because of the power arm and his fastball and slider and he could go in the bullpen and be effective late in the game but he was tremendous this season from the viewpoint of stamina and durability and being able to maintain his pitches, his velocity. Because of that I would love to see him stay in the rotation.
BB: I assume Joel Carreno has done enough to get a shot at AA next year. Obviously you never know what the winter brings but has he progressed enough to pitch in AA next year?
DD: I think anybody that strikes out that many guys in the FSL deserves a chance to go to AA and Joel will get that opportunity. He surprised a lot of people. He was one of those guys that when you go into a season you have your key starters and then you are looking for other guys to fill in and Joel was one of those guys. But he put himself on the map this season with the year that he had. But the thing is Joel was very consistent with it, it wasn't a good game here and then a bad game there, every day he was going out and striking people out. So he shows you he has the ability to do that with a very good breaking ball and to change his breaking ball so that sometimes it is like a curveball and sometimes a slider. He manipulates it a little and he has great feel so I think he is ready to go to AA and see what he can do up there.
BB: How about Chuck Huggins, is he in the same category?
DD: Chuck has had good back to back seasons in the FSL and he is in the same boat. Completely different pitcher, Chuck is a control pitcher, obviously left-handed, curve ball, change-up guy, but with the success he has had down there he deserves the opportunity to make that jump.
BB: Anthony Gose, did you change anything with him when he came over from Clearwater?
DD: Not really. Because Clearwater and Dunedin play each other so much we knew Anthony. I think the only thing we might consider changing is his offensive approach. I think he has a lot more power potential than the Phillies saw in him, at least at the present time. He was more of a slap guy and they tried to get him to hit the ball on the ground and let his speed take-over. I agree he has tremendous speed but I also think he has tremendous power and the ability to drive the ball and I think that's what we would like him to do as he performs in our organization.
BB: You had a lot of high school kids come into the GCL this year. Did any of them surprise you with their approach to the game?
DD: Aaron Sanchez, a pitcher from California, very advanced in terms of his stuff. You look at him and he looks like he is fifteen years old but you watch him throw and you realize he is a very developed pitcher. I was very impressed with what he had. Noah Syndergaard, same way, very advanced from the standpoint of their deliveries and what was coming out of their arms. Kellen Sweeney is a kid who impressed everyone, obviously he has the pedigree, I think he understand the major league game and knows that. He has a tremendous personality and a great feel for what he is doing on the field, he impressed me quite a bit as well.
Batters Box thanks Doug Davis for his time.