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Dick Scott, the Blue Jays Farm Director, joins us in Da Box for his annual post-season review of the farm system.  Last year's interview is here.

BB: Can you assess the performance of the Jays 2007 high school picks in Lansing this season, in particular Kevin Ahrens and Justin Jackson?

DS: I think they did great.  I know people are going to look at their numbers and say one of them hit .230 and one .250 but you have to remember that those guys were 19 years old playing in a pretty fast A ball league, and John Tolisano is in that mix as well.  Coming out of spring training this year we decided to send all those young guys there, Ahrens at third, Jackson as short, Tolisano at second, McDade at first, Chavez in left and Sierra in right and then Eric Eiland got there a month into the season and so all of our position players except for the catcher were 19 years old, a lot of their competition was 21 or 22 years old, and they did great.  They all improved I think Kevin Ahrens got very comfortable and started understanding the routine type of thing that is required for a full season, he improved defensively, his swing got a lot more consistent, he just going to keep developing.  And then Jackson playing shortstop every day, he did a nice job, he really improved as well.  Offensively he struck out a little bit but our expectations weren't real high for these guys offensively and I think they held their own. 

BB: The hitting stats are in-line except for the strikeouts, can we expect them to improve their pitch recognition skills?

DS: It's learnable but they need repetition, they need a lot of at-bats and that was the advantage of sending them to a full season team rather than keeping them to extended spring and we threw them in the fire and they held their own.  Guys had success to a varying degree but the way we look at it is it was a success for all of them.  It was a real risk sending them there but then they won the first half.

BB: Is it likely that Ahrens and Jackson will be sent to Dunedin next year?

DS: I think there is a strong chance of that.

BB: What can you tell me about the 2008 high school class of Kenny Wilson, Tyler Pastornicky and Marcus Brisker?

DS: Collectively they are a bit more raw than our 2007 group.  They are probably a bit more athletic, Wilson is a plus runner, a centrefielder and compared to the 2007 group he is less experienced.  He improved a lot this year but still has a lot to work on.  He is going to be more long term but has some upside because of the speed, he is going to learn how to switch-hit.  He has a lot of stuff to work on, we are throwing a lot of things at him but he is handling it well and he is an interesting guy.  Brisker is another centrefielder, he has an athlete's body, long and lean and runs well also, but if I had to say one thing about him he just needs to play, lots of at-bats.  That's why we had them in instructional league, in the spring we will get them to the complex early.  Pastornicky is probably more of an offensive player, he is not a big guy but he can run a little bit.  He is a shortstop, I think his offense is ahead of his defense right now and we worked hard during instructional league to teach him some of the nuances of short and he picked it up pretty good and we had him also play some second base.  We do that with all of our guys down there, all the middle infielders, just because if you are ready for the big leagues and you are a shortstop but there is an established major league shortstop ahead of you, you don't want to be stuck in AAA because that's the only position you know how to play.  Tyler made a lot strides, he needs work defensively but he has the arm to play shortstop, he is just a ballplayer, he gets the job done.

BB: Are the outfielders like Eric Eiland who was described as raw last year and stayed at extended for a while at the start of next season?

DS: We will see what happens, Eiland spent a month in extended and it was probably the best thing for him.  He got a lot of attention down there from the coaches, all of a sudden he started putting together quality at-bats, he suddenly had a very good strike-zone, was swinging at good pitches, hitting them hard and really carried that to Lansing.  That's the purpose of that extended program, to have guys go down and work on things and he is the epitome of that.

BB: David Cooper played very well offensively but coming into the draft his defense was questioned, how did you see his defense?

DS: He needs a lot of work on his defense but I found that he has made a lot of progress, I think he will be fine, he is more athletic than people think and it is a matter of working at it.  One of the observations we have made over the years is that a lot of these guys come in and they haven't spent a lot of time on their defense.  I would say the same for Aaron Hill and Russ Adams.  Guys hit in college.  I remember talking with Aaron Hill and we were talking about how much time he spent on defense in college and he said I went to LSU, we scored fifteen runs a night all we did was hit, hit, hit.  That sums up the fact that defense was not a priority.  But they learn right away that in order to get to the big leagues they need to play defense and play defense well because if you are playing behind Halladay or some of the other pitchers you better catch the ball or they won't want you out there.  And as far as Cooper goes I think he will be fine, he got a lot better in instructional league because we were pounding him every day on defense.

BB: Did Marcus Thames play in instructs?

DS: He did not, he was getting closer but our doctor said you might be pushing him a little bit, give him the off-season he will be ready in spring training.

BB: Robert Sobolewski was injured late in the year, did he play in instructs?

DS: No he is still injured, he has a foot issue.  He has had surgery on it and he will be ready by spring training.

BB: How was Andrew Liebel in instructs?

DS: He pitched well in instructional league, kind of a control guy, not an overpowering fastball but he has a good idea of how to use and mix his pitches.

BB: Balbino Fuenmayor didn't stand out last season and the first month of the 2008 season looked to be more of the same.  But then he took off, what happened?

DS: He was our team MVP this season in the GCL.  You can't forget he is still a young guy, he is from another country so coming in last year he was wide-eyed and didn't know what to expect.  At 16/17 playing in the GCL that is pretty young.  A lot of guys his age would play a year or two in the Dominican summer league but we decided if a guy has some upside we will bring him here.  Even if he suffers through the first year there are a lot of advantages, working out with our coaches, our strength and conditioning guys, we have english classes so there is a big advantage.  This year with Balbino, who by the way is one of the hardest workers in our organization, in spring training he looked like he was treading water and we had to remind ourselves that he just turned 18.  All of a sudden he kept working and working and he found his stroke.  He stays inside the well offensively, hits a lot of balls the opposite way and he can pull the ball, he is just really starting to get a good idea of what it takes.

BB: Jon Talley also had a good season in the GCL, will he stick at catcher?

DS: We are going to keep him at catcher, he is going to play some first base, he has a real nice swing, he is a big guy with some power.  We are trying to find the right spot, we don't want to eliminate him from catching right now because there is potential there, he does have good arm strength, he is a big guy so it's a little harder for big guys to get comfortable back there.  But he is starting to get it but the thing is he has a nice swing and plus power.  He is another young guy too.

BB: Will your co-winners of the DSL player of the year, Carlos Perez and Oliver Dominguez, play in North America next season?

DS: I think so.  We have changed our approach over the last two or three years where if we see guys who may be able to compete in the GCL, whether they struggle or compete we will bring them here if they have upside.  We have done it with some of our pitchers who have the big arms, we bring them here and I think the learning curve speeds up.  Another young kid, Gustavo Pierre, he is a shortstop, only 16 years old, we brought him to instructional league and he hasn't spent any time in the DSL and he is coming back next year to the states.  Even though he may struggle a little bit at the ripe old age of 17.

BB: Davis Romero was injured at the end of the season, is he recovered?

DS: I saw him in instructional league.  He had an injury and I don't know the term but he was having a hard time with the blood supply going down to his pitching arm, and I don't know what it was but he had a surgery under his left armpit almost just to take care of the issue.  I saw him the other day, he feels great.  As soon as he recovers from the surgery he will start a throwing program and be ready for spring training, he pitched really well for us this year in AAA before he got hurt.

BB: Kyle Ginley was also injured and is headed for the AFL if he is fully recovered.  Is he fully recovered?

DS: Yes he is in the fall league, he was in instructional too.  I think this is going to be a great experience for him he is going to find out that he needs to command his fastball to be successful at higher levels.  You can get away with that stuff at A ball and down but once you start to get to AA and AAA if you can't command your fastball there is going to be no place for you.

BB: Trystan Magnuson struggled in the first half but made some improvements in the second half, how would you summarize his season?

DS: He did make improvements, he struggled early but a lot of it was that we limited his pitch counts.  He was banged up coming out of the draft and we nursed him along, he had a couple of issues with his elbow and we had a pitch count for him.  He started the year at 45 pitches and if he gave up two runs in those 45 pitches and our guys didn't score he could get tagged with the loss.  And then it started to snowball and as we increased the pitches up to 55 and 65 he had a hard time getting to the fifth inning to get a win.  And so if we were behind he gets the loss and if we were ahead but he only pitches four he doesn't get the win and at one point he was oh and nine and I think that started to bother him a little bit.  We worked him though that and told him we weren't looking at it like that, we are looking to see if you are improving, if you are healthy.  So more of a mental battle for him than a physical one.  He looked real good in instructional league, he is a big guy which sometimes takes a long time to get the delivery down but he has a nice downhill action and he is starting to get his velocity back so I think next year he may go back to Lansing but I think he will be fine.

BB: Ricky Romero started 2008 as he finished 2007 but then something clicked in mid-2008, what was it?

DS: He started throwing strikes, that's a big thing.  Some of these guys don't understand it, we preach it everywhere, you have to command your fastball, something Ricky had a hard time with.  I think he got confident once he started pitching off his fastball.  I have to give a lot of credit to our pitching coaches Dane Johnson and Dave LaRoche.  He pitched well in AAA, I think he got himself back on the map, I know he got his confidence back which is huge because all of those things I talked about with Magnuson, Ricky coming in as the number one pick, seeing guys in that draft pass him by, it can wear on a guy.  He is still young, I think he is only 23 still and we are excited that he has turned the corner.

BB: It seemed to me from talking to people that for Ricky it was as much mental as physical, that he needed to get comfortable with his stuff and his number one draft position.

DS: That's pressure that everyone has and there is pressure on a fiftieth draft round pick as well.  It's a tough gig and everywhere they have come from they have had success and now they come here and they are playing against the best talent and it doesn't always work out so guys don't know how to deal with the failure.  Ricky is not the lone ranger in that category, there are a lot of guys like that, we spend a lot of our time talking about the mental aspect of the game and if guys can, at least, command that somewhat they have a chance.  And it is a huge part of what every organization does.  I don't know how much time other organizations spend on it, they would have to pay attention to it.  If people had the opportunity to live day in and day out with what these guys do they would see how difficult the challenge is ahead of them.  When they start they know that only about ten percent of the guys are going to make it to begin and then you struggle because you are 18 and playing guys coming out of college, I mean it goes on and on and on.  Hopefully Ricky has turned the corner, you know it took Purcey a while to turn that corner as well.  I think Ricky has a bright future with us.

BB: JP Arencibia, how would you rate his defense, has it improved this year?

DS: Much better, he is probably our most improved defensive player from last year.  He has all the ingredients to be top flight major league player.  His offense is coming along but the defense is where he really started to understand the relationship with your pitcher, that regardless of what your at-bat is you need to get out there and be ready to go. He can throw too so he will be fine.

BB: Is it true that you asked him to work the count more in the AFL?

DS: We did, I asked him that.  He has heard that from numerous people.  He is one of the marquee guys who has the ability to make contact with a lot of different pitches however at the major league level, with all the advance scouts and information available, guys figure out that it doesn't take a strike to get you out.  You can be aggressive but you have to swing at strikes.  When we had our conversation I said look at your walks to strikeouts, it was a nice conversation, he said jokingly look at my average.  I started laughing because he hit around .315 in the FSL with 65 RBI's and 13 homeruns in half a season and he said it with a smile and I said I hear you loud and clear it is weak of me to come in and start critiquing that sort of a half season but if you want to be a good A ball player that is fine but if you want to be a big leaguer we need to make an adjustment.  He understood, I give him credit for that and it is a work in progress but he will get it because he has good aptitude and the chance to be a good front line major league player.

BB: Marc Rzepczynski pitched well this season but you left him at Lansing for the season, was there anything to that?

DS: No, he probably could have gone to Dunedin.  He pitched well, commanded the ball well, another left hander that we have coming through.  He will be fine he has done a good job.

BB: Robert Ray is another player who had a big 2008, what was the difference with him?

DS: He did a good job, he has always had good stuff.  I remember seeing him throwing in the bullpen and me and Dane Johnson standing behind him saying wow this guy has a live arm.  It just took him a while to transfer that into the games.  In the past he would have one of those blow-up innings or he wouldn't pitch to how good his stuff was and this year he put it together.

BB: Do you want to bring back Brian Dopirak?

DS: Yes we have already resigned him for next year, we will send him to AA and hopefully to AAA sooner rather than later.  He was a bit of a reclamation project which is a bit odd to say for a second round pick.  He is a guy who had 39 home runs in the midwest league a few years back but I think he just lost his stroke.  He lives in Dunedin and when we heard he had been released we called him up and he came in for a tryout and his swing wasn't working too well and our hitting coaches made some observations.  We had him come back the next day and took him to the cage and guys were saying this guy has unbelievable power which we all knew and they thought his swing could work.  So we revamped his swing a little bit and instead of having him come around and hook balls all the time we had him try and stay in through the middle and he has power to right field and centre field and he had a good year for us.  We are happy to have him back, to see what we have.  This guy, potentially, could be a real nice find for us if he continues to improve.

BB: How will Las Vegas, a big hitters park, influence your handling and promotion of pitchers?

DS: We haven't really had any discussions so far. Other organizations send their pitchers to the PCL. It will be tougher, but it is what it is.

BB: Did anyone stand out in instructional league, anyone exceed your expectations?

DS: I always feel that way you about all the players, you have a chance to work on all their weaknesses.  You can take them to the cage, you can talk to them, there is no rush or hurry.  The games are only a measure of what they have been working on, we don't look and say the guy was 0-3 today.  We would love to have that group with those coaches for an entire season because you would have great improvement.

Batters Box thanks Dick Scott for his time and for his insightful answers.

An Interview with Dick Scott, 2008 Edition | 11 comments | Create New Account
The following comments are owned by whomever posted them. This site is not responsible for what they say.
CeeBee - Monday, October 13 2008 @ 09:35 AM EDT (#193284) #
Thanks for the great interview Gerry. :)  The minor league's and prospects are of great interest to me and I thank you and all the minor league crew who give us updates, interviews, prospect lists and other information.
jerjapan - Monday, October 13 2008 @ 09:42 AM EDT (#193286) #
This is a great addition to the prospect ratings, thanks! 

It's interesting to hear the developmental philosophy straight from Dick Scott's mouth - challenge the talented players and work with them from a younger age - this is something the Braves have always done well, and makes sense for a team rediscovering the long-range prospect. 

Great news to hear that they resigned Dopirak.  Minor league free agents like him and Carlson, interernational signings like Balbino Fullmeyer and Pierre also play a huge role in the development of a system and it's good to see the Jays having some successes here.  Now if only they would pay over-slot money in the draft ...

lexomatic - Monday, October 13 2008 @ 10:41 AM EDT (#193287) #
happy canadian thanksgiving

has anyone ever done hall of names teams.. canadian vs american thanksgiving?

i would but i'm swamped with schoolwork for the next 6 weeks or so.

hey jer gimme a call about friday night at mitzi's
fozzy - Monday, October 13 2008 @ 02:11 PM EDT (#193288) #
Looks like old friend (or enemy) John Gibbons is the new Royals bench coach.
Mylegacy - Monday, October 13 2008 @ 06:03 PM EDT (#193291) #
I LOVE - LOVE the prospects lists and this thread.

I apologize for not getting more involved in discussion about this stuff but I'm working in two national elections - and kinda pressed for time.

For the last 20 odd months I've been CLOSELY following the American election - started out going for a Clinton/Obama ticket, then an Obama /Clinton ticket and now am working on blogs across America for the Obama/Biden ticket (my first choice ! Not) After SO much frikin time and effort I want to see it through. There's so much work you can do going to blogs and either building up or tearing down - depending on what helps/hurts. THEN  - Canada's own Republican Lites call an election and being a Canadian I've got to get going on it. SO - for the last while I've been burning the midnight oil - having the time of my life in two elections.

Ain't democracy fun?

John Northey - Monday, October 13 2008 @ 09:51 PM EDT (#193293) #
Loved the interview here, especially seeing the push being on for the prospects viewed as having potential. You never improve unless you are pushed, and mixing in the Dominicans as well is fantastic.

As to elections - boy does it eat at you when you get involved. I've been helping the Green's this time and the feeling in your gut as election day hits is amazing. No matter who you support, get out and vote and be part of the process. If you have never been involved, get involved next time (if a minority gov't happens I bet we see another federal election within a year). Trust me, it changes everything when you feel you have a direct personal stake in it (vs the stake we all have in who spends our tax money on what).
TamRa - Tuesday, October 14 2008 @ 12:33 AM EDT (#193294) #
Ain't democracy fun?

So, in theory, if a bunch of hard core right wingers devoted a like amount of effort to trying to get Canadians to elect the most conservative pro-US government possible, that's all good too?

Sorry to be "the ugly American" about this....I don't think I'll follow up on the point.
timpinder - Tuesday, October 14 2008 @ 08:22 AM EDT (#193297) #

Well, I'm prohibited from joining political parties (certain rights only apply to some Canadian citizens), but I'm sure there's as many conservative workers as there are liberal workers.

Thanks for the interview.  A very good read.

budgell - Tuesday, October 14 2008 @ 08:14 PM EDT (#193325) #

Love this re Arencepia....

I started laughing because he hit around .315 in the FSL with 65 RBI's and 13 homeruns in half a season and he said it with a smile and I said I hear you loud and clear it is weak of me to come in and start critiquing that sort of a half season but if you want to be a good A ball player that is fine but if you want to be a big leaguer we need to make an adjustment.

....herein lies the difference between a career AAAA player and a major leaguer, or a major leaguer and an all-star.  An acceptance that your game has weaknesses and the desire to turn them into strengths.  Not limited to sports either. Who here, in any line of work, cannot point to uber-talented co-workers spinning their wheels while less talented but harder working colleagues shine.  Who knows which camp Arencepia falls into, but as long as the Jays' organization has people like Mr Scott reminding the prospects (especially the successful ones) what it takes, I feel good about our chances. 

Great interview, thanks.

Gerry - Thursday, October 16 2008 @ 08:40 PM EDT (#193365) #
Here is an article from about Moises Sierra and a short comment on Antonio Jimenez.  The Mondesi comparison for Sierra is a good one, the body is similar, the power potential is similar and Sierra has a gun that is probably better than Mondesi's. 
Helpmates - Friday, October 24 2008 @ 05:12 PM EDT (#193557) #
I'm really intrigued by this Thames guy (Eric, not Marcus).  I wonder what the organization got in signing him.  Sounds like he might have some thunder in his bat.
An Interview with Dick Scott, 2008 Edition | 11 comments | Create New Account
The following comments are owned by whomever posted them. This site is not responsible for what they say.