San Francisco Giants Director of Player Development Fred Stanley recently visited with San Jose broadcaster Joe Ritzo to discuss several topics surrounding the organization. Stanley, who played 14 years in the major leagues, is about to begin his 13th season with the Giants. Among the subjects covered was the homegrown influence to San Francisco's World Championship, the top prospects in the organization and a breakdown of who could begin next season in San Jose.
Joe Ritzo: As someone in player development, what did it mean for you to see so many homegrown players - both hitters and pitchers - help the team to another world championship?
Fred Stanley: When you're in player development, and outside of the player himself coming up to you and thanking you for all your hard work, getting to watch it all on TV and in person and see how they've all developed and become such really good players to help a team win the World Series is about the ultimate thing. You get 175-180 guys in camp and you look at them and say what is that 8% (that will make it to the big leagues)? Which ones are they? Some really stand out, the Posey's and the Bumgarner's. But there are other guys that step up. When we first got Pablo Sandoval, he had to repeat in the Cal League and you're trying to see all of the really good things he can do. But can you project him to hit three home runs in the World Series? That's a stretch for anybody - it's just not done very often. That's what is really sweet about everything. He was able to take some instruction, go with it and become a really, really good major league player. Aptitude retention is a huge thing we stress in our player development program. You have to be able to take the things you learn and put it to use in pressure situations.
JR: I know you had a chance to interact with all of the affiliates at the recent winter meetings. What was your focus at those meetings?
FS: A lot of it is just thanking the affiliates for all of their hard work during the course of the year. There aren't a lot of times when we get to say, 'you know that was really great, thanks for all of your hard work!" We're always in-and-out and so are the players, they go on a road trip and it could go a long time before we can really sit down with them and say how much we appreciate their hard work. The winter meetings is the time where we can have a 1-on-1 with the representatives from that club and express our gratitude. When our minor league teams are at home, they aren't just working eight-hour days and cashing it in. They're working 15 or 18-hour days. It's a long season for those guys.
JR: After a spectacular year in San Jose, Gary Brown had his ups and downs in Richmond. How would you evaluate his season at the Double-A level?
FS: At each level you go, there are adjustments that have to be made. You find out what pitchers are trying to do to you and then you make adjustments. I think with Gary, it took a little while because he had such a huge year in San Jose. I know when I was managing and when Shane (Turner) and Steve (Decker) were managing, we would get box scores and look ahead to see who is hot and who is not. We would have our meetings and go, 'ok, don't let this guy beat us.' So Gary was on everyone's radar coming out of San Jose. They really worked at getting him out and holding him close (on the bases). For a stretch, every team had a new scheme, something else they were trying to do with him. Every team is a test. I think at the end, he was starting to realize all of the things that everyone was telling him. He's such a great athlete and when it starts to click, it'll come fast for him.
JR: Joe Panik had an outstanding second half offensively in San Jose after a bit of a slow start. What sparked his turnaround and what does he have to do to take that next step forward?
FS: I think it was similar to Gary. In the second half, he had seen the clubs and had an idea. He didn't chase balls out of the zone or try to do too much. You have to take what they give you. By that, I mean if they're pitching you hard away, you aren't going to be able to stand up there at the plate and pull the ball into the right field corner. He was able to get up there and if the team was pitching you away, he would hit balls to left center, down the left field line and also drive balls up the middle. A lot of that was just being familiar with what they're trying to do with you.
JR: The organization challenged both Ricky Oropesa and Andrew Susac in 2012, having them both start their professional careers in San Jose. How did you view their performances in the California League?
FS: Ricky is a big, strong kid. He was starting to figure out how they were pitching him. He had a pretty solid year. I think if you asked him, he'll tell you that he'd like to cut down on his strikeouts a little bit. But when you're a strong guy and have the opportunity to hit 30 home runs, you're going to strikeout some. He learned a little about himself this year. And Susac was trying to do two things. He was trying to learn how to catch at the professional level with pretty good arms that we were throwing out there. Plus, learning the league, remembering which hitters can do what and how we can get this guy out. Knowing what the pitcher's best stuff is. His role was harder than anybody's. Not only was he learning how to hit, but he was also learning how to catch. That's a very tough task. I think a lot of people don't realize how difficult it was to do what Posey did. What Buster did was off the radar. For a catcher to move as fast as he did and be as good as he was on both sides of the ball, offensively and defensively. He's one of a kind.
JR: After his record-setting year in San Jose, what's next for Adam Duvall?
FS: We're going to give him a shot at Double-A and see if he can make those adjustments. He'll be on the opponents' radar too. They'll know what he did in San Jose and they'll be watching him. They're going to see if they can get him out inside or with the breaking ball and see how he handles the change-up. The Double-A pitching in the Eastern League is very, very good. You're playing Boston and the Yankees. Pittsburgh has some good arms. The Nationals have some good arms. When you get locked up with those teams, they come after you. You have to make some adjustments and realize what they're going to try to do to you, be ready for it and take advantage of a mistake. The Eastern League is a very tough league. The weather is tough, the travel is not quite as nasty as the PCL, but it can get there. It takes time for people to adjust to it.
JR: The San Jose infield this year got a lot of attention and understandably so. You've talked a lot about them offensively, but where do you see these guys defensively right now?
FS: Panik is a very accurate thrower, he's got a quick release and an average arm. Everything he gets to, he catches and throws the guy out. He's a very solid player. Whether they want him to continue to play shortstop or second base or both - that's something that Bruce Bochy and Brian Sabean will get together and discuss things and let me know what their thinking is. He's an athlete - he can play anyplace. Oropesa is learning to play first base. There are a lot of things going on with your footwork around the bag. J.T. Snow, Will Clark, Russ Morman have been working with him. He's received a lot of instruction. Every time he came out to the field during (fall) instructional league, he had an assignment on what we were working on for that day. Whether it's his backhand and then tomorrow we're going to work on his pivot and throwing to second base on the back end of a double play. Everyday that he came out, there was something new that he was working on. That would have been tough to do during the season because you're playing 150 games and traveling. You don't want to wear everyone out. Instructional league was a time where we really bore down on him and he made really good progress.
Now, Duvall is a guy where most of his errors are throwing. All he has to do is get his feet set and his shoulders and legs going in the same direction. You've got to aim to your target like a quarterback. You don't see many quarterbacks stepping one way and throwing another way. You've got to line it up and work on your release point and that's what Duvall's been doing. I see him making big strides. He's a lot better now then when he got to Augusta (in 2011). If he continues to improve like that, he's going to be a really good player.
JR: Outside of the guys we've already talked about, who were some other players that really impressed you in San Jose this year?
FS: Well, everyone has to love (Josh) Osich's arm. He can throw some bullets out there. If he stays healthy, he'll be in the big leagues soon. He can move up the ladder quickly as a left-hander with a power arm. I like what he was able to do. Carter Jurica had a nice year, so did Bobby Haney. Those guys are good players and we just have to figure out what's the best position for them. Bobby can play all three positions on the infield and so can Jurica. It gives us a lot of options.
JR: The expectations from the outside are that the 2013 San Jose Giants will have a very talented pitching staff with several top prospects. Which pitchers could we see in San Jose to start the year?
FS: I would think (Kyle) Crick and (Clayton) Blackburn are a couple of names. (Adalberto) Mejia has a chance to be there. You also have some flamethrowers like Cody Hall. We had a few more down in the instructional league that really threw the ball well. We have a group of about eight pitchers that can throw anywhere from 92 to 95 MPH and it's just a matter of do we have enough room for them in San Jose and what we're going to try and accomplish. Sometimes they go to Augusta because they have just a little bit more of a margin for error with those young kids. I think Crick, Blackburn and (Chris) Marlowe were prime examples. Marlowe has a great arm. Guys that stepped up and showed what they can do. You saw Blackburn in San Jose for a big playoff game and he was outstanding.
JR: When you look at Crick and Blackburn, what makes these two young pitchers so highly thought of in the organization?
FS: Blackburn can throw to both sides of the plate. He's got an average fastball, plus a little more. He can pitch behind in the count. He can throw a breaking ball for a strike anytime that he wants. He commands the strike zone. He pitches like a guy that's been in the game for five years and not just one. Blackburn is very knowledgeable and has an idea about how to pitch and get people out. Crick has a great arm. He's a good-sized kid with a lot of arm strength and stamina. That's a good combination to have. He pitches anywhere from 92 to 97 MPH. He can blow the fastball by anybody.
JR: How about Edwin Escobar? He was just put on the 40-man roster. Is he someone we could see on the mound in San Jose as well?
FS: Yes, you could. When we made the trade for Escobar, he went through a bit of a dead arm period, but he's now back to where he was when we first saw him. He's throwing anywhere from 90 to 95, it just depends on what he's trying to do. He's got a couple of different kinds of breaking balls, he's left-handed and can work both sides of the plate. That's a pretty good combination. And he's 20 years old.
JR: Can you give any early insight into the position player composition of next year's San Jose club?
FS: (Kelby) Tomlinson, the shortstop, was in Augusta last year. He has a chance to be there. Shawn Payne, for sure. Probably (Brett) Krill in the outfield. Devin Harris could be there or Double-A. One of the guys we're looking to go to San Jose is Jesus Galindo. He's a little center fielder and one of the fastest guys in our organization. We'll have to see how they do in spring training and then decide. But I would say Payne and Krill are two for sure guys that will be there.
JR: What's the thought on Susac right now and whether he may return to San Jose or get the promotion to Double-A?
FS: We'll evaluate that in spring training. He'll get a chance to impress the ones that need to be impressed. Brian Sabean will make that final decision about what's best for him. Whether they think it's best for him to repeat - Pablo Sandoval did it, so that wouldn't be the worst thing in the world and would give him a chance to play everyday. He could make the Double-A team too. It depends on what Dick Tidrow and Brian Sabean want to do.
JR: What have you seen thus far from this year's top draft picks, in particular Chris Stratton, Martin Agosta and Mac Williamson?
FS: Stratton has a great arm. We didn't get to see much of him because he got hit in the head with a line drive shagging in the outfield while in Salem. Agosta was tired. He had thrown a lot (in college), so we took it easy with him. He'll get an opportunity to be fresh going into spring training. Williamson is a big, strong kid. He had a great instructional league. A very good player. He's really quiet at the plate and will hit some home runs.
JR: What are some of the factors that help determine whether a player in his first full season is pushed to the California League?
FS: A lot of it is their maturity. What college they went to and what kind of exposure they had. Some guys were in the SEC and the Pac-12. If they have had really stiff competition and you know they are physically and mentally mature enough to handle it. A lot of that information, probably 90% of it, comes from our scouting director John Barr and the scouts that see these players and can give us a recommendation. They tell us what they've seen, how much they've been used and whether we need to push them.
JR: Are those three players (Stratton, Agosta and Williamson) guys you could see pushing for spots in San Jose next spring?
FS: Yes, they have the physical and mental maturity to do that.
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.