"We're real excited about [Balester's] progress."
We sat down with Nationals' Field Coordinator Tim Foli recently to discuss some of Washington's up and coming prospects. Among the prospects discussed were Leonard Davis, Chris Marrero, Esmailyn Gonzalez, Collin Balester, and many, many more. (Free Preview!)
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CapitolDugout: Collin Balester seems to be the obvious top pitching prospect prospect in the organization. What have you seen from him thus far?
Tim Foli: In spring training I saw a pitcher that looked like he had more experience than his 20-years. He's got a good arm, he's got a good attitude, and he just seems to have a real good idea of what he's doing out there. We're real excited about his progress and hopefully this year we'll see continued progress from him towards the Major Leagues.
CapitolDugout: One roster the organization has to excited about is the Hagerstown Suns', which includes Chris Marrero and Stephen King. What do you expect from them this season?
Foli: This is all different and new for them. They aren't use to playing this much. They're going to be playing everyday and some of them at different positions. The big thing is now they're playing against guys that are their equal and they've never done that before. That's one thing you've got to remember about kids coming out of high school. They were always the best and now they're going to be playing against all of the best of the best. So, they're going to have to make the adjustments and learn the discipline that it takes to go out there everyday and perform. Then, you can look to see if they are making the adjustments to see what kind of progress they made. You're talking about two guys (Marrero and King) and there are more, especially at Hagerstown that have a lot of good upside. And, we're really excited about that.
CapitolDugout: From what you have seen, how is Chris Marrero adjusting to his move to the outfield?
Foli: He's really adjusting just fine. In spring training, he work with guys with flyballs off the bat and he took flyballs off live batting practice. And, he was adjusting real well with that. He was starting to get real good jumps. You know, it's just a matter of having experience out there. Marrero is a good athlete and he's going to do real well with it I think. He wanted to work at it and anytime you're talented like that and want to work at something you're going to be good at it.
CapitolDugout: Glenn Gibson seems to be one of the most interesting pitching prospects in the organization. What are your thoughts on him?
Foli: Well, he's a left-handed pitcher and that's always good. Those guys can stick around for a long time. You never give up on them. Gibson did some good things in spring training. It's going to take some time for him to pitch and really get comfortable pitching with the stuff he's got. He's definitely got the skills I think and he is still maturing. I think that each and every time he goes out no matter where he is he's going to find out a little bit more about himself and what it takes to be successful. I like what I saw from him in spring training. He just needs to pitch and get some experience under his belt. But, he can pitch. For guys like that, they just need games, games, games and innings, innings, innings. When they're that talented, they show you where they're at.
CapitolDugout: The common phrase used by scouts to describe is that Gibson he is very advanced for his age. Do you agree with that?
Foli: Yeah, for sure. There's no question about it. And, that has a lot to do with his makeup. There are talented kids and there are also kids who progress a little faster than others because of their makeup and how they absorb things. He's going to be one of those guys who has the talent but also masters things quickly. And, we're excited about it. After the last four or five years in this organization of really being a depleted minor league system it's exciting to have kids like Gibson again. We have a lot of guys now that we think can advance and eventually be big league players.
CapitolDugout: The system may not be where everyone wants it to be just yet, but that low level talent has to be exciting for you. Who are some guys people should keep an eye on this season?
Foli: Well, in Hagerstown they've also got Mike Daniel and Justin Maxwell. Those two are just very talented players. And, there's also Smiley (Esmailyn Gonzalez) down in extended spring training right now. He's about as good a shortstop as you'll see, he's a switch hitter and we're very, very excited about what we've got in him. And, we'd like to bring him along slowly, but as good he is he may not let us move slowly. Another guy down in extended right now is Stephen Englund and I love what we've got in him and we're real excited about him this season. He was one of my favorite players in spring training to watch. He's got all the tools to be a star. And, of course there are other guys but those ones really stand out in my mind. They're going to show us by how they play how fast they can move up and how much they've progressed.
CapitolDugout: Leonard Davis is off to a torrid start with Hagerstown. What can you tell us about what type of player he is?
Foli: I like him a lot. You know, we like his bat and his versatility. He was in the outfield then we had him in the infield working on some second base and first base and he's taken to it pretty well. When I was with Montreal we had a guy named Warren Cromartie and Leonard kind of reminds me of him. Because he can hit and because he can play in a few different spots on the field, he's going to be on the radar. I think he could have a good future.
CapitolDugout: Juan De Los Santos may have one of most electric lefty arms in the minors but has displayed major control issues. Do you believe he can have success at the next level?
Foli: Well, he threw nothing but strikes in spring training so we were very happy about that. He can throw it up there at 96 MPH and he's left-handed, and he's out there kind of slinging it at you so how can you not be excited about a guy like that. When you're working with kids like him you don't know what they're going to become all the time. You can see talent in players as what they are now and only project what they could be. Now there's nothing wrong with being Greg Maddux and throwing 84 MPH, but when you are starting with guys in the minor leagues you want to have kids with real good arms and then learn how to pitch with the stuff that they have and hit their spots. When you put the command and stuff together then you've got yourself a big league pitcher.
CapitolDugout: What is your outlook for righty pitcher, Jhonny Nunez in 2007?
Foli: I like him a lot. He's got an excellent breaking ball and a very good fastball. Now, we just have to see where's he at right now and what he can do and judge him on the level he'll be pitching at this season. Nunez has the stuff to get there, but like a lot of guys, it is all about locating his pitches and working on the edges of the strike zone.
CapitolDugout: What can you tell us about what you expect from Craig Stammen and John Lannan this season and beyond?
Foli: Well, I'm in love with those two guys. They throw strikes, they command the zone, and they know what they're doing. When I've seen Stammen pitching in a couple games where I know I saw Major League type stuff. He spots the fastball and is able to work inside, outside and wherever he wants a lot of the time. He keeps his fastball down and when I've seen him he was able to get a breaking ball and a changeup over the plate consistently. Lannan is a lot of the same except from the left side. That's two guys if the progression continues we've got a couple real good pitchers. One thing you've got to understand is that when you've got the stuff that they've got at the lower levels, you get away with a lot. But, when you move up you don't get away with the same mistakes. As guys like them progress, they learn stuff like when they need to go a little harder and when they need to go a little softer. Lannan and Stammen are both guys with good stuff, know how to pitch and if they keep developing then they are going to advance pretty fast. Those guys are exciting and I'm glad you mentioned them because they have a real chance to be good.
If you wish to contact Frankie Piliere, he can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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