I had the chance to sit down for a few minutes to discuss the Minor Leagues with newly promoted Farm Director John Vuch last week. Check it out:
FR: How much will your role change from your previous job as Minor League operations to now Farm Director?
JV: Well it will change quite a bit, because now I kind of have more direct input as far as what the moves will be, the staffing, and that sort of thing. Obviously, I’m still going to lean heavily on our field staff and with Gary LaRoque who’s going to be serving as an advisor to me, as well, but the main difference is I will kind of have the decision on player moves, and that type of thing.
FR: When you go into player moves, how much time goes into the decision to promote or demote a player?
JV: Most of the time it’s done long before you actually see the move, because lots of times moves are reactions to injuries, so my goal is, when there’s an injury, we already know who’s going to take the place of somebody should something like that happen. A big thing is talking to our manager and rovers to get a feel for who is playing well, who might be in over their head at a level, but really our goal is to be a little on the conservative side, and not, you know, rush guys into a position where they aren’t ready.
FR: The minor league teams had a ton of success this year, how much of a value do you place on team success compared to maybe individual players progressing more in a process, or statistically?
JV: I think definitely there are two functions: developing the player, and the other is winning. Developing the player is always the priority, because I mean our main function in player development is to produce major league ready players, so you never want to do anything to stop the development of a player. That being said, the two aren’t mutually exclusive. Winning is an important thing, as well, in terms of learning how to play the game the right way, doing the things that it takes to win a ball game, whether it be hitting behind a runner, or situations where you’re playing as a team. The other benefit of playing for a winning team is, a lot of times when a team is out of the running, you get guys trying to pad their stats, where as when the team is playing for a playoff spot, that kind of keeps the team together and has players playing team baseball. That said, the main function is developing players, and you never want to have winning superseding that. Sometimes you’ll see guys that might not be as polished of a player, but he’s a better prospect, so you might have a guy who on paper appears to be a lesser player who gets more playing time over a guy putting up good numbers.
FR: When you compare players with the numbers they have to what you’re hearing from the coaches, how much of a focus do you guys put on the numbers you see compared to the process that’s taking place?
JV: It’s more of a balance, because you’ll have guys that put up good numbers. One of my goals is, you know, you’ll have guys where coaches say ‘this guy may be an a-ball tops guy’, or ‘this guy may be a double-a tops guy’, you never want that to become sort of a self-fufilling prophecy. If the guy is producing, even if the coach doesn’t think he can get out of A-ball, if he produces, give him a chance. There’s guys who play in the big leagues like David Eckstein who came and talked to our minor league players three or four years ago, and he was pretty honest about how every level he played at, his coaches thought that’s where he was going to top out, so you never want to right a players career out before it actually happens. So in that regard, if the player keeps producing, we’ll let him prove that he’s not capable of playing at the higher level. That being said, there may be guys that are putting up poor numbers, if has ability, if he has talent, you may see him getting more chances based on the coaches recommendation.
FR: The fans are pretty familiar with the top guys, it’s changing a bit, but obviously Miller, guys like Cox, now Martinez, but in the lower levels of the system, there’s a very young group of prospects, talk about a few of those guys that the organization and the fans can get excited about?
JV: Well one of the top guys, and I know you guys who do a good job keeping up with your site may know is Oscar Taveras, he’s a guy at Johnson City, he’s 18-years old, had a really nice year. He’s got good power to all fields, even though he’s only 18 he’s a very polished hitter, he runs fairly well, solid defensively, got a nice arms. So he’s one guy, and you know, I hate to rank guys at that stage in their career, but he really stood out in his first year over in the United States. A kid who really stood out at the end of the year is Rainel Rosario at Quad Cities. He was really kind of under the radar, not many of our guys knew much about him because he had an injury earlier in his career, but he really opened some eyes as an offense player in the second half. Michael Swinson’s got a lot of ability, a lot of tools. It hasn’t really translated into statistical success yet, but he’s a guy that our managers and coaches are impressed by his tools. He’s still very raw and young so we think this could be a big year for him to translate those tools into success.
FR: What’s the Player Development department’s role one we get into the end of the Major League season here?
JV: One of our roles is to talk to Mo, talk to the staff in regards to potential promotions. This time of year, once the minor league season is over, we’ll sit down and talk with the Major League staff to get a feel for what they’ve seen from the guys that have come up, and see if there’s something that they see on the fundamental basis that we need to do differently on the Minor League side. If there’s a group of guys and they’re all doing something in a way the Major League guys don’t like, that’s something we need to correct. One of the things we really try to focus on is doing things in the Minor Leagues the same way we do on the Major League side.