Joe Ritzo: How would you evaluate the year Gary Brown had and what does he have to do to take that next step forward?
Fred Stanley: We hit a gold mine with Gary Brown. You never know what you get in the draft, but he really stepped up and proved he was a number one pick. He did everything we could have asked as a first year pro. Pitch selection is going to be key for him as a leadoff hitter. Gary has to recognize how the pitchers will pitch to him, work on his on-base percentage and how to steal bases. Pitchers will pay more attention to you - holding the ball longer, pitching out more, more things to disrupt the basestealer. With a good basestealer everyone knows you're going to run and it's going to be up to Gary to recognize what the pitcher is trying to do. Those are things he'll learn to make himself a big league player.
JR: What are the organization's plans for Gary this season?
FS: Right now, based on what we've done in the past, Gary will probably start in Double-A. It'll depend on injuries and what happens at the big league level. We have Tyler Graham in Triple-A. Torres is gone, so you never know. We want to make sure we don't move him too fast. A lot of times, it's actually easier to hit better in Triple-A. The Eastern League is a tough, tough league to hit. The competition is really tough. You have the Yankkes and Boston - they always have pretty good pitching staffs there. I've been impressed with the caliber of play in Double-A. The hardest adjustment to make for a hitter is going from A-ball to the Eastern League. We'll see how spring training plays out with injuries and who comes down from the big leagues. It'll be a Brian Sabean and Dick Tidrow call right there. It'll be a good challenge for Gary.
JR: It can be interesting to compare how the organization approaches player movement in the farm system. For example, Brandon Belt was promoted to Double-A at the halfway point of the 2010 season, but you kept Gary Brown in San Jose all of last year. What's your thought process when it comes to moving players up a level during the season?
FS: A lot of it depends on who is in front of these players. We had so many outfielders in Double-A last year. (Justin) Christian had just signed with us and there was also (Francisco) Peguero, (Juan) Perez, (Roger) Kieschnick, and (Wendell) Fairley. There were a lot of guys in front of Gary. If we had a void in that spot, we might have moved Gary. It was important for him to get an opportunity to play. It was also nice to have the kind of season that Gary had. The fans appreciate a guy who stays there and works as hard as he did. A lot of it depends on who is in front him. Look at (Chris) Dominguez, we did not have a true third basemen in Double-A, so moving him was an easy decision for us. He was 24 and we're trying to move him so he can hopefully be knocking on the door for the big leagues. Age isn't always a huge factor, but at 25 or 26 you want that guy to be knocking on the door.
JR: It's a bit unique in that three of your very best hitting prospects are catchers in Tommy Joseph, Hector Sanchez and Andrew Susac. How will you approach the year with this trio?
FS: We've very lucky to have all three. And we've also got Johnny Monell, who is a left-handed power hitting catcher. For Tommy to do what he did at 19 last year was pretty darn phenomenal. Going into this spring, Tommy and Monell will be Double-A guys. Hector will be in Triple-A. Susac will probably get a chance to be in San Jose, maybe with Jeff Arnold. He'll get an opportunity to go to the Cal League. We'll have to see how it all plays out. We've very lucky at the catching position.
JR: Can you give any early insight as to the position player composition of this year's San Jose club?
FS: Right now, I would say Joe Panik, our #1 pick last year, would be a strong candidate to start at shortstop in San Jose. You may have Adam Duvall, who had a monster year in Augusta last season (at third base). You could have (Carter) Jurica or (Carlos) Willoughby at second base. At first base, we have to think about Luke Anders coming back. If not, we have a group of guys. (Ryan) Scoma plays some first base. We could move someone from the outfield to first to get at-bats. We'd like to move Luke to Double-A as he'll be 25 next year. First base is a pretty open for us at San Jose. We could also put Ricky Oropesa at first in San Jose - I'm probably leaning in that direction. And Andrew Susac probably as the starting catcher, that'd be a big move for those guys as first year players.
We have to see what we do with (Jarrett) Parker - he could return or go to Double-A . We have to see about the guys in front of him like Peguero, Perez and Kieschnick. (Ryan) Lollis certainly will have an opportunity in San Jose. Could be Devin Harris. Chris Lofton was in Augusta last year and could have an opportunity in San Jose. I think (Rafael) Rodriguez will probably end up back in Augusta. He's only 19 and we want to keep him under control. Joel Weeks is a good organizational guy who can help us in multiple areas. We have some depth there. Robert Haney is a shortstop/second baseman. (Nick) Liles will probably return, but it depends on what happens at the Double-A level. We'd like to see him in Double-A.
JR: You mentioned Joe Panik. What are you looking to get out of him if he's coming to San Jose?
FS: He's a very heads-up ballplayer. He's a smart individual and knows the game. With the limited professional experience he's had, somebody has done a really fine job of getting him prepared. He's left-handed and can pull the ball in the hole and can make adjustments at the plate. He was tired in the fall league, but really held his own even though it's basically a Double-A league. He could hit third in that San Jose lineup. He puts the ball in play, knows what to do with the bat and also could hit second. He has a huge upside. At short, he's very sure handed. As accurate a thrower as you've seen come through San Jose, including (Brandon) Crawford. You'll appreciate his shortstop play.
JR: Is the expectation that Panik will continue to play shortstop as he progresses through the farm system?
FS: I do like him at shortstop. I think he's on the fast track. If Crawford is the shortstop at the big leagues and we think he is as offensively he's starting to put it together, we may move Panik to second base eventually. Crawford is still young and could be having a big year for us. It would give us two shortstops at the big league level. Panik has proved he can play second base. He played there in the fall league and was very good. He understands the position. His bat will play wherever we put him.
JR: I know it's early and there will be plenty of roster movement during spring training, but can you project what kind of identity the 2012 San Jose offense might have?
FS: Lets say this, they could have more power that you had last year. Susac, I think, will put up very solid numbers. Oropesa has a chance to as well. He's a lot like Belt - an opposite-field hitter. He'll hit the ball hard to left center and has big power potential. Panik could be hitting second or third in that lineup. You could have a 2-3-4 lineup with those guys that could be as good as anyone in the California League. We've very excited about what they can bring to the table. Jurica and Willoughby also both have potential to be in the big leagues. With Duvall, he could be a 20-to-25 home run guy at third base. We could have possibly 60 home runs between the catcher, first base and third base positions.
JR: How about the make-up of the San Jose pitching staff?
FS: I think Shawn Sanford will be high on that list as a starting pitcher. I think Michael Kickham as a starting pitcher in San Jose. They may do Justin Schumer or Gasper Santiago. It depends a lot on spring training. There are guys we could make relievers into starters. We may take a guy like (Jacob) Dunnington and make him a starter. (Brett) Bochy should be there as a reliever. You may have Seth Rosin as a starter. May have Mario Rodrgieuz as a starter. Taylor Rogers would definitely be a candidate to start. We'll have a lot of decisions to make during spring training. We have a pretty solid group of relievers with (Stephen) Harrold, (Drew) Bowlin, (Edward) Concepcion.
JR: Finally, what are some of the differences you notice in players that come out of college versus high school and the even younger international players?
FS: The biggest thing is maturity. We have to find out how much we can give them to digest, meaning offensively, defensively and all the things we do. The competition is so much stronger here. If they came from a very good college program like a Fullerton or USC, they've got a better feel for the competition and what a grind it is. A high school kid hasn't experienced any of that and certainly not a kid from the Dominican Republic or Venezuela. The regimen of going through spring training, staying in hotels, not being with their families for the first time, their diet and the competition. We have to be careful not to overload them. Patience is so important in what we do. You probably have to tell them how to do something more than once. You have to explain things four or five times in a day. We're very lucky to have so much experience in our coaching staff to understand what patience is. Communication is huge for us. We spend so much time with out instructors about what it means to be patient. You can have different ways of saying things, but our message has to be the same.