In the final part of our six-segment interview with Sam Geaney, the Padres’ Director of Player Development, we discuss the 2018 El Paso Chihuahuas.
MadFriars: There was some discussion that Luis Urias was trying to do too much early in the season. Was any of that true, or was the player we saw in the last month with the Chihuahuas what you always expected to see?
Sam Geaney: I think that the player that we saw in the last month is the guy we will see next year. Before he hurt his hamstring, he was showing some signs of that too. I think this year at times he got a little big with his swing, but on the other hand, it was good for him to go through that as well.
As we have been talking about in the past, we kind of want to see how players will deal with adversity in the minors because we don’t want their first struggles to be in the big leagues. Also, when you look at his total numbers – and especially keeping in mind he was one of the youngest players in the league – it was a very positive season for Luis.
After you acquired Francisco Mejia from Cleveland, according to some he made a lot of defensive progress behind the plate. Did you see that?
Sam Geaney: Definitely. I saw his first game in Colorado Springs and he really benefitted from being around Rod Barajas. They connected and worked really well together and you could see how much it helped Francisco.
I believe Francisco even spent some time with him in El Paso in the offseason, to get in some more work. From the first night, you could see he was really focused on getting better.
Javy Guerra hit much better in the second half (.263/.318/.456) than he did in the first (.200/.239/.363). What changed?
Sam Geaney: He’s still continuing to find his swing and approach and there were some refinements in the second half. The big thing with Javier is just putting together consistent quality swings. I thought there was some progress this year.
We always get asked about a couple players that are a little older but put up good numbers this year – Allen Craig and Brett Nichols are two great examples.
There doesn’t seem to be much room for them on the big league roster what are the organization’s plans for them?
Sam Geaney: With many of these guys there is a mix of reasons on why we acquire them and we are hoping for opportunities for all of them, even though there are only so many major league jobs. Sometimes it does work out, Christian Villanueva is a great example.
I think for Allen to have a healthy season after dealing with injuries the past few years really helped him and both Allen and Brett were tremendous players on the field and off in how they see, explain and approach the game. They both can really connect with the young players and sometimes hearing something from a teammate, as opposed to a coach, can really help.
Both of them still have a lot of baseball left in them.
Brett Kennedy had a great year. How much did his secondary stuff – slider and change – improve this year?
Sam Geaney: It improved some, but Brett is still a fastball pitcher who is unique in his ability to throw where he wants too. He is still going to challenge guys with it and I don’t think he’s ever going to turn into a guy with a mix that is around fifty percent fastballs.
He had a great season with the Chihuahuas and got his first taste of the big leagues this season. Often times the game is the best teacher of what you need to do to stay there and get better. I think you will see an uptick in the number of changeups and sliders he throws and more importantly when he throws them.
What went right for Walker Lockett this year and what does the organization still want to see improvement on?
Sam Geaney: There were times when his changeup was really a weapon for him and his slider was good. With Walker, it was just a question of how consistent he could be with both.
Finally, we have always been fans of Kyle Lloyd. Do you see more of a bullpen role for him in the future where he features his sinker and forkball?
Sam Geaney: I think Kyle’s greatest value is that he has always been able to do both. Since he’s been with us he’s always given his best effort to do anything that we have asked – which we have always appreciated.
As for a relief role, yes, we have been intrigued how his stuff plays in shorter bursts, but for the present, we still see him in a role where he will continue to do both.