Notable Quotables: Rockies Organization All-Stars outtakes
By Sam Dykstra / MiLB.com
After two weeks of MiLBY reveals, we returned to our Organization All-Stars series Friday, and the next system up was Colorado’s. Of course, you’ve already read all about that, right? Right? If not, I forgive you, and you can find that piece here. I couldn’t fit every quote into that story, so consider this a companion piece of sorts that brings you more analysis about the best of the best from this Minor League season in the Rockies system.
Rockies assistant director of player development Zach Wilson
On what Ryan McMahon should take away from his first pro season: He obviously had a fantastic year from a numbers perspective, but we try to preach, especially at the lower levels, it’s not about the numbers — it’s about the process. With Ryan, he was able to compete, get his feet underneath him and learn what being a pro ballplayer means, meaning how he needs to prepare both mentally and physically. He has the tools to be an impactful, sustainable Major League player. We’ll just have to help him develop in other ways. A lot will be mental preparation and the other challenges that come with the higher levels — strike zones get smaller, breaking balls get tighter, things of that nature.
On whether McMahon should still be happy about having impressive stats: You know, it’s tough to teach any young player that the numbers aren’t necessarily the most important thing. We see that especially in college players, where everything has been about the numbers up until that point. Still in the case of Ryan, it’s always nice to see a player get his career off to a good start like that.
On Raimel Tapia’s competitive nature: He’s such a hard-nosed player every time he steps out there. You can just see it in him that he doesn’t care if he’s facing Clayton Kershaw or a kid wearing the same jersey in an intrasquad game, he wants to beat you. It’s serious stuff, but he’s going to have fun with it too. That’s what he’ll always do. He’s got such a baseball soul.
On Kyle Parker playing first base: It’s been very clear to me that he has a natural feel to fielding the position. His hands work really well there, and I think that comes from his quarterbacking days [at Clemson], especially when he’s feeding the pitcher to go to first. His feet move around pretty good there too. Obviously, it’s still pretty new to him, but I think he’ll be able to play that and play it well. He’s really taken it upon himself to work hard at it, and he’s out there early working at it all the time, trying to become the best at it he can be.
On whether Parker has a shot at winning the Rockies’ first base job in the spring: I think it’s too early to tell about that stuff. A big part of the decision to have him play first in the Fall League was to see how he handles the competition and how he grows at first base. … For now, Kyle’s done all we can ask since we got him. It just comes down to the process for him, and we know how much he continues to put in the work.
On Eddie Butler’s ability to move through three levels in one season: There are guys, particularly pitchers, where you just know there’s going to be a time where they need new challenges. We started Eddie in Asheville with the idea that at some point he was going to move at least one level. Then, he showed very early on that he was dominant there and eventually there wasn’t much of a challenge anymore to get better. We’re always finding the right level for our guys not only to find success but also to be tested. There were a lot of those same things in Modesto, so we wanted him to get a little more challenge by getting a taste of Double-A. He faced that challenge too, so we’re looking forward to what comes next from him.
On Butler’s scouting report: Across the board, he has tremendous, raw stuff. His fastball gets right up to 98-99 with sink. He has a slider that has tremendous tilt to it. Even his changeup sits around 88-91 and can drop right out of the zone. These are all Major League ready pitches. He just has to continually be working on the command of that fastball with the sink on it.
On the effect hitter-friendly McCormick Field has on evaluating hitters: It’s certainly a different field. We try to make sure our players don’t get caught up in it though. You look at [Rosell Herrera], he was sent to Asheville last year to start the season and had to be sent down after not doing well, despite the home-field advantage. If you ask him, that was the best thing that happened to him because when he came back this year, he was more ready and was able to make a big name for himself with the year he had. Rosell had one those years, where he would have been MVP anywhere he played in that league. … I don’t think our players get caught up in that too much. I think it’s more the media and opposing teams to be honest with you. Actually, we find it’s when guys aren’t successful that they’re getting too caught up in playing there. The guys who brush it off more easily, those are the guys that find success elsewhere.
Tulsa manager Kevin Riggs
On Tom Murphy’s brief time in Tulsa: When he came to us, I had heard a lot about him and had seen a little bit of him during instructs. After watching him move from the South Atlantic League to the Texas League, I was very, very impressed with his makeup. He has just the right leadership qualities you look for in a catcher. He had a good understanding of how to work with pitchers on a daily basis and how to adjust accordingly between different guys. He reads swings and hitters pretty well from back there, so he knows how to go after guys. On the defensive side, I was really impressed with how up-to-speed he was. Offensively, he’s got some things to work on, but he’s got plenty of impact on the bat and that’s always huge. He’s got a chance to be an offensive force as a catcher.
On what Murphy needs to work on offensively: Oh, they’re just very, very minor adjustments — mostly getting a little bit more athletic in lower half, using the lower a little bit more, accelerating the hands a little better, stuff like that. They’re all very small, minor tweaks that he was aware of, but he wasn’t really aware of how to attack it. They’re definitely changes he’s capable of making.
On Parker’s season: We were happy, for the most part, for the job Kyle did for us this year. He’s another guy with an impact bat that helped us out on that side. He worked really hard in the outfield, too, and obviously beginning around late July to September, he was working at first base too, and that’s obviously an adjustment right there. But he had some experience in the infield during college and high school, he said, so that certainly helped. … For a right-handed hitter, the ball comes off his bat differently to the off gap, and that can make him a much more intriguing player as well.
On his first impressions of Butler: This guy dominated our level. Even when he got here after being two other levels, I had to think this guy was probably at the wrong level. As far as development goes, it’s good they got him to us this year though. The future is very bright for this young man. He’s got plus pitches across the board, and he can pound the strike zone with all of them.
On whether Butler surpassed the previous scouting reports he received on the right-hander: You know, you get these scouting reports and everything, but you really can’t make a great evaluation for yourself until you lay eyes on them. He certainly lived up to the hype. He came up there, and it was rather easy for him. When that happens, you know he’s ready to take on the next challenge whether it’s Triple-A or the big leagues even. We saw here in the Texas League in the last few years with [Sonny Gray] with Midland or the list of guys from Springfield lately. He’s right there with those guys. He’s got the velocity, the pitchability, and with those things in place, it’s tough to hold him back.
On Leuris Gomez’s road to becoming a reliever: His big thing is he can throw the breaking ball early in the count, and once he gets ahead, he can be very effective. He really likes to attack the strike zone, which is an advantage for any pitcher. [Tulsa pitching coach] Darryl Scott did a nice job with him. You know, I saw him back when he was a third baseman for [then-Rookie-level affiliate Casper in 2008], and he was about to be sent home. Tony Diaz, one of the supervisors there, said, ‘This kid has a great makeup and a pretty good arm. Let’s see what he can do on the mound.’ After a few years, it’s starting to come together for him.
Colorado Springs manager Glenallen Hill
On Ben Paulsen’s solid season with Colorado Springs: Ben showed some really good hitting ability this year, and he had some good defensive prowess over there at first, too. He’s very athletic, very versatile and he’s got good range at first year. It was really a big year for his confidence. He was pretty consistent all year round, and that was reflected I think in the stats he put up by the end. He took a huge step in terms of progress at the Minor League level.
On if Paulsen’s confidence was low after spending two years in a row at Tulsa: I don’t think confidence was all that low, really. It’s just when you get the chance to move up to a higher league, you want to prove to yourself that you can compete. If you can do that, that’s a huge deal.
Asheville manager Fred Ocasio
On Herrera’s breakout season: His whole all-around game was fantastic. He spent a short time here last year, and obviously defense was one of the struggles then, and that hurt him in everything else too. He struggled with that early on, too, but he really came around as the year went on defensively. Then, he was named MVP for his offense. He hit for average, showed some power, got some RBIs too. It was just one of those special years put together by a really good player.