Friday, November 26, 2010

Interview Conducted By David Saltzer, Senior Writer
Conducted on November 19, 2010

Throughout the year, interviews Abe Flores, the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim’s Director for Player Development about the status of the organization and the development of key prospects throughout the system. This year, several prospects separated themselves from the pack and pushed themselves up to elite status. Additionally, players such as Peter Bourjos, Michael Kohn and Jordan Walden all made the jump to the Major Leagues to achieve success. And, unfortunately, Brandon Wood, once a bright spot in the Angels’ system, took a tremendous step backwards.

In this interview, we talked with Abe Flores about all the changes that are going on with the Angels’ coaching staff, the development of key stars such as Conger, Trout and Trumbo, and the lessons to be learned from Brandon Wood. How are all the coaching promotions and changes affecting the player development department?

Abe Flores: Obviously it’s had a huge impact. It’s probably the most changes we’ve had on this staff—taking an educational guess—since 2001, before we came on board. We usually have a couple of changes, but not as many as we’ve had this year. But, we’re getting through it. We’re putting our staff together. We should have something official after Thanksgiving. What strengths do you think that Rob Picciolo will bring as the bench coach for Mike Scioscia?

Abe Flores: Oh man, he brings a lot of things. He’s just a tremendous teacher—an insightful baseball man. Level-headed, approachable. He will be a great person to talk to so far as the players leaning on him. He’s a professional personally. So, I think that he’s going to be a tremendous addition. Ron was great too, but, “Peach” brings a different skill set to that job than Ron. They are both tremendous baseball men, but Rob was a good pickup for our Major League club. We’ll miss him down in the Minors, and the players will too. I’ve heard nothing but good things about him from some of the players I’ve interviewed.

Abe Flores: Oh yes. He cares. And you can tell that he cares. Last year when we spoke at this time, you talked about looking to fill some Triple-A outfield depth via minor league free agency, and that came in handy for the team. What, if any depth, are you looking to fill this year?

Abe Flores: We’re looking for a catcher, some starters, and some relief pitchers. So, a lot of pitching, primarily. Shortstop and maybe a bat. A lot of help for that Triple-A roster. We’re a little thin. What did you think of the development of Bourjos, Kohn, and Walden at the Major League level?

Abe Flores: I thought it was great. Obviously there is a tremendous learning curve from Triple-A to the Major Leagues. But, they are making that transition. It’s not an easy transition. It takes time. It takes patience. But obviously at that level you need to produce. And, they definitely got a feel for what is required up there. In the case of Kohn, he did very well. And those other guys, they are feeling their way through it. Are there any lessons that can be, or have been, learned from Brandon Wood?

Abe Flores: Great question! It’s kind of tough to answer that one. You know, it’s such a case-by-case situation on how people react and succeed at the Major League level. There are always expectations of a player who has that much success in the Minor Leagues. It just goes to show you that just never know quite how it will play out at the Major League level. Aside from Trout, who really stood out in the organization as taking a big step forward?

Abe Flores: There were quite a few guys. Guys that snuck up on us and had very good season were guys like Steven Geltz, Jeremy Berg, the second half for Jeremy Moore. Romine had a solid season. Alexi Amarista. Mark Trumbo had a big year for playing for the first time at a new level. Just a bunch of guys. A bunch of them. Jean Segura, Dillon Baird, Luis Jimenez even though he kind of got injured at the end but still played. Jeremy Cruz. Grichuk even though he got injured a couple of times. Andrew Heid. There’s a bunch. Heath Nichols. Ryan Chaffee, especially down the stretch and into the playoffs. Daniel Tillman. With a talent like Trout, how do you effectively manage the need to challenge him with the need to ensure that he learns all that he should at each level?

Abe Flores: It’s really easy because he is a very coachable guy who has very high expectations of himself and a very team-oriented player. It’s easy. We can challenge him. We don’t coddle him. We will continue to challenge him, especially if something he is not doing correctly and needs to be altered. But we have no problem making that. It’s not that we have put him on some ivory tower. He’s 19 years old. He’s by no means a finished product. There have been lots of timetables set forth for how quickly Trout can make it to the Major Leagues. How do you ensure that you don’t overly rush him?

Abe Flores: Because our organization develops on having that player going from level to level. When we feel that he is mentally and physically ready for the challenge at Double-A, we’ll make that determination and do that. And then, when he’s ready for Triple-A, we’ll do that. And really, he’s not unique. He’s just a very advanced skillful player. But, don’t ever expect Mike Trout to carry this franchise or any team that he is on. He is part of a team. That part I tend to hammer home with everybody who asks about him. That’s a great point. We shouldn’t put too many lofty expectations on him.

Abe Flores: He can’t win the game by himself on a nightly basis. He can’t. That’s unrealistic. Can he? On occasion, sure he can. But, not over 140 games in the Minor League schedule. Just expect him to do his part. What happened with Conger this Fall?

Abe Flores: He just enough. He came home, felt like he had enough at-bats, and enough exposure to Venezuela and came home. No injury. He didn’t really swing the bat particularly well. But, that’s the thing. You’ve got to produce and perform in those Winter Leagues. That’s what I love about them. In some ways it mirrors advancement to the Major Leagues: You’ve got to perform on a certain level or you’re going to get sent back. In this case you get sent home. Will be a negative on him or hinder his development?

Abe Flores: No. I think it is always a tremendous learning experience to go somewhere, whether the Dominican, Venezuela, Puerto Rico, or Mexico, because of the environment. They love baseball. They are passionate fans. But you have to produce. You’re getting paid pretty good money, so you have to produce. Trumbo followed up an incredible year with a great performance in the Fall. What more does he need to do to become a Major Leaguer?

Abe Flores: Continue understand his strike zone and continue to hone that. Continue to scratch and claw and get better on defense and his all-around game, which he has made tremendous strides on. Otherwise, he is progressing nicely in his own way. How did he look playing the outfield?

Abe Flores: Fine. He has got a chance to be a good outfielder. Not great, but good. He had a couple of games at third base. Was there any reason for that?

Abe Flores: No. I don’t know any reason for that to tell you the truth. How did Jean Segura look at shortstop?

Abe Flores: Good. Good to have that option. Not as good as he is at second, but he can play the position. He’s just scratching the surface on how well he can play because he hasn’t been exposed to it for very long. Do you see him sticking there or staying at second?

Abe Flores: At this point, I would just say that we’ll continue to explore it, but, his primary position is second base. If he flourishes at short, then hey, we’ll run with it. Tyler Chatwood had a great year, but the strikeouts dropped off in Double-A. Is there any reason to be concerned about him?

Abe Flores: None. No concerns. Still like his upside. He still has good stuff. His command has continued to improve. No concerns. In one of the articles about the AFL, Jeremy Moore was quoted as giving advice to Brandon Wood. In addition to all his other skills, is he a clubhouse leader?

Abe Flores: Yes. That has emerged as part of his package. Obviously that depends on what team he’s on. If he ever lands on our Major League team, then there’s a little bit of a different pecking order on his leadership ability. He’s really blossomed before our eyes, on a lot of facets of his game.

Abe Flores: If you were to compare Jeremy Moore to any player, who would he be?

Abe Flores: I couldn’t say at this point. Fabio Mesa-Martinez had another good year, but was shut down at the end of July. Are there any concerns about his durability?

Abe Flores: None. No concerns about his durability at all. He came back and pitched Instructional League. He’s good to go. Steven Geltz doesn’t quite have the traditional pitcher’s build, but is striking out hitters in bunches. How would you profile him?

Abe Flores: You know what, I didn’t get to see Steven this year. I really didn’t. I just missed him every time. Whether it was a promotion, or whatever, I just missed him. Are you getting great scouting reports on him?

Abe Flores: Yes. You know what, the good thing about Steven is that he’s an aggressive, fearless guy on the mound. He’ll attack the strike zone and he will get after the hitters. He’s got velocity and the breaking ball has improved. So, he has a lot going for him. Jeremy Berg throws side armed, almost submarine style. Can you tell us more about him?

Abe Flores: Aggressive, competitive guy. Strike thrower. Causes a lot of swings and misses—funky swings. Changes speeds. Can work soft on soft. He’s just a deceptive guy. He’s just a different package so far as what he brings to the mound, but it works. How do you develop someone with such an unorthodox delivery?

Abe Flores: You know what, there isn’t much I would say to develop, other than we’ve focused on him continuing to master his changeup. Otherwise, there really hasn’t been that we’ve tinkered with. The guy has had a lot of success. Luis Jimenez played in the Futures Game, and split time with Dillon Baird at third base. Are they continue to split time going forward?

Abe Flores: Something that we will discuss and we’ll evaluate going in to Spring Training. Definitely. But, that’s a good problem to have. Who really stood out in your mind from the 2010 draft?

Abe Flores: Definitely I would say Daniel Tillman. Daniel Tillman stood out. Baseball America speculated that Daniel Tillman might be converted into a starter. Is that something you’re considering?

Abe Flores: At this point we haven’t discussed it. Kaleb Cowart drew some lofty comparisons when he was drafted by the Angels. What is your take on him now that you’ve seen a little bit of him?

Abe Flores: Nice looking player, trying to understand how we go about the game—the Angels way of doing things. We haven’t had him for very long. He was only basically with us for 14 days and Instructional League. A player who has a bunch of tools and he has a soft skill level. We’ll get a really more in-depth look at him this year. Last year the Angels challenged Dillon Baird with a jump to Rancho. Is Andrew Heid someone else who might get a similar challenge?

Abe Flores: Not at this point. No. What was your first impression of Taylor Lindsey?

Abe Flores: A nice looking player. His bat is ahead of his defense, but his defense has vastly improved over the course of the season and Instructional League. He has really come a long way with his quality of work on a daily basis. There’s a nice upside to him. What were your impressions of Ryan Bolden?

Abe Flores: A “toolsy” player that’s raw. So, it’s going to take time and require patience. What about Cam Bedrosian?

Abe Flores: Didn’t see him. He was hurt. How about Chevez Clarke?

Abe Flores: Once again his bat is a little bit more polished than Bolden. Also a “toolsy” type player. He just needs to refine his game and understand his game so he can have value for us down the road. Lastly, are you maintaining contact with Jake Locker to see if he’s still going to continue to play baseball for the Angels or will pursue professional football?

Abe Flores: I have made no contact with Jake Locker. On behalf of, I’d like to thank you for taking the time today to speak with the fans.

Abe Flores: Thank you. I appreciate the interview and Happy Thanksgiving.
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