|Joe Jordan, image- Jay Floyd|
Topics discussed include injury updates for several hurlers including Jose Taveras, Nick Fanti, Bailey Falter and a critical note on Triple-A reliever Brandon Leibrandt. Also mentioned are outfielders Jhailyn Ortiz and Jose Pujols, catcher Deivi Grullon, Lakewood starters Will Stewart and David Parkinson as well as impressive Double-A reliever Kyle Dohy along with Triple-A reliever Tyler Gilbert.
Read onward for much of my interview with Joe and check back in the coming days for his thoughts on some other names that are worthy of interest.
-Kyle Dohy's graduated out of Lakewood and Clearwater, landing in Reading. He's started to get some attention, after he was a 16th round draft pick and pitched in short-season Class A last year. Can you talk about his season and how impressive that's been?
Well, I think it speaks for itself that it's been a phenomenal year for him. You know, you just-- he is a power pitcher from the left side out of the bullpen and he's got three pitches to get good hitters out with. And I just think from a velocity to an execution standpoint with his fastball, if he establishes his fastball then it opens up the whole plate for his other two pitches and that's, for me, what he's been able to do. And he's been phenomenal. Again, he's got three plus pitches. You have the ability to-- he's got a pretty good arsenal to draw from.
-Has he been the biggest eye-catcher in the system this year? Has there been anybody else that's really made a name for himself the way Kyle has this year?
I think that he's definitely, if not the biggest surprise, (he's) one of them. Just because it's a pretty ascent to Double-A out of last year's draft. So, yeah, it'd be hard to argue with that.
-What are his offerings and his strengths?
It's a hard curveball behind a well above average fastball at times and then a change up. You know, he's got three pitches that he can go after both left and right handed hitters with. That's why he's done what he's done. He's just been really, really good.
-For Lakewood both Will Stewart and David Parkinson are lefty starters that have been quite impressive. I think people have been expecting those guys to come back down to Earth with their statistics, but they haven't and have been strong all year. What can you share about those guys?
Well, Will, for me, the first three months of the summer was as good as anybody we had in our system on the mound, as far as starting pitching. And he's just gotten stronger as he's added strength and understanding to how his delivery's supposed to work. It's a power sinker with a plus change up and an improving breaking ball, so it's been-- we're kind of managing his innings right now. We've got a target we want to try to get him to at the end of the year, but he's really, really taken a huge step forward.
And David, for me, can pitch with pretty much anyone in our system. It's fastball, curveball, slider, change up, really good feel for sequences. He gets a lot of swings and misses on an 89 to 92 mile an hour fastball, but it's because he knows when he executes it, he can throw his fastball. He's got a really good feel for how to sequence a hitter and, so I've been really impressed with him this year. Again, based on last summer, you know last summer was our first time to see him and I think he's really-- we've had a lot of guys that have just taken big steps forward, so both these guys are two of them.
-Also on that list of guys to take significant strides is likely Tyler Gilbert. How about him?
Yeah, I think it's just more of the same. Late last summer in Clearwater he started playing around with a cutter grip. And it was a pitch that I think he took to really quickly. We saw it late last summer and he went and pitched in the fall league, went and brought that pitch forward. I think he's gotten more comfortable and familiar with the bull pen role and how to prepare and how to get ready. His fastball's up a grade. His cutter is good. He's got a change up and a breaking ball. He's really just grown for me, as a pitcher, and understanding what he has and how to use it.
-How has Deivi Grullon impressed you this year? He wins the Eastern League home run derby, he's hitting for more power. (His manager) Greg Legg is happy with his progress, mentioning he's improved his English. What have you seen from him?
Well, I think what you just said from Legger. I think he's gotten better in every aspect of his game. He's really-- I think the coolest thing about Grullon's development is he has really taken ownership of his staff. I think he has taken ownership of running the pre- and post-game meetings. I think he really understands now, more than ever, the importance of the role of the catcher to be a leader, to understand pitchers' strengths and pitch off of those. So, offensively, listen, he just keeps getting better. But there's not one part of his game that he hasn't come forward on. We've had him since he was 16 years old. It's been really cool to watch.
|Jhailyn Ortiz, image- Jay Floyd|
Well, I think Jhailyn's getting exactly what he needs and he's getting experience. Listen, no one has more ability. He's a very energetic young guy. I love what he's doing. As soon as he gets a little better understanding of the strike zone and how guys are trying to pitch him, this guy's gonna go fast. I think experience is what he needs, that's what he's getting. He's got everything you need, every ingredient- every physical ingredient- you need to be a fantastic player one of these days.
-A guy I ask you about every time we talk is Jose Pujols. He showed a lot of power a couple years ago at Lakewood, seemed to struggle at Clearwater last year and now this year he seems to have figured out that league. Is he where you were hoping for this year?
Well, I think he falls into the same category as to what we were talking about with Dohy. A guy that had a really, really tough go last year and I think what Jose's done is make adjustments with being over aggressive, take what the game gives you, understand how you're being pitched to. He's just been terrific to watch. It's really rewarding for all of us because obviously we lived through the struggles of last year with him. And I'm proud of him. I'm proud of him for-- he's the one that's made the adjustments, but he's a pretty damn good player right now.
-Yeah, absolutely. He's been outstanding there. I wanted to ask about some guys that are situated down in Clearwater, rehabbing with various injuries. Nick Fanti's a guy that's missed time this year with a lower back strain. Is he going to throw with a team again this year?
Well, that's our hope. He's getting better. It's, you know, he's just dealt with some physical stuff that's kept him sidelined, obviously. I think he's improving, getting ready to start throwing, his throwing progression. We'll get him out before the year is up.
-J.D. Hammer's a guy, coming into this season, I think people were excited to see and they haven't seen him. Any feedback for him?
Yeah, I think we're gonna see him sometime in August. We'll be able to recapture some innings for him sometime this fall or winter. So, you know, it's been more of the same, just dealt with some injuries, but we're gonna get to see him in August.
-Continuing with a list of pitchers I'm hoping to ask about Brandon Leibrandt has missed time after a tremendous start for Lehigh Valley. What's his current status?
Well, Brandon Leibrandt had UCL (Tommy John) surgery, so he's at home kind of recuperating right now, but he'll be rehabbing this fall and winter and pretty much all of '19.
-A couple other injured pitchers worth checking in on are Jose Taveras and Bailey Falter.
Falter's gonna-- I think he's throwing his last rehab outing maybe, I'm guessing the 31st or the 1st. And then he'll be back with Clearwater. And Taveras, he's throwing. We gotta get him built up. But he'll be pitching in August.
-Taveras's injury- is it a recurrence of his initial spell on the DL?
It was more of- it was really nothing structural, it was he was lacking some strength and he dealt with a little shoulder tendonitis and when he came back he just wasn't physically as ready as we felt like he was, so we wanted to back off. He's fine. He's throwing. We just wanted to get him built up and he'll be pitching in August.
-So I know that Trevor Bettencourt was a guy that was maybe put on the disabled list as a precaution, when he was missing some of the velocity he showed last year and it sounds like something similar with Taveras. Is that the normal path, if there's a guy and he lacks strength and there's evidence like that, with radar gun readings, to set them aside and see if you can work it out?
Yeah. I think what we did with Trevor was very prudent. And he will be with a club, hopefully, this week some time. He's doing really good. I saw him down in Clearwater last week.
-And, Joe, I know you prefer to talk about the healthy guys, so Cole Irvin has progressed at a nice pace since he was drafted two years ago and is an All-Star for that Triple-A IronPigs team. What are your thoughts on Cole Irvin's season?
He's had a great year. Hell, there's no other way to slice it up. He's had a terrific year and in previous seasons he may have already been in the big leagues. Right now, we've got a pretty good rotation in the big leagues and a pretty good group in Triple-A, so he just needs to keep doing what he's doing.
-I want to ask about one more guy. Ranger Suarez has enjoyed some success this year at Double-A and Triple-A. He gets a big league start to make his major league debut this past week and, hopefully, that's the first of many. Can you share some thoughts on Ranger?
Well, I mean, Ranger's been terrific. I thought he did a good job in his debut. You know, the beauty of Ranger Suarez is he knows exactly who he is. He knows himself, he knows what pitches he's got. He's gonna go do what he does and I thought that's what he did in Cincinnati. I think that he's had a good year and he's got a lot of pitching left to do.