Mark Scialabba, the Nationals' Assistant Director of Player Development made himself available to the Nationals bloggers who were invited to Nationals Park last weekend, answering any and all questions that he could about the prospects at every level of the Washington Nationals' system. In the first part of the interview, which I published last week, Mr. Scialabba spoke about '09 1st Round pick, Drew Storen, infield prospect Ian Desmond and catcher Derek Norris. We start Pt. 2 still discussing Norris' future...
Q: Will Derek Norris' bat force the issue, and bring him up early to learn how to catch in the majors like Jesus Flores?
Mark Scialabba: "Well, Jesus was a Rule 5 pick, so that was a little different, that's why we had to have him in the major leagues. Derek, I think we can be a little more patient with, because hopefully Jesus is healthy next year, we don't need a catcher right this moment, it would be nice to have Jesus healthy, obviously, with the situation right now, we have Wil Nieves, Josh Bard, so there's not necessarily a desperate need to have Derek come up and catch right away, but we want to keep him as a catcher, his value is extremely high as a catcher and we want to make sure that we continue to develop him, because we feel confident in his ability to develop as a catcher."
Continued After The JUMP...
Q: What is the plan for September call-ups? How do you make sure they get enough work?
Mark Scialabba: "That's a great question. If we're going to bring up a prospect like an Ian Desmond, we're gonna have a plan. That'll be discussed with Mike Rizzo and Jim Riggleman, Bob Boone, they'll have a plan in place for a prospect. Some guys, we might be bringing up, just um, more of a reserve type player that need innings, or can spell some guys, give some time, obviously we're not contending right now so it's easier for us to do that. But, if you have a prospect and bring him up, you surely want to have a plan in place, yes."
Q: Any chance of stocking the Potomac Nationals with players from Hagerstown to help the Pennant race?
Mark Scialabba: "I think that's definitely something we might do. Depends on, overall, what we feel is best for the players. Winning is great. Winning is definitely very important, because we feel that as you grow as a baseball player you want to learn how to win. It's very important, however, development's the primary issue. You need to develop your players, you need to make sure that each player is put in the right position to maximize his potential, to learn the most, to get the most out of his ability.
"Now, winning is definitely the secondary thing, however, if there's a guy we feel that can help, last year, Michael Burgess and Stephen King were promoted in early August, and it was great, they added a lot. Michael Burgess ended up hitting 6 HR's and Stephen King played steady third base. Stephen actually is on a rehab assignment, and he'll be activated very soon, so that's almost like getting new player back, it's like when you get that healthy guy coming off the DL. So, that'll add a lot. He's an outstanding third baseman, very athletic kid, his bat hasn't come along as quickly as possible, but you'll see, if you look at the Carolina League stats, you'll notice that the Carolina League's pretty tough. There's only seven opponents. You're going to get advanced scouting reports as an A-ball player, so when you're exposed, they're going to beat you. But, what that does, it teaches those players, like a Michael Burgess, who's a left-handed hitter, who's had problems with lefties, hey, you know, work on it here, develop yourself and really work hard at that. We don't want to take him out just cause a lefty's coming up and pinch hit, we would never do that, but we would allow him to struggle here, because this is where you need to learn how to hit those lefties and how to do things right. So, the Carolina League's tough...and, uh, we want to make sure that the players are ready and they can contribute right away. We wouldn't put, for example, if you're thinking Derek Norris, we wouldn't put Derek Norris up there to sit the bench and play every other day, you would have to be the main guy. However, we have two guys there who are playing pretty well we feel, and they're part of the reason why the team is successful, so I don't know what's going to happen yet, that's a good question, so, we'll see what happens."
Q: Can you tell us about the Dominican players the Nationals signed recently?
Mark Scialabba: "Sure, we signed five players recently in the Dominican Republic. Jean Valdez we're very confident with his bat, I have yet to see them, so it's tough for me to give you a full scouting report on them. But, just based upon what I've talked to Dana Brown, Jean Valdez, very good bat, we're talking about a guy with potential to hit in the middle of the order. This is an exciting bat. One of the best bats we feel like we've signed in a long time in the Dominican. Cleto Brazoban, a right-handed pitcher, we feel very confident has got an electric arm. The other three guys, Paredes, Rosa and Norberto, Norberto is a center fieder and Sosa's a right-handed pitcher and also Paredes, so I can't give you too much on that yet, but once I see them I'll be able to answer..."
Q: Norberto played toward the end of the year in the DSL (Dominican Summer League), was that a plan to keep the other four out...?
Mark Scialabba: "Actually, we signed all of them for this year, except for Valdez, he signed for 2010, and the other four are signed for this year, and it was a matter of innings, and it's late in the season, just getting them worked up, as you'll see now, as you know, Stephen Strasburg, we were very excited about that this week, you'll notice Mike Rizzo mentioned that it takes about four weeks to get to that game ready, professional game ready throwing program, and, so they're going through that program, we're hopefully having instructional league there, so hopefully they'll be able to do that and get more involved there, but be ready for...maybe even instructional league here, we have to make that decisions very soon..."
Q: You've got an interesting reliever in the system in Yunior Novoa, interesting offspeed stuff, how does he project, and do you have a knuckleballer in the system?
Mark Scialabba: "Aaron Seuss...(several people answer is a knuckler)...Yunior Novoa is a left-hander pitcher, tall, lean body, fastball, can locate it very well, throws strikes, is about 86-88, hits 89, has got a very good breaking ball, good curve ball, that he can lefties and righties out with, he's a guy that I would consider a fringe prospect, we'll see what happens here in the next few months, he will be Rule 5 eligible, and he's a minor league free agent next year, so we still have control of him, but interesting guy definitely. And a knuckleballer...Aaron Seuss, is an outfielder that we drafted a few years back, and he's, we've been actually, actually thrown the knuckle ball in the past year on the side, never really brought it to the game, this year he's had some opportunities to actually throw it in the game, we'll what we do in the offseason, we'll see if we can maybe entice some former major leaguers to work with him..."
Q: Jack McGeary? Has he regressed by not playing full-time while he went to Stanford?
Mark Scialabba: "It's tough to say regressed, cause this is his first full season. I think you have to be fair to him, just to give him a little bit more time, I think that if he came out and he played professionally for a full-year right away, I think, yes, I think he would've been developed a little bit more right now, however, we're confident in Jack and his ability, I don't know if anyone's ever met him or seen him pitch, but he's a very, very special kid, extremely bright, has three outstanding pitches, and unfortunately he goes to school and plays baseball at the same time, so, this year he's in Vermont, I saw him last week throwing a side, and he looked good, he was throwing strikes, but he gets in the game and he can't really take that bullpen to the field yet, and I think that's where he's struggling right now. Still has a very good curve ball, good changeup, and hopefully we can figure some things out. He's been working with Spin Williams, our pitching coordinator, and we feel confident that he'll hopefully bounce back in Spring Training, and really show what he's capable of..."
Q: With Chris Marrero's promotion to Double-A, if he hits well this fall does he have a chance of playing in DC?
Mark Scialabba: "Yeah, I hope that progresses to the point where he can, I can't say that he 'will', he just got, I don't know if everybody knows, but he was promoted to Harrisburg, and yesterday he was 5 for 6 in a doubleheader, so he's, he's gotta find a groove, you're going to have adjustment period, hopefully, he finishes up strong and is seeing the ball and making consistent contact, he's a kid with a lot of power, exciting batter, I think that if he progresses quickly, yes, he might have a shot, however, you really don't want to push him up there unless you feel confident that he's ready for it, mentally and physically, because, just like we talked about with Ian Desmond, you don't want to put a kid up there to fail and have that burden like he's had a lot of pressure...Chris, physically, I think, has a ways to go at first base, and he's working on that, he's developing into a first baseman, when he started this year he really didn't know, he didn't have the footwork, he didn't have the, he just wasn't comfortable around the bag, Trent Jewett has worked with him, our manager in Potomac and Jeff Garber, our infield coordinator has worked with him a whole lot this year, he's working hard at it, he's trying to become a first baseman cause he knows that you have to be a two-way player once you get to the big leagues in the National League."
Pt. 1 - Previously Published...
Mark Scialabba: "Drew Storen is a pretty unique case, we're really excited about Drew, obviously that's why we took him with our second pick in this year's draft. He has outstanding command of pitches, he doesn't walk anybody, he 's got three plus pitches, with ability to command each one. Very excited about his development, his make-up is off the charts, he's very mature, physically and mentally, we're excited about what he's done, and from a level-to-level position he's done great, I mean the first outing I was there in Hagerstown and he was woken up to professional baseball with a fastball at 96 on the outside corner and he realized, 'Hey, you know what, I gotta locate pitches here, this is not college baseball...'"
Does Ian Desmond Figure Into The Nationals' future?
Mark Scialabba: "Ian (Desmond) is a very exciting player, you look at him and you think Big Leaguer. Very exciting, has plus range both ways, has an outstanding arm, and amongst managers throughout the leagues they've noticed that, Baseball America's rated him as one of the best arms in the past few years, Carolina League, Eastern League, and he's a guy that, his bat has taken some to develop, he's hit some rough patches...I think earlier in his career we promoted him too quickly, and he struggled, and for a young kid that was in big league camp, and people were throwing out names like Derek Jeter, you get a lot of pressure put on you, and you've heard this before, but I think that he's got a very good bat speed, he utilizes his lower half extremely well, his swing is in sequence, which is what we teach and praise our guys to do, Ralph Dickinson, our hitting coordinator, works with out hitters to try to make sure that they swing the proper way, the way that you need to be successful up here in the major leauges, and Ian's done a phenomal job this year...exciting, a lot of potential...as far as him coming up here, I don't think it would be fair to him to kind of give you guys an idea before letting him know...so I'm not going to go into that, but I think he's got a lot of potential and we're really excited about the future with Ian Desmond."
Derek Norris - Will he remain a catcher?
Mark Scialabba: "Our plan is to have Derek catch...Derek came to us in the draft a few years ago and he's got amazing bat potential, a very advanced approach at the plate, you don't see many hitters with his type of approach, very calm, and strong, short to the ball. He is a catcher, he started catching junior year in high school, so he has a ways to go. We feel very confident with our staff and his make-up, his ability to go out there and grind every day to get better. It's gonna take time, if you talk to any farm director, it's one of the hardest things to develop is a catcher...and you're going to have some failure along the way. Derek is not where he needs to be, because he's still in Low A, we know that, but his bat has has progressed much more quickly than his defense... "
• Storen, Desmond And Norris Links:
"Drew Storen, Stanford Cardinal closer, was selected by the Washington Nationals with their second 1st Round pick, 10th overall in the 2009 MLB First-Year Player Draft."
"This year, Norris appears primed to make the jump from being a very good prospect to being an elite prospect..."
"Almost everything about Derek Norris's upbringing geared the catcher to crush baseballs. A shed on his parents' property in Goddard, Kan., was fashioned into a batting cage with two pitchers' mounds. Norris always played with kids two years older than him, just to keep pace with his brother. Norris loved catching...".