Watson likes talented Minor Leaguers
Farm director says system is strong throughout
De Jon Watson, the Dodgers director of player development, fielded questions from fans in an online chat April 24 and shared his views on many Dodgers prospects, the farm system and Dominican Summer League players, among other topics.
De Jon Watson: Thanks to everyone for taking the time to send in your questions. Let's get started.
fawnkyjunk: Defensively, what can you tell us of the progress of Andy LaRoche and James Loney in the outfield and Tony Abreu at third?
Watson: Having just left Las Vegas, I can tell you that LaRoche looked like he was making progress. His feet were working better at third base and his jumps in the outfield were definitely playable. James Loney has made tremendous progress in the outfield. His routes have been very good, both going in on balls and going back. His throwing arm is being stretched out by the day and when he comes back into the infield, he seems to still be doing just fine. Abreu has been more than adequate at third base, but he's been bouncing around at second, third and short but his hands have been great at all three positions.
JG718: What are your thoughts on Jonathan Meloan?
Watson: We have him down in Jacksonville right now, trying to stretch him out a bit and getting him multiple innings as a closer. His stuff has been very good lately. His velocity has been up around 94-95 mph along with a power curveball and a short, tight slider. His fastball command has been very solid and he's getting closer and closer by the day.
snats: De Jon, I had the pleasure of meeting you during Spring Training. Your personality is very refreshing. What is your assessment of Greg Miller and Justin Orenduff, both recovering from arm problems? Are they still high on the list of Dodger prospects?
Watson: Having just left Greg Miller in Vegas, he looked very good in his outing. He carried a no-hitter through six innings. We're still making minor adjustments to his direction and delivery, but he seems to be more comfortable repeating his arm slot which gives him better command. I'm on my way in to see Orenduff next week. He has been going multiple innings in Jacksonville and has his first start next week. The key with him is to have better fastball command. His velocity is back to 90-92 and the breaking ball is improving by the outing, so we're trying to stretch him out and get him back on track.
kngoworld: How is Scott Elbert and what do you see for him and Justin Orenduff in 2007?
Watson: Scott Elbert, one of our young starters, is trying to harness some of that positive energy and keep him focused within the strike zone and trying to get him into a position where he can repeat his delivery and have fastball command to both sides of the plate. His secondary stuff is average to above. He's going to have to get used to competing against players at a higher level.
ToyCannon: Josh Wall threw a great game the other day for the first time since joining the Dodgers organization. What is his status?
Watson: Physically he's fine. He's healthy. We're trying to get him to be a little more aggressive within the strike zone and he's making tremendous strides in doing so.
dodgermetz: I am a fan of James Loney, when do you feel he will be ready to return to the Dodgers club?
Watson: The key for us is to really try to get him prepared so that when he gets called up, he's ready to help them. I'm not really the guy that determines when they go to the big leagues and when they don't.
JG718: What is your daily routine as the Dodgers' farm director?
Watson: The first thing I get is my Minor League update of injuries at about 4:24 every morning. Then I get an update on the overall industry, my daily clips. Then I proceed to touch base with each of our managers at each level. After I speak with them, I try and contact the roving coordinators who are out in the field to see what they are doing with our young players and see how we're doing in terms of making progress with them. After that, if I'm at a Minor League affiliate myself, I'll go out to the ballpark and watch them go through their routine and interact with the players and make sure they're healthy and that we're sticking to our overall player plan. Once the game is over, I'll get down to the clubhouse and talk about the game with the managers and see what we may need to address the following day, whether it's fundamentals or something else. I'll get back to my hotel and get my updates from the game reports and I can get those online once they've been submitted by our managers and pitching coaches. I can get any medical updates and then if we have to make any moves, we can make moves at that time.
jessel: As a Dodgers fan I often read about this or that prospect. Is there anyone in particular in the system who you rarely or never see discussed that you think is a fantastic prospect, and could you please talk about that player a little?
Watson: One of the kids that you haven't heard much about is Lucas May, who is a conversion shortstop who is now a catcher and is off to a tremendous start this season. He's taken to catching very quickly and is a good young player to keep an eye out for in the Cal League.
scalino: Why did the Dodgers move their Single-A team to San Bernardino?
Watson: For me, I think it's a great opportunity for us to have an affiliate in the California League that provides our fans a chance to see our young players coming up through the system before they get to Los Angeles. It's also a great opportunity for us to use this facility to rehab for any Major League players because it's close and convenient for our big-league staff as well as our fan base.
mlbammer5: How does the Dodgers farm system compare with some of the other teams you've been with?
Watson: You know, the thing about this farm system and the opportunity to see these kids in Spring Training and having worked with other clubs, the overall talent is extremely strong from top to bottom. We have quality depth in pitching and our position players like at third base and shortstop. The most unique thing is that, at the Triple-A level we have so many young players that are on the cusp of breaking into the big leagues.
ThinkBlue1: Have you seen Clayton Kershaw pitch this season? If so, how has he looked?
Watson: I saw him in Spring Training but haven't seen him yet this season. He has been very similar...above average fastball and power breaking ball. We just have to harness the overall command of his three pitches, but he has looked very good early in the season, according to the reports I'm getting.
fawnkyjunk: Will Delwyn Young ever get a shot to play in the show? All he ever does is hit homers, drive in runs and play hard.
Watson: Delwyn Young is a good looking young player and he's in a transition where he's moved to the outfield. He's got some things to work on there, as well as his strike zone awareness, but he's getting better every day. As we've seen in the past, he's gotten the call to the big leagues but he just needs to get a break. Our key is to keep him sharp so that if the need arises and they feel like he's the player they're looking for at the Major League level, he'll be ready to go.
patrick243: Mr. Watson. As a person who is looking to step foot into the baseball world, what kind of advice would you give me on my journey?
Watson: My recommendation would be to first contact the Major League scouting bureau and inquire about attending their scout school. If you can't afford to pay your way into scout school, try to get a Major League team to sponsor you. Another way would be to inquire within MLB for positions at the commissioner's office. Other than that, just apply. Send out your resume or try and meet some scouts at the baseball games and work your way through it. A lot of clubs also have internship programs which are a great way to get your foot in the door.
ToyCannon: Who is better defensively Chin Lung Hu or Ivan DeJesus Jr.?
Watson: Wow. That's a very good question. They're both very talented middle infielders. Man, that's a tough one to answer. They both bring different dynamics to the game. I think DeJesus, being such a young player is very sound going in both directions while Hu is a little better going to his left than to his right. But they're equally talented and both have a chance to contribute at the Major League level.
kngoworld: You said 4:24 in the morning? How many hours a day do you work?
Watson: I can't put an exact number of hours on it, but there are some long days. And they tend to start awfully early in the morning and end late at night with phone calls if a player is injured. Let's say the game goes extra innings, you can get a call at 1 or 2 o'clock in the morning.
fawnkyjunk: Can you tell me a little bit of Jon Meloan and Ramon Troncoso?
Watson: Jon we already touched on. Ramon is a strong, athletic right-handed pitcher who's about six-foot, three-inches and 190 pounds. He pitches with an above average fastball with good sinking action and a short, quick slider.
He's aggressive on the mound and we see him as a possible middle-to late-game pitcher down the road.
TrueBlue42: Given the recent talk of less interest in baseball by African-Americans, do you feel that MLB has dropped the ball in reaching to inner-city youth or youth in general?
Watson: I think MLB has tried to address the issue by opening up the first academy in the states in Compton, Calif. I know we do have the RBI program which I have participated in as a coach and have been involved in the RBI World Series program. I think that program has been a nice thing that MLB has participated in and it has given some good talent, like Carl Crawford and Coco Crisp. The Reds drafted a kid named David Espinoza from Venezuela who played in the Miami RBI program and the Braves are involved, too. I think we are trying to address the issue and we have to keep pushing forward.
kngoworld: What is your duty to prepare for the draft, if any?
Watson: My involvement with the draft -- this will be my first time experiencing it from this side. I will try to express to Logan White where we are with the kids that we have from Latin America and some of our kids at Extended Spring Training. We really don't have any say in who the club selects. We take the names that we are given and then we assess the clubs and try and make sure we have full clubs with players at each position and continue our development from each young man. We can take the reports that are submitted from the scouting side and implement a plan to improve each player individually.
stembums: Of the "five tools" which is the hardest to find in players that excel?
Watson: Power. That's the most difficult to find.
kngoworld: How are the progressions of Josh Bell and Preston Mattingly going?
Watson: Josh Bell and Preston Mattingly are both in the Midwest League and have gotten off to slow starts due mostly to the weather and jumping up a league and facing slightly better competition than they've seen in the past. But, they're both hitting the ball hard and giving great effort. I think we'll see over time that they're going to start to perform like we think they're both capable.
ThinkBlue1: Are there any players in the Dominican Summer League that we should look forward to hearing about in the future?
Watson: There's a pitcher by the name of Geison Aguasviva, who is a left-handed pitcher and then we just brought a young man over by the name of Pablo Baez who is a third baseman. He's down in extended spring right now and he's swinging the bat well. We have another outfielder by the last name of Jovanny Rosario who was injured in spring but he's got four above average tools, so it's a matter of him getting healthy again and getting on track.
rereit: How do you feel when one of your prospects hits the big leagues?
Watson: You feel excited, not only for the player but also for the staff members that have helped this young man reach his dream. We're in this thing to help these guys get better, not only as players but as citizens. We want them to understand what it means to wear the Dodgers uniform. There's a lot of joy that is shared by a lot of people once a player reaches the Majors and then hopefully is able to stay there and have continuous success at that level.
Watson: Thank you all for taking the time today to be a part of this. I look forward to doing it again down the road.
This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.