Randy Smith on the 2012 Lake Elsinore Storm

We caught up with Randy Smith, the Padres’ Director of Player Development and International Scouting from his headquarters in Peoria, Arizona for the fourth segment of our six part interview on the top prospects in the system.

This week we take a look at the Lake Elsinore Storm who were eliminated in the first round of the Cal League playoffs. The Storm had some interesting prospects in starters Burch Smith and Matt Andriese and for position players they were led by converted catcher Tommy Medica.

I was under the impression that the main value of Tommy Medica when he was drafted was his glove. I was aware that he was a good hitting catcher but after this season he seems to be a good hitter period.

Did you guys have any idea his bat was this good?

Randy Smith: He was hurt before he signed with us in a collision at home plate so we never got to see him catch. He just had a terrific season especially when you look at the number of RBIs he had per at-bat.

So far his bat is what has gotten him to where he is and the home runs that he hit in Lake Elsinore this year weren’t cheap.

At this point it’s a question if his shoulder is good enough to play first base on a regular basis. This season we were a little careful in not wanting to put too much pressure on it so we gave him a break at DH occasionally.

So you don’t see him going back to catcher?

Randy Smith: I don’t think so. Right now the goal is to getting the shoulder to a point where he can play first base every day.

Chris Bisson had his best year with the organization since he was drafted in 2010. Why did he perform so well?

Randy Smith: He put himself back on the prospect map. His defense at shortstop was good along with his stolen bases. We liked him a lot coming out of the University of Kentucky and his performance this year is what we expected when he was drafted.

Both Justin Miller and Casey McElroy were doing ok in Fort Wayne but when they came up to Lake Elsinore they really hit much better. Did it just have to do with the Cal League being that much better hitting environment, change of scenery or just skill?

Randy Smith: [laughs] Probably a combination of everything. The Cal League is a much better place to hit than the Midwest League but both of them were also beginning to hit their stride in Fort Wayne which is why we called them up.

The past few years when we have talked about Donavan Tate you’ve always spoken about the need to get him more plate appearances then the organization would have a better idea of what you did have or what you didn’t?

This year he had a little over 450 plate appearances between Fort Wayne and Lake Elsinore. So what did you think?

Randy Smith: He continued to make strides and his numbers, like Justin and Casey, improved when he was moved up. The first thing you talk about with Donavan is that he is a good athlete but he is going to have to continue to make up at-bats. He is at a point where there are guys behind him pushing so he’s going to have to perform.

At every level and seemingly every year Rymer Liriano started off slow and then really got hot before being promoted to Lake Elsinore. I know this has to drive you crazy and what has the organization done to change it?

Randy Smith: It really doesn’t drive me crazy because he figures it out. Ideally we would like to shorten the learning curve, and it has shortened as he moves up. He’s still a young player and every year his confidence and maturity grows.

Cory Spangenberg had a low on-base percentage for the type of game that he plays. What do you think he needs to do to improve?

Randy Smith: It was just a tough year for him injury wise. He was starting to pick things up and then he got hurt and was out for over a month. When he came back it was awful tough to catch up to everyone.

You just have to throw the numbers off to the side and work on keep getting better. He’s on the taxi squad in the Arizona Fall League so he is going to get some at-bats. But yeah, he had a really a tough year health wise.

I liked what Rico Noel did this year more than some of my colleagues. It was a great accomplishment stealing 90 bases but do you want to see better power numbers from him? If you do, how does he add power without taking away from his strengths?

Randy Smith: No we don’t want him to try to hit with more power because that is how he gets in trouble. It was his first year as a switch-hitter so we were really happy with what he did. He is strong enough so that he keeps the defense honest and he can shoot it into the gaps with authority. Also the 90 steals this year demonstrated that he is a tremendous baserunner.

Except for a pair of innings in the Arizona League last year this was Burch Smith’s first season in pro ball and he did very well. Why did the organization choose to start him as high as you did and why was he so good?

Randy Smith: A big part of the reason why is because he had a great arm and a great breaking ball. We like that. [laughs] Every year we figure out who is going to be on our A ball full season staffs and try to put everyone in the best place to succeed.

This spring he was touching 98 mph and he earned his way into the Cal League.

Matt Andriese is always described as someone who throws three “workman-like” pitches but his numbers seem to indicate he is more than that. What did you see?

Randy Smith: His velocity picked up and he came into camp in better shape. He’s adapted well to pro baseball. He has a very good sinker, breaking ball and changeup

With three different teams – Eugene, Fort Wayne and now Lake Elsinore — Kevin Quackenbush has posted ERA’s under 1.00. In the past you have talked about his deception but what else makes him so good?

Randy Smith: I still think its deception. Batters don’t seem to be able to pick up on his fastball. He mainly throws his fastball and if he starts to mix in his breaking ball and changeup more he will be even better.

The trade you guys made for Donn Roach and Ernesto Frieri is looking better and better. What did you see in Roach when he was with the Angels and when you guys got him in your organization?

Randy Smith: Roach had one of the better years for any minor league pitcher. He has a good sinker, curve and change. He has a great ground ball rate and dominated the Cal League. We had to shut him down because of the innings but we expect really good things from him next year.