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SoxProspects News

July 2, 2007 at 1:44 PM

Q&A with Mike Hazen


SoxProspects.com’s Chris Hatfield caught up with Red Sox Director of Player Development Mike Hazen after Saturday’s Pawtucket Red Sox game. No interview had previously been scheduled, but Mike was gracious enough to chat for a while after the game anyway.


A question asked of Pawsox Manager Ron Johnson about there being more young players who are prospects in Pawtucket than in past years is directed to Hazen, who is also in the manager’s office:

MH: I think it’s a tremendous credit to our scouting department. Over the last three years’ drafts, Jason McLeod and that staff are bringing in Major League-quality impact players. Nobody in this organization taught Jacoby Ellsbury how to run. We can’t make him run any faster. There’s a lot of guys that were drafted ahead of Ellsbury that aren’t out of A ball yet. So that’s a credit to the job they do bringing in these guys - the Mosses and the Murphys and the Buchholzes and the Lesters. There’s no replacing that. There’s no amount of development, there’s no amount of coaching, there’s no amount of teaching that can replace good scouting. I think we’ve done a good job on the development side – it’s certainly us as well - but I think it’s a tremendous credit to the scouting department for what they’ve done.

Yeah, the way you speak about the young guys, it’s all about drafting and developing your own players and graduating those guys to the big leagues. That’s where you’ll make a competitive advantage because we won’t have to spend 50 million dollars on a free agent, and that will pay dividends year after year after year.

SP: At this time of year is when you see a lot of promotions. Obviously you can’t name any specifics, but how much does the July 4th playoff game in Lancaster factor in? We’ve heard that there will be a “mass exodus” out of Lancaster after that game.

MH: No, there won’t be any mass exodus out of Lancaster. It would never stop us if a guy was ready to make that jump to do it. We’d never base our personnel decisions on that. But at the same time, if it’s in and around that time, you’ve got those guys that have worked so hard for that, you’d like to see them go out there and finish off what they’ve done in the first half. It’s a credit to that staff and the way they bounced back from that 30-0 game and things like that. We may see some things coming up here but there’s nothing in stone right now.

SP: Lancaster in general is a much different environment, especially coming from Wilmington, which was pretty much the opposite. How are you and your staff viewing what we’re seeing from the hitters there?

MH: We don’t know really. It’s going to take some time to really evaluate that. We’ve moved a pitcher out, and one position player out (CH note: likely referring to Michael Bowden and Jay Johnson), but really the guys that have dominated that league, we haven’t seen those guys yet in Double A. We don’t really know how to discount it yet. There will be something you have to discount from it, there’s no doubt. I mean, 83 RBIs is ridiculous. It’s crazy. What we do know is what we’re focusing on is the day-to-day approach, the at-bat to at-bat approach, the fact that (Bubba Bell’s) walking more than he’s striking out – those are the things that we’re looking at that we’re trying to gauge. We have an idea that that’s what’s going to translate at the next level.
You look at a guy like Jed Lowrie and what he’s doing in Double A. The commitment to the at-bat approach is what we’re looking for with guys down there too.

SP: You mention Lowrie – last year he really seemed to struggle. How much of that do you think was due to the ankle injury and how much of that is just improvement this season?

MH: It’s tough to put your finger on it. I think a couple things: certainly Wilmington was going to play down his stats because it was an extreme pitchers’ park, and I think the injury had some effect. He had a great August where he hit over .300, so we started to see it at the end of the year. I think one thing he started to do at the end of the year is that while he was walking a lot, he was a lot more aggressive when he got ahead in the count. He’s not looking for walks, he’s up there looking to swing, and when they put the ball in the zone, he’s driving it. That, to us, is one of the bigger differences that we’ve seen at that level, and it’s really a credit to him for making that adjustment.

SP: Any other players in particular that have been pleasant surprises or that stick out in your mind now that we’re halfway through the season?

MH: Yeah. Tony Granadillo – he’s been shadowed by Bubba Bell, in part because he hasn’t put up the same power numbers that Bubba has, but every day he’s right there with Bubba, so we’ve been really happy with him. Definitely a couple pitchers in Lancaster, Masterson and Johnson. The way they started, now you go back and look at Masterson’s numbers in June, he’s 4-1 with maybe a low-3 ERA, his strikeout-to-walk ratio’s been completely inverted, great groundball rate. (CH note: 5-1, 3.62 ERA, 18:2 K:BB) And Kris Johnson, you look at his last five or six starts, and we’ll see what he’s done tonight, (CH note: including that night, 3-0, 2.17 ERA, 18:8 K:BB) but those adjustments have been very positive signs for us, because that’s really just a tough place to pitch.

SP: Do you think in the long run that’ll be the best thing that happened to the pitchers that have been there, when you look at Hunter Jones and guys like that?

MH: Bowden, Jones, Masterson, Johnson, yeah. It can be tough to watch on a night-to-night basis, but I think it very well could be. We’ll see in the long run.

SP: Did you guys panic when you saw what was happening early in the year?

MH: No, we try not to panic at any time. There was certainly some concern. You don’t want to watch a guy that you know is pretty good rolling out an 8 or 9 ERA, which is what we were looking at in April for a lot of those guys. But you’ve got to trust your evaluations. We expected that there were going to be some runs scored out there. We needed to trust that and I think we did a pretty good job of doing that on the whole. There were certainly some nights, but I think we did a pretty good job, and it paid off.

SP: Going down a bit lower in the minors, it looks like in the GCL and Lowell that you’re getting a real outfield logjam – Beltre, Lin…

MH: Kalish

SP: Right, and you’ve got Dening playing first now to get him some at-bats. When you’ve got a logjam like that, how do you and your staff worry about getting guys at-bats and deal with promotions?

MH: Well, a promotion’s always going to be based on our ability to evaluate the players and when we think that they’re ready for a promotion, not based on position, like “hey, we’ve got to push this guy to Lancaster because there’s no other outfield at-bats in Greenville.” It plays into it to a degree that we need to find everyday at-bats for guys who need everyday at-bats, and that plays into what’s happening. The fact that we have so many outfielders is a function of as it is in the draft, we’re looking for the best player available. They’re so far away from the Major Leagues that you’re not ever drafting for need. It just so happens that the last couple of years we’ve ended up with a lot of quality outfield players. From a logjam standpoint we have tried to be creative with Dening going over to first base. Ship (Sox Vice President/International Scouting Craig Shipley) has kind of made that call and it was a great call because it’s a way to get his bat in the lineup every day. Right now it hasn’t been an issue. If we have a lot more it may become one, but right now we’re doing alright.