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June 18, 2008 at 9:48 AM

Q&A with Jeff Lasky


SoxProspects' templeUsox recently exchanged a few questions with Jeff Lasky, Director of Broadcasting and Media Relations for the Lancaster JetHawks. Many thanks to Jeff for taking the time to give some great answers for the interview:

templeUsox: Statistically, Jason Place has shown improvement over his first two and a half months as a Jethawk. Can you provide any first-hand observations about his progression this season?
Jeff Lasky: I obviously did not get to see Jason play in Greenville last year, but his improvement this season has been probably the most visibly apparent - you don't have to use video technology or have a degree from the Doug Lau School of Hitting to see how much better Jason has gotten at the plate. He certainly still has a long way to go to fulfill the expectations that come from being a first round pick, but the fact that he has learned so much is encouraging and hopefully is just a sign of what is to come. His plate discipline is certainly improved. He's always going to be a high strikeout player but there is no doubt that his pitch recognition has gotten better and he is gaining a better understanding of what pitchers are trying to do to him. He's laying off breaking balls that he would have chased early in the year and he's been able to fight off more pitches. Even if he's just fouling them off, he's making contact, forcing the pitchers to throw more, and at least creating a chance to get at a mistake pitch. He has good gap to gap power and he's been able to turn on more pitches as well. He's still going to have to get a lot better at all of those things, but it is also easy for us all to forget that he only just turned 20 years old last month. One thing that has been excellent all season has been Jason's defense. He gets great jumps and always seems to take the right route. Jason has a pretty good arm as well and can definitely be a center fielder.


templeUsox:Last year, several starters improved as the year moved on and they became used to the environment of Lancaster and the California League. Are there any pitchers this season who have made take similar steps?
Jeff Lasky:
The pitching staffs between the two seasons have been radically different. If the staff continues to do in the second half what they did in the first, this will go down as one of the top three most successful pitching staffs in JetHawks history. It sounds overly simple, but the difference is that these guys throw strikes - they don't get rattled. That's the key to pitching in the hitter-friendly environments here and in the other two or three hitter's parks in the league. If you don't command, you don't succeed. These guys have walked the fewest batters in the league and overall, there are more ground ball pitchers than fly ball pitchers. While last year's staff had the big names and the incredible talent of Bowden, Masterson, etc., this is a much more unheralded group - that has had much more team success. There are no obvious big league stars in the making like Masterson and Bowden, but if these guys continue to develop the way they are here, getting ground ball outs and commanding the zone, they'll have the opportunity to at least get a shot at the higher levels.


Individually, Adam Mills has probably been the most impressive. Not overpowering, but keeps the ball down and doesn't walk batters. He learned his lesson in his first few starts to stay focused on each hitter and has been able to succeed. I've always been a big fan of T.J. Large. He gets a lot of movement on his cutter and uses it to get a lot of weak contact. He's another pitcher who's been able to ignore distractions and turn in consistent efforts. Those of us who saw the team last year are very proud of Blake Maxwell. He took what he'll admit was a very difficult season last year and turned it into a positive by changing his mechanics. He worked hard in the off-season to be able to repeat his delivery from a more traditional sidearm angle and he's pitching with a lot more confidence and aggression this season. And he's just flat-out getting outs. He's been consistent all season as a long reliever, and has been great in a couple of rare spot starts. There is no one pitching better so far under the radar. Blake has an ERA of 1.63 in 55.1 innings with a strong ground ball ratio. Some of the roving instructors are starting to talk about Blake as being an "interesting" pitcher again - and that was before his current stretch of allowing just 2 earned runs in his last 32.1 innings. I'll leave Richie Lentz alone here since you dedicated a full question to him.


templeUsox: Do you think Josh Reddick's approach at the plate will hinder him as he advances? Can you provide some observations about his defense?
Jeff Lasky: Reddick has certainly been an impressive player since joining us. If he'd been with us all year, he'd probably be an All-Star. I would not be overly critical of his approach as I don't want to argue with the success. I like his game when he's willing to go the opposite way. If he is doing that successfully, not allowing pitchers to sit on the outside corner, he really becomes dangerous because of his power. That being said, he can on occasion get a little pull happy and can over-swing. But I haven't seen it for prolonged stretches- he gets back to where he needs to be pretty quickly and I always like hitters who can make adjustments. Defensively, you can really see the joy he takes in playing in the field. His hustle is outstanding and he does have a great arm. Josh already has 11 assists with us. One little thing that has really impressed me is how well he reads the outfield walls. He gets to the bounces so quickly and unloads that he's caught a few guys who thought their doubles were routine.


templeUsox: Richie Lentz has shown flashes of dominance over the last 1+ months. What type of stuff does he has and what does he need to improve on?
Jeff Lasky: Richie Lentz has a big league fastball, no doubt about that. He's been clocked up to 96 this year and has typically sat at 93-94. His late addition to the All-Star team is indicative of his ability to simply dominate hitters when he is in control. We've seen several games where he hasn't been touched, striking out four or five batters in two innings. However, Richie has also learned that he will not be successful at the higher levels unless he is able to exhibit better control and develop his secondary pitches. I've been very impressed with how hard Richie has worked, especially on his slider. He is not coasting on the fastball and his slider has improved. We haven't seen his change-up all that much but I think that's a product of the Red Sox wanting to focus right now on the slider. His control is better too- for a good chunk of the season he was almost 1-1 strikeouts to walks; now he's about 2.5-1. Lentz is very much doing the things the Red Sox have asked him to do to earn a chance at the next level and he could be a future big league reliever.


templeUsox: Finally, Lars Anderson has come back strong since his injury. Have you seen him make adjustments at the plate since April?
Jeff Lasky:
To be fair, because of his injuries and my vacation, I haven't seen Lars play since the middle of May. There were obviously huge expectations for Lars in coming here, but it goes to prove that no one has it easy at this level of the minors- everyone has room to grow and will have their ups and downs. I know Lars didn't feel very comfortable early in the year. Even then, he's so talented that he was able to contribute. He has such a wonderfully easy and natural swing that when things are rolling, the ball just jumps off his bat. He's still working on reading pitchers and adjusting to them. But he is the real deal. He was a great sense of the strike zone and uses the whole field. He has great power and has shown the ability to pull the ball this year. In fact, as I write this between innings of our game tonight, Lars just crushed a monster home run over the right field wall, the maintenance building, and quite possibly into Arizona. I think when Lars isn't going full bore it's more because he can overthink things than anything else. He's also been bothered by injuries and illness. I'm looking forward to seeing him at full strength.