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Interview with Blue Jays Assistant General Manager Tony LaCava


Yesterday I had a massive headache, I could barely function for most of the day. Well, for a good part of the day, I didn't function. So, when the phone rang, I almost didn't answer. It was an out of province number, I figured telemarketer.

"Hi, this is Tony LaCava."

So my headache addled mind is racing...which of my friends does this sound like? Did my friend finally figure out it was me that played that prank on him the week he got married? Nah, not him. Who else? No, I think it's real. Where did I put that list of questions? Where is the recorder?

I had wanted to ask him about some of the players on our prospects list. He was driving from the main field in Dunedin to the minor league facility. He could talk on the trip. We talked for a moment about the Dustin McGowan contract. He seemed so genuinely happy for Dustin and said how good he was throwing down there.

By the end, he was walking through the minor league area, saying good morning to various people and he had to get busy with, you know, his job. It was nice of him to give us some of his time, at this busy time of year. Thanks so much to Tony LaCava, for his time and knowledge and the Blue Jay PR people that let us talk to him

As always, anything that doesn't sound right, assume it's a mistake in my transcribing, not an error on his part. There were a couple of times that I asked about a player that he hadn't seen play yet, players from last year's draft, he didn't want to talk about those players.

There are an amazing number of good prospects in the Jays system.

We feel good about the young players in our system, the reality is that not all of them will work but we think we've got quite a few that will. It is up to us to sort through them and keep watching them, and keep feeding them with information. Help make them better every day.

More after the jump.

Travis d'Arnaud, will we be likely to see him in Toronto this year?

I don't want to get into the specifics, that would be more a question for Alex but I can tell you about Travis. We are really excited about him and we feel that he has a chance to be an offensive catcher. And those are hard to find these days. We think we already have one in J.P. Arencibia, but we think we got another one in Travis. He's got a chance to hit and hit for power. It's a real natural hitting approach, he's got a lot of rhythm and has good timing to his swing, and to his body. The ball makes a great sound as it comes off his bat. We think he's going to hit and hit for power.

What can you tell me about Noah Syndergaard?

Syndergaard is one of our young pitchers that we drafted in 2010. he's a big man, 6"'6". He's got an outstanding fastball, that reaches the upper 90's, he'll pitch in the mid-90's but will reach the upper 90's at times. He's got a really good ability to throw strikes, which is rare for a young power pitcher. At his size, he really pounds down in the zone. And he's got a breaking ball that is rapidly developing and he's got a good changeup already. So we're really excited about Syndergaard.

The changeup seems to be the organization philosophy.

Yeah, Dane Johnson does a nice job of finding the right grip for each guy, cause it is different for each player. It is something that philosophically, we feel is a good weapon for our pitchers to have.

We don't here much about Jake Marsinick:

Jake, is a guy we took in 2009 under Jon Lalonde, our scouting director at that time. He was a very athletic high schooler that scored the highest in the Spark test at the area code games the summer before. The area code games, of course, would be the signature event of the summer, they play in Long Beach. Each year the best high school seniors and even some underclass men too, but for the most part it is the raising class for next year's draft. They go to Long Beach and they play a whole week. He scored the highest on the Spark Test which is a test of Athleticism, so we know him to be a great athlete and also a very good baseball players. His swing, he's made some changes and now he's starting to swing the bat in a way that we feel he's going to be 5 tool player.

What are you wanting Anthony Gose to work on this year?

Anthony is electric. He's another guy with a very high ceiling. He's a legitimate CFer, outstanding speed, very good throwing arm, we think as a hitter he's come a long way and he made significant slow changes last year that he has been able to take into the game and perform. And we are trying to finish him off and get him ready for the big leagues. He'll be working on a 2 strike approach trying to cut down his strikeouts and reintroduce bunting for him, which will be a big weapon for him. We kind of wanted him to work on his swing last year, which he did, and now we are trying to finish him off and work on the finer points.

It sounds like Drew Hutchison is rally close to being ready for the majors.

Drew was in the 2009 draft, Jon Lalonde was the scouting director. He was later pick but we really like him and overpaid him for the slot and he came into our system as a guy who could really pitch, with a really good feel for pitching and a repeatable delivery. A big strike thrower. He's matured physically. Each year his stuff has gotten a little bit better, to the point where now he's a plus velocity, at times a plus slider and a plus changeup. We think he is getting close. We are excited that each year he is getting better and better.

Adeiny Hechavarria is his bat improvement real?

The bat is definitely coming around. Hech is one of the best defensive SS in the minor leagues and has a chance to be one of the best SS in the game. He's a special player. He's a special defender. And his bat has shown, glimpse of his bat coming around. This spring particularly, he's come in stronger and the ball is coming off his bat very well. We think there is no reason why he won't hit, we believe he will hit. And it's now more a matter of his pitch selection and getting good balls to hit, but the swing mechanics are working and we think he's going to have a breakout season with the bat.

There is like a half dozen catchers that look like good prospects. Carlos Perez had a slightly off season last year.

We still believe in Carlos very much and you are right we have quite a lot of catchers. But he's definitely one we regard highly. He hit two things last year that kind of fall under the radar, that people don't realize. This is the first time we sent him to cold weather. And he had to get used to playing in some really adverse conditions. It is always tough the first time you do that. Especially coming from Latin America, Venezuela where he is from. And the other thing we did, having a catcher which is a really tough position and to get them to play 5 months for the first time. A 5 month season, in the mid-west league, you get fatigued. He's come into shape, he's bigger, he's stronger. I think he is better off for coming through that first full season in Lansing and more prepared. We expect him to have a big year.

How about A.J. Jimenez?

Another of our prized catchers. A.J. is the best defender in the group, he's a real gifted defend player. His bat continues to get better and better each year. We think that he's a little under the radar. People don't know him yet and we think that he's kind of a secret. But I think all of us here know that he's got very good potential. We think he's going to be a good player.

How are all of them going to make it to the team?

It will sort itself out, it always does. Just somehow, someway, it all will sort itself out, one way or another.

You mentioned the cold weather, was that Gustavo Pierre's problem too?

Yes, again another guy whose first time in cold weather. We've moved him off SS, he's now 3B. HE kind of outgrew short. When you sign these kids you don't realize they are still growing. When he was signed he had a short stop body, but now he's got bigger and stronger and we moved him over to third base where he's looked really good here in camp. He's definitely a guy that has upside and he's got the X factor we are looking for. WE are excited to have him moved over to third base.

Mike McDade is going to Vegas this year?

We haven't announced our final rosters yet. But in fact he's not going to go to Vegas. We are going to have Cooper there, I don't' want to really get into the details of it, but it's just that better for both players at this point that they both continue to play a position. One playing the other DHing and vise versa. It is better that they both play first base. That's the thought, that McDade will play Double A and play first there.

Chad Jenkins is making some changes?

A couple things, he's making a couple of mechanical changes, he's lengthening out his stride and he's always a decent changeup. It's gotten better thought and his slider is continuing to improve. He's had a good camp, he'll be in the Double A rotations this year.

I have to ask about a couple of Canadians: Marcus Knecht.

He is an exciting hitter, he maybe has the best bat speed in camp. The velocity of his bat is really impressive. We think he is going to hit and hit for power. He'd an under the radar type player too, you don't hear many people talk about him but we really like him.

Mick Crouse?

He's another physical athletic player. A prototypical RF tools, can really throw, can run has raw power and has a high ceiling and we think he's a guy that can be a really complete player.

David Cooper, where are you with him?

Coop is knocking on the door, he had a real fine year in the PCL. A phenomenal strikeout to walk ratio. A doubles machine. He keeps getting better defensively. Right now we think he is ready for the major leagues. Right now the opportunity isn't there but he is ready.

Dickie Thon had some troubles last year?

We can't really talk about that, anytime there is a medical problem, that is a personal thing for the player. But he is back and 100%, I can tell you that. His health problem is behind him. And he looks in camp, so far. I haven't seen him in games, either so I don't want to go too far with that. Just so you know, he's good to go this year.

Ashler Wojciechowski

Another one of our arms that we like. He should start the year in the Florida State League in the rotation. He's got another year of development there.