Q&A with Brooklyn Manager Pedro Lopez

Lopez likes Richard Lucas' power potential

In this exclusive Q&A session, Brooklyn Cyclones manager Pedro Lopez sits down with InsidePitchMagazine.com to talk about many of his players that figure to make the upcoming Top 50 Prospects list. Where does he think Richard Lucas can take his game? What does he like about Robbie Shields? How does his strong starting rotation stack up? Look inside for the answers to those questions and more.

InsidePitchMagazine.com: Before we get to your players, can you talk about the Cyclones season? Your club was in first place for most of the season and ultimately fell in the first round of the playoffs, but what do you take away from the 2009 club?

Pedro Lopez: I thought it was a good season. I thought a lot of players got better. We had a terrific start, but we eventually underwent same changes in the lineup through injuries, and other reasons, that kind of hurt us. I thought the guys who stepped in did a good job. Mainly our club was based on pitching, and starting pitching, and the pitching carried us all the way to the playoffs. We didn't finish the year the way we would have liked to, but I thought it was a strong effort all around.

Inside Pitch: You mentioned the pitching, and you had a strong front four with Mark Cohoon, James Fuller, Collin McHugh and Brandon Moore. Can you break those four guys down a little bit? How do they compare in regards to what they offer?

Lopez: I think all of them had great years. I thought Cohoon, by numbers, was the best pitcher on our entire staff but I thought the other three were just as important. We didn't have anybody that could throw in the mid-90s, but they all knew how to pitch and threw anywhere from 87-92 so it was important that they knew how to pitch.

They all mixed pitches well, changed speeds forwards and backwards and they executed pitches. People would come to me about Cohoon and everyone else, but if you're talking about how's got the best stuff, I think it is Brandon Moore. He's got four pitches he can throw for strikes with his fastball, curveball, slider and changeup. They all contributed equally and it was great to have four pitchers who could all stay ahead in games and I'm thankful I wasn't in the other dugout having to face these guys on a regular basis in this league.

Inside Pitch: A couple of scouts I talked to said they thought Sam Honeck was your best pure hitter. Obviously he didn't have the power numbers, and that's not uncommon for Brooklyn, but would you agree with that opinion about his hitting ability?

Lopez: I think Sam has a real nice level swing and he showed the ability to drive the ball to all fields. Right now, he's a gap-to-gap line drive hitter, but I think he will eventually develop some power to all fields. I thought he was probably one of our more consistent hitters and between him and Luis Rivera we really didn't have anybody else that could consistently hit their way on base. I thought Honeck had a terrific year especially given his first year of professional baseball and I see more positive things coming his way in the future. Playing in Brooklyn, with the wind blowing in from right field every night, it can be tough but I thought he put together real good at-bats all season long.

Inside Pitch: Nick Santomauro brings an interesting blend of tools to the field. He's got some pop, he's athletic, he can run. What strengths do you see in him and what areas do you think he needs to work on?

Lopez: I think Nick can be a special player. His biggest asset is his power and I think he's got tremendous power that will continue to develop. He's still got a few things to work but he made some big adjustments during the season. He struggled in the beginning coming from college ball, but he worked with our hitting coach Jack Voigt and that paid off for him at the end because his home run numbers jumped. He did a good job in the outfield but I think defense is one area he will need to continue to work on.

When he came in this year, he hands were real close to his body and Jack thought he was getting pretty tied up especially with pitches on the inside corner. But Nick approached Jack and wanted to find a way to stop getting beat inside. He wanted to get the barrel of the bat more in the zone and they talked about getting his hands more away from his body. That allowed him to get to more pitches and drive the ball to all fields which he can do.

Inside Pitch: Robbie Shields' numbers tell their own story, but what did you think about his season? And defensively, do you see him as a guy who can move around and play multiple positions?

Lopez: I think Robbie has that ability to move around, but he was drafted as a shortstop and drafted as one for a reason. I thought he made all the plays he needed to make at shortstop. If you look at him, he doesn't have the best footwork, but he knows how to position himself and get to the balls he needs to. I think he did a great job for us.

Whe you look at his numbers at the plate, everybody was coming in and asking me "what is wrong with Robbie?". But the truth of the matter is, he was rushed into the lineup after all the injuries he had during the year and I think, just like I told everybody who asked, I had to give Robbie the benefit of the doubt. I had to because, despite all the numbers, he's put up good numbers throughout his college career. Also, not starting his professional career the way he would have liked to, I thought that got to his head just a little bit. I think he will be okay. He's an interesting player and I'm excited to see what he looks like next year in Spring Training. I think he will have a pretty big year.

Inside Pitch: Richard Lucas joined your club for the stretch run and you had him for a few weeks. What do you think about his game?

Lopez: I think his power is the first thing that jumps out. Here's a kid who is 20 years old and at his age he shows something very rare with his power to the opposite gap. He did that a lot for us and that's where his power is at its best. I think he came in and try to do a little too much. I think his plate discipline got a little out of sorts at the end. But when he first came to us from Kingsport, his plate discipline was good. He was getting good pitches to hit and he did something with him. He drove the ball to all fields and that's something rare from such a young hitter.

I think he's going to hit for power and be a corner guy with good power potential. I think this season was a big test for him because he didn't have any Spring Training because of an injury (torn meniscus), and he started late. He put up very good numbers in the Appalachian League but I think he started to wear out a bit with us down the stretch. Building up that stamina is something every player goes through in Spring Training and I think that caught up with him at the end. I think he's another guy who could have a big year because he'll be healthy going into camp.

Inside Pitch: You had Matt Bouchard on your roster for a couple of weeks before his season was ended by injury. From what I hear, the organization still holds him in high value. What is your opinion of where he is in the organization and his game overall?

Lopez: To me, Matt is a guy we have to take into consideration for the future. If we don't see him as a guy that can help us out in the future, I don't want to say that'd be crazy, but I don't think we'd be thinking right if we don't get the most out of him that we can. I think he's going to be okay in the end. I think he's run into some tough luck with his injuries. He's a guy who started playing second base every day this year. He's a shortstop playing second base with a great shortstop's arm. He's got real good range and he's guy who can hit.

When people look at him, they see a little guy but when that ball pops off his bat, it's like a guy twice his size hitting the baseball. As long as he manages to stay healthy, I think he can do great things for the organization. He can move around, play defense in many positions and be a reliable bat in the first or second hole. He can drive the ball to all fields and he's got great baseball instincts.

Inside Pitch: Jordany Valdespin had an interesting season in a number of ways. He's a raw ballplayer with a few interesting tools, but he had a contentious season bouncing all over the farm. What do you make of him? What does he need to do to get himself on track?

Lopez: I think the main thing for him is that he just needs to play the game and that was the first thing I told him when I pulled him into my office when he showed up. He just needs to go out and play baseball. He's got a way in doing things, and that's not to say we'll let him get away with it, we've just got to gain his trust. Once we do, we'll get him on our side and he'll really start to improve.

He might carry himself with a chip on his shoulder at times, but he's really humble otherwise and he cares a lot. But he's got some growing up to do and once he does mature and gets over that, and just goes out and focuses on nothing but the game, things will get better. He was drafted by a Dominican winter ball team for this season and I think him going back home and playing winter ball with older guys, with big league experience, will help him a lot. He'll get to see how big league players carry themselves on and off the field, and once he sees that I think that will bring the maturity he needs. Once he learns to do that, I think he'll be an exciting ball player.

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