As the "resident interviewer" here at TPR, I was tasked by Brian to try and reach outside the box in terms of prospect interviews. Of course, we've had our share of 1 on 1's with Tigers prospects (Schotts, Westlake, Fields), but I wanted to try something different. I reached out to Mario Impemba, the Tigers' play by play man on Fox Sports Detroit, and he was kind enough to answer some questions for us. I hope you all enjoy:
TPR: Tigers rookie Bruce Rondon looks destined to be the Tigers closer in 2013. What do you think we'll see out of him in 2013?
MI: Well, he certainly has the ability to have plenty of success. A triple-digits fastball and very good slider is a good start. However, he is still only 22-years-old and has pitched professionally for only three years. I think a lot will come down to his mental make-up. How will he hold up to the pressure of closing big league games for an entire season and how will he bounce back from rough outings? He does have the advantage of having plenty of experienced arms around him in the bullpen. Phil Coke, Joaquin Benoit and Octavio Dotel should be able to help him through any rough patches.
TPR: What do you think the future holds for Avisail Garcia?
MI: I'm really excited to see how he develops, and at what rate. He is expected to hit for power at the major league level. His 6-4 240 pound frame points to the probability. But in 76 major league plate appearances in 2012 (including the post-season), he had just one extra base hit. While the lack of power was noticeable, so was his ability to go the other way. Of his 15 hits in the regular season, 11 were hit to center or to right field. That's pretty impressive for a young hitter. Defensively, he has a terrific arm. His future is bright.
TPR: Any chance Tigers fans will see top prospect Nick Castellanos this season?
MI: I've talked to several scouts about his transition to the outfield and most agree he still has some work to do defensively. His bat is a different story though. The old baseball truism applies here; if he continues to hit, the Tigers will find a spot for him. Many feel that his bat is major league ready, so at some point I think he will make it to Detroit this year.
TPR: Do you think Garcia will ever hit more than 25 homeruns in a season?
MI: I do. His size makes me believe that he will reach those totals at some point. As I mentioned earlier, it was impressive to see him go up the middle and the other way in his big league cameo last season. To me, that shows a good approach and as hitting coaches always say, the power will come.
TPR: Does Smyly pitch over 150 innings?
A lot of that depends on who wins the fifth spot in the rotation. I think based on what we saw last year, he probably will. Despite very little pro experience, he showed me a lot with the way he pitched last spring to win a spot with the big club and his overall work in the regular season. He also impressed in relief against the Yankees in the ALCS. Having a left hander in the rotation wouldn't hurt either
TPR: What does the future hold for Jake Thompson and Austin Schotts?
MI: I'm looking forward to following their development. Both are just 19 years old and it can be difficult to project high school draftees, but neither was over matched last year in their first season as pros.
Schotts provides something the organization needs: speed. He stole 16 bases last year and performed well offensively with a .310 average and .360 OBP.
Thompson fits the mold of a typical Tigers draftee. He's a big kid that throws hard and pitched well in the Gulf Coast League, posting high strikeout numbers and a low WHIP and ERA.
TPR: Should the Tigers change their draft style?
MI: Well, they clearly have valued pitching in the drafts of the last decade. Some selections have blossomed in the major leagues, some haven't. Justin Verlander and Rick Porcello are on the positive side of the ledger, while Kyle Sleeth and Ryan Perry didn't work out so well. Pitching is such a valuable commodity that it's hard to argue with a philosophy that stocks a system with as much of it as possible. While the emphasis on pitching has affected the depth of position players, keep in mind that the Tigers have done a good job of dealing some of their arms for impact big leaguers like Miguel Cabrera (Andrew Miller), Anibal Sanchez (Jacob Turner) and Gary Sheffield (Humberto Sanchez).
TPR: Weakest position in the Tigers farm system?
I don't know that there is one specific position that is weak within the system, but rather it is the overall lack of depth that is somewhat concerning. Beyond Catellanos, Rondon and Garcia, there is little depth at the upper end of the Tigers system. Over the past few years, the Tigers have traded away much of their depth to strenghten thr big league club. In return, they have have back-to-back division titles and a World Series apparence.
TPR: Best prospect nobody has heard of?
MI: Montreal Robertson intrigues me. He was a 29th round pick out of a community college in Mississippi. His draft status dropped because of Tommy John surgery in college so the Tigers were able to get him late. He's a big kid and a very good athlete who throws in the mid 90's with a potentially above average change-up.
TPR: Sleeper prospect that we could possibly see up with the big club this season?
MI: I dont think there is a sleeper that could get the call this year. When you consider that the big league club is stacked, beyond Castellanos, Rondon and Garcia, I dont see any opportunities available for the non-elite prospects in the system.
A HUGE thanks to Mario for taking the time out of his busy schedule to answer our questions. We wish him good luck in the booth this season, and as always GO TIGERS!!!