We sat down with Staten Island Manager Gaylen Pitts for a Q&A session to get his read on players. …
Q&A with Kevin Smith
PinstripesPlus.com: Which position player do you think has the most upside on this team and why?
Kevin Smith: That's hard to say, because it's hard to say for one guy. Can I give a few? I like [Mitch] Hilligoss, he was really hot during the middle of the season and carried us for a while. Wilmer Pino, too, he's been been great and was up there for a batting title. Kyle Larsen has a lot of power and he's our man in the middle of the lineup. And obviously, [Francisco] Cervelli has done a great job behind the plate. There's a lot of really good players.
PinstripesPlus: Which pitcher on the team do you think has the most potential?
Smith: Oh man, these are tough questions. It's hard because, again, I can't give you just one. If I said one guy, it would be a mistake on my part because there's a whole bunch. But obviously Nick [Peterson], he's been lights out. George Kontos has probably been the best starter. Timmy [Norton] was red hot. [Johnathan] Hovis has been dominant, too. And there's probably guys that I'm overlooking and can't t think of right now.
PinstripesPlus: Who do you think is the biggest sleeper prospect on this roster? Which guy can go a long way and has been good this year but kind of gets lost in the shuffle?
Smith: Me! No, I'm just kidding. I think Chris Kunda. He doesn't put up big numbers so you don't really think of him, but what he's done for us defensively has been great. The fact that he's versatile makes him valuable. He's the scrappy little dude. Russell [Raley] as well. His batting average was way up (.338) and he was sizzling when he got hurt. That was unfortunate for us. For pitcher, maybe [Luke] Trubee. I don't know if he gets talked about a lot or not, but he's been amazing out of the pen and he might get overlooked a little bit because of Nick and Hovis. I guess those guys.
PinstripesPlus: What do you think they need to work on the most in order to develop into big leaguers?
Smith: Probably the same things we all do. It's different stuff, but pretty much, we all need to work on some of the same basic things. Everyone here is only at this level because we need to work on something. We've all got to get better, get stronger, get consistency, more endurance and stuff like that.
PinstripesPlus: What will you work on in the off-season?
Smith: I'm going to work on my hitting. I'll be lifting weights, taking a lot of [batting practice] and working on that stuff. But really, I'm going to work on my all-around game. It's never one thing. You have to get better at everything. Playing first base, I need to get stronger, too. I'd like to hit for a little more power. So definitely, I'm going to keep busy and make myself better.
PinstripesPlus: What would you say is the strongest part of your game?
Smith: My glove. Right now I'm probably better defensively than I am offensively.
PinstripesPlus: Looking back, what do you think of your season?
Smith: I think I've had a pretty good year. Obviously, it could've been better. But I like that I came along later in the year. I [was] hot the last couple weeks (he batted .455 in September) and hit for a little power. That makes you get like a boost of confidence and optimism. I'd say that I improved and had a steady up-climb this year. Learning from the coaches and [my teammates], being around great baseball players here, I've gotten better. You have to get better in some kind of way in this situation. Also, dealing with the every day play, that every day grind. You learn to pace yourself and your endurance gets better. That's been great. So yeah, I think it's been a good year for me. Progress.
PinstripesPlus: To give the fans a better idea of what kind of player you are, which big leaguer would you say your game is most like?
Smith: I'm not sure. A first baseman with...I'll go with someone like a Doug Meintkiewicz or J.T. Snow, someone like that. I can't really think of it. Just a first baseman who prides himself on defense and understands the value of it.
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