About a week ago, I posted a little tidbit about Mat Gamel’s defense from Huntsville’s play-by-play announcer, Brett Pollock. It was a snippet of a larger interview that he and I have been working on the past few days. Here’s the full interview. Brett was wonderful about the whole process (seems to be a common theme in the Brewers organization).
Wow, I just realized that I’ve had two interviews in one week. You all are being spoiled…
BrewersNation: Some of my readers are wondering how Mat Gamel’s defense has been progressing in Huntsville? We know he can mash the ball, but how’s the defense coming?
Brett Pollock: Gamel has played real well at third base, better than most of us thought he would based on his error total from last season. The only real bad game he has had was in late April against Jacksonville when he made three errors.
He has made numerous outstanding plays going to his right on the backhand and has displayed a strong arm in those situations. He still gets himself tangled up at times with footwork and could be a little more consistent going to his left but for the most part he has played well.
By comparison, he is ahead of Braun since he has always played the position, and has the ability and the makeup and desire to turn himself into a good defender. He will not not make because he didn’t work hard enough..he realizes he has a good teacher in Don Money and is using him as a resource to make himself a better player at the position.
BN: We know Huntsville is stacked with players like Matt LaPorta, Mat Gamel, and Alcides Escobar. Which prospect playing for Huntsville do you believe has the brightest future in the big leagues?
B. Pollock: Gamel has been very very impressive offensively; he is disciplined at the plate and has displayed good power the opposite the way. If he continues to improve defensively and keeps doing what he is doing with the bat, I think he has a very bright future at the big league level in front of him.
Escobar is sensational defensively and makes the plays going in every direction and possesses a very very strong arm, one of the strongest in all the minor leagues. He has added weight and strength and will continue to do so and once he improves his strike zone discipline a bit and realizes what he is capable of (and doesn’t try to be a home run hitter), he will be a high-quality major league player for a long long time. Many compare him to Tony Fernandez and I think he has the ability to have the same kind of career, which would be a pretty good one.
LaPorta is still very inexperienced at the professional level and like a lot of hitters in that predicament, has had a hard time with the breaking ball. Once he learns to trust his power and let his ability take over, i.e. getting comfortable hitting the ball the other way, he has a solid future as a hitter. The question becomes where does he play in the big leagues and that will largely be determined by factors out of his control until a vacancy is created.
BN: One of my personal favorite prospects plays for Huntsville, Steve Hammond. After hitting a rough patch last year, Steve has come out in 2008 with something to prove. What are Steve’s strengths as a pitcher? What does he need to work on?
B. Pollock: Hammond has been a lot more aggressive and assertive on the mound this year than he was at almost any point last year, save for his complete game shutout at Birmingham and game five of the Southern League championship series. His pitches this year are more crisp and he has piled up quite a few strikeouts. He is a fierce competitor and works as hard in the weight room and on his diet as anybody I have seen. That being said, I think his future in the big leagues will likely be pitching in relief.
BN: Angel Salome has returned from his suspension. He’s widely regarded as the best catching prospect in Milwaukee’s farm system. What do you think about Angel?
B. Pollock: He’s still very young and learning..has made tremendous strides defensively and possesses a strong throwing arm. The ball does jump off his bat, but he has a tendency to pull off the ball.
BN: The biggest surprise for Huntsville thus far in 2008, in my own opinion, has been the play of Michael Brantley. Is his hot start for real, or do you see him fizzling a bit once summer hits?
B. Pollock: Brantley is very young, just having turned 21 two weeks ago, yet has a very very mature approach at the plate that I think will carry him through the rest of the season. He is a very disciplined hitter and knows his role as the leadoff man is to take pitches and try to get on base. He has walked twice as often as he has struck out and he has only fanned 11 times in almost 200 at-bats, that is impressive. His power will come and I think he will wind up having a very good year.
BN: Who is your favorite player to watch on the Stars?
B. Pollock: It wouldn’t be fair to single out one guy..I have had the pleasure of watching a lot of good ones here the last four years (Braun, Gallardo, Dillard, Parra, Villanueva, Gwynn, Jr., Rottino, etc..) and this year’s group and they all have been great to work with and made my job a lot of fun.
BN: What is your favorite part of being a minor league play-by-play announcer?
B. Pollock: It’s tough to give just one favorite part..I guess just being around the game I love and have been following since I learned how to read a box score and understand what was going on in the game. I have been blessed to be around a lot of great coaches (Mark Davis, Sandy Guerrero, Lorenzo Bundy, Dennis Lewallyn) and managers (Don Money, Scott Coolbaugh, Chip Hale) and front office personnel (Diamondbacks, Brewers) in my career and develop a strong working relationship with all of them. I have also been very fortunate to have been on teams with tremendously talented players like the ones mentioned above along with Brad Penny, Lyle Overbay, Chad Tracy, Brandon Webb, Jose Valverde, Jack Cust, Alex Cintron, etc… and develop a strong working and personal relationship with them. I have also had the pleasure of interviewing and interacting with many well known baseball coaches, scouts, front office personnel from other teams as well…a very very lengthy list that includes Richie Hebner, Mike Jorgensen, Bob Gebhard, Sandy Johnson, John Shoemaker, Jackie Moore, Jay Miller and on and on and on…
BN: Give the readers at BrewersNation something to look for in the upcoming weeks.
B. Pollock: A great pennant race, we are tied for the division lead with West Tenn and lead Carolina by three with 27 to go in the half after tonight and will be trying to win an unprecedented fourth straight half division championship.