JL: Is everything starting to "click" for Beckham or does he still have a little more room for improvement(K/BB still worrisome, some questions about his "speed" and size lead to questions about positional changes)?
CB: There is definitely room for improvement, and knowing his drive to get better, I'm sure Tim would tell you the same thing. That said, he really got better this year, especially offensively. He's strong and the ball jumps off his bat, and as he continues to make adjustments and refine his approach, I think we'll see his numbers reflect that.
JL: Robinson Chirinos had a slow start to his year, but improved as the year went on. Is he "major league"-ready or is he still new to the position? Stories, post-trade, kept alluding to the fact that the Rays were very "high" on him and his ST results showed some possible glimpses to his future. Should his age be a worry or a possible reason to worry about how many possible valuable years that he's got to (A) make it to the majors and (B) perform there.
CB: Because of how new he is to catching, Robinson deserves a mulligan on the age question. After a great spring he got off to a poor start at Durham and it took him a while to get hot. When he's on his game he'll hit line drives all over the place. Defensively, he's getting there and he's certainly athletic enough to succeed. It's still about experience and repetition for him.
JL: With the Rule 5 draft becoming more and more important, does it make it harder for you guys to decide who makes the 40-Man rosters?
CB: Yes, but that's a good problem to have because it means we have a lot of talented players. There are a lot of factors that go into those decisions, and we lean heavily on our scouts and development staff in helping us determine the readiness of each player to stick in the big leagues if we were to leave them off our 40-man.
JL: In Matt Bush, Marquis Fleming and Scott Schuman, the Rays have 3 relief prospects with insane K-rates and Lenny Linsky isn't too far behind. What have your pitching coordinators/coaches been teaching these guys?
CB: I'm glad you mentioned our pitching coordinators -- Dick Bosman and Dewey Robinson -- because they deserve a lot of credit for where those four guys have gotten. They're all working on a number of things but with the first three, fastball command is key -- Bush and Shuman throw extremely hard and, if they execute, are really difficult to square up, while Fleming needs to get ahead in the count to allow his changeup to come into play. Our scouts saw tremendous life on Linsky's fastball and they were spot on. It's still early in his journey and we're refining his delivery so he can repeat it better. When he's on, he can make hitters look downright silly.
JL: Tyler Bortnick and Stephen Vogt are 2 guys who always light up scoresheets with crooked numbers, but never get the acclaim that they deserve. What are your thoughts on how these guys have developed and do u think there's more names in the organization of players who are overlooked due to height or lack of "stuff"/upside concerns?
CB: Both of these guys are examples of what I mentioned earlier: players who weren't high draft picks but who nonetheless are on their way to the major leagues. Vogt and Bortnick have very different profiles but they have two things in common: one, they possess outstanding will and dedication; two, they can hit! That determination, though, is very important. Often when you're a lower pick or someone with an unusual profile, you have to pass others on the depth chart and you really have to will your way to the big leagues. Now behind Bortnick we're seeing other infielders like Robby Price and Taylor Motter open some eyes and we can't wait to find out if they can do the same.
JL: What has been the highlight of your career thus far as a member of the Tampa Bay Rays Organization?
CB: It should not be a surprise that the single most memorable feeling I have had here was when Aki stepped on second base in '08 and we won the pennant. But on a more everyday level, I'm extremely fortunate in that I wake up every day excited to get to work, and the biggest reason for that is the caliber of the folks I work with, both in the office and on the field. We have so many terrific people here who deserve a ton of praise for what we've been able to accomplish.
JL: Any thoughts or comments for those who may want to follow in your footsteps and working in a baseball front office or scouting department?
CB: There are many different paths in this game, and everyone needs to blaze his or her own. There are few absolutes. In general, I would say that the more you can do to develop your skills and display your passion, the better off you will be. It's not always easy but there are many things you can do from outside of the business to learn more about it, gain experience, and separate yourself from the pack. The competition to get in is very stiff -- yet another reminder of how fortunate we are to have this opportunity. This takes persistence, hard work and sacrifice, but it's wonderful to feel so passionate about what you do for a living.