A Q&A with Mark Newman
The players are all there, but figuring out which players should be at which levels can be a tricky proposition.
With that in mind, The Trentonian spoke to Yankees head of player development Mark Newman to see if he could clear up a few of those issues, as well as a few other questions about the team’s system as a whole.
JN: I think the most pressing issue, as far as Trenton is concerned, is how the situation at second base is going to shake out. How are Corban Joseph, David Adams and Jose Pirela all going to fit into that mix?
MN: Pirela (will be) at shortstop, and we’re still working on the other two and how that’s going to play out there. There’s Triple-A possibilities. They both played together at Charleston a couple of years ago, and we moved them around.
JN: Is there a possibility that either of them could play at third base?
MN: Yes. We’ve got Suttle there, too, so there’s a bit of a logjam. We’re still working on how that’s going to play out.
JN: With the rotation, it seems pretty fair to say that Betances and Banuelos are going to be there, correct?
MN: It’s premature to say that they’re going to be there and not in Triple-A. There’s probably the best chance that they would be in Double-A to start with, but it’s not a done deal.
JN: I’d assume Graham Stoneburner’s going to be right there, too?
JN: What about Adam Warren? It seems he’s ready for Triple-A, but I could also see him being pushed back to Double-A because of numbers.
MN: All that stuff (with the rotation) is still TBA. We have more quality pitching at the Double-A and Triple-A levels than we’ve had in some time, so throughout spring training there’s going to be a lot of consultation among staff before we finally determine who’s going to go where.
JN: Who stood out for you guys at instructs?
MN: Well, a lot of the young guys. It was really a young group. It was (Cito) Culver, Mason Williams, Gary Sanchez, that bunch.
JN: Did you guys like the early returns from Culver, despite the numbers maybe not being the prettiest?
MN: The stats were fine in a rookie league for a first-year player. If you go back and look at Derek Jeter and Robbie Cano the first year, the stat line is not good. At the lower levels early on in their career, it has very little meaning. You look for other things: How they handle the game, how they take pitches, how they use the field. You look at a lot of technical stuff.
JN: With a kid like Culver, who obviously didn’t have the greatest upbringing in the world, do you worry about how he’s going to adjust to basically being on his own for a while?
MN: He’s a quality kid. He has outstanding make-up. We have no concerns about him.
JN: How is Laird looking as a left fielder?
MN: Laird played in the fall league out there and did fine. It’s just to provide a defensive flexibility for the major league club. Third, first, left, right.
JN: So he’ll see time at all those positions in Scranton this year, I assume?
MN: He’ll see time at those spots.
JN: If I remember, Betances went down there to work solely on his fielding. How did that turn out?
MN: We focused on very few things, and he made progress on all those.
JN: Did you figure out what was causing those yips?
MN: It was just that he hadn’t had enough work. He’d been down with the injury for an extended period.
JN: One theory proposed up here was that he just hadn’t had many runners to deal with during his stint with Tampa. Could that have been a contributing factor as well?
MN: Well, he didn’t have many. There are a lot of outstanding young pitchers that go through that for the same reason. They didn’t have many runners on in high school, they didn’t have many on in the low minor leagues. Throw in the fact that he was out for a year with an injury.
JN: Another guy I heard a lot about all season down there was Brett Marshall. What do you see for him in 2011?
MN: Florida State League. Really good arm, really competitive. Very good athlete, great feel for the change-up. He’s got ceiling, he’s got big ceiling. He’ll keep working day by day to improve delivery and improve his secondary pitches, but yeah he’s got good stuff.
JN: I heard a story about him telling you that he was going to throw 100 miles per hour one day. How do you get a kid like that to learn how to dial it back?
MN: The coaches continually counsel him about that, and then you learn from the game. He figures out, with maturity, that the key is to get hitters out and the only stat that matters is how often you get hitters out, not the readings on the radar gun. He’s figured that out.
JN: I mentioned position switches not long ago. Is J.R. Murphy also making a switch from behind the plate to more of third base or outfield?
MN: No, he’s just learning multiple positions. He’s such an outstanding young hitter, we want to maintain some flexibility. When he’s ready to go to the big leagues, we want to have more options than just catch, and so the third base, right field work is going to provide him and us with that kind of option.
JN: With Gary Sanchez, the numbers were obviously there in spades. What kind of other things, aside from the numbers, were you able to take from his first full year?
MN: Adjustment to playing every day, which he handled. Running a pitching staff, managing a game, all that stuff is still a work in progress. He’s a very bright kid, and we think he’ll make those adjustments. He’s really talented.
JN: How much input do you guys get from the pitching staff he handles about how he is able to work back there?
MN: So far he’s caught so many young pitchers. You really don’t go to another 18-year-old and ask him to critique a catcher. They’re so worried about their own performance. If you were pitching to veteran players, it might be more helpful. At this point, all he’s done is that.
JN: I see that Vic Valencia, who was with the Thunder last year, is in Charleston. Being an outstanding defensive catcher during his playing days, is he there to work with Sanchez this season?
MN: He’s done a nice job with the catchers he’s worked with so far. We move staff around to try and match them up with players so we get the biggest bang for our buck from our staff.