On the heels of the interview with Tony Franklin interview this morning, I was lucky enough to get a chance to speak with new Thunder hitting coach Tom Slater this evening. He managed the Staten Island Yankees last year, the Gulf Coast League the year before, and has been in the Yankees system for the last four years.
As such, he's gotten a chance to see just about every young player in the system, and was willing to share a few of his insights about a few guys you'll see this year at Waterfront Park, as well as a couple of guys who might need another year at the lower levels. It's a bit lengthy, but it's worth the read. Enjoy.
After managing in the Gulf Coast League in 2010 and with Staten Island last year, why do you think the Yankees assigned you to Double-A in 2012?
A: I don't know. You'd have to ask Pat Roessler that question. Six called me in October and told me I would be heading up to Trenton. Obviously I'm excited about it, getting a chance to be with Tony Franklin and Tommy Phelps, two class guys, so I'm looking forward to it. As far as why, I guess you'd probably have to ask Six that question.
Q: Besides working with the Yankees, what else do you have on your coaching resume?
A: I'm going on my fourth year with the Yankees, I just got done with the Fall League in Arizona. Yankees sent me out there this fall. Prior to the years with the Yankees I coached in college for 17 years.
Q: With the Arizona Fall League, then, you got to see some of the more experienced guys in the system, as opposed to the younger, more raw guys you'd worked with at the complex and with Staten Island.
A: Yeah, I was out there with Corb and Ronnier and Rob Segedin, and a few of our pitchers that you guys had last year -- Chase Whitley and Preston Claiborne and Dan Burawa, who I know were at Tampa last year, as well as David Phelps from the Triple-A club. All those guys were out there. It was a good time, those guys all did well and I certainly enjoyed my time out there as well.
Q: What's the difference with working with guys at the upper levels as opposed to kids who are just getting their feet wet in pro ball?
A: I think, with the younger guys, be it Gulf Coast League or Staten Island, some of the first-year guys, you're doing a lot of the stuff that's introductory to those guys. They are learning the Yankees system, the way we do certain things, be it team defense, the way we run the bases, whatever.
Obviously by the time they're up there in Trenton where you guys get to see them, they've been through rookie ball, short season, and then either Charleston or Tampa. It's an older, more mature and obviously more polished player.
Q: Let's get specific, then. With a guy like Mustelier, who's older but new to pro ball, what do you do with a guy like him?
A: I tell you what, I was really impressed with Ronnie out in Arizona. He really swung the bat well, showed the ability to hit the ball, to really use the whole field. Probably what was the most impressive -- I had been told what a good hitter he was -- but he really played defense well. He played third base a lot there, and he really played third base well.
The young guys, like I said, down in the Gulf Coast and in Staten Island, you're really helping those guys establish a routine, and hopefully you're helping them establish a routine that they can carry throughout.
With the older guys, Mustelier, Corb, Rob Segedin, these guys are a little bit older and they've already established their routines. It's a matter of helping them stick with it. Those guys all work extremely hard out in the fall league, and it was fun to be around them.
Q: Have you had a chance to work with Tony Franklin before?
A: Just in spring training, a lot in spring training over the last couple of years. What a great guy. What a great baseball guy. Really a class individual. I've always enjoyed my time around him down in spring training.
Q: What would you say your biggest strength is as a coach?
A: To be honest with you, I wouldn't say. It's not something I really want to talk about -- myself -- that much. I'm just honored to have the opportunity to get up there and coach with a bunch of good players and a great staff.
Q: Well, if you don't want to talk about yourself, then let's talk about a few of the players you might see up here at Trenton this year. First, Zoilo Almonte.
A: Yeah, Zoilo, what a great player. I really enjoyed having him down in extended spring training a couple of years ago. Tremendous athlete, tremendous skills, pop -- a lot of pop in his bat. ... Just great tools, an exciting player. Like I said, three years ago when we were together down in extended spring training, (he was) just an exciting guy to be around. That bat is fun to watch hit.
Q: How about Rob Lyerly?
A: Rob's another guy that I've gotten to know. He went straight to Staten Island out of college. I got to know him in Spring Training with some of the early work we do in January and February with the guys before Spring Training starts.
Another guy who can drive the ball. I know that at both Charleston and in Tampa, he really put up good numbers hitting, and from what I've seen of Rob, he's a guy who really drives the ball well to left-center, right-center, stays on the ball well, lot of doubles; good middle-of-the-field, gap-to-gap approach. I know he got up there with you guys for a spell last year. He's a hard-working kid who's fun to be around.
Q: I don't think Trenton's going to see him until later in the year, perhaps, but J.R. Murphy.
A: I was fortunate enough to have Murph down in the Gulf Coast League the first year he signed. He's very intelligent, he's got a great demeanor and he's got a really great approach. He had a great high school coach who prepared him well.
He's just a guy with a great demeanor and a great approach coming out of high school right into pro ball right from the get-go. He signed late, but he was able to play for us there at the end of the Gulf Coast League and was dropped right into the middle of our lineup. He did a great job, and I know he's continued to do a great job.
I know he was putting up really great numbers in Charleston last year and really swinging the bat well. Unfortunately, I think he broke a foot when he first got to Tampa, but quality guy, good hitter and just a great professional demeanor.
Q: Same deal for another guy who the Thunder probably won't see this year but who is intriguing to Yankees fans nonetheless -- Gary Sanchez.
A: I had the pleasure of having Gary two years ago, and ... just a tremendous talent. Tremendous talent. He overmatched the Gulf Coast League a couple of years ago. I mean, .350 with, I don't remember how many home runs it was, nine, in a short period of time. Then he went up to Staten Island at the end of the year just as a 17-year-old guy.
Last year, I know he really got on a hot streak in Charleston with the home runs before his season got cut short by an injury as well. Just a tremendous hitter, a guy that will hit for power and for average.
Q: Just two more, the next name I'm curious about is Kyle Roller.
A: Kyle, like Rob, is a guy I've had a chance to spend some time around in spring training and in the early parts of January and February for some extra work with those guys. Again, a strong, good-looking hitter. From everything you read in the reports and everything you see, I know he's had a lot of success at Staten Island, at Charleston and in Tampa last year.
He's a guy who uses the whole field, drives the ball well to left-center field, has a lot of power in his bat, and is a good-looking hitter.
Q: Last name I'm going to mention, and he won't get to Trenton this year, but Mason Williams is the talk of the organization, so I've got to ask you about him.
A: Again, I've had the great fortune of having Mason. I had him Staten Island this year, he was the Player of the Year in the New York-Penn League. He hit .350, played a tremendous center field, stole 28 bases. He's an exciting young player, and comes to play every day and loves to compete. I'm biased. I've had him for the last two years, and he's really a good-looking young player.
Q: What could you say about his work ethic?
A: It's tremendous. Tremendous work ethic. That whole group of 2010 draft kids, guys who were first at the yard every day at Staten Island, they put in countless hours at the cages with Ty Hawkins, and they also put in good work at the fields defensively in their pregame work as well.
Every one of those kids, whether it's Mason, Cito, Ben Gamel, Tyler Austin, Angelo Gumbs, just a really special group of young players.
Labels: Gary Sanchez, Kyle Roller, Mason Williams, Rob Lyerly, Ronnier Mustelier, Tom Slater, Trenton Thunder, Zoilo Almonte