Q&A with Donny Rowland

PinstripesPlus checks in with Yankees International Scouting Director Donny Rowland for a Q&A session to get his thoughts on the likes of Dermis Garcia, Nelson Gomez, Jonathan Amundary, Juan De Leon, Hyo-Jun Park, and others, why he feels this was the year for the Yankees to blow past their International bonus pool, and much more!

PinstripesPlus.com: Let's just get your thoughts on each one of these signings so far, staring with Dominican infielder Nelson Gomez.

Donny Rowland: He's a physical third baseman with hit first then power -- having said that he probably has the third best power in this International class. He stays in the middle of the field [when he hits] and his power is to every field basically. He's got an above average arm, excellent, excellent makeup. He's a great kid. Some of our guys thought he was the best player in the International market.

PinstripesPlus.com: Obviously the reports talk about his big power -- how is his plate discipline?

Rowland: Very good for his age. He's one of the guys who consistently had quality at-bats in games and we put all of these guys through game at-bats -- we don't sign anyone out of a tryout formula. We run 50-60 game at-bats on anyone we give significant bonuses to Patrick and his game at-bats have been tremendous. He sees it early, he sees it late. He's still young and aggressive, and he'll chase every now and then, but in this market and this age group of players he's highly, highly advanced.

PinstripesPlus.com: Now you said third base -- I've seen some reports list him as a shortstop.

Rowland: No they misprinted that then, he's a third baseman. He's a pure third baseman.

PinstripesPlus.com: Let's move on to Dermis Garcia, is he a shortstop?

Rowland: He does have a chance to play what I call a 'power shortstop'. He wants to be a shortstop but he's probably going to slide to third base down the road. I've read some stuff he would go to right field but there's no chance of that happening, not that I can see Patrick. He's 6-foot-3, 195 pounds prototypical best body you could ever see with 70 raw power now, he's got a 70 arm now. This guy's a stud physically. His hands as an infielder are fine. I don't think we have one scout or one report -- now we've got like 30 reports on these high [dollar] guys -- I don't know that we have anybody at the very minimum, worst case playing third [base].

PinstripesPlus.com: What about his approach?

Rowland: His power is extremely large for his age. It's equal or better than [Miguel] Sano or [Gary] Sanchez at the same age, probably a little better raw power. He's not as advanced a hitter as Gomez but he's got more power and he can mis-hit balls out to the biggest part of the fields.

PinstripesPlus.com: Let's move on to outfielder Juan De Leon, talk about him a little bit.

Rowland: Let's talk about his tools first; he's a five-tool guy, no question. He's got the best bat speed in the class by far. He can really get it through the zone. He's got plus raw power and it's getting better by the day. He's grown another inch already. He can run, he can throw, he's a good defender, and he's got tremendous work ethic and makeup.

PinstripesPlus.com: By your description he almost sounds like Leonardo Molina, especially makeup-wise, no?

Rowland: They're similar but he's not as good a runner; Molina's arm and speed are better. This guy's got way more raw power at the same age. Obviously makeup is huge to us and with what we know now of this [IFA] group we're very, very pleased. There's some more guys I'm sure you're going to ask me about who absolutely have tremendous makeup. Every kid is different and every makeup is different, some are good in some ways and some are good in different ways. Like Dermis [Garcia] is very tough on himself, he expects a lot of himself, and De Leon is much more gregarious. Everybody loves him; he's engaging, he's a hard worker, people attract to him.

PinstripesPlus.com: What about Jonathan Amundary [pronounced A-moon-dure-rye]?

Rowland: Amunduray is a very physical, wide-shouldered, V-tapered body, just a real physical specimen. He's got plus raw power, plus arm, prototypical right fielder; the perfect right field profile. He has different kind of makeup. He's a very tough kid who comes from a tougher area, tougher background. Not bad, but tough from an area in Venezuela. He's going to be a horse. We've seen a 60 arm. The last few workouts and tryouts we've had with him he was showing easy, raw, plus power. It's kind of long, line-drive backspin power. [His approach] was fair early and it's been improving every month we've seen him. He's just really aggressive. This guy just turned 16 in May so nine months ago when we started scouting him he was very aggressive and chase a little bit because he wants to pound everything. Well over the course of a few months he's grown up a little bit, he's learned a little bit about hitting, and now his game at-bats are much better. I wouldn't call him a primo-strike zone discipline hitter now like some of the other guys but for his age he's certainly average if not a little bit better.

PinstripesPlus.com: What about Antonio Arias?

Rowland: Very athletic. He has a sleak, streamlined centerfield body. He's certainly going to be an above average centerfielder, no question about it. He's got a near average arm now, he finds the barrel in his swing. He's a line-drive hitter right now and with his [plus speed] he can do some things. He's 6-foot-2, maybe a little bit better than 6-foot-2, and he just turned 16 in June so he's still a baby. Arias is very exciting. Obviously we like all of these guys quite a bit and we know there's attrition and not everyone is going to make it but he's a guy we like a lot. When you talk about a kid that age running 6.5's and can play the hell out of centerfield who can find the barrel -- back in November in Venezuela at the showcase he was 15 [years old] he was 2-3 with a double and a triple, and played the hell out of centerfield. And this kid's got a tireless, tireless, work ethic and that's part of the reason why he's so damn skinny, he just won't stop working.

PinstripesPlus.com: Let's move on to Miguel Flames [pronounced flom-mas], what can you tell us about his game?

Rowland: Flames is a thicker body guy. Even though he's lost some weight he's a big catcher. He was a third baseman, a below average runner, but we liked his arm strength, we liked his actions, and we really liked his hit-ability. Our analysts, led by John Kremer who has been a tremendous help for me, when we had him working out they tracked every pitch and he had the best contact ratio, the deepest counts -- he had the best hit-ability of anyone we signed as far as strike zone discipline, contact ratio, all of that, according to our analysts who we do rely on even in this market.

PinstripesPlus.com: The word is he has raw power, no?

Rowland: Yeah it's plus -- it's really big. He's new to catching. We're converting him and we believe it's going to work. In some workouts he's been throwing low 1.8's. Now blocking and so forth it's going to take some time, just like [Luis] Torrens. Now I'm not saying he's going to be as good as Torrens but when we signed Torrens as a conversion Patrick he had good hands but he couldn't block or anything like that, and now he's an advanced receiver for his age. Flames needs to work there and we know that. We're going to be patient. Everybody knows it going in. But what we're buying is a really, really tough kid with a plus arm, plus raw power, and the chance to be an offensive catcher with the tools we just talked about. Again, makeup off....the....charts!!! He's tough, tough, tough. The work ethic is tremendous.

PinstripesPlus.com: By the physical description you've laid out -- the plus power, the plus arm strength, the thicker body -- he sounds almost Gary Sanchez-like, no?

Rowland: It's similar. He doesn't have quite as much pure arm as Gary or quite as much raw power as Gary when we signed him. You're right, perhaps a slightly lesser version of that.

PinstripesPlus.com: Let's talk about the guy you're boarding a plane right now to go see -- Hyo-Jun Park -- talk about his game.

Rowland: Let me first say our scouts, each man did an unbelievable job over the course of the year, just a freakin' unbelievable job. I couldn't be more proud of the group. Their work ethic, dedication, they're sacrifice, my cross-checkers Dennis Woody, Gordon [Blakely], and now Steve Wilson, who is much more of an expert in Asia than I am. He alerted me to Park when we hired him and I've been watching Park since January and Steve's been on him for a long time. Not many people know a lot about Park and this guy is really, really exciting. He's a 6-foot-2 shortstop who hits from the left side with very athletic, electric actions -- the quickest feet of any shortstop in this year's market. He's got sound hands, good hands, he's an above to well above average runner, he's got surprising power, and he's got a really good swing. He was one of my favorites going into this and somebody we really, really were hoping we could come to terms with yesterday morning. Steve was in Korea and able to make it happen, and we're thrilled. This guy is really interesting, really, really interesting. He could be a five-tool shortstop. If his power comes to 15 [home runs] a year, he could be -- I don't want to overstate anything -- a five-tool shortstop.

PinstripesPlus.com: Let's talk about another shortstop -- Wilkerman Garcia. Talk about his game.

Rowland: He's a very good baseball player. He's very intelligent and has tools. He's a switch-hitter. He was better early from the right side but that started to shift the more he worked at the left side. They're about equal right now. He's got a little bit more power from the left side. While Park has the quickest feet, Garcia's got the easiest actions. He's got an above average arm and he does it like he's yawning. The ball comes out of his hand like silk. And he's got a really good body. He's wide shouldered, he's tapered. He's going to be big, he's going to be strong. I think he'll stay at shortstop. I obviously believe he will or we wouldn't have engaged him at that level we did. Having said that, if he does get a lot more physical he profiles at third or second as an offensive player at either or those positions. He's well schooled, he knows the game, he's bright, and continues to improve. Patrick we've been following these guys for a year or longer, most of them anyway. Wilkerman was an obvious guy to target on July 2nd from the first time I saw him.

PinstripesPlus.com: How is his power?

Rowland: A year ago it was fair and now it's getting to the point where he's leaving the yard in batting practice regularly. The ball is jumping now. When you first start scouting these kids these guys are 15. When I started doing International stuff -- I was a domestic scout -- it took me a good adjustment period to remember I was scouting guys who were sophomores in high school and I think that's something the readers need to understand; these guys are sophomores in high school. It would be like trying to ask Damon [Oppenheimer] who are the Top 50 sophomores in the United States right now.

PinstripesPlus.com: Garcia sounds a little Abiatal Avelino-like, no?

Rowland: Yeah you got it. I think you nailed that one right on the head. My report on Avelino in the first report I wrote on him was 'synergy'; the whole is greater than the sum of the parts. Now with [Jorge] Mateo it was 'holy cow tools'. The bottom line is I agree with you on that. That's a good call because Garcia is a 'synergy' type of analysis. Now I don't want to undersell Garcia's tools but at the same time I think you're right in your assessment.

PinstripesPlus.com: Let's move on to Diego Castillo, another shortstop. .

Rowland: For six months I've been calling him a young, Latin, Alan Trammell. You can ask John Kremer for the report. John by the way has been a God-send to me throughout all of this. I respect him so much. He's been such a great analyst and a great sounding board. He can tell you I've been calling this kid that for a long time now. I had an opportunity to play next to Trammell one year in Spring Training and he was my idol. This kid is not 6-foot-2, he's not 200 pounds but he's got internal clock, feel for the game, true shortstop. He's got above average hands. Park has the quickest feet but this kid's got the most efficient, accurate feet. His feet are never in the wrong spot. He's got very good hands. He can throw from multiple arm slots and the fun thing about him is you want him to show you a 40-arm he'll show you a 40-arm. You want him to show you a 60-arm? He'll show you a 60-arm. You want him to show you any arm in between and he'll show it. And when he throws it it will hit the guy in the nose from any slot at any velocity to the first baseman. He's still a baby. He's not as physical as [Wilkerman] Garcia, he's not as tall as Park, but this guy's got it going on. He's highly, highly, highly intelligent, mature beyond his years. Gordon Blakely was in Venezuela [Wednesday] when we were signing players. It took the cross-checkers a couple of times before they said 'we see what you're talking about'. Gordon told me [Wednesday] that Diego Castillo was mature way beyond his years. At the plate you can see the waggle in his bat, the looseness, the freedom, the feel, and he's got surprising raw power for a 5-foot-11, 155-pound kid.

PinstripesPlus.com: So it sounds like for him it's just improving his physical conditioning and power.

Rowland: They all do. When I signed Erick Aybar he was 138 pounds. When I signed [Alberto] Callaspo he was about 130 pounds. They all get stronger. He does need to get stronger. If somebody ranked him 24th [like I heard] they're out of their minds. We were in competition with Colorado on him and Rolando Fernandez over there is a pretty damn good scout over there and he said Diego Castillo is the best baseball player in this year's July 2nd market.

PinstripesPlus.com: Are there other signings that haven't been reported yet?

Rowland: There's a bunch more. We signed another one, Pablo Olivares, from Venezuela. He's another sleak, live-bodied centerfielder. He's an above average runner, an above average centerfielder, he's got great hands, great routes, the bat has really come on. He stays above the ball really, really well. He's gotten stronger. The stronger he gets the better the barrel action and the impact. There's another centerfielder from Venezuela named Raymundo Moreno; he's 6-foot-1, solid build, not as skinny as the others. He's a 6.65 runner, above average arm, and probably the best defensive centerfielder of all of them. In the last three months too he's been crushing balls. When we first started scouting him Patrick he could not go the other way and as time went on, and that's why we scout them multiple looks over a long period of time by multiple scouts -- he's crushing balls. He became a July 2nd target rather rapidly. He's a guy we really like. There's a shortstop, Danienger Perez. He's a 17-year old shortstop who was eligible last year. His body was frail and weak, and did not get signed. We signed him and now he might have the best hands of any shortstop we signed. The last time he ran for us he ran a 6.58-60. Offensively he's kind of similar to Thairo Estrada with not quite as much pop in the bat. But he's a pure shortstop who can run and shoots the ball all over the field.

PinstripesPlus.com: Let me ask you a general question -- obviously the big talk is about how you guys have decided to blow by your bonus pool allotment this year -- why this year? Was it because the market was deep, this year's class was that good, or was it because you're concerned about an impending worldwide draft coming down the road? Why organizationally have you decided this was the year to go out and get all of these guys?

Rowland: I think you should ask J.K. [John Kremer] that question too because he was a big part of this strategy as well -- yes, the talent available and the unknown of what's going to happen next with the draft. I can't speak for ownership but they obviously let us pursue this. Here's the bottom line -- some of these guys, Dermis Garcia, DeLeon, Amundaray, who we would not have been able to get if in the bonus pool scenario would certainly be Nelson Gomez, who we also would not have been able to get -- we wouldn't have a chance to sign one of these guys based on what our bonus pool is. If we're in the bottom eight of the bonus pool we can't sign any of those guys in any year. Well in this year we're able to get all of them. You're talking about six first round picks [essentially].

PinstripesPlus.com: The penalty for going over the allotment like this is next year you're not able to sign anybody for more than $300,000. Does your confidence in your organizational ability to find quality prospects for that price and under weigh in your decision as well to employ this year's strategy?

Rowland: We are. I can't guarantee that we can but we certainly think there's the possibility when you think about [Abiatal] Avelino was $300k, [Jorge] Mateo was $250k, [Luis] Severino was $225k, Domingo Acevedo was $7,500, Frank Frias was $7,500, Junior Valera was $7,500, Simon De La Rosa was $50,000, Angel Aguilar for $60 grand, Thairo Estrada was another one for $49 grand, so those players are out there. Right now everybody's talking about the big guys because they got paid big dollars. But there's other guys who are lower dollar guys who are also possibly becoming good prospects. I owe my scouts a hell of a lot of gratitude for their professionalism, their fearlessness, their dedication and sacrifice to the organization. These guys are warriors. I'm proud of what our scouts did.

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Pinstripes Plus Top Stories

\r\n \r\n\r\nPinstripesPlus.com: Let's just get your thoughts on each one of these signings so far, staring with Dominican infielder Nelson Gomez.
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\r\nDonny Rowland: He's a physical third baseman with hit first then power -- having said that he probably has the third best power in this International class. He stays in the middle of the field [when he hits] and his power is to every field basically. He's got an above average arm, excellent, excellent makeup. He's a great kid. Some of our guys thought he was the best player in the International market.
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\r\nPinstripesPlus.com: Obviously the reports talk about his big power -- how is his plate discipline?
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\r\nRowland: Very good for his age. He's one of the guys who consistently had quality at-bats in games and we put all of these guys through game at-bats -- we don't sign anyone out of a tryout formula. We run 50-60 game at-bats on anyone we give significant bonuses to Patrick and his game at-bats have been tremendous. He sees it early, he sees it late. He's still young and aggressive, and he'll chase every now and then, but in this market and this age group of players he's highly, highly advanced.
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\r\nPinstripesPlus.com: Now you said third base -- I've seen some reports list him as a shortstop.
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\r\nRowland: No they misprinted that then, he's a third baseman. He's a pure third baseman.
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\r\nPinstripesPlus.com: Let's move on to Dermis Garcia, is he a shortstop?
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\r\nRowland: He does have a chance to play what I call a 'power shortstop'. He wants to be a shortstop but he's probably going to slide to third base down the road. I've read some stuff he would go to right field but there's no chance of that happening, not that I can see Patrick. He's 6-foot-3, 195 pounds prototypical best body you could ever see with 70 raw power now, he's got a 70 arm now. This guy's a stud physically. His hands as an infielder are fine. I don't think we have one scout or one report -- now we've got like 30 reports on these high [dollar] guys -- I don't know that we have anybody at the very minimum, worst case playing third [base].
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\r\nPinstripesPlus.com: What about his approach?
\r\n
\r\nRowland: His power is extremely large for his age. It's equal or better than [Miguel] Sano or [Gary] Sanchez at the same age, probably a little better raw power. He's not as advanced a hitter as Gomez but he's got more power and he can mis-hit balls out to the biggest part of the fields.
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\r\nPinstripesPlus.com: Let's move on to outfielder Juan De Leon, talk about him a little bit.
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\r\nRowland: Let's talk about his tools first; he's a five-tool guy, no question. He's got the best bat speed in the class by far. He can really get it through the zone. He's got plus raw power and it's getting better by the day. He's grown another inch already. He can run, he can throw, he's a good defender, and he's got tremendous work ethic and makeup.
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\r\nPinstripesPlus.com: By your description he almost sounds like Leonardo Molina, especially makeup-wise, no?
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\r\nRowland: They're similar but he's not as good a runner; Molina's arm and speed are better. This guy's got way more raw power at the same age. Obviously makeup is huge to us and with what we know now of this [IFA] group we're very, very pleased. There's some more guys I'm sure you're going to ask me about who absolutely have tremendous makeup. Every kid is different and every makeup is different, some are good in some ways and some are good in different ways. Like Dermis [Garcia] is very tough on himself, he expects a lot of himself, and De Leon is much more gregarious. Everybody loves him; he's engaging, he's a hard worker, people attract to him.
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\r\nPinstripesPlus.com: What about Jonathan Amundary [pronounced A-moon-dure-rye]?
\r\n
\r\nRowland: Amunduray is a very physical, wide-shouldered, V-tapered body, just a real physical specimen. He's got plus raw power, plus arm, prototypical right fielder; the perfect right field profile. He has different kind of makeup. He's a very tough kid who comes from a tougher area, tougher background. Not bad, but tough from an area in Venezuela. He's going to be a horse. We've seen a 60 arm. The last few workouts and tryouts we've had with him he was showing easy, raw, plus power. It's kind of long, line-drive backspin power. [His approach] was fair early and it's been improving every month we've seen him. He's just really aggressive. This guy just turned 16 in May so nine months ago when we started scouting him he was very aggressive and chase a little bit because he wants to pound everything. Well over the course of a few months he's grown up a little bit, he's learned a little bit about hitting, and now his game at-bats are much better. I wouldn't call him a primo-strike zone discipline hitter now like some of the other guys but for his age he's certainly average if not a little bit better.
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\r\nPinstripesPlus.com: What about Antonio Arias?
\r\n
\r\nRowland: Very athletic. He has a sleak, streamlined centerfield body. He's certainly going to be an above average centerfielder, no question about it. He's got a near average arm now, he finds the barrel in his swing. He's a line-drive hitter right now and with his [plus speed] he can do some things. He's 6-foot-2, maybe a little bit better than 6-foot-2, and he just turned 16 in June so he's still a baby. Arias is very exciting. Obviously we like all of these guys quite a bit and we know there's attrition and not everyone is going to make it but he's a guy we like a lot. When you talk about a kid that age running 6.5's and can play the hell out of centerfield who can find the barrel -- back in November in Venezuela at the showcase he was 15 [years old] he was 2-3 with a double and a triple, and played the hell out of centerfield. And this kid's got a tireless, tireless, work ethic and that's part of the reason why he's so damn skinny, he just won't stop working.
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\r\nPinstripesPlus.com: Let's move on to Miguel Flames [pronounced flom-mas], what can you tell us about his game?
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\r\nRowland: Flames is a thicker body guy. Even though he's lost some weight he's a big catcher. He was a third baseman, a below average runner, but we liked his arm strength, we liked his actions, and we really liked his hit-ability. Our analysts, led by John Kremer who has been a tremendous help for me, when we had him working out they tracked every pitch and he had the best contact ratio, the deepest counts -- he had the best hit-ability of anyone we signed as far as strike zone discipline, contact ratio, all of that, according to our analysts who we do rely on even in this market.
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\r\nPinstripesPlus.com: The word is he has raw power, no?
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\r\nRowland: Yeah it's plus -- it's really big. He's new to catching. We're converting him and we believe it's going to work. In some workouts he's been throwing low 1.8's. Now blocking and so forth it's going to take some time, just like [Luis] Torrens. Now I'm not saying he's going to be as good as Torrens but when we signed Torrens as a conversion Patrick he had good hands but he couldn't block or anything like that, and now he's an advanced receiver for his age. Flames needs to work there and we know that. We're going to be patient. Everybody knows it going in. But what we're buying is a really, really tough kid with a plus arm, plus raw power, and the chance to be an offensive catcher with the tools we just talked about. Again, makeup off....the....charts!!! He's tough, tough, tough. The work ethic is tremendous.
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\r\nPinstripesPlus.com: By the physical description you've laid out -- the plus power, the plus arm strength, the thicker body -- he sounds almost Gary Sanchez-like, no?
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\r\nRowland: It's similar. He doesn't have quite as much pure arm as Gary or quite as much raw power as Gary when we signed him. You're right, perhaps a slightly lesser version of that.
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\r\nPinstripesPlus.com: Let's talk about the guy you're boarding a plane right now to go see -- Hyo-Jun Park -- talk about his game.
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\r\nRowland: Let me first say our scouts, each man did an unbelievable job over the course of the year, just a freakin' unbelievable job. I couldn't be more proud of the group. Their work ethic, dedication, they're sacrifice, my cross-checkers Dennis Woody, Gordon [Blakely], and now Steve Wilson, who is much more of an expert in Asia than I am. He alerted me to Park when we hired him and I've been watching Park since January and Steve's been on him for a long time. Not many people know a lot about Park and this guy is really, really exciting. He's a 6-foot-2 shortstop who hits from the left side with very athletic, electric actions -- the quickest feet of any shortstop in this year's market. He's got sound hands, good hands, he's an above to well above average runner, he's got surprising power, and he's got a really good swing. He was one of my favorites going into this and somebody we really, really were hoping we could come to terms with yesterday morning. Steve was in Korea and able to make it happen, and we're thrilled. This guy is really interesting, really, really interesting. He could be a five-tool shortstop. If his power comes to 15 [home runs] a year, he could be -- I don't want to overstate anything -- a five-tool shortstop.
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\r\nPinstripesPlus.com: Let's talk about another shortstop -- Wilkerman Garcia. Talk about his game.
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\r\nRowland: He's a very good baseball player. He's very intelligent and has tools. He's a switch-hitter. He was better early from the right side but that started to shift the more he worked at the left side. They're about equal right now. He's got a little bit more power from the left side. While Park has the quickest feet, Garcia's got the easiest actions. He's got an above average arm and he does it like he's yawning. The ball comes out of his hand like silk. And he's got a really good body. He's wide shouldered, he's tapered. He's going to be big, he's going to be strong. I think he'll stay at shortstop. I obviously believe he will or we wouldn't have engaged him at that level we did. Having said that, if he does get a lot more physical he profiles at third or second as an offensive player at either or those positions. He's well schooled, he knows the game, he's bright, and continues to improve. Patrick we've been following these guys for a year or longer, most of them anyway. Wilkerman was an obvious guy to target on July 2nd from the first time I saw him.
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\r\nPinstripesPlus.com: How is his power?
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\r\nRowland: A year ago it was fair and now it's getting to the point where he's leaving the yard in batting practice regularly. The ball is jumping now. When you first start scouting these kids these guys are 15. When I started doing International stuff -- I was a domestic scout -- it took me a good adjustment period to remember I was scouting guys who were sophomores in high school and I think that's something the readers need to understand; these guys are sophomores in high school. It would be like trying to ask Damon [Oppenheimer] who are the Top 50 sophomores in the United States right now.
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\r\nPinstripesPlus.com: Garcia sounds a little Abiatal Avelino-like, no?
\r\n
\r\nRowland: Yeah you got it. I think you nailed that one right on the head. My report on Avelino in the first report I wrote on him was 'synergy'; the whole is greater than the sum of the parts. Now with [Jorge] Mateo it was 'holy cow tools'. The bottom line is I agree with you on that. That's a good call because Garcia is a 'synergy' type of analysis. Now I don't want to undersell Garcia's tools but at the same time I think you're right in your assessment.
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\r\nPinstripesPlus.com: Let's move on to Diego Castillo, another shortstop. .
\r\n
\r\nRowland: For six months I've been calling him a young, Latin, Alan Trammell. You can ask John Kremer for the report. John by the way has been a God-send to me throughout all of this. I respect him so much. He's been such a great analyst and a great sounding board. He can tell you I've been calling this kid that for a long time now. I had an opportunity to play next to Trammell one year in Spring Training and he was my idol. This kid is not 6-foot-2, he's not 200 pounds but he's got internal clock, feel for the game, true shortstop. He's got above average hands. Park has the quickest feet but this kid's got the most efficient, accurate feet. His feet are never in the wrong spot. He's got very good hands. He can throw from multiple arm slots and the fun thing about him is you want him to show you a 40-arm he'll show you a 40-arm. You want him to show you a 60-arm? He'll show you a 60-arm. You want him to show you any arm in between and he'll show it. And when he throws it it will hit the guy in the nose from any slot at any velocity to the first baseman. He's still a baby. He's not as physical as [Wilkerman] Garcia, he's not as tall as Park, but this guy's got it going on. He's highly, highly, highly intelligent, mature beyond his years. Gordon Blakely was in Venezuela [Wednesday] when we were signing players. It took the cross-checkers a couple of times before they said 'we see what you're talking about'. Gordon told me [Wednesday] that Diego Castillo was mature way beyond his years. At the plate you can see the waggle in his bat, the looseness, the freedom, the feel, and he's got surprising raw power for a 5-foot-11, 155-pound kid.
\r\n
\r\nPinstripesPlus.com: So it sounds like for him it's just improving his physical conditioning and power.
\r\n
\r\nRowland: They all do. When I signed Erick Aybar he was 138 pounds. When I signed [Alberto] Callaspo he was about 130 pounds. They all get stronger. He does need to get stronger. If somebody ranked him 24th [like I heard] they're out of their minds. We were in competition with Colorado on him and Rolando Fernandez over there is a pretty damn good scout over there and he said Diego Castillo is the best baseball player in this year's July 2nd market.
\r\n
\r\nPinstripesPlus.com: Are there other signings that haven't been reported yet?
\r\n
\r\nRowland: There's a bunch more. We signed another one, Pablo Olivares, from Venezuela. He's another sleak, live-bodied centerfielder. He's an above average runner, an above average centerfielder, he's got great hands, great routes, the bat has really come on. He stays above the ball really, really well. He's gotten stronger. The stronger he gets the better the barrel action and the impact. There's another centerfielder from Venezuela named Raymundo Moreno; he's 6-foot-1, solid build, not as skinny as the others. He's a 6.65 runner, above average arm, and probably the best defensive centerfielder of all of them. In the last three months too he's been crushing balls. When we first started scouting him Patrick he could not go the other way and as time went on, and that's why we scout them multiple looks over a long period of time by multiple scouts -- he's crushing balls. He became a July 2nd target rather rapidly. He's a guy we really like. There's a shortstop, Danienger Perez. He's a 17-year old shortstop who was eligible last year. His body was frail and weak, and did not get signed. We signed him and now he might have the best hands of any shortstop we signed. The last time he ran for us he ran a 6.58-60. Offensively he's kind of similar to Thairo Estrada with not quite as much pop in the bat. But he's a pure shortstop who can run and shoots the ball all over the field.
\r\n
\r\nPinstripesPlus.com: Let me ask you a general question -- obviously the big talk is about how you guys have decided to blow by your bonus pool allotment this year -- why this year? Was it because the market was deep, this year's class was that good, or was it because you're concerned about an impending worldwide draft coming down the road? Why organizationally have you decided this was the year to go out and get all of these guys?
\r\n
\r\nRowland: I think you should ask J.K. [John Kremer] that question too because he was a big part of this strategy as well -- yes, the talent available and the unknown of what's going to happen next with the draft. I can't speak for ownership but they obviously let us pursue this. Here's the bottom line -- some of these guys, Dermis Garcia, DeLeon, Amundaray, who we would not have been able to get if in the bonus pool scenario would certainly be Nelson Gomez, who we also would not have been able to get -- we wouldn't have a chance to sign one of these guys based on what our bonus pool is. If we're in the bottom eight of the bonus pool we can't sign any of those guys in any year. Well in this year we're able to get all of them. You're talking about six first round picks [essentially].
\r\n
\r\nPinstripesPlus.com: The penalty for going over the allotment like this is next year you're not able to sign anybody for more than $300,000. Does your confidence in your organizational ability to find quality prospects for that price and under weigh in your decision as well to employ this year's strategy?
\r\n
\r\nRowland: We are. I can't guarantee that we can but we certainly think there's the possibility when you think about [Abiatal] Avelino was $300k, [Jorge] Mateo was $250k, [Luis] Severino was $225k, Domingo Acevedo was $7,500, Frank Frias was $7,500, Junior Valera was $7,500, Simon De La Rosa was $50,000, Angel Aguilar for $60 grand, Thairo Estrada was another one for $49 grand, so those players are out there. Right now everybody's talking about the big guys because they got paid big dollars. But there's other guys who are lower dollar guys who are also possibly becoming good prospects. I owe my scouts a hell of a lot of gratitude for their professionalism, their fearlessness, their dedication and sacrifice to the organization. These guys are warriors. I'm proud of what our scouts did.
\r\n
\r\n

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