Q&A with Travis Chapman - Part Two

We sat down with Gulf Coast League Yankees1 Manager Travis Chapman for a Q&A session. In part two of this two-part series we concentrate on the pitchers, including his thoughts on Austin DeCarr and if there are comparisons to Ian Clarkin, his impressions of Simon De La Rosa, what he saw from Ty Hensley in his comeback bid, how Orby Tavares looked, and much, much more.

PinstripesPlus.com: Let's move on to the pitchers and let's start with the top pick you had from this year's draft, right-hander Austin DeCarr. What were your initial impressions from his debut season?

Chapman: Killer work ethic, a guy who wanted to go out there and compete every fifth day, and a guy who was willing to do whatever it takes to become a very good pitcher. Stuff-wise I saw a low to mid-90s fastball and the breaking ball was a plus breaking ball. We challenged him this year to work and get better with the changeup as well, and he took it all in stride. He's just a hard worker but really wants to be [great], and willing to put in the hard work to be a very good pitcher.

PinstripesPlus.com: I know there's a difference in their handed-ness, but he reminds me a bit of Ian Clarkin in that he does pretty much everything well -- good stuff, good control and command for his age, high makeup, has the look of potentially being durable, real coachable, etc. Do you see those similarities?

Chapman: Yes and no. I actually had Clarkin on the USA National team as well. Stuff-wise I'd say they're fairly comparable. Clarkin had a better changeup coming in [to the pros] but both of then had the big 12 to 6 hard breaking ball and both of them are bulldogs on the mound. They want the ball in their hand in the big game.

PinstripesPlus.com: Chris Cabrera was once a very young promising pitching prospect but had that terrible surgery a few years ago and only now has gotten into the States. The ERA was good this year. What did you see from him stuff-wise?

Chapman: I saw a fastball that played up. He's continuing to work on offspeed and breaking pitches and we're challenging him to compete in the zone, but having said that he found a way to get the job done and really have a nice year.

PinstripesPlus.com: What's the biggest thing he needs? He used to have a nice breaking ball at one time.

Chapman: Yeah it's alright but he needs to compete in the strike zone, that would be the biggest thing. He had a nice year though and showed progress as the year went on.

PinstripesPlus.com: Let's talk about Simon De La Rosa. Thoughts on him?

Chapman: Simon is nasty. He actually pitched on the other team but we faced him a couple of times and he was always a challenge. He pitched within the zone, had some movement on his fastball, and really competed on both sides of the strike zone with his fastball and kept hitters off-balance with his offspeed pitches.

PinstripesPlus.com: Is the changeup the big thing he needs right now?

Chapman: He just needs to keep getting a little bit better day in and day out. I know that Jose Rosado worked really hard with him and I know Simon is a sponge which is going to help him out tremendously. He got better from day one in Extended all throughout the season.

PinstripesPlus.com: I know he eventually moved up to Staten Island but you got to see Ty Hensley this year in his latest comeback bid. What were your thoughts on him?

Chapman: I saw he wanted to be on that mound. When he reached his pitch count I had to go get him and he didn't like it. He truly competed every single pitch out there and being a little rusty he was getting used to it again, and you could see him get frustrated when he didn't hit his spots. He was a perfectionist out there and I think that's a wonderful trait that he possesses.

PinstripesPlus.com: Obviously he needs innings and inexperience but aside from that what's the biggest thing he needs going forward?

Chapman: For me obviously the experience is huge but [more so] the confidence that goes with that, that his pitches are that good, that his fastball is good, his curveball is good, the trust in his body that he can go out there and pitch day in and day out, and be a complete force for a full season.

PinstripesPlus.com: A guy who gets a little lost in the shuffle behind De La Rosa and Domingo Acevedo is Juan Jimenez who, in his own right, has some quality stuff. Talk about where his game is right now.

Chapman: He's got a very nice sinker and commands both sides of the plate, especially on the arm side. He'll go out there and get a ton of ground balls and our infielders, man they love playing behind him. We're looking to continue to seeing how he progresses.

PinstripesPlus.com: What about his secondary pitches?

Chapman: He's got a little slider which is nice and the changeup is coming along real nice. And again, with these young pitchers it's getting the repetitions and getting the confidence to throw those pitches in the counts they need to.

PinstripesPlus.com: Let's move on to Hayden Sharp. He had a lot of upside before he retired. What did you see from him after he came back?

Chapman: Man I saw a guy who wanted to be out there. I saw a guy who was the first pitcher out there every day and the last one to leave. He obviously has a lot of natural talent. Being off for a little while he was trying to get back into the swing of things and he's a guy that has a chance to be very good with his fastball playing up and with his extension. He's got the chance to be a very good pitcher.

PinstripesPlus.com: Let's talk about Orby Tavares, a big left-hander. What were your initial impressions?

Chapman: Orby is a young pitcher that's coming out and competing. He has a wonderful fastball with movement and a changeup that comes from the same arm slot and has huge deception. We see a lot of poor swings against his changeup, particularly when he's commanding his fastball. I saw a kid that needs to go out there and continue to pitch, and continue to learn to command the strike zone with his fastball and changeup, and with his little slider and curveball.

PinstripesPlus.com: I was going to ask you, is that the big thing he needs right now, improving his breaking ball?

Chapman: He has a little cutter. He was messing around with a cut-fastball and a breaking pitch, but really commanding the strike zone is something he worked real hard on and got better with as the year went on.

PinstripesPlus.com: Of the pitchers we haven't talked about yet, is there a pitcher we should maybe keep an eye on as a potential 'sleeper', somebody like Deshorn Lake or Jonny Drozd perhaps?

Chapman: Drozd closed for us and he had a nice year. He pitches with the fastball, has fastball command, has a plus changeup, and a curveball he can throw whenever he wants. Deshorn Lake was somebody who was, wow, I want to say he was up the the 97-98 mph range in the playoff game pretty easily. He has an easy fastball. He has the chance to be a very good player.

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