PinstripesPlus.com: Before I start asking about individual players let's start with just a general question -- who for you stood out at Instructs this year?
Jody Reed: Overall we had a fairly young group. I would say some of the guys I felt stuck out; Chance Adams threw the ball pretty well. [James] Kaprielian threw the ball very well. I thought Wilkerman Garcia really impressed. Chris Gittens swung the bat extremely well. The new kid, [Estevan] Florial, coming over showed a lot of tools. It was a really good Instructional League. There were a lot of good players there, young players, that we feel good about moving forward. The clay, if you will, is really good with what we have to work with.
PinstripesPlus.com: You mentioned Wilkerman Garcia and I'll get to Florial too because those two guys are the constant names that keep coming up in my various talks with scouts who were down there, especially Garcia. Talk about what you've seen from Wilkerman. What about his game stood out for you?
Reed: The completeness. Here we are talking about a 17-year old and we're talking about a complete game. It's like, seriously? The feel that he has out on defense, the mentality, the calmness, the internal clock, the feel for the game, at the plate, the maturity to really understand his swing, the game and what the situations call for and how to execute them, this kid is fun to watch and he's only 17 [years old]. There were really big strides I felt for Wilkerman, not just in Instructional League but really throughout the year because he really displayed those things throughout the year. We're just really excited about him.
PinstripesPlus.com: I think a lot of people are excited about and rightfully so, and I agree with you about his overall demeanor and approach. I think, however, what gets lost in all of that are his tools. He doesn't seem to just be a guy who does things the right way or just slow the game down, this is a kid with some serious tools. He doesn't have the eye-popping numbers and therefore I think his tools get underrated. Do you feel his tools are underrated just going by the numbers?
Reed: I do. Everything he does is above average but remember he's 17. This is a kid. Is the power there? No but he's 17. You don't get your man power until you're what, 22 or 23? That's something that you look at down the road. I think that reflection will be what this kid can really do when he gets that body, that strength, that total development and putting it all together. At this young age just knowing that his body isn't developed and he's probably still growing into his body as far as coordination, and yet watching him play and going 'wow, this kid is playing beyond his years', well beyond his years.
PinstripesPlus.com: The way you describe him and his ability to slow the game down is the exact way I felt about Abiatal Avelino when he first came States-side, at least defensively. Is that a fair comp feel-wise, at least defensively?
Reed: You have to remember I wasn't back with the Yankees at that time so I wouldn't be qualified to answer that one but yes they both have a very good feel for that game clock, that situational timing out on the field and that's what you look for not just in young players but in any player. Do they have a feel? Does their mind work out there? Does their brain work out there, especially in the infield? You've got to have a special feel for that.
PinstripesPlus.com: Let's move on to Estevan Florial because, like with you, his is a name that popped a lot when asking scouts about who stood out there down at Instructs. Talk about about you saw down there from Florial in camp.
Reed: Again we have to quantify by saying this is a very young player and he doesn't yet have what we've termed 'man strength'. He's a kid who is still growing but you could see the potential for this kid to have numerous well above average tools. At a young age he's hitting for power, he's got a strong arm, he runs well, he seems to hit for average of course in a limited sample size. This kid has the chance to be a special player because he has the tools to do it.
PinstripesPlus.com: Does he has that feel for the game that you talked about with Wilkerman Garcia? Some guys have the great tools when they initially come up. You mentioned not being back with the Yankees all that long but somebody like Ravel Santana came up with the great tools and I know his injury had a lot to do with his derailment so to speak but does Florial have the advanced feel for the game and for hitting to go with the great tools?
Reed: Oh yeah. Yeah, yeah. yeah. Estevan is very sharp. He speaks three languages so he's a very sharp young man, a student of the game. He just wants to learn and ask questions. That's one of the things about Instructional Leauge that I was impressed with, his desire to just to want to learn the game. He was asking questions. He wanted to know the ins and outs of the game. Of course that is one of of our overall objectives of the camp, we want to have smart baseball players and he really took to it. He really said 'you know what? I really want to be a student of the game'. And it was really fun to interact with him, have conversations with him, and teach the kid.
PinstripesPlus.com: We're talking about these extremely young kids impressing and we haven't even started talking about Jorge Mateo yet, and he had a very good season this year. In your opinion is he making the kind of progress you want to see from him? Is he making the steps forward that you want to see from him?
Reed: Oh yeah. He's an electric palyer. He probably played a good two or three years under the league average and didn't seem to be over-matched at all. If anything he excelled. He stole [a ton of] bases and obviously he's maximizing his speed tool. Again though, one of the things you look at is the feel. Does his mind work out there? We're talking about players in the middle of the infield because there's a lot going on and you have to be able to absorb and then execute. They have to be able to take things in and slow the game down, and he showed a real good feel for that as well as well above average athleticism. This kid is electric and that means offensively, defensively, on the bases, this kid has the chance to beat you numerous ways.
PinstripesPlus.com: As good a year as he had I've opined publically that he still has a lot left in the tank hitting-wise and power-wise. I don't know that we've seen the best of Mateo. Do you feel that way?
Reed: Oh yeah, absolutely. No this kid is just growing, he's just starting out. It takes a long time to make a Major League player; a lot of patience, a lot of trial and error, and ups and downs. His journey has just begun but like you said there's some good stuff in there. You mentioned it, there is some surprising pop in that bat he has. I think that's going to be a part of his game when it's finally said and done, a big part of it. I think this kid's got to chance to hit for some solid power numbers.
PinstripesPlus.com: When you and I spoke before the season began and we talked about all of the shortstops you guys had in the farm system, and how you were going to get all of these guys playing time, it seemed inevitable some were going to have to play other positions. Avelino played some second and third, Aguilar played some second and third, Estrada played some second base, etc., and yet Mateo was the one guy who remained at shortstop all season long. Witih the success Didi Gregorius has had at the big league level are you guys now more open-minded to playing Mateo at some other spots as a way to maybe get him more into the lineup potentially down the road? Or in your mind is he strictly a shortstop going forward?
Reed: You're right, we have a number of very, very good talented young shortstops and they are shortstops. One of the things we needed to try to do was find them all at-bats. Obviously there's 'x' amount of positions and 'x' amount of at-bats so when we have those players who outnumber those positions you have to find them opportunities and that's really why we expanded some of their positions, strictly to find some at-bats. Now moving forward I'll tell you this, I think it's a good thing especially for middle infielders. I love the fact whether your're a shortstop or second baseman that you possess the ability and have the knowledge and the skillset to play both positions. I think that versatility is great for anybody up the middle. That's one of our goals, that our middle infielders have the versatility to play on both sides of the bag. I think it's important, especially with the athleticism we have there right now. With Georgie, we wanted to just keep him at shortstop and didn't really feel the need to introduce second base to him at this time. Down the road? Who knows. Possibly. Like you said, Didi had a heck of a year and we're talking about a young player so who knows how long he's going to be there. And if so, we have some excellent athletic young middle infielders that come up and compliment him, and we could have a nice combo there for a long time. You just kind of see how it plays out. You prepare them for whatever comes down the road, that's all you can do.
PinstripesPlus.com: We're talking about players increasing their versatility by playing other positions, we talked about Abiatal Avelino earlier. He played shortstop, second base, and third base. We know he has the arm strength to play them all. What did you like out of Avelino this year? Did he have the kind of year that you were expecting from him?
Reed: I did. Here's the thing; each season these kids are growing up. He got the opportunity to shift experiences and got to understand what it's going to take to not only get to the big leagues but to stay there. These kids are so hungry and they're like little sponges, and they absorb everything. They're really, really good young men. That's why it's fun and exciting. They're battling each other and they understand that we have a group of shortstops and we need to compete and see what happens here. They do, they feed off of each other which is not a bad thing. Competition is a good thing and we've created this internal competition simply because we have so many good young middle infielders and they're hungry. And they're all rising to the challenge and it's really, really, really fun to watch. I absolutely liked what I saw from [Avelino] progress-wise. You look at his offensive numbers -- and he had a great year defensively and I still consider him a shortstop -- you look at his last two months offensively and it really started to click for him. Going into 2016 he's one of the guys I'm really interested in seeing where is really at. He might be ready for the next level. He's 20 [years old] and he's one of the guys I really want to keep an eye on. If he's ready why can't he go? All we do is sit back and tell them 'you guys let us know when you're ready, we're not going to hold you back'. You tell us.
PinstripesPlus.com: What was Avelino at Instructs to work on? I know he's a big-time ground ball hitter. Was he there to work on his swing to generate a little more loft?
Reed: Yeah that was the main thing, come down, work on a couple of things and tweak a couple of things moving into next year just to complete the package. These guys are so young. I mean Avelino is 20. What is that, a sophomore in college? They're so young. I know a lot of times these guys seem like they've been in the organization a long time but when you put things in perspective they're just starting out acquiring the information package. Anytime we get an opportunity to put them in programs or anything that can benefit them, why not, bring them down. It was a great atmosphere, we had a great group of instructors, experienced players, just an atmosphere of learning and he was one of the players we wanted to be in that situation and in that group.
PinstripesPlus.com: You're excited to see what Avelino is going to do next year and so am I but I'm also very excited to see what Thairo Estrada is going to do because I thought he had a tremendous season. Where have you seen the most progress from him?
Reed: He's a baseball player. You love Thairo Estrada, he's a baseball player. He's a gamer. He loves to go out on the field and play the game, he's smart, he's intelligent, he'll do whatever it takes for the team to win a baseball game. I don't know what else you say other than you want these guys playing for you. You want them on your team. A lot of people like Thairo and for one am in that group too, and I don't know how [anyone] couldn't like him. I don't discredit him as a shortstop. I consider him a shortstop. Again, all of these kids are so young we just need to let it play out. Just because they're playing different positions doesn't mean they can't play shortstop. In my mind they're all shortstops. Until you get further down the road and in the maturation process you're a shortstop. Now he might have played more second base out of necessity to get the at-bats but that doesn't mean you're still not a shortstop.