Patrick Teale

We sat down with Yankees field coordinator Jody Reed for a Q&A session about the upper-level position prosepcts.

We sat down with Yankees' minor league field coordinator Jody Reed for a bonus Q&A session to discuss the upper-level position prospects. We get his take on the rumors of Rob Refsnyder and his defensive progress, how much has Gary Sanchez progressed, to get his thoughts on development of Miguel Andujar and Jake Cave, if he's concerned with Aaron Judge's struggles in Triple-A, and much, much more!.

PinstripesPlus.com: Let's talk about third basemen Miguel Andujar.  I thought he was going to be one of, if not "the breakout" candidate this year.  I know he had a solid season overall but it wasn't the breakout season I or many had expected from him.  It seems there's more ceiling left in his game.  What did you see from him progress-wise this season?

Reed: Sure there is some ceiling left in his game.  You're talking about a 20-year old playing two maybe three years above his level.  We still like 'Miggy' a lot and there's still a lot of ceiling and upside left in there.  At this point in his career you just work on the objectives and you get games under his belt because ultimately the best developer is the game itself. 

PinstripesPlus.com: You mentioned his objectives.  What is his biggest objective?  Is it using the whole field more?  Is it something defensively?  What's the biggest thing he needs to do to make that next step in his development?

Reed: All around.  You can even go to his base running.  When you're 20 years old you're probably not even to the point where you have [just] a few polishing objectives left.  You need your overall game development.  I don't know too many 20-year olds, if any, that you can say 'if we polish this up then he's ready'.  There's a lot of game for him to address; he's 20. 

PinstripesPlus.com: Final question on him then -- would you consider him to be one of the top breakout candidates for 2016?

Reed: Possibly, yeah.  He's got the tools and he's got the talent.  He's got a good head on his shoulders and got a good feel for the game.  So yeah, possibly.

PinstripesPlus.com: Moving on to Dustin Fowler, he did have a breakout season this year.  What did you see from him development-wise?  Where did he improve the most?

Reed: Dusty might have been one of the single biggest guys to take the biggest steps forward in all phases of his game.  He's one of those guys that needed games.  He needed game experience.  He's very smart and you learn going through those game situations.  He's probably be in the top three of guys that took steps forward in overall game improvement in all phases.

PinstripesPlus.com: When I spoke to him before the season began he mentioned not being as aggressive at the plate, that he wanted to sit on his pitches more and be more patient.  Did you see steps in that direction, being a more patient hitter at the plate?

Reed: Well yes but again that's part of the development.  You want aggressive hitters but you want them aggressive to their pitch.  That's all part of an at-bat plan and gaining maturity as a young hitter.  It may be the first pitch or maybe the fifth pitch, but you hone in on your pitch and you don't miss it.  Patient, yeah, but that's patient to your pitch and I think he did get much better in that regard. 

PinstripesPlus.com: Last question on Fowler -- how is he looking defensively in centerfield in particular?

Reed: Very good. 

PinstripesPlus.com: Is he a guy you're looking at potentially penciling in for centerfield long-term?

Reed: He's looking like we can if not already.  He made real good strides there.  He's actually out in Arizona right now playing well.  It's hard for him because he's actually on a limited playing schedule so he probably gets maybe two or three games a week but he's handling it very well. 

PinstripesPlus.com: We touched base on shortstop Tyler Wade and playing some second base too during our last interview on Instructional League.  Talk about him as a leader though and his progress offensively. 

Reed: Well he's definitely a leader.  He's got that type of personality and confidence to take on that role.  That's something we certainly expect him to do no matter what level he's at.  As far as his hitting that's one of the reasons we wanted him to go out there [to the Arizona Fall League].  He got some exposure in Double-A and for the most part I'd say the Arizona Fall League you've got mostly Double-A and even some Triple-A guys out there, and obviously some younger guys, but for the most part it's fairly comparable to a Double-A level.  We wanted him to go out there and get some more at-bats before next season and kind of hammer home those things that he needs to work on so he can hit the ground running when he comes to Spring Training next year.

PinstripesPlus.com: Let's talk about Eric Jagielo.  I know he was supposed to go out to the Arizona Fall League.  He seemed to be one of the top offensive guys before he got hurt this year. 

Reed: He is still one of the top guys.  Just because he got hurt doesn't take him out of that class.  He had a really good year.  He showed, we felt, that he could hit for power and average.  It's unfortunate that he got hurt but he got through it fine and should be 100 percent moving into Spring Training and pick up where he left off. He's a very intelligent young player.  He has a good feel for the game so whenever you have guys like that they can really make up for lost time.  When they have a good feel for the game even when they're not performing [due to injury] they're still absorbing things.  I'm sure that's what he was doing and he'll be ready go go.

PinstripesPlus.com: I don't think too many baseball people in the know had too many questions about his bat though.  Defensively though what kind of progress have you seen from him?

Reed: Significant progress.  Is there room to improve?  Sure.  You can say that your entire career though.  If you're not always striving to improve then you've got to question yourself.  Yeah there's some things that he needs to work on; consistency and stuff like that but you can say that across the board for every young player for the most part.

PinstripesPlus.com: Where did he improve the most?  His range?  His throws?  Where did you see the most progress?

Reed: I would say that exactly.  He improved his range, he worked on his ready position, his reaction off the ball.  His throwing accuracy, he found a nice slot that he works out of so that improved.  But again those are things that you want to continue to get better.  He knows what he's working on and again, as each game goes by he should get better. 

PinstripesPlus.com: Sticking with the upper-level guys, Jake Cave, just as I thought with Andujar, was primed to break out this season.  That never really materialized.  That's not to say he had a bad season though.  But where do you think he needs to improve the most to make that next step?

Reed: You're talking about a young player but he's probably to the point where he's entering that polishing phase of the game where you're addressing some specific things that will probably land him in the big leagues if he can accomplish it. 

PinstripesPlus.com: Moving on to Aaron Judge, he obviously had a big year in Double-A and then struggled a little bit in Triple-A.  Was it more about him getting his feet wet in Triple-A this year and then expecting more from him this coming season?

Reed: When you go from Double-A to Triple-A you're talking about guys that pitch differently.  Those guys in Triple-A are readying themselves for the big leagues.  They're learning to throw breaking balls earlier in the count, mixing up good offspeed with their fastballs, they're really sequencing differently than they do in Double-A.  I think there's an adjustment period.  When you're down in A-ball and Double-A guys are for the most part establishing fastball command and working on their mechanics.  Then when you get to Triple-A those guys are probably pretty solid with their mechanics and now are working on their sequencing, and how to set up hitters and get to their pitches.  And as a hitter that's an adjustment for you too.  The same way that pitchers at that level are learning how to get Major League hitters out well guess what, hitters at that level are learning how pitchers are going to pitch to them. 

PinstripesPlus.com: Do you have any concerns about Judge making that adjustment?

Reed: None whatsoever. 

PinstripesPlus.com: Well let's move to Tyler Austin because he hasn't made that adjustment yet.  I know he dealt with that wrist injury for a while but it seemed he turned a corner in that regard late in 2014.  He didn't have a great season this year though.  What's the biggest that he needs to do?  Is it just getting that confidence back?

Reed: Well that's part of it.  I think we've addressed some things in his swing that we feel will give him a better opportunity to be successful.  We brought him into Instructional League to kind of introduce those [changes] to him and he's out in the Arizona Fall League as we speak right now to kind of implement those things into the game, and he's having pretty good success right now.  I think it's a matter of him going out to the Fall League, establishing those adjustments in his swing, and building confidence in them going into next year. 

PinstripesPlus.com: Is it just changes in his swing or are there changes in his approach too?  Did he get a little pull-happy up in Triple-A this year?

Reed: I would say it's both.  There's some approach philosophies that even he has mentioned to me that he got caught up in as well as some technique stuff. 

PinstripesPlus.com: Well he was once one of the top prospects.  Do you believe he can be one of those top guys again at some point?  Let's face it, some fans get some prospect fatigue with certain guys after hearing about a player for a number of years and he's still not there yet, and begin to write them off.  Do you think he can be a top guy once again?

Reed: I'll tell you what, those are a few words that I rarely if ever use and that's 'write guys off' because I've seen things happen.  Sometimes it just clicks overnight and then the guy takes off, and never looks back.  Writing guys off is something that I and player development never really do.  It's not really ever a thought.  So yeah, he can certainly be one of the top guys again.  He certainly has the talent to do so, he just needs to make some adjustments.

PinstripesPlus.com: I think it's a great point because the next guy I want to talk about, Mason Williams, was pretty much written off by the fans and media entering the season this year and turned around to have a great season before getting hurt.  What adjustment did you see him make this year?

Reed: I think Mason learned how to fight.  He had a tough year a year ago and like you said people had started to write him off.  He had a tough year and he learned how to fight in 2014, and that goes a long way in developing a young player.  You're going to have to learn how to fight if you're going to survive in the big leagues, and he learned that.  He took that into 2015 and he had a strong year until of course he got hurt.  That helped push him up to the big leagues and allowed him to contribute at the big league level. 

PinstripesPlus.com: Health-wise you expect Williams to be ready to go for Spring Training?

Reed: Yeah, if not shortly thereafter.  He's progressing well at the [minor league] complex in his rehab.  The exact timeline I don't know but it should be pretty quick.

PinstripesPlus.com: Well the same question with Slade Heathcott.  Like Williams all of the fans and media had written him off too, and like Williams he had a tremendous season before getting hurt again.  You talked about fighting -- Heathcott has had to fight his way through multiple injuries.  What did you see from Heathcott in his return before he got hurt?  He seemed to become that impact player that you guys had been anticipating for a while.

Reed: He's always been a very tooled-up player and when he's on the field he always seems to produce.  He's a good player.  I think the single biggest thing is keeping Slade on the field so that he can be productive because he is very talented. 

PinstripesPlus.com: I want to ask about Rob Refsnyder because there were all of these reports about him not being a great teammate and not being a great worker, and perhaps having a sense of entitlement.  None of that jived with me after dealing with him over the years and watching him.  Do you have any concerns with his work ethic and his ability to interact with his teammates at all?

Reed: No, no, no.  No chance.  He's one of the hardest workers I know and as far as getting along with his teammates, those guys are to play baseball and win baseball games.

PinstripesPlus.com: I know it was somewhat of a down year for him offensively even though I thought he still had a very solid season but it's on the defensive side of the ball where many pundits question his defensive progress.  What have you seen from him defensively?  You're a former big league middle infielder.  Where is he defensively?  Can he be a viable defensive option for the Yankees at second base?

Reed: He can be a reliable option if not a plus defender.  He certainly can be reliable and play defense at the Major League level which affords you to have his plus bat in the lineup.  I think he certainly has worked hard enough and developed into the type of defender that you can at least trust when he's out there. 

PinstripesPlus.com: Gary Sanchez is another guy who in my opinion has had his defensive abillities much maligned over the years and again, in my opinion, very underrated defensively.  Everyone looks at the offensive numbers and see he can hit but there's always been these rumors that he personally didn't want to catch, that he wasn't that good behind the plate, and I've never seen any evidence of that.  Talk about him specifically on the defensive side of the ball.  Is he a good defender in your opinion and how much better can he be?

Reed: The answer is yes he's a good defender and as far as how much better can he be that's up to him.  I don't want to say he's turned the corner but he wants to be in the big leagues and shows up every day with that agenda.  Gary Sanchez might be the player who made the biggest strides in making that push to the big leagues.  This kid, everything got better; work ethic, relationships with pitchers, hitting, defensive, framing, everything across the board.  I can't remember seeing anybody make strides in as many areas as Gary Sanchez has and we're not talking about a month or two months, we're talking about for a full year and he's even carrying it into the Arizona Fall League.  Obviously we're extremely excited with Gary is doing and he should be too because it's good stuff.


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