PinstripesPlus.com: I mentioned earlier that a year ago that Mateo was the guy most talked about heading into Spring Training camp. If it wasn't Mateo it was Estevan Florial [in the photo above] as the other hot name people talked about. He had a pretty good year last season power-wise and speed-wise but the average was down. I know he's a high makeup guy too. Are you encouraged by the way he looked towards the end, into the offseason, and now heading into Spring Training camp?
Jody Reed: Outstanding! You hit the nail on the head, he's a high makeup kid who's motivated and knows what he wants. You almost hate saying it but he's quickly developed that reputation where it's now expected. It's Estevan. He's going to come everyday and work hard, play hard, and do whatever it takes....
PinstripesPlus.com: [Interrupted Jody].....with a smile on his face too!
Reed: Always! He loves to play the game and put on the uniform, and go out and work. He showed up [this year to camp] the same way and he's been working hard ever since he got here. So yeah, of course he looks in great shape. He's another young talent where you love going to the affiliate and love watching him play baseball.
PinstripesPlus.com: I asked you earlier about who has reported to camp in great shape. I ask that question with Trey Amburgey in mind because last year he was the 'offseason winner' in my mind with the way he physically reported to camp. He seemed to be on course last year for a breakout season but that got shot down pretty quickly with the hamstring injury. Where is he right now? Is he almost the forgotten man so to speak?
Reed: No, none of these guys are forgotten. You are right that these injuries do set you back and take you off the field, and I don't want to say out of the public eye but it is what it is. He's here though and he looks to be in great shape [again]. He says he did some stuff this offseason to increase his flexibility and that should hopefully help keep him on the field and hopefully avoid the speed bumps with his hamstrings. He's looks good. He looks good, he's motivated, and there's another guy who shows up to work everyday with a smile on his face and just works hard.
PinstripesPlus.com: We're talking about hard workers and I have to ask about Thairo Estrada. I love the guy. I think he's completely underrated. We've already talked about Torres and Mateo. How do you fit Estrada into the puzzle because he seems to have it all?
Reed: He's right there [with those guys]. Again, talk about another guy who comes to work with a smile on his face everyday and who loves to play the game. You can group him right in there because Thairo is that guy. It's infectious, the attitude that he has towards the game of baseball and when it comes to playing it. Nobody here [with the Yankees] thinks he's overlooked or anything like that. This kid can play. Now do we think some people are going to be like 'where did this kid come from?'. Yeah, but not anyone here because we all know he can play. He's a young player who can do everything. He swings the bat well, he plays multiple position on defense, he can play shortstop, he's got a cannon, he runs well, and this guy is going to surprise some people out there but not us.
PinstripesPlus.com: Before we move on to talking about the next guy let's address the elephant in the room. We're talking about Torres, Mateo, Estrada, Wade, and others, all of these shortstops who are all playing second base too -- in fact, we can't even call them shortstops anymore, you guys have a ton of middle infielders now -- aren't some of these guys going to have to get some game reps at other positions just to find room for them? Isn't Torres going to have to play some third? Is Estrada going to see some time in centerfield? Etc, etc. Are you looking to move some of these guys to other positions to either increase their versatility and/or simply get them into the games more often so they can all play?
Reed: Well we've started to do that already anyway. As a whole it just makes sense and it's also the way the game is kind of evolving. You mentioned our shortstops. They are shortstops but they can play second base. Some of them are going to learn how to play third base. Tyler Wade is playing some outfield. Jorge Mateo is playing some outfield. Because of their athleticism and because they're capable of doing it, why wouldn't you help develop the versatility? That's one of the most valuable things a player can possess, versatility, especially in today's game. That's just being smart baseball people right there.
PinstripesPlus.com: Let's move on to Nick Solak. We just talked about Estrada and at least offensively it seems to me that both players are interchangeable at the plate. What do you like about Solak's game?
Reed: Well Nick just got drafted and he showed up [just recently to the minor league complex]. I haven't seen a whole lot of Nick yet. He can swing the bat. Again, another grinder out there. He loves to play the game and will do whatever it takes. He's in that early process of his professional career and he's going at it guns blazing. We love him though.
PinstripesPlus.com: Is he one of these guys you mentioned that will work on increasing his versatility? He comes in with the reputation as a second base-only guy. Do you see him working at other positions?
Reed: Let's see what happens. We try not to limit anybody. Let's see what happens and where the process takes us.
PinstripesPlus.com: Well where the process took Kyle Higashioka last year was to a monster breakout season. Obviously Gary Sanchez had a huge year too and lit the big league world on fire. Is there room for both of these players on the same team?
Reed: Those aren't my decisions to make. I'm sure we'll find out down the road. But can 'Higgy' play in the big leagues? I think he can. Certainly having that offensive breakout year along with his well above average catching skills, and now that we think he's completely over the arm setback, he's ready to go. He's firing on all cylinders and in all phases of the game right now.
PinstripesPlus.com: Did his offensive outburst surprise even you?
Reed: I'd have to be honest and say yeah. Just based on his track record [prior]. but I will say this, when he came into Spring Training last year the swing looked different. You're like 'what's up with Higgy?'. The ball was coming off of the bat differently, he made some adjustments in his swing, and it was noticeable right out of the gate. I mean like the first couple of batting practices he took you're like 'holy cow'. But then you kind of sit back and say we'll see what happens, let's see it in the games. And then you saw it in the games and again you're like 'look at Higgy'. Now come July you've got to say this is real and it was enough proof for me to start believing. And he's swinging the bat well early in camp here.
PinstripesPlus.com: Going back to the middle infielders for a moment -- we just talked about Higgy having a breakout season -- I think Abiatal Avelino is poised for one himself. What do you think is the next step he has to make in his development?
Reed: He's a very athletic kid who can play multiple positions. He's very good defensively and right now he's in the process of working on a couple of things at the plate and when those get ironed out I think he's going to burst on to the scene. He could be another one right there where you're like 'he looks good, he's made some adjustments', and see what happens. I'm a big fan of 'Avi'. I know this sounds like a broken record but again he comes to the park with a big smile on his face, great attitude, hard worker, great kid, and you pull for him every single day. Like I said, if he irons out some things offensively and he takes off he's going to be right there in the mix.
PinstripesPlus.com: Couldn't you say the same things about Hoy Jun Park? He's almost very Avelino-like in that everything about his game screams big impact but he just needs to make some minor swing adjustments for his game to go to the next level and be one of these breakout guys. What do you think?
Reed: It is. Again, notice we're talking about all of these guys who are 20, 21 years old, right in those transition years for baseball players. Really, their bodies are changing, they're learning the game, they're starting to get enough at-bats where they're really learning their swing and their game. It's taking some time but once that happens and they get through that, that's when they take off. We've got so many guys right in that phase of their baseball lives and baseball careers, and you just sitting back watching it happen. It takes a long time to make a Major Leaguer and these guys are right there in that middle area. It's a great time and it's fun to watch because they're like little sponges. You feed them the information and they're trying to put it into their game, and they work hard, and when they put it together they take off. Park is right in that middle place right now.