PinstripesPlus.com: Let's talk about some of the guys that haven't come States-side yet, starting with catcher Saul Torres. What are your initial impressions?
Mario Garza: He came to us extremely advanced defensively. His English skills for a young 17-year old Latin kid are excellent and he's shown nothing but a solid work ethic, mature approach, and especially defensively I can't say enough about how impressed I am with everything we see. He impacts the ball well. He's still a young hitter but I think with at-bats I fully expect the bat to play. Basically his defensive skills are elite and extremely advanced, and the bat is not up to the defensive skills yet but I think it's going to be enough for him to be an impact prospect.
PinstripesPlus.com: I've heard some Gary Sanchez-like comparisons thrown around. Are they legit?
Garza: Impacting the baseball, definitely. He's a very strong kid. Saul's body is a bit tighter and the swing is not quite as loose as it was with Gary. With time we'll see. Who knows what we'll have but I'd say Gary Sanchez's bat is elite and it's tough to compare them hitting-wise. I do expect his bat to be good enough to play at the highest level when it's all said and done.
PinstripesPlus.com: Let's move to another new signing, shortstop Eduardo Torrealba. What are your initial impressions?.
Garza: He has a very 'handsy' approach. His hands are so good that he tends to make contact with an extremely aggressive approach so I think as he gets more at-bats under his belt he will refine that approach and I expect his bat to play as well. I do think he fits that [hitter] mold because he uses the field, he sprays the ball, and right now he has some gap power. Physically he's not as mature as some other players we have but he'll still show occasional pop. I think as he matures and grows that's going to be a part of his game too but for the most part he's a doubles guy who uses the whole field, the kind of guy you want at the top of your lineup.
PinstripesPlus.com: I've heard some Diego Castillo comps. What are your thoughts on that?
Garza: Diego is a little taller and a little more wiry. Torrealba is a little shorter, a bit bigger frame.
PinstripesPlus.com: How does Torrealba look defensively?
Garza: Outstanding! Defensively he's got that gift of the ball sticking in his glove, accurate thrower, and he makes it look easy almost to the point where you wonder if he has arm strength in there and then all of the sudden he'll show it to you. He knows he doesn't have to use it [his arm strength], which is pretty cool at that age, but then it's there when he needs it.
PinstripesPlus.com: So for him, like it is with most of the Latin American kids, it's about physically maturing at this point?
Garza: Absolutely. He's mature with his work, a very intelligent kid, and he's really impressed me overall. There's really not a weakness. If there was a weakness it would be running speed -- he's not an elite runner. He's an average to a tick above average runner so it's not like he doesn't have speed, he's just not elite. Defensively though he has the potential to be plus-plus and the bat has the potential to be plus-plus.
PinstripesPlus.com: Sticking with the new signings, let's move to shortstop Jose Devers.
Garza: Yeah there's a little bit more to dream on with Devers because this is a kid who is extremely thin, very wiry -- that doesn't mean he's not strong but he is strong for his age -- but this is an exciting player. I think if everything comes together with Jose you're looking at a guy who can jump to the top of the [prospect] list. I'm very impressed with his hit-ability as a 16-year old. He hasn't shown the ability to drive the ball yet but he's also nowhere close to mature with his body. He has shown plus run tool and with his physical ability and work ethic I there's a good chance it will come together. He's got a great demeanor on the field. He's got that perfect 'has fun' but being professional at the same time. He has fun playing, he's relaxed, and you can dream on him and be pretty excited. I think he could be at the top of our organization in a few years if the bat comes around we're talking about a good player.
PinstripesPlus.com: Let's go to one of the bigger signings from 2015, Jesus Bastidas. What kind of development did you see from him in his first season?
Garza: I saw a lot of physical development. If you look at his numbers it wouldn't tell the story really. He held his own but he didn't necessarily perform numbers-wise that I think he's capable of but he's a guy who when he first came to us showed hit-ability. He and Torreable come into the same conversation when it comes to natural defenders -- the ball sticks in their glove, Bastidas has a very good internal game clock, he does it easy. Offensively he has more impact than the previous guys we talked about other than Torres. I think he has the opportunity to hit a few balls over the fence. He can do that. With some more time and some more at-bats I think he will. He impacts the ball pretty well, especially for a guy of his stature. He's a strong kid, runs well. There's not an overwhelming tool but he's solid across the board.
PinstripesPlus.com: You mentioned the numbers not telling the whole story with Bastidas -- couldn't the same be said about Andres Chapparo too though, another guy who entered the professional ranks with the reputation as a hit-first guy?
Garza: We haven't seen it perform in games yet but he's got a very interesting bat. We've seen it here and there where he'll have three or four at-bats in a row where you see what you want to see. Now hopefully that's an age thing and with more at-bats you'll see it more frequently but the dude can hit. We've got to feel out his way defensively [though] but he plays third base and he's not bad there -- he can play third base and we've moved him some to first base -- he looks like he can be an average defender at third. And if the bat plays hopefully it'll turn into a plus bat. It's more hit-ability. I think he could develop into some power. I think he could be more of a doubles type guy earlier in his career and as he matures and becomes the hitter we think he can be he's going to hit some home runs just because he squares up the ball so well.
PinstripesPlus.com: Let's go back to what many I've talked to and consider the top prospect coming out of your Dominican academy and that's Luis Medina. What are your impressions?
Garza: That's a guy that if it clicks you're talking about a number one or two starter in the big leagues if everything goes well. He's shown flashes of brilliance. His fastball is in the mid to upper-90s, from the day he's arrived he's has a natural ability to spin the baseball, he has the right frame, he has athleticism -- he has all the attributes you look for in a top of the line starter.
PinstripesPlus.com: A year ago when he signed it seemed the book on him was excellent thrower, not exactly a pitcher yet. Is he making strides in that regard?
Garza: He's making big strides. We just have to get him healthy. He hasn't been healthy enough consistently yet for everything to click but yes he is making big strides. Danny [Borrell] has done a great job with all of the pitchers but specifically with a guy like Luis he made big strides initially but then went down during the year. This is the guy -- I don't think you can be more excited about a guy with the potential prospect -- this guy has everything.