Patrick Teale

We sat down with Yankees Director of Dominican Republic Operations Mario Garza for a Q&A session.

We sat down with Yankees Director of Dominican Republic Operations again for another Q&A session to get his thoughts on the young crop of International prospects who haven't played States-side yet, including new signings Roansy Contreras, Alexander Vizcaino, and Wellington Cacares [in the photo above], as well as his thoughts on new catchers Gustavo Campero and Carlos Narvaez, and much, much more!

PinstripesPlus.com: You know now that we've opened the pitching Pandora's box I have to ask about Roansy Contreras, one of the higher-profile signings from last season.  What are your initial impressions?

Garza: Right-handed pitcher from the Dominican Republic -- he walked into the complex and threw a bullpen -- I watched his first bullpen and he just did it easy, he did it naturally without any coaching.  You saw an athletic delivery with aggressiveness and for a 16-year old I was impressed with his feel for three pitches.  He's going to be able to live with his fastball.  His secondary pitches are going to play because of his fastball command and his fastball has life but he showed a real good feel for a changeup.  Shoot, it would be hard for me to rank his breaking ball and changeup because they're both advanced for his age.  They're both pretty good.  Just with the ease that he throws, the delivery, the body, it's all projectable.  I fully expect we'll see mid-90s from him at some point.

PinstripesPlus.com: Let's keep up on the pitching front and talk about right-handed Alexander Vizcaino, one of the reported higher-profile signings from last season.  What are your initial impressions?

Garza: Bio-mechanically this guy looks like he might throw really, really hard [someday].  He's a little older but we signed him a little bit older.  This is guy though we think is going to throw really hard [at some point].  He's very athletic, good makeup, great work ethic, so he's a guy with an athletic delivery and an explosive fastball.  He's already been up to the mid-90s and hasn't pitched a whole lot so we think that through experience and being through a good full season of building strength and nutrition, and game experience, we expect big things from him.

PinstripesPlus.com: What can you tell me about Wellington Cacares?

Garza: He's a converted guy who hasn't pitched much.  He's a [former] position player with arm strength so they put him on the mound.  He's athletic, he's shown an ability to throw strikes with fastball and breaking ball, the fastball is low to mid-90s and it has life, it has rise, pretty exciting for a guy who just converted.  It's impressive to me how well he took to that conversion.

PinstripesPlus.com: What about Johnny Brito?

Garza: He's a younger guy but he's shown an ability to pitch.  We think he has a projectable body.  We think if he puts it all together you've got a big leagues starting pitcher perhaps someday.  Fastball, slider, changeup, but everything is still development.  However, from the body and the fact he pitches up to the mid-90s that there could be something there.

PinstripesPlus.com: A name that keeps popping up is Pedro Espinola.  What can you tell me about him?

Garza: He hasn't pitched yet but I'm excited about him and excited about where he's going.  We actually signed him and then he had Tommy John surgery without pitching.  He's throwing bullpens now and he's got a big, projectable body.  From my understanding he was going to be a mid-to-higher profile signing but then when he got injured he fell way down.  We took a chance on him, signed him, he had surgery, and now he's on the way back.  I think he's a 'sleeper'.  I'm excited about him.  He's big.  A good frame for a pitcher, the kind of frame you're looking for.  I have a good feeling about him.

PinstripesPlus.com: You know we're talking about dreaming about potential here and left-hander Argelis Herrera comes to mind.  What can you tell us about him?

Garza: He's young.  You're talking about a left-handed pitcher that is 6-foot-5, huge shoulders, he's developed physically.  He started for us [last year].  We converted him to starting. He started the year in the bullpen and we looked to start him towards the end of the year.  He's been up to 95 mph and still not anywhere close to physically mature yet.  Who know, we could be talking about a left-hander whose fastball eventually sits in the mid to upper-90s when it's all said and done.  The changeup I would say is his number two pitch and it's a work in progress, and the slider is still a work in progress.  The most exciting thing is you're talking about a 6-foot-5 lefty with shoulders that are just huge.  He's going to be able to carry weight, get strong, and who knows where that will go.  He could be exciting.

PinstripesPlus.com: Wouldn't Armando Reynoso be yet another pitcher who we can all dream on a bit too?

Garza: He's shown pitch-ability though and if I'm not mistaken he's been up to 94 [mph].  His breaking ball has the chance to be good, the chance to be plus.  The changeup hopefully will become an average pitch for him.  He pitches in the low-90s though with an athletic delivery.  He's a guy who I think if he keeps developing who know, we might end up hitting with a starter.  He's tall, lean, has an athletic body,

PinstripesPlus.com: I know I sound like a broken record at this point but can't we dream big on Elvis Peguero too?

Garza: Yeah he's 6-foot-5-ish with --- we'll call it deceptive arm action.  It's really steep, it comes behind his back, but you've got a big-bodied guy with a fastball in the low-to-mid-90s and projects to throw harder with age, strength, and development.  He's shown a plus breaking ball already so we expect that to continue [developing] and hopefully that becomes a plus-plus out-pitch.  The changeup is a work in progress but you're talking about a big, tall, lean guy who's probably 6-foot-5 and 200 [pounds], you never know where that's going to go.  He could turn into a big giant who throws 100 mph, you never know.  It's possible.

PinstripesPlus.com: Switching back to the position players, what can you tell me about Oswald Peraza?

Garza: He's an athletic kid, plus run, plays shortstop easy, and I think he has the tools that will stick at shortstop which is exciting because not a lot of people have that.  The bat is developing but he has shown hit-ability.  He hasn't shown great impact yet but it's a very lean, thin body so I don't think we're anywhere close to maturity with the body or strength.

PinstripesPlus.com: Who would we compare him to player-wise who is already in the farm system?

Garza: He's taller than Estrada, has a better game feel than [Diego] Castillo but more in that same body type.  Physically he looks closer to Kyle Holder so he's going to put on weight and strength in a good way but he's very athletic.  He's more like a Tyler Wade body actually because it's pretty lean but I think it's going to be pretty strong and the defense is exciting. 

PinstripesPlus.com: I had already gotten the feeling he was a 'sleeper' and I'm pretty sure we can say the same about catcher Gustavo Campero, no?

Garza: He's kind of a wildcard, yeah.  He's a Colombian switch-hitting catcher.  One of the things that popped out when we watched Gustavo was when we ran the 60 [yard dash] of the July 2nd players he was up there near the top.  We were like 'woah, this guy's a catcher?'.  He's only 5-foot-7 and it's kind of a now body but he's extremely athletic, he shows hit-ability from both sides of the plate, right now he has solid average to plus arm strength, and has really taken to the position very quickly.  He's already shown flashes of plus hands too but obviously the catching conversion is tough and it takes time but we're looking at a guy who in a couple of years could pop on the radar because the catching position takes time.  I think the bat has enough in there to play, he's athletic, he has arm strength, and it could be cool to watch.  There isn't a lot of power but he's strong.  When I say not a lot of power it's because of the nature of the swing.  He does impact the ball.

PinstripesPlus.com: On the subject of catchers, let's talk about Carlos Narvaez

Garza: Let's talk about Narvaez.  I've told this to many people already -- he's the guy I expect to play for a long time.  He's got that demeanor, he's a great teammate, his cousin got called up to the big leagues this year [Omar Narvaez with Chicago].  Basically he's a guy who has all the attributes of what you want in a catcher.  He's intelligent, he's got great hands, he's mature, bilingual, shown a good work ethic.  The tools are not overwhelming but the bat has made huge strides this past year.  We liked him defensively when he signed -- he a natural feel for the catching position which is fun to watch when you see a guy receive the ball well and see a guy who blocks the ball, and he's got that grit to be a catcher -- but then you start seeing the intelligence, and you start seeing the bat come around.  If he stays healthy I've got him playing the game a long time with a good chance to be a big leaguer.  His defense has the chance to be a solid average, receiving probably plus, arm is probably a tick below average as of today but the exchange is plus-plus.  If you look at his numbers last year he threw out a ridiculous number, something like 55-60 percent of runners, something crazy, and it's not like he has a cannon. He's got the body you want in a Major League catcher too.


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