PinstripesPlus: Since you are the roaming infield instructor, who better to ask this. What is you opinion of Marcos Vechionacci?
Andy Stankiewicz: Oh boy, what a good looking you player he is. Sometimes you forget just how young he is. He is so smooth at the plate and is always relaxed. It is hard to find that in such a young guy. He is just barely 18 years old. He also has the frame to fill into so that should help him as well. Once he gets bigger and stronger, filling out, he could be something very special.
PP: What about his defensive skills?
Stankiewicz: Right now, he is very solid for such a young age. He is smooth in the field and doesn't make a lot of mistakes which are common in players even a couple years older than he is. It appears that we are going to let him play shortstop for a while but you get the feeling that with his offensive ability, he may end up at third base. And, he should handle that fine like he did this year. The only reason he was sent back to the Gulf Coast League after his stint with Staten Island was to just be sure he got consistent playing time. You got older guys in Deivi Mendez that need to get their playing time there so it was better to just let him play in the Gulf Coast. We are excited to see just what he can do once he gets bigger and stronger. It should be a lot of fun to watch him develop.
PP: What are your thoughts on Mario Holmann?
Stankiewicz: I really like Mario. He is a feisty little player who can really play second base. Holmann is all about his foot speed though. He is very, very fast in the field and on the bases. The one thing we have been working with him on at second base is his pivot on the double plays. He has made some improvements in that respect but he still has to come along. But, he is a very pesky hitter and can develop into an excellent fielder. Again, with these young guys it is is a lot about filling themselves out. That has a lot to do with it. Next year we can get a better look at Mario. He broke his thumb this year and that slowed him down a bit.
PP: Tell us what your thoughts are on Robinson Cano?
Stankiewicz: With some more work, I think Cano can play any position on the infield. His best fit seems to be at second base bit I believe he can play third and even shortstop if he had to. Cano is one of the best young players I've seen and I think he can do very big things. The thing for him is just some more work and he could be a very fine player. The Yankees may give a chance next year but we'll have to wait and see. I think he could be a very good major league player. I think, even though he is know as a top prospect, I don't think he gets enough credit for how good he is.
PP: As the infield instructor, what are your thoughts about Eric Duncan's progress at third base this year?
Stankiewicz: As many people have said, you can't slow down a hard worker. This kid works his tail off and he has really come up big in developing his defensive skills. To me, that just looks like a sign of good things to come. He is a kid that works so hard and has all the tools to back it up. He started off so slow on defense in Battle Creek but a lot of it had to do with the quality of the playing field. The fields in the Midwest League are not nearly as well groomed as the ones in the Florida State League. I think that had a lot to do with his improvement. But, that is not to take away with how hard he has worked. he should be proud of how far he has come. Yes, maybe he doesn't have a real good arm but look at Brooks Robinson. He is just going to have to make adjustments accordingly. I have no doubts in Eric's ability to keep getting better and better on defense. And, we all know what he can do with the bat. He is going to be at third base if he keeps up the way he has played there. And, he is still so young so there is no rush.
PP: Were there any new faces in mini camp down in Tampa that look like some guys to remember for next season?
Stankiewicz: There weren't that many new guys that I saw but I remember there was one outfielder that they just signed. I believe he is from Venezuela. His name is Jose Tabata. He looks like a very talented outfielder. I'm not sure what their plans are for him next year but he definitely looks like a player to watch. They are pretty high on him.
PP: So, how is Erold Andrus' progress going on his move to first base?
Stankiewicz: Well, the thing about Erold is that he is confident in everything he does. I think that will help him a lot in this move. He seems confident playing the position and he is eager to get better and better at it. That is they in a move like this. I think he can still play right field but first base seems like the better fit right now. Playing another position will help his value in the long run but he should make a good first baseman. He is getting stronger and bigger, he could be a big power threat pretty soon.
PP: Can we expect to ever see Jon Poterson behind the plate?
Stankiewicz: Yes, right now, yes. He did quite a bit of catching in mini camp and he looked pretty good. He is pretty quick and agile for such a big guy and that is one of the big things we like a bout him. The thing is, whenever you get a chance at a hitter like him that can catch, you try to make the most of it. Good catchers in general are a rare commodity. So, that is why we are going to try as hard as we can to see what we can do with him behind the plate. But, either way, his bat is tremendous and he is pretty versatile. He really responded well to left field this year and he is a pretty good option out there. For a big young man, he can move around very well out there and has a decent arm. We'll just have to wait and see what the best spot for him is.
PP: Do you think that Hector Made is vastly overlooked in the Yankee Farm System?
Stankiewicz: I would say that within the organization he is far from over look. A lot of people don't think so but the organization knows exactly what these guys are doing all the time. However, I do think it is true that not many people think about Made outside of this organization. Hector has big potential at shortstop. The only problem with him is that he can get out of control sometimes. He can make a tremendous play but he just needs to stay in control. It is almost the same thing at the plate too. He has a big uppercut swing right now but a good swing nonetheless. We still think he can hit for a lot of power but that can be done even if we cut back on that big swing. But, just look at the numbers he put up this year. hey were pretty good. No doubt that he has some really good potential to be a superb all around shortstop. He should be the starting shortstop in Tampa next year. If he can stay under control, he should continue to get better.
PP: He is not an infielder but what is your initial take on Melky Cabrera?
Stankiewicz: Melky just looks like a terrific young player. People are going to get to know his name better this season. Once he started hitting for power when he went to Tampa, he has the complete package. He looks like he can play the outfield with the best of them and just knows how to plat the game. For a young player, he is so impressive. Cabrera is a mature player. do doubt about it. He could make a big splash next season I think.
PP: What are your thoughts on the once very highly touted Deivi Mendez?
Stankiewicz: You know, he is just a very, very frustrating case. We all saw and still see so much potential in him but he never pull it all together in a big season we expect from him. He can really do everything but he can't put together a full season it seems like. He just seems to be injured every single year. But, I still think if he can have a full season of injury free baseball, he is still a very good prospect.
PP: What did you think of Irwil Rojas in mini camp?
Stankiewicz: I saw a lot of Irwil down there and he looked very good. His hitting has a long way to go right now but I still think he has potential to be a hitter. But, his defensive skills are outstanding. He looks like a very fine backstop right now. He has the perfect body and I think he could be very successful. He has a strong arm and is tough behind the plate.
PP: Is Reggie Corona someone to look out for next year or is he just another player?
Stankiewicz: Well, when Reggie first started playing in the Gulf Coast League, they were very close to sending him back to the Dominican Summer League. He was just very raw and he is not a very big guy right now. He is very wiry and thin but not very big. But, he played so well at the outset, they just couldn't send him back. He played bigger than they expected basically. But, for him to be there at age 17, the organization thinks a lot of his abilities. When he fills out next year, then we'll get a much better gage on him. But, he is definitely interesting.
PP: How do you feel about the loss of Ferdin Tejeda this year?
Stankiewicz: It was very difficult to see him go. Whenever a player with so much potential is gone, it is too bad. He had a lot of skills but we just need room on the 40 man roster. He was taken off the 40 man roster and you take the risk of another team taking him and that is what happened. He struggled this year, yes but the Padres may have found something when they picked him up.
PP: What is your first impression of the Yankees 6th round draft pick, Nathan Phillips?
Stankiewicz: Nate is a good kid and has a lot of potential. He needs some work but he is just out of high school so you have to expect that. But, it doesn't look like he is going to remain at shortstop. We think he can hit but the adjustment to the wooden bat was a little tougher on him. If he plays the infield, he would play at third base. But, something that he has been worked on with is catching. he has looked pretty good so far. Nate has the arm and is tough enough for the position. So, we'll have to wait and see how that shakes out.
PP: Do you consider Rafael Rodriguez to be a true infield prospect for the Yankees?
Stankiewicz: Oh definitely. Sure. I know he gets overshadowed a lot of time but the organization sees what he has done. You would be surprised as to how aware of guys like Rafael they actually are. We see him as having a lot of power potential and he could likely end up playing a lot of third base as he moves up and gets stronger.
PinstripesPlus.com would like to give out a special thanks to Yankees roaming infield instructor, Andy Stankiewicz for his time and efforts in answering these questions.