Q&A with Jason Stephens

GCL right-handed pitcher Jason Stephens sits down with PinstripesPlus.com to offer up some insights on his game, how his second season in the Gulf Coast League went, what his goals for next season are, and to give us some thoughts on some of the Yankees' prospects down in the GCL.

PinstripesPlus: Jason, tell us a little bit about your high school playing days and who you were a fan of growing up.

Jason Stephens: I'm from Ohio and I played at Tallmadge High School. My senior year I had just one earned run in a stretch of 49 innings. I grew up an Indians fan, obviously, but also rooted for the Braves when they had John Smoltz, Greg Maddux, and Tom Glavine. I started rooting for the A's in the late 90's when they had Zito, Mulder, and Hudson. (laughing) I am obviously a fan of pitching.

PinstripesPlus: Were you aware that you might be drafted by the Yankees? Were there any other teams looking at drafting you? What was it like when the Yankees called your name on draft day?

Stephens: Honestly, the Yankees and Rockies were the only two teams that had expressed interest my senior year. But I was thrilled to be drafted by the Yankees. By far, they have the best program for their minor leaguers and I had heard they treated their players well. I mean, really, the way they treat us is ridiculous. Compared to all the other players in other systems, we have no expenses. It's great and I'm just happy to be a part of the Yankees.

PinstripesPlus: You repeated your year in the Gulf Coast League. Was there a difference the second time around?

Stephens: Yeah, there was a huge difference. In my first year, it just seemed like an impossible thing to do. I was not nervous the first year or anything, but I thought I had to be too perfect my first year. I was more relaxed this past season and I just pitched my game. I figured if I threw strikes good things would happen.

PinstripesPlus: Did you go into this past season with any specific goals in mind?

Stephens: Honestly, I had no idea what to expect. I know I wanted to keep my walks down. I am not a power pitcher at all so developing my changeup was a big goal of mine this past season.

PinstripesPlus: Please give us a little scouting report on yourself. What types of pitches do you throw and at what speeds?

Stephens: I throw a fastball, curveball, changeup, and a slider. Although, I didn't throw my slider at all this year and it is on the shelf for now. My fastball is around 87-89 MPH. My changeup is around 79-81 MPH and I am still working on perfecting that pitch. My curveball got a lot better this past year. It's in the 70-73 MPH range and it is kind of my out pitch right now.

PinstripesPlus: Have the Yankees given you any idea of where you might be playing next year?

Stephens: No they haven't, but I'm hoping to skip extended Spring Training next year and go right to the long season leagues. That's my goal. Hopefully my arm will be ready to go in Spring Training and I'll do well enough to pitch in A-ball right away.

PinstripesPlus: We would like to ask you to give us a little scouting report on a few players if you don't mind. What can you tell us about Maximo Nelson?

Stephens: He's one of the hardest throwers on the team and he throws strikes. I think he went half the season giving up just one earned run, which was amazing. He has a fastball, a changeup, and a breaking ball that he throws at two speeds. I'm not sure if it is one pitch that he throws at two different speeds or if it is two different pitches. One is around 84 MPH and another is around 70 MPH. His fastball is in the 92-94 MPH and like I said, he throws strikes. Once he develops his breaking ball, he is going to move through the system pretty quickly with his great fastball.

PinstripesPlus: What can you tell us about Christian Garcia?

Stephens: Wow, he has no fear on the mound. He and Nelson are the two hardest throwers on our team. He has a great fastball that's about 92 MPH and can bring it somewhat consistently around 95 MPH. He throws this 3/4 slider/curveball. It's one of the nastiest pitches I have ever seen. It's really an awesome pitch. I know he's working on developing his circle changeup and that he had a split/change in high school that he's not throwing right now. Once he gets better command of the strike zone and starts throwing more strikes, he's really going to be an amazing pitcher.

PinstripesPlus: I know you didn't get to play too much with Jeff Marquez, but what can you tell us about him?

Stephens: Honestly, the only thing I can say about Marquez is that he has one of the best changeups I have ever seen.

PinstripesPlus: Switching to the positional players, what are your impressions of Marcos Vechionacci?

Stephens: "Nacci" was amazing for us. There was a three week stretch where he pretty much hit everything thrown at him and was our best hitter during that time. He's an extremely well rounded player. He's a switch-hitter with good power from both sides of the plate. He kind of reminds me of Chipper Jones in that sense. I think he can handle shortstop and that might be better served for him in the long run.

PinstripesPlus: What can you tell us about Jonathan Poterson?

Stephens: He was the strongest kid on the team and just hits absolute bombs. I'm prety sure he's going to stick in the outfield. As for a comparison, he kind of reminds me of Lance Berkman. You know, a switch-hitting outfielder that hits for a lot of power.

PinstripesPlus: Give us your thoughts on Mario Holmann if you would.

Stephens: Before Holmann got hurt, he was the guy that impressed me the most. His speed is really ridiculous. He's an excellent fielder and he's going to hit for a really high average. He broke his thumb bunting earlier in the season, but the guy was amazing in extended (Spring Training). He was on fire and hitting something like .500 in extended.

PinstripesPlus: Were there any other players that you were impressed with?

Stephens: Yeah, Evan Tierce was really good too. It seemed like every time he got on base, he scored. It was amazing. Raul Dominguez also looks like he's going to be a very good first baseman. He has a great glove over there.

PinstripesPlus: Which of the relief pitchers on your team your last season do you think are ones we should keep an eye on?

Stephens: Soto (Marvin Moscat) did an excellent job as the closer for us. They tried his hand at starting sometimes and he just looks like he's going to better as a reliever. Jose Tadeo was a guy that had nasty stuff. He's got this cutter around 89 MPH that's a really good pitch and he throws it for strikes better than his fastball. I like his potential a lot. Wilton Sevilla was another that stood out. He wasn't there for us very long, but I got to see him a bunch in extended Spring Training. His arm angle on his fastball and changeup is the same and it is hard to pick it up. He has incredible movement on his pitches too. It seems to move a mile.

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