Q&A with Jeff Marquez

The New York Yankees have a newfound surplus of young, pitching prospects. One of the most prominent of these prospects is Jeff Marquez. We had a chance to catch up with Jeff for a Q&A about his recent progress, his future and his high expectations from the organization.

PinstripesPlus: Where do you think you will be starting off the 2005 season?

Jeff Marquez: Well, I'm hoping it is going to be Tampa. I had a good season last year so I think I should do well in Tampa too. I'm pretty sure it is going to be Tampa. At least, that is what they've been telling me. I had a good mini-camp so I feel pretty sure that I'll start there.

PP: Pitching Coordinator, Nardi Contreras mentioned you made some mechanical adjustments in mini-camp. Can you tell us about the adjustments you made?

Marquez: Yeah, I made some important improvements when I was down there. Sometimes during the season I was rushing out in my delivery. I used to think I was fooling the hitters and being more deceptive. But, in mini-camp they told me it was better to take my time in my delivery and keep my weight back on my right foot. I was able to fix that problem I think. It may even help me pick up some more velocity.

PP: Just how good is your changeup?

Marquez: It is really good. Some of my teammates said it was the best one they have ever seen. Maybe it is but I just know that it is my best pitch, for sure. One of my coaches taught it to me at Sac City and it has become a really great pitch for me. It is really an awesome pitch.

PP: What kind of changeup is it?

Marquez: It is a power changeup I think. People say its like a circle changeup but it isn't really. I guess it is because of the way I hold my fingers. But, they aren't in a total circle shape. It is kind of a unique pitch but it is really awesome for me.

PP: We know about your changeup. Can you give us a full scouting report on yourself?

Marquez: Ok, right now I am working on a four seam fastball. I think I've got it down. Most of my career, all I've thrown is a two seam fastball and my off speed stuff. But, I think that with my four seam fastball, I'll be able to work hitters high and away and make them swing and miss more. I can also come in on guys instead of working away with my sinker so much. I still like to use my sinker a lot, working down and away. It is a good set up pitch for my changeup. My changeup is my best pitch, definitely. I also have a curveball but I'd say that is my third best pitch. I mean, it is still effective at this level but I want to improve it. When I play catch with Chris Garcia, he tries to learn my changeup and I try to work on my curveball. But, I have pretty good command of my fastball, sinker and changeup. I work with those pitches the most but I want to start working in my curveball more and more.

PP: What is your comfort zone as far as velocity with your fastball?

Marquez: Since I throw a couple different kinds of fastballs, it is a wide range. But, normally, my fastball sits between 91-94 MPH. Your four seamer is suppose to be be a little harder I think. I was told that I touched 96 MPH in Staten Island but I don't know. I throw a pretty heavy ball so it is good velocity for a two seamer and a sinker. Maybe I can add a little more velocity with some mechanical adjustments.

PP: What was Tommy John like as a manager?

Marquez: Oh man, he was awesome. He's just a great manager and a great coach. The thing about him is that he can help the pitchers and the hitters. I think everyone on our team was able to benefit from him in one way or another. I mean, you aren't going to get a coach with more experience and knowledge than him.

PP: Ok, switching gears, let's talk about your teammates for a minute. What was your impression of Marcos Vechionacci?

Marquez: Wow, seriously, that guy is amazing. Really, I don't think I've ever seen someone as good as him. Actually, he's probably the best all around player I've seen. The guy was only like 17 years old when he came to Staten Island and he did awesome. I heard the Yankees had him in their leagues in the Dominican when he was like 15. To me, that is really amazing. He really has like no flaws. He is so balanced at the plate. He has good power. He makes contact. Also, he is a really good fielder too. For his age, I can't believe what a great all around player he is. I think he is going to be special. I know you probably hear that a lot but he is just awesome.

PP: We've heard that Vechionacci is going to play shortstop in Charleston next season. Do you believe that his future is at shortstop?

Marquez: Well, yeah, I heard that he was going to play shortstop. I think he can play short and do just fine there. He could play either one in my opinion. But, if you were to ask me, I'd have him as a third baseman in the future. He is a big, strong guy. For a teenager, he is big. So, because of his size and power potential, I think he'll eventually end up at third base. But, honestly, he could play either one easily. He is gifted. I remember when I was 15 like when the Yankees signed Vechionacci, I was only like 4'11". Really, I was 4'11". (laughing) I was not big at all. "Nacci" is just special.

PP: What can you tell us about your good friend, Christian Garcia?

Marquez: Chris is not only a really cool guy but the guy can really pitch too. He has a such a good arm. He really has it all going for him. That curveball he has is just nasty. I've never seen one that good in my life and I don't think I ever will. That thing is untouchable. What is amazing is that he was a catcher in high school and he just became a pitcher. For me, that seems amazing. To be that good already, he is going to be a dominating Major League pitcher someday. We were roommates this year and we have to work on a lot of the same stuff. We played catch a lot and we tried to pick up each other's pitches. Basically, we just have to work on really getting focused on what we have to do. I think now that we know how big our futures could be, working out and preparing will come a lot easier. But, we had a lot of fun together this season. I think he is going to be a great pitcher.

PP: Now, you struggled near the end of 2004. What do you attribute your struggles to? Was your arm tired?

Marquez: Well, no my arm wasn't tired. I think I might have been a little tired physically and mentally. But, my arm wasn't really tired. But, not to make excuses, but in my last two starts, I really hated the mounds I pitched on. It was in Williamsport and Jamestown. One of my starts it was raining and I kind of lost it. I got a little frustrated with everything going on around me. I don't usually get frustrated but I think I was wearing down a little bit. Once I got to mini-camp I kind of got a new start.

PP: Which batter that you've seen would you least like to face?

Marquez: Oh, that is a really hard one. It's hard because I think I can take anyone on. (laughing). But, one guy I saw down in Tampa was Robinson Cano. That guy can rake. He hits the ball all over the park. He just hits line drive after line drive. I think I could take him but he would be a really tough out.

PP: What kind of improvements would you like to make for 2005?

Marquez: One of the big things I wanted to work on is basically fixed. I added the four seam fastball that I wanted. Now, I just wanted to tighten up my breaking ball a little bit and make it more of a weapon for me.

PP: What did you think of Brett Smith when you met him in mini-camp?

Marquez: Brett is not only a cool guy but a really good pitcher, too. He is really polished and I think he'll be a guy who moves quickly. The only thing I thought was weird about him is he has a really big hitch in his motion. It might be hard to duplicate but if he can duplicate it, it is pretty deceptive.

PP: How about Phil Hughes?

Marquez: I didn't see a lot of him but he impressed me a lot. I don't think he has any far better stuff than the rest of us, but his command and maturity is what sets him apart. He can put any one of his four pitches in any spot he wants. It is pretty amazing. His command is just awesome.

PP: Is there anyone else that particularly impressed you?

Marquez: Jason Jones was pretty good. He's a lot like Hughes except Phil throws a little harder. But, they are a lot alike because they both throw all strikes and have good command with four pitches. The only thing with Jason is that he would give up a lot of two strike hits. When I was doing his pitch charts in Staten Island, he would get ahead with a couple strikes away and then come inside and give up a hit. But, him being as mature as he was, he overmatched the NY-Penn League.

PP: What kind of statistical standards are you going to set for yourself in 2005?

Marquez: Until this year in Staten Island, I have always had an under 2 ERA. I know that is pretty hard to do at this level. But, my combined ERA in Staten Island and the Gulf Coast was under 2.5. So, my standard for next year would be to try and keep my ERA under 2.5. But, I'm pretty confident that I can do that if I keep doing what I'm doing.

PP: By what age would you like to be in the Majors by?

Marquez: Honestly, I'd like to be up there by the time I'm 22 or 23, They are big goals but I think I can do it.

PP: What can you tell us about lefty pitcher, Michael Wagner?

Marquez: I didn't see a whole lot of him but I thought he was good. For a big guy, he doesn't have a real big fastball but he has a good curveball and changeup. He came up to Staten Island and got hit around. But, he came in during a tough relief situation. I think he could be a pretty good pitcher.

PP: What do you think the future holds for Maximo Nelson and Toni Lara considering the surplus of starting pitchers in the lower levels?

Marquez: Both of those guys are really good, but you're right, I don't know where they fit next season. Maximo is an older guy but he is awesome. When I was in the Gulf Coast in the beginning of the season, he was lights out. He was way too good for that league. I mean, look at the guy, he has to be like 6' 8". He is huge. He throws really hard. I'm not sure where he fits in next season though. But, they are going to have to find room for someone as good as him. And, Lara, he knows how to pitch. He is a lefty too so that helps him a lot. I heard he's been in the Gulf Coast for a couple years but he is a good pitcher. The thing with both of those guys is that I just think they need a better plan on the mound. They have the stuff but just have to apply it. We have a lot of pitchers, though.

PP: Nardi Contreras told us that you were going to be a fast mover in this system. What has he told you about this?

Marquez: Oh yeah, we had a long talk about that. He took each one of the pitchers in a room and talked to them at the end of the season. It was basically just to tell us what he expected from us, what he thought of us and what the plans for us were. Here's basically what he told me. He was like if you keep doing what you're doing now, you are going to move faster through this system than you can possibly imagine. He said he was really impressed by me. It made me feel good to know they thought so highly of me.

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