Q&A with Latin American Coordinator, Carlos Rios

Even through rough times in the Yankee Farm System, the organization has been praised for their prestigious Latin American Scouting program. Well, why not talk to the man behind the success, Carlos Rios. We had a chance to chat with Rios about some of his past, present and future Latin American products.

PinstripesPlus: What can you tell us about Angel Fermin?

Carlos Rios: Angel is a big, strong right handed hitter. He really has enormous power hitting potential. Right now, he is a very crude talent but we like him a lot. I think he could really be a star type of player down the road. But, right now he is just a baby and has a ways to go. But, if he gets the proper amount of time to development, he is going to be a very dangerous hitter. I mean, he has so much. He's the type of guy who could take half a swing and hit a ball out to center field. He's an amazing kid. The only thing we have to decide on with him is whether he is going to stick at first base or third base.

PinstripesPlus: Can we expect to see him playing in the Gulf Coast League in 2005?

Rios: Yes, I think that is a strong possibility and that is probably what will happen. He'll only be 19 years old when the season starts so he is still so young. But, he hit like 11 home runs combined last year and that is almost unheard of in our league. We see a bright future for him.

PinstripesPlus: Is pitcher, Domingo Cabrera as good as his numbers suggest he is?

Rios: Oh, definitely. I think he could be something really special. When he signed him, he was actually an outfielder. We converted him to pitcher because we thought it would be the best move in the long run for him. He really fought us on that. He loved to play the outfield. But, we were able to convince him and now I think he knows why we wanted to move him. But, Domingo is really the beauty of that crop I think. He is really going to be a great one I think. But, it is going to take some development because he is just so young. But, he came out and had a huge year last year. He throws his fastball really consistently around 93 MPH. He has a big arm and I think he could have some good pitchability. The fact that he is still learning how to pitch is scary. He's another guy who is only 18 years old and he is left handed. I'd say he's our gem, though. He'll probably stick in the U.S. next year too.

PinstripesPlus: Who do you think has been your best product in your six years with the organization?

Rios: Well, I'm very proud of how Robinson Cano and Dioner Navarro turned out. Those two guys really deserve it. But, the guy I liked the most is no longer in the organization. I think Joaquin Arias is going to be a superstar. He has five tools written all over him. But, that is what we do in this organization. The fact that these guys like Navarro and Arias are involved in big trades is a compliment to them. Navarro going to the Dodgers is probably going to help him a lot. But, Arias is going to be a star I think.

PinstripesPlus: Did you ever see this kind of stardom coming for Marcos Vechionacci?

Rios: Definitely. The organization was very aware of how good he was even when we first signed him. We were willing to pay more money than some other organizations thought he was worth. Now, it is really paying off. When we signed him, he was converted from a catcher to an infielder and he really has blossomed. He's grown physically a lot. So, now he really looks like he is going to be special player. He's a good kid and I'm happy for him.

PinstripesPlus: Do you see him as a third baseman or a shortstop?

Rios: Third base, definitely. He reminds me of Matt  Williams when he was young. They aren't really similar players, but Williams started off as a shortstop but eventually outgrew the position and moved to third. I think Marcos is going to get bigger and get a lot of power.

PinstripesPlus: What can you tell us about new signee, Jose Tabata?

Rios: Oh, Tabata is a big time player. He is our premium signee from this year. He is from Venezuela and to me, he looks like a star type of player. He has all the tools and he looks to be a really good center fielder. Again, he is just really young right now. He's only 16 years old. But, down the road he looks like a big player. He's only like 5' 10" but he has a really big game. He could stick in the U.S. next season if he plays well in spring training. But, it may end up that he comes back to the Dominican for some more seasoning.

PinstripesPlus: Do you agree that Saidel Beltran will likely start the 2005 season in High A Tampa?

Rios: I believe he probably will but it all depends where he can log the most amount of innings. If he is not going to get innings there, we'll have to put him elsewhere. We think he is already 22 years old and he is Cuban so we want get him moving. But, he has pretty good stuff and he is left handed so we want to see what he can do at higher levels.

PinstripesPlus: What is the status of big money, international free agent signee, Wady Rufino?

Rios: Wady is serving a suspension and that's why he didn't see full time action this year. We do see a big future for him and we gave him a lot of money. But, we had to take disciplinary action.

PinstripesPlus: What can you tell us about Johnny Cordoba and what is his injury update?

Rios: Johnny had a huge year in 2003 and opened a lot of eyes. We like to say that he is the little lefty that pitches big. But, he had some shoulder problems last year. Really though, he is going to be totally fine. His injury is nothing very threatening. But, he is going to probably be rehabbing down here in the Dominican for a while. I think he has a good chance to get up to the U.S. before the season is over though. But, he really still has a live arm and has great stuff. He gets doubted because of his size but he could still be an outstanding pitcher. He is still only 19 years old.

PinstripesPlus: What are your thoughts on Maximo Nelson?

Rios: Well, when we signed Maximo, we thought we were signing a guy that was two years younger than he turned out to be. We thought we were signing a 17 year old but he turned out to be 19. Anyway, that doesn't change his talent. Maximo, is a huge, huge young man who has one of the best arms in the system. I think he has a Major League future ahead of him. He just needs to learn to be more of a pitcher rather than a thrower. If he can do that, he can be dominant.

PinstripesPlus: Who do you think was the best all around hitter that you saw in the Dominican this year?

Rios: That is a little harder than it would usually be. Our program wasn't as loaded with offense as it usually is. We had a much more pitching dominated group of guys. Fermin is obviously very good. But, best all around would have to be Gerson Manzanillo. He led the league in hits this year. He has a very polished swing for a teenager. That was kind of the way Melky Cabrera was when he was down here. Gerson reminds me very much of Bip Roberts when he used to play. Gerson plays center field and second base like Bip did. Manzanillo is also very fast. He's only 18 and this year was his first year. So, we are debating whether to keep him down here one more year. I'd like to keep him here but some others in the organization would like to challenge him ion the Gulf Coast this season.

PinstripesPlus: Were you surprised by Eric Abreu's meteoric rise up the ladder this year?

Rios: Surprised? No way. Abreu is a guy that the organization has been really excited about and we knew he was special. Since we signed him, he was incredibly high profile and we think we found something possibly great in him. And, the scary thing is that I think the best is yet to come. He throws a 93-94 MPH fastball but was tired at the end of last season. But, he still dominated. With that excellent curveball he has to go with his fastball, I think the kid could be a great one.

PinstripesPlus: What do you the future holds for Toni Lara?

Rios: Lara has some pitching tools but we are just trying to add to his pitchability. I think he could be somewhere in A ball next season. I'm not sure where there will be room for him though. He throws with his left arm so there is always a future.

PinstripesPlus: Is Franklin Sanchez a pitcher with a big future ahead of him?

Rios: Franklin is mature. That is what we have always loved about him. The guy has plus, plus control and command. I mean, his control is absolutely outstanding. He's a big guy, like 6' 3" but he doesn't throw exceptionally hard. He is all about his great command. He uses his slider for an out pitch and he has good sink on his fastball. Actually, he reminds me a lot of Ramiro Mendoza. I think he could be the same type of guy down the road. Now that I think about it, they are a whole lot alike.

PinstripesPlus: Can you tell us why Juan Cruz was sent back to the Dominican Summer League in 2004 after dominating in the Gulf Coast League in 2003?

Rios: Cruz did come back, yes. He just ran into a lot of problems mechanically and we thought it would be best that he came back. The progress hasn't been good so I wouldn't expect to see him back in the U.S. next season either. He just hasn't been the same pitcher.

PinstripesPlus: What pitchers should we keep an eye on in 2005?

Rios: A guy we really like his Jonathan Angola. He was a later signee and he only pitched four innings in the Summer League. But he really has a lot behind his fastball and we really like his arm. He throws in the mid 90's and can touch 95 MPH pretty easily. He's a big kid with a live arm. He has a lot going for him so we'll have to see what he can do next season. I don't think we'll see him in the United States next season though. But, he could dominate in the summer league. Another guy is Francisco Castillo. He is another new signee. He has good stuff, live arm. But, he just needs game experience.

PinstripesPlus: Do you consider Dionisio Tineo to be another high profile signing?

Rios: Oh yeah, Dionisio is a fantastic young player. We really likes his tools to be a good third baseman. He is just a very good natural defender. He has a lot of tools to offer like Tabata does. He's another guys that is really young though. We're going to work with him down here for a while and see what happens. He's going to spend next season playing in the summer league though. But, he is a very high profile signing, yes. The organization is very excited about what he brings to the table. He is a premium player.

PinstripesPlus: When you first saw Melky Cabrera, did you ever think he would turn out to be the prospect he is now?

Rios: Well, I love Melky. He is a great kid. But, he hit when I first met, him he hit all through his first season down here, he hit in Staten Island, he hit in Battle Creek and I think he is just going to hit his way all the way up through the Majors. I am very, very proud of Melky. He is just really a great young man. He is like 5' 10" but he hits big. I keep saying, this kid is going to hit 25 home runs one day. I said that since the day we signed him. I know he started to do it this year, and I said here we go. I know him very well. You watch, he is going to be a lot more of a power hitter than everyone thinks. He is really starting to blossom now. I think he is a star in the making. But, I'm telling you, watch out because he is going to hit for a lot more power. You haven't seen half of how good Melky can be yet.

PinstripesPlus: What are your thoughts on Mario Holmann?

Rios: I'll say one thing, the organizations loves the kid. We converted him so he could hit lefty a couple years ago to help him utilize his speed out of the box. He is blazing fast. Mario can do a 6.4 second 60 yard dash. Now, from the left side, he can fly to first base. I think if he didn't hurt his thumb last year, he would have been amazing. Watch out for him this spring. He fields the ball well, he can hit and he can fly.

PinstripesPlus: Do you think Anderson Amador will ever realize his true potential?

Rios: Right now, we are having some problems with him, so I really don't know. We are hoping he will because he really has it all going for him. He just has to commit himself and when he finally is ready to do that, he could be amazing. He just has to put it all together and he hasn't done that yet. But, we are not nearly ready to give up on him just yet.

PinstripesPlus: What does the future hold for Wilton Sevilla?

Rios: Sevilla is another guy with tremendous pitchability. Boy, he is just very good. He profiles as an ideal middle reliever or closer type. He just has really live stuff and a very live arm. He throws hard for not a real big guy. But, his command is excellent and he could have a big future as a reliever.

PinstripesPlus: Out of all your guys from the Dominican Summer League in 2004, who do you think will make the biggest impact in the U.S. in 2005?

Rios: That's tough because most of these guys will not make their way out of the Gulf Coast League. But, because of his age and experience, I'd say it is Saidel Beltran. He'll get the best chance to make it to the highest level. He doesn't have the skills someone like Domingo Cabrera has but he is more experienced and older.

PinstripesPlus: How would you compare Rudy Guillen and Angel Fermin at this stage of their development?

Rios: I can say this, I think Angel may even have the bigger upside and that is saying a lot. But, I think when Rudy was Fermin's age, he was more advanced. But, Fermin may have the higher ceiling.

PinstripesPlus.com would like to thank Carlos Rios for his time and efforts in answering these questions.

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