Q&A with GCL Yankees Manager Matt Martin

We sat down with GCL Yankees Manager Matt Martin for a Q&A session to get his read on players. Find out who he believes which GCL position player has the highest upside, which pitcher he believes has the most potential, who is the biggest sleeper prospect to watch out for, what he thinks of prized International signee Jesus Montero, and much, much more.

PinstripesPlus.com: Who would you say is the top position prospect from the GCL Yankees this year?

Coach Martin: Calzado has freakish natural ability. He can run, he can throw, and he has real good power potential. He can do everything you want done on a baseball field. Look at what he did at the end of the year. His numbers (.361-2-15 in 16 games) were ridiculous. I think he and guys like Rodriguez and Mesa have as much God-given ability as anybody even though the overall numbers don't really bear that out.

PinstripesPlus: Is he a guy you'd rank among the Top 50 prospects in the Yankee farm system? Would you put Mesa and Rodriguez in that group as well?

Martin: I don't see how you can leave Calzado out. Melky is definitely a guy to keep an eye on. Gerry and Calzado had the numbers this year, but all three are guys I'd say to watch out for.

PinstripesPlus: Among all the pitching prospects on your squad this year, and there were quite a few good ones, which one would you say is the top pitching prospect from the GCL staff this year?

Martin: I think you'd have to put Dellin Betances ahead of everybody and put him at the very top. I mean he's got a great arm. He throws 96-98 MPH and he has a really good curveball and a Major League average changeup right now. I think the sky's the limit with him. I used to be with the Orioles and back in January of 2004 and I saw Daniel Cabrera. He was with [low-A] Delmarva or [high-A] Frederick at the time. He had never done anything yet but I see Betances being the same type. He throws straight downhill. I told Betances that he reminds me of Cabrera. The way he competes in big games, he wanted the ball and he didn't disappoint. You've got to like that.

PinstripesPlus: You brought up his name so give us your thoughts on Gerardo Rodriguez. The Instructs roster is out and it appears he'll be playing first base.

Martin: I think he's got a chance to hit and he's exceptionally strong. He's got power to all fields and he'll go deep to right field. He's got a nice short swing when he doesn't try to do too much. When you try to do too much, you get out of your swing. So if he stays within himself he's got a good chance to be a real good hitter. I really like some of our catchers at the lower levels so maybe him playing first base is a way to get him some at-bats. His number one tool is going to be his bat, but I don't think the Yankees are going to take away the catching aspect away from him. You might see him move back to catcher down the road after he gets some at-bats consistently.

PinstripesPlus: Another guy you touched on is Melky Mesa. What are your impressions of him this past season?

Martin: He's got a great arm too and he can fly. He's got great bat speed too. All these guys, Rodriguez, Calzado, and Mesa, if they were in the States and going to high school they'd be really high draft picks. Mesa and those guys have great natural ability. You can't teach an athlete, you know? Hopefully he'll get some at-bats and see what you have. He can really run. I know he didn't steal bases this year and that will be a big focus for him. They are really going to work with him on base running, but he can Calzado can really fly. He wasn't on base as much and in the Gulf Coast League there isn't as much time to work on stuff like that. He'll be down in the Dominican for Instructs down there and they'll help him learn to read the pitchers.

PinstripesPlus: He didn't play as much this year because of injuries, but there were some expectations with Walter Ibarra. What did you think of him this year?

Martin: Ibarra is a small guy so he's going to get hurt a little easier. He's got really good hands and he's got a knack for being in good position. He needs to get a lot stronger and his arm isn't the greatest. Physically, he's going to have to get bigger. Defensively, it's about keeping him under control. He's really aggressive and you don't want to take that away from him. He might not get bigger, you don't know. But he definitely has some things he can do.

PinstripesPlus: Angel Fermin had a down year this season. You saw him last year as well. Are you down on Fermin?

Martin: Fermin's a guy that was pretty much hurt the whole year. It's tough to produce when you're injured. I'd say he was about 75 percent at the start of the year and he was probably only 50 percent the last three weeks that he played. I'd say the one thing he did show was he was good defensively at third base. He played a great third base for us. He started the year in Extended Spring Training and his hand got messed up. It was like twice the size and he had to play through injuries.

PinstripesPlus: Besides Betances, who would you rank up there among the pitching prospects?

Martin: Well I'll tell you I think we had some legitimate pitching prospects on our team this year. I think I'd put Angel Reyes behind Betances and Zach McAllister up there too. I'll tell you what though, Ivan Nova is not all that far behind. I think Michael Dunn is older than those guys but I think he can be a situational lefty in the big leagues pretty quick.

PinstripesPlus: You mentioned Reyes. He looked quite dominating there at the end of the year. How good do you think he could be?

Martin: I think Reyes has got a chance to be real good. He's got a good fastball and he smoothed out his mechanics, which helped his control. He's got the good curveball too, but what I love is how he competes. He's a really good kid too. It's going to be interesting to see how he progresses.

PinstripesPlus: Of all the players on your Gulf Coast League team this year, position players and pitchers, which one player do you think could be a "sleeper" prospect?

Martin: I think Ivan Nova could be that guy just because of the fact we had guys like Betances, Reyes, and McAllister there this year, guys who might get noticed more than him. I see him as a baby Betances. He's 6-foot-4 and when he throws from that downward angle he's just outstanding. He's got good control and the makings of a good curveball.

PinstripesPlus: He didn't play this year but you got to see a bit of Jesus Montero this season around the minor league complex. What are your early impressions of Montero and does he compare to the GCL hitters (Tabata, Henry, Jackson) you had last season?

Martin: Definitely! I'll tell you what, he hits it like a big leaguer right now in batting practice. I've thrown BP to big leaguers and he's no different. When he's locked in, he compares to those guys and that's definitely a good thing. He's a man-child. But again, that's in batting practice only and that's maybe 15 percent of the game. He's big and he's so strong. He can hit it as far as anybody. What I liked about him though is he would help out anyway he could when he was there and he was supportive of the team even though he wasn't playing. It's tough to judge and make a quick decision off of just batting practice, but I definitely like what I saw.

PinstripesPlus: Abraham Almonte was a guy you got to work with in Extended Spring Training this year and he had a fabulous year in the Dominican Summer League. What did you think of him? How good is he defensively?

Martin: I love Almonte. We had a bunch of injuries this year and he almost came over in mid-season but we opted for Wangel Baez instead because we wanted somebody a little more versatile. We didn't need a strict second baseman. He's definitely an exciting player. He can run and he's got some pop. Defensively he's got a ways to go, but he improved a lot this year. He'll get better too when he comes over here. He's got the chance to have some range, but now it's about getting into better positioning.

PinstripesPlus: You also got a chance to work with Zolio Almonte as well and there was talk of him being in the Gulf Coast League this year. What did you think of him?

Martin: Well we had guys like Mesa and Calzado who needed at-bats. But Almonte has great hands. He kind of reminds me a little bit of Melky Cabrera. He always gets his hands in and he's got some ability. He's got some bat speed and he has good hands through the plate.

Pinstripes Plus Top Stories

\r\n \r\n\r\nPinstripesPlus.com: Who would you say is the top position prospect from the GCL Yankees this year?
\r\n
\r\nCoach Martin: Calzado has freakish natural ability. He can run, he can throw, and he has real good power potential. He can do everything you want done on a baseball field. Look at what he did at the end of the year. His numbers (.361-2-15 in 16 games) were ridiculous. I think he and guys like Rodriguez and Mesa have as much God-given ability as anybody even though the overall numbers don't really bear that out.
\r\n
\r\nPinstripesPlus: Is he a guy you'd rank among the Top 50 prospects in the Yankee farm system? Would you put Mesa and Rodriguez in that group as well?
\r\n
\r\nMartin: I don't see how you can leave Calzado out. Melky is definitely a guy to keep an eye on. Gerry and Calzado had the numbers this year, but all three are guys I'd say to watch out for.
\r\n
\r\nPinstripesPlus: Among all the pitching prospects on your squad this year, and there were quite a few good ones, which one would you say is the top pitching prospect from the GCL staff this year?
\r\n
\r\nMartin: I think you'd have to put Dellin Betances ahead of everybody and put him at the very top. I mean he's got a great arm. He throws 96-98 MPH and he has a really good curveball and a Major League average changeup right now. I think the sky's the limit with him. I used to be with the Orioles and back in January of 2004 and I saw Daniel Cabrera. He was with [low-A] Delmarva or [high-A] Frederick at the time. He had never done anything yet but I see Betances being the same type. He throws straight downhill. I told Betances that he reminds me of Cabrera. The way he competes in big games, he wanted the ball and he didn't disappoint. You've got to like that.
\r\n
\r\nPinstripesPlus: You brought up his name so give us your thoughts on Gerardo Rodriguez. The Instructs roster is out and it appears he'll be playing first base.
\r\n
\r\nMartin: I think he's got a chance to hit and he's exceptionally strong. He's got power to all fields and he'll go deep to right field. He's got a nice short swing when he doesn't try to do too much. When you try to do too much, you get out of your swing. So if he stays within himself he's got a good chance to be a real good hitter. I really like some of our catchers at the lower levels so maybe him playing first base is a way to get him some at-bats. His number one tool is going to be his bat, but I don't think the Yankees are going to take away the catching aspect away from him. You might see him move back to catcher down the road after he gets some at-bats consistently.
\r\n
\r\nPinstripesPlus: Another guy you touched on is Melky Mesa. What are your impressions of him this past season?
\r\n
\r\nMartin: He's got a great arm too and he can fly. He's got great bat speed too. All these guys, Rodriguez, Calzado, and Mesa, if they were in the States and going to high school they'd be really high draft picks. Mesa and those guys have great natural ability. You can't teach an athlete, you know? Hopefully he'll get some at-bats and see what you have. He can really run. I know he didn't steal bases this year and that will be a big focus for him. They are really going to work with him on base running, but he can Calzado can really fly. He wasn't on base as much and in the Gulf Coast League there isn't as much time to work on stuff like that. He'll be down in the Dominican for Instructs down there and they'll help him learn to read the pitchers.
\r\n
\r\nPinstripesPlus: He didn't play as much this year because of injuries, but there were some expectations with Walter Ibarra. What did you think of him this year?
\r\n
\r\nMartin: Ibarra is a small guy so he's going to get hurt a little easier. He's got really good hands and he's got a knack for being in good position. He needs to get a lot stronger and his arm isn't the greatest. Physically, he's going to have to get bigger. Defensively, it's about keeping him under control. He's really aggressive and you don't want to take that away from him. He might not get bigger, you don't know. But he definitely has some things he can do.
\r\n
\r\nPinstripesPlus: Angel Fermin had a down year this season. You saw him last year as well. Are you down on Fermin?
\r\n
\r\nMartin: Fermin's a guy that was pretty much hurt the whole year. It's tough to produce when you're injured. I'd say he was about 75 percent at the start of the year and he was probably only 50 percent the last three weeks that he played. I'd say the one thing he did show was he was good defensively at third base. He played a great third base for us. He started the year in Extended Spring Training and his hand got messed up. It was like twice the size and he had to play through injuries.
\r\n
\r\nPinstripesPlus: Besides Betances, who would you rank up there among the pitching prospects?
\r\n
\r\nMartin: Well I'll tell you I think we had some legitimate pitching prospects on our team this year. I think I'd put Angel Reyes behind Betances and Zach McAllister up there too. I'll tell you what though, Ivan Nova is not all that far behind. I think Michael Dunn is older than those guys but I think he can be a situational lefty in the big leagues pretty quick.
\r\n
\r\nPinstripesPlus: You mentioned Reyes. He looked quite dominating there at the end of the year. How good do you think he could be?
\r\n
\r\nMartin: I think Reyes has got a chance to be real good. He's got a good fastball and he smoothed out his mechanics, which helped his control. He's got the good curveball too, but what I love is how he competes. He's a really good kid too. It's going to be interesting to see how he progresses.
\r\n
\r\nPinstripesPlus: Of all the players on your Gulf Coast League team this year, position players and pitchers, which one player do you think could be a \"sleeper\" prospect?
\r\n
\r\nMartin: I think Ivan Nova could be that guy just because of the fact we had guys like Betances, Reyes, and McAllister there this year, guys who might get noticed more than him. I see him as a baby Betances. He's 6-foot-4 and when he throws from that downward angle he's just outstanding. He's got good control and the makings of a good curveball.
\r\n
\r\nPinstripesPlus: He didn't play this year but you got to see a bit of Jesus Montero this season around the minor league complex. What are your early impressions of Montero and does he compare to the GCL hitters (Tabata, Henry, Jackson) you had last season?
\r\n
\r\nMartin: Definitely! I'll tell you what, he hits it like a big leaguer right now in batting practice. I've thrown BP to big leaguers and he's no different. When he's locked in, he compares to those guys and that's definitely a good thing. He's a man-child. But again, that's in batting practice only and that's maybe 15 percent of the game. He's big and he's so strong. He can hit it as far as anybody. What I liked about him though is he would help out anyway he could when he was there and he was supportive of the team even though he wasn't playing. It's tough to judge and make a quick decision off of just batting practice, but I definitely like what I saw.
\r\n
\r\nPinstripesPlus: Abraham Almonte was a guy you got to work with in Extended Spring Training this year and he had a fabulous year in the Dominican Summer League. What did you think of him? How good is he defensively?
\r\n
\r\nMartin: I love Almonte. We had a bunch of injuries this year and he almost came over in mid-season but we opted for Wangel Baez instead because we wanted somebody a little more versatile. We didn't need a strict second baseman. He's definitely an exciting player. He can run and he's got some pop. Defensively he's got a ways to go, but he improved a lot this year. He'll get better too when he comes over here. He's got the chance to have some range, but now it's about getting into better positioning.
\r\n
\r\nPinstripesPlus: You also got a chance to work with Zolio Almonte as well and there was talk of him being in the Gulf Coast League this year. What did you think of him?
\r\n
\r\nMartin: Well we had guys like Mesa and Calzado who needed at-bats. But Almonte has great hands. He kind of reminds me a little bit of Melky Cabrera. He always gets his hands in and he's got some ability. He's got some bat speed and he has good hands through the plate.
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