Q&A with Carlos Rios

PinstripesPlus.com sits down with Yankees' Latin America Coordinator Carlos Rios for a Q&A session to find out about the Yankees' 'July 2nd' signings. Where does Kelvin De Leon profile best in the field and who does he compare to? Aside from De Leon, who is he most excited about signing? How does this class compare to last year's? Find out all this and much more!

PinstripesPlus.com: What can you tell us about Kelvin De Leon and is there a guy at the big league level you can compare his game to, to give our readers an idea of his style of play?

Carlos Rios: We believe De Leon has the chance to be a five-tool player. The kid has been in and out of the complex for a while, he lives close to our complex. He's got the chance to have power at a corner [outfield] position I believe. He's a very exciting young kid. He's got good makeup, good desire. His arm is going to be above average, actually it is right now above average. He's got the power, the speed I think is going to be good enough, above average but not enough to play centerfield. He's a kid that is going to get every opportunity and we believe his power and his whole bat are going to play a big role. He's similar to a young Jermaine Dye when he was coming up. I coached in the minor leagues for the Braves. He's a big guy who can run and throw and he's become a good player. I think he's got the chance to be somebody like that.

PinstripesPlus: Baseball America compared his body to that of Melky Cabrera. What are your thoughts on that comparison?

Rios: Whoever said that definitely did not see this player, or even Melky, because they are two totally different players. I don't know who that 'American League scout' is, unnamed, but no, they are two totally different players. De Leon is a right-handed bat with five-tool potential and Melky is a centerfield-right field with hit-ability from both sides with some occasional power. This guy has the potential to have power.

PinstripesPlus: What can you tell us about Eduardo Sosa?

Rios: Sosa is a little Johnny Damon type. He's 6-feet, Johnny Damon, with a better arm. That's how I can describe him. He has a 50-55 arm right now and he runs 6.6 [in the 60-yard dash] and he's an extremely good fielder in centerfield. He's working on his hit-ability and he's a guy that performs in games. As he gets stronger he's going to have a little pop. We're excited to have him. He's a great kid. We spent a lot of time knowing about this kid, for about a year and half now. He's a little bit overaggressive right now at the plate right now, but those are the things - the bunt play is going to play a role - and the pitch selection is something we preach from day one. I think he'll learn that.

PinstripesPlus: Talk about the game of shortstop Jose Mojica.

Rios: He's a very exciting player. He's a shortstop that is going to have above average hands, above average arm, with hit-ability, with power potential, perhaps average speed. As he gets stronger he'll get better, but this kid can play the game at shortstop. He has lots of confidence. As you know, we've had some identity issues with him, but we have never doubted his ability. This organization showed me that we believed in talent. We've talked with him and tried to help him out. I'm so excited to have him because he's still a premier shortstop.

PinstripesPlus: Does the fact that he'll be playing as an 18-year old factor into your thoughts of him at all and is there a guy, style-wise, you could compare his game to at the big league level?

Rios: No, it factors in the money issue. He still runs the same, throws the same, at this age. The only difference is when he gets to the big leagues is he'll be two years older, that's all. Hopefully he'll have a long career. It doesn't really matter. He's going to be tall and lanky like Jeter. I'm not saying he's going to be Derek Jeter, but I'm saying that type of body. Jeter is probably a much better runner though. I think time will tell. When Jeter started, that's the type of body he has. I think he's going to be 6-foot-2, 6-foot-3, and he does have the hands, the hit-ability, and the occasional power is there right now and I think he'll have more in the future.

PinstripesPlus: What can you tell us about Arodis Vizcaino and his game?

Rios: Vizcaino has an excellent body and he's got an average to better than average fastball with a close to an average curveball right now and a feel for a changeup. He's a wonderful kid. He has real good mechanics. His head stays straight. We're really excited about this kid. He separated himself from all the other pitchers in Latin America and he's got a tremendous body to be a strong guy. Right now he's a very good athlete.

PinstripesPlus: Jario Heredia was that guy last year. How would you compare the two?

Rios: This guy throws harder at the same age, he has a better breaking ball than Heredia, better mechanics, and we think the world of Heredia, don't get me wrong. But this kid is in a different class. We've seen him as high as 92-93 MPH, not that he pitches at that, but he's 88-91 MPH right now as a 16-year old kid. He has the chance to have three plus pitches and we really think he could be a guy that could be at the top of the rotation.

PinstripesPlus: What can you tell us about third baseman Elio De La Rosa and is there a player either in the minor leagues or in the big leagues that you could compare his game to?

Rios: He's probably the best right-handed bat route, hitting mechanics, is this year's group. He's a solid, solid hitter. He stays inside the ball, he improved his body, improved his fielding, and improved his arm. This is a kid that I've known since he was 13-years old. I've been following him and getting to know him. He has come a long way. He's got some power and he can hit it opposite field, but I think what separates him is his hitting mechanics, his route, consistent hard contact. He's very similar at this age to Adrian Beltre. I think he has a better [swing] route than Beltre at this age, but that's the prototypical player I think this kid has the chance to be.

PinstripesPlus: Talk about outfielder Henry Pena.

Rios: Henry Pena, to me, we gave him the money because of his bat. He's a hit-ability guy. Right now when you compare him to the rest of our guys - he's got a good arm, a good fielder, but his best tool is his hit-ability from the left-side. His power is not there yet but this kid is just 16-years old. But the ability to hit, the smoothness in his swing, is there. I see him as a left fielder with average power and an above fielder with an above average arm. He could probably hit in the top of the lineup in the future. His speed is getting better and it will continue to get better. It's close to average right now but it doesn't show on the field. When he goes out there shagging baseballs, he's got good range. He has good first-step quickness. I'm not worried about that right now. I think that's going to come with strength and maturity. The plus thing about him is his bat. I think he's going to be able to hit for a high average.

PinstripesPlus: What can you tell us about outfielder Edwin Beard?

Rios: Beard is a great project. He's a kid that is as big as De Leon and strong. We've been tweaking his hitting mechanics and his route. He's a very strong makeup kid who is learning. He was a kid who could have actually played this year and we held back so we could work on his swing and mature the rest of the areas of his game. We're very pleased with the results so far. He's a corner [outfield] guy but he's a very good athlete. He runs average, throws average, and an average fielder. He'll be a corner guy.

PinstripesPlus: The catcher from Venezuela - Jorge Liccien - what is his game like?

Rios: Liccien is a kid we've been on for about a year and half with him that is a shortstop. But we know he can catch and we've developed him as a catcher. I don't think a whole lot of people in baseball has seen him as a catcher. This is something we do often. We convert guys who are from Venezuela to the catcher's position and they've had very good success in the past. We think this kid is probably going to be ahead of [Jonathan] Sanchez, the one we signed and traded to the Phillies, because his hit-ability, it's a very good bat. Now we're talking about a good bat with a good body behind the plate and his running was below average and his range was below average at shortstop. When you put him behind the plate - catch, throw, and hit-ability - it's an interesting package and that's why we're going to take the gamble to do that.

PinstripesPlus: So defensively, does he compare to Sanchez?

Rios: I think he's going to be right there. It's just a matter of us having a year to prepare him. I think the arm strength will be there, maybe not as much as Sanchez, but the defensive skills and the arm are going to play a big role in this kid, and the bat is what is going to separate him I believe.

PinstripesPlus: How about the other catcher from Venezuela - Josue Rodriguez? What can you tell us about his game?

Rios: Rodriguez is another catcher who was a shortstop, Posada-looking body, a young Posada, like that. He's a great high energy kid, great desire, and great makeup. We put him behind the plate and he wanted to do it. He's been working at it and here's a guy who should be a catch-and-throw guy. The bat is going to determine how high he's going to play, whether he'll be a backup or an everyday catcher.

PinstripesPlus: Tell us about Brazilian right-handed pitcher Maicar Sousa. What is his stuff like?

Rios: He's a kid that we scouted in Brazil who was a dual-position guy. He was a centerfielder and he was a pitcher. We brought him here, we scouted him at both positions because we knew very little of him. We opted to make him a pitcher. He has an out-pitch right now which is his breaking ball. The fastball is real short but he's a great athlete, enough to be stronger. He has outstanding command. So you get an athlete with an out-pitch, his curveball, and command, you've got to take a chance. That's what we're doing.

PinstripesPlus: Last year you guys signed some guys later on after 'July 2nd Signing Day'. Aside from the scattered signings here and there, are you guys going to be players among the "big names" still out there?

Rios: No, there are no more big names out there. They are all off the market right now because the other teams have done a good job as well. But there "sleepers", guys who thought they were going to get great money and maybe they're going to come down. The thing about this organization is it's aggressive. We overspent a little bit this year but there's always players who can make a difference. We have great support from ownership, from Cashman, Felix Lopez, Abel Guerra, Mark Newman. We're going to keep working, keep finding the names, and we'll let ownership make those calls. But we don't stop. We're already working on 2008, which is going to be a much, much better year. It's probably going to be the best year we've had since I've been here. It's going to be an outstanding year for prospects and I think we have to move early and keep going because there's some good premium position guys that are going to make a difference next year.

PinstripesPlus: Of the guys you signed this year, De Leon aside since he's the big-ticket signing, who are you most excited about?

Rios: Mojica, honestly. He was my number one guy all year. When it turned out he's going to be 18-years old, the only thing that changed for me was the money. I think Mojica, De Leon, and Vizcaino have a legit chance to start next year in the States. We'll see as they develop. De La Rosa, Sosa, and Pena have a very good chance also to stick there as well. They should get up there, get their at-bats and their chance to play, but that's up to player development. But I'm excited about Mojica with his overall talent. He does everything easy and he makes contact and has hit-ability.

PinstripesPlus: I'm not going to ask you to compare players, but compare the overall signing class from last year with this year's group.

Rios: This is a wider class. Last year we had some good signings, but this class, I have to say that I'm proud of the job our scouts have done. They never quit and they work hard. We have some guys with hit-ability, we have some guys with power, we have some premium position guys - this is a strong class. I think we have a lot of 'B' players, those are the ones that have the best chance of playing with the Yankees. I really think there are a few of them that are going to get up there in time.

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Pinstripes Plus Top Stories

\r\n \r\n\r\nPinstripesPlus.com: What can you tell us about Kelvin De Leon and is there a guy at the big league level you can compare his game to, to give our readers an idea of his style of play?
\r\n
\r\nCarlos Rios: We believe De Leon has the chance to be a five-tool player. The kid has been in and out of the complex for a while, he lives close to our complex. He's got the chance to have power at a corner [outfield] position I believe. He's a very exciting young kid. He's got good makeup, good desire. His arm is going to be above average, actually it is right now above average. He's got the power, the speed I think is going to be good enough, above average but not enough to play centerfield. He's a kid that is going to get every opportunity and we believe his power and his whole bat are going to play a big role. He's similar to a young Jermaine Dye when he was coming up. I coached in the minor leagues for the Braves. He's a big guy who can run and throw and he's become a good player. I think he's got the chance to be somebody like that.
\r\n
\r\nPinstripesPlus: Baseball America compared his body to that of Melky Cabrera. What are your thoughts on that comparison?
\r\n
\r\nRios: Whoever said that definitely did not see this player, or even Melky, because they are two totally different players. I don't know who that 'American League scout' is, unnamed, but no, they are two totally different players. De Leon is a right-handed bat with five-tool potential and Melky is a centerfield-right field with hit-ability from both sides with some occasional power. This guy has the potential to have power.
\r\n
\r\nPinstripesPlus: What can you tell us about Eduardo Sosa?
\r\n
\r\nRios: Sosa is a little Johnny Damon type. He's 6-feet, Johnny Damon, with a better arm. That's how I can describe him. He has a 50-55 arm right now and he runs 6.6 [in the 60-yard dash] and he's an extremely good fielder in centerfield. He's working on his hit-ability and he's a guy that performs in games. As he gets stronger he's going to have a little pop. We're excited to have him. He's a great kid. We spent a lot of time knowing about this kid, for about a year and half now. He's a little bit overaggressive right now at the plate right now, but those are the things - the bunt play is going to play a role - and the pitch selection is something we preach from day one. I think he'll learn that.
\r\n
\r\nPinstripesPlus: Talk about the game of shortstop Jose Mojica.
\r\n
\r\nRios: He's a very exciting player. He's a shortstop that is going to have above average hands, above average arm, with hit-ability, with power potential, perhaps average speed. As he gets stronger he'll get better, but this kid can play the game at shortstop. He has lots of confidence. As you know, we've had some identity issues with him, but we have never doubted his ability. This organization showed me that we believed in talent. We've talked with him and tried to help him out. I'm so excited to have him because he's still a premier shortstop.
\r\n
\r\nPinstripesPlus: Does the fact that he'll be playing as an 18-year old factor into your thoughts of him at all and is there a guy, style-wise, you could compare his game to at the big league level?
\r\n
\r\nRios: No, it factors in the money issue. He still runs the same, throws the same, at this age. The only difference is when he gets to the big leagues is he'll be two years older, that's all. Hopefully he'll have a long career. It doesn't really matter. He's going to be tall and lanky like Jeter. I'm not saying he's going to be Derek Jeter, but I'm saying that type of body. Jeter is probably a much better runner though. I think time will tell. When Jeter started, that's the type of body he has. I think he's going to be 6-foot-2, 6-foot-3, and he does have the hands, the hit-ability, and the occasional power is there right now and I think he'll have more in the future.
\r\n
\r\nPinstripesPlus: What can you tell us about Arodis Vizcaino and his game?
\r\n
\r\nRios: Vizcaino has an excellent body and he's got an average to better than average fastball with a close to an average curveball right now and a feel for a changeup. He's a wonderful kid. He has real good mechanics. His head stays straight. We're really excited about this kid. He separated himself from all the other pitchers in Latin America and he's got a tremendous body to be a strong guy. Right now he's a very good athlete.
\r\n
\r\nPinstripesPlus: Jario Heredia was that guy last year. How would you compare the two?
\r\n
\r\nRios: This guy throws harder at the same age, he has a better breaking ball than Heredia, better mechanics, and we think the world of Heredia, don't get me wrong. But this kid is in a different class. We've seen him as high as 92-93 MPH, not that he pitches at that, but he's 88-91 MPH right now as a 16-year old kid. He has the chance to have three plus pitches and we really think he could be a guy that could be at the top of the rotation.
\r\n
\r\nPinstripesPlus: What can you tell us about third baseman Elio De La Rosa and is there a player either in the minor leagues or in the big leagues that you could compare his game to?
\r\n
\r\nRios: He's probably the best right-handed bat route, hitting mechanics, is this year's group. He's a solid, solid hitter. He stays inside the ball, he improved his body, improved his fielding, and improved his arm. This is a kid that I've known since he was 13-years old. I've been following him and getting to know him. He has come a long way. He's got some power and he can hit it opposite field, but I think what separates him is his hitting mechanics, his route, consistent hard contact. He's very similar at this age to Adrian Beltre. I think he has a better [swing] route than Beltre at this age, but that's the prototypical player I think this kid has the chance to be.
\r\n
\r\nPinstripesPlus: Talk about outfielder Henry Pena.
\r\n
\r\nRios: Henry Pena, to me, we gave him the money because of his bat. He's a hit-ability guy. Right now when you compare him to the rest of our guys - he's got a good arm, a good fielder, but his best tool is his hit-ability from the left-side. His power is not there yet but this kid is just 16-years old. But the ability to hit, the smoothness in his swing, is there. I see him as a left fielder with average power and an above fielder with an above average arm. He could probably hit in the top of the lineup in the future. His speed is getting better and it will continue to get better. It's close to average right now but it doesn't show on the field. When he goes out there shagging baseballs, he's got good range. He has good first-step quickness. I'm not worried about that right now. I think that's going to come with strength and maturity. The plus thing about him is his bat. I think he's going to be able to hit for a high average.
\r\n
\r\nPinstripesPlus: What can you tell us about outfielder Edwin Beard?
\r\n
\r\nRios: Beard is a great project. He's a kid that is as big as De Leon and strong. We've been tweaking his hitting mechanics and his route. He's a very strong makeup kid who is learning. He was a kid who could have actually played this year and we held back so we could work on his swing and mature the rest of the areas of his game. We're very pleased with the results so far. He's a corner [outfield] guy but he's a very good athlete. He runs average, throws average, and an average fielder. He'll be a corner guy.
\r\n
\r\nPinstripesPlus: The catcher from Venezuela - Jorge Liccien - what is his game like?
\r\n
\r\nRios: Liccien is a kid we've been on for about a year and half with him that is a shortstop. But we know he can catch and we've developed him as a catcher. I don't think a whole lot of people in baseball has seen him as a catcher. This is something we do often. We convert guys who are from Venezuela to the catcher's position and they've had very good success in the past. We think this kid is probably going to be ahead of [Jonathan] Sanchez, the one we signed and traded to the Phillies, because his hit-ability, it's a very good bat. Now we're talking about a good bat with a good body behind the plate and his running was below average and his range was below average at shortstop. When you put him behind the plate - catch, throw, and hit-ability - it's an interesting package and that's why we're going to take the gamble to do that.
\r\n
\r\nPinstripesPlus: So defensively, does he compare to Sanchez?
\r\n
\r\nRios: I think he's going to be right there. It's just a matter of us having a year to prepare him. I think the arm strength will be there, maybe not as much as Sanchez, but the defensive skills and the arm are going to play a big role in this kid, and the bat is what is going to separate him I believe.
\r\n
\r\nPinstripesPlus: How about the other catcher from Venezuela - Josue Rodriguez? What can you tell us about his game?
\r\n
\r\nRios: Rodriguez is another catcher who was a shortstop, Posada-looking body, a young Posada, like that. He's a great high energy kid, great desire, and great makeup. We put him behind the plate and he wanted to do it. He's been working at it and here's a guy who should be a catch-and-throw guy. The bat is going to determine how high he's going to play, whether he'll be a backup or an everyday catcher.
\r\n
\r\nPinstripesPlus: Tell us about Brazilian right-handed pitcher Maicar Sousa. What is his stuff like?
\r\n
\r\nRios: He's a kid that we scouted in Brazil who was a dual-position guy. He was a centerfielder and he was a pitcher. We brought him here, we scouted him at both positions because we knew very little of him. We opted to make him a pitcher. He has an out-pitch right now which is his breaking ball. The fastball is real short but he's a great athlete, enough to be stronger. He has outstanding command. So you get an athlete with an out-pitch, his curveball, and command, you've got to take a chance. That's what we're doing.
\r\n
\r\nPinstripesPlus: Last year you guys signed some guys later on after 'July 2nd Signing Day'. Aside from the scattered signings here and there, are you guys going to be players among the \"big names\" still out there?
\r\n
\r\nRios: No, there are no more big names out there. They are all off the market right now because the other teams have done a good job as well. But there \"sleepers\", guys who thought they were going to get great money and maybe they're going to come down. The thing about this organization is it's aggressive. We overspent a little bit this year but there's always players who can make a difference. We have great support from ownership, from Cashman, Felix Lopez, Abel Guerra, Mark Newman. We're going to keep working, keep finding the names, and we'll let ownership make those calls. But we don't stop. We're already working on 2008, which is going to be a much, much better year. It's probably going to be the best year we've had since I've been here. It's going to be an outstanding year for prospects and I think we have to move early and keep going because there's some good premium position guys that are going to make a difference next year.
\r\n
\r\nPinstripesPlus: Of the guys you signed this year, De Leon aside since he's the big-ticket signing, who are you most excited about?
\r\n
\r\nRios: Mojica, honestly. He was my number one guy all year. When it turned out he's going to be 18-years old, the only thing that changed for me was the money. I think Mojica, De Leon, and Vizcaino have a legit chance to start next year in the States. We'll see as they develop. De La Rosa, Sosa, and Pena have a very good chance also to stick there as well. They should get up there, get their at-bats and their chance to play, but that's up to player development. But I'm excited about Mojica with his overall talent. He does everything easy and he makes contact and has hit-ability.
\r\n
\r\nPinstripesPlus: I'm not going to ask you to compare players, but compare the overall signing class from last year with this year's group.
\r\n
\r\nRios: This is a wider class. Last year we had some good signings, but this class, I have to say that I'm proud of the job our scouts have done. They never quit and they work hard. We have some guys with hit-ability, we have some guys with power, we have some premium position guys - this is a strong class. I think we have a lot of 'B' players, those are the ones that have the best chance of playing with the Yankees. I really think there are a few of them that are going to get up there in time.
\r\n
\r\n

\r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n\r\n
\r\n

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