Q&A with Mark Newman

Yankees Senior Vice President of Baseball Operations Mark Newman, responsible for both player development and scouting, sits down for a Q&A session to talk about the state of the farm system, if he believes the farm system is as deep as it ever has been, what he sees in Brett Gardner's future, what his thoughts are on Jesus Montero, and much, much more!

PinstripesPlus.com: Talk about the depth of the farm system in general. How deep is the farm system in your opinion?

Mark Newman: The depth is exceptional, especially from the pitching standpoint. This draft we've added some position players, internationally we've added some position players, so we're starting to catch up on the other side of the ball I think. Overall, over the course of the year, it's been outstanding with the number of players we've put in the big leagues, the quality of performances from the prospects in the system, the quality of the performances of the teams - all that stuff's been a plus, so it's been as good a year as we've had in a long, long time. It's [the farm system] the deepest it's been since I've been here. It's a testimony to the great job the scouts have done, domestically and through the draft with Damon [Oppenheimer], and Carlos Rios and his staff internationally. Both sides of the scouting house are performing very well and it's reflected out here [on the field] obviously.

PinstripesPlus: Seeing guys like Joba Chamberlain and Ian Kennedy move up the way they have, and even a guy like Daniel McCutchen get up to Double-A this year, were you expecting this type of advancement from guys drafted just last year?

Newman: No, there's no way. We'd never expect that, that kind of rapid movement. Those three guys in particular have been successful at every level they've played at. You've got other guys too. Brett Gardner is in Triple-A and performing well. He's made great progress. Juan Miranda out of the international market was really idle for two years when he left Cuba and he's going to push 90 RBI's for the season and he played in A and Double-A. That's been a big plus as well. Austin Jackson's performance in the Florida State League has also been a huge plus. Mitch Hilligoss in Charleston has been very solid as well. So we've got some guys up and down the system that have performed maybe even beyond what we expected, so it's been a nice year in that regard.

PinstripesPlus: Two years ago, despite having so many talented pitching prospects at the lower levels, the Yankees were knocked for not having any at the higher minor league levels. With so many talented position prospects now at the lower levels, could you foresee a similar scenario once these guys start moving up?

Newman: That's our intent, we'll see what happens. Hitters typically take more time because they're in a reactive posture at the plate and the adjustments they make from amateur to professional baseball are more significant. The wood bat is a big part of that. But I expect we will. Shelley Duncan has made contributions at the Major League level and it looks like he can be a factor there, so we have added position players. Andy Phillips had done a solid job at first. We're trying to get the level of position players in the organization up to the level of pitchers. If we do that, we'll be good. It doesn't happen very often when you have strengths at both sides of the house, but we're working towards that and hopefully we'll achieve that.

PinstripesPlus: You mentioned his name and it begs your opinion. Some pundits consider Brett Gardner more of a reserve outfielder type, a fourth or even fifth outfielder at the big league level someday. How do you see him fitting in with this organization and do you see him having more of an impact than that at the big league level?

Newman: Yeah I think he's going to be a player. He's a Juan Pierre type of guy with plate discipline. We like him, we think he is a player. We think Austin Jackson is going to be a player. He's a different type of player with his power, but he doesn't run as well as Gardner, but not many people do.

PinstripesPlus: Of the position players you drafted this year, now that you've had a chance to get a closer look at them, which one stands out in your mind right now?

Newman: Obviously we like Austin Romine, we like Suttle, we like Weems, we like Angelini and Grote. All of those guys were top ten picks and we think there's something to like about all of them. Obviously it's going to take some time for us to get longer looks and for them to get adapted, so we're not making big judgements on those guys right away.

PinstripesPlus: You mentioned Romine, a catcher. For me, one of the real success stories this year has been the development of Kyle Anson behind the plate. What have you seen from him behind the plate that you like and has he put himself on the prospect map?

Newman: Well he's a plus thrower with a quick release and an accurate arm. He throws in the 1.85 range, a lot. As a hitter, he's a switch-guy with not tons of power, but he has some power with very good plate discipline. So he's a switch-hitter who can catch and throw, and if adapts behind the plate - he's still in a developmental process in terms of the way he receives, blocks, and call pitches - so far it looks okay. Yeah, absolutely [if Anson has put himself on the prospect map]. Anybody who can throw like that and switch-hit, and has some plate discipline - at that position that is so difficult to fill - he's certainly a guy that's on our radar now.

PinstripesPlus: For a while there it seemed you guys were lacking depth at the catcher's spot in the farm system. With Anson and Cervelli, and now after drafting Romine and Weems, it seems like you guys have addressed those needs.

Newman: And this guy Jesus Montero has the chance to be a real special player. Arm strength and a really advanced hitter at age 17 - he would be a high school junior - he has swung the bat extraordinarily well in the Gulf Coast League. His hands are good. He's a big guy so he has to maintain lower-body flexibility and maintain agility, but he's doing fine there now. He's doing better than fine. Offensively he's been extraordinary and defensively he's really made strides in the year that he's been here. So he is big-time on the map. And we feel Austin [Romine] is going to be a real quality player. We think Chase Weems, as a left-handed hitting catcher, is going to be a factor in a few years. It's going to take some time for those guys. Cervelli's closer. There probably aren't many better catch and throw people in minor league baseball than Cervelli and he's been solid with the bat. He's got a little knee problem right now that will be resolved within a week or so. His plate discipline is good, the power numbers aren't there at this time, and I don't know if they will be. We think he's going to hit some, we think he's going to get on base, and he can really catch, throw, and run a game. That's a nice plus for us too, he should be in Double-A next year, so those catchers are starting to get to the top. The centerfielders, Gardner and Jackson, should be Triple-A and Double-A - that's assuming Gardner is not in the big leagues. He's going to go to play in Arizona so we'll see how that goes. Gardner's numbers in Triple-A are okay. He fought through a wrist injury and did good in Double-A. We feel good about those guys. You know who really has had a nice year, and you've got to look beyond his numbers a little bit is Alberto Gonzalez, who we got from Arizona in the Randy Johnson deal. He made a huge adjustment at the plate in the middle of the year. He put up quality numbers at Double-A and he is now putting up quality numbers at Triple-A. He can flat-play shortstop too so he's a guy. He's a guy people should pay attention to.

PinstripesPlus: A guy I really like is Mitch Hilligoss, who can flat-out hit. For me, he seems like he could be a better prospect over at second base. Is there any thought about maybe moving him over there since there's some question about his power to play third at the big league level?

Newman: The question is does he haven enough agility to play second. We're going to take a look at that. The bat is certainly first rate. How the power develops, I don't know, we'll see. That's the last thing to come around in any player. We think there's some impact there. We can't force the defense in the middle of the field but we're going to take a look at it in Instructs and see what we've got.

PinstripesPlus: You've got some really talented pitchers at the lower levels, including Dellin Betances and Zach McAllister. Considering all the pitching depth you have now, is bringing them along slowly a luxury you now have that maybe you didn't have when you guys drafted Phil Hughes?

Newman: No those decisions are made independent of what the organizational depth looks like with an eye towards what the particular player needs. So how fast Hughes or Kennedy or anybody else moves up does not impact Dellin Betances. He moves at the appropriate rate for his level of development at that given time. McAllister's the same way.

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\r\n \r\n\r\nPinstripesPlus.com: Talk about the depth of the farm system in general. How deep is the farm system in your opinion?
\r\n
\r\nMark Newman: The depth is exceptional, especially from the pitching standpoint. This draft we've added some position players, internationally we've added some position players, so we're starting to catch up on the other side of the ball I think. Overall, over the course of the year, it's been outstanding with the number of players we've put in the big leagues, the quality of performances from the prospects in the system, the quality of the performances of the teams - all that stuff's been a plus, so it's been as good a year as we've had in a long, long time. It's [the farm system] the deepest it's been since I've been here. It's a testimony to the great job the scouts have done, domestically and through the draft with Damon [Oppenheimer], and Carlos Rios and his staff internationally. Both sides of the scouting house are performing very well and it's reflected out here [on the field] obviously.
\r\n
\r\nPinstripesPlus: Seeing guys like Joba Chamberlain and Ian Kennedy move up the way they have, and even a guy like Daniel McCutchen get up to Double-A this year, were you expecting this type of advancement from guys drafted just last year?
\r\n
\r\nNewman: No, there's no way. We'd never expect that, that kind of rapid movement. Those three guys in particular have been successful at every level they've played at. You've got other guys too. Brett Gardner is in Triple-A and performing well. He's made great progress. Juan Miranda out of the international market was really idle for two years when he left Cuba and he's going to push 90 RBI's for the season and he played in A and Double-A. That's been a big plus as well. Austin Jackson's performance in the Florida State League has also been a huge plus. Mitch Hilligoss in Charleston has been very solid as well. So we've got some guys up and down the system that have performed maybe even beyond what we expected, so it's been a nice year in that regard.
\r\n
\r\nPinstripesPlus: Two years ago, despite having so many talented pitching prospects at the lower levels, the Yankees were knocked for not having any at the higher minor league levels. With so many talented position prospects now at the lower levels, could you foresee a similar scenario once these guys start moving up?
\r\n
\r\nNewman: That's our intent, we'll see what happens. Hitters typically take more time because they're in a reactive posture at the plate and the adjustments they make from amateur to professional baseball are more significant. The wood bat is a big part of that. But I expect we will. Shelley Duncan has made contributions at the Major League level and it looks like he can be a factor there, so we have added position players. Andy Phillips had done a solid job at first. We're trying to get the level of position players in the organization up to the level of pitchers. If we do that, we'll be good. It doesn't happen very often when you have strengths at both sides of the house, but we're working towards that and hopefully we'll achieve that.
\r\n
\r\nPinstripesPlus: You mentioned his name and it begs your opinion. Some pundits consider Brett Gardner more of a reserve outfielder type, a fourth or even fifth outfielder at the big league level someday. How do you see him fitting in with this organization and do you see him having more of an impact than that at the big league level?
\r\n
\r\nNewman: Yeah I think he's going to be a player. He's a Juan Pierre type of guy with plate discipline. We like him, we think he is a player. We think Austin Jackson is going to be a player. He's a different type of player with his power, but he doesn't run as well as Gardner, but not many people do.
\r\n
\r\nPinstripesPlus: Of the position players you drafted this year, now that you've had a chance to get a closer look at them, which one stands out in your mind right now?
\r\n
\r\nNewman: Obviously we like Austin Romine, we like Suttle, we like Weems, we like Angelini and Grote. All of those guys were top ten picks and we think there's something to like about all of them. Obviously it's going to take some time for us to get longer looks and for them to get adapted, so we're not making big judgements on those guys right away.
\r\n
\r\nPinstripesPlus: You mentioned Romine, a catcher. For me, one of the real success stories this year has been the development of Kyle Anson behind the plate. What have you seen from him behind the plate that you like and has he put himself on the prospect map?
\r\n
\r\nNewman: Well he's a plus thrower with a quick release and an accurate arm. He throws in the 1.85 range, a lot. As a hitter, he's a switch-guy with not tons of power, but he has some power with very good plate discipline. So he's a switch-hitter who can catch and throw, and if adapts behind the plate - he's still in a developmental process in terms of the way he receives, blocks, and call pitches - so far it looks okay. Yeah, absolutely [if Anson has put himself on the prospect map]. Anybody who can throw like that and switch-hit, and has some plate discipline - at that position that is so difficult to fill - he's certainly a guy that's on our radar now.
\r\n
\r\nPinstripesPlus: For a while there it seemed you guys were lacking depth at the catcher's spot in the farm system. With Anson and Cervelli, and now after drafting Romine and Weems, it seems like you guys have addressed those needs.
\r\n
\r\nNewman: And this guy Jesus Montero has the chance to be a real special player. Arm strength and a really advanced hitter at age 17 - he would be a high school junior - he has swung the bat extraordinarily well in the Gulf Coast League. His hands are good. He's a big guy so he has to maintain lower-body flexibility and maintain agility, but he's doing fine there now. He's doing better than fine. Offensively he's been extraordinary and defensively he's really made strides in the year that he's been here. So he is big-time on the map. And we feel Austin [Romine] is going to be a real quality player. We think Chase Weems, as a left-handed hitting catcher, is going to be a factor in a few years. It's going to take some time for those guys. Cervelli's closer. There probably aren't many better catch and throw people in minor league baseball than Cervelli and he's been solid with the bat. He's got a little knee problem right now that will be resolved within a week or so. His plate discipline is good, the power numbers aren't there at this time, and I don't know if they will be. We think he's going to hit some, we think he's going to get on base, and he can really catch, throw, and run a game. That's a nice plus for us too, he should be in Double-A next year, so those catchers are starting to get to the top. The centerfielders, Gardner and Jackson, should be Triple-A and Double-A - that's assuming Gardner is not in the big leagues. He's going to go to play in Arizona so we'll see how that goes. Gardner's numbers in Triple-A are okay. He fought through a wrist injury and did good in Double-A. We feel good about those guys. You know who really has had a nice year, and you've got to look beyond his numbers a little bit is Alberto Gonzalez, who we got from Arizona in the Randy Johnson deal. He made a huge adjustment at the plate in the middle of the year. He put up quality numbers at Double-A and he is now putting up quality numbers at Triple-A. He can flat-play shortstop too so he's a guy. He's a guy people should pay attention to.
\r\n
\r\nPinstripesPlus: A guy I really like is Mitch Hilligoss, who can flat-out hit. For me, he seems like he could be a better prospect over at second base. Is there any thought about maybe moving him over there since there's some question about his power to play third at the big league level?
\r\n
\r\nNewman: The question is does he haven enough agility to play second. We're going to take a look at that. The bat is certainly first rate. How the power develops, I don't know, we'll see. That's the last thing to come around in any player. We think there's some impact there. We can't force the defense in the middle of the field but we're going to take a look at it in Instructs and see what we've got.
\r\n
\r\nPinstripesPlus: You've got some really talented pitchers at the lower levels, including Dellin Betances and Zach McAllister. Considering all the pitching depth you have now, is bringing them along slowly a luxury you now have that maybe you didn't have when you guys drafted Phil Hughes?
\r\n
\r\nNewman: No those decisions are made independent of what the organizational depth looks like with an eye towards what the particular player needs. So how fast Hughes or Kennedy or anybody else moves up does not impact Dellin Betances. He moves at the appropriate rate for his level of development at that given time. McAllister's the same way.
\r\n
\r\n

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