Q&A with James Rowson - Part I

James Rowson, the Yankees minor league hitting coordinator, sits down with PinstripesPlus.com for a two-part Q&A series. In part one he gives us his impressions on how big league ready Jesus Montero's bat is, if Austin Romine is closer to the player he was in the second-half last year, how happy he is with Bradley Suttle, if Eduardo Nunez is becoming a more consistent player, and much, much more.

PinstripesPlus.com: Jesus Montero had the tremendous offensive season last year. Even though he's in A-ball, just how close is his bat to being big league ready?

James Rowson: He's coming along nicely. Greg Colbrunn did a nice job with him last season. He's just taking steps forward to being the hitter we want him to be. Obviously you can look at the numbers he put up last year and know that he's making the strides, but we just have to continue to stay patient and be consistent with what he's doing.

PinstripesPlus: What's the biggest thing he needs to work on?

Rowson: The more pitches he sees the better he's going to get. Right now the biggest thing would probably be experience. That's why he's getting out there and playing everyday. And the more experience he gets - he's a good athlete - the better player he'll be.

PinstripesPlus: It's been well documented just how great Austin Romine was in the second-half of the season last year. What changed for him?

Rowson: I think last year being his first full-season, I thought the first part of the year he was just getting used to things and getting himself comfortable with his situation. Once he got comfortable we got a chance to see what he can do. He's a good player, he's got a great attitude, and he comes to work everyday. He comes to try and get his work in everyday. I think what we saw in the second-half is who he is and it was just him getting comfortable.

PinstripesPlus: Brandon Laird is another guy who had a tremendous second-half last season and he led the farm system in home runs. Just how good can he be down the road?

Rowson: I can't say enough about him. That group of hitters that was in Charleston last season is a really special group of hitters. I look at all of those guys and I've got to give Greg Colbrunn a lot of credit because it was a process. He started with those guys and they all believed in the process. Brandon Laird believes in the process. From the beginning to the end you saw what he was capable of early and he just started to do it everyday, and started bringing some consistency to the table. It was really him learning to understand his swing and believing in the process.

PinstripesPlus: Carmen Angelini was one of the Charleston guys last year that didn't have the great offensive numbers. What does he need to do to be the offensive player you think he can be?

Rowson: I think it was a positive year. It might not have been the most positive year numbers-wise, but it was a really positive year last season for him. I think he got better as the year went on. I was really happy with what I saw at the end of the season, a lot of the adjustments he made. I think he showed a lot of mental toughness throughout the year and he had a great attitude. He knew what he was working towards and he understood it might not be there everyday, but he was trying to get that consistency. We preach to him to stay with the process, keep working on it. It's going to come and towards the end of the year it started to show up. And I see it this year in Spring Training. So it's really good to see the things that he worked on, they're coming along. He's going to be fine.

PinstripesPlus: Abraham Almonte was another guy who struggled last season, mostly in the second-half. We know he's a guy with the crazy talent. What went wrong in the second-half and have you seen him make the adjustments so far?

Rowson: Again at that level we're talking about young players. We have to remember they're real young. These guys have tons of talent and they're trying to find skills that play at the major league level. Almonte has great major league skills. At a young age it's tough to refine those skills, but he's moving along. I don't look at a lot of things as setbacks, I look at them as learning and experience. Sometimes you have to learn how to control your body, learn how to do certain things, and I think our players are getting there. They're understanding how to do things and they're getting better. Sometimes you look at a year and think it's not the greatest year, but if you learn something that moves you two steps forward down the line then it was a good year. Almonte learned a lot last year and now he can move forward understanding what he's trying to do.

PinstripesPlus: Sticking with last year's Charleston group, I know he's got the bum shoulder right now, but with all of the changes to his swing prior to last season just how happy are you with the development of Bradley Suttle?

Rowson: I'm excited about 'Sut'. He's a really good kid. He wants to get on the field and get going as much as anybody. His development last year was tremendous. I just got to thank our scouting department, really, because these guys have gone out and gotten players. Sut's a polished type of hitter. He made a lot of adjustments from Hawaii to now and he got comfortable. And his aptitude is tremendous. He picked it up quicker than expected. He's able to take those things into the game. With a lot of these guys we're interested to take them into '09 and give them some at-bats and see the more experience they get. But as far as just pure natural hitting ability, Sut's good.

PinstripesPlus: He seems to just knock the snot out of the ball all the time. Does he have more power coming?

Rowson: There's a different sound when he hits it, for sure. I look at these young hitters and I don't really like to project power on them. I'll say this - he's a good hitter and the better hitter you become and the more you learn your swing, and the more experience you get, the more the power comes. It's a process when it comes to power, but he's able to square balls up right now as good as anybody and we get excited when we see that.

PinstripesPlus: Garrison Lassiter is essentially getting ready for his debut season this year. He enters the organization with the reputation as a hitter. What have you seen so far?

Rowson: Garrison's another guy I'm excited about. I got a chance to see him a lot last year in mini-camp and he went down to the Dominican and played a bit down there as well. He's coming along. Again we have players who are talented that have done things at the amateur level and he's one. He's been successful at the amateur level and we expect him to be successful at the professional level. He's just getting accustomed, similar to some of the things we talked about with Romine, Laird, and those guys. Early on there's a transition phase where you just want your guys to get comfortable, kind of learn the system, and then we'll pick it up from there.

PinstripesPlus: A guy who was impressive as hell last year in Extended Spring Training but kind of tailed off with the injury in the Gulf Coast League was Jose Pirela. Where is he in his development right now?

Rowson: He looks good this Spring. I watched him come out here this Spring Training and I like the way he looks. He seems excited. He's ready to go, he can't wait for the season to start. You can tell in the way he's moving and in the way he's going about it. Jose's a guy for me who made big strides last year, big strides, and he's got a lot of tools. He's a talented player with a lot of tools. For a lack of a better term, I just can't wait to watch him this year and continue to see where he goes. A lot of time we're going to let the athleticism come out and we're just going to guide them in the right direction. We don't want to overdo it with some guys.

PinstripesPlus: On the subject of tools, a guy who is having a hell of a camp across the street is Eduardo Nunez. Have you seen that transition from toolsy player to a more consistent player over the last year?

Rowson: It continues to come every year. Obviously we know what he can do tools-wise. He's one of the most special players in this organization as far as tools. He's starting to kind of understand how to put it all together. It's a credit to him because he worked his tail off in the mini-camp and when I went to the Dominican I saw him down there, and he was working hard on the things we talked about, the things he knows he needs and wants to do to get himself to where he wants to be. He's had a lot of input on his swing and he's starting to understand how to put it together. That's what it is. Sometimes it doesn't happen as quickly with a lot of guys, but when it does happen it's a special thing. You can start to see it happening with him now.

PinstripesPlus: Corban Joseph got off to the slow start last season and then really turned things around. Obviously the book on him is the great hit tool - what do you like about him?

Rowson: He's a good hitter. He's fun to watch. You watch him come out and he loves to hit. He's like a kid who was born with a bat in his hand. You see him get excited when it's time to hit. He did a lot of great work last year. He and Derek Shumpert worked closely together. A lot of it was us getting to learn the things he does. We just watched him a lot last year because he's a natural hitter and if it's not broke you don't want to fix it. There's not a lot of things wrong with his swing. For him it's just a young hitter you want to get some reps, get him some experience and let him see some pitches, and we'll guide him along the way. There's no substitute for natural ability.

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\r\n \r\n\r\nPinstripesPlus.com: Jesus Montero had the tremendous offensive season last year. Even though he's in A-ball, just how close is his bat to being big league ready?
\r\n
\r\nJames Rowson: He's coming along nicely. Greg Colbrunn did a nice job with him last season. He's just taking steps forward to being the hitter we want him to be. Obviously you can look at the numbers he put up last year and know that he's making the strides, but we just have to continue to stay patient and be consistent with what he's doing.
\r\n
\r\nPinstripesPlus: What's the biggest thing he needs to work on?
\r\n
\r\nRowson: The more pitches he sees the better he's going to get. Right now the biggest thing would probably be experience. That's why he's getting out there and playing everyday. And the more experience he gets - he's a good athlete - the better player he'll be.
\r\n
\r\nPinstripesPlus: It's been well documented just how great Austin Romine was in the second-half of the season last year. What changed for him?
\r\n
\r\nRowson: I think last year being his first full-season, I thought the first part of the year he was just getting used to things and getting himself comfortable with his situation. Once he got comfortable we got a chance to see what he can do. He's a good player, he's got a great attitude, and he comes to work everyday. He comes to try and get his work in everyday. I think what we saw in the second-half is who he is and it was just him getting comfortable.
\r\n
\r\nPinstripesPlus: Brandon Laird is another guy who had a tremendous second-half last season and he led the farm system in home runs. Just how good can he be down the road?
\r\n
\r\nRowson: I can't say enough about him. That group of hitters that was in Charleston last season is a really special group of hitters. I look at all of those guys and I've got to give Greg Colbrunn a lot of credit because it was a process. He started with those guys and they all believed in the process. Brandon Laird believes in the process. From the beginning to the end you saw what he was capable of early and he just started to do it everyday, and started bringing some consistency to the table. It was really him learning to understand his swing and believing in the process.
\r\n
\r\nPinstripesPlus: Carmen Angelini was one of the Charleston guys last year that didn't have the great offensive numbers. What does he need to do to be the offensive player you think he can be?
\r\n
\r\nRowson: I think it was a positive year. It might not have been the most positive year numbers-wise, but it was a really positive year last season for him. I think he got better as the year went on. I was really happy with what I saw at the end of the season, a lot of the adjustments he made. I think he showed a lot of mental toughness throughout the year and he had a great attitude. He knew what he was working towards and he understood it might not be there everyday, but he was trying to get that consistency. We preach to him to stay with the process, keep working on it. It's going to come and towards the end of the year it started to show up. And I see it this year in Spring Training. So it's really good to see the things that he worked on, they're coming along. He's going to be fine.
\r\n
\r\nPinstripesPlus: Abraham Almonte was another guy who struggled last season, mostly in the second-half. We know he's a guy with the crazy talent. What went wrong in the second-half and have you seen him make the adjustments so far?
\r\n
\r\nRowson: Again at that level we're talking about young players. We have to remember they're real young. These guys have tons of talent and they're trying to find skills that play at the major league level. Almonte has great major league skills. At a young age it's tough to refine those skills, but he's moving along. I don't look at a lot of things as setbacks, I look at them as learning and experience. Sometimes you have to learn how to control your body, learn how to do certain things, and I think our players are getting there. They're understanding how to do things and they're getting better. Sometimes you look at a year and think it's not the greatest year, but if you learn something that moves you two steps forward down the line then it was a good year. Almonte learned a lot last year and now he can move forward understanding what he's trying to do.
\r\n
\r\nPinstripesPlus: Sticking with last year's Charleston group, I know he's got the bum shoulder right now, but with all of the changes to his swing prior to last season just how happy are you with the development of Bradley Suttle?
\r\n
\r\nRowson: I'm excited about 'Sut'. He's a really good kid. He wants to get on the field and get going as much as anybody. His development last year was tremendous. I just got to thank our scouting department, really, because these guys have gone out and gotten players. Sut's a polished type of hitter. He made a lot of adjustments from Hawaii to now and he got comfortable. And his aptitude is tremendous. He picked it up quicker than expected. He's able to take those things into the game. With a lot of these guys we're interested to take them into '09 and give them some at-bats and see the more experience they get. But as far as just pure natural hitting ability, Sut's good.
\r\n
\r\nPinstripesPlus: He seems to just knock the snot out of the ball all the time. Does he have more power coming?
\r\n
\r\nRowson: There's a different sound when he hits it, for sure. I look at these young hitters and I don't really like to project power on them. I'll say this - he's a good hitter and the better hitter you become and the more you learn your swing, and the more experience you get, the more the power comes. It's a process when it comes to power, but he's able to square balls up right now as good as anybody and we get excited when we see that.
\r\n
\r\nPinstripesPlus: Garrison Lassiter is essentially getting ready for his debut season this year. He enters the organization with the reputation as a hitter. What have you seen so far?
\r\n
\r\nRowson: Garrison's another guy I'm excited about. I got a chance to see him a lot last year in mini-camp and he went down to the Dominican and played a bit down there as well. He's coming along. Again we have players who are talented that have done things at the amateur level and he's one. He's been successful at the amateur level and we expect him to be successful at the professional level. He's just getting accustomed, similar to some of the things we talked about with Romine, Laird, and those guys. Early on there's a transition phase where you just want your guys to get comfortable, kind of learn the system, and then we'll pick it up from there.
\r\n
\r\nPinstripesPlus: A guy who was impressive as hell last year in Extended Spring Training but kind of tailed off with the injury in the Gulf Coast League was Jose Pirela. Where is he in his development right now?
\r\n
\r\nRowson: He looks good this Spring. I watched him come out here this Spring Training and I like the way he looks. He seems excited. He's ready to go, he can't wait for the season to start. You can tell in the way he's moving and in the way he's going about it. Jose's a guy for me who made big strides last year, big strides, and he's got a lot of tools. He's a talented player with a lot of tools. For a lack of a better term, I just can't wait to watch him this year and continue to see where he goes. A lot of time we're going to let the athleticism come out and we're just going to guide them in the right direction. We don't want to overdo it with some guys.
\r\n
\r\nPinstripesPlus: On the subject of tools, a guy who is having a hell of a camp across the street is Eduardo Nunez. Have you seen that transition from toolsy player to a more consistent player over the last year?
\r\n
\r\nRowson: It continues to come every year. Obviously we know what he can do tools-wise. He's one of the most special players in this organization as far as tools. He's starting to kind of understand how to put it all together. It's a credit to him because he worked his tail off in the mini-camp and when I went to the Dominican I saw him down there, and he was working hard on the things we talked about, the things he knows he needs and wants to do to get himself to where he wants to be. He's had a lot of input on his swing and he's starting to understand how to put it together. That's what it is. Sometimes it doesn't happen as quickly with a lot of guys, but when it does happen it's a special thing. You can start to see it happening with him now.
\r\n
\r\nPinstripesPlus: Corban Joseph got off to the slow start last season and then really turned things around. Obviously the book on him is the great hit tool - what do you like about him?
\r\n
\r\nRowson: He's a good hitter. He's fun to watch. You watch him come out and he loves to hit. He's like a kid who was born with a bat in his hand. You see him get excited when it's time to hit. He did a lot of great work last year. He and Derek Shumpert worked closely together. A lot of it was us getting to learn the things he does. We just watched him a lot last year because he's a natural hitter and if it's not broke you don't want to fix it. There's not a lot of things wrong with his swing. For him it's just a young hitter you want to get some reps, get him some experience and let him see some pitches, and we'll guide him along the way. There's no substitute for natural ability.
\r\n
\r\n

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

Are you a monthly or 3-month subscriber to PinstripesPlus.com? Why not get two months free AND get 4 issues of our PinstripesPlus Magazine included by becoming an annual subscriber? Upgrade today to get the most out of your subscription.

\r\n

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