Dominican Instructs - Q&A with Mark Newman

Newman liked what he saw from Gabe Encinas

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 what he saw at Dominican Instructs; which prospects stood out, which of the Latin American players there we should watch out for next season, his early impressions of new signees Wilmer Romero and Rafael DePaula, and much, much more!

PinstripesPlus.com: First a general question about Dominican Instructs - who stood out for you in the two weeks you were down there?

Mark Newman: Gabe Encinas and Mason Williams. [Encinas'] velo was up to 93 mph, he may have been up to 94mph, the curveball was 77-79 mph and it really improved. It had tight, tight bite. [His] changeup had some sink fade to it. He was really, really impressive. Williams hit the ball all around the yard, showed exceptional defense, so that was good.

PinstripesPlus.com: Those were two of the guys that stood out for me during your regular Instructional League camp in Tampa. Which players stood out for you at Dominican Instructs among the Dominican Summer League players?

Newman: Ravel Santana is the deal. He can run - plus, plus, plus throw - hit, power, a good looking kid. He can hit it over the fence, he has a decent understanding of the strike zone for a young kid in that league, and he's working in the weight room and getting strong. He'll be fine [visa-wise] to come here next year.

PinstripesPlus.com: We haven't spoken yet since you signed Wilmer Romero. What are your impressions of him?

Newman: Great body; 6-foot-2 and half, 6-foot-3, 180 pounds. He's projectable, big, strong guy, and he's going to have big power. Big power. He's a bit crude as a player. He has to clean up his approach at the plate. Defensively he has to work on reads and routes. But arm strength and raw power, he's got tools you like and he's going to be a big man.

PinstripesPlus.com: It almost sounds like offensively he's a little Melky Mesa like. Does he react to the spin on the breaking pitches yet?

Newman: He's okay there. I don't think Melky is the right comp for him. Melky's a really good runner and it's not that this guy is a bad runner - he's just an average runner - but he's okay on the breaking ball. He has to shorten his approach to the ball. He has big power though. He's learning how to hit strikes and be short to the ball.

PinstripesPlus.com: Do you think this is a guy who can skip the Dominican Summer League entirely?

Newman: No I think he's going to take a season down there.

PinstripesPlus.com: I know things are still contingent on his MLB investigation and then on getting a work visa, but what can you tell us about Rafael Depaula?

Newman: This is a very, very talented guy. We've seen him up to 96 mph. He's going to be a brute. He's going to be big and strong. He's 6-foot-3, 210 pounds now. He'll probably be 6-foot-4, 225 [pounds] when it's all said and done. He's going to have power. He's a power, hard-throwing, strong right-handed guy. His delivery for a kid his age and with his background is good, he has some feel for spin, and he's around the plate. He's been one of the premium pitchers down there for the last two years.

PinstripesPlus.com: Let's say for argument sake that he clears the investigation and gets the visa, is he the kind of guy who is advanced enough to jump right into the United States?

Newman: He very well may be. I wouldn't guarantee it but he's got a good shot at it.

PinstripesPlus.com: What can you tell us about Sandy Brito? He seems to be generating some buzz down there for his tools.

Newman: He's a big guy with some power, but he's down now. He's going to have knee surgery with a meniscus problem. I don't think [he'll be out for next year], but it's a cartilage deal. He should be back but it's slowed his progress because he didn't get much time this Instructional League.

PinstripesPlus.com: When I saw Yeicok Calderon during regular Instructs he appeared to me to have made no progress defensively. Is he really that bad or did I catch him bad that week?

Newman: Oh let me tell you Patrick, he's made huge progress. He still has a long ways to go defensively, but he has made substantial progress. You should have seen him at the start. That's a little praising with faint damn, but the guy can hit though. He can rake. He swings at strikes, he has power, and he can run. He just has to take a zillion fly balls.

PinstripesPlus.com: I was a little surprised, at least from everything I heard, that Claudio Custodio didn't get up to regular Instructs in Tampa. What was he like during Dominican Instructs?

Newman: Good, very good. He was very impressive. He hits strikes, he plays the game with poise and intelligence, and he can impact the ball. He's got some power for a smaller guy. It may be more dangerous to him than the opposition because sometimes his swing is too big, but I think he's a very bright kid and he's got ability we really like.

PinstripesPlus.com: Is he one of the guys who could be coming States-side next year?

Newman: Yeah, there's a chance.

PinstripesPlus.com: What can you tell us about Chris Cabrera and his injury? What's the deal with him?

Newman: Thoracic outlet sydrome. He had a rib removed. It was impinging on his circulation in his right shoulder. The surgery's been done before, other guys have had it. He's working his way back in. He had a great start and he was impressing us early on, and then this thing. He'll be back next Spring.

PinstripesPlus.com: With the numbers he posted before he got hurt, is it safe to assume he'll be here in the United States next season?

Newman: Probably not because he's in rehab mode. The rehab process itself is stressful because you haven't used body parts for a long time and we don't like adding to it by moving him up in competition until he's completely healthy. That's why we started Dellin Betances this year in the Florida State League.

PinstripesPlus.com: What did you see from Eduardo Sosa this year and/or what were the reports on him? When I saw him it seemed that he was playing a lot better than the numbers might have shown. Were you pleased with his progress?

Newman: Yeah, it was a step forward. Offensively he had better contact and better plate discipline. His plate discipline improved by 25 percent. He moved up a league and his numbers got better. That's substantial improvement. He went from a 569 OPS to a 750 OPS, so yeah, we're happy.

PinstripesPlus.com: It seems you've got him, Mason Williams, Slade Heathcott, and Abraham Almonte all bunched together for two A-ball assignments next year. Do you think there's a chance with Almonte, even with the fact he missed most of the season, could get up to Double-A next year to give some of these younger guys behind him a chance in the long-season leagues?

Newman: Probably not to start with. I think he can get there during the season though.

PinstripesPlus.com: With that in mind then, is there room for both Sosa and Williams on a long-season league team to start the year?

Newman: Oh yeah, they can both play there. Obviously somebody is going to lose a little centerfield time, but they'll both be in the same boat.

PinstripesPlus.com: On the subject of centerfield, Ramon Flores to me is one of the more intriguing guys because of his bat. He also seems to have the ability to play centerfield too. Is he a candidate to get some reps in centerfield?

Newman: He's not exclusively a corner guy and over time I think he will. It's something we've got to work our way through because we've got some centerfielders in that age group that are plus-plus runners. He's probably a plus runner. Some of these other guys are plus-plus runners.

PinstripesPlus.com: While we're talking about Flores, I don't want to say he came out of nowhere because he was a talented guy who had to adjust to his first year in the States last year...do you think Fu-Lin Kuo could be that kind of guy for you next season?

Newman: Absolutely. I think that's a great call because he was really good in Extended [Spring Training] and he had his moments. I think he could have a really strong year [next season].

PinstripesPlus.com: Here's more of a conceptual and philosophical question -- you had guys like Chase Whitley and Preston Claiborne make it all the way to high-A Tampa and I don't recall you guys sending first-year draft picks even to Charleston let alone Tampa -- is this going to be a consistent practice going forward now that you've created such lower-level depth?

Newman: That's situational. One it happened to be a year where were able to acquire some college relievers with plus arms. That group in Staten Island, some guys moved up because there was a need and the need met their abilities. In the coming year I don't know if we'll have that. But if we have guys of that caliber, especially with relievers because with [first-year] starters you have the innings problem and other concerns, it may happen [again].

PinstripesPlus.com: I know you're always looking at more signings, but if you had to guess right now, are you guys done on the International market for 2010?

Newman: Yeah I don't see anything else [happening] at the moment.

PinstripesPlus.com: Another general question - among the Dominican Summer League players this past season, who do you see coming States-side next season?

Newman: Ravel Santana is a sure bet. He's going to come. [Yeicok] Calderon will come too. Beyond that we've got a lot of meetings to conduct, but those guys are slam dunks.

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