DSL - Q&A with Julio Valdez

Abraham Almonte is showing power and speed

PinstripesPlus sits down with Julio Valdez, the Yankees' Dominican Field Coordinator and Manager of DSL Yankees 1, for a Q&A session. Valdez sheds some insights into the development of Jonny Cordoba, Zolio Almonte, Abraham Almonte, who he has been most surprised by, the transformation of Dionisio Tineo, and much more!

PinstripesPlus: Of all the players in the Dominican Summer League, who is the one player that has been the biggest surprise this year?

Julio Valdez: Prilys Cuello is a 17-year old kid that has shown a lot of improvement at the plate and he's come out of nowhere. His fielding is his biggest strength. He has good range and he has a shortstop kind of arm while playing second base. He's learning daily who is pitching and he's been real patient at the plate. He's been good at looking for good pitches to hit and I'd say he's ready go [to the United States] right now.

PinstripesPlus: What have you seen from Zolio Almonte this year? Has he improved the way you would have hoped?

Valdez: He's shown a lot of improvement at the plate and in the field this year. He's a young kid who is not used to playing everyday so we've had to give him a few days off the last week or so. He's a young player who has a long way to go, but he has power to all fields. He hits home runs to left field, to right field, even when he's hitting right-handed. He shows he wants to play in the field and I don't think he'll be here too long at all, he's ready to go now.

PinstripesPlus: You listed Cuello as the biggest surprise, but Abraham Almonte, who is among the league leaders in stolen bases while showing some power, plays the same position as Cuello. Has he been a surprise to you?

Valdez: Almonte is second in the league in stolen bases. I know he can run. He needs to learn better pitch recognition, but his power has been a little surprising. He has shown power from both sides of the plate, which has been most surprising. He has power, that's for sure.

PinstripesPlus: Have you seen any improvement from Andres Dionicio, formerly known as Dionisio Tineo?

Valdez: He's a right-handed hitter that has shown a lot of patience this year. He has a real quick bat too. He has some power. This is his first year at first base. We signed him as a third baseman but we're trying to get him 225 at-bats in this league this year. He has been real, real well at first. He can also play some outfield. He's a free swinger who can swing the bat and he's real close to being ready for the States.

PinstripesPlus: How has Jonny Cordoba looked this season and what is his stuff like now?

Valdez: He has looked fine. He's come a long way back from his surgery. He's throwing his fastball around 84-85 MPH, with a couple at 88 MPH, but he's not consistent enough there. He has a pretty good curveball and a solid changeup. He hasn't gotten an opportunity to go the States yet, but we'll see if he gets that opportunity soon. He just knows how to pitch.

PinstripesPlus: Alexis Arosemena seems to be putting up some numbers for DSL Yankees 2. What can you tell us about his game? What position in the outfield does he play mostly?

Valdez: He plays left field and he is improving a lot this year. Last year he didn't have a lot of playing time. Even though he has had some numbers, he needs a lot of work in almost everything. He's not a guy that is ready to move on yet.

PinstripesPlus: He hasn't pitched much this season yet, but how has Francisco Gil looked so far?

Valdez: Yeah he was hurt for a while, but he pitched the other day and he threw the ball real well. His stuff was nasty. He's a kid with real good stuff and he competes out there. He's going to be alright.

PinstripesPlus: What can you tell us about right-handed pitcher Jonathan Ortiz?

Valdez: He has started coming up to 91 MPH with a sinker and a slider. Ortiz throws a lot of strikes, knows the game, and knows how to pitch. He has shown a lot of improvment in his pitches.

PinstripesPlus: Right-handed pitcher Dickson Marquez seems to be having a solid season as well? What kind of pitches does he throw?

Valdez: He has pitched real well for us this season, but he's been out of the rotation for a little while now with a sore elbow. He throws 92-93 MPH with his fastball and this is his first year. He's a curveball pitcher with a very good changeup.

PinstripesPlus: One of the guys on the radar from two years ago was Maximo Nelson. How has he looked this season and is there any chance we'll be seeing him in the United States again?

Valdez: He has been throwing around 92-94 MPH and he hasn't looked too bad, but I don't know if he's going to get there [United States]. I don't think he's going to ever get his visa, which is a shame.

PinstripesPlus: Are there any other players in the Dominican Summer League this year that have caught your eye as players our readers should keep an eye on in the future?

Valdez: Andres Santos, who pitched well last year, is throwing 92-93 MPH now as a left-handed pitcher with a real good curveball. Noel Castillo is a right-handed pitcher with a very good curveball, a good changeup, and he's throwing 94-95 MPH right now. Kelvin Perez is a right-handed pitcher too who throws a fastball, curveball, and a changeup. He's throwing 93-94 MPH with his fastball. And Andres Varillas is a left-handed pitcher who throws 90-91 MPH with a good changeup and a decent curveball. Those are guys you should keep an eye on.

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