Jesus Montero might be receiving all the accolades right now from the Gulf Coast League Yankees team…
Q&A with GCL Yankees Manager Jody Reed
PinstripesPlus.com: How was the transition of Abraham Almonte from second base to centerfield this year?
Jody Reed: Well if you ask him he's going to tell you he loves it and it's obvious because he goes out there and he took to it immediately. Obviously he runs very well so that's going to help his transition out there and speed up that transition. He loves going out there and he loves tracking down fly balls. The only thing Abraham Almonte needs to do is just play games. He just needs the experience of being out in that outfield, seeing balls hit at him, and in different situations. He's got all the tools to be very successful and I suspect he will be.
PinstripesPlus: Obviously Prilys Cuello can hit, but talk about his defensive progress at second base this year.
Reed: Prilys has all the tools to be successful as well and to advance through the minor leagues. The one thing he needs, and we try to emphasize this, is learn the game. It's very important to be able to go out there and be aware of every situation that's going to happen, learn the game of baseball from a mental standpoint, and to me, that's Prilys' biggest objective. He literally needs to learn the game of baseball and create an awareness of being in the right spot at the right time, making the right reads, and making the right decisions. If he learns to grasp the game of baseball from a mental standpoint, he's got the physical tools.
PinstripesPlus: A big thing for Jesus Montero since he signed was changing his approach at the plate. How did his offensive game change from the beginning of Extended Spring Training until the end of the Gulf Coast League this year?
Reed: I'm not going to just throw in the offensive side, but also the defensive side. I would say, more than any player I had, if you were to mark where they started to the progress point they made at the end of the year, Jesus Montero made the biggest jump of anybody. From his beginning point to where he was at the finish point of the season, there was tremendous progress both offensively and defensively. Obviously he's not always going to make that kind of progress. This is an introductory level and here's where you're going to make the biggest jump from a progression standpoint. But if he continues to progress even remotely at the rate he is, he's going to turn himself into a real good player that I think everybody is going to continue to be excited about.
PinstripesPlus: To dig a little deeper then, what was the biggest adjustment he made at the plate and what was the biggest adjustment he made it behind it?
Reed: You know it's funny, I think both of them [the adjustments] were affected by his body control -the ability to gain control of his balance, of controlling his body offensively, learning to keep his control and balance at the plate, his feet were much better, and learning not to try to do too much. He came in and was out of control, trying to kill everything and you just can't do that. The same thing behind the plate, just out of control. Through the course of the season you could see he was starting to understand the things he needed to do and how to make his body to do that. Bar-none, the biggest phase of his game that improved was learning how to control his body.
PinstripesPlus: What did you think of Jairo Heredia this year and what do you think is his strongest attribute on the mound?
Reed: Jairo Heredia to me is Pedro Martinez Jr., similar body types, and you don't know where the velocity comes from. What are they, 5-foot-10 maybe and 150 [pounds] soaking wet, but he's got a live-wire arm and it's exciting to watch him play. He's a kid who really developed mentally. For as young as he is, he's got this incredible competitiveness about him and that's something you really like to see. You really like to see that from position players, but when you see that from pitchers, to me that's what separates those great pitchers, that competitiveness to get out on that mound, that fearlessness - 'give me that baseball, here it is, let's get after it.' Jairo Heredia possesses that. He's so young, it's rare to see a young pitcher who has the presence out there and his command is well above average for somebody his age. As he develops, obviously, the more time out there the more it's going to continue to develop. If he gets to that point where he's Pedro-like and can pinpoint those pitches, he's going to be a big leaguer. This guy is going to be a big leaguer, it's just a matter of giving him a little seasoning, running him out there and allowing him to learn the game of baseball.
PinstripesPlus: Francisco Gil battled some injuries this year, but talk about his development in his first year in the United States.
Reed: Frankie's got all the tools, he's got all the pitches, and I think he took a big step - here's a guy who, when he got here, didn't have that fire to go out there and compete. You saw a little tentativeness, but towards the end of the year you saw this lion type of attitude come out. I'll put it this way, he was a cub when he got here. Now I'm not saying he's a lion now, but I think he starts to understand the presence and the attitude he needs to have on the mound to be successful. If he can turn into that lion, he's got a great chance too.
PinstripesPlus: Zoilo Almonte can look like one of the greatest hitters at times. Talk about his development this year both offensively and defensively.
Reed: Zoilo Almonte figured out this year that he wants to be a big leaguer. He set his mind to improving, and not only that, he started playing the game differently. What I mean by that is he started playing the game, going out there and competing, and playing hard every single pitch. Everyday he went out there and showed, 'you know what, I want to go up to the next level.' Zoilo Almonte, more than from a physical standpoint, now he made great strides physically with swinging the bat and in the outfield, to me, the thing I was most happy to see in him, I started to see a ballplayer develop and I mean from a heart standpoint. I'm anxious to see him comeback next year and see where he picks up.
PinstripesPlus: Kelvin Castro seems to get lost in the shuffle a little bit with all the good players on your squad this year, but yet he plays all over the diamond and always seems to be in the mix offensively. Talk about what you saw from him this year.
Reed: It's interesting you put it that way. I think what Kelvin did this year was put himself on the map and not a person who is lost in the shuffle anymore. He's very much a focal point right now, somebody everybody's interested in because of what he's done, especially from the defensive standpoint. He's developed into a very, very high quality fielder. He's great at receiving the ball, he's corrected some of the throwing issues that he had, he's extremely reliable now with his arm, and he's another young guy who has grasped the game and understands how it has to be played. I don't think Kelvin Castro is going to get lost in the shuffle anymore.
PinstripesPlus: Walter Ibarra was hurt for the second straight year in the Gulf Coast League. He is known as more of a defensive player but wound up being one of your better offensive players in the postseason. What changed for him?
Reed: Walter, this year for me, was the most frustrating player for me. This is an important issue for a lot of young players. Walter is 5-foot-9, 5-foot-10, 165-170 pounds, but in his mind, he was 6-foot-2 and 220 [pounds]. He tried to play the game that way. He developed quicker in the field. He came to us and played the game out of control and made a lot of mistakes he shouldn't have. We addressed that real early and he became very solid defensively. He grasped the need to play in control and understand the game in the field. The thing that held him back most of the year was at the plate. He wanted to swing like he was 6-foot-2, 220. You can't do that. Finally towards the end of the year Walter accepted the fact he was 5-foot-9 and 160 and that you have to go to the plate with a different approach. Once that settled in, Walter started being an extremely productive player. Believe me, one of the first players [next year] when I get here, I'm going to grab Walter and I'm going to say 'do you remember how you were playing the game the last couple of weeks of the season, that's how you've got to start from the beginning. Don't come in here swinging for the fences, it's not going to work for you. You know what type of player you are, that's what you need to be.'
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