Q&A with James Rowson - Part I

Rowson loves Kelvin De Leon's power

James Rowson, the new 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 the likes of Austin Romine, Carmen Angelini, Chase Weems, Taylor Grote, Kelvin De Leon, and Jose Mojica, what changes he's seen in Abraham Almonte, and more.

PinstripesPlus.com: Talk about what you've seen from Austin Romine in the early going. What have you been impressed with? What does he need to work on?

James Rowson: Austin is an impressive kid as it is. He's got a real good demeanor about himself, he understands the game, and he wants to get better. He strives to get better everyday. Obviously you can tell when he hits he gets a hold of the ball - he can drive it. He's got the ability to hit the ball to all fields. He has a lot of what you'd like to see in young hitters right now. He's just continuing to get experience basically in pro ball and getting acclimated to his surroundings and that type of thing. I thought it was great for him to get a chance to go over to the Dominican Republic and play over there, and to see where some of his teammates come from and how they prepare, and to get a look at the game from a bit of the International perspective. I've got nothing but great things to say about Austin, he's a quality kid.

PinstripesPlus: Carmen Angelini is quickly earning rave reviews for his defensive abilities but he seems to have a good approach at the plate. Do you see the same thing?

Rowson: I like it, he's got good discipline at the plate right now, that's what I see. He understands the strike zone and he swings at strikes. The good thing when you watch him is he doesn't chase too many pitches out of the zone and you know if you throw him a good pitch to hit he's going to hit it. Whether it be early in the count or later in the count, he has an idea basically of what he wants to hit. He's still a young guy so he's still learning when pitchers start to pitch him different ways, how to attack that when guys start pitching him differently. Basically all of these new guys are getting acclimated, they're getting comfortable. I know when I talked to them in the Dominican Republic, and after the mini-camp in Tampa, they are just now getting used to pro ball. I think there's a certain timeframe for them to get used to how things work in pro ball, but none of these guys, especially Angelini, are intimidated at all. They're ready to attack and it move forward.

PinstripesPlus: On the subject of moving forward, combining Romine and Angelini, I know they're still young kids and they still have to get acclimated but have seen enough, or been impressed enough, that maybe both of these players could make the jump offensively to the South Atlantic League next season?

Rowson: It's hard to say. I think time will tell. Ultimately the decision is going to be based on what's best for the player and their development. We've seen them now in mini-camp [in Tampa], we've seen them in the Dominican, and Spring Training will be a test for them because it will be their first Spring. Everything for them right now is a first time the way they are going through this system. It'll be tough to say. I think both of these guys have solid ability. Wherever they play it's going to be putting them there to succeed. It's hard for me at this point to make a guess where a player may or may not go. It's going to be based on really seeing them in Spring Training and you'll have a better idea of where a guy is going to go and where he should go.

PinstripesPlus: Chase Weems was a guy that really impressed me in the Dominican Republic with the at-bats he put together. He seems to get on base any way he can, getting hit by pitches, drawing walks, whatever. He seems to be a scrappy hitter.

Rowson: I'll tell you what, he's a great worker, he's a great competitor, and he's got great aptitude. He learns well, right now that's the biggest thing. When he's working he asks a lot of questions, he wants to get better, and he learns things rather quickly. Whatever he's working on he shows a knack to pick things up quickly. He looked great in the DR when I was down there. I was real happy about his progress just seeing him from the mini-camp to seeing him in the DR, you could see in just a couple of weeks his improvement and his ability to grasp the system and make adjustments rather quickly. He's a competitor, he's going to compete every time regardless of the situation. You can expect him to compete as hard as he can.

PinstripesPlus: Of all the new young kids, Taylor Grote seems to be the most confident. Talk about what you've seen from him so far.

Rowson: I love Taylor. He's got great personality and he's what you look for in young hitters. He's got real loose hands and he's got a good ability to put the barrel on the ball. He knows where the barrel is all the time. You see that in the good hitters, you see that out of the guys that are successful, is the ability to know where the barrel is at all times. He's got real loose hands, a quick bat, and he's confident at the plate like you said. He knows every time he goes up there he's going to succeed. That's what you want to see, a guy that goes up there confident regardless of what happened in the last at-bat he knows he's going to get a hit in that next at-bat. All of our young guys right now are looking for knowledge, they're looking to get better, they ask a lot of questions, and they are interested in becoming the best hitters they can become. Working with Taylor in the mini-camp and in the DR, that's what you get. You get a lot of questions from these guys, they want to know about certain situations, certain count situations, how a pitcher is going to pitch them early in the count or late in the count, and come back from at-bats and ask questions. That's a sign I see in all of these kids that tell me these guys are going to be good players.

PinstripesPlus: A guy that seems to be coming on strong is Abraham Almonte. Talk about what you've seen from him over these last two mini-camps and what are your impressions?

Rowson: I've seen him at different times already throughout the system. What I see from him is his strike zone discipline is improving. There's no doubt about it when he hits the ball that can impact the baseball. He's a good hitter. He enjoys hitting and he's an aggressive hitter, and he's beginning to show controlled aggression. He's learning now that he can be aggressive against pitches he can drive as opposed to just being aggressive in the count. He's making the transition to having better strike zone discipline and overall we're pleased with his progress.

PinstripesPlus: Talk about Zoilo Almonte a little bit. Every time I see this guy he's hitting gappers left and right. What have you seen?

Rowson: I'll tell you what, he's a loose-bodied guy. He's got loose actions and when he makes impact - and you've seen him take batting practice - the ball comes off of his bat well. He's a guy where the ball jumps off of his bat, the ball gets off of his bat well. I'm excited about the things he can do. Obviously he's continuing to work on his overall game and just his consistency, which all minor league hitters and even some major league hitters are working on. He's trying to find that consistent niche that he can go up there every time and repeat his quality swing.

PinstripesPlus: Of the newer guys from the July 2nd signs, Jose Mojica seems to be the talk of the class. He's a smaller guy but he seems to sting the ball pretty good. What have you seen from him approach-wise and power-wise so far, and what do you think of his offensive game right now?

Rowson: Obviously the first time I saw him was down there [in the Dominican Republic] recently but I'm excited about him. What I saw is what you see from a lot of these young guys when you first see them, his tools. His tools are exciting. Here's a slim-framed guy with some real loose hands who, with his frame, you wouldn't believe he gets the charge he gets right now. He's got real good bat-head release, he's got loose hands, plays the game aggressively, and I'm excited about what I see. Obviously I would like to see some more games but you can't help but not be excited about what you see from him.

PinstripesPlus: The guy that generates a lot of excitement for me is Kelvin De Leon, especially with his size and power at such a young age. This guy seems to swing a thunderous bat already. What have you seen from him approach-wise and is he a guy that can hit to all fields and be that slugger that he seems to be?

Rowson: I think he can definitely be that. He just needs to stay on the path that he's on right now. Like you said, just from mini-camp to seeing him play over in the Dominican, he's making improvements daily. He's making it pretty quickly. His power is ridiculous. He's got really good power, he can drive the ball out of the ball park. He's even doing that right now in game situations. Gosh man, the sky's the limit for De Leon. He's young and at 16-years old, you don't expect to see a 16-year old doing what he's doing. Hopefully we can see him doing that for years to come.

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