Q&A with Nardi Contreras - Part VI

Nardi believes everyone knows Jose Ramirez now

Nardi Contreras, the Yankees Minor League Pitching Coordinator, sits down with PinstripesPlus.com for a long Q&A session. In the final section of our six-part series, Nardi opines why Jose Ramirez flies under the radar, what are his early impressions of Mariel Checo and Evan DeLuca, what progress he saw from Nik Turley and Mikey O'Brien over the last year, and much, much more.

PinstripesPlus.com: Jose Ramirez seems to be really underrated and way under the radar, and I just don't know how. He had some good stuff last year but it seems to have gone to a completely different level this year.

Nardi Contreras: I don't think he's under the radar anymore. Carlos Chantres did a great job with his delivery. His throwing action was side to side last year but now he is finishing out front. The delivery correction has improved his stuff. I was able to see him pitch twice in the Instructional League, and man, he's got a power fastball and a power changeup. He just needs a breaking pitch. I don't see it being a true curveball. When it is all done the pitch is going to be a breaking ball. He has a loose arm and the ball comes out so easy. This is just a four-seam fastball and it's so lively. No, he's not under the radar anymore. You ask any of those scouts that saw him at Instructional League, ask them about Jose Ramirez and they'll all know who Jose Ramirez is. We sent him to Staten Island he started the final game of the playoffs in the championship game. If you're under the radar you wouldn't be in that situation.

PinstripesPlus.com: It also seems that Manny Barreda's stuff has gone to a different level too. His changeup seems to have a lot more action on it than it did two years ago before his surgery. Where do you see his stuff right now?

Contreras: He has plus stuff. We're sending him to the Dominican [Instructs] for a few weeks so he can pitch some needed innings. His delivery is better. When I saw him that last week in the Gulf Coast League he showed a quality slider, but I didn't see a changeup so that's why we spent a lot of time on that changeup. All of his pitches are coming along fine.

PinstripesPlus.com: Do you have any early impressions of Mariel Checo?

Contreras: I saw him once in the Gulf Coast League and he will need some delivery work. He's going to the Dominican [Instructs] and he's going to be there the whole time. He's going to work with his delivery and pitches. He has some arm strength and he can spin the ball. He has one of these deliveries that it might take some time before it all flows smoothly.

PinstripesPlus.com: You mentioned delivery and Brett Gerritse jumps to mind because he was a little herky-jerky, almost Tyler Clippard-like in his delivery, but he seemed to be smoother at Instructs.

Contreras: When he got to Instructional League we just tried to get him to smooth out his delivery. He is a bright young man and he seemed to grasp the instruction pretty quickly. It is great to work with quick learners. He will also go to the Dominican Instructs to further develop his delivery and pitches.

PinstripesPlus.com: He's been injured a lot, but Daniel Gil seems to have been around forever. He's got some sink it seems, but does he have much else with his secondary pitches?

Contreras: Yes, he has a couple of good secondary pitches. He has a changeup that bottoms and he shows a quality curveball. It's just that he's been hurt and hasn't pitched much. Carlos [Chantres] spoke of him well and I was able to see him pitch with that good curveball and changeup. He just has to stay healthy and compete. He's a big, strong Mexican kid who is still young and learning.

PinstripesPlus.com: Mikey O'Brien was a repeat guy in the Gulf Coast League. What did you see from him development-wise this year?

Contreras: I saw him pitch twice. He was a completely different pitcher the second game from the first game. His first game he was caught by a Major League catcher so he tried to pitch as one and it didn't work out. But the second outing one of our kids caught him and I think he pitched five or six innings and struck out eight or nine guys. He was very, very good. Everything was there that day, the plus fastball, the curveball, and the changeup. I believe he's on-track. I liked what I saw from Mikey.

PinstripesPlus.com: What about Nik Turley? Did you like the progress he made from last season?

Contreras: I saw a real good game out of Nik Turley. He's not a hard thrower right now, but he was downhill, he threw some good changeups, and the last curveball that he threw in that game was his best curveball. He really snapped it off. He spun off some curveballs early but he snapped off the last one and that's the one he's got to build on. It was a swing-and-miss curveball. He just needs to continue to pitch, improve the quality of his stuff and gain experience.

PinstripesPlus.com: Let's double-back to Francisco Rondon. It's been my experience that pitchers can have a good breaking pitch that doesn't even have to be in the zone and can still dominate the NY-Penn League batters. Where does his breaking ball qualify?

Contreras: Rondon has a Major League quality slider and he's got a plus fastball. I see him as a reliever. He also has a good pickoff move to first so we'll see what happens. He gets right-handers and left-handers out with that slider. It started out as a curveball [last year], and gradually the pitch was developed to a slider.

PinstripesPlus.com: What's the book on Shane Greene?

Contreras: The delivery isn't there yet but he shows power and he shows a quality breaking ball, a slider. It slides once and it's a breaking ball another [time] because his delivery didn't allow a repeatable release point.

PinstripesPlus.com: How about Wilton Rodriguez?

Contreras: He's got a chance as a reliever. I saw him throw the ball harder in the Dominican and I saw him throw harder in Extended than the game I saw him pitch in the GCL. But he was coming back from time off so his arm strength might not have been there yet. He has the changeup and he has a breaking pitch. It's not a slider or a curveball, it's a breaking ball, and he can throw it for strikes.

PinstripesPlus.com: You've gotten to see Evan DeLuca a bit over two Instructional League camps. What are your early impressions?

Contreras: He's shown that he's got a live arm. He can spin the ball but it needs some work and he has a great foundation on his changeup. We left him alone for a while but when Spring Training comes we'll start working on his delivery that will help him throw more strikes and keep his arm up so he can pitch the ball down instead of getting under the ball.

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