Q&A with Mario Garza -- Part II

Garza likes Severino's composure on the mound

We sat down with GCL Yankees2 Manager Mario Garza for a Q&A session. In part two of this two-part series we concentrate on the pitchers, including his thoughts on Luis Severino, what kind of ceiling he sees from Brady Lail, who are the 'sleeper' candidates from his team this year, who stood out for him at Instructs, and much, much more.

PinstripesPlus.com: Let's move on to the pitchers, starting with Joey Maher. The numbers this year were better but more than that it seemed like the secondary pitches in particular really came along. There seems to be some steady development going on with him, no?

Mario Garza: I think that's a fair assessment. He's continued to improve. I think he and 'Rosie' [pitching coach Jose Rosado] really worked well together. He learned how to pitch a a little more. He did a better job repeating [his mechanics] as the year went on and repeating his offspeed pitches. He was able to throw his changeup, really, whenever he wanted to. He was very consistent for us.

PinstripesPlus.com: What is the next big step for him?

Garza: Just like you said, steady improvement. If he can keep -- at each level there might be some stumbling early, some difficulty early -- as long as he stays clear mentally, continues to focus, and throws his offspeed pitches in any count, that's going to be his recipe for success.

PinstripesPlus.com: Jordan Cote continues to have success. He had another strong statistical year this season and still has a career ERA under 1.00, but it seems like there's a lot more left in the tank, no? He's a big guy but doesn't throw particularly hard yet, the changeup is coming along nicely, but the slider remains a work in progress. He's done well but it seems like he can get a whole lot better -- would you agree with that?

Garza: I do, I definitely agree with that. His strength in my opinion is fastball command. That's excellent and it is what has allowed him at this lower level to really get by. He kept his fastball down as well as anybody we had and that's going to help you at any level obviously. To excel and be where he hopes he will be eventually, he'll pitch with his offspeed pitches with the same effectiveness and aggressiveness he throws with his fastball.

PinstripesPlus.com: Omar Luis, let's face it, the numbers were not good but the stuff seemed really good. Talk about his stuff. And did that two-year layoff from baseball really hurt him? Is he a candidate to be a real big jump guy next season?

Garza: I'm not sure I've seen a guy with four swing and miss pitches like he has. He got swings and misses with everything. It's pretty impressive. I think I saw his fastball up to 95 mph this year and then sometimes I'd stand [behind the plate] and just see it move with some late life and I'd be like 'wow, how can you have that much movement and late life when you're throwing that hard?', but he does. His slider, I saw some of the ugliest swings against his slider that I've seen. I do think the two-year layoff had a ton to do with it. I remember his last start of the year in Kissimmee against the Astros he was lights out. I made the comment to Rosie that this kid could be pitching anywhere right now and be fine with his stuff. It was really cool to see him progress throughout the year. I think it's a big adjustment, especially for Cuban players, to see how they play, get in that locker room environment, the way we play the game -- it's different. He was obviously a big fish where he came from so it's a big adjustment, not only on the field but off the field. I anticipate him being really, really good for a long time.

PinstripesPlus.com: Rony Bautista -- big guy -- he seems to have been a project because he's so tall but it seems like that stuff is starting to play better now. He seems like he's right on the cusp of making that next big jump in his development, no?

Garza: Yeah and I think Rosie did a great job with him as far as maintaining his aggressive mentality. For him I think it's not just a physical thing but a mental thing. Obviously with that body, yes, there's some coordination and growth that needs to happen. But his mentality, when his head is clear and he's aggressive pounding the zone he's tough to hit.

PinstripesPlus.com: I know he pitched a lot for the other GCL Yankee team but I'm sure you got a lot of looks at him this year, especially in Extended -- talk about Luis Severino. I thought he was the most electric yet polished pitcher I've seen at the GCL level in many, many years. What were your impressions of him?

Garza: Right in line with you. I mean, wow! A kid with his ability and that kind of stuff who can pound the zone and dominate hitters, it's just incredible. He just dominated every time out for the most part. I think he maybe had one bad outing. His changeup is a plus-plus changeup, the fastball up to 97 mph, it's incredible. And he's just the same guy no matter what. He's very calm, collected, and has great mound presence. He's fun to watch.

PinstripesPlus.com: I know Brady Lail is not in the Severino category yet but he seems to have a very high ceiling of his own. He's got a good game right now but there also seems to be a lot left in the tank. Where do you think he is in his development?

Garza: Right along with you -- great pitch-ability, he can throw any pitch in any count which is very rare for his age, great curveball, the fastball command is excellent, he's fun. He's 19 [years old] so there's some projection there with velocity increase. I thin if you see just 1-2 mph more on his fastball you're talking about a guy who can be in a rotation somewhere.

PinstripesPlus.com: Moving on to Angel Rincon, it seems like there's something missing. He can have three plus pitches on any given day and while the numbers were quite good this year, but he was more just steady than dominating. Do you think there's more coming from him going forward?

Garza: I think that's a fair assessment. The best thing he did this year was throw strikes. He pounded the zone. His fastball does have some life and some movement, but when it didn't it was up [in the zone] and it got hit. The slider is a work in progress. I think for him to be good he has to increase his repeatability with his fastball down in the zone, that's really what it comes down to because when his fastball is up it's hittable. I'd say his fastball command needs to continue to improve and his slider needs to be a little better consistently.

PinstripesPlus.com: Dallas Martinez didn't pitch a whole lot of innings this year but he was still very impressive. He seems to be yet another one of these young guys with a lot more left in the tank.

Garza: Great mound presence, fun to watch. He's a very confident kid in a very good way and he's a good kid. He has a great arm and I expect a lot of good things out of him.

PinstripesPlus.com: Was there a guy this year that didn't have the numbers this year that you expect a big bounce-back season next year? Who is the 'sleeper' from the team?

Garza: [Joaquin] Acuna might be a 'sleeper'. He's a little older [22] but his last couple of outings were very, very strong. He was popping 94s with some really heavy sink. It's one of those things that when you see it you're like 'wow, if he could just do that more we'd have something'. Rosie worked really hard with him and it started to show. Man, if the season had just kept going we would have seen more and more improvement out of him. A guy we didn't mention, [Alvaro] Noriega had a great year from the offensive standpoint. That's a guy not a lot of people talk about but he can impact the ball. I'm really looking forward to see how he progresses next year. Kendall Coleman is a really good example of a guy who once he got his bearings we started to see something. At the beginning he looked like he was overmatched but by Instructional League he was barreling the ball, showing his speed, etc. I saw his BP before he went to [Dominican Instructs] and he just looked like a different guy. He was staying on his legs, driving the ball, using the field, the bat stayed through the zone much better, so that's a guy who could be a 'sleeper'. He might be able to show the power he has and the power-speed combination that could be fun to watch.

PinstripesPlus.com: Not just the guys from your team but who overall stood out at Instructs for you?

Garza: I think [Eric] Jagielo made some big strides defensively. I think he's starting to get it. He's looking better, driven, focused. He's a very mature player and it's no secret why he was our first round pick, but I expect him to have just a monster year next year offensively and defensively. Reymond Nunez continues to show the ability to get the ball in the air like we've been working on. We might have an impact player there if he can figure some things out. Dustin Fowler is another potential power-speed combination -- these high school guys are interesting, they come from such different backgrounds and it takes them some time to mesh into the system -- but he's one with big potential.

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