Results tagged ‘ Tampa Yankees ’
By Jake Seiner
Interviewing for game stories can be a fun process. The thousands of players and coaches spread across the Minor Leagues supply a never-ending chain of unique perspectives on the national pastime. The game story isn’t always the best place for block quotes and expanded thoughts, so once a week, I’m hoping to come here with a look back at some of the more interesting conversations I stumble upon with Minor League players and coaches.
Bits and pieces of these quotes may have appeared over at MiLB.com, but when you’re trying to dig into somebody’s back story, sometimes it’s most helpful to hear it all straight from the source. In that spirit, here’s a look back at some quotes from the past week that I hope you’ll find of interest.
Brandon Nimmo on moving from Wyoming to Brooklyn for his first full pro season:
“That first summer was a huge learning experience for me. I don’t think I went a day without learning something new. I was from a state where the whole population is less than what fits in a square mile in Brooklyn. We had 500,000 people in Wyoming. It was obviously a huge change for me, living that kind of lifestyle. I was used to being able to see for 40 miles out over the horizon. In Brooklyn, I could see about 40 feet. There were buildings all around you, people living on top of each other in small living spaces. I wasn’t use to that. I had to get used to that fast-paced lifestyle. The thing about baseball is you change your whole life and have to adjust quickly, and I got adjusted and enjoyed my time out there.
“This was a whole new experience for me. Going from, for me, I didn’t have high school ball, and in Legion ball, you faced a good pitcher maybe every fifth day or so. In the New York-Penn League, I just skipped a whole bunch of levels and was facing great guys all the time. You can’t take any at-bats off. It took time to learn how to approach the game and how to be at 100 percent or close to 100 percent every day, mentally and physically. It just, I had to learn how my body works in this kind of season. It’s just always a new learning stage for me. It was great, and I learned how to deal with a lot of failure.”
Padres prospect Max Fried on adjusting to pro ball:
“It’s different now because I’m a full-time pitcher. In high school, I was a two-way guy. Now I’m able to focus on one craft, and that’s opened up new things for me to work on and focus on on the pitching side. It’s also a lot different now because I’m going four or five innings per start rather than the two innings I was throwing last summer in the AZL. It’s enabled me to sort of grow and really just have a more regimented schedule to follow each time I go out.”
Fried on managing his body:
“I’m definitely a slender build, going about 6-4 and 185 pounds right now. I’m fine with that at the moment. Right now, I’m focusing on maintaining through the season, maybe just adding a few pounds. In the offseason, I’ll focus in on putting on muscle and getting stronger, but I’m not too worried about the weight right now. I’m definitely still maturing, and if my body wants to put on weight, it will.”
Fort Wayne pitching coach Burt Hooton (Fried’s coach) on coaching young hurlers:
“The reason these guys play Minor League Baseball is to get the experience. As a coach, you have to step back and let them learn from experience and point out what they should be learning. [Fried] doesn’t have that much professional experience under his belt. One thing you can’t slap on a guy is time and experience. That takes time.”
Pirates prospect Stetson Allie on his refined plate approach:
“I think, for me, it was, ‘I’m a big guy and I want to hit a bunch of home runs.’ For me, I can hit more home runs when I stay simple with my approach and try to drive the ball to right field. If I pull one over the fence, great, but I try to stay middle to middle away. When I first started, I wanted to crush balls, but as you move up, I’ve learned you have to have a hard-headed approach and stick with it. The harder you try to hit a home run, the more likely you won’t get it. For me, I just try to make solid contact every time and not even think about hitting home runs.
“That hasn’t been hard at all. Home run or not, I’m sticking with the same thing I’ve been doing. All I’m looking for right now is just hard contact. If it goes out, great. If not, at least I hit the ball hard. That’s what I’m going to stick with.”
Tampa manager Luis Sojo on Yankees catching prospect Gary Sanchez:
“When he’s on, his best weapon is to go the opposite way, left-center. He’s so strong, and he knows how to hit. When he’s good, he hits the opposite way. That’s something that’s really going to work down the road. Good hitters do that. Every time you see a good hitter, they can hit the other way. For his young age, he’s very good.”
Fort Myers manager Doug Mientkiewicz on Twins prospect Eddie Rosario:
“He’s a little unorthodox, but his barrel stays through the zone for a long time. The great ones at the big leagues, their bats stay in the zone for forever. Eddie does that. He has a special knack for finding the ball with the barrel. He has a presence when he walks up there. He’s one hell of a competitor. He finds a way to barrel up the ball, drive it line to line. He has a knack for that, always finds the barrel. The only way he’s making outs right now is if he gets himself out. He’s one of the better ones I’ve seen at staying flat through the zone.”
Dodgers catching prospect Tyler Ogle on 2012, when he played 43 games across four levels from Rookie ball to Triple-A:
“Last year was a growing up year for me. I was drafted fairly high, and I thought I was going to come into pro ball and continue to have success. That didn’t happen. My swing didn’t work well with wood, and my catching needed work.
“They kept me in extended, and I did a lot of growing up there. I had to fight to get myself out of extended and out of the AZL every day. I changed my swing, changed the way I catch. They had me start in the AZL and at that point, I told myself I gotta get out of here as best as I know how. That’s hitting and doing what I can behind the plate to help the pitching staff. After I started in the AZL, our farm director told me he that if I did my thing there, he would get me out, but that I had to prove myself.
“After a few games, he got me out like he said he would. I went to Michigan [to Great Lakes in the Midwest League] and I started 0-for-20, and I wasn’t feeling well at the plate. I was playing every couple of days, and I lost my consistency and routine. They saw that and didn’t think I was best suited there, so they sent me back to Short Season [Ogden]. I spent time there working a lot on my swing and I had my two hitting coaches from extended there at Short Season, and they took it upon themselves to get me back out there, Johnny Washington and Doug Mientkiewicz.
“Then Matt Wallach got hurt in Double-A, and all the catchers had to bump up a team, so they sent me back to Michigan, which was a lot of moving. For me, it was okay. I was comfortable. I had been to Michigan already once, and it was basically a second chance, but I don’t get to start over with a new average. I was picking up my 0-for-20. I turned it around a little bit, and then they sent me to Albuquerque to fill a backup role there, which was a great experience. It was a lot of moving around, but it taught me I have to be mentally tough.”
Interview Outtakes: Yankees Prospect Mason Williams Answers Seven Questions about Playing Center Field
This morning, MiLB.com published the third part of my nine-part series on top-ranked prospects who are also top-rated defenders. The piece (linked here) focuses on Yankees center fielder Mason Williams (bio, stats here), the 10th-ranked outfield prospect in all of baseball, and his big-play ability. In terms of interview extras, see below. Enjoy.
- On how he ended up in center field: “Growing up, I actually played shortstop. I was an infielder growing up. My sophomore year of high school, I started playing center field. I could cover a good bit amount of ground out there. I feel like I’m confident enough to play the outfield and have good range and am definitely trying to get better at it. I was thoroughly OK with the change. I’d play wherever. I just wanted to play. I definitely feel very comfortable in center field, and I love how I’ve been working there.”
- On learning the nuances of CF: “It was an OK adjustment because I had a good amount of experience before I signed. One of the things I had to work with was my throwing angles. Because I played shortstop when I was younger growing up, your arm slot is definitely different throwing from shortstop than it is from center field. [I'm] definitely working on working on top more and getting more backspin on my balls in the outfield [so that] they have the ability to carry more. That was something I really worked on. I feel very good how I have come along since my first year, but I still have a lot of things to work on. One of the things I have been working on recently is having a better first step or jump in the outfield. It’s mental and physical: knowing the pitcher and the batter, whatever the score and inning is. There are definitely situations where I play differently in the outfield. And it’s physical: I get a lot of reps in practice. That’s the best time to work on it.”
- On an example of how he takes his first step on the ball: “Usually, your power hitters, the guys that have a little bit of pop at the plate, I will play them to pull and a little bit deeper than I would a leadoff hitter or someone in the lower half of the lineup. The biggest thing is getting a lot of reps at practice and doing it the right way. [The BOB drill] is most of my help. BOB is Balls Off the Bat. That’s where I get my first jumps, and that’s definitely a huge part of my learning process in the outfield.”
- On how good defense can make up for lagging offense: “I definitely want to contribute in any way I can. Say I’m having a bad day at the plate, maybe I’ll go out to the outfield and make a play. If I’m not impacting the game on offense, I want to try to impact it on defense.”
- On what he does to ensure he’s defending correctly: “I personally don’t watch as much video of my defense as I do my hitting. I watch a lot of video of my hitting. Say, if I’m not hitting well, I like to go back a year or two to when I was hitting well, I [look for] what I was doing right then that I’m not doing now. [On defense], it’s about trusting my instincts and getting as much reps as I can. If you do the reps in practice the right way, you’re going to carry that out to the game.”
- On what is hard about playing CF: “Communication is not looked at or talked about [enough]. I would say that I communicate with my outfield. I feel like myself and my fellow outfielders communicate a lot, and we’re always moving around; we’re never staying the same spot… I wouldn’t say we communicate every pitch, but every three or four pitches we say something or we’ll make eye contact to see where each other are. I like to know before every pitch where my left and right fielders are… [Calling off a teammate] is a feel thing, but you definitely have to say, “I got it, I got it.” Say the ball is hit to the warning track, you can tell your other outfielders, ‘Hey, you’re near the track,’ or ‘Close to the fence,’ to let him know. A big part of communication in the outfield are those little fly balls that go behind second base or right around the shortstop, [creating] triangles [of fielders] around second base. Those are times when communication plays a big role.”
- On other CFers he likes to watch: “I used to like to watch Ken Griffey Jr. He’s always been my favorite player since I was young. Now that he’s not in the game, I like to watch [the Tigers'] Austin Jackson, who came through the Yankees [system]. I definitely like to watch [the Orioles'] Adam Jones. I definitely like to pick pieces of their game and make it my own. Definitely how explosive their first steps are off the bat. They take outstanding jumps and outstanding leads almost 100 percent of the time. So if I can watch how they come off the ball, I like to try to make it my own way.”
I also spoke with Yankees’ instructor/international player development coordinator Pat McMahon. Beyond the McMahon-provided material that made it into the article, here are some extras from him. Enjoy
- On Williams’ work ethic: “He demands an awful lot out of himself, and I think that’s a positive. That’s not atypical of other players, but he places high demands on himself. Now controlling that is something he works very hard on.”
- On Williams’ range: “Watching him go get balls is really special. You watch one player go get a ball in the outfield, and then another player makes it look easier. The distance he can go to get balls and make them look like easy plays, it’s just like, ‘Wow.’”
- On Williams’ positioning: “He breaks on the ball very well, and he’s working very hard on defensive positioning and reading of swings so that he can get to balls in game situations as they occur. Some outfielders don’t see that, but he works very hard on understanding a hitter and his swing against a various pitcher.”
- On comparing Williams to other outfielders: “He’s in the elite category.”
If you think Tyler Austin — who went from 13th-round pick in 2010 to one of the best Minor League hitters in 2012 — will rest on his laurels in 2013, consider that he’s been in Tampa, Fla. since Jan. 15. That’s when his Spring Training began.
I caught up with the Yankees’ No. 3 — and baseball’s No. 75 — prospect (bio, stats here) on Friday evening to ask him about how his transition from the infield to right field is going. (A colleague of mine spoke with Austin, 21, in a more wide-ranging interview on Jan. 22 if you’d like a read.)
On his transition from 3B/1B in 2011 to RF in 2012: “At first, I was a little skeptical about it. I didn’t know what to think. I had never played right field before. If I had, it was maybe for an inning or so. But I took to it well. I really couldn’t be more comfortable out there now after this past season, the way I played, the way I performed out there. It was just awesome, in my mind, the way I took to the position.”
On how long it took him to feel comfortable in RF: “It was probably — after about a month of early minicamp and stuff like that, I was pretty comfortable out there. A lot of times, it was my routes [that needed improvement]. I was circling the ball a lot, not taking a direct path to it. That was probably the hardest thing for me out there. It goes back to [practicing] during BP, that’s as close as you’re going to get to game-like [fielding]. I take a lot of pride in doing that and doing it well and trying to do it every day. It’s gradually gotten easier and easier.”
On his strengths as an outfielder: “I would say definitely my arm. I think when the ball is hit to me and the runner is on second base or third and they’re tagging, I think the [third base] coaches are, hopefully, a little bit hesitant to send their guys, knowing that I’m fixing to throw. I love that [game situation]. That’s probably one of my favorite things of being out there.”
On his mindset when Class A Charleston/Class A Advanced Tampa teammate Mason Williams is playing next to him in CF: “Honestly, I’m going after every ball as hard as I can, and I’m going to try my best to get there, but it definitely takes a little off my shoulders, knowing that he’s going to be right there to make the play if I’m not able to get to it.”
On who he’ll man the outfield with in 2013: “I’m just looking forward to playing this season either with [Williams] or Slade Heathcott. I’m looking forward to it. It’s going to be a good year. Hopefully, I’ll be in New York later on down the season.”
Following a career-best season that included games like this one, MLB.com’s No. 36 overall prospect Gary Sanchez will very likely make his Double-A Trenton debut sometime next season. Here are the four jerseys — belonging to the GCL Yanks, Staten Island Yanks, Charleston RiverDogs and Tampa Yanks — that Sanchez has worn thus far, in a gallery. You may notice a more closed batting stance in the fourth shot; Sanchez credited his success last season, in part, to this mechanical change.
Editor’s note: Lost and Found is an offseason series in which one underrated prospect from each of the 30 MLB clubs will be discussed in a short, snappy post.
Lost: Signed at 17 out of his native Dominican Republic, Jose A. Ramirez got through his first three pro seasons OK before hitting a wall at more advanced levels in his fourth.
2011: 21 G — 21 GS — 5.66 ERA — .292 OPP .AVG — 12 HR — 99-to-43 K-BB — 103 1/3 IP at Class A Charleston/Class A Adv. Tampa
Found: It sounds too simple, but the right-hander, who sports a plus fastball (mid-90-mph) and a potentially-plus slider and changeup, kept the ball down in the strike zone in ’12.
2012: 21 G — 18 GS — 3.19 ERA — .239 OPP .AVG — 7 HR — 94-to-30 K-BB — 98 2/3 1/3 IP at Tampa
So Ramirez was lost, now he is found. Now, about the Yankees returns: Now 22 and the Yanks’ No. 13 prospect, Ramirez is looking more and more like a member of a Major League rotation. He’s very likely two more full seasons away from that — and probably not more than a No. 3/4 starter when he gets there — but that’s a lot of value. Even in New York.