Chad Jennings at LoHud spoke to Yankees' Vice President of Baseball Operations Mark Newman yesterday about a few prospects and how their season is coming along to this point. The critiques were mainly positive, which very well could be Newman talking up his players, but some of the successes so far this season have been very worthy of his praise.
If you were wondering why Preston Claiborne was called up to replace Joba Chamberlain instead of Mark Montgomery, Newman has the answer for that. The team feels as though Montgomery is still working toward building his arm strength, which they seem to think explains why he has been throwing at a lower velocity than is expected from him. Newman told Jennings that this is a matter of Montgomery needing to learn how to handle his offseason workouts.
The Yankees tried left-hander Francisco Rondon in the starting rotation for the first time in years to begin 2013, but that experiment is over. The goal in pitching him as a starter was to stretch him out to be more of a long reliever than a one-inning guy. The Yankees also thought it would help him improve upon his pitches.
JR Murphy has started the season on an offensive tear, and Newman had nothing but high praise for his efforts so far this season. Newman mentioned that they knew he would hit, but have been particularly impressed with his catching, which was a concern.
After Jose Ramirez was cut from big league Spring Training, he kind of disappeared and started the minor league season on the disabled list. Newman clarified that Ramirez didn't have an injury, and that they felt he was dealing with fatigue after pitching in both winter ball and big league camp.
If Rob Refsnyder isn't on your radar yet, he definitely should be. He started 2013 in Charleston before a quick promotion, and has managed to hit even better since moving to Tampa. The Yankees are attempting to convert him into a second baseman instead of an outfielder. He already has an 18-game hitting streak to his name this season, and hasn't shown signs of slowing down yet.
No punishment from the Yankees has been passed down in the case of Mason Williams' DUI yet. Newman indicated that if any happened, it would only be after the courts passed down their judgement on the matter.
Jose Campos missed most of 2012 with what he called a fractured elbow, but Newman said that the injury was actually a very severe bruise that would have worsened if the Yankees hadn't shut him down. Campos' innings are being limited this season because he missed so much time with injury last season, which explains why his five starts in 2013 have been extremely brief.
In his first stint pitching in the United States, Rafael DePaula, who battled visa issues before actually making it over to join the Yankees, has eye-popping strikeout rates. Despite that, Newman doesn't believe that the Yankees will be in any hurry to promote him to Tampa any time soon. Newman admits that DePaula's pitching has exceeded their expectations, but they want him to work on the development of his secondary pitches before he is moved along.
DePaula's fellow RiverDogs rotation member, Gabriel Encinas, has also gotten off to a fantastic start to the season with one of the best ERAs in the Yankee system. The Yankees have been impressed with what he's done so far, as anyone would be, but they are going to keep him in Charleston for the rest of 2013 for work on his command and secondary pitches.
It couldn't all be good news, though. Dante Bichette Jr. and Cito Culver have been repeating Low-A, and they haven't been at all proving that that wasn't the right decision. Culver has abandoned his left-handed swing to hopefully turn his problems at the plate around and the coaches have been working on trying to make DBJ use the entire field instead of his insistence on a pull-happy swing that tries to make every swing of the bat into a home run. These two were once rather promising prospects in the system, and a turnaround of dramatic proportions is needed to get them that status back at this point.
It's always good to hear someone from the front office speak highly of prospects, even if we are only a month into the season. While a good number of the big name guys (Tyler Austin, Slade Heathcott, etc) have struggled out of the gate, it's fun to see which guys can fly under the radar and grab a little of the spotlight like Refsnyder has.
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