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Q&A with Trenton beat writer Mike Ashmore

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Maybe looking toward the future will help take your mind off the miserable last couple of days our New York Yankees experienced at the hands of the lowly Washington Nationals.

Mike Ashmore covers the Trenton Thunder, the Yankees AA affiliate, for the Hunterdon County Democrat, and writes the outstanding 'Thunder Thoughts' blog.

I sent him some questions recently about the Yankee farm system. Here is the result of our e-mail exchange.

Pinstripe Alley: I have to start with Jesus Montero. I know he has only been at AA for a couple of weeks, but is he worth all the hype? I know there are questions about his ability to catch, and the Yanks insist he will develop. Off what you have seen, what do you think?

Ashmore: Montero is kind of like IKEA furniture right now ... some assembly required.  He's certainly looked good, but he hasn't been the "blow your doors off" kind of impressive that I was expecting. The bat's been decent -- a lot of his outs have come on hard hit balls as well -- but his defense certainly needs some work. He hasn't been real great in throwing runners out, and I'm not too sure the pitchers are sold on his game-calling abilities just yet.

But he's 19 years old. 19 and in Double-A. Must be nice. But he also looks like a 19-year-old kid in Double-A right now, but I suspect he'll have improved quite a bit when the season comes to a close.

PA: The Yankees have used a "high risk, high reward" type of philosophy in the draft the past few seasons. Have you liked their approach, and what do you think of the overall state of the farm system?

Ashmore: Their draft approach is an interesting one. Hopefully they learned from the mistake they made with Andrew Brackman ... maybe he'll turn into something someday, but having him take up a 40-man roster spot (at the expense of guys like Eric Hacker, Steven Jackson and so on) and signing him substantially over slot doesn't really seem to have panned out just yet. Overall, I'd like to think they might take a less aggressive approach with the draft in the future, but it is what it is.

The farm system as a whole ... the pitching is good, the position players are pretty average. Outside of a few standouts, there really aren't too many genuine impact players to be found when it comes to position players.

PA: Which pitchers at AA are most likely to eventually make an impact on the major-league level?

Ashmore: Zach McAllister, Ivan Nova, Mike Dunn, Amauri Sanit ... I'd have said Christian Garcia before he went down with injury, but his status is a bit mysterious as of now.

PA: Are you surprised the organization hasn't moved Pat Venditte up a notch or two to see if his stuff translates at a higher level?

Ashmore: Given his age, yes. He's put up numbers wherever he's been, he's got a great story, and he's a great kid. Challenge him in Tampa and see if he can keep this run up.

PA: Any position players at the AA level, other than Montero, we should be paying attention to?

Ashmore: No one on the level of Montero...but Jorge Vazquez is probably the one that stands out the most. If he can ever get his stuff straight and improve his defense -- hence his "The Jorge Vazquez Experience" nickname -- he could make an impact at the big league level at some point.

PA: Can you get me one of those Austin Jackson bobblehead dolls the Thunder gave away the other night? And yes, I'm sort of serious. That would be pretty cool to have.

Ashmore: I don't have that kind of power.  I'm lucky to get one myself, really.

PA: You saw a lot of Ramiro Pena last season. Are you surprised by what he has done in New York this year, or even the fact that he is in New York to begin with.

Ashmore: Yes and yes. He played exclusively at shortstop, so I was impressed by how well he handled third base at the start of the year. He was kind of thrown into the Futures Game at the last second as an afterthought ... but I guess they got it right after all. But I still never thought he'd be a guy who would skip Triple-A almost entirely.