Hello, (Mark) Newman

Of the many things I’ve learned while covering the Thunder, one of them is that phrases preceded by “according to Mark Newman” or “Mark Newman said” tend to carry a lot of weight.

That’s why I was all the more excited to sit down with the Yankees Senior Vice President of Baseball Operations for about ten minutes during tonight’s Trenton Thunder game.

In a wide-ranging exclusive chat with both myself and Times of Trenton and occasional Thunder Thoughts contributor David McDonough, Newman discusses the embarassment of riches the organization has on the mound, Thunder players who’ve established themselves as prospects this season, the plans to replace Ramiro Pena on the Trenton roster, and many, many other topics…

- Newman said that in the 20 years he’d been with the Yankees, he had not seen the system as stocked with pitching prospects as it is now.

“It’s not really close.  The scouts have done a nice job, and the pitching coaches have done a real good job.  Nardi Contreras, our pitching coordinator, Scott (Aldred) here, and Dave Eiland, the big league pitching coach, they’ve done a really great job.”

“Having said that, we need to do the same thing on the position player side of the ledger as we have on the pitching side.  We’ve spent most of our high draft choices on pitchers, so that’s the reason.  Again, this year: first pick, pitcher, second pick, pitcher.”

- Newman did not feel as though pitchers were more of a risk than position players.

“I don’t really think they are.  There’s a health risk with pitchers, there’s a performance risk with hitters.  When you see a pitcher in college or high school throw 98, or 95, or 92 with plus movement…if you see a breaking ball that spins, if you see delivery, if you see command, because they’re the initiator, we feel confident about that transferring to professional baseball.  Pitchers are fragile physically.  Hitters on the other hand, high school hitters are going to see an 80 mile per hour fastball most of the time.  He’s going to hit with aluminum.  He’s not going to see quality breaking pitches.  And he’s not going to see a closer coming out of the bullpen that throws as well or better than the starter.  From an evaluation standpoint, evaluating hitters is difficult, especially high school hitters.  And when you pick in the draft where we pick — low — the high caliber…the Evan Longoria’s, the B.J. Upton’s, the Justin Upton’s, those guys are typically gone.  There are some hitters late.  We got Derek Jeter with the seventh pick in the draft, we got Carl Everett…but this was 20 years ago, this is ancient history.  Typically, where we pick, the gold-plated, can’t miss position player is already gone.  There’s some (hitters left), but you feel more certainty with the pitchers.  But we’re working on the offensive side too.”

- Newman is excited about the young bats in the system.

“We’ve got some stuff going on in Charleston right now with our two middle guys (Snyder and Angelini), who are good hitters and really good defenders.  Our center fielder (Abe Almonte) is a quality player.  Colin Curtis, we think is going to hit.  Jose Tabata is down in Tampa with a pulled hamstring.  At age 19, he was getting in the .250 range or .240 range here after a horrible start.  He was starting to handle the ball inside a little better, which is a part of hitting that typically shows up later.  We like the position players we have here, and we feel good about the group we have in Charleston.”

- Newman is really excited about Austin Jackson.

“Like him a lot.  Potentially a five-tool guy.  His power is emerging.  It started in the second half last year, and it’s coming on this year over the last five or six weeks.  He runs, he runs the ball down in the outfield, throws.  So he’s a player, and we think he’s going to be a quality big league guy for us.”

- Newman said Jose Tabata is expected back perhaps this month.

“He’ll be back.  Hamstrings, depending on the degree…there’s first, second and third degree.  First degree is a couple weeks, between 14 and 21 days, and we think he’s in that category.  Having said that, those are only benchmarks.  Every guy heals at a different pace, but he’ll be back to play.  There’s what, six weeks left in the season?  He should be (back).”      

 - Newman was not as optimistic about Marcos Vechionacci.

“Quad injury, different deal.  Hurt it early here, re-injured it rehabbing.  One of the tough things about rehabbing is that you have to push them, simulate game activity and game speed and see if it holds up.  We got to a certain point, and while he was doing some baserunning drills it tightened up on him again.”  

- Newman did not necessarily commit to keeping Mark Melancon in Trenton all season.

“Yes (the plan is to keep him in Trenton all season), but plans are changeable.  Whoever’s the next Joba, I’m not sure.  But he certainly has ability, and he’s pitched extraordinarily well here.  He’s still essentially in a rehab season.  This is his first competition in professional baseball, and he’s doing it coming off Tommy John surgery.  We didn’t expect him to do this well.”     

 - Newman was quick to point out who’s been standing out in his eyes in Trenton.

“Jason Jones, Phil Coke.  Jason’s been outstanding, and Mark Melancon’s bounced back from the injury.  Claggett’s been really good.  All pleasant surprises.  There are these double secret conference rooms in Tampa, and they’ve got these magnetized names on there, and their magnets have been going up (laughs).”   

- Newman was just as quick to point out that he doesn’t feel there’s anyone in Tampa who’s knocking on the door of a call-up to Double-A.

“They’re going to come here whenever they’re ready, but there isn’t anybody there right now.”    

 - Newman did not anticipate a significant move being made in replacing Ramiro Pena when he departs for the Futures Game.

“They’ll probably send up a utility middle infielder.  It’s going to be for two days, so it could be somebody from Staten Island.  We’re going to see how that shakes out, but we just need to get them through a couple games.  Geography might be part of it, it depends on what their depth is like at the time.  We make those decisions late, because injuries always play a part.”       

Mike Ashmore, mashmore98 AT gmail.com

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11 Responses to “Hello, (Mark) Newman”

  1. dan Says:

    You think even 5 years ago anyone knew who Mark Newman was? I didn’t. Now, when he speaks, the (blogging) world listens.

    I just started reading this blog at the beginning of this season… how long have you been covering the Thunder?

  2. thunderbaseball Says:

    This is my third year of covering the Thunder as a writer — fifth overall — and my sixth year of covering professional baseball. First year doing the blog, though.

    In my opinion, Newman and Nardi Contreras are kind of the holy grail of minor league info…when you can get those guys to answer your questions and comment on the guys you cover, you really have something.

    I agree that Newman — and probably Nardi too — weren’t anywhere near as well known then as they are now. But if I’m looking for an outside/inside perspective on someone (someone who’s outside the team, but still inside the organization…no, that is not a technical term) then there are few people better for me to go to than Newman and/or Nardi.

    Ideally, I’d be able to speak to someone as high as Brian Cashman or one of the Steinbrenners, but they aren’t necessarily accessible to me, and I’m honestly not sure how wide-ranging and in-depth their respective knowledge would be on the players I’d be asking about.

  3. River Ave. Blues | Mike Ashmore sits down with Mark Newman Says:

    [...] site (seriously, how awesome is it to have great beat writers with blogs at the AAA and AA level?) sat down for a chat with Mark Newman, the Yanks’ VP of Baseball Operations recently. They talked everything from Mark Melancon to Marcos Vechionacci to high school hitters to double [...]

  4. SteveB Says:

    Great stuff, Mike. I read this blog every day, multiple times usually too.

    This offseason the Yankees are going to have decisions to make that they’ve rarely had to face before– they have players in A and AA that need to move up. So they have players in AAA with talent that they will need to make a decision on as to whom will be protected & who will be “weeded” out. It’ll be a little strange as a fan to see some names that we’ve been watching for several years be released or picked up by other teams, even though they still have potential. That’s the downside of having a “stacked” minor league system. You can only protect just so many.

    As for me, it’s refreshing to watch the Yankees get players on the upside of their careers instead of on the downside. And it’s so much fun coming to Trenton to watch these players, some of whom will be in the Bronx in the not too distant future.

  5. Jon boy Says:

    I’m a huge minor league fan. I’ve been following the Yankees system for two years now and im a little worried. this year they’ve had a lot of injuries to top talent. Dellin Betances, Austin Romine, Jeff Marquez, Alan Horne, and Jose Tabata have all missed big chunks of their developmental time. Their having a tough time translating success to AAA. If Horne and Marquez aren’t careful they’ll become the next Tyler Clippard and get bypassed in the system. Tabata has had a really tough year. I knew he was going to have trouble with having his hamate bone removed and zapping all his power plus now he has questions about his makeup and maturity. Don’t know what Jason Jones has to do to earn a promotion hes thrown over 280 career innings at Trenton! Really like Greg Konotos I think hes gonna become something important to the big club. Zach Mccalister has been their best minor league pitcher to date and should arrive at trenton soon. simply dominant. Really thought Reggie Corona belonged at the futures game instead of Ramiro Pena a little bit better stats and hes younger and a better looking prospect. No one talks much about how Melancon is rehabbing but is being allowed to throw 2 or 3 innings every time out isn’t he overworked isn’t this a little risky with a guy so close off TJ. I know he needs to work on his secondary pitches but this guy is the future after Mariano. Really wish they picked up Mike Inoa in the international signings. He was actually compared to Delling Betances only with a much better third pitch and better control. That sounds pretty amazing to me. Really Pulling for CJ Henry at Tampa and Eric Duncan at Scranton they’ve been through a lot of ups and downs and it would be great if they could succeed. further proof as to why they should keep drafting pitchers. Last two first round picks as hitters to date have been huge busts. Gerrit Cole and Andrew Brackman are going to be really exciting next year and to think Rick Porcello almost slipped to them. Really great interview and really great to get an inside perspective on the system.

  6. mbn Says:

    Mike;

    You did your usual great job in this interview. Fun to read, and well laid out. You got responses to many points of interest.

    Interesting that there is no one on Tampa knocking on the door now. from the hitting standpoint, I agree. there is really nothing going on in Tampa there. Sublett and Anson were the only ones I thought would have a shot at coming up, and both guys got hurt.

  7. Jon boy Says:

    Zach McAllister could be ready for trenton hes got a strikeout to walk ratio of 3:1 gets tons or groundball outs and is only 20 yearsold. he has the best numbers and peripherals of any yankee pitcher this year

  8. thunderbaseball Says:

    Glad everyone enjoyed this. Have to give some credit to Dave McDonough here as well, we probably split the questions asked, so this wasn’t just me…

  9. mbn Says:

    No need to rush McAllister just yet. Let him develop at a slower pace. I sometimes wonder if Kennedy was rushed, and that has delayed his development.

  10. Melancon Moving Up? : WasWatching.com Says:

    [...] Ops, said that the team’s plan was to keep Mark Melancon in Double-A this season. Via Mike Ashmore’s Thunder Thoughts on July 10th: Newman did not necessarily commit to keeping Mark Melancon in Trenton all [...]

  11. FoupeVoxoptone Says:

    Very nice!!

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