Mark Newman is the Senior Vice President of Baseball Operations for the New York Yankees. Every single minor league decision goes through him. You want to know something about a Yankees minor leaguer, he’s the guy you ask. So I did.
Newman, making his first public visit to Waterfront Park this season, was kind enough to give me five minutes of his time outside of the Trenton Thunder clubhouse. Here’s how it went…
Mike Ashmore: Generally speaking, how pleased are you with the Yankees farm system as a whole right now?
Mark Newman: “We’ve got young players playing very well. Phil Hughes is 10-1, that’s big. Gardner is up there in on-base percentage, that’s big. Cervelli’s making contributions, Pena…Kevin Russo’s in a utility role up there, Colin Curtis is up there doing some nice stuff off the bench. Robby Cano’s one of the best players in the game. They’ve all been in Trenton in the last two, three, four years. You’ve got Ian, Austin Jackson, Joba, so yeah, that’s a pretty good run. Yes, we’ve traded some this winter, some of them I just mentioned. Phil Coke’s another one. So, we’ve got to re-stock a little bit, but we’ve got some good players here, so we feel good. Our scouts, both domestic and internationally, have really done a nice job.”
Ashmore: Who is standing out to you here in Trenton right now?
Newman: “Romine. Brandon Laird, big-time. I liked what we saw of Brackman last night. David Adams before he got hurt. David Phelps has been really good. Noesi. There’s quite a few.”
Ashmore: Is there any update on Adams right now?
Newman: “It’s going to take a while, it’s going to take another couple weeks. He’s not around the corner in terms of re-joining the Trenton club.”
Ashmore: Fair to say that Laird has exceeded expectations here?
Newman: “19 home runs in the first half, yeah. No one had that number.”
Ashmore: Outside of numbers, what has impressed you about him?
Newman: “Well, he’s made huge strides defensively, which is a more subtle part of the game, but it’s really been a part of his progress. He’s improved as a hitter, but he’s made more improvement as a defender.”
Ashmore: People talk all the time about how Laird’s path to the big leagues is blocked, at least at the corner infield spots. Has there been any thought of potentially moving him to a different position, or right now, do you like him at the corner infield spots?
Newman: “Well, we’ll try to create positional flexibility with him.”
Ashmore: When do you anticipate that happening?
Newman: “Maybe in the off-season. But it’s still first and third. It would be nice to have what we call a corner utility guy, someone who can play third, someone who can play first, somebody who can DH and swing the bat. That’s a role that’s important to us as we build our Major League club.”
Ashmore: What did you think about Brackman’s start last night?
Newman: “Good. His first start here against the best hitting team in the league, I thought it was fine. I really liked the way he battled to get out of that bases loaded jam, he threw some quality curveballs. He missed with some curveballs, but his velocity was up to 96 and only had one walk. Good.”
Ashmore: Are there any guys on the verge of getting to here from Tampa?
Newman: “Most of the guys down there need a little more work, but there’s some really good pitching there.”
Ashmore: Anyone in particular who stands out?
Newman: “Dellin Betances has been extraordinary. He’s pitching at 95, touching 98 and throwing 84-85 miles per hour curveballs. Knee bucklers, changeup quality. Six eight, 250.”
Ashmore: Could he be here before the end of the year?
Newman: “He’s rehabbing his elbow, so I wouldn’t think so. He’s back from 10 months off after elbow surgery, so you don’t push these guys.”
Ashmore: Is it a similar situation with George Kontos, or is that different considering he’s been at the upper levels before?
Newman: “He’s been here, so it wouldn’t be as emotionally charged of an environment as it would be for a younger guy, so he could be here.”
Ashmore: People ask me about Pat Venditte and when he’s coming to Trenton. Is part of the plan for him to be here this year?
Newman: “Right now, there’s not a lot of room in this bullpen, so I can’t say that. It’s TBA.”
Ashmore: In terms of some of the younger guys like Stoneburner, Warren…guys who are still a little ways from getting here, how pleased are you with their development?
Newman: “We’re getting Manny Banuelos back, he’s one of our top, top, top prospects. Stoneburner, Warren, those guys…those guys are good. But it’s their first full season, so you’ve got to take a little time with them.”
Ashmore: Is there anyone here on the verge of a call-up to Scranton?
Newman: “Not right at the moment.”
Ashmore: Do you anticipate Laird staying here all year?
Newman: “I don’t anticipate that far into the future. You never know.”
Mike Ashmore, mashmore98 AT gmail.com