Yankees camp extras
My last Spring Training stop in Florida was at the Yankees’ Minor League facility. Here’s the resulting Spring Training report, as well as the new Top 20 ranking and Bernie Pleskoff’s take on how the system fits the organization’s needs. Jim blogged his picks for prospects Nos. 21-25.
Here’s the video piece:
And boy, do I have extras for you. Yankees’ senior vice president of baseball operations Mark Newman and I discussed all sorts of things during our chat. First, about Mason Williams and previous reports about his lack of effort:
Newman: It hasn’t been this spring and it wasn’t for most of the time last year, either. He has momentary relapses, and they’re relapses out of frustration. He’s doing fine there. With young kids, it happens. There aren’t many Derek Jeters who show up here and know what it’s like to play hard every day. So we teach them that. Gary Sanchez and Mason are 21, 22; they’re like college juniors. They’re learning this stuff.
Some of the problems, Newman thinks, stem from the amount of attention young players get before they set foot in the big leagues. Some can handle it, others can struggle, not only with expectations, but with a certain sense of entitlement that can come with fame that comes prematurely (at least in Newman’s opinion):
Newman: Twenty-five years ago, when I started doing this, people didn’t do what you’re doing. I never talked to anybody about prospects. If I had my way, I’d never talk about them ever. They haven’t done anything yet. Now they have this notoriety in short order and they haven’t done anything to deserve it, other than be talented. They won the gene pool. They have to learn how to play and perform. They’re making progress. Mason’s problem is not going to be effort.
Now, if you thought Newman was talkative, you need to meet Eric Jagielo, one of the most engaging prospects I’ve met to date. Here’s the rest of our conversation.
Going back to last year, at what point did you get to finally take a breath and look back at everything that happened?
Jagielo: I was able to take some time off right after instructs. I was able to go back to Chicago for a little, then go to Notre Dame. I think that was the first time it all kind of settled in. I was planning on working out at Notre Dame, so I was there. I was able to see some friends and guys from my class and realized that my life had changed a little bit, for the best. But I was in a different kind of spot. Was the chance to reminisce a little bit. My three years at Notre Dame were the best years of my life. This is a new chapter and I’m excited to get it started.
Was it weird to be there and your friends are still in classes?
Jagielo: Especially the first couple of weeks. The coaches here, they said to make sure to take my time off. The college season, it was basically three years straight, with going into fall, then to spring, then to summer ball and then right back to fall ball. It was kind of three years of straight baseball. Especially with the hamstring injury, I really wanted to get healthy for this first full season of pro ball and be an everyday guy. Everything is good. The Yankees did a wonderful job, keeping me back for a couple of weeks after the Draft, smoothing things out and making sure there was nothing wrong with it. Then, when I did make the debut in Staten island, I was ready to go. I felt fine there. I was able to participate in instructs and get the best instruction.
You’re 21, you’re working out with Derek Jeter. How long did it take before you weren’t star struck?
Jagielo: Looking back at it now, I don’ t know if I ever got past it. This spring, you see him, you’re thinking about working out with him. Every time you use him on TV, or the tribute to him retiring, you’re like, wow, you’re on the same field with him. It’s an honor. To be able to talk to him and have a different kind of conversation rather than when you’re a little kid and you’re asking for an autograph…just trying to pick his brain so you can just do things they’ve done.
There’s a profile for 3B. They think power production. Do you have to remind yourself to stay within your own approach? Do you have to make sure you don’t go out there and try to fit that profile?
Jagielo: Reggie Jackson was out here during instructs. I was in a group with Aaron Judge, who just has ridiculous power. He miss-hits balls and he’s inside-outing balls and he’s hitting them over the right-field fence. We were talking and he said, “It doesn’t matter how the ball gets over the fence. You’re going to get your home runs. Just stay with the backspin, just stay with the middle of the field, gap approach and do your things and the ball will fly.” I think that’s when it hit me, you can’t try to be anybody else but yourself. God gave you so much talent and power. What I have now, I try to pride myself on that, the doubles, the gap guy, run production. I don’t think you have to move up in the rankings just by hitting home runs. What I’ve been trying to do is take the singles when they need to be singles and then hammering the mistakes when you need to and putting them over the fence.