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A Yankees System Report Featuring Mark Newman

By Jed Weisberger ~ July 22nd, 2013. Filed under: New York Yankees.

TRENTON, N.J. – It’s always fun when Yankees Senior VP of Baseball Operations Mark Newman gets together with reporters.

The discussion gives a clue about the state of the Yankees farm system. There is plenty of talent on the way. There are detractors in this department as well, but some excellent kids are on their way.

Many have wondered why catcher Gary Sanchez, hitting .267 (86-for-322) with 13 homers and 61 RBIs in 83 games, and outfielder Mason Williams, batting .275 (86-for-313) with 19 doubles 20 RBIs in 78 games – and .348 in his last 10 – have not been promoted from Single-A Tampa to Double-A Trenton.

“Sanchez is making progress, and Williams is playing great right now,’’ said Newman. “Both will stay with Tampa the rest of the season.’’

Why? In Sanchez’s case, more work needs to be done on the overall running of a game. With Williams, whom the Yankees are looking to mature, the soon-to-be 22-year-old is just beginning to play as expected.

So the Yankees signed veteran catcher Jose Gil to play at Trenton and promoted Cuban expatriot outfielder Yeral Sanchez to play with the Double-A club.

Meanwhile, the Yankees are trying Pete O’Brien at third base after he earned promotion from Class-A Charleston after hitting .325 (63-for-194) with 22 doubles, 11 homers and 41 RBIs in 53 games as a catcher. He’s kept it going at Tampa, batting .307 (31-for-101) with six more homers and 28 RBIs in 25 games.

“With Sanchez, Murohy and Romine ahead of him behind the plate, and what he has been showing with the bat, we figured we’d try him at third base, where he played in high school (before catching at the University of Miami). We can always move him back to catcher.’’

Newman and the Yankees are pleased with right-hander Dellin Betances, who, with a switch to the bullpen, seems to have found a niche. Betances has a 6-4, 3.39 mark, a strikeout/walk ratio of 77-32 and has not allowed an earned run in his 10 last appearances over 18 innings.

“There’s nothing magical about what Betances is doing,’’ said Newman, who indicated the native of Brooklyn could get a big-league call-up.  “He’s throwing more strikes. It seems he does that when he goes to the bullpen, so that is where we will use him.’’

Betances has strengthened Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre’s bullpen while Mark Montgomery works his way back from back issues.  He pitched twice in the Gulf Coast League recently.

In Trenton, where outfielders Tyler Austin, Slade Heathcott and Ramon Flores have not dominated as some thought they might, Newman also sees progress.  Heathcott is 22, while Austin and Flores are 21.

“It’s age,’’ said Newman about the trio’s adjustments. Austin had a bad wrist for three weeks and, like 95 percent of competitive athletes, didn’t tell anybody about it because he wanted to play. Presently on the DL, Austin is hitting .254 (79-for-311) with six homers and 39 RBIs in 81 games.

“Heathcott is getting  hot,’’ said Newman, referring to a .304 clip and four multi-hit games in his last 10, boosting the Texarkana, Texas, native’s average to .260 (97-for-334) with five homers and 41 RBIs in 85 games. He’s also stayed healthy this season.

Flores, who has had some good streaks and not-so-good streaks, is hitting .241 (90-for-374) with four homers and 37 RBIs in 96 games.

“As Ramon matures physically, and he’s not there yet, he’ll hit for more power,’’ said Newman.

The Yankees are naturally pleased with first-round draft pick Eric Jagielo’s 15-game stint in Staten Island, where he is hitting .333 (18-for-54) with a homer and eight RBIs.

“Jagielo should be playing well,’’ said Newman. “We thought he was one of the top hitters in collegiate baseball (Notre Dame) last season. He’s got great makeup.’’

How quickly the infielder will move through the system depends on “how he plays,’’ said Newman.

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Jed spent 35 years in the newspaper business working as both a writer and editor, in both sports and news under tight deadline pressure. As both sports editor at the Indiana (Pa.) Gazette and a copy editor/columnist at The Times of Trenton, he made daily decisions on overall coverage and designed and produced thousands of pages and special sections. Since accepting a buyout from The Times, he has concentrated on broadening his writing and editing horizons to the medical, academic and business fields. Anyone is welcome to Google Jed to see the different places in print, on the Web and in front of the camera his professional expertise has spread to.

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