Part 1 of NoMaas’ interview with the Co-Editor in Chief of Baseball America

SJK: Say you’re in an elevator with a bunch of people and they ask you to describe the current state of the Yankees minor league system. You say….

JM: Not bad, certainly not ideal, but then it’s not usual for a team to both win a World Series championship and have a great farm system simultaneously. The system contributed heavily to the 2009 championship with a nearly completely homegrown bullpen, plus Cabrera, Cano and Brett Gardner being contributors from the system in the last five years, and then the system contributed again this offseason with the Granderson deal. I’d be satisfied but also cognizant of the need to bring more out of some of the system’s top talents.

SJK: What are the biggest areas of weakness in the Yankees’ system?

JM: Shortstop; there’s no obvious in-house replacement for Derek Jetere on-hand. Talent at the upper levels of the system; very few of the Yanks’ top prospects have had much success at Double-A. Jesus Montero and Eduardo Nunez are about the only ones, along with a couple of pitchers like Zach McAllister, Mark Melancon & Ivan Nova. I’d still consider lefthanded pitching to be fairly thin, though there’s some talent there.

SJK: What are the biggest areas of strength?

JM: Well, catching, considering four of our Top 10 Yanks prospects are catchers. Pitching depth, as the Yankees are pretty good at developing pitching.

SJK: The Jesus – Will he stay behind the plate and if he doesn’t, what does that do to his value?

JM: The best answer there is, the Yankees no longer speak of Jesus Montero as a future everyday catcher. They used to; they do not any longer. That’s not to say he can’t do it; he can do it, he’s gotten better at it, he’s probably a 30 defender on an MLB level but some scouts would give him a 40. But 40 isn’t good enough unless you hit like Mike Piazza. Can this guy hit like Piazza? Maybe. Can he hit like Posada, who has been a 40 receiver most of his career but is a better thrower than Montero? I think he will hit like Jorge Posada, at least produce like Jorge Posada.

But catching everyday in the major leagues is such a grind, and Montero’s bat is potentially so special, that I think he’ll be a reserve catcher, 40-50 games a year, and more of a full-time DH. I think if he’s hitting .300/.400/.550, which is realistic, then it doesn’t matter if he’s a DH, then he’s a 4-hole hitter on a championship team and plenty valuable.

SJK: Manuel Banuelos is commonly ranked as one of the better prospects in the Yankees system. What do you think of him?

JM: I rank him that way too, at No. 6. His fastball velocity wavered and some scouts are wary of his body and how the quality of his stuff will hold up in the future, but not all scouts have that concern. He’s a fastball-changeup lefty at this point, so I temper my enthusiasm waiting to see how his breaking ball will perform. Stuff-wise, Jeremy Bleich has better stuff among NYY LHPs. But Banuelos has better fastball command and pitchability, hence he ranked ahead.

SJK: Zach McAllister has excelled at every level of the minors, yet he doesn’t get much hype since his stuff isn’t superb. At what point does performance outweigh scouting, if at all?

JM: At the major league level, that’s the level where it counts the most. Where “hype” matters is, do other teams ask about McAllister in trades? I don’t think so; obviously the Braves valued Arodys Vizcaino more, and I guarantee that 30 of 30 clubs do as well. That’s not hype; that’s reality. McAllister has great numbers but his stuff is back-of-the-rotation stuff. He succeeds more with command, and that’s why there’s not more “hype.”

SJK: Andrew Brackman and Dellin Betances – They must have a hard time finding pants, but will they ever contribute at the MLB level?

JM: Signs point to no, but there’s more hope for Brackman, who is more athletic (though I’m afraid not as athletic as the Yankees thought). Because Brackman is even taller/bigger than Betances, it might take longer for him to figure it out, and he had a lot of rust to shake off last year. That said, he had about as bad a year as you could imagine.

Betances, well, I’m off that train. Tommy John isn’t a death-knell but he’ll miss a year, he hasn’t stayed healthy consistently anyway, and he has never thrown a ton of strikes. He’s got a lot of Daniel Cabrera in him. There’s reason to be pessimistic with both of them. I still ranked Brackman because the upside is so considerable, and he’s had flashes and again is more athletic. But I think the Yankees over-valued him.

Stay tuned Friday night for Part 2 of our conversation with Baseball America’s leading man.

*Props to Gary Wallace/Admiral Firmus Piett (our minor league correspondents), Marshall Seymour, Vizzini, and Mick Shrimpton for also contributing to this interview.