Mark Newman is the top dog in the Yankees farm system, and he’s back for another lengthy interview with NoMaas’ Gary Wallace. Enjoy our 2nd interview with the Yankees’ Senior Vice President of Baseball Operations.

Gary Wallace: My first question has to do with the draft. You managed to sign sixteen of the top seventeen picks. What is your opinion of Damon Oppenheimer’s performance and how everything shook out?

Mark Newman: We’re happy we signed those players. Damon’s done an excellent job since 2005 bringing talent into the system. He and his staff have done a nice job, and he’s really good at what he does. As with all drafts, its quality will be played out over time, so I expect, like our past drafts, that this one will prove to be a good one.

GW: The last time you talked with us, you mentioned that the depth of the system might have to be “rebuilt”. How do you think that has gone so far?

MN: Our prospects, almost without exception, have had really good years. We’ve got some quality young players at the upper levels and some quality young prospects at the lower levels, so we feel good. We’ve got more work to do, but we feel good about where we’re at.

GW: Angelo Gumbs (2nd round pick in 2010) has stated in interviews that centerfield is his primary position. However, he was drafted as a shortstop. Is that where you envision him long-term?

MN: We’ll see. He’s athletic. He’s playing some shortstop now and we’ll see how that progresses over time. We know we like his offensive potential and we’re in the process of finding out where he will fit best defensively. To say he’s going to be a shortstop or a centerfielder at this point would be premature.

GW: Is there a chance Mason Williams might see some time in the infield at any point in the future?

MN: Right now, Mason is a centerfielder and we’re going to leave it like that for the time being.

GW: When we talked to you back in June, we asked you about David Adams and you said it might be two more weeks or so before he returned. That didn’t work out. What happened with him?

MN: He struggled with the rehab. We checked again and he had a small broken bone in his foot, so that was basically it.

GW: Is there any chance he might make it to the Arizona Fall League?

MN: No. He’s going to rehab this off season. We’re not going to push it.

GW: On the topic of rehab, how is Jeremy Bleich doing?

MN: Fine. He hasn’t started throwing yet. He’s doing what all these rehab guys do and he’s doing it with special focus and attention to detail. He’s a first-rate worker. He understands what he needs to do and he does it, so we expect him to do well in the rehab process.

GW: Ivan Nova just made his first career major league start. Did you get a chance to watch it? If so, what did you think?

MN: I watched it on tape this morning. He got through the first inning a little shaky and then pitched well…obviously gave up a homerun on a breaking ball that hung. I liked his poise, I liked his aggressiveness, and certainly the stuff was there; we know that. I thought he did fine.

GW: His velocity seemed to be really high, sitting at 93, 94 and touching 97. Has that been the book on his stuff all year?

MN: Yeah. That’s it.

GW: Last year Zach McAllister was the Eastern League Pitcher of the Year and this year he was the “Player to be Named Later” in the Austin Kearns trade. What happened to his season? It just seemed to fall out from beneath him.

MN: He’s a young guy in AAA. Sometimes they struggle a little bit; sometimes they don’t and he did. But, he had various times during the season where we saw the real Zach McAllister, so we fully expect he’ll get back to that. You don’t lead the Eastern League in ERA and win Pitcher of the Year and not have the tools to be successful. We think he will be. We’re sad that it’s going to be with Cleveland, but we still think he’s going to be a good major league pitcher.

GW: Brandon Laird, another young AAA player, has had rumors about him that he might move to the outfield. Has that process begun at all?

MN: Yeah. We’re doing some work with him out there and we’ll do more in the offseason. We’ll do some of it in the Arizona Fall League as well.

GW: What would you have said if I told you six months ago that Andrew Brackman, Dellin Betances and Manny Banuelos would all be pitching in Trenton before the year was over?

MN: I could guarantee I would’ve been happy. We didn’t anticipate that. We figured Brack would probably get there; he pitched well in A-ball and he’s doing fine in AA. The other two guys were coming back from injury, two different types of injury, and to have them pitch as well as they did, really pitch in a dominant way in the Florida State League…that’s great. They’ve all got really good arms.

GW: Manny Banuelos has come back and thrown much harder than he ever did before. Is this just him growing into his body? He’s still a very young pitcher at 19. Anything about professional weight training or coaching that has got his velocity there?

MN: It’s hard to pinpoint what allows a young guy, a young pitcher to improve his velocity. If we knew it, we’d do it with everybody. All those things happen. He matures physically, naturally, and he matures in terms of his delivery. He gets stronger and more explosive through our strength and conditioning program. He’s done all those things and now he gets it up to 97. He used to get it up to 92, 93. It’s interesting. You never know.

GW: It’s got to be exciting for you to have a lefty showing that type of velocity and control at a young age.

MN: Yeah. That’s big.

GW: On the subject of Manny Banuelos, whenever he comes up you always hear about mound presence. Can you give us some insight on that?

MN: Basically it’s his poise, his tempo, his delivery. He looks like a pitcher. He’s got a really smooth, easy delivery. Good balance…he doesn’t wear his emotions on his sleeve on the mound. He maintains his poise and composure. Fields his position. He looks like a veteran pitcher at a very young age.

GW: Continuing with the Trenton staff: Dellin Betances. What’s been the biggest difference for him this year?

MN: First, he’s healthy. Second, he’s always had a good arm. He’s throwing his curveball and changeup for strikes and they’re both really good pitches. When you take velocity…it’s good, it’s fine. We appreciate it and we scout it, but that ability to throw quality secondary pitches in the strike zone in a variety of counts is a big, big key to success. And he is doing that now.

GW: Andrew Brackman. Any chance he sees some innings in the Bronx this September?

MN: Right now, I wouldn’t think so. But stranger things have happened.

GW: Adam Warren just had a huge fifteen strikeout, seven inning game the other day. Has his velocity increase from last year kept up?

MN: Yeah. He gets it up to 95. Pitches at 92, 93 and did that some for us last year. In his case, [he’s] working hard on his secondary stuff and it’s improving. Good looking young guy. He’s going to be a major league pitcher.

GW: You said that about Hector Noesi and now he’s in AAA, one step away (from the majors), so that probably bodes well for Adam.

MN: Yeah. Adam’s got stuff and he throws strikes. What’s not to like?

GW: As for position players on Trenton, Corban Joseph recently got promoted (after Brandon Laird moved to AAA). It seems like every time people talk about Corban they talk about his defense, as some people question his ability to stay at second base. What has been your evaluation regarding his glovework this year?

MN: Big improvements. He really works at that part of his game and it’s showed up. He’s making routine plays. Now he’s making extended range plays, he’s making slow roller plays, he’s turning the double play better. Doing some good stuff.

GW: One other pitcher on the Trenton staff I forgot to mention is Wilkin De La Rosa, a 40-Man addition a couple of years ago. He seems to have regressed in the past two seasons. Is there anything specifically wrong with him?

MN: He’s healthy, he’s got good stuff, he’s got a good arm. It’s just a matter of throwing quality strikes consistently. No different than the rest of them.

GW: Graham Stoneburner is a guy at Tampa who might have had a case to get bumped up to Trenton when the Ivan Nova and Zach McAllister moves happened. Given his performance this year, will he be starting 2011 at Trenton?

MN: I would think that’s probably a good bet.

GW: There were reports earlier in the season that his slider wasn’t great. Has there been any progress with it since then?

MN: Yeah. Our pitching coach in the Florida State League is a guy named Greg Pavlick, who is extraordinary. He was a major league pitching coach for the Mets. He’s experienced, a great teacher, and has helped Stoneburner’s breaking ball immensely. Graham has always been able to spin the ball. It just needed to be a little tighter, add a little more tilt to it, a little more depth and he’s made significant improvement in that area.

GW: Pat Venditte, everybody’s favorite switch pitcher, has had a great year at Tampa, but he hasn’t been challenged with a promotion. Is his development plan just going to be different because he’s so different?

MN: It’s a matter of having a roster opportunity. I think he can pitch in AA now. He’ll get his chance. It may be at the end of this year, maybe at the beginning of next, but he’ll get there.

GW: Is Jonathan Ortiz in the same boat?

MN: Yep.

GW: Melky Mesa finally seems to be putting all his tools together in Tampa. Is there any chance he’s a quick mover soon since he’s a bit older than most of his competition?

MN: Basically, these guys move based on the skills they’ve acquired on their current level. Whether he’s 23, 20 or 24, we try to use subjective criteria, not chronology. Once you get on the field and start to perform it doesn’t make a difference whether you’re 19 or 29, actually.

GW: If you had to choose, would he be one of the best speed/power combinations in the system?

MN: He’s doesn’t have many equals when it comes to those two tools.

GW: You probably get tired of answering this question, but how has Jesus Montero’s defense progressed this season?

MN: Very well. Better than I had hoped. He’s throwing in the 1.9s consistently with accuracy. He’s receiving well and growing as a game-caller. He’s 20 years old and on the verge of the big leagues, and he’s got a lot to learn, but I think he’s going to get it done and be a great player at the major league level. At least offensively, there’s not much to argue about.

GW: You can’t talk about Jesus Montero without mentioning Austin Romine. Well, you can. Most people just don’t, but his numbers have dipped a bit as the season has wore on. Fatigue setting in at all?

MN: That’s probably a little bit of it. His first year of catching full-time from start to finish. Montero’s going through the same thing. That’s probably a bit of an issue for a lot of guys. He’s just got to keep grinding away. We really like him. We think he’s going to be a good hitter and a good defender and so do a lot of people in the industry. He’s got big value.

GW: Jose Ramirez at Charleston was a bit of a sleeper prospect in 2010 after his velocity took a big jump in his 2009 GCL season. There were reports a couple weeks ago it had dipped back down. Is his amount of innings beginning to have an effect on him?

MN: Yeah, it did. He got tired. We shut him down for the remainder of the year.

GW: On that same team is Slade Heathcott. How would you say he’s performed this year?

MN: Good. First full season, 19 year old kid, he’s holding his own in that league. Doing well. Plays hard. Great defender. He has moments offensively…some days we see what we know we’re going to see in the future on a more consistent basis. He learning a lot and he’s doing well.

GW: How is JR Murphy’s transition to catcher going?

MN: He’s splitting time with Kyle Higashioka, so he’s not [catching] five or six days a week yet. We’ll see how that goes. I think he doing fine. He’s had his moments offensively. When he stays in the middle of the field and uses it all, he’s a real good-looking young hitter.

GW: Sticking with the catchers, Gary Sanchez now at Staten Island, started the season in the Gulf Coast League…Charleston next year we can safely assume?

MN: That’s probably [right]. We don’t make those decisions now. That’s probably a good guess.

GW: Recently, young Yankee catchers have split time behind the plate. In 2008 and early 2009 it was Jesus Montero and Austin Romine, this year it’s JR Murphy and Kyle Higashioka. Is this going to be the approach we see with Gary in the future?

MN: Not sure yet. That’s always a possibility, but I wouldn’t say that’s a guarantee. One of the things it does do for a young player, who’s also a good offensive player, is it allows them to stay fairly fresh so they can maintain some offensive productivity over the course of a long season. They’ve never played 140 games. Certainly Gary hasn’t either. That’s something we’ll look at, but there are a lot of other factors: who’s the other catcher? Where is he ready to play? We can’t say that that’s the plan yet. It’s a possibility.

GW: Saw him in person last night at the Staten Island game. He’s a big boy.

MN: He’s a strong, strong guy.

GW: Bryan Mitchell, a prep pitcher still in the Gulf Coast League, has had some mixed results. How do you see his work this year?

MN: Arm strength good, up to 95. Power curveball, really has good feel for spin. Changeup is emerging. It’s all going to be command-related. He hasn’t pitched much yet. So far I think he’s done fine and we’ll know more over the next couple years. He’s certainly got what you look for, he’s got arm strength, he’s got a really good feel…tight, power curveball. So, you like that.

GW: Couple of recent international signings to talk about. Tzu-Wei Lin, correct me if I’m saying that wrong, a 16-year old shortstop out of Taiwan… can you tell us about him?

MN: That report is premature. That deal hasn’t been finalized.

GW: Alright. Christopher Tamarez’s signing is official, no?

MN: That one’s done. He’s a 16-year old shortstop, 6’1” 170. Big-time arm, very good hands. We like the swing. We thought he was the best shortstop in the Dominican this year. We think he’s got tools and we’ll see how he progresses. We think he’s got the aptitude and the work ethic.

GW: Cito Culver (1st round pick in 2010) also received the bump to Staten Island (along with Gary Sanchez and Rob Segedin). What have you seen out of him so far?

MN: Really good young defender at shortstop…I don’t know that we’ve had a better defender right out of the chute than him. The kid coming from Rochester, New York…his summer coaches, his high school coaches must’ve done a really good job with him because he is an advanced defender. He’s got good tools, he’s got a great attitude about the game. He’s got work ethic…he enjoys playing. We’re very happy with him. You were there last night, they told me he made a couple good plays last night?

GW: He made a really nice play coming in on a ball that was a weak chopper. Got the [runner] out by a number of steps. Made it look easy, that was the one thing that stood out to me. Just very fluid in his motions.

MN: That’s him.

GW: Segedin also made a couple nice plays at 3rd base. He’s a guy who coming into the draft was mainly known for his bat, but it looks like he’s kind of the whole package. What do you guys think you have with him?

MN: We like the bat, we like the power. He can play 3rd base, he can play the outfield too. We’re not sure where he’s going to end up, but we think he’s going to be an offensive player. He’ll play some corner somewhere.

GW: Eduardo Sosa. He had a ankle or foot injury I believe?

MN: Hamstring.

GW: Hamstring, sorry. He’s shut down for the year?

MN: Yeah, I don’t think he’ll make it back in time. There aren’t enough games left in Staten Island’s season.

GW: One final question: Christian Garcia, he received his release. Any chance he’s back in pinstripes next year?

MN: We haven’t had a discussion with him or his agents about that. He’s got a ton of rehabbing to do. We’ve always liked Chris and thought he’s a great, talented guy. Feel bad about the injuries he had to go through.

GW: Thank you very much, Mr. Newman. I really appreciate you taking time out to talk to me.

MN: Anytime, buddy.

Many thanks to Mark for doing his 2nd interview with NoMaas. We very much appreciate it.

Audio clips

Newman on Cito Culver:

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Newman on Ivan Nova:

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Newman on Slade Heathcott:

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