John Sadak has a fun job. He is the voice of the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders, amongst many other announcing gigs. He has been on hand for an amazing transformation in the Yankees farm system, and has seen some of today’s stars at the big league level develop from question marks to the reigning AL Player of the Week.
He’s never been shy to talk Yankees prospects, as he brings an aspect to prospect talk little others can. He sees these prospects play every day, watching them grow in each at bat, or unfortunately sometimes never meet the lofty expectations that are placed upon them. This year, he saw a lot of positives.
Most recently, the Yankees acquired one of the premier outfielders in the game in the Andrew Miller deal. Clint Frazier is part of the new Yankees future that has already begun, and he created quite a buzz from the second he put on a RailRiders uniform.
“The first thing that strikes you is his size,” Sadak said. “He’s 21 years old, and he’s already built like a man at the peak of his athletic prowess. Thick, muscular arms and legs plus the bat speed that had Brian Cashman buzzing upon his arrival.
“As a person, first-class. He was deluged with media requests within his first few days as a RailRider. Dozens of requests from New York media, our folks and several national outlets. He handled it all like a complete pro. He struck out more than you would like in the very beginning. But you have to consider a number of factors. He had just five games above Double-A on his career before the trade. He certainly felt a lot of pressure after the trade, pressure that I’m sure was heightened by the volume of interview requests. He found his rhythm. The early signature moments included a booming run-scoring double in his first home game and a key, game-changing homer that traveled over 400 feet off of Lucas Giolito, considered by some to be the game’s top right-handed pitching prospect. He’s really good and he will only get better.”
Of course the Yankees also moved Carlos Beltran, leaving a gaping hole in right field. After an up and down season — one that saw him hit .183 in May only to bounce back and win the June International League Player of the Month — Judge made his long awaited debut in the Bronx with a bang.
“I think the biggest change was that of simplicity and comfort,” Sadak said. “Our manager, Al Pedrique, has said he thought Judge “let the ball travel more”. Basically, staying back on the off-speed. Aaron himself often spoke of “sticking to his approach”. Several times he referenced a chat he had with Alex Rodriguez in spring training. That dialogue revolved around the core of their approach at the plate. For Aaron, his singular focus was to “drive the ball up the middle”. Obviously, as pitches arrive, you adjust. When he was really cooking in June, what was truly a six-week run of dominance, he lined the ball to all fields. But his consistent efforts to send the ball up the middle enabled that growth. In many ways, he just needed to see pitches. Remember, he had very little pro hitting experience before he first came up to Triple-A in 2015. And fairly shortly after his arrival he had to deal with a minor injury. Considering the volume of plate appearances that he had, his growth was incredibly impressive. The RailRiders’ first-year hitting coach, Tom Wilson, also played an integral role. This entire group has been a hard-working bunch and Aaron is one of the leaders in that regard. He’s always on the field for early work and/or in the cage working with “Willie”. The click moment came as all of those elements blended together and Aaron was on his way.”
One of the Yankees that has struggled has been Luis Severino. Sadak saw him as a young fireballer last season who made his improbable leap to the bigs a success. This season, he saw him back in Scranton/ Wilkes-Barre trying to find the magic from last season.
“He’s throwing harder than when we had him in 2015, but everything was harder,” Sadak said. “His changeup was harder and the velocity difference had slimmed. His slider was inconsistent. I think his issues are part of the normal growth process for most players.
“This entire group of prospects has a number of shared traits. The one that probably stands out the most? How competitive they are. Severino is one of the most competitive in the group. This game is hard, really, really hard. And he has such amazing stuff that he achieved outstanding success in a short span of time, both in the minors and when he first arrived in the bigs last season. He’s had some tougher moments even at Triple-A this season that don’t necessarily show up in his overall stats. That said, I have no doubt that he will have Major League success.”
The Yankees have had some nice pitching coming up the pipeline, as Chad Green and Luis Cessa just threw consecutive solid outings for the big league club. Climbing the ladder also is Jordan Montgomery, who has certainly become a Yankees pitcher to monitor closely.
“Montgomery just started the team’s franchise-record 22nd shutout of the season. The short answer? You watch him pitch and you see a lot of Andy Pettitte. He changes eye level, moves in and out and overall makes for a smart and difficult at-bat.
For more with Sadak, head on over to the full interview at Minor League Ball by clicking on the link below: