The It’s About the Money blog scored a great interview with Baseball America’s Jim Callis. I recommend reading the whole thing. Some excerpts:
Chip Buck: While Michael Pineda‘s no longer a prospect, can you give us a preview for what we might be able to expect out of him playing in New York this year?
Jim Callis: Safeco Field is much more forgiving than Yankee Stadium, but that said, I think Pineda is going to win 15 games, strike out 200-plus batters and be New York’s second-best starter, behind only C.C. Sabathia.
CB: After being listed as Baseball America ’s 108th best prospect prior to the 2011 amateur draft, the Yankees selected Dante Bichette, Jr. with the 51st pick. He signed quickly and promptly set the Gulf Coast League afire hitting .342/.446/.505 and winning league MVP honors. Looking back, do you think your initial evaluation was accurate? If not, what has changed?
JC: Our initial evaluation was based in part about suspicions that he’ll eventually wind up in the outfield. If he can stay at third base, and the Yankees think he can, then he’ll have more value. Bichette has boosted his stock since the draft with his strong debut and his initial play at third base.
CB: Mason Williams had a tremendous season for the Staten Island Yankees producing a .349/.395/.468 line with great speed and above-average range in centerfield. At only 20 years old, he looks an incredibly exciting prospect. What can we expect out of him going forward?
JC: More of the same. His hitting, basestealing and center-field skills are all exciting. It wouldn’t surprise me if he’s regarded as one of the game’s best prospects by the end of the 2012 season.
Great comments all around, especially from one of the more pessimistic voices about the current state of the Yankee farm system. Mason Williams and Dante Bichette Jr. were that good this season. I’m not sure that Dante Bichette Jr. the corner outfielder is that much of a game changer mathematically versus Dante Bichette Jr. the 3rd baseman, but it could be if Bichette Jr. becomes a true plus defender at the position. There’s been a pretty broad outpouring of love for the work he displayed at 3rd base defensively, which is notable because normally everyone would be talking about his bat after mashing the way he did. For Williams, the great news is that people are already seeing him as more than a speedy center fielder – they envision him as a 5-tool wonder closer to Desmond Jennings than Brett Gardner.
And really, there’s not much someone can say about a pitcher about to enter his second season in the majors that’s better than what Jim Callis said about Michael Pineda. People say a lot of things about uncertainty and Pineda, but the difference between a guy who has pitched 170 very good MLB innings over an equally skilled player who has only a cup of coffee in the show is huge.