Infield coordinator Ryan Newman talks White Sox prospects

Ryan Newman is in his first year as infield coordinator for the White Sox.  He is the son of former major league player and coach Jeff Newman, and has been in the White Sox system for 14 years as a manager and coach.

Newman is filling in this week for Knights’ acting manager Julio Mosquera and was kind enough to take some time to share his thoughts with me on some of the White Sox’ top prospects.

What are your responsibilities as infield coordinator?

I travel around all our affiliates and basically just stay on top of our infields. We write their player plans, their daily routines, things they need to work on and make sure they’re executing it. And when we’re in town, I’m able to take them out for early work and stuff like that. 

Who decides which player plays, which day, which position?

That’s an organizational decision as well as the manager. The organization lays out a plan at the beginning of the year and then the managers take it from there.

So with Sosa and Sanchez, as well as the other middle infielders here in Charlotte, how does all that get sorted out?

If you look at our organization recently, we’ve moved guys around quite a bit, our infielders play multiple positions … it helps their versatility. If they get called up to Chicago, Tony is going to ask them to play different positions, so it means more tools in their toolkit.

Let’s talk about some of the individual players in the system, starting with Lenyn Sosa.

I’ve managed Lenyn three years now. I had him in rookie ball, Kannapolis, Winston-Salem and now being his infield coordinator. He came to us really young, straight to the states and really just continues to get better. His work ethic is off the charts. The routine that he has now as he matures is as professional as it gets. He knows exactly what he’s doing offensively, defensively.

He gets his hands down defensively. He goes out and makes sure he gets ground balls to his glove-side, to his back-hand side, his routine ground balls, he turns the double play, he throws across the diamond. This is a kid who can play all three spots in the infield and play them well. What he is doing offensively this year with the consistency and showing some power is a plus for him.

When you saw him in Low-A, did you see him becoming the player he is now? 

We saw the potential for sure, absolutely. To his credit, he’s executed the plan. I remember this was a kid that during the COVID shutdown who was sending me videos through WhatsApp of him taking ground balls on the roof of his building in Venezuela. He just has that kind of work ethic. He was shooting videos and he and I would talk about them. He has a goal and he’s hungry for more. He’s so fun to be around.

How good defensively is he?

Really good. 

He’s not a liability?

He’s not a liability anywhere. He can play shortstop in the major leagues, he could play second base, you can stick him at third and he’s going to give you a solid showing over there. 

What kind of arm does he have?

It’s not explosive, but it’s above average. He’s got plenty of arm for the left side of the diamond, and his feet move so well that he’s always in position to field the ball and in a good position to throw, which makes his accuracy perfect.

Let’s talk about Yolbert Sanchez.

He is incredibly gifted.  He’s got some of the best hands I’ve ever been around. 

Offensively and defensively?

Defensively.

Offensively, when that guy is at the plate, he grinds. I had him last year in Winston-Salem and when there was a man in scoring position, he was the guy I wanted up. He’s going to give you a good at bat. 

Defensively, he can play both second and short, no problem. He’s got all the tools, he got the ability, we’d just like to see him be a little more consistent. When he gets there, he’s gonna take off.

And there’s a role for him, even without power?

Oh, for sure. Yeah, absolutely. Once he gets a little more comfortable — because this is only his second season here in the United States — I think he’ll see the power. He’s got it.

He doesn’t seem particularly fast or athletic.

He is incredibly athletic. He’s not going to blow you away with his speed, but his feet move really well and he is always in position. 

Let’s move on to Birmingham. How about Rodriguez?

Yeah. Popeye’s down there … you know, he started the season and struggled a little bit offensively and I think that was kind of tough for him.  It was the first time he’s really struggled. But he’s really turned it around, he’s playing well, playing both shortstop and second base, has a great arm and great athletic ability. He’s moving around really well right now and with Sosa up here, it allows him to play shortstop a little more and that will be good for him.

Which one is better defensively?

To be honest, the position I’m in right now as infield coordinator, I’m lucky because we have so many good, young infielders, whether it’s Rodriguez, Sosa, Sanchez, Colson Montgomery or West Kath or Bryan Ramos, the list goes on, I’m extremely fortunate. So, which one plays the best defense, I don’t know. It’s a great problem we have. It is a really good group, they’re all real young and have incredible potential.

Speaking of Colson Montgomery, there seems to be no stopping him.  Do you see him as a fast mover in the organization?

I’m not surprised at all.  When I first met him last year at instructs, you could tell there was a little bit of swagger to him, a professional swagger. Sometimes I joke with him that I need to check to make sure he has a heartbeat because he’s just so even keel all the time and for this game, that’s exactly where you need to be. 

He gets the comparisons to Seager and you can definitely see it because he’s a big 6’4 shortstop but this kid is special. I think he has the ability to stay at shortstop.  

Offensively, I am very impressed with where he is, with his knowledge of the strike zone, and obviously with the streak he’s got going currently, he is commanding the zone and when he gets a pitch to do damage, he does damage.

I know what you mean. I talked to him on Media Day and he just seemed so poised, with a quiet confidence.

Yeah. And, I don’t know if it comes from his basketball background and the success he had in Indiana as a basketball player, with basketball being so big in the state of Indiana. But I’m sure he was the guy who had the ball in his hands at the end of the game and was going to take the big shot. So, there’s no panic in him whatsoever. 

Let’s talk about his teammate, Bryan Ramos.

Yeah. Bryan has come a long way. He is another guy with incredible work ethic, he actually stayed in Arizona all off-season. I was fortunate enough to work with him all off-season and to watch him grow and come out and do what he did to start the season and be where he is right now, on both sides of the ball … he shows incredible power offensively, and his bat-to-ball skills are getting much better and this kid, I mean, what is he, 20, I think, and to do what he’s doing right now, defensively at third base, we’re very impressed and we love where he is.

So who have we not talked about? Who, who else is out there?

West Kath, for a high school kid in his first professional full season, he’s doing really well. He’s holding his own. Wilbur Sanchez is a shortstop in Kannapolis right now. This kid defensively is special. He might be our best pure defender. He’s 19, 20 years old as well, and is going to continue to grow.

Do you think he has any offensive skills that will come?

Yeah, I think so. He’s a smaller guy frame-wise, but he packs a punch and once he starts making more consistent contact, he’s going to be a really good hitter.

Let be ask about another guy. I know he’s not an infielder but tell me a little about Oscar Colas.

Colas, yeah, exciting player. Watching his arm, his defensive ability in the outfield, the power, he can run, he is exciting. I’ll tell you what, that whole Winston team, the way they play the game, they are a lot of fun to watch, with Ramos, and Colas, and Mieses and all those guys, and Montgomery added to that mix, Adam Hackenberg, that’s a fun club to watch and Colas has the ability to be really special.

Last question, I’m not going to put you on the spot but do you have a sense, in the back of your mind, a confidence, that this guy is going to make it, this guy is going to be a back-up, or is that the mystery of baseball?

Yeah, totally the mystery of baseball. To be honest, my mindset is, I’m here in player development, so I go into this thinking all these guys are going be major leaguers and I’m going do whatever I can to make them major leaguers and help them get there. They were either drafted or signed for a reason and they deserve to be here. And like Sosa showed this year, he got to Birmingham and all of a sudden a door opened and he’s in the major leagues. I’m just here to make them the best players they can be.

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Jeff Cohen
Jeff Cohen
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dongutteridge

Thank you for this excellent piece. Great questions. I really enjoyed reading and learned a lot about the system as well as the players.

As Cirensica

Excellent interview Jeff. Thank you for putting it together. Enjoyed reading it.