Ryan Newman is in his first year as field coordinator for the White Sox. He is the son of former major league player and coach Jeff Newman, and has been part of the White Sox system for 14 years as a manager and coach.
Newman replaces Knights interim manager Julio Mosquera this week and was kind enough to take the time to share with me his thoughts on some of the White Sox’s top prospects.
What are your responsibilities as a field coordinator?
I travel to all of our affiliates and basically stay on top of our infields. We write down their player plans, their daily routines, the things they need to work on and make sure they execute them. And when we’re in town, I can take them out for early jobs and stuff like that.
Who decides which player plays, which day, in which position?
It is an organizational decision as well as the manager. The organization lays out a plan at the start of the year, and then managers take it from there.
So with Sosa and Sanchez, as well as the other middle players here in Charlotte, how is this all settled?
If you look at our organization recently, we’ve changed quite a bit guys, our infielders are playing multiple positions…it helps their versatility. If they get called up to Chicago, Tony is going to ask them to play different positions, so that means more tools in their toolbox.
Let’s talk about some of the individual players in the system, starting with Lenyn Sosa.
I’ve been running Lenyn for three years now. I’ve had him in the rookie ball, Kannapolis, Winston-Salem and now I’m his field coordinator. He came to us at a very young age, straight to the United States and really continues to improve. His work ethic is off the charts. The routine he has now as he matures is as professional as it gets. He knows exactly what he is doing offensively, defensively.
He lowers his hands defensively. He goes out and makes sure he gets ground balls on his glove side, backhand, his routine ground balls, he spins the double play, he throws through the diamond. He’s a kid who can play all three places in the infield and play them well. What he is doing offensively this year with consistency and a certain power is a plus for him.
When you saw him in Low-A, did you see him grow into the player he is now?
We saw the potential for sure, absolutely. To his credit, he executed the plan. I remember it was a kid who during the COVID shutdown sent me videos via WhatsApp of him taking ground balls on the roof of his apartment building in Venezuela. He just has that kind of work ethic. He was shooting videos and he and I were talking about it. He has a goal and he wants more. He’s so much fun to be around.
How good is he defensively?
It is not a handicap?
He is not a handicap anywhere. He can play shortstop in the major leagues, he can play second base, you can stick him at third and he’s going to give you a solid performance there.
What kind of arms does he have?
It’s not explosive, but it’s above average. He has plenty of arms for the left side of the diamond, and his feet move so well that he is always in position to line up the ball and in good position to shoot, which makes his accuracy perfect.
Let’s talk about Yolbert Sanchez.
He is incredibly gifted. He has some of the best hands I know.
Offensively and defensively?
Offensively, when this guy is at home plate, he squeals. I had him last year at Winston-Salem and when there was a man in scoring position, he was the guy I wanted. He’s going to give you a good batting.
Defensively, he can play both second and short, no problem. He’s got all the tools, he’s got the ability, we’d just like to see him be a bit more consistent. When it gets there, it will take off.
And there is a role for him, even without power?
Of course. Yeah, absolutely. Once he gets a little more comfortable – as it’s only his second season here in the United States – I think he’ll see the power. He has it.
He doesn’t look particularly quick 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’s still in position.
Let’s go to Birmingham. And Rodríguez?
Yeah. Popeye is there… you know, he started the season and struggled a bit offensively and I think it was a bit difficult for him. It was the first time he had really hurt. But he really turned it around, he plays well, playing both shortstop and second base, has a great arm and great athletic ability. He’s moving really well right now and with Sosa here, it allows him to play a bit more at shortstop and that will be good for him.
Who is better defensively?
To be honest, the position I currently hold as field coordinator, I’m lucky because we have so many good young field players, whether it’s Rodriguez, Sosa, Sanchez, Colson Montgomery or West Kath or Bryan Ramos, the list goes on, I’m extremely lucky. So which one plays the best defense, I don’t know. It’s a big problem we have. It’s a very good group, they are all very young and have incredible potential.
Speaking of Colson Montgomery, nothing seems to be able to stop him. Do you see him as a fast player in the organization?
I’m not surprised at all. When I first met him last year at Educated, you could tell he had a bit of swagger, professional swagger. Sometimes I joke with him that I need to check he has a heartbeat because he’s so consistent all the time and for this game that’s exactly where you need to be.
He gets the Seager comparisons and you can definitely see that 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’m very impressed with where he is, with his knowledge of the strike zone, and obviously with the streak he currently has, he commands the zone and when he gets a throw to do damage he makes damage.
I see what you mean. I spoke to him on Media Day and he seemed so poised, with quiet confidence.
Yeah. And, I don’t know if it comes from his background as a basketball player and the success he had in Indiana as a basketball player, basketball being so big in the state of Indiana. But I’m sure he was the one who had the ball in his hands at the end of the game and who was going to hit the jackpot. So there is no panic in him.
Let’s talk about his teammate, Bryan Ramos.
Yeah. Bryan has come a long way. He’s another guy with an amazing work ethic, he actually stayed in Arizona all off season. I was lucky to work with him all off season and 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 is showing incredible offensive power, and his batting skills are improving and this kid, I mean, what is he, 20 years old I think, and to do what he’s doing in this moment, defensively at third base, we’re very impressed and we like where he is.
So who haven’t we talked about? Who, who else is there?
West Kath, for a high schooler in his first full professional season, he’s doing very well. He holds on. Wilbur Sanchez is a shortstop in Kannapolis right now. This kid is defensively special. He could be our best pure defender. He is 19, 20 too, and will continue to grow.
Do you think he has offensive skills that will come?
Yeah I think so. He’s a smaller guy at the frame, but he packs a punch and once he starts making more consistent contact, he’ll become a really good hitter.
Or ask about another guy. I know he’s not an infielder, but tell me about Oscar Colas.
Colas, yeah, exciting player. Looking at his arm, his defensive ability in the outfield, the power he can run, he’s exciting. I’ll tell you what, this whole team of Winston, the way they play the game, they’re great fun to watch, with Ramos, and Colas, and Mieses and all those guys, and Montgomery added to that mix, Adam Hackenberg , it’s a fun club to watch and Colas has the ability to be really special.
Last question, I’m not going to embarrass you but do you have a feeling, deep down, a confidence that this guy is going to be okay, this guy is going to be a replacement, or is that the mystery baseball?
Yeah, totally baseball mystery. To be honest my mindset is I’m here in player development so I think all these guys are going to be major leaguers and I’m going to do whatever I can to make them major leaguers and help them to get there. They were written or signed for a reason and they deserve to be here. And as Sosa showed this year, he arrived in Birmingham and all of a sudden a door opened and he’s in the big leagues. I’m just here to make them the best players possible.