Chat with Baseball America's John Manuel
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John Manuel (2:03 PM)
OK,sorry to be a minute or two late here. I'll make it up at the back. Let's get going.
Zach (WIlton, CT)
Nolan Reimold >,<,= than Pat Burrell?
John Manuel (2:04 PM)
Different. He's more well-rounded, but I think he won't be quite as productive as Burrell offensively. If he is, then he'll be greater than because he's a better defender and runner. But he's not the hitter Burrell has been, and that's what it's really all about.
Zach (Wilton, CT)
Obviously Grant Green is the top middle infield prospect for this year's draft. Who is the next best: Ryan Jackson, D.J. LeMahieu, A.J.Pollock, or Robbie Shields?
John Manuel (2:05 PM)
It's a big drop-off but I'd say LeMahieu is next in line. Scouts are more encouraged after seeing him in the Cape last summer that he can stay at shortstop, and he's physical and should hit. Jackson is intriguing, defensively he's the best of this group but there are questions about his bat.
Harper (Modesto, CA)
Do you see Henry Rodriguez as a starter or reliever in the majors? ETA?
John Manuel (2:06 PM)
Much more in the reliever camp on him than on most any other A's pitching prospect, and there are plenty of those. Guys like Rodriguez who throw the jeebus out of it but don't have great control, not to mention command, set their own timetables. Once they start throwing strikes, they don't stay in the minors long.
Hook (Southern Maryland)
How long do you think it will take for the O's to contend for a AL East crown?
John Manuel (2:08 PM)
They just have to get every break. A couple of years ago, I thought IF Loewen & D. Cabrera came through, they'd have power arms to make a move up the standings, at least. Now, they really are waiting on Matusz, Arrieta and Tillman to get to the majors and be ready for prime time. They've built a nice lineup, good defense, balance between left & right, and Wieters should give them a franchise cornerstone. But they have 3-5 years to go, it seems, to have championship-caliber pitching, and that's if EVERYTHING comes together.
Billy (Tacoma, WA)
Due to the lack of talent in Seattle's OF what are the chances Michael Saunders is up by mid-season. How does he project at the major league level? Also, what numbers are you predicting for Jeff Clement?
John Manuel (2:11 PM)
It's a very different outfield. Ichiro is a lock obviously, and Franklyn Gutierrez seems to be, as he's a key piece from the three-team Putz trade. Endy Chavez is a good fourth outfielder, I see Wladimir Balentien hitting his way into the discussion and pushing Chavez to the 4th OF role sooner than later. Plus there's Greg Halman. So I don't think Saunders will be up by midseason; he's also coming off minor labrum surgery this offseason. For me, he's a September callup at best for '09, much more of a factor for 2010.
Carlos Santana - what do you expect him in the majors? Will he force the Indians to trade Shoppach (with V-Mart at 1B)?
John Manuel (2:14 PM)
Shoppach's performance in '09 will help determine that. I have a feeling he had a career year in '08; not like he can't be a solid-average starter, but I see Victor Martinez pushing aside Ryan Garko and Shoppach being a solid-average C for 2009 and perhaps into 2010. Santana has to push two guys aside there, plus Matt LaPorta could factor in at 1B/DH as well. If Travis Hafner bounces back, there's another spot out of the mix for all these players. Shoppach and Garko are two solid players -- Garko's an all-time personal fave -- but Santana and Victor should be the two main guys at C & 1B by 2011 at the latest.
Chris (Lakeville, MN)
In the past it seems to me you haven't been very high on Denard Span (correct me if I'm wrong). I'm wondering if your opinion has changed after last year. Do you think that the Twins might be better served to start Span in CF and let Gomez work on his hitting in AAA? Span seems to be an above average CF and a much better hitter than Gomez at this point.
John Manuel (2:16 PM)
We were not too high on him coming into 2008, that's for sure. He had a nice August in 2007 in Triple-A; up until then, he'd been a disappointment. Span deserves the credit for making "the leap" and blossoming at the right time, I thought Jason Pridie would be the one doing what Span did. My opinion has changed, though I think Span will fall back a bit this year. I'm a Gomez fan, I know he doesn't control the strike zone and won't be a leadoff type like Span. But he's a spectacular defender and runner. I suspect the Twins will be patient with him because of those tools, and give his bat every chance to develop. Long-term, I still think Gomez is the superior talent and will be the better player, but that says more about my faith in Gomez than any lack of faith in Span.
Chris (Lakeville, MN)
What were your projections (#1 pitcher, back of the rotation, etc) for the current Twins starters as they approached the majors? Outside of possibly Liriano reverting to 2006 form, it seems as though they have a bunch of good but not great SP (#3 pitchers?).
John Manuel (2:21 PM)
We were on Liriano early in his career; he ranked 4th in the Giants system after 2002, after throwing 80 innings in low A ball. He fell to 18 on the Twins list after '03 due to injuries that limited him to 9 IP in '03. He always was a future top-end guy. Scott Baker is the other guy we saw as perhaps more than a 3/4 guy, though our '03 draft scouting report said "No. 3 starter on a championship team." He's been a bit better than that. Blackburn is a 3/4 guy, more innings-eater than frontline guy, and Slowey is a better version of Blackburn, more of a 3 with Blackburn a 4. Glen Perkins was in the same vein, so you're right, that's what they have. I'd rather have that than a bunch of, say, not good starters. Starting pitching depth is also one of the farm system's strengths, especially with guys like Jeff Manship and Brian Duensing and Anthony Swarzak having had some success at higher levels.
Chris (Lakeville, MN)
The Twins seem content to ride out the start of the season with a Buscher/Harris platoon at 3B. Is there any hope that Valencia or Hughes might be able to provide any help this year? Are either of them legit prospects or are the Twins much higher on them than the rest of the industry?
John Manuel (2:24 PM)
One more Twinkies Q . . . I think Minnesota tried to address its 3B question but lost out on Casey Blake. To play 3B for Ron Gardenhire it seems you have to defend to his standards, or else the Twins probably would have swung a deal for someone like Kevin Kouzmanoff. I think Buscher/Harris is a passable platoon for the short-term. I've long been a fan of Buscher, who's a real grinder. You can be just OK offensively in some spots when your catcher is Joe Mauer, he covers up a lot of other spots. Hughes can't seem to play defense at 3b up to Twins' standards, or anyone's really except maybe the Aussie WBC team. Valencia could be that guy; we ranked him No. 5 in their system this year. He won't be ready in '09, I don't think, especially not defensively with Gardenhire.
Jim: It's been pretty well documented how severe the shortage is of catchers with offensive skills these days. But looking at the final 2008 stats, that seems to be true of shortstops as well. Outside of Hanley Ramirez, the OPS numbers are all pretty dismal, and there are some big names far down the list. It's true of second basemen as well, but I'm not sure that ever really changed much. Are we returning to the days when, even in the AL, the bottom third of the lineup gives the pitcher a nice breather? (Thank you, drug testing!)
John Manuel (2:29 PM)
I was thinking about this over the weekend with the A-Rod stuff. In 1999 Alan Schwarz did a "Holy Trinity" feature comparing A-Rod, Jetes and Nomar, leaving out the youngest member of the star AL shortstops, Miguel Tejada. Well, Nomar's career lost its luster years ago, Tejada and A-Rod make all the news players don't want to make, and Jeter is Jeter. People either seem to love him or hate him. I think we may be in a cycle where we see fewer shortstops putting up ridiculous numbers like those guys all did. Defense is moving back up the profile chart at short.
Timmy L., San Francisco
Rich Hill, washed up or still a potential break through player?
John Manuel (2:31 PM)
I like the Cubs reject take the Orioles have had this offseason, adding Pie & Rich Hill. They can't count on either guy to be the foundation of an O's renaissance, but they should get some use out of both, and Hill should be better than Garret Olson if he can recover from Lou Piniella's doghouse. That said, Hill has had control issues for a long time.
Assuming he would have taken a similar deal, can you explain to me why the Yankees did not resign Abreu? If they can trade Swisher for anything the difference between contracts is around 1M.
John Manuel (2:33 PM)
I'm not an Abreu guy. I know he puts up numbers. Other players can put up numbers. He's not a great defender, and he's a low-energy guy. On the right team, that works and his numbers will do all the talking. The Yankees were a pretty low-energy bunch since getting Abreu, though, they had a lot of players like that. I think the Phillies were onto something when they traded him for pennies on the dollar, then found a replacement in Jayson Werth who looks worse on paper but helped them win a World Series championship.
Daniel ( San Diego)
God good 3 straight questions from the same guy. What numbers do you expect from Kulbacki at San Antonio this year (if hes healthy)?
John Manuel (2:34 PM)
Daniel, I just had this discussion with a Padres fan last night. I've never thought of Kulbacki as a stud; I've always thought of him as a guy who can hit, but he just seems like a Jeremy Giambi kind of guy, a guy who is limited aside from his bat and who doesn't hit enough home runs to really make up for that lack of all-around play. If I'm selling him short, I'll be glad to admit it in a couple of years. I just have never heard a scout get excited about Kellen Kulbacki, except about the fact that he's a natty dresser.
re: the thinly veiled steroids question above. Where is this shortage of hitting catchers? Mauer, McCann, Martin, Soto, Martinez, Posada is still kicking around. Ariz has Montero? coming up soon, Texas has 3 prospects, Weiters looks like a beast. Seems to be more "hitting" catchers than normal. SS hitting is down, 2b hitting is up. The offensive numbers overall haven't really changed since testing started.
John Manuel (2:38 PM)
I don't disagree; good point. I just addressed the SS part, that was a special group of shortstops. On the catcher, here are plenty of catchers in the minors as well, we're working on our top 100 and catching is perhaps the strongest position. I had 6 in my personal top 50, including two from the '08 draft, Posey & Jason Castro, and it could have been seven with Kyle Skipworth. Also the '09 draft is strong in high school catchers. This stuff just seems to go in cycles. I think we're going to hit a down cycle in offense overall in baseball and performance-enhancers are part of that equation, but not all of it. After all, pitchers used too.
What are your thoughts on Jeff Niemann's possible conversion to relief duties? Is he better suited as a starter or a reliever? Also, any update on Jake McGee's recovery?
John Manuel (2:40 PM)
I love Jeff Niemann, I've covered him since 2002, seen him here in Durham the last two years. With his slider and the angle on his fastball, he kills RH hitters. But he takes a long time to get loose; a LONG time. Unless that changes, it's hard to see him as a reliever. McGee didn't have surgery until July '08, so I don't expect him to pitch competitive innings in '09. The Rays have no need to rush him.
Timmy L., San Francisco
Player you root for the hardest to suceed in the MLB?
John Manuel (2:49 PM)
I'll accept that question as a chance to name-drop. I've been emailing with Brad Ziegler since 2001, when he was complaining that we didn't rank Southwest Missouri State high enough; Matt Palmer emailed me then but I've lot touch with him, though I was glad to see him rach the majors last year. Several that I covered in college and got to know; Niemann is one for sure. I already mentioned Garko. In my Diamond Mind league I named my teams for College World Series heroes, so I'll always have a soft spot for Huston Street and Carlos Quentin.
Justin (Queens, NY)
Can you give us your opinion on Dan Murphy? I've seen him ranked as high as #8 of all MLB prospects and as low as 80. Many pundits are slamming Omar for not going after Abreu, Manny or Dunn but watching Murphy hit last year gives me great confidence in his abilities.
John Manuel (2:53 PM)
Lots of Danny Murphy questions. He's not prospect eligible for us anymore because he got 131 ABs last year in New York, so he's not a rookie technically anymore. He won't hit like Dunn or Abreu in 2009; he could hit like Ryan Church. He's that kind of hitter. Plus, he can play the infield, something these other jokers can't do. If the Mets could go get Manny, and didn't because of Danny Murphy, well, I think that would be a mistake. But everyone has a budget; if they didn't think they could sign Manny then Murphy is a good, cheap alternative. He can hit, and he's a grinder. That's a good combination.
Better chance of being in the top of the rotation for the Phillies in years to come...Carrasco or Drabek?
John Manuel (2:54 PM)
Carrasco, if only because Drabek might be Lidge's successor as Philly's closer.
Mervstafa (Irvine, CA)
What's your opinion on Jeff Dragicevich?
John Manuel (2:56 PM)
He's no Scott Dragicevich . . . I do love that brothers went to Cal & Stanford. That would be like brothers going to Duke and Carolina . . . oh wait, there were the Capels. Not coincidentally, Jeff (Duke) and Jason (UNC) were on the worst teams in those program's recent history, Jeff on the '95 Dookies and Jason on the 8-20 '01 Heels.
Wes, San Francisco, CA
Pablo Sandoval compares best to what current major leaguer?
John Manuel (2:56 PM)
Pablo Sandoval! He's a current big leaguer, and no one is like him -- a short, so thick only Sir Mix-A-Lot could love him catcher who hits the snot out of the ball and is ambidextrous. Sorry, no real comp there. Some guys are unique.
Brandon (OC, CA)
St. Louis 3B question... who get's first crack with Glaus out? Freese, Wallace, other? Who ends the season there? Thanks.
John Manuel (2:59 PM)
I'd think it would have to be Freese; Wallace is better long-term, but Freese has hit in Triple-A and is the superior defender. With a veteran manager like La Russa, that counts for a lot. If Freese stumbles, then look for Wallace to get a shot if he has a big spring. I personally think Wallace can play 3B enough to stick for a couple of years at the position, but he'll be below-average there.
Stephen: Fort Worth, Tx
Hey John, love these chats. Who do you see being the everyday DH for the Rangers once Hamstring Hank makes his annual trip to the DL? Will it be too fast to bring Smoak up or will this fall to Max R..maybe even someone else. Your thoughts sir?
John Manuel (3:00 PM)
Max Ramirez makes more sense than Smoak. Smoak's polished, but not THAT polished. They also have extra OFs who fit into that mix.
Timmy L., San Francisco
Give me 2 or 3 sleepers for 2009 that can have breakout Minor League seasons a la Madison Bumgarner.
John Manuel (3:03 PM)
I'll give you some personal faves, sure -- Stephen Fife with the Red Sox, Matt Moore with the Rays and Martin Perez with the Rangers. Looking forward to seeing Perez and the Rangers' young jokers in Hickory in the SAL this year. Moore is a lefty with a big arm, like Bumgarner, and Fife's a college RHP who could move quickly for Boston, it wouldn't surprise me if he pushed his way to high A in '09.
John, can you explain more about Abreu's "low-energy"? You said that he puts up the numbers but implied that these numbers (which measure actual performance) are somehow separate from contribution to the team. Could you please elaborate?
John Manuel (3:09 PM)
Sure. He's not a good defender; he doesn't hit for a ton of power, especially for a corner OF who hit third for a team like the Yankees; and by low energy I mean watch the guy play. I'll take Jayson Werth over him any day; even with his more aggressive hitting style, Werth has better OPS+ numbers the last two years, according at B-Ref.com. At his peak, Abreu was a really good player, not Hall of Fame good but very good. Now, he's in decline, and all the value is basically in the fact that he's a patient hitter. That's a good thing to do, but he doesn't bring much else to the table, certainly nothing else above-average.
Cain/Lincecum or Billingsley/Kershaw?
John Manuel (3:09 PM)
Giants guys, though Kershaw might make me rue that decision.
sim (stockton, ca)
how does wendell fairley compare to donovan tate?
John Manuel (3:10 PM)
Not much; Georgia HS baseball is much, much more advanced than Mississippi HS baseball thanks to the East Cobb program and the Atlanta area baseball scene. Tate's much more advanced. Other than being football-baseball OFs and African-American, there's no good comparison there.
What can you tell us about Madison Bumgarner? Do you think he is going to be a great player for years to come?
John Manuel (3:12 PM)
He does what I like to see pitchers do -- everybody together -- pitch off the fastball. His secondary stuff doesn't have to be great if he throws his fastball with above-average velocity, life and location. And that's what he does. Plus he's lefthanded and physical.
Mike (Chicago, IL )
John, give me a sleeper in high levels of the Red Sox organization noone is talking about.
John Manuel (3:14 PM)
SS Argenis Diaz. If Jed Lowrie falters and Julio Lugo remains Lugo, Diaz is on the 40-man roster and can defend the heck out of short. He's a bottom-of-the-order hitter but he sounds like a big leaguer to me.
SJ (Albia, Troy, NY)
Give us a blocked prospect. Someone who could actually get traded this year and then wind up with some big league playing time. This year's Andy LaRoche.
John Manuel (3:17 PM)
We've mentioned a couple in Niemann and the Cardinals 3bs, because Glaus is still OK, and Freese might block Wallace. Wallace also might be blocked if he can't play 3b; he would be limited to 1B and he ain't moving Albert Pujols anywhere. I'd throw in Kyle Blanks, who seems like a legit hitter, but Adrian Gonzalez IS a legit hitter, and Blanks isn't going to play OF at Petco Park. Wilson Ramos (or any Twins C) is another example behind franchise icon Joe Mauer, who also happens to be in the running for best player in baseball.
When does your top 100 prospects list go live on your site?
John Manuel (3:18 PM)
Top 100 meeting tomorrow morning! Our managing editor for the Website, JJ Cooper, is out today but I believe Top 100 goes online Feb. 23.
Word is Adam Dunn is close to signing a 2 year deal with Washington. Who's going to be the odd OFer out now or will they simply move Dunn to 1st base and trade Johnson?
John Manuel (3:21 PM)
Suffice it to say Dunn will just bat fourth. It's a good signing for the Nats, and I'd say he'll be at 1B because Nick Johnson can't stay healthy. My son slept in a Nick Johnson t-shirt last night, so I guess it's obsolete, considering the mlb.com story on Dunn signing calls him a 1B. Now Jim Bowden has both of his first two draft picks from the Reds' 1998 draft, Kearns and Dunn.
Giants guys? Really? Lincecum's the best of the bunch, but Billingsley's pretty awesome, Kershaw could be even better, and Cain has struggled.
John Manuel (3:22 PM)
Matt Cain's career ERA+ is 118, he's a 200-IP workhorse and he's averaging about 7.7 K/9 for his career. He's hardly struggled, 30-43 career W-L record or not.
Are you doing a lightning round? And if so, which one for now and for the future -- Aaron Hicks (Min) or Mike Stanton (Fla)
John Manuel (3:23 PM)
Let's start . . . I'd have to say Stanton, who I think is elite. I love Hicks, but Stanton's power is probably as good or better than anyone in the minors, period.
Jonathan (New York)
What's your take on Porcello? Bothered much by the low K/9, or impressed at what he did while focusing on secondary pitches? When the Tigers take the reins off, will he dominate? And if the Ks don't come up, he still looks a lot like Roy Halladay to me.
John Manuel (3:26 PM)
Got a Jon Garland comp on him last year that sticks in my head. Halladay is a good name to bring up as a high-end version of that kind of pitcher. I'll go the middle route, I think his slider's good enough to become more of a K pitch eventually.
Sam (Lake Bluff, IL)
John, who in the Cubs farm system should be considered "untouchable" besides Vitters?
John Manuel (3:27 PM)
Nobody, other than maybe Samardzija, who I'd hang on to since he flashed closer potential. Everyone else seems to be nothing special; not a great farm system right now. Lots of questions, fewer good answers.
KO (Pittsfield, MA)
Could you name a few players that are considered Top Prospects that you personally feel might be a little overrated?
John Manuel (3:29 PM)
I wonder a bit about Buster Posey; a lot of Florida State hitters put up ridiculous numbers, I think Buster will be good but I wonder if he's a future star; he may not have enough thunder in the bat for that. I like Lars Anderson but sometimes think we make a bit too much of him. Fernando Martinez certainly falls into this category just because some of the hype got out of control on him, even though we keep writing for the last year-plus that he's a bat-first guy, not an all-around, 5-tool kind of guy.
Does Reid Brignac have a future in the majors and how soon will it be before Desmond Jennings spells the end of the Carl Crawford era?
John Manuel (3:31 PM)
I like Brignac, he can really defend, should wind up as a similar player to Jason Bartlett with more offensive upside; he has some real juice. Let's let Jennings play a full season this year, he's got talent obviously but I don't see the Crawford or BJ Upton era ending any time soon.
Ethan (County Ct)
Will this be the season that Justin Upton becomes a Superstar?
John Manuel (3:31 PM)
I'll say yes; time for him to break out.
Of the o's top pitching prospects, who is most likely to be a true ace?
John Manuel (3:32 PM)
I'll go (a) Chris Tillman, (b) Brian Matusz.
As they have Tim Beckham, where will Brignac play?
John Manuel (3:32 PM)
Brignac's in Triple-A, Beckham hasn't played full-season ball yet. The question might as easily become, with Brignac, where does Beckham play, and the answer will be 2b.
cris, cucamonga ca
Any a's sleepers you can name to keep an eye on?
John Manuel (3:33 PM)
Grant Desme and Andrew Carignan leap to mind. Desme has to stay healthy but he could break out in a big way this year. Carignan is just an aggressive, power reliever who throws strikes. I used to wish for this to be Shane Keough but he shouldn't speak to his mom that way.
Any hopes for Christain Garcia?
John Manuel (3:34 PM)
Yes, his stuff started to come back in 2008. He has more health issues than most pitchers have been through, so I'd say the chances of him having a long career are small, but if he has a healthy year, he'll become a factor, the stuff is good.
Hey, John. Thanks for the chat. Not to get too stat-nerdy on you, but does Carlos Santana's BABIP from last year concern you at all?
John Manuel (3:35 PM)
Not really, because the scouts say he'll hit, they liked his swing when he hit .220. It would worry me if I expected him to hit .330 every year, but no one is thinking that.
Do you see Mark Melancon making an impact in the Yankees bullpen this season?
John Manuel (3:37 PM)
I could, he got in a lot of innings last year and his stuff was fairly consistent. He'd do well to apprentice under Rivera if he's to become a future closer; I'm on the fence as to his future role, back and forth from closer to setup guy. Today I'll say closer.
Please play manager for a minute: What would you do with the Twins outfield this year? I'm worried they will give up on Delmon Young too soon.
John Manuel (3:39 PM)
I'm worried about that in a way too, but he's also got some serious holes in his game. He's an erratic defender, and it sounds like he's not a plus in the clubhouse, put it that way. He hasn't hit for power in three years; a few home runs would make the Twins tolerate the other stuff more. IF he doesn't start hitting for more power, the other stuff gets harder and harder to put up with. You can't act like a star when you don't hit like one; the game doesn't seem to have humbled Delmon.
Alex (Charm City)
Is this the year that Nick Markakis gets some national credit for being a stud?
John Manuel (3:40 PM)
Greek-Americans like me already think he is a stud. Hard to find too much fault with Nick Markakis right now; kudos to Mickey White, the scout with the O's who thought he was going to hit, while most clubs thought of him as a pitcher. White was right.
Rob (Brighton, MA)
How important is the 09 draft for the Angel's organization? Is this the type of thing that can determine the fate of a franchise for years?
John Manuel (3:43 PM)
Obviously winning in MLB is more important, but I do think the Angels realize they have to get more value at the top of their draft. They've done a solid job with later-round picks like Trevor Reckling and personal fave Mason Tobin. But they could stand to sign more early picks and have an infusion of impact bats. It also would help if Hank Conger could stay healthy. I don't think it's quite the big deal you made it out to be.
Hi John. How much better is Grant Green than Gordon Beckham, offensively speaking? Cant wait for the Top 100!
John Manuel (3:43 PM)
I don't think he is better than Beckham offensively; similar. Give Beckham credit, he led the nation in home runs! Green won't do that this year. Green is a much better SS defensively than Beckham though.
John Manuel (3:44 PM)
All right, this will be the last one. Thanks to everyone for coming and for all the very fine questions, and the not so fine ones too. Thomas in San Jose, I have no thoughts on Kyle Crist. Sorry. Jim Callis will be back next week.