Sorry I'm late everyone. Jim needed a pinch-hitter.
John, thanks for chatting. Aaron Cunningham has hit at every minor league stop he's made and seems to just have a knack for scrapping out hits. What are your thoughts on him, and do you think he could become an overachieving MLB regular?
I like Cunningham, and I do think he'll be a big league regular. He's improved his power this year, he's athletic, he's a bit of a tweener, might be more of a second-division regular than an impact guy, but he has developed a nice, complete game. On the right team, he's a good fit, kind of an Eric Byrnes kind of guy.
Welcome back John!!!! Quick question on a few former UK Wildcats. What is the outlook for Ryan Streiby, Sean Coughlin, and John Shelby. Thanks.
Strieby just got named Tigers' minor league player of the year, but if he's on our Florida State League top 20, it's low. His power is legit, he has few other tools, it's all going to be about how he hits good pitching. Right now the consensus of scouts seems to be that he punishes mistakes and bad pitching but struggles against top guys, and that's not a good scouting report. Coughlin is interesting, I like his bat, and it sounds like he's solid if not spectacular defensively. I'd like to see him hit better than .240 but he has a power lefthanded bat; looks like a backup C profile to me. I like Shelby best of this group, thin organization with the White Sox, showed some real aptitude this year, got better, more selective than his dad (which isn't hard), so I think he'll be a solid big league regular if it all comes together.
Seems like it's a down year, stat wise in the NL. In a case like this, given where the Dodgers were versus where they are now, shouldn't Manny get some love for NL MVP?
Not to open a huge MVP can o' worms, but I don't see how a guy can be MVP when he quit on a team. I started this morning talking to co-workers raving about Manny's NL performance and how maybe he should get votes, and the more I think about it the less I think he should. His reward will be getting L.A. to the postseason and getting a fat contract. I don't think "best VORP" equals MVP, but I do believe Pujols probably should win, unless something crazy happens the next couple of weeks. If Delgado or Ryan Braun just goes nuts down the stretch and carries a team to the playoffs, I could maybe see one of them getting it, even though Pujols has had the better year, significantly so really.
John, could you please compare Austin Jackson and Andrew McCutchen? Who projects to hit for a higher average, who projects to hit for more power and who is the better defender in CF? Thx!
Are showcases for high school baseball players worth attending or are they just money makers?
Both are true. They are worth it, but they are money makers. They fill a need, there's a vacuum there, and eventually I bet MLB starts running its own showcases, turning them into combines and making the money itself.
Who is the best left handed pitcher on the Rangers farm not named Derek Holland?
It might be Martin Perez even INCLUDING Derek Holland. I got a Johan Santana comp on Perez from a scout in the Northwest the other day, he sounds extremely exciting.
Francisco Liriano or David Price?
Tough Q, since one dude has actually pitched a full big league season and one guy has pitched one big league inning. While I love Price, I'll take Liriano, TJ and all.
What are the chances Ryan Howard wins the MVP if he keeps hitting the way he is (.354 avg in September with 7 hrs and 19 RBIs). He has been phenomenal as of late and is keeping the Phils in the race for the playoffs.
Hopefully low. As hot as he's been he's still hitting .249 with a .335 OBP, and he's not exactly JT Snow over there. Chuck Slim is having about the same season for los Mets.
Jim Who is the better prospect today- Ivan DeJesus Jr. or Chin Lung Hu?
King of apples and oranges, but I'll take the guy with the better bat, DeJesus. There have been Q's about Hu's bat for several years and he reinforced them in his big league promotion; I still like him but like DeJesus better.
Can Daniel Murphy of the Mets play a capable third base? What are your thoughts on them sending him to Arizone Fall League to learn third? I believe he was drafted as a 2B? What do you think of him long term?
He can play a capable third and he doesn't need to learn it; that's his main position. He needs to learn to be better at it. He played 2b this year in the EL and also played it in college, and he is not a 2B. If he hit like Jeff Kent, maybe you could carry him. If he could play 2B for a year for New York that certainly would be awesome for Mets fans, but every scout I've talked to about that says he needs a lot of work. He's got a chance to hit like Ryan Church, maybe even a bit better, but his best fit for the Mets is 1B after Delgado is done or in LF, and those might be his best fits period. That said, he's been underestimated a while and he hits good pitching, so he's going to be a regular somewhere.
A few questions: Balester or Lannan? Garrison or LeBlanc? Revere or Hicks? Venable or Hunter?
not even lightning round time yet . . . I'll take Lannan, I'm surprised to say. Definitely Garrison over LeBlanc. I'll take Revere for now over HIcks b/c I have fewer doubts about the bat, and Venable vs. Hunter, that's about as push as push can be but I'll say Hunter.
Who would you say the top five Cubs prospects are and is there anybody in low A ball besides Vitters that could make an impact in the near future?
Not a huge fan of the Cubs' system right now. Samardzija still qualifies with just 23 IP and might rank No. 1 right now. Not a lot of Cubs popping up in our league Top 20s; I suppose Vitters, Jose Ceda and probably Andrew Cashner despite his horrid pro debut. Then throw in holdovers such as Tyler Colvin and Welington Castillo. Off the top of my head, I'm not coming up with a lot of other stuff. Donnie Veal was pretty brutal this year and his stuff's down, and Dae-Eun Rhee has health issues. Hard to call one of these guys a sleeper with an E-ticket feature about him, but sleepers would include Matt Cerda and Jay Jackson, a pair of '08 draft picks, not top 5 material but perhaps in the future.
Who has the higher ceiling, Andrew McCutchen or Jose Tabata? And what would you say that ceiling is?
Now that Maybin has been called up, do you think Fredi is going to give him the starting job, or will he be a backup exclusively?
The point is to get experience so that Maybin can push for the job next spring. His bat didn't regress so much as just show the rough edges this year against Double-A pitching. He's got a bit of a hitch in his swing that slows him down despite his big-time bat speed; guess I should say it's a timing issue, and the hitch throws off his timing. It's an adjustment he can make, and even if he doesn't make it, he could still be a .250/.260 hitter with 20-30 homer power and be a good CF in the short-term. Just what the Marlins need, more power . . .
4 GCL Phils in the top 20. Thats a nice suprise. Any of those 4 make the phils top 10 and of the top of your head, how many phils make the top 100?
I'm actually doing the Phillies' Top 30 for the first time this offseason, extending my BA record for most organizations, I believe I now go to 11. So that's fun. I'm most bullish on Zach Collier, loved him pre-draft, thought he was an absolute steal in the supplemental round; in fact, I thought he might have been the better prospect than Aaron Hicks going into the draft before BA's Dave Perkin talked me out of that. Glad we listened to Dave. Collier and Jason Knapp certainly could be top 10; I might be more patient with Anthony Hewitt and wait until he hits the ball but let's see what happens in instructional league. Sebastian Valle gives the Phils three catchers in the top 10 with Lou Marson and Travis d'Arnaud, quite the organizational strength. I'd guess 3 to 4 Phils in the Top 100 with Carrasco, Marson and Collier for me, with one other possible such as Greg Golson (possible No. 100 guy, high-risk, high-reward) or one of the other C's such as d'Arnaud.
Have we seen Geovany Soto's ceiling? What are his long term projections look like? I assume that no one has him pegged as the next Piazza, but how does he compare to McCann?
Good question, and I think the answer is probably yes as far as offense goes, he's just had an amazing year. I don't think we saw this kind of power coming; I also believe his athleticism was undersold, but then he did lose a ton of weight between '06 and '07, and that seems to have been the key that unlocked everything. Hard not to like him, a lot; moving forward I'd give him a slight edge over McCann because of the athleticism.
Hi John, will Jordan Schafer be Atlanta's starting CF next season? Or will they go with Gregor Blanco/Josh Anderson?
I'll say no, not to start with anyway. The Braves are in full-on rebuild mode and might as well give others an extended look, at least to start, and let Schafer get more experience. Personally I'd give Blanco the chance to be an igniter up there again Luis Polonia style, especially if he emulates Polonia's hairstyle.
Nick Noonan had a good first year at Augusta except for his BB/K ratio. Do you see him improving that? Also, who is the future at 2B for SF, Gillaspie will most likely move there?
Not sure who's saying Gillaspie will move to 2B but that is not bloody likely, he has a hard time being good enough defensively at 3B in terms of agility, and 2B is more demanding, what with the double play turn and all. Noonan is the 2B of the future in-house unless Eugenio Velez seals that deal, but I see Velez more as a super utility in the Ryan Freel mode than as a regular. That team could have championship pitching, so it's nice to see some bats come along. Pablo Sandoval at 1b until Big V arrives, Burriss maybe at SS, Giillaspie at 3b, Noonan eventually at 2B (he has a good enough eye to be better on the BB-K, I don't think he'll ever be an 80 BB guy but yes, I think he can improve that). That's a start.
Didn't a lot of people question Epstein for drafting Pedroia so high?
AL rookie of the year? Longoria, Alexi, Span, so guy from boston (sorry nation)?
Pedro was far from a consensus second-rounder. GMs set the tone for a draft but they don't draft the players; they let their scouting directors do it. Boston's right side is populated by two guys who have become great big league players in Pedroia and Youkilis that many teams probably didn't have turned in as single-digit picks. Youkilis is an eighth-round senior draft, and I had scouts telling me in 2005 that Pedroia was a less-toolsy version of David Eckstein; he's obviously much, much more than that. My favorite Pedroia story is that ASU coach Pat Murphy told me the second day Pedroia was on the team, he let Pedroia call all their defenses, because he knew Pedroia had that kind of innate feel for the game, which of course he did even as a freshman shortstop. He's fun to watch.
On the AL rookie question, I think you have to go Longoria, though Ramirez has been electric at times and Span was huge for the Twins.
Hi John, thanks for taking my call, what do Andrew Lambo and James McDonald project out to be in the big leagues for the Dodgers? Their ETA?
Ha, nice . . . little lightning round. I am on the Lambo bandwagon, I got sold a bad bill of goods on him when he was an amateur, he just flat hits. He's gonna move quickly and he's gonna hit. I'm a bit less excited about McDonald just because it sounds like the fastball is fringe-average or average; I know Ben Badler here at BA is a believer, and athleticism plus a feel for pitching is a good combination as well. McDonald could be ready in '09 if needed; Lambo will need to wait until 2010 I'd guess.
PLEASE, settle a debate for me and my friend...I know that baseball is not like the NBA, but I believe the nationals would be better off 'tanking' the remainder of the season to get Strasburg...he says that Strasburg is by no means a lock...what is your take on Strasburg and feelings on his impact.
Tanking brings bad karma. No one is a sure thing in baseball, so they Nats shouldn't tank. No guarantee they'd take Strasburg anyway, a lot can happen and he will need quite a bit of money to sign.
John, what's your opinion of Michael McCardell, a pitcher in the Twins system?
Like him, inexperienced as a pitcher and a bit older as a converted guy, plus breaking ball, most likely a future middle reliever as a opposed to starter but it's early.
Angel Morales, Jacque Jones or Alfonso Soriano or somewhere in between (Marcus Themes?)
Somewhere in between; not a huge fan of the hit tool, he swings and misses a lot. He's a better defender potentially than those dudes you mentioned; maybe he's Devon White eventually, which would be quite good.
What kind of deal do you see going down between the Sox and Rangers. Rangers need SP prospects and the Sox need a catcher. Bowden or Masterson? For which Rangers catcher? Thanks for all the good work at BA!
Tons of these questions or things that are close to this. Rather than spit out random names of players, I'll just say (a)Texas needs now big league pitching, not later -- they have later. Bowden is ready now; Kris Johnson, an LHP, is close to ready now; Masterson might be too valuable now as he is already Boston's best middle reliever. (b)Texas also isn't the only team with catching depth, as I indicated with the Phillies. The Twins have some solid Cs; so do the Yankees (not that Boston and NYY would make a deal but you never know . . . ). Point is, it's not so easy to match up these two teams.
Aaron Poreda, future starter or setup man?
If he hones his fastball command, I'll say starter, no matter what happens with the secondary stuff. How good does his secondary stuff need to be if he's throwing mid-90s from the left side for strikes? Not as good as it needs to be for most pitchers.
Angels have a surplus in catching too. Anything on that trade front?
That's assuming Hank Conger stays a C, and right now signs point to no. Anel de los Santos also had a horrible, horrible year. Angels system is better than a lot of people think but not because of its catching depth.
Other than Romine and Montero (who will outgrow the position according to most), what depth do the the Yanks have at catcher?
Cervelli; internally they like Chase Weems; and '08 draftee Kyle Higashioka.
Please settle a dispute for me with some Mets fans. Who is a better prospect and has better projection, Michael Almanzar or Wilmer Flores?
I'll take Flores there, better chance to stay at a key position (3b), Almanzar sounds like a 1b/lf.
John - Do you think the Nats can turn it around quickly? They seem to have a good core really starting to play well including Zimmerman, Millege, Dukes, Flores, Guzman. I'm not talking playoffs next year, but they seem to have the potential to be Tigers/Rays worst to first in another few years. they aren't as bad as their record are they? Also, The Nats won't tank. They are going to knock the Mets out of playoffs again!
I watch a lot of Nats games and I can see why people are a bit optimistic; Dukes and Milledge have gotten hot and are becoming dynamic players. Guzman is pretty legit, had a scout just talking about him the other day. I don't think you can count on Dukes yet, he's done it for two months and his recent episode in Shea Stadium (or Shea Park as my dad still calls it) showed he's not yet mature. He may never be; he's also not a 150-game a year guy, not yet, gets hurt every year. I'm just not a Dukes guy. Second, there's no ace in that rotation. I like Jordan Zimmermann at Double-A but still see him as a No. 2 at best, maybe No. 3, and Balester and Lannan are 3/4 types at beset as well. The Rays and Tigers had aces at the front of the rotation to turn things around; the Nats do not. Maybe they would have had one in Aaron Crow but we all know how that turned out.
Do you think the Giants will move Molina in the offseason to make room for Sandoval and Posey?
I haven't found one person who thinks Sandoval can be a big league regular at C. I've asked. He's unusual, maybe we're all wrong. I'd keep Molina through his contract, give Posey a year to adjust, and then go w/Buster in 2010. As one scouting director told me just before the draft, "Never bet against Buster Posey."
Can Micah Owings regain his 2007 form with the Cincinnati Reds in 2009 on teh back end of a rotation of Volquez, Harang, Arroy, and Cueto?
GAB is not a great fit for him as a flyball pitcher; wouldn't be shocked if the Reds spun him around in another deal, but he could be a durable No. 5 guy in that scenario. I think they still hope that will be Homer Bailey if he figures out his issues.
Does Scott Lewis have a legit shhot at making the Indians 2009 rotation or is he benegiting from hitter's not knowing much about / never having seen him before?
See him more as a No. 5 guy, he's below-average in fastball velocity and average or above everywhere else. Kind of like a Jeremy Sowers but with less fastball and more mound presence.
Love all this Nats talk... Anderson Hernandez or Emilio Bonifacio or neither?
hey John, when do you see Mark Melancon being called up to the big league ball club, as he had a very good season for Scranton, also, do you see any chance that Andrew Brackman pitches in the AFL and gets a chance to showcase his ability in Spring Training with the big league club?
All right Sean . . . I've long liked Melancon, surprised he didn't get a call this year, he's the most likely future Rivera replacement IMO, unless the Yanks listen to Posada and make Joba a reliever. I still like Joba in the rotation. Reports on Melancon are strong; he almost made the EL top 20. Good league this year. As for Brackman, I'm sure he'll be in big league camp because it's in his contract but he hasn't thrown a pitch as a pro and frankly wasn't that great in college. He'll probably spend 2009 in the low minors.
I really enjoy Baseball America's chats on ESPN. Christian Colonel (from SE Idaho) has hit for average wherever he's played in the minors, .319 this year at Colorado Springs, but is blocked at his 3B position in the Rockies organization. What is his future?
He can hit, he has hit, and he's best as a utility guy.
Hi, do you have any background on Chen-Chang Lee, the Taiwanese pitcher Cleveland just signed?
He's a sidearming reliever, low 90s, nice slide piece .. . just waiting for a bonus confirmation to post our story. He pitched well against Team USA in the Olympics, Indians have followed him for several years.
You never answered the Austin Jackson vs. Andrew McCutchen question from earlier in the chat!
Dammit, so I didn't . . . could've sworn I did. It was a long answer. Shorter answer now is, McCutchen has better tools, esp. the run tool. Jackson is more skilled, just a better ballplayer. Honestly, Jackson seems to get pigeonholed because he's a black former basketball player, but he's really a guy with emerging skills, good athleticism but not a burner, not an explosive guy but a good athlete -- avg. run, avg. defense, always seems to make big plays, situational hitter. Just the more skilled guy. Scouts prefer McCutchen; managers prefer Jackson.
John, Love the BA chats. I was a little disappointed in the GCL ranking of Jarek Cunningham. I thought he would have cracked the top ten, seems to me like he turn into a big time bat at a premium position. What do you like about him?
Are there any OF prospects that haven't reached the big leagues that you would take over Jason Heyward?
I can see Mike Stanton over him, or Cam Maybin or Colby Rasmus. I really like Heyward, but I also think sometimes the hype that we've helped generate has out-stripped reality.
John--thanks for chatting. Please tell me that the Twins won't sign washed-up vets in the off-season. Batista, Castro, Monroe, Livan, Ponson--will they ever learn from the team in front of them that it is okay to trust youth? Especially after this year, when most people picked them for 4th or 5th in the central?
I hope the Twins learn from those mistakes. They have trusted their internal guys and it has for the most part paid off. Wish they'd straightened out their middle relievers, and I wish Rob Delaney or Anthony Slama would have gotten a chance to do it.
What kind of season will Mike Minor have for Vandy? Where does he rank with the other '09 draft eligible pitchers?
Scouts we've talked to are bullish on Minor as a four-pitch lefthander; if he maintains that he's going to go in the first round. He's not David Price; he might be Jeremy Sowers. Sowers went sixth overall in '04, this guy won't go that high but he's going to go in the first round if he's healthy.
Another Question...Pelfrey or Lannan? if Pelfrey, how much better do you think he really is?
Pelfrey. He's better. I love pitchers who can pitch off/dominate with their fastball and that's Pelfrey when he's on.
John, what are your thoughts on the development of Angel Villanova this season? He seemed to get better with each month, and he was the best hitter in Augusta for the last month of the season.
Big fan, believe in the bat speed, curious to see if the Giants just leave him at 1B or if he can get in better shape and give 3B another go. He's a monster, I love the raw power there and the aptitude he showed at that age.
Do the Indians have a top-10 farm system with the additions of Santana, LaPorta, MeLoan and the PTBNL from the Brewers to go along with Miller, Mills, Weglarz, Huff, Sipp, etc?
More than likely, not sure Sipp and Miller are part of that right now with their injury issues, I don't trust Miller right now, he just can't be counted on. Trevor Crowe had a bounce-back year, they have some depth, yes, top 10 system.
Is Pelfrey the next Kevin Brown? Both have dominating sinking mid-90s fastballs and it took Kevin a few years for things to click in Texas
No, Brown's slider was filthy and Pelfrey's never shown that. Brad in Georgia wants to know Pelfrey or Tommy Hanson, I'll go out on a limb on Hanson, His secondary stuff has progressed, quite a bit as far as we have been told. I've liked him since Riverside CC, here's what I wrote in our '06 draft preview: Hanson has above-average command for an amateur, particularly with his fastball. While the pitch sat in the 85-88 mph range last summer, when he was the top pitcher in the West Coast Collegiate League, Hanson had shown better velocity this spring, touching 94 mph and consistently throwing in the 87-92 mph range. He gets a good downward angle to the plate and pounds the lower half of the strike zone, working primarily off the fastball. While Hanson throws his changeup, slider and curveball for strikes, they all grade out as below-average pitches, and scouts were wary of projecting any of them becoming plus in the future. He dominated nevertheless, leading California juco pitchers in strikeouts by a wide margin while going 10-2, 1.69 against good competition.
Back to the Yanks C situation, if I may. Who do you see them going with as Posada's replacement: Montero, Cervelli, or Romine?
Cervelli short-term, Romine long-term, Montero to 1B, LF or DH.
Are the Braves a top 5 farm system even after losing Feliz, Andrus and Harrison?
Not top 5 b/c of the lack of upper-level pitching. Top 10? Perhaps, top half for sure.
I saw golson swipe two bags during the phillies game last week. Who do you think is faster bourn or golson and which one has a better upside?
Golson's maybe a step slower than Bourn but has much more upside. He has more work to do with the bat, I like him as a Mike Cameron type, he has a chance to be close to that good defensively and he'll K a lot but I think can be productive offensively. He'll most likely be a six-hole or seven-hole hitter, not a middle-of-the-order or even top of the order guy.
John, Lars Anderson and Josh Reddick both seem like legit prospects in the sox system. (top tier??) It would seem that Lars is a safe bet to be on the sox. Is Reddick trade bait or is he in their future plans?? they do need some pop in that line-up.
Both good prospects, Reddick needs a lot more time, he's a bit raw offensively, a bit too aggressive. Anderson, maybe we're a bit high on him but I love the guy's bat, huge raw power, plate discipline, solid defense at 1B, lots of like.
After graduating Bruce, Cueto, Votto, and Bailey as prospects, is the Reds farm system still ranked highly thanks to a very deep amount of good bats and a few potential stars at the top of their system (Alonso, Frazier, Soto)?
Not a top system for me, bottom half b/c of the lack of starting pitching and the fact most of the hitters are at lower levels.
OK, that's going to have to do it. I do love how the questions stepped up a notch once people realized I was doing a bit longer chat. Hope everyone enjoyed it, Jim Callis the Third should be back here next week. Top 20s (with chats) going on every day for the next three weeks at BaseballAmerica.com, see you there.