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February 27, 11:50 AM ET
Chat with Baseball America's John Manuel

John Manuel
  (2:17 PM)

sorry for the delay, on deadline at the magazine and lost track of time.

Daniel (Monsey)

Everybody seems to have forgotten Tim Melville - is he still a premier prospect? What is his upside, and what do you think he will be?

John Manuel
  (2:19 PM)

I don't think anyone's forgotten; he just hasn't had a full season of play, you know? I think a little patience is called for.

Chuck (Long Beach, NY)

They should do the WBC like the Davis Cup and spread it out over the year. Play the 1st round in November. The second at the end of March. And the championship round at the All Star Break. This will lessen the worry of pitcher work loads and players will get a less interrupted Spring Training. Downside is Cuba vs. Japan for an All Star Game.

John Manuel
  (2:21 PM)

I have a hard time getting revved up for the WBC, and I actually like international baseball. I just wrote a column on the subject for BA subscribers; the gist of it is, play the WBC's final four in All-Star week, single elimination, over two days. Preliminaries like you have them now, though obviously there's one less weekend, so it's moved back, not starting the first week of March. Then the final four teams go to one site in July, and you don't have an All-Star Game, you have the WBC semifinals and finals. Players are in midseason form, and there's nothing else on the sports calendar. I think people would come, Ray.

Max (Norfolk)

What's the deal with Andy LaRoche? Is he another over-hyped Dodger prospect or will he turn into an above average 3rd baseman, albeit without power?

John Manuel
  (2:22 PM)

Just don't think we know yet, but there's some prospect fatigue with him, plus some persistent concerns that haven't gone away; he doesn't have a great motor, to use football terms, and his tools seem to grade out more average than above-average these days. He might wind up the next Andy Marte.

Willigan (Missoula, MT)

Love the chats and love BA. Thanks for taking the time to do these. Could you please rank Strasburg, Price, Kershaw, Joba, Bumgarner, Hanson right now? 3 years down the road? Thanks

John Manuel
  (2:24 PM)

Everyone's all about Strasburg these days; guess that happens when you have a singular talent/player. Strasburg probably has the highest ceiling of that group, though I think people under-rate Tommy Hanson a bit, and I'm glad you have him in that conversation. He doesn't have the million-dollar bonus or first-round pedigree but belongs in the discussion. I haven't asked scouts to comp Kershaw & Price but I think most would take Kershaw there, and I think Kershaw would have to rank No. 2 on this list. I'm a huge fan of Joba and his talent, but even I have to temper my enthusiasm until he shows he can grind out a full year as a starter. Handling the grind will be the toughest adjustment for Strasburg, and that's the big unknown; the other guys have at least pitched full minor league seasons.

Grant, Winnipeg, MB

True or false: if the 2007 draft were repeated today, Arencibia and Cecil would both be taken in the top 15 picks.

John Manuel
  (2:28 PM)

I do know that Daniel Moskos wouldn't go 4, unless Dave Littlefield's still employed in this setup. Arencibia I think would go for sure; there still are doubters, at least among the scouts and managers I talked to last year on Cecil, as to whether or not he's a starter or reliever. His stuff as a starter was fairly pedestrian (though the results were not), leading scouts to think there's more upside for him as a reliever. If that's the consensus then I don't know he'd go in that first 15, esp. if you're talking talent, not signability.

Deann- Milwaukee, WI

With Brett Lawrie's move from catcher to 2nd base, how does that effect the Escobar/Hardy situation?

John Manuel
  (2:30 PM)

I wrote our Canada draft stuff for '08 and did a feature on Lawrie, I've spoken to him, and he seemed to say all the right things about catching, but the majority of scouts thought the bat was just too good to take the time to make him a C. If he had taken to it easily and quickly, like Buster Posey did at Fla. State, then he probably would have tried it longer. But the dude can hit, and he runs, and he should be a fine 2b prospect, maybe the best one in the minors actually. As for affecting the Brewers, they have a hole at 3b; Lawrie could move there, or Hardy could. These things usually work themselves out; again, Lawrie hasn't played a game in the minors yet.

Brian (Arlington, VA)

Who should the Nats hire as GM ?

John Manuel
  (2:32 PM)

Mike Rizzo is taking over daily operations there, and he has familiarity with the organization. He'd make a good GM, I think, with the right group around him. Nothing against Mike, but the Lerners would be justified in almost completely cleaning house there. The Nats could use a do-over. Anyone brought in by Jim Bowden would have to be pretty heavily scrutinized, and frankly I think I'd get rid of anyone who worked for Bowden both in Washington and Cincinnati.

Pico (Denver)

Who are the top college prospects outside of Strasburg and Green eligible in 2009?

Jason St Louis, MO

I keep asking this question in chats but can't get an answer. I am really curious what a national sports writer thinks about the Cards moving Skip Schumaker, a centerfielder, to second base. Can this work out? He isn't even referring to himself as an outfielder anymore, but as an infielder.

John Manuel
  (2:37 PM)

Jim never was a Schumaker fan. I haven't seen him this spring, haven't talked to anyone about it. But he did play IF at UC Santa Barbara, and playing 2b isn't a huge leap. He has the arm strength to make tougher plays and to turn the double play; if he learns the DP pivot and is adequate otherwise, it should work. Adam Kennedy, his predecessor, had a horrid reputation as a defender in college but became a good defender in time at 2b. Schumaker can do the same.

Wolverine NY, NY

Jim, who do you see with Big League talent on Michigan's team this year?

John Manuel
  (2:40 PM)

Michigan's talent is concentrated on the mound; senior RHP Chris Fetter might be the team's top draft pick this year, but the Wolverines have some nice underclassmen such as RHP Mike Dufek, who sat in the 90-92 mph range in Florida on the season's opening weekend. There's no Zach Putnam on this year's team though.

Vince: Omaha, NE [via mobile]

I think the addition of Manny puts the Dodgers as front runners for the NL crown...does any other team in the NL west pose a threat?

John Manuel
  (2:41 PM)

For whatever reason I think the Giants will be a factor; actually, I know the reasons, Lincecum, Cain and the rest of the pitching staff. Obviously the Renteria signing was brutal; I guess I think Pablo Sandoval will be that good. Arizona seems like the other most legitimate contender thanks to Haren & Webb (well, Webb, then Haren, then the rest).

Ian, Pittsburgh

What do you expect from Brad Lincoln now that he's a year removed from TJ? He didn't make BAs top 100 or the list of 35 RHPs, and I was wondering what the thinking is on him these days.

John Manuel
  (2:44 PM)

This is the biggest year for Lincoln; he'll be two years removed from Tommy John surgery, and we'll know if his stuff and command are all the way back this year or not. He was a legitimate No. 4 overall pick in 2006 as an athletic (if short) RHP. To me durability, due to his stocky frame, was supposed to be a big, big part of the package. He's got to improve his changeup and locate his fastball better to be a top 100 kind of guy. This year is pretty critical for him.

eric in austin tx [via mobile]

Do you see adam miller contributing in 2009?

John Manuel
  (2:45 PM)

I hope he does, but there just doesn't seem to be good news with him, does there? Finger injuries that keep coming back would seem to a problem for a pitcher. If he's healthy, I do see him as an impact setup man even as a rookie.

John Manuel
  (2:49 PM)

Sorry, I thought I answered Pico's question. Top guys for me other than Strasburg and Green are: RHP Alex White, UNC, and 1B/OF Dustin Ackley, also UNC. I could see Ackley move ahead of Green if he plays some CF, he's a better pure hitter and a plus-plus runner. I'm a big fan of Ackley's bat. Andy Oliver should move up into the first 10 picks of the draft if he pitches to his potential, and RHPs Kyle Gibson (Missouri) and Kendal Volz (Baylor) could also go first 10-15 picks overall. Fast riser early appears to be Cal OF Brett Jackson, who has 5-tool ability and gets some JD Drew comparisons in terms of his body and physical ability.

Ian (Philly)

Am I nuts thinking that Wilson Ramos should be the Twins #2 prospect, behind Hicks but ahead of Revere? He's extremely underrated, me thinks. Plus defense, good power, good avg. I we underrating him b/c Mauer is in front of him?

John Manuel
  (2:50 PM)

Ian, we ranked Wilson Ramos No. 3 in the system coming into last year, and he's No. 3 now behind the Midwest League batting champ and a potential 5-tool CF in Aaron Hicks who was just a special talent in last year's draft. I like Ramos; you're leaving out slow starts, bad body language early in the year, he's got some negatives too. I like him more than most but I think he's rated fine.

Jason (Detroit)

Is it just me or does Brignac remind you of JJ Hardy? Tall, solid defensively, with good pop for the position and an "ok" avg. The only question is, when does he get a shot? Is he good enough to take the starting job midseason if he hits in the .280 range in the minors this year?

John Manuel
  (2:52 PM)

Well, he's lefthanded, so that's a big difference. He is good enough to take the job from Jason Bartlett if he hits more than he did last year. He has juice and was leading the IL in doubles when he was promoted to the big leagues, but he lost some confidence when he went up. He can play SS for real, I still think he's a future regular.

Mickey, Glenside pa [via mobile]

John, who do you think has a better shot to win 20 gamesin 2009. Cole Hamels or CC Sabathia?

John Manuel
  (2:54 PM)

Hamels.

Kevin (Livingston, NJ)

Better long term: Porcello or Cahill?

John Manuel
  (2:56 PM)

It's really a push; Cahill doesn't have Porcello's contract or agent, but he's pretty legit and has a nice separator in being so athletic. I'll give a slight edge to Cahill, not sure that Porcello is going to be an ace. They're probably both No. 2 starters if they max out, hence the 'push' answer.

Verducci Effect

Cole Hamels threw an extra 70 innings last year...not afraid of me?

John Manuel
  (2:58 PM)

Not really. He's throwing 85 percent fastballs and changeups, easier on the arm than guys who throw a lot of breaking balls. Also, he's about a third of Sabathia's size and doesn't have the pressure of having to rescue a franchise on his shoulders (actually, he's already done that).

Mark (CT)

Does any other MLB team have 2 legit aces like the Yankees (CC and Wang) and Red Sox (Beckett and Lester) do?

John Manuel
  (3:01 PM)

Wow, Mark, get out of the Nutmeg State every once in a while. How about the Giants with Lincecum and Cain, or the Angels with John Lackey and Ervin Santana (and Joe Saunders), or the Webb-Haren duo in Arizona that I already mentioned, or the Cubs with Zambrano and Dempster (at least last year's Dempster) . . . Wang doesn't quite belong in that elite company, not for me after his injury and with his postseason success, or lack thereof.

Bryan (Bloomington IL)

With Glaus and Freese hurt, who gets the next shot? Wallace? Craig? Other?

John Manuel
  (3:02 PM)

We have a story on that in our next issue; Joe Mather actually is in that mix, I think you mentioned the other two in Wallace, last year's first-round pick, and Craig, who isn't a classic guy but who produces.

Chris (Staten Island, NY)

John, does Christian Garcia of the Yankees have a chance to make a move now in year 2 after TJ surgery or do you think he'll end up in that giant pile of promising pitchers derailed by injury?

John Manuel
  (3:03 PM)

More likely in the pile because he's had other issues as well, not just TJ. His velo hasn't returned to pre-injury levels but the Yankees still hold out hope for him, and he had some encouraging outings last year. I don't think you can count on him.

Trace (Fairfax, VA)

Tanks for the chats, John. Good stuff. Can you tell me wh Jason Castro gets so much more love than Derek Norris? Same level, Norris is a year and a half younger and posted better numbers across the board. Thanks!

John Manuel
  (3:04 PM)

Norris is a bit undersold, I think you're onto something there. That said, I think Castro is very legit; he's more polished, he's athletic, he's a lefty hitter who batted .341 in the Cape Cod League and had the athleticism to play some CF there (Posey was the main C on that team). Nothing against Norris, but Castro is really good.

jake (nyc)

Can you give me a quick scouting report on Alex White? Does he have #1 pitcher ability?

John Manuel
  (3:06 PM)

Being a No. 1 is more about mentality than ability for me, but that's a different question. White's fastball has been 89-93 mph with life but he throws harder than that, I've seen up to 96 and it's got great life down in the zone. He was 92-96 in Omaha last year working in relief and was just eating guys up with his heater. His slider is a second plus pitch, power low-80s pitch when it's on, and his splitter gives him a nice weapon for LH hitters. He's the clear No. 2 pitcher for me, athletic, good body, live, live arm.

Vik (Chicago)

Is Aaron Poreda's secondary stuff ever going to be good enough to make him a starter or is he destined for the pullpen?

John Manuel
  (3:09 PM)

It doesn't have to be if he commands his fastball well enough. In Cliff Lee's best seasons, last year and '05, he threw basically 70-75 percent fastballs, and 10-15 percent changeups. Poreda's fastball, if he commands it, would be enough for him to basically just have to throw strikes with fringy secondary pitches; he'd be effective just pounding the lower half of the zone with his fastball. Now if he doesn't command the fastball it won't matter, he'd go to the bullpen anyway. His arm slot keeps his secondary stuff from being consistent, as does his inexperience. That's another factor; his fastball is so good, he may get rushed. To me, he's a future starter, but there's a lot of patience that would be involved there.

Dan (DC)

On a scale from "Jim Bowden ever working again in MLB" (0) to "The Sun Rising Tomorrow" (10) -- what are the chances Ackley falls to the Nats at 10?

John Manuel
  (3:10 PM)

He's a Scott Boras Corp. client, so the chances are probably a 5. I like your categories though.

Steve, Cleveland

How is being a #1 more about mentality? Either you have the stuff to be a top 20 percentile (or 15 or 10, or whatever you want, though being 5 starters, a #1 is top 20%) pitcher or you don't. There's many a bad pitcher who think they can mow hitters down.

John Manuel
  (3:17 PM)

It's about stuff, command and fearlessness, the compete confidence in every pitch you throw. It certainly helps that Josh Beckett has 70 fastball and breaking ball grades; when he pitches like an ace, he's commanding both and throwing both like he doesn't give a hoot, I suppose, who the hitter is. When he doesn't have that attitude, he's hittable. I don't mean to imply that it's all mentality; I just mean to say it's more than just stuff. I consider Mark Buehrle more of a No. 2 guy but if you wanted to convince me he was a No. 1, even though he's not a power pitcher, I'd listen. He's so durable, eight straight 200-IP seasons, with a 120+ ERA plus (thanks, baseball-reference.com) . . . that's hard to find. If that's a No. 1 starter for you, I think I would buy that. It's not the classical definition of "No. 1 starter on a championship team," but it is the kind of guy you build a rotation around, and I would buy that definition of No. 1 starter.

Paul (Milwaukee)

Using your criteria, is Gallardo a future (or current) #1? Seems like he's got all the tools AND the moxie to boot.

John Manuel
  (3:18 PM)

I think Gallardo is moving in that direction for sure. He's got plus pitches, commands them and competes like crazy.

Jason (Bryan Ohio)

Can you give me five prospects that you think will make a big leap into the top 40 next year

John Manuel
  (3:20 PM)

Cole Rohrbough, lhp, Braves; Dominic Brown, of, Phillies; Chris Carter, LH-batter's box, Athletics; Brad Holt, rhp, Mets; Michael Main, rhp, Rangers.

jordan glendale, az [via mobile]

can we talk about college baseball here?

John Manuel
  (3:20 PM)

yes, we can. But it would help if you asked a question.

Matt (Boston)

Hey John, appreciate the time for the chats. Which major leaguer does Grant Green best compare to? And if the Padres draft him, being a college talent, is he on the fast track for the majors?

John Manuel
  (3:22 PM)

Matt, I give in, please stop . . . Green got Tulowitzki and Longoria comps in the Cape, as if he were some meld of the two players. Frankly I don't see the Longoria comparisons because I don't think Green has that kind of thunder in his hands; I think it's in my contract that I have to use that line when I get this question. Tulowitzki seems like the best comparison, because even though he's made some errors this year, reports on his defensive tools have been consistently glowing since he was a high school senior.

Bryan (Arlington, VA)

Wang's career ERA+: 117 Dempster: 95 E Santana: 101 Saunders: 111 John, you really take these three over Wang?

John Manuel
  (3:24 PM)

Bryan, select whatever stats you want. I said "last year" for Dempster. The two Angels guys were both pretty consistently good to great last year, and Santana has the best pure stuff of the group. Wang also is coming off a difficult foot injury. With the Yankees defense up the middle, I definitely would take a comparable, non-groundball pitcher over Wang.

John Boy (Cincinnati)

Heard through the grapevine that Homer Bailey's problem was an injured knee that went undetected. Is it possible that we haven't seen the REAL HB Kid yet in the majors?

John Manuel
  (3:26 PM)

Undetected? He left the 2003 Area Code Games with a knee injury; he's had lingering knee problems since then. I don't think we know what's the real Homer Bailey, I don't think he will be that bad again, but I also don't think he'll be the star that we, among others, forecast for him two or three years ago.

Fred (Burnaby, BC)

How does 2009 play out for Gordon Beckham? 2010?

John Manuel
  (3:27 PM)

I see him in the majors by 2010, more than likely at 2b with Alexei Ramirez at SS. Those positions could be reversed but Beckham seems to fit better at 2b. I am a believer in Beckham's bat.

Drew (Ashburn, VA)

John, Best kept secret in the minors? A guy that you have on your radar that nobody else is touting. Someone that could make a huge impact a few years from now.

John Manuel
  (3:32 PM)

I'll throw out a couple of personal cheeseballs: (1) I'm kind of the Stephen Fife fanclub, Red Sox' second-rounder in 2008 out of Utah; (2) Brandon Douglas, Tigers IF, out of Northern Iowa, which could use a good break since they are trying to eliminate the baseball program there; I think he can be an offensive 2b, he can really hit and runs well; (3) Mason Tobin, rhp, Angels, huge upside, don't cheat off his paper but his fastball has velo and life and he shows signs of commanding it.

John (Toronto)

All this talk about ace mentality, is there anybody that defines that better than Roy Halladay? Also is there any prospects coming up that remind you of the good Doctor

John Manuel
  (3:33 PM)

I'll close with this, thanking John in Toronto and throwing Halladay out as the best-case scenario for Rick Porcello, which I believe we kind of started with. Sorry I was late, hope I compensated. Enjoy your day.