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April 29, 9:00 AM ET
Chat with Baseball America's Ben Badler

Ben Badler
  (1:59 PM)

July 2 is only nine weeks away . . .

Christian (Springfield, VA)

Is Jesus Montero going to be a Major League All Star? He's tearing it up again this season. Also, what position do you project him at?

Ben Badler
  (2:00 PM)

His bat is going to be above-average at any position. I give him a small chance to stick at catcher, but I'm also of the opinion that teams should be willing to accept a lower floor for defense at catcher when the tradeoff is a significantly better offensive output.

Peter (Minneapolis, MN)

What position will Mat Gamel break into the majors at since the Brewers look like they are trying to pigeonhole him at 3rd?

Ben Badler
  (2:01 PM)

They might force-feed him third base, but he's best suited for a corner outfield spot or first base.

Ben (Centerville, OH)

Todd Frazier has started out the year raking for the Reds AA team in Carolina. If the Reds current platoon in LF doesn't start to produce more, could we see Frazier up in Cincinnati by the all-star break if he continues to hit the ball well?

Ben Badler
  (2:02 PM)

It's possible, and Frazier is growing into one of my favorite unconventional types after watching him play this year. The arm bar in his swing is pronounced, but he generates so much torque in his swing that he's able to drive the ball with authority, and he's had no problems putting the barrel to the ball this year in Double-A.

Jon V. (Cleveland, OH)

Ben - do you think that fear of "Super 2" status is all that is holding LaPorta back from a promotion to be the Indians' everyday LF'er? If so, when can we expect to see him in the big leagues?

Ben Badler
  (2:03 PM)

The bat is ready (and the defense below-average but underrated), it's just about money, and I'd do the same thing if I were the Indians. I'm going to watch LaPorta this weekend and have a report on him up at BA, assuming he stays in Triple-A that long.

Ian (Philly)

Hey Ben, What's wrong with Shooter Hunt? Why can't he throw strikes?

Ben Badler
  (2:04 PM)

Nothing has changed. He's always had trouble throwing strikes and repeating his delivery.

Kyle (Fort Lauderdale)

Ben, Looks like Daniel Bard has fixed his control issues, will the Sox try to move him back to a Starter?

Ben Badler
  (2:05 PM)

I think he fits best in a bullpen role. Ideally a team wants to develop all of its pitchers as starters, but some players' skill sets, like Bard's, are better leveraged in a bullpen role.

Anthony (Staten Island, NY)

Can you talk a little about the Mets Josh Thole? He can obviously swing the bat but does he have the defensive skills to stay behind the plate?

Ben Badler
  (2:06 PM)

I've been touting the bat for a couple years now because of his contact skills and plate discipline. The defense is still a work in progress, though. That can improve with repetition in games and in bullpens, especially for a guy with limited catching experience, but I'd give him every opportunity to prove he can handle the defensive work at catcher.

Carter (Los Angeles)

With all the young guns in LA now, who do I have to look forward to in their farm system. Is Xavier Paul legit?

Ben Badler
  (2:08 PM)

Andrew Lambo is only 20 years old and is already one of the best hitters in the Southern League. Paul's off to a nice start, but Albuquerque might be the best hitters' park in professional baseball.

Sean (TR NJ)

Hi Ben thanks for the time and insight. I was wondering what you thought about the Marlins making it in as a wildcard? Before the season started I had them in that spot and I know they cooled off a bit from that hot start, but I still see them as a threat. Your thoughts?

Ben Badler
  (2:10 PM)

They're going to be overrated because of that fast start, and with the Braves, Mets and Phillies in that division, I think they're still the fourth-best team in the NL East. But Chris Volstad is an above-average to well above-average starter in the making, and with a little good fortune, sure, they at least have a chance at contention.

Chet (LA)

Ben, I think everyone has been enamored by Dexter Fowler's tools in his first season up with the Rockies. Is he viewed more as a speed guy than a power guy? I've heard some people say he could be a 30/30 candidate, but he doesn't appear to have that kind of power. Is he expected to develop that kind of power? He looks more like a BJ Upton type who might get 20 HR in a season. Is that accurate?

Ben Badler
  (2:13 PM)

More speed than power. He's 6-foot-4, so people have always assumed he'd fill out and hit for more power, but he's still a slender guy with a swing that's more conducive to hitting for average than hitting for power. I don't see 30 home runs per year, but I could see some high slugging averages thanks to some legitimate power, some triples and, of course, Coors Field.

Kyle (Fort Lauderdale)

Have you seen Brad Hand pitch yet? 14k's and 14 walks in 9 innings. I know he was a 2nd round pick from up North, but is it to early to be concerned about the walks?

Ben Badler
  (2:14 PM)

I saw him in spring training struggle with his control, too. I do think it's too early to judge, but it's not evidence that points in a positive direction.

Mike(Utica,NY)

Who do you like better between Daryl Jones and Desmond Jennings. Do you think they both could be dynamic leadoff hitters in the majors.

Ben Badler
  (2:15 PM)

I like both players, but Jennings has better all-around tools, strike-zone discipline and defensive value.

Matt (Milwaukee)

What does Jeremy Jeffress project as in the future? Ace? Top of rotation? reliever? closer?

Ben Badler
  (2:17 PM)

His experience is so limited because of his suspensions that I don't want to say he's a future reliever yet. What I saw from his last Monday was a guy with a mid- to high-90s but straight four-seam fastball, a slurvy curveball and below-average control. But that's just one look; his CB might've just been off that night.

michael (san francisco, ca)

hey ben - big giants fan here . . . just for the sake of discussion - who would hang up the phone first on this trade proposal? MadBum for Jason Heyward?

Ben Badler
  (2:18 PM)

They're both good, but Heyward's better.

Timmy L., San Francisco, CA

Brandon Crawford, real deal or California League inflated?

Ben Badler
  (2:19 PM)

Nice start and I'll wait until we see more, but the contact issues are a red flag in A-ball.

Sean (TR NJ)

Ben, I remember as a kid driving down to Baltimore with my cousins and seeing some great games in a awsome park, but for a long while now we have not gone due to lack of excitment and the forgone conclusion that they will not even be close to contention. Do you see a change in the near future? I hope so those days were fun.

Ben Badler
  (2:22 PM)

Not this year, but in the next 3-5 years, yes. Ever since they went over-slot to sign Matt Wieters (which looks like one of the biggest bargains in baseball right now), they've been on the right track building through the farm system.

Ed( San Diego,CA)

Are there any Michael Inoa or Adys Portillo types in this year's international draft?

Ben Badler
  (2:23 PM)

No, Ynoa was a rare talent. I don't think there's anyone who eclipses $4.25 million this summer.

Grapeweasel, Newark

On the 1-10 scale, excitement over the International Class of 2009 is....

Ben Badler
  (2:24 PM)

An 8, mostly for the hitters at the top of the class and the uncertainty going on with regards to some of the ongoing investigations in Latin America.

Otis (Mt Airy, NC)

Please settle the nerves of a pained Rockies fan...Troy Tulowitzki cornerstone of the franchise or great defender who will continue to be a strikeout machine and offensive liability?

Ben Badler
  (2:24 PM)

Still one of the best all-around shortstops and most valuable commodities in baseball.

jsm (dallas)

Should I be worried about Feliz's start to the season in Oklahoma City?

Ben Badler
  (2:25 PM)

He's still one of the top 6-10 or so pitching prospects in baseball, but yes, the walks are troubling.

Kenny (Carmel, CA)

Any chance Posey gets called up by years end to get him ready to be the full time starter next year?

Ben Badler
  (2:26 PM)

September is possible, but I think they'll be more conservative with him to make sure he polishes his receiving skills. The bat looks legit.

Brian (long Beach, CA)

Hey Ben. Adrian Cardenas is listed as a SS on the Rockhounds website. How has his defense been there?

Ben Badler
  (2:27 PM)

A work in progress. They're giving him a chance there, seeing if he has a chance there, but he's probably better suited for second base.

Jon V. (Cleveland, OH)

Hector Rondon is off to a good start, what is his upside at the Major League level?

Ben Badler
  (2:28 PM)

He's mostly getting outs with his fastball right now, which I've heard has been low-90s, up to 94 mph this year. He's showing that even at Double-A, he can cruise through a lineup with mostly just his fastball, but at some point, he's going to have to show that his changeup and work-in-progress slider are good enough to get major league hitters out. But there is potential there for an above-average starter.

brad (Detroit)

Are there any Tigers prospects to be excited about?

Ben Badler
  (2:30 PM)

Avisail Garcia is an intriguing young outfielder who probably isn't on most people's radar.

matt (sacramento, ca)

jordan zimmerman.... how good can he be? first 2 games he pitched really well. thanks.

Ben Badler
  (2:31 PM)

Above-average starter. The stuff matches the numbers, and a great job of scouting by the Nationals on that pick.

Bob (Boston)

More upside: Josh Reddick or Lar Anderson?

Ben Badler
  (2:32 PM)

Reddick's slowly growing on me, but Anderson's still the better prospect.

Ryan (Pittsburgh)

After his poor start, Andy LaRoche is really looking like an everyday major league third baseman now. Is he?

Ben Badler
  (2:33 PM)

I think so, but he's going to need time to play even while he's struggling. Luckily the Pirates have that "luxury," at least for now.

Theron Tate (Port Angeles, WA)

Greg Halman has been striking out at a ridiculous clip to start the season but after last night he know has 8 homeruns. Do you think he'll ever have the discipline do take advantage of his skill set at the major league level. Thanks Jim

Ben Badler
  (2:33 PM)

I think that says it all: big-time tools, raw power, but not enough feel for the strike zone or ability to handle the soft stuff for him to be able to leverage those tools in games.

Nick Papageorgio (Yuma)

Brett Anderson or Jordan Zimmerman?

Ben Badler
  (2:35 PM)

This year? Zimmermann. Long term? Anderson.

CJ (Orlando, FL)

What do you think of Wilkin Ramirez? Future starter for Detroit?

Ben Badler
  (2:37 PM)

Reserve outfielder with good tools and little feel for the strike zone who could post an acceptable OBP if his batting average is high enough on balls in play.

Aaron (San Jose)

How would you go about making the MLB draft more of a must-see TV event? I'm not saying how do you get it on par with the NFL draft, but just something that gets more talk than what it does now (which I know thanks to folks like you is a a dramatic increase over say five or ten years ago).

Ben Badler
  (2:42 PM)

I wouldn't necessarily try to model it after the coverage of the NFL Draft, which has well-known college players who are ready to make an immediate impact in the NFL. The MLB Draft just doesn't have either of those factors going for it because of the lack of national attention given to college baseball (and of course HS draft picks) and the minor league feeder system that delays immediate entry to the big leagues for fans to watch those players. The best way to do it would be to put Jim Callis, John Manuel, Aaron Fitt, Nathan Rode and Conor Glassey on there so you have people who write about these players year-round talking about them on TV, rather than leaning on other analysts who are otherwise knowledgeable about the game but don't have the depth of knowledge to tell you 12 different things about an eighth-round high school player from New Mexico the way any of those guys can. Then again, I'm a little biased :)

Chris (MIlwaukee)

Hi Ben, thanks for chatting. Mark Rogers has pitched, and pitched well, in A-ball without his arm falling off. He did bang his shoulder into the wall shaggin flys and have to miss a start. He's already on the 40-man roster. Would the Brewers just be bettered served by having him in a bullpen role in the big leagues because his arm appears to have a limited number of pitches in it?

Ben Badler
  (2:42 PM)

No, because I don't think he's anywhere close to being ready for the big leagues.

Grant (Chicago)

Care to comment please on Engel Beltre? I love power/speed combos in any young hitter, but that plate discipline! Is he going to end up Pedro Cerrano-ed a la Halman?

Ben Badler
  (2:44 PM)

He's a little younger and doesn't strike out quite as much as Halman, but what you mentioned has always given me serious pause about his future skill level.

pete (maine)

ETA for Michael Stanton? Long term projections? Thanks!

Ben Badler
  (2:46 PM)

I don't know, and I don't think the Marlins know, either. He's just a unique player with enormous raw power, size, athleticism and youth who has shown the ability to make adjustments but still strikes out at a very high clip. To me, whatever you think of his future potential, he's the most fascinating prospect in baseball.

Ed( San Diego,CA)

Are there any prospects to get excited about in Padres organization? Other than Blanks and Latos?

Ben Badler
  (2:47 PM)

I think Jaff Decker is a Top 100 prospect at the end of the year.

Ben: (Loxahatchee,FL)

How does Michael Stanton compare to Jason Heyward? Who projects to be a better palyer?

Ben Badler
  (2:49 PM)

Heyward. Well, if you're asking me to take Heyward or any player in the minor leagues that isn't David Price or Matt Wieters, my answer is going to be Heyward.

Ben Badler
  (2:50 PM)

They're both huge, physical 19-year-olds with plus-plus raw power and athleticism, but Heyward has a better feel for the strike zone and for putting the barrel to the ball.

Adam (NYC)

How does Texas' postponement of the high school baseball season for the next two weeks, until May 11, potentially influence the draft?

Ben Badler
  (2:51 PM)

We're going to have more on that up at BA soon, it's going to have an effect on the draft. It has scouts concerned, and my guess is it leads to more private workouts than usual.

Duffy (Queens, NY)

What in the name of all that is holy is up with Ike Davis?!

Ben Badler
  (2:52 PM)

He hit his first home run, but scouts say the swing doesn't seem to be conducive to hitting for power.

Drew (NY)

Ben, where do you see Nolan Reimold fitting with the Orioles, what can he become, and what kind of time will he see this year with the big club?

Ben Badler
  (2:54 PM)

The power is for real. I think now, in a year in which the Orioles aren't going to contend, is the perfect opportunity to give Reimold a full season of at-bats in the major leagues to see what they have in the guy.

Frank (NY)

Does any team currently have a pair of pitching prospects,in terms of ceiling alone, that compare to Betances and Brackman?

Ben Badler
  (2:56 PM)

Baltimore's Brian Matusz and Chris Tillman both have top-of-the-rotation ceilings. They're more likely to reach that potential as well.

Jon V. (Cleveland, OH)

Carlos Santana's average is down this year but the power and BB:K are still looking strong - have you seen him yet this year?

Ben Badler
  (2:59 PM)

Not personally, but I'm planning to in June. but the low batting average is just fluky right now. I'll have a report on him tomorrow up over at BA, but the bottom line: you get pitched to a bit differently when you're the No. 1 prospect in the system compared to when you're coming off a down year in the Low-A.

mymrbig (New Orleans)

Villalona or Freeman? Why?

Ben Badler
  (3:00 PM)

I like both and I might be in the minority, but I'll give the slight edge to Freeman. He's a bit more polished and only one year older, though I'd like to see Freeman take a few more walks this year the way he did last year in the South Atlantic League.

Jim(LA, CA)

I'd say the Giants duo of Alderson and Baumgardner. Feliz and Holland are okay too

Ben Badler
  (3:01 PM)

Right, I was just saying the first one that jumped into my mind.

Drew (NY)

Ben, in this week's Prospect Injury Report you mentioned Jordan Walden went on the DL with elbow inflammation. Any word yet on the MRI, is this a serious injury, or just something rest and rehab will take care of?

Ben Badler
  (3:03 PM)

No word yet, but I always err on the side of taking any pitching elbow or shoulder injury more seriously than what typically gets portrayed publicly.

Frank (NY)

Villalona or Montero?

Ben Badler
  (3:05 PM)

Montero. I think he's a top 20 prospect at the end of the year, and he was a borderline top 20 guy for me entering the year.

Ethan (Berkshire County)

Will we see McCutchen in a couple of weeks to officially begin his tenure as the "Face of the Franchise"? Moss looks unimpressive.

Ben Badler
  (3:07 PM)

Probably, and after years of being the face of the Pirates farm system, I think he might even be a little underrated.

Jake (LA)

Is Chris Coghlan a decent prospect? He ha struggled to start the year after being declared the future replacement for Dan Uggla.

Ben Badler
  (3:08 PM)

I think he's better than just a decent prospect. His slash stats are down, but it's not like he's suddenly striking out a lot, so once those balls in play start falling for hits I think you'll see his numbers creep back up.

Tim (Saint Paul, MN)

Have you seen Revere this year? His walk rate is way up, but his line drives are down. Obviously a small sample, but is he consciously changing his approach?

Ben Badler
  (3:11 PM)

I don't put any stock into minor league line-drive data. Way too many inconsistencies in the way they're recorded, and I've yet to see any predictive value of minor league line drive rates. Now if you're talking about seeing a guy play live, that's different. The guy has four strikeouts and 10 steals in about 80+ PAs, so I'd say he's right on track with the skill set he's shown in the past.

Grant (Chicago)

I imagine that focusing career-wise on prospects reduces sentimentality substanstially, but do you ever find yourself just falling prey to be a guy's fan despite yourself?

Ben Badler
  (3:14 PM)

I do find myself pulling for the unconventional guys, be it something out of the ordinary about their body type, their skill set, the way they go about it with their mechanics, or preferably all three for the trifecta.

Ben: (Palm Beach)

I know the marlins are a "young" team, but is it unrealistic to say that we could see another youth infusion by 2011 with Stanton, Dominguez, Morrison, Couglan and pitchers like West and Tucker?

Ben Badler
  (3:15 PM)

On the hitting side, definitely, but other than Chris Volstad, who's already in the big league rotation, I don't see it with the young pitching quite as much.

Grant (Chicago)

Care to name names? :)

Ben Badler
  (3:16 PM)

Angel Salome, Kyle Blanks, or guys like Dustin Pedroia or Pablo Sandoval when they were minor leaguers.

Drew (NY)

What do you project for Justin Smoak, and might we see him in a Ranger uniform this year?

Ben Badler
  (3:17 PM)

An above-average hitter with above-average defense at first base. Maybe he gets a September callup, but I don't see him getting regular playing time in the big leagues until 2010.

Rob (Alaska)

Feel free to use this to poke fun at small sample size overreactions if you want....but is there any cause for concern in Pedro Alvarez' slow start?

Kyle (Fort Lauderdale)

Doesn't Sean West have a higher ceiling than Chris Volstad? His walk rates were high last year, but that was his first year after Labrum surgery? This year he has 28k and 7 walk in 22 Innings.

Ben Badler
  (3:25 PM)

The ceiling might be comparable, but Volstad is way, way more likely to reach that ceiling, and I don't think people give enough credit to just how good Volstad is capable of being, especially if you're only focusing on minor league strikeout rates. His sinker is one of the heaviest out there and his curveball and changeup can both be strikeout pitches, at least a 60 or future 60 pitches on the 20-80 scale.

CJ (Orlando, FL)

What do you think of the three lefties atlanta drafted in 2006: Jeff Locke, Chad Rogers, Steve Evarts? What kind of potential do each have? THank you. Your chats are the best!

Ben Badler
  (3:26 PM)

Locke is the best of that bunch, could be a solid big league starter. He's surpassed Cole Rohrbough as the top non-Tommy Hanson pitching prospect in that system given Rohrbough's inability to stay healthy.

Drew (Philly)

Hey Ben, Is there anything to be excited about in the phils farm system these days?

Ben Badler
  (3:27 PM)

I don't think there's a trio of pitching prospects off to better starts than Carlos Carrasco, Jason Knapp and Kyle Drabek.

Chris (Milwaukee)

So does Salome get a chance to replace Kendall next year in Milwaukee? Or do the Brewers really let the old man play until he is 40, like he says he wants to?

Ben Badler
  (3:28 PM)

I hope so. If he doesn't cut it, I'm a believer in Jonathan Lucroy, their catcher in Double-A.

Ed( San Diego,CA)

So you're a fan of Blanks? What do you see as his upside? Athletic enough for LF?

Ben Badler
  (3:31 PM)

I think he needs to play first base, or else be a -10 to -15 defender at best in left field.

T. Miller (Las Vegas)

The Cubs trade of Mark DeRosa has been highly criticized. I still think they should have traded Derrek Lee and kept DeRosa. However, I've been tracking the 3 pitching prospects the Cubs recieved in the trade, Chris Archer, John Gaub, and Jeff Stevens. Stevens is yet to give up a run in Triple A in 8 innings, Archer has a 1.59 ERA through 17 innings, and Gaub has a 1.59 ERA for the double A team. Is there a chance that the Cubs new more about these prospects then everyone else when they made the trade? Any upside here?

Ben Badler
  (3:33 PM)

I do like the aggressive promotion of Gaub to Double-A to see what they have, which right now looks like an interesting reliever. Archer walks too many batters for that ERA to be sustainable. Stevens is another guy who needs to throw more strikes, but he's close to the big leagues. The trade is still better for Cleveland. If it all works out for the Cubs, they end up with a couple of big league relievers.

Chris (NYC)

Whats your take on 3 Potomac Nationals: Marrero, Burgess and Espinosa? Espinosa is on fire, Burgess' K's are a little troubling. Where do you project them? Thanks a lot

Ben Badler
  (3:36 PM)

I like Marrero, I think people might have forgotten about him because he missed time last year with an injury, but he can really hit, and I like the early returns so far on Espinosa. Burgess has plus-plus raw power, but I don't see him making enough contact to be a regular big league corner OF.

PT NH

Who is your? top prospect in the minors right now from the Pacific rim?

Ben Badler
  (3:39 PM)

Junichi Tazawa, Red Sox RHP

Marie (San Francisco, CA)

Are Tim Alderson and Scott Barnes legitimate major league starters? Or are they eventually going to be moved to the bullpen?

Ben Badler
  (3:40 PM)

That delivery of Alderson's is funky, but I'm not certain that it precludes him from being a major league starter, given that his command is outstanding and he's never been seriously hurt. No reason why Barnes couldn't start either, unless his performance dictates otherwise.

Jack (Chicago)

Fowler or Jennings? Overall? Power potential? Thanks

Ben Badler
  (3:44 PM)

Fowler, but only slightly. If Jennings stays healthy the entire season, I'll have to re-examine.

Ben Badler
  (3:46 PM)

That's it. There no more room on the Internet for any more questions. I'm off to fill up my phone bill with calls to the 809 area code, so I'll catch up with you guys later!