Baseball America editor-in-chief John Manuel and high school writer Clint Longenecker were here to chat about our just-released 2014 Top 100 Draft Prospects list.
Casey (Fort Worth): If you are the Astros, who do you take number one and why?
John Manuel: Good afternoon everyone. Based on the information we have, I would take Rodon. He’s been better in the last month or so since improving his direction to the plate in recent weeks. He’s less side to side and more north-south in his delivery, hence the velocity has improved. His slider’s the best pitch in the draft. I think he’ll be a productive big league starter sooner than either of his main rivals to go 1-1, and he has as good a chance to be a No. 1 starter as Kolek or Aiken. I think Aiken’s ceiling & lesser risk are the next-most attractive package. Kolek probably has the highest ceiling but he’s such an outlier, it would be tough to take him No. 1 overall.
Bryan (Los Angeles, California): What are some of the top options for the Dodgers? Would you go with a position player or a pitcher?
John Manuel: I am in love with my mock draft selection of Spencer Adams to the Dodgers. He just makes sense for them—athletic, two-sport guy, south Georgia … the track record of South Georgia pitchers is a lot better than it is for North Georgia or the East Cobb program. I also would not be surprised if LA went after some of the high school bats who could go in the 20-40 range such as Forrest Wall or Michael Chavis.
Mike (Iowa): Who do you see the White Sox talking, Aiken, Kolek, Rodon or someone else?
John Manuel: They’re crosschecking hitters such as Nick Gordon and Alex Jackson, but I believe Kolek is the perfect fit at 3 for the White Sox. I’m a fan of their pitching development program and believe Kolek and the White Sox are a great match. That said, 4-5 years ago, they would never have considered Alex Jackson because of who’s advising him, but I think he’s in play for the White Sox as well.
Grant (NYC): When does this list expand to 500? Thanks guys.
John Manuel: Plan is for 101-200 a week from today, then the #BA500 a week later. Stay tuned!
BigDaddy (Texas): Not a John Barr fan. Plaese tell me what you hear about the Giants, and then what direction do YOU think the Giants should go in (stay in NoCal?)
John Manuel: John Barr had one of the best drafts the Giants will ever have in 2008 with Posey, Brandon Crawford plus several other fringe big leaguers such as Gillaspie, Kieschnick, Surkamp, Scott Barnes … pretty good draft. so you probably should be a bigger Barr fan. He’s also rocking an impressive beard this spring. If NorCal includes Fresno, I could see them biting on Jacob Gatewood, because the power potential and ability to stay in the infield are hard to find in the draft. That said, I always think it’s better to guess the Giants will go for an arm, especially in a draft so rich in arms.
Mike (Evansville): Kyle Freeland keeps climbing higher and higher. Any chance at him going 1st overall?
John Manuel: I have asked that very question myself and been told he is not in the mix for that selection. I humbly believe that he should be; I suppose there’s actually nothing humble about saying that. But the stuff is outstanding, as is the performance. But I think his track record isn’t long enough to get him into that mix. I do think we’re a bit higher on him than the entire industry is, but I am OK with that.
Roger (Greenville, SC): What separates Alex Jackson from the trio of pitchers being considered at 1/1? If I were the Astros, I think I'd take the potential middle of the order bat and use the pitching depth of the draft to build up my pitching.
John Manuel: There’s some merit to this approach. Jackson is the best power hitter in this draft; his 47th homer the other day tied the San Diego section record, and he did it in a dead-bat era. SD has had some fair players over the years as well. If you thought Jackson could remain a catcher and would not lag behind defensively, I think the Astros would seriously consider it. I will say historically, position players at the top of drafts have out-performed pitchers at the top. If the Astros do take a hitter No. 1, I think it would be Jackson.
Joe (Michigan): What pitchers in the Big Ten might get drafted ?
John Manuel: Not a great year for pitchers in the league. I haven’t gotten much buzz on any Big Ten pitchers other than relievers such as Michigan’s Jim Bourque or Indiana’s guys like Jake Kelzer and Scott Effoss. Maybe the IU guys get a bump thanks to all the attention their hitters have received. I do have buzz on Illinois sophomore reliever Tyler Jay, who is a 2015, hearing some mid-90s velo on him and he’s got the K numbers to back it up, but he’s not eligible this year.
Andrew (NJ): The Draft Preview is always my favorite BA issue and looks like y'all have excelled once again. Which high schooler in the Top 100 is most likely to head to school? Could Gettys make it to Athens, Ga.?
John Manuel: I don’t see Gettys making it through despite his struggles; there are just too few hitters. He goes to a team with extra picks that can mitigate the risk with other picks. Jack Flaherty’s got tough signability and could fall, he’s probably the toughest guy to gauge right now.
John Manuel: Need to take this call … Clint will jump in here for a while.
BigDaddy (Texas): One of the better years in recent memory for Northern California players?
Clint Longenecker: Some of the colleges may not have the same high-level prospects as their historical standards, but the high school crop has marquee talent. The Fresno area in particular is very strong. Luis Ortiz and Jacob Gatewood all have first round talent. And Derek Hill from Elk Grove is also a first-round talent.
Mick (Chicago): Is Providence Catholic high school RHP Jake Godfrey still the number one prospect in Illinois? I saw him out pitched last month, w/ Jim Hendry in attendance, by St. Laurence's Mike Kornacker. Any buzz on him?
Clint Longenecker: Yes, he is still the top HS pitcher in the state. But he has not had the spring evaluators expected after a strong summer. The velocity has been down into the 87-88 mph range at times and the breaking ball, which was plus last summer, has been closer to solid-average. Godfrey, who had a strong body in the summer, is significantly lighter this spring, having dropped an estimated 15 pounds. The stuff is still good, but has taken a step backwards. But he is still likely a top-5 round talent.
Mike L. (Columbia): What are South Carolina catcher Grayson Greiner's draft prospects in terms of pushing up higher after his Team USA summer and strong junior season? How much does being 6-foot-5 work against him in the eyes of scouts and front-office evaluators?
Clint Longenecker: Mike, thanks for the question. Playing for a perenially-strong program for three years and catching for Team USA have been situational factors that have helped gain him notoriety. His height is very much a par to the evaluation process, as there have only been two catchers (Mauer and Alomar) at 6’5 to play more than 1,000 major league games at catcher in major league history. But the reviews of his defense this season have been positive and scouts have praised his defensive improvements from the time he reached campus. A team has to believe in him as a catcher to see him as a top 3/4 round talent because the other tools dont profile that high at 1b.
Dan (Ohio): Do you feel that Marcus Wilson has legitimate five tool potential or is it just wishful thinking? In your opinion, would it be better for him to hone his talents at Ariz. State or in the low minors? Thanks.
Clint Longenecker: What is better for Wilson’s development, the minors or school, is a different question, but its tough to not dream on his potential because of his how athletic and young he is as one of the younger players in the class. He does have five-tool potential. He has plus-plus speed now. His arm is around average. The bat will have to come on to reach that level but he has bat speed. He could develop power down the line because his frame could get a lot stronger. He has above-average bat speed without having grown into his strength. There is a significant gap between his present and future grades but he has the raw materials to justify five-tool status with development.
Will (San Francisco): Spencer Adams has been slowly rising up draft boards ever since last summer, but It really seems like he has shot up in the past few weeks. He is a great athlete who is just beginning to focus on baseball. How high does he end up going and could you shed some more light on his potential and what he could become?
Clint Longenecker: He has really shown well in recent weeks. He could go in the top 25 picks and a tick higher if he continues to improve and a team falls in love with the athleticism, strike-throwing ability and everything he brings to the table. He could become at least a No. 3 starter with a plus fastball, plus slider, above-average changeup and strike-throwing ability with above-average fastball life. There is not much that he cant do on the mound. Its tough to cap his upside because he is one of the best athletes in the class, will benefit from focusing just on baseball and is young for the class.
Bill (Raleigh): I noticed in your top righthanded pitchers, you don't list Jeremy Null, a 6'8 240 righthander from W Carolina who is having another solid season and has touched 90's with his downhill plane fb all spring and developing breaking stuff, where does he stack up in your prospects list for 2014?
Clint Longenecker: Null had a strong start to the season, touching 92 as you mentioned. And he has had a strong statistical season. But scouts have said he has not been 100% healthy and the stuff has backed up. There have been starts where his velocity has fallen as low as 85-88 in the later innings, although he competes and throws a good amount of strikes for his size. He throws his slider a lot, which scouts think may have led to some of the velocity reduction. But it shows above-average potential. Multiple scouts I have spoken with recently see him outside the top 5 rounds.
jerry (houston): Where does Daniel Mengden and Zech Lemond stack up in the draft? 2-3 round material right?
Clint Longenecker: Lemond’s talent puts him in that range, higher if he is healthy. The stretch run will be critical for him. Mengden falls behind and likely outside of the top 3 rounds because of his uneven season and likely reliever profile. He has competed through injury and thrown strikes (2.5BB/9) but his size, reduction in velocity and high-effort delivery will likely play best out of the bullpen in the long run. His velocity has fallen in the rotation and dipped to the mid 80s in a recent start.
Joel (KCK): Do Tyler Kolek's secondary offerings have above average to plus potential?
Clint Longenecker: Absolutely. His curveball shows at least plus potential. His secondary stuff will likely improve significantly under pro instruction.
Josh (Boston): Which high school and college hitters have the best bat speed this year?
Clint Longenecker: Josh, great question! From the high school side Alex Jackson, Michael Chavis, Michael Gettys and Monte Harrison are in the discussion for some of the best bat speed.
Luke (NYC): Who could jump the most and who could fall the most between now and the draft?
Clint Longenecker: Players coming back from injury have the chance to show well down the stretch. LHP Brandon Finnegan coming back from a minor shoulder setback. Derek Fisher stands to benefit with a strong showing in the ACC tourney after missing a large portion of the season. Toolsy high school players in private workouts could show well down the stretch. Gatewood hitting monstrous shots in front of important decision-makers, Chester running like a cheetah. The louder the tools, the more upside in workouts.
Brady (DC): What keeps Imhof from making it to at least the supplemental round?
Clint Longenecker: He could go in that range to a team that likes the track record, as the stats have been very strong. The secondary stuff is a little lighter for that point in the draft, although he has the body, fastball and track record to put him in that range.
Allen (IN): Who makes it to MLB the fastest out of this draft? Rodon? Nola?
Clint Longenecker: They are contenders, though Rodon will have to improve his command, particularly of his fastball, and continue to develop his changeup. I spoke with an evaluator who suggested another pitcher for this category, LHP Kyle Freeland. He said that you could stick him in the major league pen in August with his plus fastball-slider combo and at least plus command.
Ben (Leland Grove): Which five pitchers offer the most in terms of physical projection, in your opinion?
Clint Longenecker: The most projectable bodies? In no particular order could be Keith Weisenberg, Michael Kopech, David Peterson, Cobi Johnson and Spencer Adams.
Johnny (Minnesota): Who is the top defensive prep catcher in the draft this year?
Clint Longenecker: Tim Susnara might be the frontrunner. He has posted pop times as low as 1.81 in game action. He has good blocking skills and strong hands. High school catching is one of the toughest things to project and many of the top HS catchers in this draft are offense-first catchers–Vallot, Skoug, Jackson–. There is not anybody in the same defensive class as Reese McGuire last year.
eight26 (Fullerton): Given the once in a generation terrible season the Titans had this year, is it possible that Chapman and Davis would return for their senior years to improve their draft stocks and potentially set things back to normal around here?
Clint Longenecker: Anything is possible. But it is not often that a potential top two round college talent like Chapman returns for his senior season.
John Manuel: I’ll hop back in here after having to take a call. Thanks Clint.
Keisuke Takahashi (Mt. Akagi): Where do you think Alexis Pantojas gets picked? How does he compare to the other prep shortstops in this draft?
Clint Longenecker: As a switch-hitting shortstop who has the defensive ability to stay at the position, Pantojas has the talent to go in a single-digit round. He is a defense-first shortstop with a good glove and arm that is at least average. He has a contact-oriented bat with well below-average power and needs to get stronger at 150 pounds. He is a below-average runner. His offense lags behind many of the other top SS in this years class.
Howard (Freeport, ME): Do you think Conforto is a good fit for the Mets at 10, if available, or do you think they will take a high school bat again?
John Manuel: I had the Mets taking Conforto in the last mock, so yes, I do think he’s a fit there. He’s the best college hitter in the draft, and his power is starting to come on. I believe the Mets would be forcing a high school bat too far up the board at 10 unless Jackson or Gordon were to fall there. I suppose it’s possible they could take Max Pentecost at 10 if you factor in the catcher value, but that feels a bit high for Pentecost, who we’re hearing more in the 12-18 range.
Mack (IL): With Hoffman and Fedde injured, you still have them pretty high. Do you think they will actually be drafted as high as ranked or do you think they will get the money associated with the slots they are ranked here?
John Manuel: The Fedde TJ happened after that list went to press; Hoffman had been adjusted down a tad. We decided not to change the list from what went into the print edition to avoid confusion and having different lists. The final BA 500 on May 28 may tweak that top 100 order some but not too drastically. We’ll have more information presumably at that time, though, so it’s natural that some things could change. I still think both players will go in the first or supplemental first, as Sean Manaea and Kyle Gibson and other injured players have gone before. Andrew Brackman’s another example of a player who needed Tommy John surgery and was a first-rounder anyway. He’s the worst-case scenario; a lot of the other TJ guys still went on to successful careers. So I do think they’ll go out high, particularly to a team or teams with extra picks.
Eminor3rd (NYC): Is Kolek a ticking time bomb for injury? Is the risk of throwing that hard that young enough that you'd let him slip past say pick 3?
John Manuel: That’s the approximately $5 million question. The snarky answer would be, of course he is. He’s a pitcher. The better answer, I hope, would be: He’s coordinated; nothing in his delivery screams out red flag according to the scouts I have talked to. He’s certainly got his man strength, and he goes to a personal trainer three times a week and has really improved his body over the course of the past year. If you think he just throws too hard (and I frankly sympathize with that opinion) then yeah, he’s going to get hurt. But he certainly has a body and arm action that scouts believe to be up to the task of throwing this hard for a long time. He’s a big boy. I think he’s going to go out really high. Don’t think he’s going to slip at this time.
Kyle (Dallas, TX): Do you see Bukauskas signing with a team (despite his letter), assuming he gets taken in the first couple of rounds?
John Manuel: I just learned this yesterday—Bukauskas plans to take his drug test as a MLB Top 200 prospect. He will not be removing himself from the draft a la Nathan Kirby. So he has not completely closed the door to signing. That said, I don’t think the kid should be mocked for writing the letter. He’s 17, and this can be an overwhelming process. The draft rules are different than they used to be and he’s not going to get a $5 million Josh Bell deal. If he’s there for the Astros’ 2nd pick at 37 or at 42, I could see them taking him if he is signable. Scouting director Mike Elias has ties to the area and knows the player well.
mike (toronto): Blue Jays - will they lean toward two pitchers as they have done in prior years?
John Manuel: I don’t think so. In 2012 they took Stroman and D.J. Davis, pitcher & hitter. Last year’s draft fell that way for them but they also went pitcher-hitter in 2011 when they had multiple picks. This is a pitcher draft so I could see them going that route, but I went hitter-pitcher in the first mock and still think that is true.
Joel (KCK): Despite having a so so season thus far, would Tyler Beede be considered somewhat of a steal if he drops to the middle of the first round? It seems that with three pitches with plus potential and a chance to be further developed in a major league system, he has a chance to pay serious dividends.
John Manuel: Beede is the most vexing guy in the entire draft for me. Not sure what to make of him. He certainly has huge upside but I just don’t know that you can reach that high for him. Frankly he has pitched as if he’s distracted of late; his outing against Florida last Thursday, where his lack of control stood in stark contrast to Florida freshman Logan Shore, was not helpful. Still, I believe a team in the first half of the first round will be too temped. Could see him at 12 for Milwaukee or 14 for SF.
John Manuel: Thanks everybody. I need to get cracking on more of these reports. Thanks Clint for carrying the load and thanks to all of you for the questions.