John Manuel: Thanks to Everett Merrill for working up our International League top 20. I’m pinch-chatting for him today and Matt Eddy will take the PCL on Monday as we wrap our league Top 20s. I’ll be here for an hour, so without further ado …
Ryan (Minneapolis): I am surprised that Kyle Gibson is not in the Top 20. What happened to him? Is he still have No.3 upside or just back-end type starter?
John Manuel: The league was quite strong this year, and Gibson was strongly considered, but our feedback was definitely more back-of-the-rotation than No. 3. I would imagine him getting hammered in the major leagues colored the impression of IL managers. To me, this list is a pretty strong consensus up through about No. 15, then there were a lot of directions we could have gone.
Ben (Leland Grove): Is Chris Colabello an example of someone who isn't as good as his numbers? How close was he to making your list?
John Manuel: Colabello is another example of someone who could have made the list, and I think his MLB struggles colored the evaluation. Also he struggled a bit defensively; reports of him coming into the year defensively at first actually were strong, but the feedback we got on him at first or in the outfield corners was not positive this year. He’s a tremendous story, and that kind of opposite-field power is hard to find. I think he’s a platoon option going forward and not quite a regular, not dissimilar than Darin Ruf at 17, but Ruf has shown more power at the MLB level and a bit better defense, which is saying something.
Dan (DC): Was Zach Walters considered for your list, and is his power the only real plus tool he has?
John Manuel: It’s his best tool, though he also has a plus arm that plays on the left side of the infield. Walters’ power production this year certainly got him considered, and he was on one iteration of the list. I know the last scout I talked to about Walters did not see him as a middle infielder at the big league level and projected him as a utility guy who can fill in at SS or 2b, but also 3b and the outfield corners. Sounds like a useful National League player, but the swing-and-miss and propensity for chasing out of the zone limits his offensive upside and likely precludes him being a regular. Again, certainly could have fit in the 16-20 range.
@Jaypers413 (IL): What are your thoughts on Tim Beckham at this point? Does he project as a solid regular to you and to scouts?
John Manuel: Scouts remain pretty mixed on that question. I’ve seen him for parts of three seasons now in Durham and have talked to several scouts about him in that span, and the best comp I have received remains Sean Rodriguez. Can play SS, and I actually think his play there improved this year, but he’s not what you are looking for in an everyday shortstop. It’s 45 is defense there; he’d have to hit more to be an everyday option there, and despite his raw power, he’s just not producing game power. For me, based on the scouts I’ve talked to, he’s more of a utility guy than an everyday guy. Still just 23, so the book is not closed, but we have a lot of evidence now pointing to the fact he doesn’t hit enough to be a regular, and that his defense fits better down the defensive spectrum than it does at SS.
Frank (Detroit, MI): Has the trade to Detroit's system revitalized Kyle Lobstein? What does he bring to the table to you?
John Manuel: Lobstein had a Lobstein type of year, he gave up fewer HRs, but his ratios were similar to his past performance, and he’s still pitching with a below-average fastball in terms of velocity. He has to be fine and has to nibble, and it’s a No. 5 starter profile. He’s never grown into the velocity projected for him back when he was a premium prospect. The Rays may have won this trade with C Curt Casali, who sounds like a solid option behind the plate. The popular comp for catchers of his ilk these days is Kelly Shoppach, also John Buck. That’s hard to find. I think I’d rather have Casali but it’s close.
dave (atlanta): Is it too early to add Sean Gilmartin to the list of awful Tony Demacio 1st rounders like Rich Stahl, Mike Paradis, Larry Bigbie, Keith Reed, Josh Cenate, and Scott Rice? BA's top 20 lists have shown how thin the Braves' system has become. Other than being a long-time Frank Wren crony, why is Demacio still employed?
John Manuel: Pretty harsh criticism. I’ll push back with Andrelton Simmons, who was Atlanta’s second-round pick in DeMacio’s first draft class of 2010, plus the depth of those 2010 and ’11 drafts — the ’10 draft landed Gattis and six MLB players in all, though admittedly most of them are role players. I didn’t like the Gilmartin pick at the time but that ’11 class looks deep — JR Graham, Nick Ahmed, Tommy La Stella, Cody Martin, Kyle Kubitza, all of them have a chance to be big leaguers, all have had their minor league moments. Then there’s Lucas Sims from 2012 plus the contributions Alex Wood already has made. I like their 2013 draft, which we’ll discuss next week with Draft Report Cards. You can knock his Orioles scoreboard all day; it wasn’t good. I’d say Simmons and Wood alone make his Braves’ tenure look a lot better.
Mike (Baltimore, MD): Your thoughts on Henry Urrutia's breakout year? Was he close to making the list?
John Manuel: Urrutia didn’t qualify for this list from a playing time standpoint, but I’m glad he qualifies for the Handbook. I’m doing the Orioles top 30 for the first time this year and he will contribute to that list prominently. I think he’s a solid 4th outfielder at worst and has some good version of Nick Markakis upside at least.
Lorenzo (Pueblo Viejo): Is there gonna be a podcast today?
John Manuel: We have been using the same podcast equipment for some time, and it appears to need maintenance or replacement. I believe we were on take 8 yesterday when we gave up. Looking to do something first of next week. Apologies for the delay.
Nate (Chicago): John, at this point would you say that Marcus Semien has passed Carlos Sanchez as a prospect?
John Manuel: He has for me, though I tend to focus too much on the bat. Sanchez is a better fit in the middle of the diamond defensively. I think Semien could fit at 3B or potentially 2B if he hits enough but he might just be a tweener and more of a reserve. I like the bat though and believe Semien will be a regular in Chicago, probably in 2014.
James Arnott (Cole Harbour , Nova Scotia, Canada): Regarding Jackie Bradley. What is a realistic ceiling for him in the majors? Does Jacoby Elsberry playoff performance make Bradley trade bait in the Red sox eyes?
John Manuel: I don’t know what will happen with Ellsbury this offseason but have seen nothing in his pro career to take me off my Mark Kotsay comp for Jackie Bradley. That would be a very solid career. Not as impactful as Ellsbury at his best, but still a solid profile CF regular.
dave (atlanta): Any info on the Braves LHP Ryan Buchter, who struck out 103 in 62 innings while only allowing 36 hits (and 51 walks)? Do you think he gets added to the 40 man to prevent his minor league free agency?
John Manuel: Depends on the Braves’ overall 40-man picture but Buchter is fascinating. No control but 14 K/9 at Triple-A is hard to ignore. Our reports are that his fastball generally sits in the low 90s and the slider is fringy, but he can be effectively wild. That said you don’t see a lot of 7 BB per 9 guys in the majors. If I were a betting man, I’d say he becomes a minor league FA.
Ben (Leland Grove): Had he qualified, would Ranaudo have made your list? Your opinions of his year as a whole?
John Manuel: Happy for Anthony Ranaudo to stay healthy and show what he can do. This was his healthiest, most consistent season since 2009. For me, he probably would rank No. 11 or No. 12 on this list, either just before or just after Erik Johnson. I think a lot of scouts would be split on that, Ranaudo with a bit more upside but Johnson has a more dependable, consistent track record, particularly in terms of health.
Matt (Tampa FL): What should we think of Mike Montgomery at this point? Still a viable prospect to you?
John Manuel: Still a prospect, and I give him credit for the way he knows how to use his pitches now. But he is not the same guy JJ Cooper saw back in the Carolina League with three plus pitches. His fastball velocity has backed up since then, he doesn’t have much better control, his breaking ball has regressed and he is overly reliant on his changeup. More of a 4-5 profile than a frontline guy now. Wish I had better news on Montgomery.
Johnny (Toronto): Was Anthony Gose qualified for this list? If so, how close did he come to cracking the Top 20? Thanks.
John Manuel: Anthony Gose exhausted his prospect eligibility in 2012. He’s in that BA netherworld as a 22-year-old who is still really a prospect and not an established big leaguer, but he’s no longer eligible for our lists. In many ways he’s the same player, though some of our reports have his once premium throwing arm having backed up. He’s got elite range in CF as well as plus plus speed, but he still chases too much at the plate. It’s hard to see him as a regular if he continues to expand the zone and chase as he has.
Stephen W (South Korea): How good will Joey Terdoslavich be in the major leagues?
John Manuel: Terdoslavich needs to be deployed skillfully by a manager. Not knocking Fredi Gonzalez here — plenty of other people can do that for me. But he would be maximized in a platoon situation such as what Bob Melvin has done in Oakland. I don’t think he can be Brandon Moss, don’t see him with that kind of thump, but he can hit and play the OF corners and first and probably some emergency time at 3B. He has plus power and will get plenty of big league chances as a result.
John Thompson (New Braintree, MA): What position do you see Bogaerts ultimately sticking with the Red Sox wealth of infield talent?
John Manuel: Shortstop in the short term despite his modest running speed. That’s an exciting young left side of the infield with him and Middlebrooks, and obviously there are some flashy gloves behind him in the farm system such as Marrero, and I suppose Lin and Vinicio if they ever hit. I think he’s a SS for the first few years of what should be a very good MLB career.
Wendy (Cincinnati, OH): Daniel Corcino - prospect or suspect?
John Manuel: There’s a guy I believe I was wrong on; I think I was pretty high on him last year, and he had a disastrous season. Not a lot of deception, stuff down in terms of velocity, lost confidence … pretty disastrous season. He’s just 22 and we saw Julio Teheran recover from a brutal IL year in ’12 to be a productive big leaguer in 2013. I’m not comparing Corcino to Teheran, but just saying we shouldn’t consign him to the dustbin just yet. I am more in the suspect camp at this time though, with his potential value being more in middle relief due to reduced control and his struggles with lefthanded hitters.
Keith H (Syracuse, NY): Did the Gwinnett Braves have any other players worth mentioning? Thanks
John Manuel: RHPs David Hale and Cody Martin are definite prospects, and Hale surprised me with some late-season MLB success. He throws hard enough and throws enough strikes with a sinker-slider combo to be a fourth starter type. Martin has rushed through the minors, faster than anticipated considering he has remained in a starter role. I think the Braves might press him into middle relief service next year if Beachy bounces back, and I believe he’s behind Hale in their pecking order. Atlanta has shown it can get a lot out of these types of guys, so both of those guys stand out on the rest of the Gwinnett roster.
Brendan (Colorado): How does Bogaerts compare to Carlos Correa, who's further down in the minors? They seem to have pretty similar skill sets and questions (sticking at SS?)
John Manuel: I’ve never asked a scout for that comparison but it makes some sense to me. Correa I believe is a bit bigger than Bogaerts at the same age, and has a bit more raw power. I believe that’s a fair comp, though Correa may have an even higher ceiling thanks to pretty special raw power.
SteveB (Philly): Did Cesar Hernandez get any consideration? He played fairly well when he got his September call-up. Thanks for the chats - as always!
John Manuel: You’re welcome. I really like Cesar Hernandez and was stunned the Phillies used him in CF after his callup. I guess with Utley still healthy, Hernandez had to go somewhere. I like Hernandez more than Sanchez personally, I believe more in his bat, but Sanchez does have the added value of playing SS. Hernandez is who he is offensively; he makes contact, draws a few walks, brings an above-average batting average but doesn’t offer a lot of power. He’s a classic two-hole hitter, but it seems like that classic role has rightfully fallen out of favor. I think he’s a very useful utility guy on a championship roster and potentially a first-division regular at 2B with the right mix of players around him. Right now for Philly, the utility role fits better, as long as Utley still closely resembles Utley. I don’t think he’s better than Ben Revere in CF either but it’s probably closer than you’d think.
Brien (Connecticut): I know that these rankings are usually compiled by a group of experts, but which one player between ranks 11-20 would be "your" pick to become a superstar?
John Manuel: You forgot to use #personalcheeseball … but that’s what you’re asking. Of course my cheeseball is Trevor Bauer. I love the long-toss guys, and I wish Bauer weren’t quite so stubborn in his approach. Pro ball is about the fastball. Bauer used to have a great one, but he doesn’t use it enough, doesn’t command it enough, and now shies away from it so much he’s lost some velo on it. Matt Eddy’s Dice-K comp for Bauer sounds sadly prescient. I hope Bauer turns it around, and I still wouldn’t write him off. Obviously we didn’t because we ranked him here. But I know JJ has talked to scouts who have written him off.
Mike (Buffalo): was Ryan Goins from Buffalo considered? Seemed he has elite defence but average bat. How about Anthony Gose? Hit tool too below average?
John Manuel: Goins is impressive defensively. He has SS range at 2B and plenty of arm. Maybe he’s the next John McDonald. The bat is light for a regular role.
CyMature (western Mass): Hi John, thanks for al the good work. The top 20 looks to have a remarkable top three, then 5 or 6 solid prospects and a relatively weak 11-20. Is that your reading and is that typical for AAA?
John Manuel: I don’t see the 11-20 as weak at all. Jake Odorizzi at 15 is a guy who got better as the year went on and still looks like a potential No. 3 or more likely No. 4 starter. I like Odorizzi because he finally made some adjustments late and was money in the postseason; being at your best in September is a good sign for a minor league pitcher. He handled a heavy workload and was better for it. If Tampa needs him, I think he’s ready for a MLB role in 2014. That’s pretty strong for the No. 15 prospect on any list. I thought this was an atypically strong year in the IL.
Mike (SD): Deibinson Romero strung together a couple good seasons back to back to get his career back on the right path. Does he project to have any future in the MLB?
John Manuel: I was all in on Romero back in the day and he still has good bat speed and pop. It’s possible for him to carve out a role as a corner bat but unlikely.
Clint (BC, Canada): Kevin Pillar looked really lost at the plate in his brief time with the Jays, especially on offspeed stuff, often swinging at pitches no where near the strike zone. I watched him in AAA with the Bisons and he didn't have great plate discipline but nothing like I saw when he faced Major League pitching. Has the outlook changed for him, or is it possible for him to make the necessary adjustments? Also is his ceiling still considered to be a 4th OF?
John Manuel: He may defend enough to be an everyday CF. He continues to earn Reed Johnson comparisons, but his defense in CF might be enough to make him a regular, whereas Johnson was mostly a platoon guy who stuck to the corners. The fact that people liked his defense in CF is what got him into the top 20. He shouldn’t be a better player than Gose; he doesn’t have Gose’s tools. But he is a better player because he can hit. He clearly has some adjustments to make to hit MLB pitching but his track record is that he excels at making adjustments.
John Manuel: Wish I had more time because we have good questions today and the IL was a fun list. But I have a parent-teacher conference to attend and Prospect Handbook work to do this afternoon. Thank you for coming and for your interest in BA. Matt Eddy will chat PCL on Monday. Have a good weekend.