Moderator: Baseball America staff writers will answer your questions about Byron Buxton, how we chose Minor League Player of the Year, the other top candidates and other prospect questions beginning at 4 p.m. ET.
Phil (Philly): Wow! Maikel Franco was not even considered. Any Reasons why?
John Manuel: I’m not sure why you would think he wasn’t considered. He wasn’t a finalist; our last two were Buxton and Springer, those were the guys we debated the most. But Maikel Franco certainly had one of the best seasons in the minor leagues. I’ve been working on our Florida State League top 20 prospects list, and he’s going to rank very highly in that league. Scouts who have seen him the last couple of years come away very impressed with the improvements he’s made. I know he’s played some 1B, but the scouts and managers I’ve talked to like him as a profile 3B with power and feel for hitting. He’s a potential star.
Chris (Houston): Is Domingo Santana underrated as a prospect? 20 year old with tools in 2A. Is he top 100?
John Manuel: I definitely was a bit light on him last year in the Astros top 10; I went for polish and had him at 11. He is toolsy, but the swing & miss concerns still are a there for me. He has right-field profile tools and righthanded power that teams seek, though, so I can still see a Jermaine Dye future for him. Should be a good big leaguer and a top 100 prospect in a loaded Astros system.
Mike (Texas): What is the Scoop on Lisalverto Bonilla? great stats in AA. Any thoughts on him?
John Manuel: Short version is quick arm, big velocity up to 96-97 regularly, but the fastball can be straight, which is why he got hit around in Triple-A. He a guy, but not quite a GUY. Good bullpen arm, maybe an 8th-inning guy with some improved control & fastball life.
Jesse (New York): What do you make of Addison Russell's season? Has his timeline changed based on his second half? Are we looking at a top 10 prospect, going into next season?
John Manuel: You know the cliche about baseball being a game of adjustments? Russell showed he could make the adjustments, getting better and not buried after his poor start. Not sure if he’s top 10 in the top 100, not precluding it, but I do know he’s on the short, short list of top middle infielders in the minors. He’s got power, he’s got bat speed and strength to hit. Wondering out loud if I’d take him or Javy Baez … tough call. Russell probably will be the steadier pro, Baez more spectacular. I’d give slight edge to Baez.
Ben (Leland Grove): This isn't a prospect question per se, but who do you believe should take NL ROY honors this year and why?
John Manuel: Why not go off the board? We can discuss the major leagues too … I’ve vote Puig, slight edge over Jose Fernandez. Miller, Teheran and Ryu all are perfectly cromulent candidates as well, but I’d give Puig the edge.
@Jaypers413 (IL): Did Syndergaard get any votes for POY amongst your staff this year?
John Manuel: Syndergaard did not; I believe the pitchers at the top of our list were Archie Bradley and C.J. Edwards, Bradley for his success at a tender age at a challenging Double-A level, Edwards for sheer dominance. To me those were the best seasons by top pitching prospects.
Grant (NYC): When do your League Top 20 lists start up? Always look forward to them, thanks.
John Manuel: Just talking about that today, they are all due in to us editors by the end of the week, so we will either start posting Monday or Tuesday. Each league top 20 comes with a chat so the next couple of weeks will really crank prospect season into high gear.
Brian (Tampa, FL): Which prospect(s) gave your staffers the most pleasant surprise this season? (Similiar to Dan Straily last year.)
John Manuel: C.J. Edwards didn’t come from nowhere, obviously. He was NO. 14 on the Rangers’ Top 30 a year after being a 48th-round pick, which tells you how impressive he was in his pro debut in 2012. But his season was pretty incredible. He and Tyler Glasnow so thoroughly dominated the low Class A level, that surprised me. I also would say Chris Colabello ruling the International League was a surprise, and a pleasant one. He’s a unique player and it’s impossible not to pull for him, at least for me, considering his back story, WBC heroics and that JJ Cooper helped discover him.
Warren (Knoxville TN): Was Javier Baez among the top 5 or so candidates for POY? When do you see him in Chicago, and at what position?
John Manuel: He was; if you hit 37 home runs as a shortstop, with 20 in a half-season at Double-A, you’re going to be a finalist. It sounds like Baez has the tools for short but has to slow himself and the game down. I think 3B is his more likely destination, but obviously it depends on which team he’s on. He’s not playing in a vacuum, and Kris Bryant is the real deal, too. I hope the Cubs can apply the brakes a bit to Baez so they avoid a Starlin Castro redux. But if Baez doesn’t play in Chicago by the second half of 2014, I’ll be surprised. He can really hit.
Tanner (Omaha): More raw power.. Gallo, Sano, Stanton or Harper?
John Manuel: Shockingly, it sounds like the answer may be Gallo. He probably hits them farther than anyone other than maybe Stanton. Not sure there’s a “90” out there, the 0.03% guy who is the outlier from the 20-80 scale. Springer and Baez may belong in this discussion too. Some sick raw power in the minors this year.
Greg (ohio): How did Buxton perform at summer showcases? Did he always look like a future superstar?
John Manuel: He wasn’t as “famous” as some other players in terms of being a showcase superstar and veteran. But he was toward the top of the 2012 draft list early on and impressed at the 2011 East Coast Pro Showcase. He was in the finals of the Under Armour All-America game home run derby with Lewis Brinson, losing to Brinson for the derby title, but the guy stood out among his peers as a prep. He was No. 3 on our preseason Top 100 http://www.baseballamerica.com/draft/early-draft-preview-2012-top-100-draft-prospects-12884/
andy (minneapolis): the selection of buxton, begs this question, how much did Sano performance at AA degrade his chances at POY consideration?
John Manuel: It didn’t help early on, that’s for sure. As he got hot in August at New Britain, though, it enhanced his chances. It was hard to separate out the power guys this year though; Sano, Springer and Baez were the top three guys in that regard, along with Maikel Franco and obviously Gallo. Gallo hit .250 and spent the whole year in low Class A so he was less in the POY picture, but there wasn’t a ton of separation among the other power guys when it was all said and done. Springer had the best all-around season among those players, in our opinion, but obviously we thought Buxton’s season was more unique and historic.
Tim (Sarasota): With George Springer constantly getting the.... "What a great season but he strikes out too much" comments; what is the expectation/ comparison for him in the show.... Jay Bruce with speed?
John Manuel: I’d start with a righthanded hitter for a comp. From the scouts to the stats, Springer feels like he’ll be a mix of Mike Cameron and Matt Kemp. He probably will be a bit more offensive and not as elite defensively than Cameron, but the point of that comp is, unless he makes a major adjustment on the ball on the outer half and starts using the whole field, he’s a five- or six-hole hitter, not a true three- or four-hole hitter on a championship team. When the Astros drafted him, I had a club official throw Kemp on Springer. That feels a bit high, but you know, that guy’s a scout and I’m not, so I thought I should throw that in there.
Bob Donnutts (Spring, TX): So with this decision are you guys also saying that you got the 2010 and 2012 POTY wrong when you went with higher performance (Hellickson and Myers) over the higher rated prospect (Trout and Profar). If this is the new standard why not just name it "top ranked minor prospect of the year?"
John Manuel: Our list has never been “best season by a minor leaguer.” It’s the Minor League Player of the Year. I think those are two pretty different occasions you cited. Myers is not really analogous to Hellickson. Wil Myers wasn’t very far behind Profar in terms of prospect-ness. I don’t think we made the wrong choice. In 2010, I would say we have learned that we shouldn’t disqualify a performance just because it primarily happened in low Class A. That’s what we learned from Trout, that and the fact that we (and some scouts we talked to) sold his power potential short. Hellickson was a fine choice; Trout in retrospect had a more historic, rare season, not necessarily a “better” season.
HongNinja (Phoenix, AZ): We've heard all this hype on Buxton, and I'm totally SOLD on him. However, are we being realistic with his ceiling? Is he truly "Mike Trout/Bryce Harper" type of potential? He does have a better arm then Trout, and has a great make-up, work ethic, and is humble. Thoughts?
John Manuel: Yes, that’s what we’re saying, he’s in that realm.
Izzy (New York): BA included Rafael Montero and Cesar Puello on it's list of ten breakthrough prospects at mid-season. Are Puello and Montero top 100 bound, as the article implied? About where on the list would each rank?
John Manuel: Puello has a pretty big mitigating problem here with the Biogenisis investigation. I was pretty high on Puello a couple of years ago; pretty sure I had him in a top 50 in the Handbook one year. I don’t see him being top 100 bound, but I could see it with Montero, who had an impressive Triple-A performance considering his inexperience and the hitting environment in Las Vegas.
Alex (Houston): I love Bryon Buxton however George Springer nearly had a historic season. I get Springer still has an issue with Ks but 23 year old who improved when he moved to AAA seems like he had a better seasons.
John Manuel: George Springer would have been a very defensible choice. In the end, as I said before, he just didn’t have a ton of separation from the other power hitters. Javy Baez was a 37-home run shortstop who is three years younger than Springer. Sano had a similar power season; both those guys play infield, providing more defensive value. So for me, his season wasn’t clearly better than those other years, and we obviously went in a different direction. But Springer had a pretty monstrous season, and it’s exciting to watch his progression.
Christian (Houston, TX): Did Buxton win over Springer simply because he is the better prospect with more glowing scouting reports at a younger age? Springer clearly outperformed him statistically, right?
John Manuel: I just wanted to answer one more here because no, Springer did not clearly out-perform Buxton statistically. Buxton’s competition was easier, low A and high A vs. Double-A and Triple-A. But Buxton was in less offensive environments and put up a .334-.424-.520 slash line. He out-hit Springer by 30 points, had a higher OBP (Springer’s was .411) and out-stole him. He’s a better defense. Springer slugged about 90 points higher, obviously hit more homers. But for me, their seasons were very similar in terms of what they produced on the field.
Izzy (New York): How many pitching prospects (and which ones) do you prefer to Noah Syndergaard?
John Manuel: I’d start with Archie Bradley, Taijuan Walker and C.J. Edwards. Andrew Heaney and Michael Wacha would be in that competition, could be one or two others that I’m not thinking of, but it’s not a long list. He’s in the top 5-7 pitching prospects in the game; just got a Roy Halladay comp from a FSL manager today.
Muggsy (Minneapolis): Javier Baez and Miguel Sano are linked in my mind since Baez edged out Sano in Jim Callis' mind last year for top prospect. At the time, I didn't see it - I'm a Twins fan, after all - but Callis made good points regarding positional value and Baez's sterling bat speed. I'm curious who you'd rank the better overall prospect at the end of this season.
John Manuel: I prefer Sano’s feel for hitting and overall game to Baez’s. He’s less aggressive, he’s improved at third base … he’s not as athletic as Baez but I’ve had several scouts question Baez’s hit tool. It would not surprise the scouts I’ve talked to for Baez to hit .250 annually with .300 or so OBPs. he’s still hit 20-plus homers doing that, but his feel for hitting is a legitimate concern. You can’t compare him to Gary Sheffield, as some like to do, when you factor in how terrific Sheffield’s plate discipline was, while Baez lacks that skill, at a similar age.
Joe LeCates (Easton, MD): John, thanks for the chat today. A little bit of a loaded question given the POY announcement today, but comparing Correa and Buxton right now (and of course thinking toward the future), who do you take and how large is that gap?
John Manuel: Glad you asked. Correa also is a fine candidate and had a great year. This guys sounds like a cross between Troy Tulowitzki and Aramis Ramirez. It’s quite an explosive package of tools and skills, and it’s not a yawning gap. Carlos Correa feels like a top 5-10 prospect in the game. I think JJ Cooper’s favorite tidbit on Correa is that he led the Midwest League in fielding percentage at short. Usually we’re talking about low Class A shortstops making 50 errors but Correa is a different animal.
Jimbo (Houston): What are your thoughts on Rio Ruiz?
John Manuel: Lot of Astros questions; had one on Preston Tucker as well where I’d say Tucker is a good organization player who could carve out a role as a Daryle Ward-type reserve, lefty power and limited defensive ability. Ruiz is obviously a different kind of guy, chance to be an everyday 3B. The Astros had strong conviction in his hitting ability in last year’s draft, and he showed that as the year went on. They compared him to Eric Chavez coming out of high school, and that’s still a comp that he could fulfill. He has the bat speed and strength to hit for average and power and made a nice adjustment with his front side leaking out as the season progressed.
Tanner (Omaha): Is Chris Davis a good comp for Joey Gallo?
John Manuel: It’s one we’ve discussed in the office for sure. I think we’ve gotten more Russ Branyan comparisons than any others, but yes, Chris Davis makes sense, lots of swing & miss, was a 3B early in his career, monster raw juice and tons of swing and miss. I personally like that comp.
Jason (Sarasota): What is Mookie Betts ceiling? He had a phenomenal year.
John Manuel: He did have a phenomenal season and impressed a scout I talked to recently, he’s a power-speed middle infielder who seems best suited for second base. When I say power I mean average future home run power, 12-18 HR. But he should be an offensive 2B with speed and solid defensive ability, a solid-average regular if not above-average.
CR (Texas): If you were to re-due the to top 100, how many prospects would the Astros have on it?
John Manuel: The Astros should challenge the Royals’ record of nine top 100 players. Graduating Jarred Cosart and Jonathan Villar hurts that effort, but Correa, Appel, probably Singleton, Mike Foltynewicz, Lance McCullers Jr. … gotta think that’s six pretty clear guys, then the depth of the system could supply three more from the likes of Rio Ruiz, Domingo Santana, Vincent Velasquez . . . it’s a deep system.
Ian (OK): Who is the #1 short stop prospect in the minors right now? Bogaerts? Correa? Beaz? Russell? or LIndor?
John Manuel: Bogaerts for me but that is a stout list. As I said, for me Baez moves off SS.
Norm Chouinard (Connecticut): John, If I could somehow twist your arm and force you to give a prospect handbook rating to Buxton, what would it be?
John Manuel: I’d say 75 Medium. He is still in A ball, so I can’t see going below Medium.
Michael ((NY)): With regards to the previous Syndergaard question, I can understand that you would prefer Walker and Bradley, but are you kidding me with C.J. Edwards? Don't get me wrong, Edwards had a great age 21 season (recently turned 22) but the vast majority of it was at lowA, with only 6 starts at hiA ball. Syndergaard had a great season at age 20 (turned 21 recently) split between hiA and AA, displaying mid-upper 90's heat and impeccable control. This smells like a case of bromance for Jon Daniels and Theo Epstein and NOT actual player evaluation.
John Manuel: Ha, that’s funny. No, it’s just from evaluators I’ve talked to in the FSL considering Edwards’ breaking ball superior to Syndergaard’s. Similar fastballs, Syndergaard probably has a bit better fastball due to the angle he creates to the plate, consistent velo and control, but Edwards at his best has the better curveball and secondary stuff, and he throws plenty hard.
Charles (Chicago): How long to you feel until the cubs are a playoff team again? Between Rizzo, Castro, Baez, Bryant, Almora, Soler, Olt, Alcantara, Edwards, Johnson, Vizcaino thay have a terrific core. Add in next years first round pick and if they can singn a couple top free agent pitchers they should have a pretty good team.
John Manuel: I think it is fair to get excited about the Cubs’ farmhands, in the mix with Houston and Boston among others for top farm system. For me Arodys Vizcaino is not quite in that mix, he has never stayed healthy so I think he really needs to get dinged for that. Hearing nothing but raves in the FSL for Kris Bryant, who will not qualify for the list but who has been outstanding in a short look there.
James (New York): is the fall league this year going to be the best ever
John Manuel: AFL is definitely talented this year, but I’ll go back to the fall of 2011. I was fortunate to do the Rising Stars game that year for MLB Network and remember BP with Trout, Harper and Wil Myers pregame, with Gerrit Cole starting that game … believe he gave up a three-run homer to Nick Franklin and had a rough first inning but as usual was a stand-up guy and mature, great interview afterward. That was a good fall league.
Izzy (New York): RE Springer: Mike Cameron had nearly 50 career WAR. That's better than most #1 prospects.
John Manuel: Would guess most of that comes from defense, though, and Springer is not that caliber defender. If he’s a lesser defender and similar offensive player … he’s a good big leaguer but not elite. Cameron also made, what, one all-star game? I’m not trying to hate on Mike Cameron here though, or George Springer. George Springer is going to be a good big leaguer.
James (New York): Is there a chance that Mike Montgomery of the rays still has a chance of being a impact pitcher.
John Manuel: Depends on what you mean by “impact.” I think he’s more of a back of the rotation type at this point but he’s lefthanded with a solid fastball, cutte, fringy curve and good changeup. There’s a future for him as a big league starter.