Bill Mitchell: Welcome to the combined Arizona League – Pioneer League prospect chat. I love doing rookie leagues and especially enjoyed covering the AZL and its deep group of prospects this year. I could have easily gone 30 deep with that league, so feel free to ask about players that didn’t make the list. While the Pioneer League wasn’t as deep, there were still plenty of intriguing prospects.
Jeff (Somewhere): What can you tell us about Cubs' LH Brailyn Marquez? I'm a little turned off by the HRs allowed to Rk ball hitters, even if he showed some ability to miss bats.
Bill Mitchell: I’ll start today’s chat with a couple of questions about Cubs players who didn’t make the list. Southpaw Brailyn Marquez was on earlier versions of the list, finishing just outside the top 20. Here is the heart of what I wrote about him: “Marquez is a physical, projectable left-hander with plenty of arm strength and a strong lower half. His fastball ranges from 90 to 95 mph with two-seam action and tail. He's got a loose arm with a compact arm swing. Marquez is still trying to get feel for a slurvy 73-79 mph breaking ball that flashes as an average pitch and will eventually morph into a slider. He doesn't use a firm high-80s changeup much.”
Jeff (Somewhwre): Any other Cubs come particularly close?
Bill Mitchell: In addition to the aforementioned Brailyn Marquez, another Cubs player who attracted attention was second baseman Yonathan Perlaza. He didn’t play after August 3rd due to injury, but has a strong athletic build and some upside with the bat. He’s limited to second base but has good hands there. Also remember the name Luis Vasquez, a 17-year-old shortstop from Puerto Rico who signed at the same time as Nelson Velazquez just before the deadline. He has great hands and an accurate arm, and makes good contact at the plate.
Dan (Baltimore): If Brandon Marsh stays healthy, is it star upside? Potential top 50 guy this time next year?
Bill Mitchell: Marsh, who finally got on the field in Orem this summer, still hasn’t played in a full-season league so I'm hesitant to put a “star” label on him. He's going to hit, and with five tools he profiles as a big league regular. Top 50 might still be a bit rich for Marsh at this point, but I could see him as a candidate for the top 100 with a strong full-season debut next year.
Trixie (San Diego): Was Mason House close to making the top 20 in the AZ league?
Bill Mitchell: I like Mason House (Padres 3rd round pick) a lot and there’s plenty of athleticism and potential there, but he wasn’t real close to making the top 20 due to the depth of the league. He missed time periodically to some nagging injuries but improved late in the season. He’s got an efficient swing path and good tools, so give him time and see how he advances next year.
Frank (Dayton): I'm interested in anyone that stood out from the AZL Reds. Where there any players that were well reported on but didn't crack the Top 20 list?
Bill Mitchell: If I could make the AZL list a top 25 instead of top 20, then Reds LHP Jacob Heatherly would have made it. He certainly had a top 20 caliber pro debut. Here’s a portion of what I wrote about him: “He carries a big frame that doesn’t offer much projection, and he shows more pitchability than pure stuff. But he's already got a fastball sitting 91-93, touching 95, with late life, and has feel for a slurvy breaking ball with two-plane depth that is still in development. He throws the breaking ball downhill with the same action as his fastball. Heatherly’s changeup is way behind his other pitches, but projects to be an average offering. Heatherly delivers his pitches with a compact arm action and has good mound presence.”
Mike (Cincinnati): Notably missing from the Pioneer League Top 20 is Miles Gordon. What kept him off of the list?
Bill Mitchell: Gordon had a good summer in Billings in his third pro season after being drafted by the Reds in the fourth round in 2015. Pioneer League scouts and managers were concerned with his swing mechanics and how well he’ll be able to handle more advanced pitchers when he gets to full-season ball.
Jesus Luzardo (Did I Qualify?): Did Jesus Luzardo (SP-OAK) qualify? If not, where would he rank?
Bill Mitchell: I was really, really impressed with left-hander Luzardo after he came over to the A’s from the Nationals, and had him penciled in for the AZL top five. But then he was promoted to the NYP League and didn’t have enough innings to qualify for my list. That’s a special arm. I’m a big fan of young Jesus.
Joe schmo (Arlington,TX): By the end of next year will Hans Crouse be the Rangers top prospect?
Bill Mitchell: The Rangers system is a pretty good one, especially with talent like Leody Taveras, Cole Ragans, their other recent draft picks, etc. It’s probably a stretch to project that Crouse will jump up that quickly since his innings will probably still be limited next season.
Doug (Centennial): What kind of upside do you see for Starling Heredia ?
Bill Mitchell: Starling Heredia projects as a big league regular. He’s a beast physically and I believe the hit tool will continue to develop with age and experience. But what impressed me most was what I heard about his character and especially his dedication to conditioning and nutrition. It’s a thick body but he’s doing an outstanding job of keeping it in optimal physical condition.
Sammy (Cincy): Where would Hunter Greene have ranked? What did scouts have to say about him during his limited time as a Mustang?
Bill Mitchell: It’s safe to say that Greene would have been the Pioneer League number one prospect if he had qualified, just based on draft position and his enormous potential. I only got one report from his limited Pioneer League appearances, but have seen him on the mound and heard more about him in instructional league. The fastball has been reported to be 99 to 102 mph in instructs, but it’s been really straight according to a couple of Royals hitters who faced him earlier this week. He’s also been working more on his breaking balls, so his time here in Arizona has been more of a learning experience. Give him time.
Loren (San Diego, CA): Is it wrong as a Padre fan to look at Gore and start dreaming about him becoming our Clayton Kershaw?
Bill Mitchell: I’ve also heard the Kershaw comps being put on Gore, as well as him being compared to a young Cole Hamels. I don’t like putting such lofty expectations on any prospect. The kid has the potential to be a top of the rotation starter, so just sit back and enjoy watching his progress.
jeff (montana): Andy Yerzy kinda snuck up on some people this year. Is he for real, or are we scouting the stat line a little too much?
Bill Mitchell: I try to avoid using the stat lines in rookie leagues, but especially in the Pioneer League where the numbers are really, really inflated. Not everyone I talked to is on Yerzy, but scouts and managers who saw him late noted the progress that got him ranked here. I had to dig a little deeper to get the best info on Yerzy, and it sounds like he really did improve his swing and approach later in the season. He’s still very much a work-in-progress, both at and behind the plate.
jeff (montana): Can we get your take on the Padres' Jordy Barley and Esteury Ruiz? Are you a believer? Do you prefer one over another? Thanks.
Bill Mitchell: I not only was on the Esteury Ruiz bandwagon early in the AZL season but was behind the wheel of that bus. Yeah, I’m a big fan. While putting comps on a player always scares me, think of the early Alfonso Soriano. I recall when Soriano was in the Fall League and was this skinny, unrefined kid who could hit the ball a mile. That’s Ruiz now. As for whom I like better between Ruiz and Barley, my ranking of Ruiz higher on the list answers that question. Barley has way more tools than Ruiz but less baseball smarts. I look forward to watching those two develop as they progress through the Padres system.
Elliot (Youngstown OH): Anything positive to say about Tyler Freeman, who statistically was OK, or Quentin Holmes, who statistically was awful, for the Arizona Indians?
Bill Mitchell: Holmes and Freeman were Cleveland’s top two picks in 2017, and were both in the conversation for the list but not real close to making the top 20. Holmes has incredible athleticism and tools. Early on he had trouble squaring balls up but started making better contact as the season progressed. Freeman is a gamer and just a good baseball player, with the range and actions to stay at shortstop.
jeff (montana): Can you expand on Gabriel Arias a little more please? For someone quite young for his league, he seemed to hold his own. Thanks
Bill Mitchell: Arias was a bit of an enigma at times in that the production didn’t always match his tools. He’s got plus tools on both sides of the field and just needs more reps. The fact that the Padres sent him to Low-A at the age of 17 to finish his first pro season speaks to how highly they value him.
Devon (Tampa): Did Charlie Neuweiler get any run for top 20?
Bill Mitchell: Royals RHP Charlie Neuweiler was in the discussion. Drafted in the fifth round from his New York high school, Neuweiler knows how to pitch, keeps the ball down and trusts his stuff. A very interesting prospect. I’m working on the Royals prospect list now, and I’m pretty sure there will be a place for him in that organization’s top 30.
Ralphie Mun-Kee (Katella): All of all the exciting young Latin arms in the Angels system (Wilkel, Yan bros, Aquino, etc.), who was your favorite to watch personally?
Bill Mitchell: I’m a big Jose Soriano fan, as you can tell by his inclusion on a very deep Arizona League list. He really made good progress this summer. The other pitcher that I really liked was 11th round pick Jerryell Rivera, a LHP from Puerto Rico. He’s very tall, very lean and projectable. I don’t have a lot of notes on him since I knew he wouldn’t pitch enough to qualify, but I recall that he was sitting around 90 mph but with the projection to add more velo. He’s got a loose arm and gets good extension.
Jay (NJ): I know that he wasn't there long, but Starling Heredia put up some solid #'s while at Ogden. Granted his #'s at Great Lakes were no where as good (SSS) what do you see as Heredia's upside in the long term?
Bill Mitchell: As I answered in a previous question Heredia projects as a big league regular, most likely in left field. As for his numbers in the Midwest League not matching what he did in the AZL and PIO, I wouldn’t worry about that. He was an 18-year-old going to a tougher hitter’s league.
GPT (US): Any Giants prospects, who didn't make the Top 20, that you thought were interesting? Rincones, Doval, Munguia, Genoves?
Bill Mitchell: 3rd round pick Seth Corry was in my top 25. He was very inconsistent this summer, with scouts referring to his appearances as seeing either “the good Seth Corry” or “the bad Seth Corry.” At his best, he’s got good tailing movement on a 91-94 mph fastball and a shut-down curveball with late bite. He needs to significantly improve the control and command of his pitches, but the Giants have an excellent track record in developing pitchers like Corry. As for other players on the AZL Giants squad, Diego Rincones and Ricardo Genoves undoubtedly rank above Ismael Munguia as prospects. But watching the latter, an 18-year-old outfielder from Nicaragua, was just plain fun. He’s a little guy with surprising pop who consistently plays all out. I liked scrappy little guys, and that fits Munguia. He just might make it someday as a 4th or 5th outfielder.
John (San Diego): Does Esteury Ruiz have the frame to add weight ... and if so, where do you see him ending up on the defensive spectrum? Thanks!
Bill Mitchell: Keep those Esteury Ruiz questions coming! Ruiz has wiry strength right now. I expect that he’ll add weight. Regardless, I believe that second base is his best position moving forward regardless of how the body develops. But it doesn’t matter where he plays because the bat will carry him.
John (San Diego): When we compare Gore to the best pitching prospects in AZL history, who are we comparing him against?
Bill Mitchell: I’ve been closely following the AZL for nearly 20 years, and declared this summer that Gore was the pitching prospect that I could recall. Jake Peavy came through before I became obsessed with the league and I don’t remember much about when Matt Cain was in the AZL right out of high school. Some of the other premier pitchers like Madison Bumgarner skipped over the AZL. Those are some heady names to mention, but then again Mark Pawelek was one of the better pitchers I saw in the AZL after he was drafted by the Cubs and it didn’t work out for him.
Shawn C (Seattle): Is Nick Allen the 2nd coming of Rey Ordonez or does he have more bat than that?
Bill Mitchell: That’s a great comp, because I had more than one scout mention a Rey Ordonez type career as a possible outcome for Allen. It’s still too soon to tell how the bat will develop to see whether he becomes a better or equal hitter to Ordonez, but regardless the glove is what will get him to the big leagues.
Angels Farm System (Currently Rebuilding): Torii Hunter Jr., surprising prospect or surprising performer?
Bill Mitchell: I’ve seen Hunter quite often since he first reported to Angels camp in March, and have been pleased with his development. He’s looking more like a baseball player instead of a wide receiver trying to catch a spiraling spheroid. He’s got plus-plus speed, raw strength and bat speed, as well as really good makeup. The swing still has a long way to go to hit better pitching, and at 22 he’s got age working against him. As one scout said, keep him on the follow list.
a.j. (dallas): Is Thompson or Taveras the Rangers CF of the future? Their age being only 3 months apart would seem to put them on a similar timeline.
Bill Mitchell: Taveras is two levels ahead of Thompson right now, so I’ll go with Leody as the center fielder of the future. But there’s plenty of time before either makes it to the big leagues, so who will be in the middle of the outfield in four or five years is yet to be determined. If they both fulfill their potential, it’ll be a nice dilemma for the Rangers to solve.
Elliot (Youngstown OH): 17-year old Johnnathan Rodriguez displayed impressive patience at the plate, although admittedly not racking up any other impressive numbers. Long term project of course, but is a cause for hope?
Bill Mitchell: Rodriguez, a 17-year-old outfielder, was Cleveland’s 3rd round pick this year from the Carlos Beltran Academy in Puerto Rico. He’s tall and lean with long arms. Rodriguez was in and out of the lineup quite a bit, so I only got to see him a couple of times. The swing looked really raw, but then I saw him get his arms extended and drive the ball over the center fielder’s head for a triple. He’s still very young and perhaps will need two more years of short-season ball.
Deywane (Memphis): How close was Miguel Hernandez SS (Reds) to making the AZL Top 20?
Bill Mitchell: Hernandez was in the discussion despite not coming up from the DSL until mid-summer. He wasn’t on my radar until Reds manager Jose Nieves mentioned his name, calling him a legit, natural shortstop with good movements on the field. I’ll take another look at him next summer when he likely moves up to Billings.
Ethan (San Diego): Was the Padres Luis Patino close to your Top 20? What are your thoughts on him?
Bill Mitchell: Patino, a Padres RHP, was in my top 25. The native of Colombia started the year in the DSL before making it to Arizona for 9 appearances. He’s got very good mound presence for his age and attacks hitters with his four-seam fastball. Every year there’s someone who I later regret not putting on the list. Patino and Padres outfielder Tirso Ornelas may be those guys this year. There haven’t yet been any questions about Ornelas, but the 17-year-old Mexican outfielder was the very last painful cut I had to make from the top 20.
paul (south carolina): why is the pioneer league considered so hitter friendly? short fields?
Bill Mitchell: Altitude, thin air, short ballparks … all of the above.
Matt (Covina,CA): Who would you compare Angels RHP Chris Rodriguez to in terms of stuff/pitch mix? He and Adell top 100 guys next year? Thanks
Bill Mitchell: I threw that question out to a friend who came back with Matt Garza for a good comparison of C-Rod’s potential. I’m not involved in the top 100 process, but I could see both Chris and Jo making the top 100.
Luke (MA): Thank you for the chat, Bill. In a combined AZL/Pioneer top 20, how many from each league make the list?
Bill Mitchell: That’s a great question! On a real quick look, and eliminating Adell and Lutz since they ranked on both lists, I’d put Chris Rodriguez, Brandon Marsh, Starling Heredia, Ryan Vilade and Pedro Gonzalez from the Pioneer list . At least those five names, and then I’d have to take more time to analyze the rest of the two lists.
Jeff (Chandler Az): Who has the greatest upside Ramos or Adell
Bill Mitchell: I flipped those two back and forth when making the AZL list. It’s pretty close but I’ll give Adell the slightest of possible edges.
Bill Mitchell: Wow, that was fun! We had lots of very good questions and I had a blast chatting about my two favorite minor leagues. Thanks to all for participating. If you have more questions, you may hit me up on Twitter at @billazbbphotog. Now it’s time for me to head out into the brutal Arizona sunshine for an afternoon of instructional league baseball.