2017 Gulf Coast League Top 20 Prospects Chat

Ben Badler: Hi everyone! Thanks for joining me to talk prospects today. Let’s get started.

Suns Fan (Hagerstown): Do you think either of Luis Garcia or Yasel Antuna start in Hagerstown next year? The Nats have been pretty aggressive with their high level Dominican signees recently. Do either project to add much power?

Ben Badler: It's possible. They did send Juan Soto to Low-A at 18 in his second pro season, but Garcia and Antuna aren't at his level as a hitter. But if they look ready during spring training or at some point in April/May during extended spring, you could see both of them make that jump.

TG03 (New York, NY): Hey Ben. Was their any consideration for Canaan Smith and what our your thoughts on him?

Ben Badler: Yes. He was one of the last cuts off the back of the list. Extremely selective hitter with good power and the bat speed that should translate at higher levels. He belongs in the same tier of players in the back half of the list.

Brad (DeeCee): Nationals' Jose Sanchez obviously struggled at the plate, but was among the GCL's youngest players. Do scouts still see potential with his bat, or is he glove-only at this point?

Ben Badler: Very good glove, he's just young and weak. He started the season as a 16-year-old, so he's basically the equivalent of a current high school junior or young senior. Heard a lot of praise for his defensive instincts, footwork and all-around baseball IQ. When he is in the batter's box, he puts the bat to the ball, it just doesn't do much right now because of the lack of strength. Now maybe that strength never materializes—that's one of his big risk factors—but if it does, he can be an everyday shortstop. It just is going to take some patience for that to happen.

Dave (Grayson, ga): Did Juan Contreras and Freddy Tarnok make good impressions in their short time pitching?

Ben Badler: Tarnok did. He didn’t quality for the list but he threw strikes and he was up to 97. Contreras was extremely wild and has a long, long way to go.

John (NC): Hi Ben, love your work. How was the talent level of the GCL this year compared to 2015 and 16? Thanks

Ben Badler: Seemed a little down from previous years. The scouts I spoke with felt the same. Last year we had the No. 1 overall pick in the draft in the GCL too, but we also had Juan Soto, Bo Bichette, Jesus Sanchez, Sixto Sanchez, Matt Manning…. the players in those top spots this year aren't quite as strong.

Sean (Centreville, VA): Gustavo Campero is a 5'6", 182 pound catcher with 21 stolen bases in the GCL. None of that adds up. Did his name come up in any conversations?

Ben Badler: Campero is a good sleeper to watch. Despite that listed height and weight, he is athletic. Has to get better blocking/receiving but he has a strong arm, he controls the strike zone well and it's quality contact when he connects. It's a pretty limited sample both in terms of his performance and scouting history that we have on him relative to his peers, but I could see him taking a leap forward a year from now. Nice pickup by the Yankees for $35,000.

Mike (Virginia): Were any Red Sox considered for the list? Seems like a down year for their GCL club, albeit with a couple under the radar-type prospects.

Ben Badler: It was a down year for them. Being banned from international signings in 2016 and losing Simon Muzziotti, who is on this list (as well as Albert Guiamaro, one of the better prospects on the Marlins club) hurt them. Tyler Esplin is a deeper sleeper to keep an eye on from that club. Seventh-round pick who turned 18 during the season who has a knack for driving the ball well the opposite way.

Larry (Ga): Can Abrahan Gutierrez be a big league catcher? How did GCL reports match his pre-signing reports?

Ben Badler: He can catch. He's been behind the plate a long time and it shows in a lot of the little things he does, although with the way he's built he's always going to have to work to maintain his conditioning and flexibility. Offensively, he's steady, he has a sense for the strike zone and uses the middle of the field, it's just a question of how much offensive impact is he going to bring.

Tommy N. (San Diego): Do you think MacKenzie Gore will make it to the big leagues before age 21?

Ben Badler: He has that type of talent, but I would bet against it.

Matt H (Houston): Will the Astros start Jairo Solis in Quad Cities at the start of 2018? That seems to fit their M.O.

Ben Badler: They might, but even the Astros don’t know yet where they’re going to send him. My bet, given his age/experience level and the Astros wanting to manage his workload, is that he starts April in extended and could jump to Low-A early in the season.

Scott (St. Louis): Thoughts on Jonathan Machado? He and Delvin Perez seem to be the most exciting Cardinal prospects in the GCL.

Ben Badler: I like Machado. Put my thoughts on him in his scouting report. Delvin Perez has been underwhelming. His stock has tumbled over the past 15 months.

Juan peguero (Dominican republic): Cual de las firmas internacionales cree que veremos el próximo año en la lista????

Ben Badler: Which of the 2017 international signings will we see on the list next year? That’s a good question. All of our top four prospects signed with organizations that have GCL clubs (Wander Franco, Daniel Flores, Ronny Mauricio and Everson Pereira), plus Danny Diaz, Ronny Rojas, Luis Garcia, Jelfry Marte and Eric Pardinho could be there too. Some of those clubs like the Red Sox tend to start all their players in the DSL, but there should be a lot of good young international players in the GCL next year. And players this young can change quickly, especially after teams get them into their academies with regular meals and pro instruction, so I’m sure some of the players below that tier will take off too over the next 12 months.

Joseph (Philadelphia): Which GCL Phillies are you most excited about and which are the most likely to make a leap forward? Thanks

Ben Badler: The three on the list. And scouts were pretty split on which one they liked the best of that group, but a lot of praise for each one. Ben Pelletier is another one to keep an eye on from that club. He was a 2016 draft pick but he played almost the full year as an 18-year-old and took some significant steps forward this year with the bat.

Chris (Pittsburgh): The Pirates sent quite a few high draft picks to the GCL. Was there much buzz around Jennings or Bolton on the mound or Mitchell in the outfield? (Yes, I know I'm getting greedy since there are already three Bucs in the top 10, but it was a rough season up here.)

Ben Badler: That was a talented team. The one other player from the Pirates who didn’t make the list but got some buzz was Rodolfo Castro. A lot of things he still has to smooth out but he does a lot of things well with more untapped potential in there.

Benny Blanco (The Bronx): Thanks for chatting. What did you think of Vientos and Greg Guerrero? Who is the better Mets prospect?

Ben Badler: Vientos. Guerrero’s bat was supposed to be one of his best tools when he signed, but he’s had trouble adjusting to pro arms.

Tom (NJ): Did Jhordanny Mezquita get any consideration?

Ben Badler: His name came up, but more as a guy to keep an eye on. He does it more with savvy and polish for the level than pure stuff, but he put himself on the radar as a lefty with those type of results.

Sean (Michigan): Ben, Is the model of having two GCL teams (like the Tigers) a help or a hindrance to developing players?

Ben Badler: I think it depends on the situation and the reason for having two GCL teams. The Tigers added a second GCL team after the Venezuelan Summer League shut down. They wanted to still operate an academy in Venezuela (and I do think they have shown a demonstrable edge in Venezuelan scouting), but with the limitations in their DR academy, they went with two GCL teams instead of two DSL teams. So about half of their GCL players are really younger players who normally would be in the DSL (or VSL, if that still existed), which I don’t think is ideal for those players. But I do like that the Tigers, Yankees and Padres all have two GCL or AZL teams. It’s more roster spots for potential talent. It means you can sign more players, at minimal cost in the bigger picture, and if one of those players turns into the next Eugenio Suarez, you’re coming out way, way ahead. Volume of signings is an important component of a productive international program. I think smart teams will add more complex league teams going forward, and you might see some clubs even go from two to three DSL teams too.

Greg (ATL): Thanks for the chat. Any consideration on Jeffrey Ramos or Jean Carlos Encarnacion in the Atlanta system? Any reports on them?

Ben Badler: Both names came up as players to keep an eye on. Encarnacion is a free-swinger, but it’s high exit velocity off the bat and he runs surprisingly well for someone his size. Ramos is another one who has to tighten his plate discipline, but when he swings at strikes and stays through the ball, it’s loud contact.

Gerry (Toronto): The Blue Jays had a good team this year and led their division for most of the season before the Phillies passed them in the last week. Yet none of their players made this list. Their roster included the batting champ, Dominic Abbadessa, and some good infielders in Davis Schneider, Otto Lopez, Luis De Los Santos and Jose Theran. Did any of them get mentioned as good prospects?

Ben Badler: From that group, De los Santos did get some talk. Heard good things about the defense, but the pitch recognition is going to have to improve to hit at higher levels. The sleeper from that group is Emerson Jimenez. The Rockies signed him a while back as an infielder, he topped out at Double-A, got released in May, and the Blue Jays signed him a month later as a pitcher. Outstanding numbers out of the bullpen and he’s been up to 99 mph, consistently in the mid-90s.

Jeff (Minnesota): Your thoughts on Julio Martinez of the Tigers?

Ben Badler: He will flash signs of life with the bat, but I don’t know if it’s enough to carry him to the big leagues. Next year will be a big one for him.

rschutzpah (Michigan): Tigers have actually been more pron to taking a HS in the draft in recent years. Is there a good chance this continues with the first pick overall?

Ben Badler: Yes. After watching Team USA, seeing some of the Cape Cod League, talking to some scouts and looking at our own internal reports on the college class, I don’t see any college players who should be a clear-cut No. 1 overall pick right now.

Kevin (Friendswood): The Astros pushed Solis even more aggressively than they did Franklin Perez 2 years ago, how would you say the two prospects compare at the same age?

Ben Badler: I think Solis is more polished at the same age, but keep in mind that Perez had also spent some time as a third baseman when he was an amateur in Carlos Guillen’s program. But Solis is exciting. Astros are keeping the system stocked at the lower levels with their international program.

Dave (Grayson, ga): Curious why BA hasn't had much coverage of the Braves international mess. Have you heard anything??

Ben Badler: This is a fair question. The answer is yes, I have heard a lot. As you can imagine, what's happening there is complicated, with a lot of different elements to the story, some of it changing day to day behind the scenes. Some of what's out there right now is true. Some of it is spin from people attempting to protect or promote their own interests. I also have a tremendous amount of long-term patience and a disciplined, evidenced-based process that I apply to all of our international coverage, whether it's a scouting report or a more sensitive case like this one. Those same principles will apply to our coverage of what's happening in this case as well.

Dave (New jersey): Is drew waters the type of player that could become a top 100 prospect next season?

Ben Badler: Not heading into 2018. Maybe beyond that, if he can keep that swing-and-miss rate in check.

John (St. Louis, Mo): What feedback did you get on the GCL Cardinals outfielder Terry Fuller from scouts/coaches?

Ben Badler: Rough debut. Big power but still raw, going to have to close up some holes to tap into with more frequency in games.

Brian (Jupiter, FL): What Cardinals prospects in the GCL stood out to scouts/coaches aside from Montero and Machado? Why?

Ben Badler: Leandro Cedeno didn’t qualify because he got injured and didn’t play much, but he showed impressive power during his brief playing time. Hard to take away too much because of how little he was on the field, but he’s someone to keep an eye on for next year. And Carlos Soto despite his numbers still shows good hitting attributes. But he has to perform better next year.

Ken (Nothern California): What are your opinions on infielders Junior Severino, Luis Soto, and pitcher Yelfri Del Rosario?

Ben Badler: The scouting reports on Severino and Del Rosario are on the site. If that’s Livan Soto, you can basically copy and paste my answer about Nationals SS Livan Soto from above and apply it to him. Very instinctive defender, good internal clock, light on his feet, a lot of praise for his defense, he’s just young with a small, thin frame that lacks strength. He does have a sharp eye for the strike zone, so getting stronger is going to be critical for him to do more damage when he puts the ball in play.

Ben Badler: Thanks for all the questions today. And thank you as always for supporting what we do at Baseball America. Our Top 10s are rolling out soon, and the 2018 Prospect Handbook is available for sale right now in the BA store. Have a great day.

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