2017 Midwest League Top 20 Prospects Chat

Sean (Chicago): Thanks for chatting with us JJ. Looking at each league's rankings, the Midwest League looks to have the highest concentration of top end talent with Vlad Jr, Tatis, Bichette, etc We've all heard a lot regarding the 3 mentioned above. How does Taylor Trammell compare? He was seen a raw 2 sport athlete coming out and had to open scouts eyes his first year in full season ball showing patience, hitting for average/power, and showing his elite athleticism with 40 SB. Do you see him moving up into the top 50 when rankings come out in February?

J.J. Cooper: Hey everyone. My apologies. Ended up on the phone with all the breaking Braves news. The Midwest League was loaded this year and Trammell is among those who really stood out in a good way. I would say he was a little less raw than that may indicate–but he was a two sport star and he did show a very advanced approach this summer. He is a pretty polished hitter for his age and showed an ability to make adjustments and get better and better. I think when he’s fully matured he’ll trade some speed for size and power but he’s easily one of the best prospects in a pretty deep Reds’ system and he’s got a pretty good case for a Top 100 spot this offseason.

Keith (Farmington, CT): Thanks JJ. Am I wrong or is Vladimir Guerrero Jr's plate discipline at age 18 (76 BB to 62 K's) Joey Votto-esque? Do we have a generational talent?

J.J. Cooper: It’s actually better than Votto’s at the same age. Votto’s first pro season with more walks than strikeouts came in 2012 as a 28-year-old. Vlad Jr. is doing it as a teenager.

VandyGuy (VandyLand): I know he didn't get enough ABs for consideration, but Jeren Kendall's contact issues seem worrisome. Any concern from scouts that he may be another Buddy Reed type? Tooled up but raw college bar with contact problems?

J.J. Cooper: I wouldn’t go that far as Buddy Reed carried significantly larger hit tool questions than Kendall, but the hit tool is the question for Kendall. If Kendall is a 50 hitter, he’ll be a solid big league regular thanks to his speed and defense, but that’s projecting significant improvement right now as he had contact issues in college as well.

Philip (San Diego): Given Michel Baez's tanking over Whitley does that mean he's considered a top 50 prospect now?

J.J. Cooper: Lot of reporting to do this offseason, but I’d say yes. Baez has a lot of great attributes. Great fastball, surprising control/command for a big young pitcher. Lot to like here.

Friedrich (Beijing): What distinguishes a swing as "whippy" (re: Kiebert Ruiz)?

J.J. Cooper: Whippiness has a lot to do with the hands. When I think whippy, I think pre-injury Jurickson Profar. It’s someone with plenty of bat speed and a handsy swing in my definition of it.

Loren (San Diego, CA): Outside of Fernando Tatis and Michel Baez, which Tin Cap(s) do you see jumping up the top 100/top 10 team prospects in 2018?

J.J. Cooper: Gabriel Arias got a late stopover and will likely be back next year in Fort Wayne but he has a chance to be a Top 10 prospect at some point. Lot of tools there. Adrian Morejon needs to develop more durability/ability to maintain his stuff, but when he’s on, he’s got Top 100 caliber stuff. I’m one of Mason Thompson’s bigger believers but he has work to do to get to Top 10 consideration.

J.J. Cooper: Gabriel Arias got a late stop in Fort Wayne and should be back next year. He’s a potential future Top 10 prospect for them as he’s a pretty impressive middle infielder. Adrian Morejon needs to carry his stuff through the season/deeper in games but when he’s on he’s a Top 100 caliber pitcher. I’m one of Mason Thompson’s biggest believers. There’s no way to say he’s a Padres Top 10 Prospect right now, but I still believe he could eventually crack the top 10. It’s one of the deepest systems in baseball.

Kyle Glaser: Hey guys, JJ asked me to take over for a bit while he takes a call. Hopefully my pinch-hitting skills will be Manny Mota-esque. Let’s get to it

Bryan C (Los Angeles): What do you think of the Dodgers Midwest League prospects, and who are guys who will play at Great Lakes next year to pay attention to?

Kyle Glaser: A lot of people were focused on Lansing and Fort Wayne with all the talent there, naturally, but the Dodgers kids in Great Lakes generally showed very, very well. Keibert Ruiz, Dustin May and Jordan Sheffield all showed some very promising things and drew positive reviews, while guys like Gavin Lux and Jeren Kendall had their struggles but still showed some things scouts liked for their experience level. It would stand to reason Starling Heredia starts back there next year, he would be a guy to watch for sure

Dan (East Coast): Any chance Jesus Sanchez is primed for an Eloy-esque breakout next season?

Kyle Glaser: Eloy-esque is probably a little much, but Sanchez is a very, very good prospect Rays fans should get excited about.

DR (Baltimore): Brandon Marsh is a strong candidate to be top 3 on this list next season, right?

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Kyle Glaser: Absolutely. We’ll have our short season league rankings coming out in the next week or two, you’ll see Marsh has some high rankings on those

Bill (St. Louis): Why would Cease be ahead of Hicks? Hicks has touched higher on the gun, has a higher upside curve, is slightly younger, and showed the ability to pound the bottom of the zone in palm beach.

Kyle Glaser: Hicks’ raw stuff is undeniable, but one of the issues is his command and control are such that they don’t allow him to get the most out of it, while Cease’s do so much better. Just compare how often they missed bats. Cease struck out 126 in 93.1 IP this year, Hicks struck out 95 in 105 IP. That’s a big part of the equation

Terry (Missouri): If you look back to 2014, Alex Reyes' report is extremely similar to Hicks' this year. What he lacks in Reyes' plane is compensated by sink, so with some typical Cards changeup refinement, will Hicks be at that level?

Kyle Glaser: Not quite. Reyes’ command was significantly better – see his 11.3 K/9 in 2014 at Peoria compared to 7.3 for Hicks. Hicks has real stuff, no two ways about it, but getting his command up (which he showed flashes of at Palm Beach) is going to be big for him.

Matt (Rays Fan): Just curious how BA balances out age, projection, and production when determining prospect rankings. Is Leody Taveras a top 35 midseason prospect while Jesus Sanchez and Traylor Trammell were top 100-125 purely due to future projection? Are these three prospects now viewed are similarly ranked (top 50ish) now that we've finished 2017?

Kyle Glaser: We take all three into account and weigh them heavily, particularly age relative to level and how the production and projection fit into that context. Taveras is a full year younger than both and at the same level, so that’s part of it, but with Trammells and Sanchez’s performance this year it’s very reasonable to expect all three to be in a similar, much closer range in the pre-2018 ranking

Gerry (Toronto): The third best player on the Lugnuts was Edward Olivares who hit 17 home runs. Did he get any consideration?

Kyle Glaser: Olvares got a lot of love from scouts. Had a couple bring him up unprompted. Huge range in center field, plus runner, plus arm, good bat speed. There are some concerns about his setup and load and most evaluators see fringy power production moving forward once he faces better pitching, and in a deep MWL there are just more guys scouts saw as everyday-type players. Olivares is good though, and don’t be shocked if he keeps climbing

Keoth (Durham, NC): What feedback did you get back on Peoria righty Mike O'Reilly? Put up some phenomenal numbers. Is he a major-League caliber pitcher?

Kyle Glaser: The general sense on O’Reilly is evaluators (both internal and external) want to see him do it at higher levels before they buy in. He’s a softer throwing, righthanded command type of pitcher doing it at age 22 against a lot of 18-20 year olds. We already saw him give a up a lot more hits when he went to Palm Beach for example. He’s worth watching, but as of right now does not project as a big leaguer for most evaluators

Bob (Mundelein, IL): As two taller RHP's, is there anything that separates Baez from Whitley at this point? Who has the higher ceiling?

Kyle Glaser: This was a really interesting debate among scouts. I heard from two who had Whitley slightly ahead, two who had Baez ahead, both neck and neck. They both have No. 1 starter potential. Right now Baez shows slightly better command, Whitley shows better secondaries from a consistency standpoint. Don’t be surprised if they’re right next to each other when our 2018 rankings come out next spring

Corey (San Diego): Lots of Tincaps questions but was wondering about one more that you didn't touch on... Can you tell me what your thoughts are on Reggie Lawson?

Kyle Glaser: Lawson is a talented, mature kid who shows you some tantalizing flashes, but he gives up a lot of baserunners (and, by extension, runs) at every level because he leaves the ball up too frequently. It was something you could see even in HS. He was getting a lot of swings and misses on 93 mph up that HS kids were swinging through, but pros were going to either lay off of or tee off if it was at the letters. He’s going to have to learn to pitch down consistently before he can really take off and be that guys who’s effective every single start

Don (Rosemont, IL): How high is the ceiling for Monte Harrison? And do you think Jeren Kendall will have the type of bat to be an everyday player in the majors?

Kyle Glaser: Monte Harrison can ball out. Like really, really ball out. You want to talk about power, speed, size, motor, it’s all there. As long as he stays healthy, which he has had trouble with, there’s an All-Star center fielder in there. And that’s the million dollar question with Jeren Kendall. I think you give him the benefit of the doubt being he signed late and got sent to Great Lakes fairly aggressively, but most talk about his potential to hit as “a chance”, not a “he’ll hit enough”. We’ll see

Johnny (Seattle): I realize that the MWL was incredibly deep, but did you get any feedback on Luis Liberato or Joe Rizzo in Clinton?

Kyle Glaser: The feedback on Rizzo was really, really not positive early, but to his credit he got better in July and August and did ok in a short Cal League look. It’s really all bat with him, his athleticism is worse than expected and his power potential isn’t great. He’s going to have to hit, and hit a lot, to get there. And Luis Liberato is really the same story as always. Good athlete, can play defense, very little feel for hitting on a consistent basis. He’s a fifth outfielder with speed, at best, in the eyes of pretty much every evaluator we’ve spoken with

Lance (La Jolla, CA): Are we potentially talking about Michel Baez as a top 25 prospect in all of baseball next year? Could Huston Potts end up in the top 100 next year or even this year?

Kyle Glaser: Top 25 might be a little rich, but top 40 is in the cards. And Potts is very good but no one sees him at that level yet. If you like him it’s as a solid everyday third baseman, but not a potential All-Star that most of the Top 100 guys are

Kyle Glaser: Alright folks, going to hand it back off to JJ now

J.J. Cooper: Thanks for Kyle stepping in. I’m back.

Devon (Belmont, CA): What kind of power ceiling do you see for Bo Bichette? 20 homers out of the question?

J.J. Cooper: Freddy Galvis has hit 20 HRs in the big leagues and I never thought he’d top 10 HRs in a season so I’d say Bichette is capable of hitting more than 20 in the future. Obviously things could change and MLB baseball could return to some level of HR normalcy but in the present environment, I’d say Bichette has a chance to have more than 20 HR power. That being said, right now 20 home runs is barely worth celebrating as 117 MLB players hit 20+ HRs this year.

Jake (NY): Is Keibert Ruiz's bat special enough that he could develop into the top catching prospect in baseball? I've heard of Mejia comps

J.J. Cooper: Yes. To hit like Ruiz has hit at this age while playing catcher in low Class A and high Class A is something very rarely seen. He has a special bat and the scouting reports say that while there is work to do, he should be able to stay behind the plate if he works at it.

Jason L. (Pleasant Hill, CA): Will Beloit's athletic IF/OF Javon Shelby ever get to his toolsy skill set? Based on his whiff totals, seems like his approach at the plate needs to be revamped.

J.J. Cooper: It’s hard not to be skeptical. Shelby’s issues in the Midwest League were the same that he faced at Kentucky. He just doesn’t put the bat on the ball enough to let his power play. He hit .250 as a junior at Kentucky and now he’s hit .196 in two pro seasons. A complete redo of his swing/approach could clean up some of the holes in his swing, but that’s very tough to do.

DH (Pittsburgh): Very surprised to see Baez ahead of Whitley. Do many league managers prefer Baez? Is there a chance he develops into a 1, 2?

J.J. Cooper: Both are among the best pitching prospects in baseball. Long way to go, but he has front-line starter traits.

Joel (St. Louis): Is Nick Plummer a non-prospect at this point?

J.J. Cooper: He’s still a prospect, but one who faces understandably healthy skepticism. Plummer can draw a walk, and there is some hope that there were residual effects from the hand injury that cost him the entire 2016 season. That said, he’s shown no ability to drive the ball yet and the track record for Michigan high school hitters is not all that good. He’ll be 22 midway through the 2018 season and it’s hard to say he’s fully ready for high Class A, so he’s got a long ways to go.

Billy (MD): How close were Jose Siri and Tony Santillan to making the list? What held them back?

J.J. Cooper: This is always the tough aspect of doing a Midwest League Top 20 (and a Sally League Top 20 for that matter) they are massive leagues that are hard to limit to 20. With Siri, his age and his improving but still at times shaky plate discipline were the biggest hurdle to ranking. See Santillan on the right night and it’s hard to imagine him not making this top 20. See him on the wrong night and he looks like a power reliever and power relievers rarely make MWL Top 20s.

DH (Pittsburgh): You talk about Trammell maturing and possibly adding power. What would that do to his speed? How would you grade his current and future speed and what kind of player do you suppose he'll be? Top of the order or middle, if all goes well?

J.J. Cooper: I think he ends up as a middle of the order bat. He’s got the frame to fill out more and more into a power/hit corner outfielder.

J.J. Cooper: Thanks everyone for being patient and dealing with our trading back and forth on chatting.

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