Baseball America

AFL Top 20 Prospects Chat

Q:  Richard Smiley from Chicago, IL asks:
Kary —

Thanks for doing the chat. How does this year’s AFL crop stack up in comparison to those of the past few years?

 A: 

Kary Booher:
Everybody up and ready? We’ll try to get to as many questions as
possible, but a pre-emptive apology if there is a slight delay in the
middle of today’s chat. We’re trying to track down the package in the
Khalil Greene trade to the Padres. The St. Louis paper is reporting
that its’ two minor league pitchers that weren’t on the active roster
at the end of last season. That leaves open several possibilities.
Mitchell Boggs wasn’t called back up in September after a midseason
audition, but he could fit the Padres needs if and when they do part
with Peavy. No way they would part with Clayton Mortensen, their 07
first-round supplemental pick out of Gonzaga. He reached Triple-A by
the second week of June this past season and could be valuable if
Carpenter is a no-go and the rotation remains in flux. Anyway, let’s
get on with the chat …

Kary Booher: Thanks for writing
from Chicago. I probably should offer a disclaimer on this year’s
Arizona Fall League list. It was my first swing through the circuit, as
BA brought me on board in late July to fill the role of since-departed
Chris Kline (save your applause). But what I gathered was that this
year’s crop of talent in the AFL was pretty well-balanced, deep in
hitting and pretty nice in an array of arms. Four 2008 first-round
picks appeared on our Top 20 list, and two of the biggest stories in
the minors this year—Matt Wieters and Tommy Hanson-parlayed their
success into productive time in Arizona. The list was fun to funnel
from a large batch of possibilities, and I’ll admit that a few guys who
could’ve been on the list had to be left off. So if you don’t see one
of your organization’s key names, it may not have been any fault of his
own.

 Q:  Robert from San Francisco, CA asks:
What
is Bud Norris’ ETA in Houston? It seems like he could have a more
immediate impact as a reliever but if he can throw 3 pitches will he
have more value as a starter? Thanks.
 A: 

Kary Booher:
A couple of questions popped into this chat about Norris, who reached
the Top 10 on this list because several scouts thought he had the best
and most exciting stuff after you talked about Tommy Hanson and Brian
Matusz. Thing is, we could see Norris in Houston early next year,
especially if they don’t know exactly-or are too cautious about—the
health of Felipe Paulino’s shoulder. Norris missed two months this year
because of an elbow strain, then was eased back at Double-A Corpus
Christi. He still showed enough to wow scouts, tinkering with a
changeup late in the season. When he was in Arizona, he had the sizzle
back on his fastball and that alone had scouts sensing he could be a
back-of-the-bullpen kind of guy. But it’s the Astros, who need a lot of
help, and Norris could be valuable in the rotation immediately. His
slider breaks down and away, and that will keep him in the majors.
Short term, I say he’s a starter now. But I’d like to see how he fares
his second time through the NL Central.

 Q:  Keith from Fort Dix NJ asks:
What do you think Astros will do with Bud Norris?

Thanks

 A: 

Kary Booher:
One more thing on Norris that I didn’t mention on the prior question.
He’s listed as a 6-foot righthander, so his downward plane isn’t as
great as others. That could be a factor if he is stays in the rotation.
If he can keep pounding the zone, yes. But when his stuff flattens out,
he’s hittable and, in Minute Maid Park, well, you know how that can be.

 Q:  David Bowen from Potsdam, NY asks:
What? NO love for the Dodgers? Were either Lambo or DeJesus close to the Top 20? How would you rate them?
 A: 

Kary Booher:
Man, this is a tough crowd today. Accusations of no love for the
Dodgers or the Brewers’ Lorenzo Cain already. Fun stuff. In speaking
with a number of scouts, no one singled out Lambo, so I took that as a
sign that he was in that after-20 pack of a really good, not great
guys. But DeJesus did get consideration for the back half of the list,
falling out because he didn’t hit enough and did commit nine errors,
one that saw on a routine play in which he lolly-gagged scooped it and
then threw the ball into the dugout. Scouts liked his range and think
he’ll be in the majors. I docked him a little for that and, with Eric
Young Jr. surging at the end, I left No. 20 open for the taking. So
Young snagged it.

 Q:  Sean from Norwich, CT asks:
Andrew
Carignan only gave up runs (2) in 1 of 12 outings in the AFL and struck
out 18 in 12 ip. I know relievers don’t get much love on these lists,
but did he get consideration for the Top 20? When do you see him being
in the A’s pen?
 A: 

Kary Booher:
Carignan was another guy that I strongly considered before other guys
nudged him out. If you’re an A’s fan, you’ll like him. I had the
opportunity to see him this year in the Texas League, and his stuff was
so good at the TL All-Star Game that it was one of those next-day
sidebars I would have written about had Double-A Springfield not been
playing. He should be valuable in Oakland’s pen by the end of the year.
I think part of it will come down to whether Ziegler has an encore
performance and Gray is reliable as he’s advertised himself to be in
the past year or so.

 Q:  joshua from yulee fl asks:
what
is the potential of logan morrison also when do you think he will reach
the majors, is it out of the question he gets invited to spring
training with the marlins also what is the potential of scott cousins
thank you.
 A: 

Kary Booher:
Here at BA, when you talk first base prospects, some come down on the
side of the Giants’ Lars Anderson and others think a lot of Logan
Morrison. I haven’t seen Anderson, so I can’t speak about him as much.
But in Morrison, the Marlins obviously have something special. I like
his background—he came from Maple Woods CC in suburban Kansas City, the
same juco from which the great Albert Pujols was drafted. He’s going to
provide a lot of power, very nice for a lefthanded hitter, and could
challenge for Florida’s big-league job this spring now that Jacobs was
traded to KC. As for Scott Cousins, some scouts liked him, some didn’t.
The ones that didn’t saw his crazy routes to the ball and questioned
his power. The ones that liked him will point out that his power was
diminished while playing at Roger Dean Stadium in Jupiter, Fla., and if
you’ve ever been there, you’ll understand why. I remember asking the
Cardinals this year about Daryl Jones and why he wasn’t showing better
power numbers, and that was one of the first things they pointed out.
And he played in the same ballpark. With Cousins, though, I’d like to
see him in Double-A, but I think Morrison will make it and stick.

 Q:  ScottAZ from Phx, AZ asks:
Why
move E. Young to CF when you have Fowler set to patrol there for the
next decade? Are they planning on having him play multiple positions
ala Chone Figgins? Or does he really not have a place in the
organization?
 A: 

Kary Booher:
The Rockies placed Young on their 40-man roster, a great sign for him
that Colorado sees him more than a mere utility man. They had him in CF
just to gauge how well he might fare there. To me Young could be the
Rockies’ version of Chone Figgins. He’s blocked in the middle infield,
he doesn’t hit for enough power at third but is athletic enough to spot
up for Fowler on his days off. He may not have the appeal of being the
star at one position, but you can win with a guy like Young on your
team.

 Q:  Timmy L. from San Francisco asks:
Did
Kevin Pucetas get any consideration for the top 20? If he is in the
Giants rotation as the #5 starter, what do you project out of him?
 A: 

Kary Booher:
Pucetas could have made this list if not for others that had slightly
better AFL stints, and I’m talking about guys like Jeff Manship, who
ranked No. 19 on this year’s list. Pucetas’ Scottsdale manager, Shane
Turner, who also is the Giants’ field coordinator, did a lot of
politicking for Pucetas, talking up the fact the guy knows how to win.
He’s 32-7, 2.35 with 266 strikeouts in 341 innings since coming into
pro ball as a 17th-rounder out of Limestone College, whose baseball
program, Pucetas poined out, was given a huge boost from former
big-leaguer Gaylord Perry. The one night I saw Pucetas, he was busting
guys inside and controlling the game. And when he walked off, he had
this presence about him that really stood out. It wasn’t lost on scouts
in attendance that night, either. I think he could be serviceable as
that No. 5, if not a No. 4 if he works his way into that role.

 Q:  Doug from Brooklyn asks:
Let
me get this question out of the way early for you- where would Hughes
and Buchholz reside on the top 20 if they were eligible?
 A: 

Kary Booher:
They would have been right up there. The night I hoped to see Hughes,
he was pushed back to the following week because of a finger nail
problem. Buchholz had an encouraging performance, his last start in the
AFL I believe, and one scout liked the way he showed much more
confidence in throwing his fastball. Some guys who had no business
making solid contact against him were getting good rips against him,
but you could tell he was more concerned with commanding his fastball
again than getting hit.

 Q:  christian from palm beach asks:
It
looks like Adam Ottavino had a tough time, but he did have three
scoreless outings and did strike out more than a batter per inning. Did
scouts have anything to say about him that was positive?
 A: 

Kary Booher:
Ottavino was a guy I covered this year at Double-A Springfield. The
knock on him is that he seems to always be going through the motions
without any sense of urgency. The Cardinals say they did see
improvements out of him in the AFL, with 25 strikeouts and 10 walks in
23.1 innings. He got knocked around in his other appearances pretty
soundly. It’s hard to know what to make of him, though. Early in the
year, he had some nice stuff but bottomed out to the point that the
Cardinals shut him down, brought in Buddy Biancalana to re-motivate him
and get him on the right track. That next start, he was dominating. But
he never could quite sustain it. Some scouts simply do not like him. A
few, and you might have a hard time finding them, might still be
holding out hope that he can be a big-league starter.

 Q:  Steven M from NY asks:
What’s the chances of Brian Matusz starting for the Oriols this year?
 A: 

Kary Booher:
I think probably slim and none, all because there is no need to rush
him. The Orioles are rebuilding and have a chance to do their franchise
right finally with Andy MacPhail now sitting in the president’s chair
and wheeling and dealing as their GM. His job is more than to just
bring in talent. It’s also to change the culture of the clubhouse after
years of that ship sailing aimlessly in the AL East. I think that
starts with Markakis and Jones, and Wieters will eventually become that
franchise’s big face. There is no need to bring Matusz into the fold
just yet. Let him get his feet wet in the minors, much like Wieters did
this past year. But even then, two years in the minors wouldn’t be bad
for Matusz or the Orioles for that matter. You’re talking a guy who
could be in a rotation with Chris Tillman and Jake Arietta. That would
be something.

 Q:  Scott from Longview, WA asks:
How close was Greg Halman to making the list? What kept him off?
 A: 

Kary Booher:
Halman is a difficult guy to rank, just ask our guy here (who shall
remain nameless, to protect the innocent) compiling the Mariners’ Top
30 prospects. He’s got the athleticism and at times the bat. But scouts
sort of passed over him when I mentioned his name. While he had a
pretty nice regular season, scouts saw an impatient and
sometimes-fooled hitter (he struck out 37 times against 10 walks in 83
at-bats). It’s hard to say it was a completely lost AFL for Halman, who
was also asked to take on more of a leadership role by taking
18-year-old Carlos Triunfel under his wing. The Mariners were pleased
with him chaparoning him.

 Q:  Mitchell from NYC asks:
Not 1 Yankee prospect in the Top 20?? Was any even considered??
 A: 

Kary Booher:
The sky isn’t falling, my NYC friend. Go to the pizza joint on 136th
street in Spanish Harlem, maybe hit Vincent’s for a great Italian meal
in Little Italy, enjoy the tree at Rockefeller Center. But there is no
need to get your blood pressure up, or no need to think that no Yankee
on the list equals an automatic ominous sign. Some scouts did like
Austin Jackson, a guy I considered but slipped down the list in order
to get Borbon and other outfielders on our Top 20. One scout I spoke
with liked the balance in his swing and his athleticism. It was just a
matter of, where do you put him in a list like this? I think you’ll
breathe easier once our Hawaii Winter Baseball list comes out.
Brackman, the Yankees’ 2007 first-rounder out of NC State, had a very
encouraging time there.

 Q:  JAYPERS from IL asks:
Its
pure speculation, but do you think if Hanson hadn’t dominated the AFL,
the Braves might have reconsidered trading him in a potential deal for
Peavy?
 A: 

Kary Booher:
That’s a pretty interesting question. But I’d have to say that the
Braves went into the fall league having already placed Hanson on the
“untouchables” list after the year he had. There was already a lot of
buzz about him by the end of the season, from us here at BA and
elsewhere, as he showed he could be a huge arm in a starting rotation.
They may have considered it, but I think some within the organization,
especially those who coached him this year, would have encouraged the
Braves not to make that kind of move. He’s a guy that can usher in a
new era, a guy you can build around, and they’ll need that now that
their rotation is being reconstructed and Chipper Jones is not far from
the twilight of his career.

 Q:  Kyle from Middletown asks:
Do
you think that Stubbs will be in the top 100 again after the
improvements he made this year (except for the fall league)? Do you
think that he can still be a Mike Cameron kind of player in the big
leagues?
 A: 

Kary Booher:
Not sure if he’ll be in the Top 100 again, as we’ll have a new batch of
guys to consider along with last year’s crop. But who knows? Stubbs
still is among the Reds top prospects, and it’s safe to envision him as
a Mike Cameron type at this point even though he didn’t show as much
power as people would have liked. One thing about the AFL is that, when
guys don’t have good showings, you can’t always look at the numbers.
Not only is it a small sample size, but scouts say that a lot of
players look a fatigued and are just battling through it. No surprise
there. The casual fan assumes these guys show up the first week of
April when the reality is that they work out year-round, then go from 7
a.m. to 4 p.m. every day at spring training. So I’m not defending
Stubbs here so much as kind of theorizing that his lack of production
in the AFL wasn’t solely on one factor, i.e. the pitching.

 Q:  Joseph from Fort Worth, TX asks:
Thanks
for the chat Kary. As far as the Ranger prospects on this list, how far
do you think Smoak and Borbon are from contributing in Arlington. I was
very impressed with Smoak’s plate discipline. Do you think Bakersfield
for Smoak and OKC for Borbon as starting points next year? Thanks again.
 A: 

Kary Booher:
This would be a good question when the Rangers’ Top 10 comes online,
but I think Smoak will open in Bakersfield but Borbon goes back to
Double-A Frisco. But I wouldn’t be surprised if Smoak opened in
Double-A as well. With that bat, why not? The Cardinals showed that it
wasn’t a stretch to send Brett Wallace to the TL late in the year, and
I think Smoak would handle it. As for Borbon, he could benefit with
another half-season in Frisco. His routes to the ball need polishing,
and Triple-A is really no place to learn on the fly.

 Q:  Jerry from Tulsa,Oklahoma asks:
Do
you think Triunfel projects as a better hitter/slugger than Smoak,
Wallace and G. Beckham in the future? I cant see him being ranked
higher than these three players as far as a future impact player..
 A: 

Kary Booher:
Good to hear from the frontier plains, and from Tulsa, where it looks
like they are going to get their new ballpark built despite the tough
economy. The Tulsa World had an insightful story on it in the paper
Tuesday morning. As for Triunfel, I think Smoak and Wallace will hit
for more power, with Beckham probably a little more as well. But he
gets the nod because he was 18 and holding his own in the AFL, where
guys are mostly 21-24. And I know when somebody says, “holding his
own,” it sounds like a throwaway line. But the truth is, he was doing
just that. The night I saw him play, he made three very impressive
plays. One was a nine-pitch at-bat with his team down 3-0 in the
eighth, and he ended up singling by squeezing a ball just inside the
first-base bag and down the line. Playing third, he also bare-handed a
ball in the grass and made a strong throw, then later made a nifty stop
on a ball to his right, executing a perfect drop step with his left
foot (young shortstops playing the spot might have charged in on it or
stabbed at it). The power will always be a question with him until he
actually shows it. But he’s already got the body of a 24-year-old and
could show the power as he gets older. Will it be more than Smoak?
Tough to stay because he’s so young.

 Q:  JAYPERS from IL asks:
Did Wes Hodges get consideration for this list? What kept him off? His AFL numbers certainly weren’t the reason.
 A: 

Kary Booher:
Hodges was one of the few bright spots on that Surprise team the first
few weeks when it struggled, and their manager, Gary Allenson, did like
his bat a lot. But Allenson, like many of the scouts, wondered about
his third-base defense. Some of it was his arm strength. But he also
looked like, at times, he had trouble getting his feet right on sharply
hit grounders and didn’t quite have the grace you need to play off the
line.

 Q:  Todd from Chattanooga asks:
Would
you rank Hanson above Heyward as the Braves top prospect? -also- What
are your thoughts on Kris Medlen – could you see him as a serviceable
setup man in Atlanta in the near future? Thanks
 A: 

Kary Booher:
I’m sure that will be debated internally here as we narrow down our Top
10 lists for each organization before the handbook goes to press. It’s
hard to argue with Hanson and what he did this year. I even thought
about ranking him No. 1 on our AFL list, but gave way to Wieters
because he had more of an impressive package (switch-hitting, very good
catcher, lots of leadership). As for Medlen, you’re right to think he
could be a set-up man down the road. Did you catch my story on him back
in August? You might Google it or do a search on our site. The Braves
brought him out of the bullpen and into the rotation at Double-A
Mississippi, where he really took off. He may not have the pitches to
lock down a starting rotation slot in the majors, but he could be a
valuable swing guy with potential eventually to work in a set-up role.

Kary Booher:
Folks, thanks for writing in and I wish I could get to more questions.
Unfortunately, other work is sitting here waiting for me on my desk.
It’s always nice to interact with the readers and fans because I’m one,
too. Happy holidays and be careful out there.

Minors | #2008 #Arizona Fall League #Winter Baseball

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