Ben Badler: Thanks for spending your afternoon with us. Given what a certain professional baseball league is apparently doing to podcasts today, I should mention that this chat is in no way officially affiliated with Major League Baseball.
Wessel (the Netherlands): Where would Mookie Betts list on an updated top 100?
Ben Badler: I had him at No. 40 on my Top 100 list coming into the year, which I thought made me one of the bigger optimists on Betts. Man, that seems light now though. He’s one of the top 25 prospects in the game right now, with a chance to climb even higher by the time our midseason Top 50 comes out.
Casey (Fort Worth): Do you think Domingo Santana will be an everyday regular and what kind of number do you think he will post?
Ben Badler: He keeps performing even when I think the holes in his swing are going to catch up to him. It’s 70 raw power, but I’m not sold on him making enough contact to be confident in him being an everyday right fielder yet.
Chris (RI): Thanks for the Chat, Ben. As you reported yesterday the Red Sox (along with other teams) will exceed their bonus allotment and mentioned the two pitchers, do you think they could still go for another "big" bonus player or this are the main guys the rest will be medium range kind of guys? Thanks and keep doing a great job with your International coverage.
Ben Badler: If they’re planning to go over at this point, yes, I think they’ll try to get more than just a couple of top-level guys. Although I think it’s important to mention that, just given the nature of international scouting, a player they might see as one of the premium guys might be someone they sign for $400,000 or so, which is still a relatively high bonus, but not top of the market dollars. Given where their bonus pool is this year and where I’m sure they project it to be next year, breaking the pool this year is a strategy that makes sense.
Kenneth (GA): In your opinion was Polanco right or wrong for turning down the reported contract offer from the Pirates?
Ben Badler: It’s a personal decision for him, so it’s hard to say someone’s wrong if he had decided to accept that kind of financial security, especially given where Polanco came from and how much (or not that much) money he got when he signed. But if I were him, or his agents, I would never accept a contract with those terms for a player like Polanco, especially given the three club options the Pirates wanted. That’s a lot of control to sacrifice.
Michael L. (Chicago): Any long-term concerns about Baez's horrific start to the season?
Ben Badler: The swing and miss is a little worrisome, but I do think that will settle down some with time and experience. It seems like he’s trying to do a little too much at the plate right now to get to Chicago as fast as he can, but once he settles down I don’t think it’s going to be a long-term concern. When he does get called up, he might be a guy who struggles initially because of his approach, but the bat speed, premium power and the feel for hitting even with some strikeouts should still make him a star.
John (Chicago): JJ Cooper preached patience with a struggling Dominic Smith in the 4/25 hot sheet chat, and Smith has put up a 1.094 OPS since then. Can you ask JJ for his thoughts on tonight's powerball drawing?
Ben Badler: JJ’s a smart man. Smith’s bat is too good for him to hit like he did in April the rest of the year.
Jake (Eagan): With the Red Sox gluttony of riches at 2B, does Wendell Rijo find a different position in the future? He seems like a young superstar in the making!
Ben Badler: The problem is he doesn’t fit anywhere else on the diamond. He doesn’t have the range for shortstop, the arm isn’t suited for the left side of the infield, and between the ACL injury and not having burner speed, I don’t see him in center field. But he fits well at second base and I love the bat, the approach and the way he stings the ball for a player his size. He’s a potential high OBP second baseman with solid pop, but there’s a couple guys ahead of him on the organizational depth chart that fit that bill. I’m sure other teams’ pro scouts are keeping a close eye on him.
Mike (Col. Springs): David Dahl is ready for Modesto, isn't he? Will he be roaming the OF at Coors Field in next season at any point?
Ben Badler: I love Dahl and I think he’s their center fielder of the future, but that’s aggressive. He’s still at least a couple years away.
Brian (Denver): Ben, Jen- Ho Tseng has had a nice start to the season. He was highly regarded in Taiwan prior to coming to the US. He isn't listed on the Cubs top 30 list, but has his status changed at all now that he is facing tougher competition?
Ben Badler: Definitely up, but again with him, I want to see where he’s at in August. He was the most enigmatic guy last year because his stuff and his command were so up and down. But he looked outstanding when I saw him earlier in the year, and the stuff is back to where it was at the end of 2012. Great sign by the Cubs.
Thomas (St. Paul): Is Buxton still the #1 prospect? Will his injury hinder him all season? I know it's early, but he's struggled out of the gate.
Ben Badler: It sucks that he’s been hurt, but he’s only been back three games. He’s a five-tool monster and the best prospect in baseball, easily.
Zac (Utah): How long until we see Lindor playing for the Indians? Cabrera is downright terrible...
Ben Badler: Lindor’s a special player, but don’t see him coming up until next year. That’s not an organization known for fast-tracking guys.
Ben (Miamisburg, OH): What kind of ceiling does Ben Lively have? They say average stuff, but it's still 4 MLB caliber pitches, good deception, and elite command of the zone.
Ben Badler: I’d feel comfortable projecting him as a No. 3 starter, with the chance to be a bit more. Deception can be a double-edged sword in the minors—you want guys to have deception to make the stuff play up, but you don’t want to overreact to a guy who’s posting unbelievable numbers in the minors and doing it more with smoke and mirrors than stuff. But Lively isn’t a below-average stuff guy by any means—he’s 90-95 mph with a good slider and a solid changeup, and even with that delivery, he’s been an incredible strike thrower in pro ball. It’s at least a mid-rotation starter package.
Mike (Toronto): With teams willingly accepting the penalties for exceeding the international bonus pool, do you see MLB increasing these penalties or incorporating international players to a "draft" system?
Ben Badler: In the next CBA, something is going to change. Teams are going to spend more money this year than they did last year, even without the Rangers and the Cubs, and from what I hear, 2015 might be even higher. Whether that means some form of an international draft is coming, I’m not sure, that probably depends on who the next commissioner is and how adamant he is about implementing one. But given the industry trends and the fact that MLB was trying but failed to get an international draft in place already, I wouldn’t be surprised if we had an international draft in place by 2016. Otherwise I’d imagine the penalties for going over will end up being much more harsh.
Kevin (NYC): Hey Ben, what are your thoughts on Gavin Cecchini and Brandon Nimmo? Both seem to be off to great starts so far this season.
Ben Badler: Nimmo’s been a pleasant surprise. I liked him a lot coming out of the draft so the relatively slow progress since then was disappointing, but he’s always had excellent strike-zone discipline and a nice stroke, but the game performance and the strikeouts were concerning. The lack of power is still a question mark, but he’s taken a big step forward this year. I’m higher on him than with Cecchini. I just don’t see any impact tools or the bat do be an everyday guy.
Patrick (Atlant): With the early power showing at just 19 years old in Lakewood, has JP Crawford's ceiling surpassed Maikel Franco's? How does his bat grade out? ETA? Thanks!
Ben Badler: Even before the season, Crawford’s ceiling was higher than Franco’s. It doesn’t mean he’s a better prospect than Franco, but Crawford could be an above-average defensive shortstop who hits for a high average, draws a lot of walks and hits for solid power for the position. He’s far away, but he’s a potential cornerstone player for the organization. Franco’s the better prospect (I’m not too worried about his slow start) and he could be a dynamic offensive third baseman who hits for average and power, but if both players hit their ultimate ceilings, Crawford’s going to have more value.
Roger (Chicago): Is there something special about the Red Sox that lets them generate high-OBP up-the-middle prospects with some (or more) pop? Bogaerts, Bradley, Betts, Swihart, Vazquez, Marrero, Margot, Rijo etc. all are close to this prototype.
Ben Badler: It’s a point of emphasis for the organization. Those are all mostly athletic guys who have feel for the barrel and a sound understanding of the strike zone. Some teams prefer the bigger raw power guys who come with more holes in their swings, but I’d rather see the guy who can hit now and will grow into power later than trying to teach a raw power guy or a crude athlete how to hit.
Justin (Texas): Your feature on teams scouting international players at such a young age was a great read. Had a few questions about it. Since teams are developing relationships with these players at such a young age, does that narrow who they will sign with years before they are 16? The Astros revamped their scouting department when Luhnow took over as GM. Does this mean they are several years behind other teams who have had scouts over there for years? Could it be a few years before this front office starts to pay dividends internationally?
Ben Badler: The relationships that teams have with certain trainers and the players from a young age definitely influences the access they get to the players and ultimately where they might sign, especially if the dollars being offered are close. What’s happening now is that teams and trainers are trying to reach agreements with players earlier than ever, sometimes close to a year before the players are eligible to sign. Having history on players has always been part of the job, but now it’s becoming more critical than ever, because the top players on the market might disappear more quickly than ever. With the Astros, they have scouts who have been around the market for a long time and have relationships with people throughout Latin America, even if some of them are relatively new to the organization itself, so they’re in good shape. Plus everyone there knows they have the more pool money than anyone, which is a good way to make friends quickly and have trainers bring their players to you. They’re definitely going to be aggressive this year.
Ben (Miamisburg, OH): Should I be worried at all about the struggles Robert Stephenson has had in AA this year?
Ben Badler: I’m not worried, but I am surprised. He’s one guy I thought could get from Double-A to the big leagues quickly this year. It doesn’t sound like there are any stuff issues with him, but he’s going to have to repeat his delivery to throw more strikes than he has early on.
Paul (Atlanta): Is it way, way too early for me to be getting excited about a Simmons-Peraza double play combo for years?
Ben Badler: I like Peraza, but the world is sleeping on Tommy LaStella. He’s not the young, flashy prospect, but that swing and approach will translate.
J (San Francisco): Other than maybe Kyle Crick, who's the next Giants star?
Ben Badler: I’d rather have Edwin Escobar than Crick. Three average to plus pitches from the left side, throws strikes and works down in the zone. Wouldn’t call him a star but he’s got mid-rotation potential. Crick’s control scares me. A lot.
Andy (Forest, VA): Do you see Butler being a part of the Rockies rotation by the end of the year or do they give him the whole year in the minors and look at him to start next year in the bigs?
Ben Badler: When it comes to arms, as long as the command is solid, I say push them. I could see him and Jonathan Gray in Colorado by the end of the season.
Jeff (Calgary, Alberta): Floor/Ceiling question. Who helps the Jays more, Franklin Barreto or Dawel Lugo?
Ben Badler: Barreto, on both counts, and I like Lugo. There’s no way Barreto stays at shortstop, but just about every scout I talk to who’s seen him, whether it’s this year or going back to his amateur days, comes away raving about his bat. If he didn’t have Lugo blocking him, I’m sure you could put him in the Midwest League now and he’d rake immediately.
Twins twerp (Western ND): Jeff hoffman to have tj surgery. Does he sit out a season untill next draft or fall to the nationals like gioloto this draft?
Ben Badler: I would bet he still gets paid this year. If I were him though, given that he’s going to have the surgery anyway, I would do something completely outside the box and consider becoming a resident of a foreign country like Haiti, sit out one year, then try to sign as an international free agent, where he probably could get more money even subject to the pools, which teams would certainly go past for a player of his caliber. I’m not sure MLB would allow it, but this might be the perfect time for someone daring and enterprising enough to try it. More realistically, yeah, he probably slips in the draft but still gets paid.
Mike (Utica, NY): What are scouts saying about Asheville's big three of Dahl, McMahon, and Tapia?
Ben Badler: Lots of praise around that trio. Dahl looks like the player who tore up the Pioneer League two years ago. He can hit, the ball jumps off his bat and he’s an athletic, premium position player. McMahon is one of the biggest breakout prospect of the year. He’s obviously a good athlete, but he’s a more advanced hitter and a more polished player overall than some people gave him credit for coming out of high school. Tapia’s definitely third of that group, he might take a little more time, but the bat head stays in the zone a long time, so once he makes a couple of adjustments, his offense could take off.
CW (Houston): How likely will Mike Foltynewicz become a reliever?
Ben Badler: I don’t see starter’s command or a deep enough repertoire to be more than a back-end starter. Better suited for relief.
Ben Badler: It’s been fun, but I have to get back to July 2 calls. We should have another story in the works for tomorrow on some of the top players for this year, including one of my favorite Venezuelan outfielders. Have a great day.