Dave (Grayson, ga): The Braves have signed Indy players less frequently the last two seasons. Any idea why, and have you heard them connected with anyone on the list?
J.J. Cooper: Hey everyone. Thanks for coming out. It’s great to have indy ball day here at Baseball America (with some other prospect talk filtered in). The Braves haven’t signed indy ball players as frequently in the last year+ largely because they don’t have the need/roster room as much as they used to. As you probably notice, the Braves are loaded when it comes to prospect depth, especially on the pitching side. The majority of the Braves’ indy ball signings over the years have been pitchers, and with less room because of more legit pitching prospects in full season ball, there just hasn’t been as many opportunities to sign indy ball players.
Frank (Chicago): Kudos on expanding the Hot Sheet to the AFL. Long overdue. How Tebow missed out, frankly, is beyond me. Kidding. Do you see him actually being productive out there, aside from helping to sell more tickets?
J.J. Cooper: Tebow is unlikely to be a productive hitter in his time in Arizona because he’s trying to make up for a decade of missed time. Instructs is one thing but the jump from workouts and high school ball to the AFL is a massive leap. I don’t think the Mets are expecting to see him put up big numbers in Arizona, their hope is it accelerates his development and makes it more ready to play in full season ball next April.
Randy (Sugar Land): Any chance in affiliated ball for Jesse's kid, Jeremy Barfield, after a .306 and 27 HR season?
J.J. Cooper: You hate to be skeptical but Barfield’s 2016 Atlantic League season was not much different than his abbreviated 2015 Atlantic League season (.300/.391/.583) that led to a not particularly productive stretch in affiliated ball. Barfield is now 28 (he’ll turn 29 during the 2017 season). He’s capable of holding down a AA/AAA job and sometimes guys in those situations end up getting some big league at-bats, but it’s an uphill battle.
GPT (San Jose, CA): What, if anything, can you tell us about RHP Kamakani Usui (Laredo), now with the Giants?
J.J. Cooper: Usui was part of a pretty amazing Laredo bullpen that had an amazing number of 95+ arms. Usui was 92-95 mph with a quality changeup. There’s effort to his delivery, but it works for him. Good pickup for the Giants.
Giancarlo Stanton (Miami): Was I capable of 119+ exit velocities when I was 19?
J.J. Cooper: Guessing this is a question in reference to Eloy Jimenez’s 119 mph ground ball in the AFL. We don’t have enough data yet to really figure out how useful ground ball exit velo data is–this wasn’t a home run, it was a grounder to third base. Jimenez does have solid power, but his power isn’t Stanton’s power. That’s OK because there are very, very few players who ever have Stanton’s power. As a 19-year-old this year Jimenez hit 14 home runs in low Class A. That’s good because the Midwest League is tough for power hitters. As an 18-year-old, Stanton hit 39 home runs for Greensboro in low Class A. The next year he hit 28 in hiA/AA and the next year he hit 43 between AA and the big leagues. Jimenez’s power is not in the same class as Stanton’s.
Dave (Grayson, ga): Always enjoy the Indy league list! Were there any players of note from the other lower level leagues like Pecos, Empire, the Pacific Association? Do these leagues make it to next season?
J.J. Cooper: In my talks to scouts who scour the different levels I didn’t get many names from those leagues. I was surprised by how often I heard from scouts that the USPBL (United Shores Professional Baseball League) was really impressive for young players. The league promised it would be a developmental league and by all accounts it lived up to those promises. Players got better. The league did a good job of using video and coaching to get players better (a number of pitchers picked up significant velocity with improved deliveries).
Dave (Grayson, ga): How has the United Shore league done so well when compared to other new leagues? Is it a model that others could copy?
J.J. Cooper: To follow up on the USPBL, I don’t know how the 3-team, one site model works in the long term as it had never worked successfully before (and multiple leagues have either tried it and failed or never got off the ground after announcing) but so far so good for the USPBL.
Formerly the Smasher (North of South): Does Alford have allstar potential?
J.J. Cooper: Anthony Alford I assume. Yes. The risk is high because he’s missed a lot of time because of football and he had a pretty poor first half (thanks in large part to injuries) but he’s ahead of where a hitter who missed so much time should be and the tools are that of an everyday regular who could earn some all-star appearances. He’s just got a significant amount of work left to reach that potential.
Tad Ward (Mobile, AL): Do the Angels have anyone projected to be in Double-A next season to watch for when they arrive in Mobile?
J.J. Cooper: Honestly, it’s likely to be a pretty thin crew. The Angels have hovered near the bottom of our organization talent rankings in recent years and it doesn’t look likely to change all that much this offseason. The best bets are outfielder Jared Foster, catcher Taylor Ward and maybe a promotion for first baseman Matt Thaiss before too long.
Dave (Grayson, ga): Do you see more teams adding an Indy league-dedicated scout? It seems that only a handful of teams have scouts with titles associated with Indy baseball.
J.J. Cooper: More do it than you might think. There aren’t all that many teams that devote as many resources to do it as say the Diamondbacks, but a majority of teams have someone or a couple of people who keep an eye on indy ball and scout games as needed.
Andrew (Yorkville, IL): Great write up about the Indy Leagues, JJ. I really enjoyed it. Could you just give us a perspective as to what the best overall Indy Ball pitching league is and hitting league?
J.J. Cooper: It’s hard to compare as they are on very different levels. The best Atlantic League team should be able to beat any other indy ball league’s best team over the course of a 100 game season because Atlantic Leaguers are generally AA/AAA/MLB veterans who have loads of experience and can still play. That’s a different strata than what the American Association and Can-Am Leagues are aiming for (a solid mix of minor league vets and accomplished college players who went undrafted) or the Frontier League (younger minor league vets and more undrafted college players). The Can-Am and A-A are the two leagues that generally on the same level and the Can-Am has been considered a league more friendly for pitchers and the A-A more friendly for hitters. The Frontier League has some very hitter friendly parks that can help boost home run numbers.
Marcos Molina (NYC): How did I look stuff wise?
J.J. Cooper: So far so good. Molina’s stuff was a tick off from what it was pre-surgery in his AFL debut, but he showed solid stuff and decent control.
Devin (Columbus): Zack Weigel seemed to have a good start to his season (.816 OPS) in the Frontier League before going down with a season ending injury. What is the scouting report on him?
J.J. Cooper: His name didn’t really come up, but that’s largely because he didn’t play that much. I would guess he gets a chance to show more in a longer stint in 2017.
Razzball Ralph (Boston): Greg Allen obviously had an excellent season for Lynchburg and Akron, and so far he's hit the ground running with Mesa. Do you see his breakout continuing, and does he project as everyday Major League Outfielder?
J.J. Cooper: I see him as more likely to be a fourth outfielder but with his on-base skills, speed and baserunning ability he has at least a chance to exceed that projection. He’s a well-rounded outfielder.
J.J. Cooper: Thanks everyone for coming out. Back to Top 30 Prospects work. We’ll be rolling out Draft Report Cards next week and the Top 10 Prospect lists will be coming out shortly.