Jon (Atlanta): Dansby Swanson seems to have figured things out after a terrible April. Curious how Amed Rosario and him compare long-term? Who do you prefer and why?
J.J. Cooper: Hey everyone. As I switch from draft mode to pro prospects mode, I’m glad to be doing my first Hot Sheet chat of the season. With Swanson, he had a terrible month, but he was never as bad as his April stats would indicate. At the same time, as good as Rosario is, Las Vegas’ stats will make a good season look incredible. Rosario is one of the best shortstop prospects in the game, but Las Vegas helps his numbers as do the road trips on Las Vegas schedule (which includes equally hitter-friendly Reno). Long-term, I think Swanson will hit for more power while Rosario will hit for a higher average. I think Rosario will be a better defender, although both will be fine at shortstop for years to come. Pretty equivalent to me, it just a matter of which strengths you prefer.
MJ (St. Paul): When will Alec Hansen finally be promoted? He's a college arm dominating the JV circuit of the SAL...could we see him in AA by the end of the season?
J.J. Cooper: I’m not saying it’s impossible, but you can’t treat Alec Hansen the same as you would say A.J. Puk. Hansen barely pitched as a freshman at Oklahoma and pitched sporadically as a junior because of control problems. Giving him a chance to have continual success (for the first time since he left high school) is a good thing, so I would say it makes sense to take it slow rather than fast. That said, all these improvements have been very encouraging and I would expect he’ll make it to HiA before too long.
Hank (Tri-Town): With the Twins' pick of Royce Lewis, does that curtail the chance of Nick Gordon being the Twins' long-term solution at SS?
J.J. Cooper: It’s way too soon to say that yet. Neither Gordon or Lewis projects as a 60+ defender at shortstop, so it will depend on if Gordon establishes himself before Lewis is ready. There’s a chance Lewis ends up sliding to center field whether Gordon becomes a fixture at shortstop or not, so for now, I don’t think Lewis will have the Twins contemplating a position switch for Gordon.
Erik (Portland): Braves' future ACE is . . . Kolby Allard or Mike Soroka?
J.J. Cooper: Kyle Wright? Luiz Gohara? Ian Anderson? If I have to pick between Allard and Soroka, I’d say Allard because I’ll take the lefty, but both are very good prospects.
Satchel (Las Vegas): How high does Bichette climb this year? Does he make it to AA and finish in AA....then start in AAA in 2018 for potential call up in 18?
J.J. Cooper: No. No. No. That’s an unrealistic timetable, one that doesn’t really make any sense. Mike Trout is the best high school draft pick to reach the big leagues in the past 25 years. Trout split his first full year between low Class A and high Class A. He went to Double-A the next year and struggled in a promotion to the big leagues. After a brief stint in Triple-A the next year, he was ready to be a star. Bichette may make it to high Class A this year. He may make it to Double-A next year. That would be putting him on a very fast track, but putting a late 2018 timetable on Bichette is asking too much.
Tim (Hoboken, NJ): Hey JJ. Given what Shed Long and TJ Friedl have done in their respective leagues this year (and really over the last calendar years) - can Reds fans start getting excited about these non-top-tier prospects and their potential to be more than just utility/bench pieces?
J.J. Cooper: Long is in the top tier of Reds prospects. He’s in Top 100 consideration for our midseason update. Friedl is more having a season you would expect for a polished college player playing in low Class A. I think of Long as much more than a bench piece.
Ryan (Houston): What are your thoughts on Yordan Alvarezs start? Is the power legit?
J.J. Cooper: Yes. Very legit power, which is encouraging because while he’d shown plus power in workouts, he hadn’t shown plus productive power before this year. He’s always been able to hit.
Ben (Miamisburg, OH): Could you see Luis Castillo in the Reds rotation at some point this year, or will sometime in 2018 be more realistic as they shuffle through the options in AAA along with the bevy of pitchers coming off the DL?
J.J. Cooper: It depends a lot on what happens above him, but very late this year/2018 seems more realistic to me. He has taken a long time to get to this point, but Castillo looks more and more like a starter, not a reliever.
Rhett (NC): I know he is 19 and only has 76 innings above Low A. But what more does Mike Soroka need to show before he is called up? I think Soroka is letting the Braves know he is ready.
J.J. Cooper: Consider his age, I’d like to see how he handles the older/craftier hitters in Triple-A before he gets promoted. The Braves aren’t really in a hurry yet and there are a number of arms in Triple-A that need a chance (like Sean Newcomb) before they need to start checking out the Double-A arms. No reason to put him on the 40-man roster and start his clock yet.
Scott (Philadelphia): I know it takes a lot more than 48 hours for a draft class to be truly evaluated, but is it wrong to feel a little underwhelmed by what the Phillies did all week after the first round?
J.J. Cooper: Wise words there Scott with your preamble. Some of the Phillies 2nd-10th round picks were surprises, but I like a few of those picks (like Seabold as a fast-moving back-end starter), and if they can sign them all, I really like Fitch and Listi as later-round picks.
Tatum (Clearwater, Fla): JJ- is Jose DeLeon more hype than substance, or he just having a string of bad luck with injuries?
J.J. Cooper: Are injuries bad luck? Pitchers’ ability is very much determined by how healthy they are. The De Leon we have seen this year has not had the velo or the control he’s had before, and he’s spent a lot of time on the DL. If De Leon gets back to what he was when he was fully healthy, there’s substance there, but there is no guarantee he’ll get back to that.
Ben (Miamisburg, OH): Now that the old guard of Reds pitching prospects aren't prospect eligible anymore (Stephenson, Reed, Garrett) how do you rank the Reds pitching prospects now (Greene, Castillo, Gutierrez, Mahle, Romano, Santillan)?
J.J. Cooper: Quick back of the napkin ranking: Greene (needs to sign first), Mahle, Castillo, Romano, Santillan, Gutierrez. That’s a pretty impressive group.
Steve (Iowa): Any pop-up prospects, a la Victor Robles in 2015, that are destined for top 50 status this year and worthy of adulation?
J.J. Cooper: Sorry we’re saving those for the midseason prospect update, which isn’t that far away.
Roger (Greenville, SC): It sounds like the top 5 in the draft may all sign for $6.5M or more. Is this a result of the flatter bonus structure - and thus likely to repeat in the future - or the result of 5 different opinions about who the best player in the draft was?
J.J. Cooper: Good question. The flatter structure gives the players more leverage. Under the previous slot structure, players who were in the 1-2 mix knew that if they fell to 4-5-6-7, they would almost assuredly lose money. Now a player in the 1-2 mix can fall to 4-5-6 and still potentially get as much or more money than the team is offering at 1. Kyle Wright’s deal is a pretty clear example of this. This was an interesting draft for the first flattened bonuses because there was a pretty clear top five, but no clear consensus among how those top five lined up, so it allowed players to feel pretty comfortable they had a pretty firm floor. Last year, players like A.J. Puk and Kyle Lewis had more risk because they had more fragile floors.
Mark (Illinois): What is the current outlook on Max Fried after posting some unsightly numbers this year?
J.J. Cooper: Velo is down from what I’ve heard from scouts. Breaking ball has lost some sharpness as well. He has to get his arm speed back to be the guy he’s been before, but we are talking about a 2012 first-round pick who has had health problems.
Jim Vandersluthe (Concord, ME): Why do you guys snub Tyler mahle every single week? Dude does nothing but toss 6-7 innings, 1 run, 7-9 k's every week and you give no love. What does he have to do to get on here, throw a perfect game or no hitter. Oh wait, he's already done that! Are you accepting applications for a vacancy in FL? In all seriousness, Has his ceiling improved? Or still a backend guy?
J.J. Cooper: We have high standard for Mr. Mahle. Every time he throws a no-hitter he makes the Hot Sheet, and to his credit, he lives up to these standards very regularly. Front-end guy. The stuff is front end stuff, not back end. The ceiling is the roof to quote Michael Jordan.
Nick (LA): What kind of prospect is Bichette at this point. You could argue based on stats that he's a top 10 hitting prospect but o keep hearing concerns that his swing may get exposed as he moves up levels. Vlad Jr on the same team isn't putting up the same stats as Bichette (though still great stats) but seems to be the consensus better prospect. Is that a physical projection thing or something else? Thanks
J.J. Cooper: It’s physical projection and the swing. Scouts who see Vlad Jr. come away raving about how he’s the best prospect they’ve seen in several years. Scouts see Bichette going 3-for-5 on the same team and say “he’s a good prospect, I worry about his swing.”
Zach (NY): Is Taylor Trammell approaching top 100 levels?
J.J. Cooper: yes.
Clyde Butross (Lebanon, PA): Scott kingery seems ready...why is he not at AAA or even Philly with the new void at 2B? How much stock are you putting in his production at Redding? All-star-ish ceiling?
J.J. Cooper: Kingery’s numbers are every bit as good or a bit better on the road than they are at Reading, so I don’t think this is a Reading-induced fluke. Why send him up now? I think prospect fans are very cavalier of the dangers of sending a player up too soon. There is risk and potential development damage to sending a guy to a level before he’s ready. Triple-A before too long makes some sense, but I don’t see the reason to send him to Philly to join a team that is going nowhere.
J (Philly): When do we panic about JP Crawford?
J.J. Cooper: Feel free to grab a paper bag and begin hyperventilating. He doesn’t have an extra-base hit this month. He has less than 10 extra-base hits this year and a .252 slugging percentage. Plate discipline is nice, but it’s not everything. The point of plate discipline is to get into counts where you can do damage. Crawford is doing no damage. In what is now a full season of Triple-A ball, he’s hitting .225/.322/.293. There’s nothing encouraging about that. There’s still impressive physical tools, but he has a lot of work to get back to what we thought he would be.
Clutchlings (Wasaga Beach, Ontario): The Blue Jays have stated that they wanted Bichette and Guerrero to spend a whole season at Low A. Both had a list of things to work on. Bichette's glove may not be his best tool, but can they keep him in the Midwest League for long?
J.J. Cooper: They definitely can. He’s showing no signs of stagnation yet and he’s not age inappropriate for the league.
Dave (Poconos): MLB Draft - Lot of 1B guys taken early (mckay, smith, white, pratto). Who, for you, has the highest ceiling at 1B to provide that typical high offensive profile at the position. I'd guess McKay or Smith have the highest floor, but who has the highest ceiling?
J.J. Cooper: I’m an Evan White believer. If he can more consistently elevate, he could hit for average, hit for power and be the best defensive first baseman in the game.
Monte (Walnut Creek, CA): No Stockton LHP A.J. Puk on your Hot Sheet list today seems like a Crime. His 2 starts this week he averaged 2Ks per Inning pitched.
J.J. Cooper: Yes, but he also gave up 11 hits in 9.2 innings with 6 runs, 5 earned. He’s had better weeks.
Jeff (CA): Who has the higher upside between Julio Urias and Walker Buehler?
J.J. Cooper: Yes? If Urias is healthy both have ceiling to be among the best pitchers in baseball. Picking which has a higher ceiling is getting pretty granular between these two guys, but I guess I’d take the lefty.
Nikolin (Columbia): JJ - I feel a little underwhelmed by the Braves draft. Is it fair to think they got 3-4 real prospects but not much more?
J.J. Cooper: It’s largely a two-person draft by intent. The Braves were willing to spend to land Kyle Wright and so they went quality over quantity. To free up the money to pay Wright way over slot, they went cheap after the third round. It was by design, but the Braves are at the point in their rebuild where one top prospect is worth way more than additional depth.
Jeff (CA): How many home runs do you think Aaron Judge and Cody Bellinger will end up hitting this season?
J.J. Cooper: All the home runs. I think when it’s done they will have hit all the home runs.
Dominic (Chicago): How many players from this years draft class should we expect to be in next February's top 100?
J.J. Cooper: 13 is my guess. I say that because 13 2016 draftees made the 2017 Top 100. And 13 2015 draftees made the 2016 Top 100. And 13 2014 draftees made the 2015 Top 100, so I feel comfortable in saying 13.
Jonathan (Hyde Park, NY): Was it the Yankees goal to draft every rhp available?
J.J. Cooper: Can’t do that because the Cubs have the same approach.
Andrew (Los Angeles): Hows does Tatis Jr stack up as a prospect against Vlad Jr and Bichette?
J.J. Cooper: He’s good, but there are very few prospects I’d put in the same conversation with Vladimir Guerrero Jr.
Jarrod (Chicago): What does Rusney Castillo need to do to earn another shot in the bigs? Get traded?
J.J. Cooper: I don’t think it will ever happen in Boston, and I don’t think he’ll be traded until this contract is basically up, as the money in it makes him untradeable.
J.J. Cooper: Thanks for coming out. A ton of great content coming in the upcoming weeks as we start covering the 2018 draft and head toward the Futures Game and the Midseason Prospect Update plus all the coverage from the College World Series in Omaha.