Ben Badler: This is going to be a strong chat. I’m already sensing a high level of The Will To Win in the questions.
Chris (Boston, MA): Gut call, does Rafael Montero, he of 22.2 career innings above A-ball, make his Major League debut in 2013? Thanks.
Ben Badler: If they’re in contention, yes. If not, I think he waits until next year.
Ben (Iowa): Who has a higher ceiling? JO Berrios or Alex Meyer?
Ben Badler: Meyer. The combination of velocity, life and angle on his fastball is filthy, and his slider has a chance to be a 70 pitch. Pitchers with Meyer’s size need to be given a little more time for their control to come around, and if he just has 50/55 major league command, you’re talking about a frontline starter.
Fandango (Paris): How close do you think Zack Wheeler is?
Ben Badler: Same story as last year: Stuff is still great, but the command still isn’t major league ready and it might always be shaky with him, which is why I’ve preferred Harvey over Wheeler.
Jake Pequot (Brooklyn): Ben, big fan, thanks for the chat. When do you think Wacha gets the call to St. Louis? Can he help fix their bullpen?
Ben Badler: I’d much rather keep him as a starter, especially given his lack of innings in pro ball. He’s been better than I expected, but I’m not comfortable impeding his long-term development as a starter by putting him in bullpen now for the potential short-term benefits.
T Ham (Napa, CA): Sound off! Sano vs. Xander... must pick one! Who and why? Thanks!
Ben Badler: Bogaerts, by a hair. Better pure hitter and he has a chance to start his major league career at shortstop, although I don’t think that’s going to last long.
James (North East, MD): What is the lastest news regarding Bundy?
Ben Badler: Scheduled to see Dr. Andrews. For all the outrage you see whenever a team lets a guy throw (gasp) more than 100 pitches in a game or 30 more innings he threw the year before or whatever the magic number flavor of the year happens to be, the idea of the Orioles basically de-conditioning Bundy’s arm last year with their workload restrictions doesn’t sit well with me. I’m not defending some of the more egregious workload stuff we see like Tomohiro Anraku, but we’re still pretty far from figuring out how to keep pitchers healthy.
John (Philly): It seems that the first comment anyone makes regarding Biddle is "but his fastball is only 90-92"....but isn't that enough? For a lefty, if he can command 90-92 consistently and pair it with 2 above average secondary pitches, thats more of a #2 starter than a low end #3 or 4, right?
Ben Badler: I agree, but in the past, the secondary pitches haven’t been consistently above-average like he was showing the other day. If they are, then yes, that’s a No. 2 starter ceiling.
Ken (Lakewood CA): Can you or anyone else answer as to what TB is waiting for in promoting Myers? The major league line up they put out everyday has guys batting in the .260s tops and plenty of others less than that. Surely they can use his bat, can't they? What is up with the Rays? I know they're conservative - but really??
Ben Badler: All about service time. It’s a frustrating part of the game when the rules incentivize not putting your 25 best players on your major league team sometimes, but I can’t argue with the philosophy and their discipline of sticking a strategy that’s helped them become a perennial contender.
Ben (Long Island): Would Rock Shoulders be on your radar if his name was Rick Smith (or something equally benign)?
Ben Badler: He’s second in the Midwest League in slugging and fourth in OBP. He’s no slouch.
Ryan Mack (Cleveland): What is the eventual projection for Francisco Lindor?
Ben Badler: More or less what he’s doing right now, but extended into a big league context. Simple swing, going to hit for a high average, get on base a lot, modest pop with a lot of doubles and above-average defense at shortstop. So many things to like here.
Keith (Boston, MA): Hi Ben, If you were running the Red Sox draft, who are the 3 players you would most like to see in available at 7, and who would you take?
Ben Badler: I’m buried in minor league prospect and July 2 scout calls, so I don’t get involved in our draft coverage. Luckily I work with Jim, John, Conor, Nathan and Aaron, who know more about the draft than anyone in the business, so I’d just ask them.
bardin (San Diego): Ronald Torreyes is having a decent start in AA, where he is young for his age. but... he is only 5'9'' and weights 140 pounds. Does he have any sort of realistic chance to stick in the bigs?
Ben Badler: Yes. People are sleeping on him after last year. Look, you’re probably not going to get more than 5-10 home runs per year out of the guy, but his hand-eye coordination and knack for squaring up the baseball is remarkable, so I think he’s going to hit and he’s a pretty good defender at second base too. He’s underrated.
Sean (New Orleans): I'm a bit shocked Nomar Mazara wasn't on this list; 3 HRs and an OPS over 1.000 for the week, all as a 17 year old (turning 18 today) in full season ball?! How close was he?
Ben Badler: He had a nice week but he’s a one-tool guy who’s also striking out 35 percent of the time. I’d call it alarming, but that’s pretty much what scouts expected of him since he signed.
Rich (New York): Do your prospecting prowesses carry over to the NFL draft?
Ben Badler: Don’t have the time to keep up with it, but I tried watching some of it last night just to get a flavor of how the broadcast worked for another sport’s draft. It’s a hard balance to strike between catering to the diehard fans and the more casual mainstream audience that doesn’t know the players as well and just wants to know who their favorite team drafts, so it ends up with guys who presumably know their stuff speaking in cliches and watering down their analysis, which is unfortunate but you see the same thing in the way MLB televises the draft too. It’s just not for me.
glenn (New Jersey): When do you Rafael Depaula gets moved to High A ? Whats his ETA for the bronx?
Ben Badler: He should be in Double-A by the end of the year if he’s healthy. Durability’s my main concern with him, but if everything’s clean he could be in the big leagues next year.
Jon (DC): Karns made the hot sheet, but given his age and injury history, what do you make of his prospect status? Also, do you think he could be MLB ready this year?
Ben Badler: His age doesn’t make much difference to me, people get way too hung up on that for pitchers. The durability is a more legitimate concern to question whether his best role is in the rotation or the bullpen, but it’s a fastball up to the mid-90s, a wicked curveball and a decent enough changeup with control that’s improving every year. That translates plenty well to a major league role.
Hmmm (Long Island): I know there is always talk about how it takes really tall, lanky pitchers longer to figure out their delivery and mechanics, but how long is too long? Dellin Betances has the stuff but can't throw strikes... is he in the bust category yet?
Ben Badler: Every guy is different and it depends on a lot of things—arm action, mechanics, athleticism, coordination, etc. With Betances, he’s always had arm strength, and while I do think we need to be patient with taller guys because they just have longer levers and moving parts they need to get in sync to be able to repeat and throw strikes, a lot of the indicators with Betances just aren’t pointing in the right direction. He’s not a great athlete and there’s a lot of rigidity to his delivery, which is why I’ve never been confident in his ability to make those adjustments to repeat his delivery and throw strikes consistently.
Michael (Chicago): At what point do we begin to worry about Carlos Correa?
Ben Badler: Even when he struggles from a performance standpoint I still hear good things about from scouts. The contact rate is a little worrisome, but with his swing and pitch recognition I think that’s going to change. He needs to stop facing Roberto Osuna though or he’s going to start having nightmares.
Drew (Chicago): update on juan carlos paniagua Visa issues?
Ben Badler: Still waiting to get things sorted out, last I checked.
Chris (Phoenix): Thoughts on Raul Mondesi of the Royals?
Ben Badler: Continues to make the Royals’ international scouting department look smart. This is a guy who’s 17—and it’s a very legitimate 17—who’s completely comfortable in the South Atlantic League and could be in Double-A by the time he’s 19. There’s no one tool that makes you say, “Wow,” but he’s just a very well-rounded player.
Hmmm (Long Island): Do you think Gary Sanchez can stick behind the plate? Do you see the Yankees holding on to him?
Ben Badler: He could, but the defense would just be passable at best. Given the team’s history, I wouldn’t be surprised if they traded him in the next couple of years though.
Ace (PA): Gregory Polanco is seriously exciting. The defense, arm, plate discipline, bat, and frame all seem to be there. If the power comes what kind of upside does he have?
Ben Badler: You said it—there isn’t much Polanco can’t do. He’s a potential franchise player who just gets better every year. The Pirates have taken a lot of unnecessary shots for their player development in the last year or so, but look at the results—it’s working, players like Polanco and Hanson are getting better, and their farm system is one of the best in the game.
Miguel Sano (Ft. Meyers): What the hell am I do here and when will I be promoted up to New Britain?
Ben Badler: The Twins are usually on the conservative end of promotions, although with Aaron Hicks and Oswaldo Arcia maybe that’s changing. But with Sano, yeah, I don’t see him spending too much more time abusing FSL pitchers.
wade (st. louis): How close was Mike Olt to making your "not hot" list?
Ben Badler: His slow start has been hard to ignore. His contact rate has always been right on the edge of what’s acceptable, but his power and defense give him more all-around value. If he still looks this lost at the plate in a few weeks, yeah, I’m going to pretty concerned.
Hmmm (Long Island): Who will be the better MLB player: Slade Heathcott, Mason Williams, Tyler Austin?
Ben Badler: Mason Williams.
Rick (NYC): Victor Sanchez had a nice debut in the MWL -- do you see him having any projection left or is more the kind of guy who wld refine his current stuff as he moves up? Thanks!
Ben Badler: There’s no physical projection left, so I don’t see him throwing any harder, but that’s pretty much what scouts have said since he signed a couple years ago. It’s more about polishing his offspeed stuff, getting a little better shape to his breaking ball and continuing to make that quality changeup he has a more consistent pitch.
Dave (New York): Do you buy that Rafael Montero's fastball can work in the majors or is it just that his command is too good for minor league hitters? Also, do you think the Mets would promote him straight to the majors skipping him over the nightmare that is Las Vegas?
Ben Badler: He sits in the low-90s and can bump 95. The stuff is definitely major league quality.
Steve (SHS) (Sioux Falls): Byron Buxton has been impressive no doubt in SSS so far. To be fair, is it more impressive that he boasts a 13/12 BB:K ratio or that he may force the Twins hand to promote him to the Florida State Lg. before the season is mid-way through.?
Ben Badler: How about we just say that everything Buxton has done so far has been impressive. He’s got bat speed, he can hit, he recognizes pitches, he’s a 70 runner, plays good defense in center field and I think he’s got the chance to end up with 50 or better raw power, maybe even a 25-homer season because of his contact frequency, bat speed and physical projection. This guy is a monster.
Norm Chouinard (Connecticut): What are your thoughts on the International Draft format and new rules? Your thoughts on its fairness and who will benefit and/or who will not.
Ben Badler: It’s hard to comment without knowing the details of how it’s going to be implemented, although based on the “slot values” (of course, why would you have slots in a year where there’s no draft) that presumably would carry over to 2014, it looks like the bonuses will be big for the players at the top, then drop off very quickly. I know everyone wants to scream and be outraged about an international draft, but it’s incredibly complex when you’re talking about things on the international side, both from a baseball perspective and in terms of dealing with the corruption that’s unfortunately involved.
ttt (Manhattan): You said that Victor Sanchez does not have any physical projection left. What do you look for in determining if the player has physical projection left? Size of parents? Thanks!
Ben Badler: When they’re 16, yes, that’s one thing you look at. Body type, limb length, hand size, bone structure, current physical maturity, those are all things you can look at too. With Sanchez, he’s about 6 feet, 250 pounds and looks like he could pull a 747 on his back. You always get surprises, but I wouldn’t count on him adding any more ticks to the fastball.
TPX2 (Taiwan): What are your thoughts on Masahiro Tanaka in MLB?
Ben Badler: He’s a potential No. 2 starter from the stuff I saw in person in the WBC and from talking to scouts who’ve seen him more frequently in the past. The fastball’s more hittable than you’d think just from looking at the radar gun because it comes in on a flatter plane, but he’s got a couple of plus or better secondary pitches, so he’s got the stuff to put away hitters at the big league level.
Mason (North American landmass): Is Buxton looking like a mid-season top 10 prospect?
Ben Badler: He’s already No. 10. He might be a top five guy by the end of the year.
Kai (SLO): What's going on with Taijuan Walker's inability to pound the strike zone?
Ben Badler: His arm action isn’t conducive to throwing strikes, but he has the athleticism to make adjustments and the kind of stuff where, as long as he’s able to have average control, he can dominate because he can make hitters chase pitches and he has a greater margin for error when he does make mistakes.
Richard (Lauderdale): Is Raymond Fuentes a viable prospect again?
Ben Badler: It’s a step in the right direction, but after how awful he was last year, I’m going to need a larger body of evidence to be convinced.
Aaron (NY): What pitching prospect has intrigued you the most so far this year?
Ben Badler: Roberto Osuna. Our reports were that he and Victor Sanchez were the two best pitchers on the July 2 market back in 2011, and obviously Osuna looked sharp last year, but the reports from scouts this year are even more impressive. His breaking ball has improved to the point where scouts now think he has a chance for three plus pitches, so we’re talking about a guy who maybe looked like a potential No. 3 starter to a kid who just turned 18 two months ago who has a chance to be a true frontline starter.
David (San Diego): With all the pitchers off to a strong start in the Padres minor league system, who's most likely to headline a major league rotation one day?
Ben Badler: He’s one of the furthest away, but Max Fried’s stuff can be spectacular.
Chris (Alabama): Where is Ronald Guzman? Is he injured? Why isn't he playing full-season ball like Mazara?
Ben Badler: Still recovering from a knee injury.
Aaron (Cincy): How dirty is Tony Cingrani?
Ben Badler: Yes.
Two Dogs (The Kennel): Your favorite under-the-radar prospect this year is...
Ben Badler: The Reds moving Carlos Contreras from the bullpen to the starting rotation in Bakersfield has my attention. I’m not sure yet if starting is the best long-term fit for him, but so far the results are good and he’s showing a power arm with a mid-90s fastball and a plus changeup.
cal guy (cal): People covering the WBC raved about him, but what are the chances of Alfredo Despaigne ever coming to the majors?
Ben Badler: How do I put this . . . . Cuba doesn’t just let their players become free agents. I really couldn’t tell you.
Mikey (Rochester): Guerreri, Meyer, De Paula...In your opinion who will be the best?
Ben Badler: Meyer.
Keith (Manchester, CT): Thanks Ben. Gut reaction--who becomes the better MLB pitcher: Archie Bradley or Gerrit Cole?
Ben Badler: Bradley.
Jake (tel aviv): thanks ben, I've big extremely high on Henry Owens by draft time last year. and I know he needed to develop a plus 3rd pitch. and I caught a start last week and he looked much more developed. I know he's still a ways, but what's your ceiling on him as of right now. thanks man
Ben Badler: He is more developed than he was last year. A little extra heat on the fastball and a lot more command. He’s only 20 still, but he’s another tall guy who does have athleticism and does repeat his delivery, and you’re seeing the improvement in his ability to hit his spots this year. Mid-rotation starter potential.
Vinnie (Bahston): Did the Sawx mess up bringing up Bradley too soon?
Ben Badler: Yes, another example of being fooled by what happens in spring training, but he’ll be fine. He just needs time in Triple-A, which is normal.
Ben Badler: Thanks for all the questions. It’s been a challenging couple of weeks here in Boston, which is why some of you may have noticed our international stories slowed down a bit during that time, but it’s good to be able to focus on baseball again. Have a great weekend.