Moderator: J.J. Cooper will answer your prospect questions beginning at 2:30 p.m. ET.
Wesley (Toronto, Canada): hey JJ just wondering which prospect in jays system has impressed you the most thus far this season and why?
J.J. Cooper: Hey everyone. Thanks as always for coming out, for reading and (hopefully) for subscribing. I’m just back from a trip to the Midwest League where I saw Byron Buxton, Albert Almora, Carlos Correa, Lance McCullers and more, so I’m eager to chat.
As far as Blue Jays, I’m going to go with Aaron Sanchez. I know he’s hurt right now, but pre-injury he was impressing with stuff and feel.
Andrew (Chicago): Almora seems to be absolutely raking, I know it can be reverted to small sample size, and needing to pitchers to adjust to him so he can learn to adjust back, but is he in a similar position as Buxton, were they both need to face better competition?
J.J. Cooper: Almora is really locked in right now, but I do think it’s a different situation than Buxton. In Buxton’s case, he’s gone through the league twice and even after pitchers made adjustments, he’s too good for the league. In Almora’s case, he’s played 19 games. He hasn’t gotten through the league once yet. There’s no reason to promote him yet, as he is still gaining plenty by going out and getting comfortable in the MWL.
Steve (Eastcoast): Would you move Xander Bogaerts to the outfield in deference to either Will Middlebrooks and/or Jose Iglesias (if all are on the Red Sox MLB team in 2014)?
J.J. Cooper: I’m not ready to declare Jose Iglesias a big league hitter, even if his 78 at-bats have been excellent. Vernon Wells posted a 1.000 OPS in April, and then reverted back to what we expected from Wells. In over 800 Triple-A ABs, Iglesias has posted a sub-.600 OPS. I’m just not buying that he’s anywhere close to this as a hitter. So with that in mind, no, I would look at Bogaerts as the SS of the future until he proves he can’t handle the position, with Iglesias likely serving as a useful utilityman.
Mike (Cincinnati): Has Robert Stephenson shown enough this season to bypass Billy Hamilton as the Reds top prospect?
J.J. Cooper: It’s definitely now a discussion. Stephenson is very good.
Marty (Denver, CO): Corey Dickerson's bat has been a pleasant surprise, but do you see any way that his defense will improve enough to play at Coors? Or does he remain an enticing trade chip for an AL team?
J.J. Cooper: Enticing might not be the right word, more of a useful throw in at this point. Teams are going to be skeptical of a hitter who’s hitting at the Triple-A version of Coors Field, especially when he has positional concerns.
Mike (Virginia): What are Ranaudo's ceiling and floor? Is he a sure-fire top 100 prospect in your eyes?
J.J. Cooper: Ceiling is a front-end of the rotation starter. The floor is he never pitches in the big leagues. Not trying to be flippant about that, but injuries and lost stuff because of injuries have always been Ranaudo’s problem. If that’s behind him, he’s a very good starting pitching prospect, but he’s had significant stretches in the past where because of the injuries he hasn’t been a very good minor league pitcher.
Frank (Indiana): J.J., just wanted to say that you guys at BA have really turned it up a notch with prospect coverage this year -- with the Prospect Notebooks everyday and the Prospect Handbook Podcast each Friday. It's noticed and appreciated!
J.J. Cooper: Thanks for saying that. We are glad you’re reading and listening and glad you’re enjoying it. We’ll have more fun and hopefully exciting stuff coming soon.
John (Chicago): I know he's not on the hot sheet, but Wilmer Flores hit .483 this past week, so I hope you'll take a question on him. He hit 18 homers last year, but in the friendly confines of Las Vegas, he's managed only 6 this year. Was last year's power surge an anomaly?
J.J. Cooper: He’s hitting for average and he’s hit for power at times in the past, so I wouldn’t say it’s as much an aberration as it is just luck of the draw and approach. He has solid line drive swing that should produce solid average and solid, but not spectacular power. Somewhere in the 15-20 home run range seems to be a reasonable expectation in a good year with a little less in his normal years.
Christopher (phoenix): Since the inception of the hot sheet, who would be in the conversation for best week ever?/tt>
J.J. Cooper: Great question. I remember Tommy Hanson spending a straight month on the Hot Sheet because he gave up no runs and almost no hits every week. Matt Moore also had a stretch of dominance that was amazing. Because he got extra games, Gallo’s week this week as far as pure power is close to the top, but I doesn’t feel like one of the best-ever weeks. Off the top of my head, Wil Myers had a power binge last year where he homered in I believe 6 of 7 games the week of the Hot Sheet. Darin Ruf’s stretch last August was pretty amazing as well.
Jay (Palo Alto, CA): After seeing McCullers, what's your take on him?
J.J. Cooper: I’ll preface this with my normal reminder that I’m not a scout, but I saw a very good arm 94-97 mph fastballs, touching 98 that at his best he located pretty well. He also has an excellent breaking ball that is a true out pitch, and one that he can throw for strikes, it’s not just a bury and chase pitch. His changeup, at least on the night I saw it, was virtually non-existent. It took him throwing four or five of them before I could figure out what it was. It looked like a straight BP fastball coming in at 87-88 mph. He wasn’t nearly as effective the second time through the lineup. If you want to go running with that and say “he’s a power reliever” feel free, but I’m not willing to go that way yet. It’s a long ways from the Midwest League to the big leagues. Am I skeptical that he will be able to pick up a changeup? Absolutely. Am I willing to say he can’t? No.
Rich (CA): What was your take on Byron Buxton after seeing him in person ? Does anyone compare to him at all ?
J.J. Cooper: My wife Tweeted today that she was wondering if she had something to be concerned about with my newfound love of Buxton. Hopefully she was joking. I expected him to be a very good prospect, but he was better than that. I’d go on and on, but we’ll have a lengthy feature on Buxton running in the near future which will pass along a whole lot of info and detail on Buxton.
Chris (phoenix): Did you see matt olson and what were you think?
J.J. Cooper: I didn’t see him this past week, but talking to scouts they see him as one of the better in the very thin crop of first base prospects.
Dustin (Winnipeg): This isn't a hot prospect question, but I can't find anywhere else on the website to ask it. Do you know why Bryan Verbitsky's signing bonus isn't posted on the Padres signing page? Every other one of their signees shows their bonus except his.
J.J. Cooper: We’re still tracking it down.
Tanner (Omaha): Does Hickory have the best team, prospect wise in the minors? Seems like the rangers have alot of high risk, high ceiling prospects down there.
J.J. Cooper: They may be near the top tools-wise, but it’s also all kinds of risky. Hickory has struck out 704 times this year. No other Sally League team has struck out 600 times. Of course, the Crawdads 101 home runs are nearly twice as much as anyone else in the Sally League as well. Some of these swing hard and see where it goes prospects will never pan out, but if one or two do, the Rangers will be getting some always hard to find elite power.
chris (phoenix): Is gallo comparable to troy glaus?
J.J. Cooper: Glaus was better defensively. There are questions whether Gallo can stick at third, Glaus was a third baseman who could play shortstop in a pinch. Russ Branyan is a more realistic comp for now. Both were big lefthanded hitters who hit tons of home runs in the Sally League and also piled up insane strikeout numbers.
Fred (Brooklyn): How's Eddie Rosario looking at 2B this year? Heard a decent amount in the offseason that he wasn't working out there.
J.J. Cooper: Better from what I’ve heard. Still not all the way there as a sure-bet to stick, but he better figure it out there, as his previous position (center fielder) isn’t really an option with Buxton playing there.
Fred (Brooklyn): Do the Mets need to think about getting D'Arnaud out from behind the plate to a less demanding position to access his bat? Where would he play if he had to make a move?
J.J. Cooper: No. His value is largely tied to being a catcher. His defense at catcher is a big part of his value. Also, the Mets need a catcher, so you keep him there.
Jeff (Philadelphia): Has Alen Hanson improved his chances at sticking at SS since he got benched or is there a lot more to do?
J.J. Cooper: Still work to do. Scouts I’ve asked that question say they think it’s 40-60 whether he’ll be able to make it to the bigs as a shortstop. Still seems more likely he ends up as a second baseman.
Eric (Boston): In light of performance, call ups and injury status' of other top prospects, is there a case for Xander Bogaerts as the number 1 overall prospect right now? Already the youngest player the the EL he just got promoted. Who's he competing with for next years top spot?
J.J. Cooper: I’m getting ready to dive into that very question before long for our midseason update. Buxton is in the discussion. Oscar Taveras is still a worthy competitor for the title. And I think Miguel Sano has to be considered as well. But Bogaerts is part of the discussion.
PJD (Bahamas): The Rangers' Hickory team seems absolutely bursting with young high ceiling hitting talent. Out of this group, which player would be valued the highest by a consensus of other organizations and why?
J.J. Cooper: I’d say Jorge Alfaro because of his varied toolset. He still has a lot of work to do as a catcher, but the combination of athleticism, power and the possibility of sticking at catcher is a valuable combination.
Hank (Lakeville, MN): Heyward or Buxton?
Jason hasn't lived up to all the hype he received thus far...so what's to say Buxton doesn't follow that same path?
J.J. Cooper: There are no guarantees, it’s baseball. But also I think your understanding of what should be expected from players might be a little overblown. Heyward posted a 131 OPS+ as a 20-year-old rookie and a 117 OPS+ last year as a 22-year-old. He’s been more erratic than you would like to see and he’s had some injury issues, but that’s not exactly a guy who’s been a bust.
frank (allemtown): Has Tony Sanchez become a prospect again? Hitting .300 with power at AAA not too bad. Have you heard any concerns about his throwing? Rumors that he has the yips even getting the ball back to the pitcher circulating in PGH.
J.J. Cooper: Not rumors. He has the yips at times. I’ve heard that from multiple scouts. The offensive improvement is solid, but he still has some defensive work to do to get to the big leagues.
TPX2 (Taiwan): Better chance to become impact ML talent, Gallo or Brinson?
J.J. Cooper: Gallo to me. That power will make up for a lot of flaws.
MJ (Valpo): Has Yorman Rodriguez turned a corner this season? Will he ever put all his tools together enough to see Cincy someday?
J.J. Cooper: It’s a good couple of weeks, but no. I’m not buying that this is a turnaround. A .770 OPS in the Cal League is not exactly tearing the cover off the ball. Count me as a skeptic, but the tools could still all come together so I can’t rule it out. I would say the chances of him being an impact player are pretty small.
Byron Buxton (Cedar Rapids): Do you think I will head to Ft. Myers after the AS game?
J.J. Cooper: I’d expect so. From what I saw and what scouts who I talked to have seen, there’s few challenges left for him in Cedar Rapids.
Dan (Idaho Falls): Not a hot sheet Q - what were your impressions of Rio Ruiz? Thanks.
J.J. Cooper: I wasn’t all that impressed (again #notascout). He didn’t really show all that much during pregame infield or BP, in fact he was showing some rough edges at third base defensively. Scouts I talked to think it may click for him at some point, but right now he’s a little behind the league.
John (Arlington, VA): Buxton or Sano, who has the highest ceiling?
J.J. Cooper: Buxton. He does more things. Could have nearly Sano’s power while doing a lot more of the other things.
nik (Philly): Why was Maikel Franco left off the list? 4 HR week with 3BBs and 3Ks.
J.J. Cooper: He could have made it but the four home runs were pretty much his week. No other XBH.
stan (dayton): Ok, this isn't really a hot sheet question, but say Stephenson is ready for the big leagues in a year or two and the Reds could only afford to only sign Bailey or Latos long-term, who would you choose?
J.J. Cooper: I’d try to find out whichever one gives me a better deal for the contract. I think you don’t go wrong with locking up either one. Is that a cop out?
Steven (Oakland): Russell vs Profar. Who do you like more and why?
J.J. Cooper: Profar. Done it at a higher level. Tools are just as loud. He’s only a year older and he already has nearly 100 big league at-bats under his belt while Russell is finding his footing in high Class A.
Steve L. (Minneapolis): Other than Buxton, any Cedar Rapids Kernels leave you with a good impression? Such as Travis Harrison, Adam Walker, or J.O. Berrios?
J.J. Cooper: I didn’t get to see Berrios pitched as I missed him by one day. Walker does some impressive things. He’s adjusting to a steady diet of breaking balls and pitchers who pitch him away, away, away, but he has excellent power, runs well and in the short time I was there showed a good glove in right field. His swing seems a little long, so he’ll likely always have some strikeouts, but the other tools are enough to probably work around that. Harrison didn’t impress. Had scouts scratching their head as far as what was there to go 50th overall in the ’11 draft. Melotakis showed a good fastball but needs to work on his secondary stuff (his changeup did show flashes when he beared down against Dan Vogelbach). Jorge Polanco looked solid at shortstop. Pretty insane that when healthy that team has him and Niko Goodrum up the middle.
John (CT): Was Addison Russell's slow start a fluke? Think he still has a high upside?
J.J. Cooper: Not a fluke. It was a case of a guy needing to catch up to the level. He’s starting to catch up, which is easily explained by him being young and inexperienced for the league. Absolutely he still has very good upside.
J.J. Cooper: Sorry everyone but I need to wrap this up so I can say farewell to Conor Glassey and Nathan Rode on this their final day as BA staffers. We’re going to miss them a ton, but wish them luck as they move on.