Prospect Hot Sheet Chat With J.J. Cooper (April 25)

Moderator: Baseball America managing editor J.J. Cooper stopped by to chat about this week’s Hot Sheet Prospects.

Pat (NY): Is Dominic Smith headed back to instructs? He doesn't seem to be getting better.
J.J. Cooper: Hey everyone. Thanks for coming out and your interest in the Hot Sheet. Yes, Dominic Smith has had a bad, very bad start to the season. No extra-base hits is not what you want from a first baseman. That being said, it’s 18 games. He’s striking out in only 15 percent of at-bats, so it’s not like he’s completely outmatched. No reason not to be patient.

Tim Nathan Moriconi (Essex, CT): With Gallo absolutely mashing, how soon can we expect to see a AA promotion?
J.J. Cooper: Not anytime soon I would think. Gallo is coming off of a great but flawed season in low Class A. There is no reason at all not to give him plenty of time to consolidate the gains he’s made at the plate before bumping him up to another level. You generally move guys up when they have proven they are not learning anything more from the level they are currently at, but that’s not the case with Gallo yet.

Oscar Taveras (Memphis): Do I beat fellow NL Central top prospect Gregory Polanco to the majors? The Cards really need an impact bat right now.
J.J. Cooper: Who does he replace? Polanco has a pretty clear spot waiting for him in right field in Pittsburgh. While the Cardinals outfield has generally struggled at the plate, it’s hard to see the Cards benching Allen Craig unless he flounders for another month and a half or two months. Taveras isn’t really a center fielder, so he’s not likely to replace Borjous/Jay in center field and Matt Holliday is going to be the left fielder unless he’s hurt. So no, I don’t see him moving up anytime soon.

Noel (Portland, Oregon): Is Mookie Betts now the best 2b prospect in the minors?
J.J. Cooper: Still would say Odor because he’s more physical, but the margin is pretty slim. Betts is really, really good.

Gerg (Keeperville): Will Springer's struggles delay the ETA on Singleton ?
J.J. Cooper: Don’t see why. Singleton is better than the guys playing first base in Houston right now. Springer’s struggles aren’t all that surprising though, we wrote about how this could happen when he was called up last week. Springer isn’t going to learn how to handle the outer half of the plate in Triple-A because he’s too good for Triple-A. He needs to work through this at the big league level.

Gerg (Fantasyville): Does Robbie Ray's great start make it possible for the Tigers to trade Max Scherzer before the deadline as opposed to letting him go for a compensation pick?
J.J. Cooper: Seriously? Not a chance. Robbie Ray is doing a good job of getting out Triple-A hitters. If the Tigers needed someone to fill in for an injured starter, Ray has shown he may be ready to do that. But the object of Major League Baseball is to win games. The Tigers are a World Series contender. I can’t not imagine a situation where the Tigers would trade away last year’s Cy Young winner, a nearly 7 WAR player last year, while they are looking to win a World Series. What kind of haul could they get that would actually make them a better team this year?

Greg T. (Eagan): Any injury updates on Byron Buxton, Addison Russell, or Austin Meadows? Everything I see is always very vague.
J.J. Cooper: If everything goes well, Buxton should be back in a couple of weeks at most.

Richard (Brooklyn): How does Steven Matz not get a mention? He's been dominant down in St. Lucie and has huge upside.
J.J. Cooper: Matz had one good start this week (5 2/3 IP, 4 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 6 Ks). That’s not enough to get on the Hot Sheet. He’s one for Mets fans to keep an eye on, but there are some causes for caution. He missed two full years coming back from an elbow injury, which is why he’s a 23-year-old 2009 draftee in high Class A. I’m a fan of Matz’s stuff and it’s a very good start to the season. If he makes it through this year with no health issues, he’ll be climbing the Mets prospect list at the end of the season.

Joe (DE): Any reports on Giles to explain his, so far, new found command? His BB rate has previously rivaled his K rate. Is this small sample an illusion or can we expect this command, with some regression of course, to continue?
J.J. Cooper: Giles has made some steps forward, but I do think it’s a little crazy that there are Phillies fans incensed that he’s not in the big leagues now. We’re talking about a pitcher who had a 6+ ERA in high Class A last year. And in that season he had a stretch last year where he had seven straight scoreless innings with 11 Ks, 3 BB and no hits allowed, so it’s not like he hasn’t shown stretches of dominance before. He’s got 10 innings above Class A, a lot of his strikeouts are coming on elevated fastballs that may not work as well in the big leagues. This is a step forward, but he’s not a refined big league ready reliever yet.

Sergio (Miami, FL): Slow start for Jacob May, as mentioned in the Hot Sheet.....is he worth being patient with, still profiling as a leadoff hitter with SB potential??
J.J. Cooper: Absolutely worth being patient with. We’re way too early in the season to be making sweeping generalizations about a player because he’s been struggling.

Gregory Polanco (Close to Pittsburgh): Will I be more like McCutchen batting .310 with 25 hrs and 25 sbs, or more like Marte batting .270 with 12 hrs and 40 sbs?
J.J. Cooper: Long term Polanco is going to be more of hit/power than a speed guy. He’s simply too big to stay a burner over the long haul. Look at the best big/tall speedsters of all time, they almost all are average to below average runners by the time they hit their late 20s. Polanco is 6-foot-4, 220 pounds (at least) right now. Looking at major leaguers all-time who were at least that big, only nine players have more than 100 career steals. Dave Winfield leads that group, but his speed was gone by the time he was 29. The same was true with Dave Parker (a good comp for Polanco) and Jose Canseco. Matt Kemp is showing similar tendencies now.

Noel (Portland, Oregon): Is Pittsburgh really going to wait until after the Super 2 deadline to call up Polanco? He can't be knocking on the door much louder than he is.
J.J. Cooper: I think it’s pretty likely. They have had some offensive issues at the big league level, but Travis Snider is playing just well enough that right field hasn’t been a major issue. That being said, the club is 5 games under .500, if that gets a little worse, the temptation grows to bring Polanco up to give the team a spark.

Frisco (TX): What are your thoughts on Joey Gallo? Rangers fans are salivating, but is it justified?
J.J. Cooper: Absolutely it’s justified. Gallo’s power is jaw-dropping. Whatever flaws he has, in a game that is seeing less and less power, that tool by itself gives him a chance to be special. You can pinpoint flaws in his game, and he has some, but it’s hard to find anyone with Gallo’s kind of power who hasn’t been at least a semi-useful big leaguer at some point. Take Wily Mo Pena as an example. Pena had great raw power, but he was never as productive a minor leaguer as Gallo has already been. Pena also was rushed to the big league because of 40-man roster issues. Despite all that, Pena had a number of seasons where he was a league-average hitter or better. Russ Branyan is another example of a low-floor type of potential outcome for Gallo. Despite nightmarish K issues, Branyan had a 14-year big league career and hit nearly 200 big league home runs. Those are floor scenarios.

Carlos Camejo (Maracay - Venezuela): What are your thoughts on Cleuluis Rondon (SS Kannapolis / White Sox), What is his ceiling? thanks.
J.J. Cooper: The glove is pretty special. If he can hit at all he could be an Adieny Hechavarria/Jose Iglesias type player. So far, he hasn’t shown potential to be more than that at the plate.

Lion Lenny (detroit): see Gregory polanco getting called up before june?projections for him?see him or taveras producing more this season?
J.J. Cooper: Say June callup is most likely. Think Polanco will produce more in the big leagues this year than Taveras.

Juan Pablo Starkcito (Manchester, CT): Which MLB player would you currently compare Gallo's power to?
J.J. Cooper: Stanton. Like Gallo, his batting practice sessions and his longest home runs in the minor leagues are talked about in hushed tones like they were apocryphal stories that belied belief.

Patrick (El Paso): 10 team, 10 Minor league slots. AL only league, What is the ceiling on Goeddel. Is he worth stashing or wait to see if he develops?
J.J. Cooper: 10 minor league slots in a 10-team league? Don’t stash him yet. He would need to be one of the top 200 prospects in the game, and he’s not there. There are better guys who are out there and available in your league.

Roger (NJ): Hey JJ thanks for taking my question. With the inevitable call up of Polanco looming, how good will that Pirates outfield be with McCutchen and Marte along side him? That looks to be a scary good outfield for many years. Whats your take?
J.J. Cooper: I’m old, so I can’t help but think of some resemblance to the A’s outfield of Rickey Henderson, Dwayne Murphy and Tony Armas which played together from 1979-1982. Those were three outfielders capable of playing CF playing in the same outfield. You got defense from them, plus they were all above-average offensive players. T

Bryce (Cincinnati, OH): Is JC Boscan a lifetime minor league player, or can he catch on a roster full time in the bigs?
J.J. Cooper: I’m old, as I just mentioned, I’ve been at Baseball America for 12 years now and spent the previous 2 years as a sports editor before that. Now with all that, I covered J.C. Boscan when he was a Macon Brave in 1999 when I was a sports writer. So in other words, he’s a lifetime minor leaguer who can get a cup of coffee every now and then as a useful third catcher to stash in Triple-A. Hes always had the glove, never had the bat to be more than an up-and-down guy.

Steve (NJ): If you could make a voltron out of any two players skillsets, who would be the best? I feel like Mookie Betts with Gallo's size/arm/power would be devastating.
J.J. Cooper: Fascinating questions. So you’d be melding Betts batting eye/speed/defense with Gallo’s size/arm/power. That’s a pretty impressive combo. Give me Lucas Giolito’s stuff with Gabriel Ynoa or Dylan Floro’s pinpoint control and I think I might be able to get him out.

Joe (MD): Are pitchers like Shipley looked at differently because of the lack of mileage on their arms? It sounds good, but you still have guys like Kris Medlen with elbow trouble.
J.J. Cooper: Scouts and front office love to get low-mileage arms into their organizations, but it doesn’t always work out in healthier pitchers. Brandon Beachy and Kris Medlen were low-mileage. Sergio Santos had less than 200 innings on his arm before he blew out. Jason Motte had just over 400 innings on his odometer before he blew out.

steve (Middletown OH): Is it too soon to call Reds prospect Jeff Gelich a bust?
J.J. Cooper: No. He just hasn’t shown the tools or skills the Reds expected when they drafted him. At this point, the chance that those tools/skills are going to appear is very slim.

Mookie Betts (Portland): So how do I find my way to Boston with Dustin Pedroria at my spot long term? I mean I've pretty much balled out. If I do it all year how do I find my way to Boston?
J.J. Cooper: I think Betts ends up as a great trade chip. He’s a second baseman, and that position is on lockdown in Boston.

Todd (MD): As a big Whitesox fan, an OF of Garcia, May, and Eaton would be interesting.....what do you see in May, and is the best comp his (possible) future teammate in Eaton? Thanks!
J.J. Cooper: Can’t got that far on May as Eaton showed WAY better hitting ability at every stop up the ladder. Eaton was a .348 career minor league hitter, which is borderline insane. May has had one month in his young career when he’s topped that .348 average.

J.J. Cooper: Thanks everyone for coming out. Got to get a few other things done before the weekend begins. Hope everyone has a good weekend.

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