Baseball America

Prospect Hot Sheet Chat With JJ Cooper: June 1

J.J. Cooper: Hey everyone. It’s a wonderfully busy day and week here at Baseball America with NCAA regionals, the upcoming draft and the minor league season. I’m jumping in a couple of minutes early as I’m also going to have to jump out a little early to post Jim Callis’ mock draft and hopefully a draft podcast.

    greg (ohio): No offense to Jose Fernandez but his lower half looks rather grande in this photo. Got a physical comp for him?

J.J. Cooper: Had a scout say that physically (emphasis PHYSICALLY) he’s a slightly larger Felix Hernandez body type. Yeah, there’s not much projection to Fernandez, he’s pretty much full grown. If he was a position player I’d worry more about it, but pitchers can be
fine carrying a little extra poundage (see Wells, David or Sabathia, C.C.).

    Drake (DC): No love for David Holmberg? 15 IP, 16 K, 2 BB, 5 ER, 0 HR...76:14 K:BB on the year in 70 innings. Why doesn't anyone talk about him?

J.J. Cooper: You hit on the big number there 5 ER. That’s not going to get it done this week. This was one of those weeks when there were plenty of good options for the Sheet. As far as no one talking about him, we talk about him around here a lot. He was the No. 6
prospect in a pitching-rich D’backs system coming into the system.

    Jim H. (Sphinx Park, CO): What is Jose Fernandez's 3rd best pitch right now, and has it made progress this season?

J.J. Cooper: Changeup and his slider are battling for being his third best pitch. Both are useable, but his fastball and curveball are a tick above the other two pitches. He has confidence in both of them already and will use them willingly, not just because his org tells him to throw them.

    Alex (Tempe, AZ): Any reports on Jose Fernandez's changeup progress? Keith Law ragged on him for only having a
    two pitch repertoire, so it's nice to see him finally get some well deserved recognition. Are these numbers a fluke or is Jose one of the best pitchers in the minors?

J.J. Cooper: I saw his worst start of the season, but even in that start he showed a little feel for a changeup. And he throws
four pitches, although I wouldn’t be stunned if the Marlins eventually told him to focus on the curveball and junk the slider. One of the best pitchers in the minors? It depends on what kind of grouping you’re talking about. Top five? No. Top 10? Probably not. Top 20? I’d say yes. Could he be in that top 10 a year from now if he keeps progressing, definitely.

    Warren (New London): Has Keury de la Cruz bulked up too much? Before this year he
    looked like a center fielder. Now you're listing him at first base.
    I'm assuming that's a typo, but my question still stands.

J.J. Cooper: Typo that will be fixed. He’s added some good weight, but nothing that’s a problem.

    Jeff (Oakland): I don't get it. Grandal gets called up to replace the inept hitting Nick Hundley but Oakland continue
    to go with Kurt Suzuki when they have just as good a prospect (better defensively) in Derek Norris! Why?!

J.J. Cooper: For one I think Suzuki is a little more entrenched in Oakland than Hundley was in San Diego based on past performance. The other reason is I’d argue that Grandal is a little more
refined defensively than Norris.

    Justin (Anchorage, AK): Is Nick Franklin's year cementing him as one of the top 50 prospects in baseball?

J.J. Cooper: It’s always hard to give definitive answers on a floating Top 50 because until you sit down and write it out
(and talk to a ton of people in the game about it), it’s always easy to
either under or overestimate where a guy should be ranked. But yeah, he’s top 50 to me as I try to run a quick list through my head. Do remember also that this is the time of year when it’s easiest to crack a
top 50. A lot of guys are up and no longer eligible for the Top 100, while this year’s draft class isn’t eligible yet.

    Jake (The Friendly Confines): Rumors abound that Rizzo will pack his bags for the big club once he's 100% and the Cubbies return from their road trip. Do you believe he's ready?

J.J. Cooper: Yes I think he’s ready. That doesn’t mean he won’t have any adjustment issues, but there’s not much more he can get out of destroying the PCL.

    Jason (Milwaukee): JJ, when can we expect to see Yasmani Grandal at PETCO?

J.J. Cooper: I don’t know what flight he’s on, but with
it being his big league debut and all I’m guessing he’s either already arrived for tonight’s game or he will be to the ballpark shortly.

    Chris (Myrtle Beach, SC): Is Tyler Austin's season for real? What do you see his future being and what kind of potential might he have?

J.J. Cooper: I think so and some people in the industry
do too. He projects as a middling corner OF defensively with a good arm
and enough bat that you don’t care too much about his defense.

    eddie (cincinnati): with the reds lack of obp at the top of the lineup, how long before billy hamilton starts moving up?

J.J. Cooper: The two have nothing to do with each other. I know Reds fans want Hamilton in Cincinnati yesterday, but he’s not ready to help the team’s OBP at any point this year. Now, if the Reds are in the playoff chase come late August could he help as a pinch-runner? Absolutely. He’d be worth carrying on a playoff roster simply to pinch run in crucial late-game situations.

    Heavy Early (Cincinnati): What is your opinion on Robbie Grossman? Is his low batting average more the result of a fluky BABIP, or is he hitting alot of harmless flyballs? The guy has a great batting eye, unlike anyone else on the Pirates right now...

J.J. Cooper: I think some of it is the flukes of a small sample size. That being said, we’ve been pretty consistent around here in thinking that he’s going to have a hard time being a big league regular—he’s more of a tweener. The slow start this year isn’t helping the other side of that argument.

    Rudy (Garden Grove, CA): Can you give us an idea about where this year's draft crop would rank in a midseason update
    of your top 100 prospects? Would Appel or Buxton crack the top 10?

J.J. Cooper: I can think of six pitchers from last year’s draft I’d rather have than Appel (Bundy, Bauer, Bradley, Cole, Hultzen and Fernandez) so it would be hard to put Appel in the top 10. I’d slot Buxton ahead of Bubba Starling but not dramatically ahead of him, and Bubba was No. 24 on our preseason Top 100 Prospects list. So no, I don’t think any of this year’s draftees walk into the rankings as a
Top 10 guy.

    Rod Serling (Twilight Zone): Submitted for your
    approval. Dylan Bundy gets promoted to High-A Frederick just before he was due to square off against Jose Fernandez. On the other side of the country, Trevor Bauer gets promoted to AAA Reno just before he was due to square off against Danny Hultzen. (whistles the theme song)

J.J. Cooper: But hey, weather permitting we get to see Bundy vs. Yordano Ventura tonight. A very rare chance to see two starting pitchers possibly hit 100 mph in the same game.

    Ben (Miamisburg, OH): Billy Hamilton racked up 57 steals before June, barring injury, how many do you think he ends up with?

J.J. Cooper: Playing off my previous answer, I’ll guess
he makes a run at the record, finishes with 140 then gets a callup to the big leagues where he adds another 10 to finish with the most steals anyone’s ever had in a pro season, but without holding any official record (not even the California League record as Donell Nixon stole 144 for Bakersfield in 1983).

    Ben (Miamisburg, OH): I was at the Archie Bradley start against Dayton and he had an easy 93-94 mph fastball and his curve was biting hard at 81-82, his problem was he kept missing over
    the plate. Are location problems like this a reason for concern, or just a growing pain for a 19 year old in A ball?

J.J. Cooper: Not worried at all about a few hiccups. Growing pains.

    Ben (Miamisburg, OH): Should I be concerned that Red 2011 1st rd pick Robert Stephenson is starting in rookie ball, or is that the norm for low 1st rd pitchers out of high school?

J.J. Cooper: I don’t think the Reds are worried, but I would be a little bit. He’s out of California, so he’s not exactly making the adjustment from Maine. When I did a study of the first full year of every high school pitcher selected in the first round from 1992 to present, I couldn’t find one of them who become a successful big leaguer after spending their first full pro season in rookie or short-season ball. The guys who spent a full first year in rookie or short season included Mark Pawelek, Josh Girdley, Donnie Bridges, Mark Mangum, Matt White and Matt Drews, Todd Noel and Jason Stanridge. Now I’ll be the first to admit this is kind of a junk stat, as if Stephenson
makes 12 starts in Billings and then makes two starts in Dayton at the end of the year he doesn’t qualify for the list, but no, the norm for first-round high school pitchers is to make it to low Class A at least.

    Nyal Rivera (Queens, NY): How close is Cody Buckel to being considered a top or even elite pitching prospect?: he has huge K numbers, a decent walk rate, good GO/AO rate, great avg against, and is dominating high A at 19. How does his stuff grade out?

J.J. Cooper: That’s the only hangup with Buckel. His stuff is more of a middle-rotation guy at best. He looks to be more of a
No. 3 starter, but I’d love to have him on my (mythical) team.

    Michael (Raleigh NC): Was Max Stassi in the picture? And how can AJ Cole not head the not so hot section? Thanks

J.J. Cooper: Stassi wasn’t that close. Guys with three home runs failed to make the list, so guys with three doubles this week and no extra base hits were going to have it tough. Cole had a solid start in his second outing this week, so he wasn’t a slam dunk for not-hot either.

    Huston (USU): How much has Jose Fernandez' stock risen this season? Does he profile as a potential ace if he can develop an avg 3rd pitch?

J.J. Cooper: He’s a long way away, but yes, he could be
a frontline starter. And again, for a high school guy in Class A, I’m not disappointed with his secondary stuff. He has some work to do with them, but considering he didn’t need to use his changeup much in high school, it looks OK right now.

    Fred (New York): Hey - thanks for the chat - really love 'em. How much of Travis d'Arnaud's numbers are a creation of
    Las Vegas? Can we expect him to get a call up, considering what J.P. Arencibia is doing for the big league club? What kind of time-share can we expect between those two if they're ever on the same team: Would they
    bring d'Arnaud up to be a backup or 50-50 split or maybe want him to continue playing more frequently?

J.J. Cooper: It is almost impossible to figure out how much helium to take out of Las Vegas’ stats (put it this way, D’Arnaud is one of five 51s with a .900+ OPS). But D’Arnaud has a track record of
success, so this isn’t all that unexpected. You don’t call up D’Arnaud to sit on the bench, if he comes up, they likely will figure out a way to get him at least 3-4 starts a week. If not, then he’s better off continuing to refine his game in AAA.

    Steve (Arkansas): Can you compare Byron Buxton to Bubba Starling?

J.J. Cooper: Little better feel for hit. Other wise they have a lot of similarities. I think Buxton is a little quicker home
to first although they seem to be similar speed-wise once underway. I did see that SI article about Buxton being the fastest player in the game since Bo Jackson. Sorry, but that’s crazy. When Buxton signs he won’t be the fastest player in the game right now. And there are players
faster than Bo Jackson in the game now. Better than Bo and faster? No. But at his peak, I betcha Darren Ford was faster home to first (heard 3.4s and 3.5s on him from managers) than Bo, and the time the SI article
quoted for Buxton is one that Trout turns in on a regular basis.

    Tom (Boston): Has Tyler Matzek finally turned the corner? What are scouts saying he is doing differently?

J.J. Cooper: He’s throwing strikes. Matzek’s delivery was a complete disaster last year. Now he’s back feeling comfortable with his delivery and it’s made all the difference.

    Tom (Boston): Would any of the potential draftees for the Astros rank as #1 in their system? Or is Singleton ahead of them all?

J.J. Cooper: Whether it’s Buxton, Appel or one of the other 2-3 possibilities, I’d say yes, the No. 1 pick will rank No. 1.

    Eric (Boston, MA): Even with the slotting system in place, it's likely one of the big names will fall and the big money clubs can alot more of their budget to that one particular pick. So who do you think has a chance of falling to the Red Sox at 24?

J.J. Cooper: Who? You may have a case of a little bit of wishful thinking Eric. Let’s say Giolito gets taken before No. 24, which seems likely. Who’s the other top talent who falls because of injury or signability concerns to that pick? This just isn’t the draft where there are players worth skimping on the majority of your other picks.

    marty kohl (omaha,ne.): Hi J.J.-love the chat.With wil myers scorching AA And Now AAA Pitching and with trout/harper graduating to the bigs has the torch been passed to him as baseball`s new top prospect.Thanks

J.J. Cooper: I love Myers, but I’d have a hard time ranking him ahead of Bundy right now.

    Tim (Minneapolis): I keep reading about how good Castellanos is, but you guys don't seem to rate him all that highly. What's the truth about this guy? How does he compare to Sano?

J.J. Cooper: Big fans of Castellanos. Coming out of low
A last year he was our No. 45 prospect in the game, and he’s obviously moved up from that. He’s a stud. Sano has way better power, but Castellanos is more likely to stick at 3B.

    Matt (Cleveland): Castellanos is the best player and performer in the minors, bar none and you never list him on the hot sheet. Do you realize that makes no sense?

J.J. Cooper: He’s good, but he’s not the best player in
the minors (sorry Nick) and he’s also most week’s not the best performer. He’s having a great year, but he’s been more consistently good than spectacular in any given week, which means it’s easier for a more up and down guy to beat him with a good week. This week Castellanos
was 9-for-23 (.391) with two doubles and no other extra base hits. Which guy on the Hot Sheet would that top this week?

    DH (Brandon, MB): If Billy Hamilton is destined
    for CF(or some other position other than SS) then why not move him now and let him start working on those skills? Is his trade value highest as a SS, and would the Reds consider trading him? Thanks

J.J. Cooper: Considering his athleticism, Hamilton could probably learn CF to a passable level in instructs. Heck, he could
probably do it adequately with 3-4 days of shagging flies in the OF. So
why not leave him at shortstop for now? If he ends up becoming a plus defender at short, you can end up leaving him there, but it’s not going to be tough for him to pick up playing CF.

    James (Akron, Ohio): I love Baseball America, but it seems like in the past couple of years this has become a MLB Draft first-current-prospects second website and it seemingly goes on year round. I'd love to read as much coverage on current prospects in the minors as there is on the draft prospects. Just saying.

J.J. Cooper: James, I promise we’ll keep the prospects coverage coming, but yes, the week preceding the draft and the week of the draft are pretty draft heavy around here. Once the smoke clears next
week we’ll be diving into our midseason prospect updates and helping plan the Futures Game rosters so you’ll see lots of current prospect coverage. I know people like to think we’re this massive company, but to
do the draft coverage like everyone expects takes four of our small staff working on it full time for more than a month (with two guys dedicated to doing it year round) and almost everyone else on the staff pitching in one way or another. We all wear a lot of hats around here to
give you the coverage we feel you all deserve.

    Tom (Earth): This just in. Pitchers don't "face
    each other" in a game. Neither do QBs. Hockey & basketball players do however face each other. Just really hate that phrase, that's all.

J.J. Cooper: Actually in the NL they do, but I get your
point. That being said, if you think W’s have any value at all, if I’m a
pitcher I’d hate to “face” Dylan Bundy.

    steven (Sioux City): Who is the best starting pitching prospect in the Reds system? Cingrani seems like he might get the nod over Corcino at this point?

J.J. Cooper: Still Corcino to me. Great season by Cingrani, but I’d take Corcino.

    RegurgitatingGordonWood (New Orleans): Where do you think Carlos Rodon would go in this draft if he was eligible? Thanks!

J.J. Cooper: No. 1.

    Ben (Columbus, OH): Do you guys ever get tired of answering Billy Hamilton questions?

J.J. Cooper: No. I find him way too fascinating to get tired of the questions.

Moderator: Thanks everyone for a great group of questions. Sorry to wrap this up, but I’ve got two+ hours left of work to do and less than that long left before I need to head home. We’ll have a draft chat on Monday morning, so stay tuned for that, and check out the college blog all weekend for coverage of the NCAA regionals.

Minors | #2012 #Prospect Hot Sheet

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