Prospects Chat With J.J. Cooper

Moderator: J.J. Cooper will chat about prospects beginning at 3 p.m. ET.

    Tyler (Harrodsburg, Ky): During the Aflac
    game, if I'm not mistaken I saw a Jameson Taillon comparison to Stephen
    Strasburg. Is there any substance to that?

J.J. Cooper: Not really…I can see comping someone’s
physical resemblance to Strasburg, but there’s one Strasburg. Heck,
it’s even hard to comp Strasburg for a big leaguer because his stuff is
so unique.

    Todd (Chattanooga): What do you see in Tyler Colvin's future? 4th/utility outfielder?

J.J. Cooper: That sounds about right to me. Being a
lefty bat will help him, and he can play both corner spots. He’s not
the athlete he was when the Cubs drafted him, and he’s clearly on the
slow track, so he still has some work to do to reach that level.

    Lance (Memphis): With his strong finish to the
    season and his combination of power and speed, Nieuwenhuis seems to be
    making a case to be among the Mets top 10 prospects. Where do you think
    he ranks among Mets prospects?

J.J. Cooper: He’s got to be in the discussion. He’s
among the Mets minor league leaders in HRs and SBs and has shown that
he could handle skipping low Class A. He just turned 22, so it’s good
that he did skip low A from a developmental standpoint. As far as
having a combination of speed, power and an ability to hit, Nieuwenhuis
ranks among the better Mets prospects. One aside with this. In looking
up where Nieuwenhuis ranked in the Mets organization in multiple
categories, it jumps out that no one in the Mets system has more than
18 stolen bases this year, which is pretty shocking for the team that
always used to have an Esix Snead, Wayne Lydon or Angel Pagan bouncing
around.

    Todd (Chattanooga): Which 4 would you take? Heyward, Hanson, Schafer, & Freeman - or - Stanton, Morrison, West, & Maybin?

J.J. Cooper: I’ll go with the Braves, the big reason
being Hanson vs. West. Nothing against West, but he’s not the prospect
Hanson is. I’d give Maybin an edge over Schafer, but not enough to
balance out West vs. Hanson. With Heyward and Freeman joining Hanson in
Atlanta, the Braves are about to get interesting in the next year or so.

    dave (houston): what do you think the A's are
    goin to do with jemille weekes with Cardenas starting to get his feet
    under him in triple a. Do either project good anywhere else on the
    diamond??

J.J. Cooper: Cardenas could slide over to 3B, and
several scouts/managers I’ve talked to seem to think his bat is good
enough to make that move. I know he played a good bit of SS at Midland,
but there’s a lot of skepticism over whether Cardenas could handle
shortstop at the big league level. Weeks on the other hand seems pretty
set as a second baseman.

    Mike (Tennessee): Does Juan Francisco have a chance to make the Top 100 this year, and where would he rank in the Reds Top 10?

J.J. Cooper: He’ll likely be in the Reds Top 10, and
he has an outside shot I’d say at making the Top 100, but to be honest
right now, I’m baffled as to what to do with him. The track record of
players who swing at everything like Francisco does isn’t very good.
Vladimir Guerrero is held up as the patron saint of free-swingers
because he can get base hits on balls that bounce, but he walked more
than he struck out in his final minor league season. It’s hard to find
a big league hitter who’s had long-term success with the
strikeout-to-walk rates that Francisco has had in the minors. In fact,
I’ll throw it out to the chatters. Can anyone come up with someone
who’s walked as little as Francisco (who will set a career high this
year if he gets up to 25 BBs) while striking out 100+ times a season
who has had long-term big league success? Come up with somebody and
I’ll laud you at the end of the chat.

    Scott (Chicago, IL): when could Juan Francisco and Todd Frazier become regulars for the Reds? Thanks

J.J. Cooper: I’d say Frazier’s closer to getting a big
league job than Francisco. Still trying to track down scouting reports
on how Frazier’s looking at second base, but his relatively polished
bat and his ability to play multiple positions means he shouldn’t be
too far away from helping out in Cincinnati.

    Tara (Tampa): If you could choose between Wade Davis and Jeremy Hellickson for your team, which would you pick and why?

J.J. Cooper: I’ll go with Hellickson, which is a
different answer than I may have given last year. Davis has better pure
stuff, but Hellickson seems to have a better feel for what to do with
it and he’s more comfortable mixing it up.

    larry (chicago): When are AFL rosters going to
    be released? And what's the status of the "junior" AFL league for less
    experienced minor leaguers?

J.J. Cooper: If past history is a guide we should get
them next week. The junior league has been cancelled to save money
which is a shame. Whether in Hawaii or Arizona, it would be helpful to
have a league for less polished players to get more ABs or innings,
especially for players who were injured during the summer.

    Lee (Hagerstown, MD): I love these prospect
    chats! Where do you expect the Pirates system to rank this year among
    all MLB teams? With Alvarez, Tabata, Alderson, Sanchez, D. McCuthcen,
    Bixler, Clement, Hernandez all possibly receiving time next year in
    Pittsburgh and the plethora of talent in the lower minors can we expect
    the Bucs to be competitive in the coming years? Thanks...Go BUCCOS!

J.J. Cooper: Lee, with all sincerity major kudos to
you for sticking with your team. It’s obviously been hard to stay
optimistic over the past decade or so. I do like what the Pirates are
doing—it’s not like Jack Wilson or Freddy Sanchez was going to lead
the Pirates back to the playoffs so why not trade them and get some
young talent? But I do worry that Pittsburgh has more complimentary
prospects than franchise players. Alvarez looks like he could be a
franchise player, but they need one or two of their other prospects to
develop to that level, and right now, I don’t know which one of those
prospects can do that.

    Joe LeCates (Easton, MD): J.J., thanks for the
    chat first and foremost. Do you think, as odd as this sounds for a 19
    year old in AA, that we could actually see a spike in Brett Lawrie's
    numbers after leaving behind the Midwest League?

J.J. Cooper: Not by going to Double-A. If he was
jumping from the Carolina League to Double-A maybe, because we’ll see
that, but as a 19-year-old in Double-A just keeping his head above
water would be a solid accomplishment.

    DaveH (Savannah GA): Has Logan Morrison
    surpassed Smoak as the top 1B prospect in the game? I realize Smoak is
    immensely talented, and he frequently gets rave reviews from scouts,
    but his [power] numbers have not been that impressive. {I do realize he
    was injured, but so was LoMo}.

J.J. Cooper: If you ask three different scouts about
Morrison, Smoak and Freddie Freeman, you may get three different
answers. The best answer I have is that all three are excellent
prospects, and if healthy, Yonder Alonso isn’t far behind that group
either.

    Harry (Toronto): Doesn't Snider have in excess of 130 AB's? How did he make your Blast From the Past section?

J.J. Cooper: Blast for the Past is the one section not
limited to prospects, in fact it’s largely limited to non-prospects.
Bruce Chen, Shawn Estes and Shelley Duncan have been among other
honorees this year. It’s given to a former prospect who is producing in
the minors right now.

    DaveH (Savannah GA): Is Domonic Brown almost
    up to the level of Heyward and Stanton? Heyward's game appears to be
    pretty fireproof, Stanton still has SO/contact issues, is there any
    area that Brown appears to need to improve greatly? ... because I
    struggle to find any dirt on him

J.J. Cooper: That’s a good way to put it. Brown is at
least in the discussion with Heyward and Stanton because there really
isn’t any huge flaw to his game. He can hit, now he’s showing he can
hit for power, he can run well for a big man and he’s an excellent
right fielder. Add it all up and you’re talking about a franchise
cornerstone. I’d say he’s a safer bet than Stanton, although I’d still
rank it Heyward, Stanton, Brown right now because of Stanton’s ceiling.

    grant (wpg): Any future for Dopirak? Seems
    like he should be passed being a prospect, so long ago that he was
    hyped, but he's still just 25 (or about the same age as Clay Bucholz),
    and tearing up AA and AAA.

J.J. Cooper: Dopirak is a favorite of mine from a
“don’t give up on his yet” standpoint. The tools were always there,
even when he fell apart at the plate. He seems to have figured it out
again. Playing in Las Vegas will help inflate a hitter’s numbers, but
Dopirak has now been producing again for two seasons. Before it’s all
over, I’d be shocked if he didn’t get a shot at the big leagues, but
because of his past failure, he’s got a smaller window for success than
a more highly-regarded prospect. I could see him having a Jack Cust
type career (although he’s not the same kind of hitter as Cust as he
has less patience and less strikeouts) where he bounces around but
eventually runs into 400-500 at-bats somewhere because of his power
potential.

    Jake (San Fran): Has Madison Bumgarner's stuff
    and command gotten any "worse" over the course of this season? His
    numbers are not as dominant as last season's, though we all knew he
    couldn't keep that up! Is it just the competition getting tougher, his
    lack of experience/make-up, or him losing something off his pitches?
    Thanks.

J.J. Cooper: Reports are that his velo has dropped a
little in the last month or so, although most pitchers would kill for
the 1-0, 2.57 August he’s had. Not that I’m not high on Bumgarner, but
count me in the camp that still wants to see him refine his secondary
pitches, as I don’t believe any starting pitcher can dominate long-term
in the big leagues without a second pitch that batters have to worry
about.

    Alex (Atlanta): The major league comp for
    Strasburg seems pretty clear to me: Justin Verlander. 100 mph fastball
    and a 70 BrB, with good control to boot.

J.J. Cooper: That’s the best comp I’ve heard. I was going to go with J.R. Richard, which shows how old I am.

    Eric (Detroit): What do you guys think of Alex
    Avila? Was he ever considered a top prospect? Is he ready to be
    Detroit's every day catcher next season?

J.J. Cooper: I’ve been blown away by his season. He
was considered a prospect—he was No. 20 in the Tigers system in this
year’s handbook—but he has proven to be a better catcher and a better
hitter than expectations. Great pick for the Tigers.

    Nalin (Norfolk, VA): Surprised at all to see
    Neftali Feliz dominating as much as he has so far? Think the Rangers
    groom him as a starter after this year or let him be a dominant force
    at the back of the bullpen?

J.J. Cooper: Not surprised that much, as his fastball
is a molten-lava heater, and pitching out of the pen, that’s all he
needs, which is why he’s throwing it 75 percent of the time. When a
pitcher dominates like he has in the pen, it can be awfully tempting to
keep him there, just ask Billy Wagner, Ugueth Urbina (yes I’m going
back a ways) or even Joba Chamberlain. I’d expect to see the Rangers
give Feliz another shot at starting next year, but at this point, it
all comes down to where he can help the Rangers more. Clearly right now
he can dominate as a reliever. With the Rangers all of a sudden having
a relatively deep rotation will they want to send him back next year to
the minors to polish up his secondary stuff when they will have a
playoff-caliber team that he could help immediately as a reliever? I
don’t know the answer to that one, but it’s a good problem to have if
you’re the Rangers.

    Jim (Columbia, MD): I see that John Lamb
    almost made the Hot Sheet Top 13. Does he project as a soft-tossing
    lefty (e.g., 4 or 5 starter type), or is there more upside than that?

J.J. Cooper: More upside than that. He’s not a
soft-tosser as much as a guy with a big league average fastball and
some potential to add a little more velo. No one calls Danny Duffy a
soft-tosser and Lamb’s stuff is as hard as Duffy’s.

    Jason Heyward (MS): Can you possibly see me chugging coffee in Atlanta next month?

J.J. Cooper: If they want to give Heyward a taste of
what the big leagues are like, sure. But as good as he is, I’d be
surprised if he could hold his own at the big league level just yet,
and I’d be worried that it’s too much too soon. Heyward is a
significantly better prospect than Jeff Francoeur, but the Braves ended
up rushing Francoeur when they called him up, and he was a 21-year-old
with 450 Double-A at-bats. Heyward is a 19-year-old with 141 Double-A
at-bats. A little patience here is a good thing.

    Jason (New York): If Jarrod Parker doesn't need surgery, do you see him starting next season in the majors or a mid season call up?

J.J. Cooper: That’s a big if there, but if he is fully
healthy heading into spring training, I’d still see him as a call-up.
For one thing, it’s much easier to ease him into the season coming off
an injury when you’re pitching in games that don’t really count.

    Zack (New Jersey): Where do you rank Brandon Waring? Does he make the top 100?

J.J. Cooper: Waring’s having a very good season and he
has legit power, but he’s not going to be a Top 100 guy. He’s a
23-year-old first baseman in high Class A, which has to temper his
stats. He’s worth keeping an eye on if you’re an Orioles fan because of
his pop, but his ceiling is as a useful big league corner who reaches
the big leagues as a 26-27 year-old, which doesn’t give him much star
potential.

    Ryan (RI): Ryan Howard. May not have been long term but he has been sucessful.

J.J. Cooper: Sorry that doesn’t work as a Juan
Francisco comp. Ryan Howard walked 66, 50 and 60 times in his three
full minor league seasons. That’s in another category from Francisco’s
walk rate.

    Drew (NY): How about Alfonso Soriano? Not a
    great match, since if Francisco is only walking 25 BBs in the minors,
    one would think he would walk fewer times against better pitching.

J.J. Cooper: Soriano’s a better try, but he walked
more (38, 32 and 25 times in 3 minor league seasons) and he never
struck out 100 times in a minor league season.

    Steve (Ohio): Has Freddie Freeman's lack of
    power across hi-A and AA concerned you at all this year? I understand
    he's way young for his league, but just asking, as I've heard from
    other sources that think that Freeman won't be much more than a solid
    regular...

J.J. Cooper: I’ve talked to two different scouts who
think Freeman can be a batting champion who hits 20 home runs or so.
The swing has some power in it and he has an excellent frame. It will
not be Heyward-type power, but he’s only 19 in Double-A, so the fact
that he hasn’t produced that kind of power yet isn’t that much of a
concern.

    Dave (Toronto): Is Tim Collins for real?

J.J. Cooper: Yes. Look past the fact that he’s
5-foot-6 or so because there is no projection involved. He has present
stuff that’s nasty. Don’t expect to see him win a Cy Young or anything,
but I’d be shocked if he doesn’t make it to the big leagues.

    Burke (Columbus, OH): With Jason Heyward and
    Mike Stanton established as the clear top OF prospects in the minors,
    who is #3? Ackley? Jennings? Other?

J.J. Cooper: Ackley’s in the discussion, but I’d go Domonic Brown.

    David (Toronto): I dont if catchers count, but
    pudge rodriguez had 9 walks in 129 games in 2007, and generally doesnt
    walk much, but hes in his 19th season

J.J. Cooper: I’m looking for someone who walked that
few times in the minors. Hitters’ walk rates often plunge and their K
rates go up when they hit the big leagues, so it’s not fair to make a
majors to minors comp. Looking up Pudge, he didn’t strike out more than
60 times in either of his two full minor league seasons and that was as
a 17 and 18-year-old.

    Victor (Bronx, NY): Does Jesus Montero still
    have a shot at winning Minor league player of the year? Also, do you
    think Dellin Betances will ever live up to his potential, same for A.
    Brackman?

J.J. Cooper: Montero is on the short list as we get
ready to deliberate on Monday. Right now I’d give Betances a better
shot of reaching his potential than Brackman.

    Mick (NorCal): Who are the best closer prospects for 2010, and do you see any of them winning the job out of spring training?

J.J. Cooper: I’d have to put Drew Storen at the top of
the list. I wouldn’t be shocked to see him win that job in Washington
at some point next year.

    Victor (Bronx, NY): I know Jesus Montero has
    defensive and ultimate position questions, but where does his bat rank
    amongst other top prospects like Staton, Heyward, Freeman and Brown?

J.J. Cooper: Right there with them. Montero’s bat is one of the best in the minors.

    Dan (Milwaukee): Of all the draft picks (besides Strasburg), who do you see making an early impact on the major leagues? Thanks.

J.J. Cooper: Dustin Ackley is an advanced hitter who
shouldn’t take long to get to the big leagues. Drew Storen should move
quickly as a polished reliever.

    David Beach (Houston, Texas): Hey there J.J.,
    first off thank you for taking your time to answer these question's! I
    have to ask since I just read your answer on Dominic Brown, what makes
    Brown better than Michael Taylor? I ask this because if anyone were to
    write in & compare Taylor with Stanton & Heyward, you would
    probably laugh them on the chat room board; but when you look at
    everything EXCEPT for a few years age difference- Taylor is just as
    good if not better than Brown! Please explain, as Taylor has all the
    tool's that Brown does except Taylor has shown much better plate
    discipline & more power!
    Thanks again, Dave.

J.J. Cooper: But the problem with that is that when
you’re looking at prospects age is one of the biggest factors in their
ceiling and potential. As a 21-year-old, Taylor was hitting 12 home
runs at Stanford while Brown is hitting home runs in Double-A. One of
the big reasons that Jason Heyward is the best hitting prospect in
baseball is because he has shown that he can hit Double-A pitching as a
teenager. You can’t discount age when looking at prospects, because
studies going back to Bill James have shown that one of the biggest
predictors to a players chances of stardom is reaching the majors at a
young age. Of the 10 most recent Hall of Fame inductees as hitters,
nine of them were younger than Michael Taylor is right now when they
made their big league debuts, and seven of them were 21 or younger. But
one other point I will quibble with, Brown is a potential Gold Glove
right fielder while Taylor is a solid left fielder who could slide over
to right if needed.

    Jim (Miami): Will Mike Stanton become a regular for the Marlins in 2010 ?

J.J. Cooper: Maybe late in the season. He’s a great talent, but he’s not ready yet.

    Appleton (Brent): How come you only talk about the Steelers on Twitter? Or is that another JJCoop?

J.J. Cooper: I need to throw some more baseball in
there. The Steelers are my other passion, but thanks for reminding me
that I need to tweet more baseball.

    Lee (Hagerstown, MD): Juan Francisco = Wily Mo Pena! Good Luck!

J.J. Cooper: That’s the best comp I’ve seen, which
also explains my point I guess. Pena had 80 power, but his best BB-K
rate in the minors was 36 walks-126 Ks as a 20-year-old in Double-A in
2002, which is better than Francisco’s rate and probably explains my
skepticism.

J.J. Cooper: Thanks everyone, but I need to wrap this
up. We’ll have major league best tools on Monday followed by the start
of our summer league Top 10s next week.

Minors | #2009 #Prospect Hot Sheet

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