ESPN SportsNation Chat With Jim Callis

SportsNation Jim Callis: Hi, everyone, sorry I got hung up for a couple of minutes. Let's just dive right in.

Alex (WI): How good is Micah Houfpauir for the Cubs? Can he be a decent regular for somebody?

SportsNation Jim Callis: Decent hitting prospect, I think he's more of a bench player than a regular.

max(dekalb): Carlos Queintin or Andre Eithier?

SportsNation Jim Callis: Quentin. Great trade for Kenny Williams to get him straight up from the Diamondbacks (who had more OF than they knew what to do with) for Chris Carter.

Jack (DC): If you're starting a team, H.Ramirez, Wright, Braun, or Upton, who do you build around right now?

SportsNation Jim Callis: I'd go with David Wright. If I liked Ramirez' defense at shortstop, he'd be the pick, but he's not very good over there.

Garrett (NH): Jim after seeing lester, bucholz, and now masterson being impressive young pitchers, what can sox fans expect out of michael bowden and when can we expect to see him?

SportsNation Jim Callis: Bowden is pitching very well in Double-A at age 21, so he could be ready for some big league action by the end of the year, but I don't know if the Red Sox have an opening for him. He doesn't have a pitch as good as Lester's fastball, Buchholz' changeup or curve, or Masterson's sinker. But Bowden does have a nice fastball-curve combo to go with command and mound presence. I think he can be a solid No. 3 starter in time.

Brian (NY): Jon Lester looked great on Monday (obviously), looks like he was finally displaying the stuff that made him a top prospect in 2005. If he continues to maintain the velocity and his curveball progresses, is he a legit #2 starter?

SportsNation Jim Callis: That's fair. There's a reason teams have sought him in the proposed Alex Rodriguez and Johan Santana deals over the years. Lester struggled in his first few starts this year, but he has been pitching very well for the last month.

Chris (NYC): Im sure youre very suprised, but I have a gripe with your mock draft. For the nats you said "Advanced pitching is a greater concern." I feel like advanced pitching is the strength of the Nats sysem (Lannan, Detwiler, Balester, Zimmerman, and maybe VanAllen, Martis and Alaniz). Outside of 1B, the Nats have almost no impact bats (save Burgess and maybe King). I would love to see GBeckham or Skipworth fall, but given your mock I cant see how we pass on Hosmer (and try him in RF) or Hicks (Bowden loves tools)

SportsNation Jim Callis: Gripe away, and I'll still answer your question. I still think taking a high-risk, high-reward project at No. 9 would be a mistake if a good pitcher is on the board. I don't think Gordon Beckham or Kyle Skipworth will last that long, and the question on Hosmer is how much he'll cost. I'd like the Hosmer pick if they can sign him, and I could see Bowden popping Hicks.

Lance (Livingston, TN): You said in your mock draft that the Reds have been looking at Casey Kelly for the 7th pick. Isn't this too big of a reach?

SportsNation Jim Callis: I said that was a rumor that wouldn't go away, as opposed to the Reds bearing down on him. Kelly is very talented, but I think he belongs more in the 15-25 range than in the Top 10.

Ben (Centerville, OH): In BA's mock draft you have the Reds taking Aaron Crow. How soon could he get to the bigs, and does he project as an ace or more of a #3?

SportsNation Jim Callis: Crow would be a very nice value for the Reds at No. 7. I'd call him a No. 2, he's more of a frontline guy than just a No. 3, and I don't toss "frontline guy" around casually. He could get to the bigs within a year or two of the draft.

Steve (Blacksburg, VA): If the Rangers keep winning, does young Josh Hamilton have a chance at the MVP this year? He has put up incredible numbers, it seems I can count the number of games he hasn't RBI'd in on one hand.

SportsNation Jim Callis: I heard today that he reached 50 RBI quicker than anyone in AL history, beating the old record held by Joe DiMaggio and Carl Everett (who probably don't have much else in common other than that neither would pay to see a museum exhibit on dinosaurs). Hamilton is having an unbelievable season and is a definite MVP candidate. Still can't fathom how he has come all the way back like this.

Peirez, Tamarindo Estates : True or false: Justin Smoak will be drafted in the top 4?

SportsNation Jim Callis: I'm going to say no, but he could. I think he's more of a 5-10 guy than a top four guy.

Bill, Boston: Jim, if Daniel Bard continues his domination at Portland do you foresee a callup to the big leagues this year for him?

SportsNation Jim Callis: I've never been the biggest Bard fan, but after struggling last year, he has been spectacular as a full-time reliever. The Red Sox have rushed some relievers (Craig Hansen, Cla Meredith), so I'd think they'd take it slow with Bard. Maybe a September callup.

Bill Gaithersburg, Md.: In your mock draft, you have the Orioles taking Matusz over G. Beckham (assuming Tim is gone by then). It seems that they need a bat, esp. a middle infielder, much more than pitching. Am I giving their pitching prospects (Tillman, Liz, Arrieta, Bascom, etal) too much upside or is Matusz that special?

SportsNation Jim Callis: Matusz is the best pitching prospect in this draft. In the first round, especially at the top, you're taking the best talent, not trying to fill a specific need. If you try to fill a need, you can make mistakes. That said, all things equal, I think the Orioles would lean toward a pitcher after spending three straight first-rounders on bats.

Jake (Hell, MI): predicts the Royals taking Hosmer at #3. Your thoughts? They certainly don't mind dealing with Boras.

SportsNation Jim Callis: That would surprise me a little bit, not the spending money on Boras part. I think they'd look to get a comparable player who plays a more premium position, such as Buster Posey or Tim Beckham, if they're available.

Ira (Hackensack,NJ): Jim- How good is Stephen Strasburg going to be? Is it too early to tell or does this kid have "special" written all over him.

SportsNation Jim Callis: He has "special" written all over him in permanent ink. His fastball and slider have destroyed hitters all year, and the San Diego State ace is the easy No. 1 prospect for the 2009 draft at this point.

Keith (NJ): Tell me what player falls to the Yankees due to signability or injury issues at the end of the 1 round...

SportsNation Jim Callis: I think the Yankees would love for it to be Florida HS 1B Eric Hosmer, but it's more likely to be California HS RHP Gerrit Cole.

Eddie (Fresno): When do you typically hear about and start tracking high school kids? For instance, if you heard about a stud 14 year old that tore up a summer tournament, would he be logged as a guy you would check on periodically?

SportsNation Jim Callis: Nathan Rode and Matt Blood stay on top of the high schoolers a lot more than I do. To be honest, I know the current year's crop and a couple of names for the next year, but I'm not staying on top of 14-year-olds.

John (St. Paul, MN): Jim - Who in your opinion would be the best pick for the Rays?

SportsNation Jim Callis: In a vacuum, where money and needs didn't matter, I'd take Vandy 3B Pedro Alvarez No. 1. For the Rays, I think Florida State C Buster Posey makes a lot of sense.

Peter, NYC: Good Lord, please don't tell me the Mets are sticking to slotting "guidelines'!!!!

SportsNation Jim Callis: Peter, hate to tell you, but they're sticking to slot.

Steve (El Paso): Do you still project Michael Bowden to be a #3 starter for Boston?

SportsNation Jim Callis: No. 3 starter? Yes. For Boston? No. Can't see how he's going to pitch ahead of Beckett, Matsuzaka, Buchholz, Lester and Masterson.

Brent (Atlanta): True or false: the pick the Braves would have gotten at #18 will give more value than 1 year of Mr. Glavine's services?

SportsNation Jim Callis: True.

Rob (Alaska): I understand teams can't trade draft picks, and have heard the whys, but let me ask this: if the Rays could, they would trade down, correct? Buster Posey cannot be the top player on their board.

SportsNation Jim Callis: I disagree. I think there's a chance that Posey is No. 1 on their board, and it's a defensible position. And he would make a lot of sense for them—how many all-star caliber catchers are on the trade market?

Jeff (NYC): The guy who struck out 23 batters a few weeks 5 pick?

SportsNation Jim Callis: That's Strasburg at San Diego State. Only a sophomore, so you have to wait until next year.

Omar Minaya (NYC): How do you know that I'm sticking to slot? You can read my mind or did Wilpon say that?

SportsNation Jim Callis: Sources within the organization have told me that. I'm no mind reader.

John (Portland, ME): So you forsee Masterson's future as a starter and not as a quality setup man for Papelbon?

SportsNation Jim Callis: It's a similar deal to Bowden's. I think Masterson could be a No. 3 starter or even a closer. With Boston, he may well be a setup man.

Bill (Chi): But aren't Posey's offensive numbers greatly inflated by his home park? He's more likely a 10-15 HR hitter in the majors, isn't he? That doesn't really make him an all star catcher.

SportsNation Jim Callis: Florida State is a favorable hitting environment. But if Posey hits .280 with 15 HR and plays quality defense, that's an all-star catcher. And that's what he projects to do. I'm not saying I'd take Posey No. 1—still seems odd to me that the No. 1 pick might not have a plus-plus tool—but he has tools across the board and is a complete package as a catcher.

Brett (WI): Jim, I've heard both Fields and Hewitt mentioned for the Brewers at #16. Both of these make sense, but which do you like more and which do you think is more realistic?

SportsNation Jim Callis: To be honest, Jack Z keeps everything so close to the vest that we're all guessing as to what the Brewers might do. Fields could help the bullpen ASAP. Hewitt is a tremendous athlete. Either would make sense.

Patrick (Chicago): Jim, is the hammate injury to Alvarez going to significantly sap his power or what? I keep hearing conflicting answers.

SportsNation Jim Callis: It will for the short terms, perhaps up to a year, because a lot of power comes from the wrist. But long term, it's not a concern at all and it won't affect his draft status.

Brett (WI): Jim, do you think either of Ryan Perry or Andrew Cashner can be big league starters? Didn't Perry struggle as a starter last year? Have you heard any teams who like them as starters and are willing to gamble on it?

SportsNation Jim Callis: I think teams will try to go that route, but personally, I think they're both relievers. Perry was horrible as a starter, and Cashner's stuff wasn't nearly as good when he started in junior college.

Tim (Norfolk): For us that don't know - sticking to slot means??

SportsNation Jim Callis: It means not exceeding MLB's bonus recommendations.

SportsNation Jim Callis: Let's go to the lightning round . . .

Chris (NYC): A 19 year old in the South Atlantic League- a little young or about right?

SportsNation Jim Callis: Young.

Tom Wondra (West Bend, WI): Angel Salome is a legitimate catcher - not just a hitter. True or False?

SportsNation Jim Callis: True.

mike (LA): Over/Under 2 years 'til Lincecum's inevitable surgery?

SportsNation Jim Callis: Over. Not sure why his surgery would be inevitable—he's never had arm problems.

Joe (Chico, CA): 2-fer. How does Posey compare to Varitek when he was coming out (.280 with 15 HR sounds close to 'Tek's production at his peak). And, Follow if Smoak is there when the Giants pick should he be the choice, especially with Angel Villanoa in their system?

SportsNation Jim Callis: Varitek was considered much more of a power threat, Posey is more athletic though there weren't concerns about Varitek's defense. With Smoak, you take the best guy available. Big V isn't knocking on the door to the majors yet.

Brett (WI): Hicks, Martin, or Kelly?

SportsNation Jim Callis: Aaron Hicks.

Chris (St. Louis): Jaime Garcia's ceiling?

SportsNation Jim Callis: Solid No. 3 starter.

Paul (Orlando): Anything to be said about Evan Longorias platoon splits so far? Horrible against lefties, but hitting righties well.

SportsNation Jim Callis: Small sample size, he won't be a patsy for southpaws.

Jeff (NYC): Wrong sport I know but since we're talking draft —- Rose or Beasley?

SportsNation Jim Callis: Rose.

Eric: TEAM picking #1 in '09 will be ______ _______

SportsNation Jim Callis: San Francisco Giants.

julio (texas): Lakes or Spurs?

SportsNation Jim Callis: Spurs.

Michael (NY): Astros in draft: take hitter or pitcher? High school or college? Throw out one name youre thinking.

SportsNation Jim Callis: All things equal, I think they'd prefer a college hitter. The name I hear most on their wish list is California HS C Kyle Skipworth, but I don't think he'll be there for them. I'll give you two names who should be there: Arizona State 1B Brett Wallace and California HS OF Zach Collier.

mike (CHI): Rich Hill- what is the deal?

SportsNation Jim Callis: He's lost his command and confidence again, which was a problem earlier in his career.

Ben (Minneapolis): What/Who have you heard the Twins targeting with their first 3 picks? Can you give me a couple of names to check out?

SportsNation Jim Callis: With their first pick at No. 14, I think they'd love to get one of the top college starters. San Diego LHP Brian Matusz and Missouri RHP Aaron Crow will be gone, but they might get Eastern Kentucky LHP Christian Friedrich or Tulane RHP Shooter Hunt.

Bill (Chicago): Over/Under- Geovany Soto 25 HRs

SportsNation Jim Callis: Over.

Jeff (NYC): Joe Mauer - 5 HRs, over/under?

SportsNation Jim Callis: Over.

jon (chicago): who is the white sox third baseman in august, crede or fields?

SportsNation Jim Callis: Fields, with Crede traded.

Shawn (NYC): Celtics or Pistons?

SportsNation Jim Callis: Pistons.

Brett (WI): Where do YOU think Sheppers ends up? Yankees more likely to try him or Cole?

SportsNation Jim Callis: I have no feel for where Scheppers will go—a stress fracture in his shoulder sounds severe. I'd have a hard time imagining him in the first round.

Shawn (NYC): Pistons or Spurs?

SportsNation Jim Callis: Spurs.

Karl (Chicago): Any word on when Jay Bruce will get called up?

SportsNation Jim Callis: Not soon enough.

Sean (Florida): Jim, Do scouts ever express frustration to you, or minor league managers ever express frustration about the big league clubs sticking with old guys or retreads while the guys obviously ready to play at the next level or have nothing left to prove in the minors are left in the minors? Names like Bruce and Clement come to mind. Or is that type of criticism off limits and not spoken.

SportsNation Jim Callis: Yeah, at times they do. But those elite talents are hard to hold back, so the problem usually solves itself.

Mike (NYC): Dodgers' or Mets' cap on Piazza's plaque?

SportsNation Jim Callis: Dodgers.

Mike (PA): David Murphy, 4rth outfielder or starter?

SportsNation Jim Callis: Fourth outfielder.

nik: Are the White Sox for real? Please tell me no.

SportsNation Jim Callis: I'm still not buying them, though that division is a lot weaker than most of us thought it would be.

David (Boston): Yankees will have a top 5 pick next season. Yes or no?

SportsNation Jim Callis: No. I'll be shocked if they have a top 15 pick.

Eric (L.A., CA): Jim, who do you think the Dodgers take at #15? Thanks!

SportsNation Jim Callis: I'll say Aaron Hicks . . . and with that, I'll see you next week. Keep checking for constant draft info. We're posting Draft Preview content daily.