Moderator: Alan Matthews will stop by at 2 p.m. ET to answer questions about who made, and didn't make, the Gulf Coast League top prospects list.
|Q:||A.C. Cothron from Nashville, TN asks:|
Looks like several young arms in the Yankee system made the list. I've heard that Grant Duff has a nice fastball, and a slider that is Francisco Rodriguez-ish. Can you comment on his stuff and how close to he was making this list.
Alan Matthews: Thanks for stopping by this morningafternoon. I'm in Phoenix and preparing for another session of MLB scouting bureau's scout development program. Should be lots of fun, and the Sheraton here is top-notch, unlike the brutal Wingate I stayed in recently. Here's a tip next time your on the road: see a Wingate, run the other way. I sliced the tip of my right index finger last weekend, making typing quite a chore. Ever try to type without your index finger? Not fun. So I apologize in advance for the misspellings and typos that will likely litter this chat.
Alan Matthews: One theme that will appear throughout the GCL Top 20 is youth. In a league where you play the same teams over and over again, there are no fans to speak of and many players have to really dig within to find the energy and excitement to play each day, stats mean little to nothing. I leaned heavily on players that had upside, at least two plus tools and age on their side. Keep that in mind for all the Chris Carlson (22) questions, as well as those on Duff, who turns 24 in December. He missed most of 2005 with a broken foot, led the GCL in ERA this season and strikeouts (59). Duff has a good ability to throw his fastball for strikes. His slider is above-average, and he bumped 95 mph on the radar gun, so there are reasons to follow his progress. He and Carlson, who led the league in home runs and finished fifth in average for the Tigers simply aren't going be ranked in a complex league.
|Q:||Ian from New Jersey asks:|
Please explain to me how some of these pitchers in the bottom half of the list made it over Felix Doubront?
Alan Matthews: There was a lot of support for Doubront, as well as Carlos Fernandez-Olivia and Jon Egan there in Fort Myers (where the Red Sox complex is located). I'm not going to address the multiple questions I'm sure Sox fans are going to have on these guys, just hit on all of them now. Doubront is a projectable lefty from Carabobo, Venezuela whom the Sox are high on. He needs to keep the ball down in the zone, and his stuff is inconsistent. He surrendered a league-high six home runs. He pitched ok in two outings in short-season Lowell. Fernandez-Olivia is another good looking Venezuelan in the Sox system. At 20, his feel for the strike zone is not easily matched. He has a good lefthanded swing, though he has a few holes he needs to address. Not sure how well he profiles, as he's limited to a corner outfield spot and the power is there, but will he get to it? Egan's story is a good one. He got into some off-field trouble a year ago, his father has been diagnosed with cancer and he came back and had a very productive second year in the GCL. He's a no-frills player who goes about his business and is probably the last guy to worry about stats or Baseball America rankings. He's got a powerful bat, but needs to significantly improve his catch-and-throw skills. Two noteworthy middle infielders that played in the GCL were Manuel Arambarris and Luis Soto. Arambarris is a 21-year-old Venezuelan who handles the bat well and has a discerning eye at the plate. He's went up to short-season Lowell after less than a month in the GCL and continued to show a patient approach with modest power.
|Q:||Robert from DC asks:|
Did Colton Willems not make the list simply because of injury?
Alan Matthews: He didn't qualify. The Nats really took it slow on Willems, on their first round picks this year, a righthander from a high school in Fla. He was limited to one inning or 25 pitches at the start of the season, then up to 40 pitches, but pitched three innings Aug. 3 in his final appearance of the summer and wound up throwing just 16 innings (four shy of the minimum needed to qualify for a short-season league for a starter by BA rules). He has good stuff, and a very good delivery. His fastball command is outstanding and this summer he was up to 95 mph, though he pitches around 91-93.
|Q:||Angry Sox Fan from Ft. Myers asks:|
Mike Jones...too old?
Alan Matthews: Yes. But he is another guy the Sox like. He signed for very little money out of California. He's 21, and has a good swing. One of my sleepers from this league.
|Q:||Dean from Madison asks:|
I have a question about Duane Below of the Tigers. How close was he to the top 20? He finished with 27 straight innings without giving up a ER (including two great pitching matchups against Bellances), and had a 8.1 k9 and a 3.0 kbb over the year. Did his slightly older age hold him back, or does his stuff not translate to prospect?
Alan Matthews: Nice sign by the Tigers. He was a 19th-rounder from a junior college in Michigan and he pitched like a Double-A guy this year in the GCL. There are some questions regarding his ceiling, but he knows how to pitch, keeps the ball down, has movement on his fringe-average fastball. He has two usable breaking balls.
|Q:||Paul from Williamstown, MA asks:|
Where's Jeff Locke? Don't northern boys normally get looked at with having more room for growth than others who have been playing ball year round?
Alan Matthews: I like Locke a lot. He actually throws harder than Chad Rodgers and Steven Evarts--the other two lefties the Braves drafted out of high school in the early rounds in 2006. He has a long ways to go to improve his breaking ball and there were other players in the league that I believed deserved recognition over Locke.
|Q:||Robert from DC asks:|
What is Jhonny Nunez' upside and could he be a guy that moves up quickly in the Washington farm system given his age?
Alan Matthews: It's too early to tell. He might be a starter, but he needs to improve his command. What stood out to me about his season was how well he pitched for the Dodgers late in the season and in th eplayoffs. He was dynamite against the Red Sox in the playoffs. I like the fact he got better as the season went on. At first, I was really surprised the Dodgers let him loose for Marlon Anderson. Considering how well Anderson has played for the Dodgers the last two weeks, their MLB scouts deserve some credit, though. Clearly, Nunez is a long ways off, but he could be an arm the Dodgers miss.
|Q:||Ben from NYC asks:|
Alan, What kind of upside does Betances have? #1 stuff? #2 stuff? And it seems like his control was actually pretty decent, all thing considered. Did this mark an improvement in his mechanics?
Alan Matthews: Betances has the potential to be a No. 2 or 3 starter. He is very interesting. You're right, he did improve his command. He's athletic, and once he gains a little better balance over the rubber, I'm confident he'll figure out how to get to a consistent release point.
|Q:||Mark from Detroit asks:|
Hitters Luis Arlet and Christopher Carlson Pitchers Alfredo Figaro and Cristhian Martinez did any of them come close to making the list and are any of them legit prospects.
Alan Matthews: The Tigers had a very good club, especially in terms of their arms, though their players were older in some cases. We've touched on Carlson, Below, and SS Audy Ciricao and OF Gorkys Hernandez are two obvious players who came up a lot in conversations with league managers. Eleazar Aponte is a young rigththander who made two starts in Florida State League in August, both were good. He allowed four earned runs in first start in the GCL, and only allowed five the rest of the season, spanning eight appearances and more than 40 innings. Cristhian Martinez turned 24 last March. Figaro is 22, but has good command and good feel for his secondary stuff. He was throwing in the mid to high 80s with his fastball. He has a good, loose three-quarter arm slot, so he has some room for improvement and might come on if he can get stronger and maximize his lower half in his delivery. OF Luis Arlet played the season as a 21 year old. He hit for power, with six homers, and stole 20 bases. He had no chance against good breaking balls, and must improve his pitch recognition and plate discipline. He can really turn around a fastball, however, with plus bat speed and a quick, powerful bat.
|Q:||James from NIU asks:|
Clayton Kershaw is one of the best pitchers in the minors where would he most likely rank on the Dodgers top prospects list, and is he the best pitcher in the Dodgers minor league system?
Alan Matthews: He is a no-doubter top 10, and perhaps top five given the high number of players that graduated from the Dodgers farm systemt ot he big leagues this year. I would still take Scott Elbert over Kershaw, in terms of their pitchers. Nice pick by Logan White. We thought that the Tigers were going to take Kershaw at 6 this year. But when Andrew Miller was there, Detroit went with Miller. Kershaw won't get there as fast (Miller was in the big leagues a couple of weeks after signing) but he has a higher ceiling than Miller, in my opinion.
|Q:||Tom from Atlanta asks:|
Did Adam Coe receive any consideration for the list? And what was the general feeling about Cody Johnson? Thanks.
Alan Matthews: Coe's interesting. A self-made player. Small in stature, but he's thick, stocky and strong. He's not real loose and fluid, not a real good athlete, but he can hit the fastball. He'll be a level-by-level guy who might not have a true position or profile, but with his bat speed and determined makeup, there's reason to file him in your Braves sleeper prospect drawer. Cody Johnson had a miserable debut, and I don't know if he'll ever hit. The Braves scouting department is terrific, as indicated by the remarkable number of players that they have drafted and watched climb to the big leagues and contribute. Cody Johnson was a player they liked a lot, clearly, but there were several organizations that were not nearly as high on him. He has plus-plus raw power, but might need to improve the mental aspect of his game. He tends to press a little, and if he relax and see the ball better, he might come on.
|Q:||David Lopez from Miami Beach asks:|
The Indians had a good looking L.H. hitter- his last name was Pena - I believe he was called up at end of season- why was he not mentioned he had a good approach and good swing for a 1819 year old hitter- another good sign for tribe- I'd go out and say he had a better start than John Drennen did last year, even though John started out in the Appy league which is a better league , especially for high school kids to break in- Drennen was pushed to low- A and had good season- so is Pena not worthy to be mentioned ? And what is up with GCL does it stay or go away ? Thanks Davey- Big Tribe Fan
Alan Matthews: He would have been in the 21-25 range. Indians area scout Jason Smith targeted Pena as an easily-signable player with good makeup and playable present tools, and the Indians took him in the ninth round in 2005. He moved from Mexico with his family. Pena worked out and traveled with Rookie-level Burlington after signing last summer, but he was held back for his professional debut in 2006. The lefthanded-hitting outfielder made a strong first impression, showing an advanced feel for hitting with solid-average tools. His game, actions and swing bare a strong resemblance to those of Karim Garcia. He sprays balls to all fields with a balanced swing and mature approach. He could develop average power. He's a slightly below-average runner, who likely will wind up playing a corner outfield position. He has fringe-average arm strength. Pena has good instincts, which help his toolset play up. How his power develops will determine his prospect status.
|Q:||Tom from NJ asks:|
Where was G. Rodriquez of the Yankees in your consideration for making this list? And what about Angel Reyes?
Alan Matthews: Rodriguez is a big, strong catcher who has a chance to hit and a strong arm. I don't think he can be a front-line catcher, but he's all muscle. He battled injuries, but he has good bat speed and some raw power. LHP Angel Reyes turned 19 in August and made big improvements from his two seasons in the DSL, especially with his command. He's not very tall, so generating good plane on his FB will be a challenge, but he has a lively arm.
|Q:||Nelson from Alexandria, VA asks:|
Was Stephen Englund in contention for the Top-20? He looked like he struggled at the plate, but how do his tools compare to the other 18-year old CF in the league? Are the Nationals going to be sorry they took him in the 2nd round?
Alan Matthews: He was mentioned, but did not make the cut because he is very raw and needs ti figure out what his approach is at the plate. Like Cody Johnson, Englund passes the eye test--he's got a great body and some tools--but he has serious holes in his swing and lacks much of a plan at the plate.
|Q:||Sean from Centreville, VA asks:|
What players just missed the cut? Surprised to see 5 one-time Yankee farmhands on the list. I didn't realize there was so much talent there, I thought it was a down year for their GCL team. You guys better be careful or you will lose your "Anti-Yankees Bias" status.
Alan Matthews: We laugh about that often in our office. The Yankees system is improving, and I like their last two drafts. Roman Pena, of (Indians), Jon Egan, c (Red Sox), Felix Doubront, lhp (Red Sox), Denis Phipps, of (Reds), Josh Ravin, rhp (Reds), Francisco Lizarraga, ss (Dodgers) and Hector Correa, rhp, (Marlins) were some of the guys I had a hard time cutting.
|Q:||Nate from Chicago asks:|
What is the ceiling for Adrian Cardenas? Can he stay at short? And what is the ceiling for his high school teammate Marrero?
Alan Matthews: As much as I love Cardenas and his ability, I really don't think he can stay at shortstop. He just lacks the lateral quickness and footwork. He a really strong, almost-stocky type of player and while he has good instincts, outstanding makeup and work ethic, I seriously doubt a big league club is going to send him out as their everyday shortstop. He could be a bottom-of-the-order RBI machine with 30 doubles if he continues to develop with the bat. It's a little easier to dream on Marrero, becuase he ahs natural loft in his swing and when he gets his arms extended he can really mash. They both have a good chance to join Tommy Mendoza (Angels) as three Monsignor Pace High big leaguers, following in the footsteps of RHP Alex Fernandez.
|Q:||Josh from Boston asks:|
Any chance Ryan Kalish makes this list if elibible?
Alan Matthews: Perhaps. He has interesting tools. If he can handle CF, he could come on as one the club's most athletic, impact-type prospects, but don't get in a hurry. He's a two-sport guy who is going to require at least 1,200 minor league at-bats before he approaches the big leagues.
|Q:||guy from asks:|
How about Milton Loo from the Reds?
Alan Matthews: Didn't qualify. Aggressive approach. Rakes. Love him. Good draft-and-follow by the Reds out of Yavapai, Ariz., JC.
|Q:||Charles Berg from Houston, Texas asks:|
What are your thoughts on Tyler Robertson of the GCL Twins? He didnt make the list, but is he a guy to keep an eye on? Was he at all close? Thanks.
Alan Matthews: Absolutely. He has nasty stuff if an unconventional delivery. He had a huge high school season, and was one of the last players to slide off the HS All-American teams, just missing the cut. He could come on for the Twins, and was close to making the GCL list, as well.
|Q:||Joel from Washington, DC asks:|
Well since no Pirates made the top 20, can you tell us about anyone who just missed or looks like a prospect going forward? Pirate fans will take any crumb of positive news at this point.
Alan Matthews: The top two prospects for the Pirates this year in the GCL were SS Jose de los Santos and OF Victor Igsema. De los Santos is a fast, quick-twitch MIF with outstanding range and a raw glove. He hit leadoff, and has a lot of work to do at the plate. I believe he was in his first year switch-hitting this summer. Igsema is a right fielder and has well above-average arm strength and good raw power. OF Austin McClune and 2B Smelin Perez were also considered, as was OF Justin Byler.
|Q:||James from Baltimore asks:|
Was D'Arby Myers the surprise of the league, all things considered? Its way too early really, but what type of player do you think he can turn into, for comparison's sake?
Alan Matthews: I was extremely surprised he was as productive as he was. He's gotten a lot better since he was cut from the U.S. junior national team last summer, a tribute to his work ethic and intelligence. Speed is his best tool, so perhaps he can develop into a player such as Mike Cameron, but that might be a stretch. He needs to get stronger, but there is a lot to like about his upside.
|Q:||Mike Marinaro from Tampa, FL asks:|
Alan, The 2000 GCL Top Ten flashed three top major leaguers in Justin Morneau, Adrian Gonzalez, and Grady Sizemore. Adam Wainwright and perhaps even Jason Botts still have a chance as being pretty good in the majors. Last year, the names BA placed in the GCL top 10 prospects list included Andrew McCutchen, Jay Bruce, Chris Volstad, Elvis Andrus, Sean West, and Jose Tabata, all of which had very productive seasons in 2006. Compared to the Arizona League lists from 2000 and 2005, one would tend to think the talent level in the GCL is far superior. Where would you rate last year's impressive GCL Top 10 among that of the past decade in terms of players' success in the following season. Some of those names might appear in BA's overall Top 20 merely one year later. Lastly, how does this year's crop stack up to the list from 2005?
Alan Matthews: Good question. Part of the reason why the GCL has had such a good track record recently is that a lot of the major league organizations that have GCL affiliates have placed an emphasis on drafting high-ceiling high school players early in the draft. The Marlins, Dodgers, Twins, Yankees, Braves, Phillies, Expos-Nationals all have had some success in drafting high school players early in the draft recently. I like last year's crop better than this year's. Bruce and McCutchen have some polish to their bats and upside, and play in the middle of the diamond, unlike Parmelee and Marrero. Kershaw might be the better prospect over Volstad, but they're very close. The Latin infielders mentioned in the league write-up have a chance to be front-line prospects, as well.
|Q:||Snapper Bean from Greater Kensington asks:|
I'm a somewhat skeptical Phillies fan. Is it possible that the inclusion of Monasterios and Sanchez resulted primarily from their being part of a very high profile trade? Are they really that good?
Alan Matthews: That's a fair point. In a league where few people notice what is going on, it's extremelt difficult to accurately rank and identify prospects. The league is not heavily scouted, and often league managers and coaches are focussed mostly on their own players rather than worried about how to pitch an opposing player. For that reason, our source of a lot of information has a different view on the league than we are trying to formulate. But Sanchez has a chance to be a front-line catcher, and I think it's a good idea to rank any guy in a league that observers feel has a chance to be a front-line catcher, simply because they're so hard to find. Monasterios has some nasty stuff, too, so while your point is valid, in this case these players' tools predicated their selection, not the trades they were involved in.
|Q:||Jason from Los Angeles asks:|
Where would Preston mattingly rank in the Dodgers prospects? Top 30 for sure, how about Top 10?
Alan Matthews: He will be in the mix in the top 10. He has a powerful bat and a chance to be a middle-of-the-order run producer.
|Q:||Ken from Santa Rosa, California asks:|
Neftali Feliz of the Braves, why so high? Who would you compare him too? Thanks.
Alan Matthews: Feliz has a powerful arm, with the ability to throw in the upper 90s. For that reason, combined with his young age, there is reason to believe he has a high ceiling.
|Q:||Steve from Philly asks:|
As a Phil's fan happy to see Drabek on the list - but must ask what it's based on? His numbers in the GCL seemed pretty rough.
Alan Matthews: I've received a couple of Drabek questions, and, as we wrote about in the draft coverage this year, he's a very interesting player. He has outstanding potential--with a mid-90s fastball, hammer breaking ball and athleticism. But he just seems to have a hard time handling failure. When things don't go his way, he shows his ass on the field, and doesn't make adjustments. The Phillies gambled in the draft, believing his ability would eventually lead him to the big leagues. He did not pitch well this summer, but because of his upside, I took a gamble of my own and placed him on the list.
Alan Matthews: Thanks for coming by today, and all the great questions. I also ranked the AA Eastern League, so I'll be back for more chatting in a couple weeks.