League Top 20 Prospects

AZL Top 20 Prospects Chat




Moderator: Bill Mitchell will answer your questions about the AZL Top 20 Prospects list at 3 p.m. ET.

Moderator: Good afternoon, baseball fans! Who's ready to talk Arizona League prospects? This is my first BA chat, but don't hold back on the tough questions. This was a good year for prospects in the AZL and I really would have liked to have gone 25 deep on the list, so I'm sure I'll be getting questions on the players that didn't quite make it on the Top 20.

 Q:  JAYPERS from IL asks:
Had Mat Latos pitched enough to qualify, would he have topped this list? What is your evaluation of him, and where will he be starting off next season?
 A: 

Bill Mitchell: We'll start out today with a question from BA chat regular JAYPERS. Latos did not have enough innings in the AZL, but as a rehabber who has already pitched at a higher level he would not have qualified for the list anyway. His first assignment for next year will probably depend on his health, but I would guess he'll go to the Cal League.

 Q:  Navin from Pasadena, CA asks:
Good to see two Cubs on two hitters from Latin America at that. I was wondering if Larry Suarez, Matt Cerda or Logan Watkins were at all close as they had good campaigns in the AZL and have some hype due to their big bonuses. Thank you.
 A: 

Bill Mitchell: The Cubs had a lot of good hitters on that team this year. Cerda was very close. Intelligent hitter whose numbers would have likely been better if he hadn't been focusing on a difficult new position (catching). The Cubs really like the kid. Watkins is an interesting prospect —- not much power but very athletic. He played both infield and outfield, so his future may be more as a utility guy. Suarez recovered nicely from an early injury. He's still young, so let's see how he does next year.

 Q:  Chris from malibu, ca asks:
Whats the report on Josh Blanco this summer? Good numbers for an 18 year old.
 A: 

Bill Mitchell: Blanco got a lot of support from managers around the league and I agonized as to how to get him on the list, but he fell just a slot or two short. Big breaking ball, aggressive competitor, changes speeds well. His fastball command is still spotty. My projection is that he becomes more of a lefty specialist which is why I ranked other pitchers higher. But overall a good start to his career.

 Q:  JAYPERS from IL asks:
I see that Buster Posey is rising through the ranks quickly. Do you see him taking a similiar path to the Majors as Lincecum did? Could he reach SF next year?
 A: 

Bill Mitchell: The Giants modus operandi has been to move their players aggressively (see Bocock, Gillaspie, etc.). I suspect they will do the same with Posey. It wouldn't surprise me to see him in SF by the end of next season.

 Q:  Tim from Proctorville, Ohio asks:
Carlos George. All speed and glove or will he hit?
 A: 

Bill Mitchell: Tim, you've got it right about the speed and glove. I didn't see any real hitting skills. He wasn't on my list of prospects and there really was no discussion about him around the league.

 Q:  Jon from Gilbert asks:
I'm surprised Joe Wieland wasn't ranked higher. I know he was a fourth round pick, but he dominated hitters like few other pitchers on this list. What is his ceiling as a player?
 A: 

Bill Mitchell: #11 isn't bad in a league that was fairly deep in prospects. I really liked Wieland and he surprised a lot of people with his performance. I would project him as a back of the rotation starter with the potential to go a little higher if he adds to his fastball.

 Q:  BL from Bozeman, MT asks:
Do scouts or Royals officials have any feeling for how fast Montgomery might move through the system? Does he remind anyone of Danny Duffy?
 A: 

Bill Mitchell: We're going to take three straight Royals questions as there's a lot to talk about with that AZL team. There's no prediction yet on where Montgomery will go next year, but with his advanced skills there's no reason he can't follow the same path as Duffy and go to Low A next year. As much as I liked Duffy last season, I believe that Montgomery has more upside.

 Q:  BL from Bozeman, MT asks:
KC has several Latin American players assigned to the AZL, is there a sense as to how the Royals have done in the Dominican and Venezuela in the last couple of years, since increasing their presence there?
 A: 

Bill Mitchell: Based on their AZL team, they are doing well in Latin America, not to mention higher level guys like Edward Cegarra. Most of this team was made up of Latin players, primarily because they added a third rookie level team in the Appalachian League. You just read about Espinal and Bonilla in the Top 20 list. Geulin Beltre might have been listed had he not gotten hurt and missed the first half of the season.

 Q:  BL from Bozeman, MT asks:
Anyone you like as a sleeper on the AZL Royals that didn't crack the top 20?
 A: 

Bill Mitchell: I just mentioned Geulin Beltre, who didn't play any shortstop after returning from injury. Managers who saw him during extended spring training liked him. The Royals are really high on 18-year-old pitcher Carlos Fortuna, who has an outstanding arm and great makeup; he just needs to continue to make strides with his mechanics. Another potential sleeper is Chase Hentges, a high school pitcher from Minnesota drafted in the 14th round. He's got an explosive fastball; one opposing manager believes that Hentges could be a closer in the big leagues.

 Q:  Jason from Lake Villa, IL asks:
Two Cubs prospects from the AZL that I have heard positive things about- Logan Watkins (SS/2B) and Tony Campana (CF). Watkins looks like he's got some polish and tools to him- what could he profile as? Campana was old for the league (getting sent back there after an injury), but 22 SB's in 90 PA's counts for something. Does he have a chance to be something like Jason Tyner?
 A: 

Bill Mitchell: I addressed Watkins in an earlier question. Campana was a lot of fun to watch —- great speed, very good defense. He's small and at his age I wouldn't project him getting much bigger. Like a lot of small players, he will need to prove himself at every level, but in the meantime he will add value to every team he plays on. If he ever makes it, he'll be a Cangelosi or Dascenzo type of overachieving fourth outfielder.

 Q:  Patrick from Milwaukee, WI asks:
Hey Bill. Always a pleasure to get your thoughts from Arizona. Did Cody Scarpetta just miss the cut due to innings pitched? Any thoughts on some of the more high ceiling AZ Brewers such as Shawn Zarraga, Luis Guerrero, Blake Billings, Hitaniel Arias and Jose Garcia?
 A: 

Bill Mitchell: Scarpetta fell short of innings and I never did get to see him pitch, but check out those K/9 totals at both levels! Of the other Brewers you mention, the one that drew the most comments was Jose Garcia. The AZL staff at the Brewers complex like this 17-year-old. He's got a solid body and power potential, but he's still very raw. Arias is even more unrefined. Good body, some power potential, but many years away. I got some favorable comments about Guerrero and Billings, but really nothing on Zarraga.

 Q:  John from Sacramneto asks:
How good is Andrianz from the Giants? When do you see him making it to the majors and why was he in triple A for a couple of games then sent back down AFL?
 A: 

Bill Mitchell: I've been waiting for my first Adrianza question! I really like this kid. He completely won me over during the AZL championship game when he made one great play after another. Even mistakes from him turn into outs because of his quick reactions. Just between us, I briefly considered rolling the dice on Adrianza and making him the #1 prospect in the league —- that's how high I am on him. Let's see how his body matures over the next couple years before projecting his arrival date in the big leagues. The reason he played in AAA was because the Fresno team was short an infielder (I think it was when Ivan Ochoa got called up); since they were already in Arizona, they brought in Adrianza to fill the void until a more experienced infielder could get there.

 Q:  Mike from Chicago asks:
I was just wondering why some Cubs didn't make the list such as Yohan Gonzalez or Jericho Jones, were any of them close?
 A: 

Bill Mitchell: I didn't get too many comments on Gonzalez, although he's still only 18 and he put up some good numbers —- just didn't miss a lot of bats. The best pitching prospect on the Cubs team was probably southpaw Jeff Antigua, another 18 year old who should get bigger. Jones obviously hit well in the AZL, but he's a college guy. There are other higher rated hitters from that team, but I will still be interested in seeing how he does at a higher level. He's tall and strong, but could still add more muscle.

 Q:  phil from scottsdale stadium asks:
Hey Bill! Thanks for the time. How far off was Jorge Bucardo from making the top 20? In the three outings I saw him in he didn't light up the radar gun but his fastball had good running action, broke a few bats, and his slider seemed to get a lot of hitters off balance or chasing out of the strike zone. I was pretty impressed considering he's only 18-years-old and weighs about 150 lbs.
 A: 

Bill Mitchell: You're right in saying that Bucardo's best pitch is his slider. I saw him on some good days, too. He's not as highly regarded as his brother, Wilber, who made this last season. But he ranks as no higher than the sixth best pitcher on the Giants staff. Nicholson and Casilla both made the top 20 list, Aaron King was not far off the list, and a couple of sleepers from that staff are Kelvin Marte and Javier Hernandez.

 Q:  Ken from Phoenix asks:
How do Jeffry Antigua and Dionis Nunez of CHC get left out? 2 18yr olds w/ Huge cielings.
 A: 

Bill Mitchell: I discussed Antigua as being an interesting prospect to watch. Nunez was actually 19 and will turn 20 in a couple of weeks. He was pretty hittable and had command issues.

 Q:  Browning Nagle from Louisville, KY asks:
What is Jharmidy DeJesus' ultimate ceiling? Is he a middle of the order run producer capable of high batting averages?
 A: 

Bill Mitchell: Looking into the crystal ball, I see De Jesus as being a starting third baseman in the big leagues, perhaps more of a doubles hitter than a big homerun hitter. I'll project him to be a 20-25 homerun guy in the big leagues with a consistent .270 - .280 average and decent defense.

 Q:  bobby from ca asks:
Whats your impression on Nino Leyja? Was he close to making the cut? Also, Dixon is listed on the top 20 as 21 but he just turned 18 3 weeks ago
 A: 

Bill Mitchell: Let's take an A's question. Leyja was very close, another guy who I really wish I could have included. He did very well for a 17-year-old. Good hitting skills, good hands and the quickness to play all three infield positions. I didn't rank him as highly as other middle infielders because, to me, he profiles as more of a utility player at the big league level. I hope he proves me wrong, because I like the kid and will be watching him closely. I'm very high on Dixon. Yes, he just turned 18, not 21. He is a physical specimen but still very raw. What wasn't included in his scouting report is his character and makeup; manager Ruben Escalera graded him as 200% —- very coachable and willing to learn. He could be the guy that five years from now we'll be wondering why he wasn't ranked #1.

 Q:  Eric from Los Angeles asks:
Hi, Bill. I follow the Giants minor leagues pretty closely, but don't recall hearing much about Ehire Adrianza. What can you tell me about him? About where do you think he would rank among the Giants' prospects, overall?
 A: 

Bill Mitchell: I'll take another question on Adrianza, because this chat might be his coming out party among Giants fans. I haven't done enough research to see how many better prospects there are in the Giants organization, but he certainly should be considered in the mix.

 Q:  Patrick from Chicago, IL asks:
Will Matthew Cerda stick at catcher, or will the Cubs end up moving him back to the middle infield?
 A: 

Bill Mitchell: The Cubs were satisfied with the progress that he made this year. They had Kerry Wood's former high school catcher, Danny Fatheree, working with him during the summer. My opinion is that it may depend on how much bigger he gets. He's still kind of small and will need to put on weight and muscle to withstand the wear and tear of catching.

 Q:  Patrick from Chicago, IL asks:
Is there much to get excited about between Jericho Jones and Nelson Perez for the Cubs? How do both project?
 A: 

Bill Mitchell: Nelson Perez is a hard one to project. He's got big time power potential, a very good arm (70 on the scouting scale) and runs well for a big man. But I want to see how he does at a higher level because of his big swing. There's definitely potential there. The Cubs like him, as did many of the opposing managers.

 Q:  pete from florida asks:
Rashun Dixon might be the highest upside athlete in the A's system, agree or disagree?
 A: 

Bill Mitchell: One more question on Dixon because I like talking about him. He's 6'2", 210 pounds right now with 4.1 speed to first base (extremely good for a right-handed hitter). He may even get bigger, yet still not lose that "wide receiver" speed. That's very athletic, so I'll agree with you without analyzing the rest of their system.

 Q:  Navin from Pasadena, CA asks:
Thank you for your response to my earlier question! What happened to Chris Huseby? He had a solid season last year in the NWL but he struggled to throw strikes in the AZL this season. Was he hurt again?
 A: 

Bill Mitchell: I do not believe that Huseby had any injury issues this year. Like you said, it's just a matter of throwing strikes. He made some incremental progress as the season progressed, but he's still a work in progress.

 Q:  dave from los angeles asks:
will we see Michael Inoa #1 on the AZL 2009 list?
 A: 

Bill Mitchell: I sure hope so because that means I'd get to watch him in AZ all summer instead of having to go to Vancouver or Kane County. I'm just disappointed that he's not coming to Instructional League and I have to wait until next March to get my first look at himn.

 Q:  keith from lincoln asks:
What do you think Mike Montgomery's ceiling is? Could he be a #2 type starter somewhere down the road?
 A: 

Bill Mitchell: That's a very good projection, and in fact is what pitching coach Mark Davis said about him.

 Q:  john from san diego asks:
please name 5-8 prospects that missed the cut?
 A: 

Bill Mitchell: I've alluded to a few players in previous comments, but here are the names for you in one place: Josh Blanco (Angels), Nino Leyja (Athletics), Matt Cerda (Cubs), Aaron King (Giants), Nelson Perez (Cubs), Alexia Amarista (Angels), Leonel De Los Santos (Rangers). Keep an eye on that last one —- 18-year-old catcher from Venezuela who can hit and has a strong arm. I inadvertently deleted a question that I intended to answer about Starlin Castro and Junior Lake. I liked both of them a lot, as did many others around the AZL. Lake stood out early in the season, but Castro really impressed in the second half. Castro can most likely get bigger and stronger without having to move off shortstop, while Lake may have to go to third base. A Cubs scout told me that within the organization opinions are split as to which is the better prospect. The good thing is that no one has to decide right now —- they can let them play and watch how they both develop.

 Q:  Dan McKay from Albuquerque, N.M. asks:
Setting aside his statistics, how did Buster Posey look during his time in the AZL? Did the long layoff diminish his skills?
 A: 

Bill Mitchell: Posey looked like a man amongst boys. If his skills were diminished at all, it certainly wasn't noticeable.

 Q:  phil from scottsdale stadium asks:
What's your take on 22-year-old Josh Mazzola? With the Giants lack of depth at third would you consider him a prospect?
 A: 

Bill Mitchell: Mazzola is an interesting one. He did very well, both at bat and in the field. My understanding is that he went undrafted because of questions about his bat, but he hit well in the AZL. Keep in mind however that he's a college guy facing lots of raw, teenaged pitchers. You can count on one hand the number of nondrafted college players that have made the big leagues, and still have most of your fingers left. But it would be a great story. I'd like to have the movie rights to that story.

 Q:  JAYPERS from IL asks:
Adrianza = second coming of Buriss?
 A: 

Bill Mitchell: I think Adrianza will be better, but let's address it again in about three years.

 Q:  Tristan from California asks:
Higher ceiling, Fairley or Dixon?
 A: 

Bill Mitchell: Easy one for me —- Dixon.

 Q:  Richie Abernathy from Little Rock asks:
If Jaff Decker is a short hefty lefty who is a former pitcher who hits with power and draws tons of walks and thinks he can run, isn't the only real comparison Babe Ruth? I kid, but his knowledge and command of the strikezone just out of high school is incredible. What's his ETA and what kind of power can he have at the MLB level? (though San Diego's park is a canyon) and can Decker continue to steal bases?
 A: 

Bill Mitchell: The usual comp on Decker is Matt Stairs, but now we've elevated it to Babe Ruth! I like it! He's projected to be a 20-25 HR guy, obviously with a high OBP. Playing in a park like Petco could be a real advantage to a guy like Decker who uses all fields —- he could be spraying a lot of doubles in the gap. He will never have blazing speed but his instincts should still get him a reasonable number of stolen bases. He's only 18, so let's give him four years to reach the big leagues. Another reader asked why Decker was left in the AZL so long (he advanced to Eugene after the end of the AZL season). The answer is probably because he was only 18 and there was no reason to rush him. But maybe it was to ensure that there were always at least a few fans at the Padres games, because his grandparents were there regularly.

 Q:  Mark from San Francisco asks:
What is your opinion of Wendell Fairley? Looks like he started to figure it out a bit late in the season. Do you see him in Salem next year or Augusta?
 A: 

Bill Mitchell: I used the word enigma in describing Wendell Fairley. But he started to grow on me towards the end of the year when, as you stated, he made some nice adjustments at the plate. If he continues improving in Instructs and next spring, I could see him moving up to Augusta, especially since he'll be 21 next year. If you're wondering what the future holds for Fairley, a comp that I'll credit to Jason Grey of ESPN is Freddie Lewis —- a talented athlete who developed later in his 20s.

 Q:  Marco from San Diego asks:
Bill, What were your impressions on Robert Lara? Granted he was a little old for the league, but he is he a future ML catcher?
 A: 

Bill Mitchell: The projection that I generally got around the league is that if Lara makes the big leagues it will be as a backup. Interesting hitter, but he'll soon be 22.

 Q:  dew from Orlando asks:
Get a chance to see Chris Wilkes, RHP for Padres? Went very late in draft, no one thought he'd pass up that scholarship to play QB at Ole Miss. Had a solid season stats wise.
 A: 

Bill Mitchell: Wilkes is one who flew under the radar. I didn't really start looking at him until late in the season, perhaps because he wasn't drafted until the 22nd round and no one really talked much about him. But his numbers were very solid. He's a big-bodied guy who is only 18. I don't know if we can project any more out of him physically, but I will definitely be on the lookout for him in Instructs. Incidentally, the Padres Instructs roster now lists him as 6'4", 245 so he apparently is still growing. Check back with me in a few weeks after I hopefully get to see him pitch again.

 Q:  BL from Bozeman, MT asks:
I'm curious about how quickly a player such as Bonilla might move through the Royals system?
 A: 

Bill Mitchell: Bonilla just turned 20 this summer and showed tremendous improvement, especially behind the plate. I don't see any reason to rush him through the system. He's still got a lot to learn. I'm a big believer in players getting to play at every level, but especially for catchers who have so much more to learn.

 Q:  phil from scottsdale stadium asks:
I really liked Alexia Amarista of the Angels. He looked solid leading off for a very good, well coached Angels team. What's your take on him?
 A: 

Bill Mitchell: I also liked him. I always get attached to the little guys. Amarista is very fast, but needs to learn to better utilize his speed. He's also got a plus arm. He played 2B, CF and RF in the AZL. If I had seen him at SS, then maybe I'd lay a Chone Figgins comp on him, but it's a little early for that anyway. He also showed surprising pop by pulling one out of the ballpark late in the season —- were you there for that game?

 Q:  BL from Bozeman, MT asks:
Do you have the opportunity to take in any instructional league action in Arizona?
 A: 

Bill Mitchell: I am counting down the days until the first game this week —- only 2 days, 22 hours and 59 minutes until the first pitch. So the answer, of course, is "yes."

 Q:  Brad from Rock Hill, SC asks:
Thank you for answering questions about players 3 to 4 years away from the big leagues. These guys give us hope, especially for third generation Cub's fans like me. Jose Contreras is 22 years old, first season out of the Dominican, and the Cubs played him a lot in '08. What makes him interesting enough for the playing time at that age?
 A: 

Bill Mitchell: John Contreras hit a lot of homeruns and put up good numbers for the Cubs, but didn't draw any comments about being a prospect. You are correct that he is 22 and in his first year in the States. In addition to third base, he also played some first base. There's some power potential, but probably not enough of anything else to make him a prospect.

 Q:  JH from Berkeley asks:
What kind of reports came back on Robert Rodriguez? I know he signed for a pretty large bonus (I was told $280,000), but I haven't heard anything about him since.
 A: 

Bill Mitchell: Rodriguez started the AZL season at 17 and played a lot of outfield for the Mariners. He's got the typical profile for a young, raw prospect —- needs to get bigger and stronger and improve his plate discipline. At 6'4", 180, there's some physical projection, but he's many, many years away.

 Q:  Mike from Boston asks:
What's the report on Mike Montgomery? Has his stuff been better since he was drafted?
 A: 

Bill Mitchell: One more question on Montgomery. He came to the AZL already having a good feel for pitching. His primary breaking ball was a palm ball, but the Royals believed that he'd be better throwing a more traditional curveball. He made good progress with it and was getting a better feel for it. He was more comfortable using it as his primary breaking ball late in the season. That's probably the biggest difference between Montgomery in high school and now.

 Q:  Sean Doolittle from virginia asks:
whats your take on my younger brother Ryan, should he stay on the mound or hit like me?
 A: 

Bill Mitchell: I didn't get to see Doolittle until late in the season and didn't review him with his manager, so I can't comment too much on his pitching OR his hitting ability. However, he's been invited to Instructs, so that means that the Athletics see something in him.

Bill Mitchell: That wraps up our chat for today. Thanks for all of the great questions. Sorry if I didn't get to all of them, but I believe I covered just about every significant AZL player today.