League Top 20 Prospects

Midwest League Top 20 Chat

Jim Callis answers questions about the MWL

Q:  Dae Eun Rhee from Peoria asks:
Where would I have ranked if I had stayed healthy?

Jim Callis: In the back half of the Top 10. Before he got hurt, which kept him from logging enough innings to qualify, Rhee showed three plus pitches in his fastball, curveball and changeup. Triceps tendinitis and elbow problems that required Tommy John surgery limited him to 10 starts.

 Q:  Tom from San Francisco, CA asks:
Hi, Jim. I was dispirited by the collectively lackluster finish by the Lansing team. Do you see it mainly as a matter of teenagers adjusting to the grind of a full season, in a league that is not particularly hospitable to hitters? Do you see most of those guys repeating next year, or will some move on to Dunedin? Thanks.

Jim Callis: Lansing had one of the youngest teams (if not the youngest) in the MWL, and most of those teenagers were in their first full season. Throw in the inhospitable hitting environments in the MWL, and I wouldn't be worried about those guys fading in August or not putting up big numbers. Justin Jackson and Kevin Ahrens both made the Top 20 and have promising futures. I think the Jays will move most of that crew up to high Class A next year.

 Q:  Matt from Ft Worth asks:
Where is Michael Main? He wasn't in the NW League top 20 and not in the Midwest top 20? What gives?

Jim Callis: He didn't pitch enough innings to qualify for either league. Like many high school pitchers in their first full season, Main saw his stuff dip a little bit. His fastball sat around 91 mph and his curveball was average, though his changeup was better than anticipated. He's still a quality prospect.

 Q:  Zack from Plano, TX asks:
Blake Beavan? Why no top 20 love for him?

Jim Callis: I went back and forth on who should get the last spot on the Top 20, and Beavan was one of the guys under consideration. (I'll throw out my standard MWL disclaimer, here, too: The league is one of the largest in the minors with 14 clubs, making it harder to crack this Top 20.) Beavan's fastball and curveball weren't nearly as electric as they were in high school. He did a nice job of pitching with his sinker and he's still a good prospect. But the guys I talked to who saw him liked him and didn't love him, and I decided to go with Trevor Reckling at No. 20.

 Q:  Justin from Nasvhille asks:
Well Peoria didn't come out very well in the MWL Top 20. Did anybody from there come reasonably close?

Jim Callis: No, not really. Rhee was easily their best prospect before getting hurt. Josh Donaldson got back on track after getting included in the Rich Harden trade, but he didn't hit much at all in the MWL. The best prospects on that team who qualified for the list were Jovan Rosa and Marquez Smith.

 Q:  Jayson from South Carolina asks:
So where would Justin Smoak have been ranked if he were eligible for the top 20?

Jim Callis: One scout who got a glimpse of Smoak when he joined Clinton at the end of the season told me he thought Smoak was the best prospect in the league. I probably would have ranked him No. 2.

 Q:  Tim from Proctorville, Ohio asks:
Neftali Soto or Juan Francisco?

Jim Callis: I'll give Francisco a slight edge because he has a better chance to stick at third base and has proven himself at a higher level.

 Q:  Kyle from Middletown asks:
No Devin Mesoraco? He seemed to hold his own as a teenager and is supposed to have a great arm.

Jim Callis: He held his own with the bat but disappointed MWL observers with his defense. Every year in the league, there's a guy who people say surprises them that he went in the first round, and this year that guy was Mesoraco.

 Q:  Skelly from Wisconsin asks:
What happened to Craig Italiano after he left the Midwest League? Less Ks, more BBs, more HRs, incredibly high BABIP...was his season any more than a tale of variance?

Jim Callis: I wouldn't worry about those numbers for two reasons. First, Italiano went from the worst hitter's league to the best hitter's league. Second, he pitched many more innings that he had before, after tearing his labrum in 2006 and getting hit in the head by a liner in 2007. His fastball and curveball are plus pitches, and he should be fine.

 Q:  Brandon from Charleston, WV asks:
Did Kyle Lotzkar not qualify?

Jim Callis: He did not. He did have one of the better arms in the league and has the chance to develop three plus pitches, so he would have made the list if he had pitched enough innings. Probably in the middle of the 11-20 area.

 Q:  Kyle from Middletown asks:
Did Zach Cozart or Brandon Waring get any consideration for the list?

Jim Callis: They did, fit more in the 21-35 area. Cozart is a good defender who hit for some surprising power this year. Waring has nice power potential, though he has to cut down on his strikeouts and isn't the most agile third baseman.

 Q:  Trevor from Alabama asks:
Are Matt Mitchell's numbers this past year more likely what to expect from him at his ceiling in the majors? An innings guy who is your typical #5 guy?

Jim Callis: That's fair to consider him as a back-of-the-rotation starter. Average fastball, OK curveball, changeup is his best pitch, throws a lot of strikes.

 Q:  Jon from Peoria asks:
Would you agree that Gutierrez was the surprise on the list? How would you compare his polish to the potential of young arms like Blake Beavan, Kyle Lotzkar, Bryan Morris, Michael Main, or David Bromberg?

Jim Callis: He was the biggest surprise for me, as I knew less about him than the other guys before I started. I don't think that he's the most polished guy in the world or more polished than the guys you've mentioned, but he showed consistently better stuff than they did.

 Q:  Blake Guyer from Madison, WI asks:
Jim, what is the process that you take in compiling this top 20 prospect list? Do you scout the players all season long in person? Do you speak with scouts and then with other BA editors about the list? Or do you take it totally different approach in creating the list?

Jim Callis: I don't live close enough to any of the clubs to see players on a regular basis. With rush hour traffic, Kane County is close to two hours away. I try to monitor what's going on in the MWL during the early months and talk to some scouts here and there. When I do the Best Tools list for the league, I find out about some guys I didn't know a whole lot about before. Toward the end of the season, I try to talk to as many managers and scouts as possible. The MWL is tougher because it's so spread out that managers don't see a lot of clubs in the other division, and scouts rarely cover the whole league. I'd have to check my notes, but I think the final count was eight managers and eight scouts whom I spoke to.

 Q:  Don from Rosemont, IL asks:
Jason Taylor put up some intriguing numbers, especially for a guy that missed the previous year. Do you think his power-speed combo will play at higher levels? What position is he best suited for?

Jim Callis: Taylor put up an interesting combo of numbers: 17 HR, 40 SB, 81 BB. He's more athletic for a 6-foot, 210-pounder than truly athletic. His speed is fringy despite the SB totals. He moved to first base when Mike Moustakas moved to third base, and Taylor probably will stay there. He's really going to have to hit to make it as a first baseman.

 Q:  Andy from Arlington asks:
How is Derek Holland the ninth-best prospect in the MWL? His ceiling has to be as high or higher than anyone in front of him, including teammate Neftali Feliz.

Jim Callis: I think that statement is a little extreme—obviously, or I would have ranked Holland higher. Keep in mind that these lists are based to some extent on league context. Holland's stuff kicked up a notch after he left Clinton, but I rated him based on what he showed in the MWL.

 Q:  Jon from Peoria asks:
Now that Moustakas and Josh Vitters have finished their second seasons and are both playing third base, how would you compare their ceilings?

Jim Callis: They have similar ceilings as potential plus hitters with plus-plus power. If I had to pick between the two, I'd easily take Moustakas right now. He has proven himself at a significantly tougher level and he has a better chance to stay at third base.

 Q:  Alex from Dallas asks:
Who would you compare Beltre to? What are his chances of really developing his talent fully? Is his batting eye his main weakness?

Jim Callis: His build and game remind me of Alfonso Soriano with the ability to play a quality center field. Beltre is 18 and handled the MWL, so I'd say he's on the right path to reaching his ceiling. His strike-zone discipline is his main weakness. He struck out 105 times and walked just 15, and he may always be a free swinger.

 Q:  JY from NYC asks:
How close was Michael Pineda to making the cut? He was in the top ten or close to it in innings pitched and strikeouts, barely allowed any hits, and was third in ERA, for whatever that's worth.

Jim Callis: Very close. He was in the mix for that No. 20 spot. Pineda has a live fastball but the rest of his game (secondary pitches, command, delivery) is still quite raw. That's not a big negative for a 19-year-old, but most of the people I talked to thought he was destined to be a reliever and not a starter, and that pushed him off the Top 20 for me.

 Q:  Christy from Springfield, IL asks:
How much does what a guy does at a higher level play into his ranking? Case in point: Pete Kozma really had his struggles in his brief time in the FSL, though he is just 20. Do numbers at a higher level (good or bad) have an effect on a player's ranking?

Jim Callis: As I mentioned with Holland, the list is mainly based on what guys did in the MWL. I do look at how they perform after a promotion, but it's not a huge factor. Kozma is in his first full pro season out of high school, so I would expect him to struggle in the FSL. Maybe not quite to that extent, but I didn't hold it against him.

 Q:  Chuck from Wichita, KS asks:
How close was Johnny Giavatella to making the top 20? Any other Bees we should keep our eyes on? Thanks.

Jim Callis: Not especially close, but I like his bat and hard-nosed approach. I won't be surprised at all if he hits his way to the big leagues.

 Q:  Patrick from Chicago, IL asks:
How does this year's crop of MWL prospects compare with previous years?

Jim Callis: I think it stacks up as solidly in the middle, a good but not great crop.

 Q:  Allen D. from Burien WA asks:
How serious are the injury concerns with Phillipe Aumont? On a strictly potential basis, where does he rank among the top pitching prospects?

Jim Callis: Shutting him down was more a precaution than a red flag. Aumont's potential ranks with just about any pitcher's in the minors—he has that much upside.

 Q:  Patrick from Chicago, IL asks:
What do you see in your crystal ball for Brandon Guyer?

Jim Callis: He's not a top prospect, but he's one of the best all-around athletes in the Cubs system. Definitely worth keeping an eye on.

 Q:  Don from Rosemont, IL asks:
How much higher would you say that Engel Beltre's ceiling is compared to Ben Revere's? Is it safe to say that Beltre could have a much bigger impact given his power potential and stronger arm? How much consideration was there to ranking Beltre ahead of Revere?

Jim Callis: I asked that question of several managers and scouts, and I went back and forth on how I should rank them. Beltre has a higher ceiling, but Revere isn't just a slap hitter and is more polished with the bat right now. It was a tough call.

 Q:  Francis Torres from Brooklyn, NY asks:
Borbon or Beltre?

Jim Callis: Depends on which way you want to go. Borbon is a safer bet but Beltre could deliver a bigger payoff. I'd go with Beltre.

 Q:  Jon from Dallas asks:
Would David Wright be a good comparable for Moustakas at this point? If not, who?

Jim Callis: He has that kind of potential with the bat but I don't think he's in the same class defensively right now.

 Q:  George from Houston asks:
Any chance that Thomas Pham follows Daryl Jones and turns his tools into performance?

Jim Callis: He could. Pham always has intrigued me.

 Q:  Zach from Minneapolis asks:
Is Ben Revere-Denard Span a favorable comparison, and has Revere improved his throw tool at all? Also, what were your impressions of Shooter Hunt? Seemed from afar he had above average stuff but more than likely got into a lot of trouble with some control issues. Thanks.

Jim Callis: Span's year in the big leagues notwithstanding, I've never been a big Span fan and I think Revere's bat is a cut above his. Revere's arm is still below average but has improved. As for Hunt, that was the story on him at Tulane and in his pro debut. He has a big league curveball and a plus fastball but he needs to challenge hitters more aggressively.

 Q:  Ross from CA asks:
Is there any fear that Feliz is a FB only guy? Regardless of how electric his arm is if he can't command other pitches he will struggle right?

Jim Callis: You have to remember that he's just 19. I didn't talk to anyone who felt he would be a one-pitch guy. He shows the ability to spin a nice breaking ball but he just doesn't maintain consistent mechanics when he throws it. His changeup is quite promising. It's all a matter of consistency, no surprise for a teenage pitcher.

 Q:  Marc from Minneapolis asks:
What was your thoughts on David Bromberg this season? Great k-rate but hows the rest of his game?

Jim Callis: Bromberg led the minors in strikeouts with little fanfare. He has a plus curveball, and pitchers with command of a plus secondary pitch are going to carve up low Class A hitters. That said, he is a prospect. His fastball is solid average and was better than that late in the year. He doesn't have the prettiest body and doesn't have projection remaining, but he has enough stuff to make it to the majors.

 Q:  Deywane from Memphis asks:
Will Neftali Soto be the Reds #1 prospect?

Jim Callis: I'm guessing that will be Yonder Alonso instead.

 Q:  pete from st louis asks:
please settle this heated A's debate: was weeks the right pick or will A's regret taking wallace. take him even though they had 1b depth w/ berton/carter/doolittle etc. does wallace end up better than all of them?

Jim Callis: I like Weeks and the A's wanted an up-the-middle player, but I would have taken Wallace. He'll be a passable third baseman with a tremendous bat. Even if he's just a first baseman, I like him better than the guys you've mentioned.

 Q:  Jonathan from Iowa City asks:
Where do you think Andrew Lambo will start next season? He certainly looked good in the AA playoffs. Also, is his ultimate position in the OF or at 1b? Thanks

Jim Callis: I'll try to get to a few more questions before I have to run . . . Lambo will be a LF and should start next year in Double-A.

 Q:  derek from santa clara asks:
A's sp carlos hernandez did very well at 3 levels in 08. i read he has a plus curveball, but your typical soft tosser?

Jim Callis: Another guy who didn't qualify . . . Not sure I would call the curveball plus. He's your typical crafty lefty who mixes four pitches and throws strikes.

 Q:  Charles from Houston asks:
Who do you like more, David Bromberg or Mike McCardell?

Jim Callis: Bromberg.

 Q:  Wes from NYC asks:
With Glaus signed for one more year and Pujols locking down 1B, is it safe to say we won't see Brett Wallace much until 2010 in STL? Do you see him staying at 3B long term?

Jim Callis: That is safe to say, though he could get a shot if Pujols or Glaus gets hurt midway through next season. I think Wallace will stay at third base more out of necessity than anything. With Pujols around, he's not going to be playing first base in St. Louis and third base is the only other place to get his bat into the lineup.

 Q:  PVAMU Fan! from Really! asks:
Michael Richard had a .369 on-base percentage and stole 35 bases in 87 games. Any hope for the former Panther great?

Jim Callis: Yes. He's not a top prospect, but he has a chance to make it as an athletic utility type.

 Q:  Alvin from Toronto asks:
Was Tim Collins close to making it to the Top 20?

Jim Callis: Not really, but he was everyone's favorite MWL story and a pitcher opposing managers hated to see on the mound. There aren't too many 5-foot-7, 150-pound lefties in the majors, but Collins does have an average fastball, a nasty curveball and absolutely no fear. He may not get away with throwing his fastball up in the zone against better hitters, but he already has blown away the expectations for a nondrafted free agent.

 Q:  Jared from CA asks:
What did scouts think of Loons (Dodgers) RHP Justin Miller?

Jim Callis: They loved his sinker. He wasn't close to the Top 20, but he's a legit prospect who's only been pitching full-time for about a year.

Moderator: That's it for today. Our daily Top 20 chats return tomorrow, with Bill Ballew discussing our South Atlantic League list.