League Top 20 Prospects

AZL Top 20 Prospects Chat With Bill Mitchell

Moderator: Bill Mitchell will answer questions about the Arizona League's prospects beginning at 1 p.m. ET.

    JAYPERS (IL): Had Ynoa stayed healthy and logged in enough innings, would he have ranked above Trout on your list? Also, what is your evaluation of his mechanics?

Bill Mitchell: Hello to all. Let's start talking about the Arizona League top prospects. I'll uphold a tradition and start with a question from BA chat regular Jaypers. That's a tough one to call. There is still so much that is not known about Michael Ynoa. He still hasn't come close to pitching in a game and really hasn't thrown that much at all since coming to the U.S. I was one of the few people to witness his BP session in March, and his mechanics looked good to me. He didn't throw much after that until last Sunday when he threw 10 pitches from flat ground. Since he didn't come close to getting in any AZL games, I won't even guess whether he would have ranked above Trout.

    Alan (Pennsylvania): Ben Badler made us aware of Fabio Martinez last year when he was in the DSL and I scooped him up in my keeper league. How does his stuff compare to his teammate Baudilio Lopez?

Bill Mitchell: Martinez's stuff is just plain nasty at times. He just needs consistency and to grow into his body. He's far ahead of Lopez, who received some favorable comments from rival coaches but didn't rank highly enough to be considered for the list.

    Mike (Santa Fe, NM): What do you think of Padres CF Cameron Monger? He is a raw very athletic college player.

Bill Mitchell: Monger is an interesting prospect. He probably doesn't profile as any more than an extra outfielder if he gets to the big leagues. But the Padres invited him to Instructional League, which usually means they see something in him

    Ben (Leland Grove): It was said that Grichuk was an overdraft, initially. What led the Angels to pick him as high as they did?

Bill Mitchell: I've heard the same comments from scouts that Grichuk went higher than expected, but not from anyone associated with the Angels. With Grichuk, it's all about the bat. His skills are obvious. I was sitting at a game one night with a minor league official from another organization. He didn't know who was at the plate, but in one at bat he said that the kid was a good hitter. He's still got some work to do, but he's young. His high school scouting reports labeled him as a dead pull hitter, but in the AZL he used all fields.

    Rick (Vista, CA): If Needy and Sampson sign early with the Padres. Would they be rank in the top 20? How good are these players?

Bill Mitchell: I didn't get to see Needy pitch and only saw Sampson for the first time in Instructs, but I am sure they would have been strongly considered. I especially like Needy's long, lean body ... lots of projection there.

    Paul (Ft. Lauderdale, FL): Which of these 20 players do you see rising through the minors the quickest, and why?

Bill Mitchell: If I was going to pick one player from the Top 20 who will make the big leagues first, I'll go with Jon Bachanov, especially if he stays in the bullpen. Angels pitching coach Trevor Wilson believes he will move quickly. Good stuff and excellent command. It took him longer than most to recover from surgery, but he hit the ground running this year.

    Chuck (Wichita): Who were the best prospects on the AZ Royals and were any close to making this list? Thanks.

Bill Mitchell: Alex Llanos was the closest to making the list. He did much better in his second time in the AZL and was still only 18. Several AZL managers mentioned him as someone they liked. He seems to be a guy that will struggle at each level until he figures it out. Note that he hit poorly after moving up to the Pioneer League. He was considered for the top 20, but the plate discipline concerns me. One to watch but I wasn't ready to call him a top 20. Willian Avinazar is an interesting pitching prospect. - I only saw him pitch one time and he had a lot of command issues and was pretty hittable. A rival pitching coach said that he looked great throwing in the bullpen before the game but then he saw a different pitcher on the mound. He's obviously got good stuff and there's potential there if he can take those raw skills and apply them in actual game situations.

    Nate (North Carolina): I'm a little surprised to see Galvez so far down and Liriano so far up, given the respective bonuses and international ink they had gotten before 2007. I also love to see a hitter with such advanced plate discipline that early in his career... How much do you guys factor in plate discipline for these lower levels, as opposed to full-season leagues?

Bill Mitchell: Good question. I also had Galvez ranked much higher and Liriano lower on my initial lists, but my rankings changed considerably after making the rounds with the managers. Slotting Liriano in fourth is probably my riskiest choice this year, but nearly every manager raved about him. Combine that with his raw power, arm strength and speed, and I decided that he needed to rank near the top. Padres manager Jose Flores believes the plate discipline will come with experience. In the case of Galvez, it's the questions around his defense that dropped him. I put a lot of stock in K/BB rates and Galvez's totals were impressive for someone his age. But in the final analysis, Liriano projects as a starting outfielder while Galvez was looking more like a utility infielder.

    Nate (North Carolina): Merkin Valdez isn't exactly a glowing compliment, but it made me wonder- is Martinez's future likely in the pen? How big are his control issues, and where do you think LA will put him to start '10?

Bill Mitchell: His control issues weren't that concerning. It was just part of learning how to pitch while also adapting to a new culture. I really think that he will stay in the rotation primarily because he is able to carry his velocity deep into the game. If the secondary pitches continue to develop, he'll have rotation written all over him. Since the Angels gave him some time in Orem at the end of the season, it wouldn't surprise me to see them move him up to Cedar Rapids next year.

    Navin (Pasadena, CA): It's disappointing to see no Cubs on there. Who was the closest Cub prospect to make the list? I thought Toby Matchulat and Julio Pena had interesting numbers.

Bill Mitchell: Most of their top draft picks (Jackson, LeMahieu, Rusin) made token appearances but none had enough time to qualify for the list. Kirk and Raley signed late and didn't pitch enough to qualify. Keep in mind that they also challenged some of the younger players, like Hak-Ju Lee, by sending them to Boise instead of keeping them in the AZL. As for players who played enough to qualify, Wes Darvill has potential. He's still very raw; nice batting stroke but needs to get stronger. I also question whether he has the arm to play SS. Outfielder Jesus Morelli could be one to watch in the future. The pitcher to draw the most favorable comments was Jose Rosario, who started the year in the DSL and finished with two appearances at Daytona.

    Bryan (San Francisco): I know he didn't pitch much at all in the AZL, but what can you tell us about Rangers LHP Robbie Erlin. The (very) limited numbers were nice, but the Rangers must have something they like to go over slot on a smaller pitcher. Thanks!

Bill Mitchell: The only time I saw Erlin was an a tremendous dust storm was starting to blow in, so it was a little hard to evaluate him. A scout that saw him in his first appearance came away very impressed. He's got decent speed for a short lefty and an above average curve ball. He's a smart pitcher and a great kid.

    Bryan (Orange, CA.): Any chance we see Rafael Rodriguez in low A next year? Or does he need to show more power before the Giants advance him?

Bill Mitchell: I would be very surprised to see Rodriguez in a full season league next year. In fact, it probably wouldn't hurt him to spend another season in the AZL. Keep in mind that he'll still only be 17 at the start of next season. In my opinion, he's the rawest of the raw, but with tremendous upside. Let's see how much he grows and how much stronger he gets between now and next spring.

    Tony Reagins (Anaheim): Not to get all greedy on ya - obviously I'm pleased to have three of the top five prospects - but would our plus-sized 1B Jamie Mallard have made the list given more plate appearances? Also, where would our boy Skaggs have landed if he had more IP?

Bill Mitchell: I think that Skaggs would have certainly been at least in the top ten and maybe top five. I love Jamie Mallard; he actually had enough plate appearances to qualify. The kid can rake and he loves to play the game. It's obvious what he needs to do to move forward, and that's to firm up that body and lose some of the baby fat.

    Dan McKay (Albuquerque, N.M.): Any thoughts on Ydwin Villegas, the Giants' SS who hit .305/.345/.352?

Bill Mitchell: The Giants really like Villegas and said that he made more progress than any play on the team during the course of the season. He's strong defensively with good range both to his left and to his right. He made the most improvement with his hitting; he's more of a situational hitter with occasional pop. One scout profiled him as a future utility guy but the Giants believe he can be a starting shortstop. He received some consideration for the list but was in the group that just missed.

    Britney Valdez (Davis, CA): What in the world is wrong with Brett Hunter? Spent a fair amount of time in Arizona this summer? Prospect or washout?

Bill Mitchell: I just got four straight questions on Brett Hunter, so I'll address it just to stay that Hunter needs to get healthy and regain his velocity. It's too early to call him a bust as one chatter questioned. He rehabbed in the AZL and is currently in Instructs.

    John (Los Angeles): Did Dodger prospect Nick Akins get any consideration for the top 20, or did his age play a factor?

Bill Mitchell: Akins got a lot of consideration. While he's already 21 he's still relatively inexperienced in that he hasn't played at any big baseball programs. When it came down to cutting the list, I didn't include him not so much because of his age but because he's likely to be strictly a left fielder. He's very athletic and was well respected this summer. His manager said that he believes that Akins can move quickly. But for me it came down to the defense.

    Dillon (Pasadena, CA): Did Rubby de la Rosa garner any consideration for this list? Or did he not accumulate enough time?

Bill Mitchell: Rubby (I love that name!) looked very good early in the season, hitting 98 the one time I saw him. He was on my early consideration lists, but then he was sent home for some undisclosed disciplinary issue and didn't get enough innings. I was told that it was not a major issue and that he'd be back.

    Warren (New London): This isn't a question so much as a statement that I'd like your reaction to. Maxwell Walla was supposed to be one of the best high school hitters in the draft, yet he had a terrible season in the AZL. The same thing happened some years ago with another high school hitter from New Mexico, John Roskos, who did eventually become a good minor league hitter although he never got much of a chance in the majors. Is the competition in New Mexico that weak? Or can you suggest another explanation? I assume you still think Walla has a good chance to be a hitter.

Bill Mitchell: I can't speak for the talent level in New Mexico. I did extra footwork on Walla because he looked so talented yet his numbers were not good. Overall, managers and scouts still believe in the talent. One opposing manager said that Walla killed them at the plate early in the season before he started to struggle, so the talent is obviously there. The biggest concern is that he becomes more of a tweener with not enough power for a corner outfield position but not enough speed to play centerfield. For what it's worth, I saw him in Instructs the other day and he was taking some nice swings against older pitchers. He'll be okay.

    Brian (San Diego): Does Portillo project as a front line starter?

Bill Mitchell: The Padres believe so. He's only 17 and has a long way to go, but if his stuff continues to develop and his body matures like they expect you could have something special. Take note of the comment from pitching coach Jimmy Jones that was included in his summary: "We'll see a completely different guy when he's 20."

    Kent (Sonoma, CA): Bill, Thank you for the chat. As a pathologically biased Giants fan, I was expecting to see Lamb in the top 20, and kind of hoping that Villegas or Izturis might sneak in. Did any of these guys come close to making the list?

Bill Mitchell: As I answered in a previous post, Villegas was the closest of the three players you mentioned. Lamb didn't get much support from managers; his numbers were good but there were some command issues. Julio Izturis is intersting. He hit well and looked good in the field at several positions, but profiles more as a utility guy. (For those of you wondering, he's Maicer Izturis' brother and bears a facial resemblance to him).

    Brian (SD): I know we didn't see much of Everth Williams or Donovan Tate but, do you expect them to play in the AZL next year or move up?

Bill Mitchell: Everett Williams played a few games in the AZL at the end of the season and looked very impressive —- a lightning bat and excellent speed. I could see him starting at Eugene next season after extended spring training. It's hard to tell about Tate; I've never seen him play but from what I've heard he's a special talent. A first assignment to Eugene for him also wouldn't surprise me.

    jr (valencia, ca): What other Dodger came close to making this list? Any sleepers we should keep an eye on? Did Nick Akins come close to cracking the top 20?

Bill Mitchell: I mentioned Nick Akins in a previous post. The guy who came really, really close was pitcher Carlos Frias. He's got a very good arm, hitting 96 with his fastball and has an excellent changeup. Command of the breaking ball is his biggest area for improvement. He's still relatively inexperienced but made great progress this year. A year from now I may be kicking myself for not slotting him onto the list somewhere.

    Adam (Texas): What are yor thoughts on Edwin Escobar of the Rangers?

Bill Mitchell: Escobar was part of an all-teen Latin rotation with some pretty talented arms for the Rangers. He works in the high 80s with "rumors" that he touched 94 before coming to the States. His secondary pitches are rated as average right now. He's got a thick torso and could still lose some weight. He profiles right now as a reliever. He was considered for the list. The Rangers pitcher that just missed was Carlos Melo, who has an electric arm (hits 95 with the fastball) but is still raw; he needs to improve his secondary pitches. Other pitchers in that rotation to watch were Ezequiel Rijo and Juan Grullon, but they rank behind Alvarez, Melo and Escobar.

    David (St. Louis): Did Angels Closer Johnny Hellweg get any talk? Got moved up to Cedar Rapids after the year was over. 6 7" RHP with a chance to have two plus pitches.

Bill Mitchell: Hellweg did get mentioned by a couple of managers, and his pitching coach Trevor Wilson is very high on him. Like Bachanov, he could move quickly as a reliever.

    Cory (Palo Alto): Whats your take on Padres uber-athlete Wande Olabisi? He's not in your top 20 but does he have the tools to compete at higher levels?

Bill Mitchell: Olabisi looks to have a lot of raw physical skills. He hit six homeruns in 149 ABs, so he's got some power. Coming from Nigeria and being a backup outfielder at Stanford certainly makes for an interesting story. I believe he comes from royalty, too, but I can't confirm that off the top of my head.

    Frank (phoenix): How would you grade the Angels 2009 draft class. I know time will only tell, but it looks like there high picks have gotten off to great starts. I had oppurtunity to watch Grichuk and Trout and it sure looks like the Angels have a Ryan Braun Type of player. Trout looks like he could be a Tori hunter Type of player. These kids are fun to watch. Great Job Halos!

Bill Mitchell: I don't know how the Angels draft class compares to other organizations. They had a lot of extra high picks with some interesting prospects both in the AZL and at Orem. I would think that the organization is pretty happy with what they got this year.

    JAYPERS (IL): Did Sean Halton have enough AB's to qualify for this list? If so, what kept him off and what are your thoughts on him?

Bill Mitchell: Halton had enough ABs to qualify. He put up great numbers in both the AZL and in the Pioneer League, but wasn't mentioned as a prospect. He's already 22 so he was older than most of the players in both leagues. I will say that he is a big, big man.

    BL (Bozeman, MT): How do you evaluate prospects in an extreme hitters' environment, such as the AZL?

Bill Mitchell: You've got to ignore the stats and just look at the basic skills. You've got a wide range of ages and experience levels in the leagues, and the parks play differently —- some teams play on their complex fields, where the fences are deep and high while others play in stadiums with normal dimensions. In the end, look at the tools and makeup.

    Chad (Kane County, IL): What is the timetable for Ynoa? AZL next year? At what point do you think he makes it to Kane County?

Bill Mitchell: I'll take another Ynoa question since there is always a lot of interest on him. There is no timetable on Ynoa nor is there any projection on when he will make it to Kane County. Be patient, Athletics fans.

    Joseph (Fort Worth, TX): Thanks for the chat Bill. Did you happen to get any scouting reports on Michael Main's brief appearance in the AZL after his mysterious illness?

Bill Mitchell: No report on how he pitched in the AZL —- he only pitched twice, his numbers were impressive but I didn't talk to anyone who saw him pitch in either of those games. I will tell you that he is now pitching in Instructs. I saw him on Monday and he looked healthy.

    Brian (SD): No mention of MVP Cody Decker? He destroyed the AZL.

Bill Mitchell: Cody Decker had a great season in the AZL ... one could say that it was historic production for the league. I mentioned him in the intro because he needed to be included in some way in this report. As a four-year college player from a major Division I program, he really had no business being in the league in the first place. But he had no control over where he got placed to start his pro career and it's a credit to him that he went out and did his job. I'm pulling for him to make it all the way. But he can't really be considered as a top prospect in this league considering his age and the experience level of the pitching he was facing. The AZL record books are filled with older players who have dominated this league but never made it past AA. Again, I hope that Decker proves us all wrong.

    Jason (san diego): Did Joshua Blanco-Lhp with the Angels get any play? He has good number, left handed up to 91, very good inn.'s pitched to strikeout ratio, and good era. These guys seem to keep finding good players.

Bill Mitchell: Blanco actually got more consideration last season. I was surprised to see him back in the AZL but his name didn't come up in any prospect discussions this year. I didn't rank him last year because I believed that he profiled more as a reliever; the projection still holds. I want to what he does at a higher level.

    Joseph (Fort Worth, TX): Ugly stat lines for all, but did you hear any positive reports on the Ranger OF trio of Pimentel, Sierra, and Braxton Lane?

Bill Mitchell: All three have some raw talent, but will it transfer into useable baseball skills? They are all far from being able to assess their potential as prospects.

Bill Mitchell: It's great to see so much interest in the AZL, but that's all the time I've got today. Due to a scheduling fluke, I can hit two different Instructional League games today so the crack of the bat is calling to me. Thanks for all of the great questions. Matt Eddy will be here tomorrow to chat with you about Appy League prospects.