AZL Top 20 Prospects Chat With Bill Mitchell
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?
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
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.
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?
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?
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?
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.
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?
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?
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.
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
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.
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?
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?
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?
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?
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
John (Los Angeles): Did Dodger prospect Nick Akins get any consideration for the top 20, or did his age play a factor?
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?
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
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
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.
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?
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
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?
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?
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?
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.
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?
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!
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
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?
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
BL (Bozeman, MT): How do you evaluate prospects in an extreme hitters' environment, such as the AZL?
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?
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?
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
Brian (SD): No mention of MVP Cody Decker? He destroyed the AZL.
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.
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?
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.
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