League Top 20 Prospects

Pioneer League Top 20 Prospects Chat With Matt Eddy

Matt Eddy: Thanks for stopping by. The Pioneer League benefited from an unusually deep talent pool this year. Looks as if the number of questions will be of similar quality.

    TrueBlueLA (Los Angeles): Gorman Erickson made some big strides this year with the bat. Any insight on his catching skills and was he close to making the top 20?

Matt Eddy: A 15th-round draft-and-follow from '06, Erickson did receive serious consideration for this list. Despite having just eight teams, the Pioneer League had an excess of qualified candidates, and Erickson would have ranked in the next 10. Observers viewed him as an average future catcher who shows a feel for hitting from both sides of the plate and a fair amount of power. He's a bit of a late bloomer, who at 21 has been stuck behind Carlos Santana (since traded), Lucas May and Kenley Jansen (now a pitcher). Erickson receives and throws well, so now he needs to train his body to withstand the rigors of full-season ball.

    JAYPERS (IL): Does Blake Smith's future include a possible trip back to the mound, or is he an outfielder to stay?

Matt Eddy: Despite his second-round pedigree, Smith simply did not show enough as a position player to warrant serious consideration. He batted .212/.311/.308 in 30 games and seemed overmatched by quality stuff, showing a tendency to hit around the ball and to not recognize offspeed pitches. Though he does have plus power potential, even if Smith clicks in the batter's box, he still projects as more of a .250 hitter with 20 homers. Luckily for him, he does have a fallback option as a pitcher — especially as a potential power-armed reliever. The Dodgers though are committed to trying Smith as a hitter for at least the 2010 season.

    Russ (Purple Row): Eliezer Mesa, the nephew of Jose Mesa, had a second run through the Pioneer League and did well. Anything to get excited over?

Matt Eddy: Mesa does have a chance. Like Erickson above, he would have made the next 10. Mesa runs well and covers ground in center field, but at 20 he's physically mature and projects to have well below-average power. A righthanded batter, Mesa can really barrel the ball up, though, and he's refining his bunting skills. In the end, you're probably looking at at reserve outfielder profile.

    Brian Daniels (Faster than Jaypers, GA): Matt, What were manager's take on Kyle Heckathorn with the Helena Brewers? How did they rate his fastball? I talked to him a few weeks back and he was not using any of his off speed stuff per Brewers. Where do you see him future wise?

Matt Eddy: Heckathorn, a Brewers' supplemental pick this year, missed qualifying for this list by about one start. Had he made it, he would have ranked in the 10 range with Eric Arnett. In his short stints for Helena, Heckathorn showed 92-95 mph velocity with a really heavy ball. You're right — he didn't throw much, if any, breaking stuff, but his physicality and plus fastball alone merited attention.

    Michael (Provo, UT): Regarding Mike Belfiore, what do you mean by "stab in the back of his arm swing"? Assuming it's a mechanical issue, is it correctable?

Matt Eddy: If you can picture Rick Sutcliffe's pitching motion, then you've got it. Homer Bailey is another. From our Scouting Dictionary (which you can find in the '07 Prospect Handbook): "a pitcher who stops his motion soon after removing the ball from his glove and sticks his arm toward the ground away form his body." Many scouts feel that this affects release point and thus command. Is it correctable? Belfiore can change his pitching motion, yes, but will he be as effective. There may be a trade-off. And since Belfiore worked exclusively out of the bullpen for BC, nobody knows exactly what to expect from him as a starter.

    Dave (foothills of the Berkshires): Prior to his 4-for-42 finish, 16/17 year old Yorman Rodriguez was hitting .298 with a SLG around .500, combined with excellent CF defense. In other words, for most of his time in the league, he hit quite well — counter to the predictions that he'd struggle with the stick. How does this not translate into a top 10 ranking?

Matt Eddy: The pitch recognition issues for Rodriguez are concerning, but it was general depth of the league that kept him out of the 10. A reasonable case can be made for any of these guys to rank a few spots higher or lower than they do, especially as you go further down the list. But in Rodriguez's case . . . we ought to look past the performance for two reasons. The Pioneer League is an extreme hitter's league, and second, Rodriguez played pretty much all year at 16. I can tell you that he had his fair share of supporters, and if it all comes together he can be a special player.

    Kristy (MA): How does Great Falls win both halves in the league and not have one player on your list?

Matt Eddy: The Voyagers' batters and pitchers both ranked as oldest in the Pioneer League compared with their peers. Older teams at the Rookie level, generally speaking, mean good W-L results and few, if any, prospects. Two players received notice. Center fielder Kyle Colligan, a 12th-rounder from Texas A&M, hits for a bit of power and can run and throw a bit. But sixth-round RHP Justin Collop (from Toledo) came closest to making the 20. He's projectable with quick arm and sits at 90-93 with sink and bore. His low-80s slider gets sweepy but showed promise. And Collop also throws a true split-finger pitch that he commands fairly well.

    Mike (The Woodlands, TX): Your article mentions Paul Goldschmidt of Missoula as being on the list, yet his name fails to appear on the actual list. I saw him play several times this summer, and he was a man amongst boys in the Pioneer League. Is he or is he not a Top 20 Prospect in your eyes?

Matt Eddy: For the sake of clarity . . . Goldschmidt, an 8th-rounder from Texas State, teamed with three other D'backs' draftees to comprise Missoula's infield. The intro states only that the Osprey "nearly" placed their entire infield in the 20. But at any rate, observers were not convinced that Goldschmdit's approach would work outside of Missoula's park. One manager likened Ogren Park to a tennis court, and it's 287 feet to RF and just 309 to LF. For more on Goldschmidt as well as Casper's Jared Clark, Orem's Dillon Baird and Ogden's Brian Cavazos-Galvez, then check out this recent blog: http://www.baseballamerica.com/blog/prospects/?p=6443

    David (Tempe, AZ): I'm wondering whether you heard positive reports about a few other Missoula pitchers—Kevin Eichorn, Patrick Shuster and Scott Allen. I haven't been able to find even a scouting report on Allen, and he put up great numbers for his age and where he was drafted (11th round out of high school this year). Thanks.

Matt Eddy: I can help with Eichhorn, who was still fresh off Tommy John surgery and appeared in just 10 games, but the other two pitchers didn't catch anyone's eye. That's not to say they're not prospects, however. As to Eichhorn, Arizona's 3rd-rounder last year, he has a loose and easy delivery and terrific command of his fastball, which sat in 86-88 mph range in his comeback. His curve and change hadn't come all the way back, but he showed flashes with both.

    Brandon (Charleston, WV): Do you have a scouting report on Daniel Corcino? He was 18 for most of the season and struckout 30 batters in 25.2 innings with Billings.

Matt Eddy: I do, in fact. Signed out of the Dominican in January '08, Corcino made his U.S. debut this year, jumping from the GCL to Billings. As a 5-foot-11 righthander he would seem to fit best as a reliever long-term, but one observer put a 60 on his fastball, citing its sinking, tailing action at 88-93 mph. His breaking ball features tight rotation and has plus potential, and his change is firm but has life.

    Brandon (Charleston, WV): How close was Brian Pearl to making the top 20?

Matt Eddy: The Reds' 9th-rounder this year, Pearl elicited mixed opinions. But unless a Rookie-ball reliever receives unanimous support and has a truly special arm, it's next to impossible for them to crack these lists. So much can go wrong, and if a pitcher already is limited to the pen, then he's got no fallback option. As an amateur, Pearl flashed mid-90s velocity at times and reportedly (at least once) threw a slider that touched 90 mph. In the context of the Pioneer League, though, he ranged from 88-92 with a fringy breaking ball. So while he was considered for the 20, nobody stuck their neck out to make a case for him.

    Brad (MO): How heavily is the Pioneer league scouted compared to advanced leagues and the AZl and GCL ? Does the lack of amateur talent in the area and geographic isolation effect the quality of scouting reports you get?

Matt Eddy: An interesting question. From what I gather, organizations send their amateur scouts to check in on the short-season leagues once the draft is over. Generally, the more veteran scouts get first priority, and they strongly prefer assignments to the traveling Rookie and short-season leagues, e.g. Pioneer, Appy, N.Y.-Penn and Northwest, to the complex-based AZL and GCL.

    Russ (Purple Row): According to his scouting report, Chris Balcom-Miller's ceiling is at best a back-of-the-rotation guy. Marc Gustafson has compared Balcom-Miller to Brandon Hynick but better. That would seem to make him more like a #3.

Matt Eddy: I don't want to put words in Marc's mouth, so I'll avoid comparisons between Balcom-Miller and Hynick. But to me, the Jason Marquis comparison seemed most apt. I don't know about you, but I'd slot Marquis in at 4 or 5 in a championship rotation. And as a Rockies fan, you'd have to be happy getting that kind of return from a 6th-round pick.

    Josh (Utah): How is the world do you not add Cavazos-Galvez to your Pioneer League top 20? The kid had outrageous numbers.

Matt Eddy: He really did have a strong year. And he was the most difficult player to omit from the final ranking. Multiple sources noted his plus bat speed and that he's hit everywhere he's played. If he played up the middle — or even rated as an outstanding corner OF defender — then he would be an easy call. As it is, he's a 22-year-old senior sign playing in an extreme hitter's park in Ogden. We've written quite a bit about him this summer, from the blog post referenced in the Goldschmidt answer above to the excellent feature turned in by our Dodgers correspondent Doug Padilla. If you're a BA subscriber (and you must be if you're participating in this chat), then check it out here: http://www.baseballamerica.com/online/minors/classification-reports/short-season/2009/268842.html

    David Bowen (Brushton, NY): The Dodgers Ogden club seemed to have some good hitters. Is this a function of their ballpark or do they have some second 20 prospects?

Matt Eddy: It's largely a product of their park. I mean, check out the league HR leaders: Ogden at No. 1 with 89 and then Missoula second with 80. Third? Helena . . . with 46. Those are *extremely* favorable power-hitting conditions. We've touched on C Gorman Erickson and RF Brian Cavazos-Galvez, the best of the bunch, but two other corner OFs have Triple-A / big league reserve potential: Jerry Sands and Angelo Songco. Sands can drive the ball to all fields, and he reportedly hits the longest home runs of the bunch. His swing is mechanically sound, but because he figures to add to his 6-foot-4, 210-pound frame, we're probably looking at a future 1B. Songco has a pretty lefthanded swing and easy power to his pull side. He doesn't throw or run well and he struggled to control the strike zone.

    Brad (MO): Will Wil Myers be discussed as the Royals top position prospect after disappointing years from Moustakas and Hosmer?

Matt Eddy: That's a good question. I think you'd have to give the benefit of the doubt to the holdovers Moustakas (brutal hitter's park in Wilmington) and Hosmer (tough MWL — I know . . . excuses, excuses). But if Myers proves he can catch every day and still hit at a high level, well then all bets are off.

    Herman (Newark, NJ): Were any other Idaho Falls players close to the Top 20? Also, what was the scouting view of Chris Dwyer after his short stint in the league?

Matt Eddy: What? Three Chukars aren't enough? Seriously, Dwyer stuck around for four starts, totaling nine innings, so I didn't find anybody who got a good look. But two other Idaho Falls position players received mention. Center fielder Hilton Richardson, a 7th-rounder in '07, can really run (got one 70 on him) and patrol the middle garden. But though he's strong, his power hasn't shown yet in games. He has seven homers in three (short-)seasons, and four of those came in his debut in the AZL. A lefty batter, Richardson struggles to pick up the ball against southpaws and he tends to cut off his swing. But even with all this, scouts will remind you that power is the last tool to develop. And Richardson is not a prospect you want to write off. And though he's a bit older at 21, shortstop Deivy Batista has surprising pop and the athleticism, arm and actions to stick on the middle infield, maybe at second.

    Craig (Phoenix): Seeing five proto-Halos on the list makes me happy. Question: For a guy with a 1.50-ish ERA, Richards seems to get hit a lot (57 h in 55 IP). Is this because he challenges hitters too much when he has them in the hole, or are high hit-totals just a fact of life in the Pioneer League? Also, what are your impressions of Dillon Baird, who was hitting .400 for awhile?

Matt Eddy: For now, it's nothing to worry about. Pioneer League batters hit .338 when putting the ball in play. Only the AZL figure was higher at .343, and only the Cal League was within 18 points at .331. Team defense in Rookie ball is not exactly airtight, but there's another reason why in-play averages decrease as one goes up the ladder: the field conditions steadily improve.

    Warren (New London): Thanks for the chat. I know he strikes out an awful lot, but was there any buzz on Keon Broxton?

Matt Eddy: Broxton tore up the JC World Series and parlayed that into a 3rd-round selection by the D'backs. Tall and skinny, he has the raw tools for success, including bat speed and foot speed, but he showed a limited feel for hitting. He could turn around fastballs, but he was sunk if the pitcher got ahead and went offspeed on him. Despite his explosiveness, Broxton does everything with a max-effort approach and his swing is long — that's 93 strikeouts in 72 games.

    Brad (San Diego): I was surprised to see no Cameron Garfield in the top 20.

Matt Eddy: Garfield finished just outside the top 20. High school catchers can be dicey propositions, but on paper Garfield seems like a good bet. But the game sped up for him when he took the field for Helena. He struggled mightily to throw out basestealers, nabbing just 14 among a league-leading 87 attempts (16 percent). And most of the time the throws weren't close. Multiple observers said his mechanics broke down in games, because in pre-game warmups he showed strong footwork and pop times. Offensively, he showed a patient approach and a bit of pop, but it appears that he wasn't quite ready for advanced rookie ball. It's a lot to ask of an 18-year-old.

    Blackie (Cincinnati): Despite being a fan of his, I was surprised to see Odorizzi so high. He's been trapped in short-season ball for two years and has posted good, not great, numbers. Based on the scouting report his velocity is solid average and he has a plus but erratic curve and no third pitch. What about his performance garnered him the #2 slot and what is his ultimate ceiling in your opinion?

Matt Eddy: Ultimately, Odorizzi could develop into a 3-type starter, maybe a 2. What separates him from the pack is plus athleticism, which not only helps a pitcher repeat his mechanics but also hints at more velocity as his body matures. He does it easy, throws downhill, shows the potential for two secondary pitches — there's a lot here to like. While Odorizzi's performance wasn't jaw-dropping, you have to respect the firm K rate and the fine control. And even if he remains at 92-93 mph on his fastball, that's still grade as a 60.

Matt Eddy: You guys didn't disappoint with your questions. Thanks for stopping by. The Pioneer League enjoyed a bumper crop of prospects. With luck, we'll look back in five years and feel exactly the same way. Aaron Fitt is up tomorrow, bringing you the New York-Penn League.