Carolina League Top 20 Prospects Chat With Ben Badler
I'm a little under the weather today, but
that's nothing a hyperdose of zinc, Vitamin C and suck-it-up-and-deal
can't fix. The questions and e-mails are already piling up so let's get
Matt (Minnesota): Did Johnny Giavotella get
any consideration. His stats weren't as good as I expected of him this
year. Did his tools regress? How does he project?
Yeah, Giavotella was a guy I liked as a
sleeper coming into the year, but the scouts I spoke with this year had
a lot of questions about him. Giavotella's strike-zone discipline is
his best attribute and he has a short, compact swing (then again it's
hard to get too long with your swing when you're 5-foot-8). He does
some things well, but he's already close to maxed out physically and
his fielding at second base is fringy, and the bat really doesn't
project well enough to play another position. I still like him as a
sleeper, but the defense is going to have to really take a step forward.
Bryan (San Francisco): Maybe it's splitting
hairs, but what pushed a guy like D'Arnaud that much higher than a guy
like Morel? Morel had more power and speed, and was also a higher draft
pick. Also, does Morel have a chance with Viciedo in his way at third?
Thanks for the chat!
D'Arnaud doesn't have Morel's power, but
he gets himself into better hitters' counts, does a better job of
getting on base and has a chance to play a more valuable defensive
position. There's also something funky about Morel's splits. He was
much, much better at home than on the road and hit significantly worse
against RHPs than vs. LHPs. I don't look too much into single-season
split data, but I do think that Morel benefited from his home park. But
I think ultimately the White Sox will have to move Viciedo to first
base, which would clear some room for Morel on the depth chart.
Matt (Jefferson City MO): Why didn't Chris Marrero make this list, and what are your thoughts on his season?
Marrero is limited to first base, doesn't
play the position well and it's not clear that his hitting is going to
be good enough to carry him at a position with such high offensive
demands. He's an open strider who steps in the bucket, which is a
problem the Nationals have been working on him with for a while now.
That leaves him susceptible on the outer half, and because of his long
arms his swing gets long too, which creates more holes in his swing.
I've also had scouts tell me he looks vulnerable against offspeed
pitching. He can get away with that in A-ball, but that's a ton of red
flags for a player whose value is tied solely to his ability to mash.
Ben (Leland Grove): When next year do you see Jason Heyward coming up to Atlanta?
I imagine Bobby Cox will want him there to start the season, but I think he'll spend at least a month or two in Triple-A.
Ed (Orange, CA): Cody Johnson had another huge power year. Will he ever be a top prospect?
The raw power is great, but he has a
swing-for-the-fences approach with a lot of holes in his swing, and he
needs a lot of work to improve defensively in left field as well.
Johnson struck out in one third of his trips to the plate, which is an
astonishingly high rate. At the major league level, striking out 200
times in a season isn't bad if you can make up for it by drawing a lot
of walks and hitting for a ton of power, but a player with that
strikeout rate against A-ball pitchers is more indicative of a player
who is going to struggle once he reaches higher levels of baseball.
Michael (NY, NY): What is one guy you originally thought was sure to make the list who got left off, and why was he left off?
White Sox reliever Nathan Jones was a
last-minute cut, but he has outstanding arm strength. His fastball
ranges from 94-98 mph, while some people have seen him sitting at
96-98. So that's always going to give him a chance, but he's more of a
thrower than a pitcher right now. The command needs work, his breaking
ball is a power pitch in the low- to mid-80s but still gets slurvy, and
doesn't have much deception, which is one reason why his strikeout rate
isn't as high as you might expect for a guy who can pump it into the
Fred (Ohio): Hi- How much power do you see Freddie Freeman developing? 20-25 hrs or more than that. Thanks!
Most years probably 20-25, but I could see
some 25-30 seasons in there, too. The raw power is there, it's just not
showing up in games yet, and the wrist injury didn't do much to help
him there either.
Ian (Pittsburgh): How does Jordy Mercer compare with D'Arnaud? Who do you think is the better SS prospect?
D'Arnaud's a better hitter with a better
feel for the strike zone. He's more athletic than Mercer, although
Mercer makes up for it in the field with his instincts and feel for how
to position himself. The biggest separator though is D'Arnaud's a more
advanced hitter with more talent for getting on base.
Paul Purvis (California): I'm confused on how
you determine your top 20? LHP Eric Berger who was with Kinston before
being promoted to Akron at the time had better numbers than #11 Duffy
& #15 Britton. G 21, GS 21, record 7-8, E.R.A. 2.45,IP 110, H 93, R
38, ER 30,HR 4, BB 45, SO 100, .227 avg. While pitching in his 8 losses
the team scored a total of 3 runs so he could of easily been 12-3 and
with 10 more inn. would have won the E.R.A. title.
We don't rank players based on their
contributions toward helping their minor league teams win games. We
rank them based on our expectations of them at the major league level,
which is a synthesis of their inputs (the quality of their pitches,
delivery, command, etc.) and outputs (their performance records) to
estimate their future talent levels. Berger was a good pitcher in the
Carolina League and was crucial to Kinston's run prevention, but he
doesn't project as well as guys like Duffy or Britton. Beger works at
89-91 with his fastball and touches 93 with a breaking ball that has
its moments, but his offspeed stuff is inconsistent and his delivery
has a lot of effort.
Hoosiers (Hangout North): How close were the
Frederick hitters - Angle, Florimon, Widlansky, especially Waring, to
the top 20? Are these guys going to have to prove it at every level?
Florimon and Waring had their supporters,
probably Florimon more than anyone else because of his ability to play
shortstop. He's lean, athletic, runs well, throws well and shows good
actions in the field. The question is whether his hitting will
translate to the higher levels, and that strikeout rate is a little
higher than I'd like to see for a guy who doesn't hit for a lot of
Hagan (Charleston, Illinois): How close was
Bradley Meyers to making this list? I know 24 is on the older side for
the Carolina League, but it looked like he had a breakout year.
He's an older guy who succeeded in the
league in spite of mostly fringy stuff because he has an advanced idea
of how to pitch in that league. He'll throw an average fastball at
88-92 with decent command, but he's got a lot of deception which leads
to more swings and misses than you'd expect with that velocity. The
changeup is useable but the breaking ball isn't much of a weapon for
Kyle (Kansas City, Mo): What does Mike Montgomery best project as? How quickly can he make it to the bigs if he lives up to the billing?
Talking to scouts and measuring his
performance record probably got me more excited about Montgomery than
anyone else in this league. A lefty with a projectable frame who can
touch 94, throws two potentially above-average secondary pitches,
repeats a relatively clean delivery with good athleticism and has a
good track record? That's a lot of points in his favor. Like any
pitcher, he'll have to stay healthy, which is why I wouldn't put him
over the big bats like Freeman, Chisenhall or Alvarez, but if he stays
healthy he has a chance to be an above-average to well above-average
starter in the big leagues.
Virgil Dahl (Waterloo, Iowa 50702): Ben; Echinacea is also good for cutting short the duration of colds
I'm not really on the Echinacea bandwagon,
though I've never tried it so I won't knock it. My method's kept me
going mostly cold-free for the last two to three years or so.
Brad (MO): Was Hosmer the biggest disappointment in the league among scouts?
Hosmer didn't play enough to qualify for
the league, but mostly I just wonder why he was even in that league in
the first place instead of playing the whole year in the Midwest League.
Peter (NYC): Is Caleb Joseph a legit prospect? Did he get any consideration?
He's a prospect, but he's not a guy who's
going to jump out at you because of his tools. Pretty much every scout
or manager I talked to about Joseph said the same thing: they weren't
crazy about him the first time they saw him, but the more looks they
got, the more impressed they became. There's some length and funkiness
to his swing and a couple of scouts mentioned that his release times
were a little slow, but he has some athleticism, has a good arm and
does a lot of the little things well that managers love to see from a
guy behind the plate.
jared (Houston): Did Cory Gearrin get any consideration?
A little bit, but it's tough for any
reliever to make these lists. He's a sinker/slider/changeup guy who
throws a lot of strikes, so I think he'll get a chance at a big league
role down the line.
Chuck (Wichita): Derrick Robinson had a great
final month or so. Is there any hope that he turned a corner
offensively and can become a Desmond Jennings type prospect?
They're both athletic speedsters who play
great defense in center field, but that's where the similarities end.
Jennings is in a different offensive stratosphere from Robinson, and I
wouldn't put much stock into a great August after he put up a .550 or
so OPS through the season's first four months.
Brad (MO): Anthony Rizzo didn't make the SAL
top 20 and was #12 here, is that because the SAL had superior talent
top to bottom or differences in opinion?
The SAL has eight additional teams, which
makes it more of a challenge for a player to rank in that league than
in the Carolina League, but I also think reasonable minds can disagree
about their forecasts of players who are anywhere from 5-10 years away
from their peak.
JR (Toronto): Are Chisenhall's early returns from AA scare you or is he just a slow starter?
Not a big deal. He was fine in the
playoffs, but even if he wasn't, 100 or so plate appearances isn't much
to make a judgment from, and he's still well ahead of the curve for a
20-year-old. Everyone raved about his swing.
Chuck (Wichita): All year we heard about what
a poor hitters park Wilmington is and how that hurt Moustakas. So,
should we expect a big year next year when he moves to the hitter
friendly Texas League?
The park did hurt Moustakas' numbers, but
even with a park adjustment he should have performed much better than
he did. If he learns patience and he learns how to be more of a
complete hitter, his numbers should go up, but Double-A pitching is
going to eat him alive if he doesn't learn more selectivity because
there's not much value in a third baseman drawing 27 unintentional
walks in a season. But played the whole season at 20 years old and I
never had anyone question his swing or his power.
Brad (MO): What did you hear from scouts that seperated Chisenhall from Moustakas?
Chisenhall has a more advanced approach,
better pitch recognition and does a better job of using the whole field
than Moustakas. Some of those traits are interrelated, but on breaking
balls from lefthanders that might tie up Moustakas, Chisenhall shows
the ability and the hands to stay with the pitch and hit a line drive
to the opposite field. It gives Chisenhall a big edge in the OBP
department. Moustakas is young enough that a lot of scouts think that
he can learn to be more patient, but Neil Walker would be one example
of a guy who still has excellent power and doesn't strike out much but
who has never learned a patient enough approach at the plate.
Lana (St. Pete, FL): If the BA Top 100 list came out today, who would get your vote for # 1 — Heyward, Strasburg, or someone else?
I'm leaning toward Heyward.
Garrett (Pittsburgh): Bryan Morris has either
been injured or put up horrendous numbers since being acquired as part
of the package for Bay last year. Did he drop off that badly in such a
sort time or is he simply working through injuries? I'm very curious
how you view him now. Thanks
The injuries have really set him back, and
I never like to see pitchers with injuries and mechanical issues, which
is the case with Morris. The stuff was inconsistent, fastball anywhere
from 87-94, a curve and a slider that have their moments and a changeup
that isn't quite up to snuff, but really the injuries have set him back
quite a bit.
rick (Evanston): Where would have Daniel
Hudson finished? It certainly seems this guy is getting the shaft he
apparently just fell short of qualifying for any top 20 list!
He didn't pitch enough to qualify in the
Carolina League, but he did pitch enough to qualify for Thursday's
Southern League list. I'll leave you all in grand suspense until then.
Nora (Birmingham): About how many steps back has Michael Burgess taken this season in your eyes?
I wouldn't say his skills have regressed
because he has made some progress, but he's another guy with
outstanding raw power but enormous contact issues. The bat speed, power
and arm strength still stand out, but he has a long swing and a
free-swinging approach that leads to a lot of strikeouts and prevents
him from getting in good hitters' counts. That caught up to him this
year, and it isn't likely to get any easier against more advanced
Fred (Ohio): While not a Carolina League
question, I was wondering if BA is going to have some more
international signing period material up soon.
Yeah, we'll have some stuff. From Smiley
Gonzalez to Big V to Mateo and everything in between, this has been an
unusual year even by your typical standards for Latin America, and all
the investigations have delayed our ability to wrap things up. There's
a tremendous amount of work that goes into anything I write about
international signings because I want to make sure that we have
everything accurate. We will have more international signing content at
some point, I just can't guarantee when yet.
Matt (Baltimore): Like most pitchers who rely
on sinkers, they are tough to gauge on prospects. It seems that when
looking at Zach Britton, he made great strides with his strikeout rate.
Is next year the real tell-tale sign as he faces AA hitting and we will
see if he can keep missing bats enough to be a true middle of the
I think the key will be the development of
his secondary pitches more than anything else. It's easy for fans to
fall in love with the great groundball rate, but there are a whole
bunch of pitchers who were groundball machines in the minors who never
made it in the big leagues because they either couldn't throw enough
strikes or didn't have a reliable secondary pitch to keep major league
hitters off their fastball. Britton has pretty good control, so it's
just a matter of continuing to improve the rest of his repertoire.
Jon (Peoria): I was glad to see Lough get some
love. Do you think he can hit for enough power to play a corner
outfield spot or does center figure to be his best position?
I think he could play either position,
though he wouldn't be the prototypical guy at either one. He can play
CF, but if they keep him at a corner, his defense would be
above-average there and at least somewhat negate the lack of
prototypical corner outfielder power, though he does have the power to
hit 15-20 HR per year.
All right, thanks for spending your
afternoon with BA, but it's Game 163 time now. I'll be back on Thursday
to talk Southern League prospects.