League Top 20 Prospects

International League Top 20 Prospects Chat With Josh Leventhal

Josh Leventhal: Welcome to the International League chat. I'm going to put aside my reporting on Richmond's new nickname (my money is on Flying Squirrels) and New Orleans' new logo to hopefully answer your questions on what turned out to be a pretty deep crop of prospects in the IL.

    JAYPERS (IL): Is Jennings best suited to be TB's rightfielder of the future, what with BJ and Crawford at the other two OF spots? If not, which position would best suit him?

Josh Leventhal: When will the Jaypers' chat be? It sounds like there is a decent chance that both Crawford and Upton won't be back in Tampa in 2010, particularly as Crawford still seeks an extension. I'd think Upton's arm strength might make him a better fit for right than Jennings — though Upton might take that move as well as he did a drop in the batting order this year.

    Ben (Leland Grove): Had he qualified, would Michael Taylor have cracked this list? What are your impressions of him?

Josh Leventhal: Taylor fell about 20 plate appearances shy of qualifying for the list, and would have certainly been a top 10 candidate if he had qualified. John Manuel had Taylor ranked ninth in a pretty deep Eastern League Top 10, behind teammate Domonic Brown. There isn't too much not to like about Taylor—power and good control of the strike zone. It'll be interesting how long he stays in Lehigh Valley next year.

    Steve (Orlando): Why are Wieters, Hanson, McCutchen ,and Tillman still listed when they are no longer concidered rookies?If they are still on the list,shouldn't Davis Price still be on it?

Josh Leventhal: The players you mentioned still qualified for this list despite their major league experience this year is because they began the season with their rookie eligibility intact. Price did as well, but he did not stick around Durham long enough to qualify, roughly 48 innings pitched. Price had 34. None of those guys will be in the 2010 Prospect Handbook (order now).

    JAYPERS (IL): Davis or Hellickson — which of these two impressed you more this season? Also, if Sonnanstine continues to struggle next season, what are the odds of Hellickson being brought up to replace him?

Josh Leventhal: Davis had better stuff, and as one person I spoke to said, he would have been in the big leagues much earlier if he pitched for another organization. I think Hellickson has a better feel for pitching, and he has made such significant strides with his changeup that it is almost unhittable when he's on. I would imagine he starts 2010 back in Durham, both for development and service time reasons, but you'd have to think he's not long for this fine city.

    Ben (Leland Grove): Between Hanson and Cutch, which of them has a better shot at NL ROY this year, and why?

Josh Leventhal: We just went to press with our ROY issue. The answer should be arriving in your mailbox (and on the web) soon.

    Harry (RI): Do you think Tillman was brought up to Baltimore too soon?

Josh Leventhal: Tillman has moved along quickly throughout his pro career, first in Seattle then in Baltimore, so no, I think he was ready. He yielded just five earned runs over his final 28 innings at Norfolk — including a rough final start. Even though his September numbers were rather brutal (1-3, 7.30), his fastball was still 91-94 mph in his final start against Cleveland. I think it's just a matter of experience for him at this point.

    Toby (The Bronx): When can we Yanks' faithful expect to see A-Jax here, and playing which position?

Josh Leventhal: He's your future center fielder I would think. He's got the range and more than enough arm to play there. When? I would think as soon as the strikeout-to-walk rate improves (123-40 this year). I think better pitch recognition is his last hurdle.

    Otto (Tampa): Is Brignac considered trade bait? If not, what plans do the Rays have for him next year?

Josh Leventhal: I can't speak to what the Rays' plans are for him, but more than one person I spoke with said they could envision him at second base in the future if necessary. He's got enough bat, and hits lefthanded, to be a big league regular, I'd think. And though this is different than we he was first drafted (when his fielding was behind his bat), his fielding has certainly become his biggest strength. He was the best defensive shortstop in the IL this year.

    Michael (NY, NY): Based on the list, Fernando Martinez stock is dropping as a prospect. Is it primarily the injuries, or is there something else underlying his drop in status?

Josh Leventhal: I think it's just the injuries. It's tough when you're losing development time each year. What he did in his final few weeks in the IL was pretty impressive — he hit in nine of his final 10 games. However the aggressive approach he took in the minors didn't work as well in New York, something you'd expect to adjust to with experience — which he didn't get. So there's the rub.

    Tommy (Atlanta): What does Travis Wood best project as, and why did he miss this list?

Josh Leventhal: I think Wood is a starter, particularly considering the strides he made with his cutter. His changeup is his best pitch, though he still needs to improve his command. He was among the final candidates for the last pitching spot that went to Detwiler, whose size and potential for three plus pitches make him a little more appealing (though his mechanics remain an issue).

    Mike (Utica, NY): Where would have Price ranked if he were elgible for the top 20 and which pitcher would you take, Hanson or Price long term?

Josh Leventhal: He would have ranked been Wieters. Hanson certainly had the better year, but I think still you have to take Price as the better prospect. His year may not have lived up to the expectations, but it still wasn't bad for a full first year in the big leagues.

    hoosiers (Hangout North): Would Bergesen and Riemold have made the list if they had qualified? Riemold was on fire when he left the IL - how does he compare as a hitter to LaPorta and Jackson? Any comments on Berken or David Hernandez?

Josh Leventhal: Reimold certainly would have been on here. Bergesen only made two starts in Norfolk, so that's a little tough to judge. I like Hernandez. I think he ran out of gas in Baltimore, probably partially explaining the 24 home runs he gave up in the majors (he probably also discovered he can't pitch up in the zone with his fastball like he did in the IL. I would think he'll get another shot in the rotation, but Baltimore certainly could've used a reliable closer this year too.

    Virgil Dahl (Waterloo, Iowa 50702): Josh; the International League must be loaded. It seems to me that Desmond could have an impact bat at short, or is it wishful thinking? thanks

Josh Leventhal: That's been the projection for Desmond for some time. It seems he may have put it together year. Being consistent is what will determine that, it sounds like. He's go the athleticism, and the talent, to play there for sure.

    Tony Alva (Trenton, NJ): Any consideration for Antonio Bastardo? Where do you see his future in Philly? Starter? Lefty specialist? Back of the bullpen guy? I personally could see him as a back-end guy eventually, considering his 2 best pitchers. Thanks...

Josh Leventhal: Only 13 innings for Bastardo in Norfolk this year, so I didn't get anything on him. Our NL East Top 10 Prospects come out next issue (in about two weeks), so be sure to check in on that.

    Elliot (Youngstown): Does LaPorta have 25, 30 or 40 homerun potential, which is to say, will be a scary cleanup hitter to lead the offense, or just a useful guy with some power?

Josh Leventhal: Views differed on LaPorta this year. Some seemed to think he took a step back, said his swing is too long and he lacks a position defensively. I'm not as convinced that's the case. He's a disciplined hitter, with good command of the strike zone, and you'd think that raw power will materialize.

    Ryan D. (Moorpark, CA): With the number of young pitching prospects in the Orioles organization (Arrieta, Matusz, Tillman), is it realistic to think they can contend with the powers of the AL East within the next five years?

Josh Leventhal: Speaking as a Maryland native, it would certainly be nice to see. They've got the core in the field, with Wieters behind the plate, Roberts at second and a solid young outfield. If those young pitchers develop and Angelos spends, I think they could contend. Then again, if the Yankees ante up for Mauer next offseason . . .

    Elliot (Youngstown OH): Carrasco seems like the classic "good talent, can't pitch" kind of pitcher who will hang around for years, be traded frequently and maybe will break out with a great pitching coach. Is Dave Duncan really going to be available this winter?

Josh Leventhal: Lack of pitchability is certainly the knock on him. Carrasco is still young enough to get it together. He's got three potential above-average pitches, just needs to make that mental leap.

    DG (Paris, France): Well, Jon Niese's write-up - and somehow with the end of what turned out to be a seriously depressing season, I seem to have forgotten about Jon Niese! - makes it almost sound like he's primed for serious success and now for that matter. What ultimately is his upside? And does his injury pose any serious risk to that upside? Thanks!

Josh Leventhal: Didn't hear any concern about his injury being a long-term issue. He was pitching well when his season ended. And even in the beginning, his stuff was good, he just couldn't command it around the plate. Still plenty of upside.

    Eddie C (Acworth, GA): How close did Kam Mickolio come to making the list?

Josh Leventhal: Mickolio and Luis Valez with Gwinnett were the top two relievers. Mickolio was voted best reliever by managers, but I was leaning more toward Valdez. He's got an above-average changeup to go with solid low- to mid-90s fastball. needs to improve consistency and command.

    Elliot (Youngstown OH): I don't see Brantley being Cleveland's second coming of Kenny Lofton unless he develops some power along the way. He's only 22 and he's a big kid; will his power be "the last tool to develop", or is his offense "what you see, what you get"?

Josh Leventhal: I think the second-coming of Lofton in his prime is a pretty lofty comparision, but Brantley should be a solid top of the order hitter who's going to get on base and steal plenty of them. Will be a solid outfielder, but he's not going to move Sizemore out of center.

    Mike (Lynchburg, VA): Thanks for the chat! Do you see Wade Davis starting and saying in the TB rotation next year? How much upside is there for this power arm?

Josh Leventhal: I couldn't imagine him coming back to Durham. I think his big league debut surpassed expectations, and his fastball-curve combo should play just fine as a starter.

    Kevin (Milwaukee): Josh, BA's list from 5 years ago is damn impressive. When all is said and done, five years from now, how do you think these prospects will stack up to them?

Josh Leventhal: Yeah, that '04 list is pretty darn good. Upton-Morneau-Sizemore vs. Wieters-Hanson-McCutchen five years down the road will be an interesting comp. We'll see how Upton bounces back next year.

Josh Leventhal: I hate to bail when there are so many good questions, but we've got another issue deadline tomorrow and I've got to get back to work. Thanks for all of your interest.