League Top 20 Prospects

Pacific Coast League Top 20 Prospects Chat With Jim Shonerd

Jim Shonerd: Hi, everybody. Thanks for coming out, lets talk some PCL.

    Ben (Leland Grove): Did Brian Dopirak and J.P. Arencibia get any consideration for the list?

Jim Shonerd: Arencibia was one of the last cuts. I got good reports on his defense. He received well, improved his game calling and showed at least an average arm, if not a tick above. He has good power for a catcher and can hit mistakes a long way, but I had one manager tell he's a got slider bat speed, and the strikeout-walk ratio (114-26) is troubling. He looks like he might've been rushed a bit, going to Triple-A in just his second full season, and still needs some more polish.

    JAYPERS (IL): What will Feliz's role with Texas be next season — starter or reliever?

Jim Shonerd: It looks like they'll let him open spring training as a starter, which I think is the right move. Keep him starting until he shows he can't do it. The majority of PCL observers I talked to think he can, though it wasn't unanimous.

    Joseph (Fort Worth, TX): No Julio Borbon? What did people have to say about him?

Jim Shonerd: Got some mixed reviews on Borbon. He's a big leaguer defensively, with great athleticism and a well above-average arm. He showed he can make hard contact consistently, but doesn't offer much power and has some holes offensively, in spite of the numbers he put up.

    Jeff (Bay Area): Wade LeBlanc seemed to turn it around his second time up with the Padres. Can he still become a decent back of the rotation starter?

Jim Shonerd: He could, but his fastball command has to get better. He just couldn't put it where he needed to, which is essential when you're a guy like him that doesn't throw hard. His changeup is really good, but he struggled to set it up. And his breaking ball isn't good enough that he could be a specialist out of the bullpen. As one scout put it to me, he's a starter or he's nothing.

    Dan (Chicago): What other Iowa Cubs; if any, were considered for this list? Darwin Barney possibly?

Jim Shonerd: Jake Fox was actually pretty close, age and all. Lack of a defensive home and, obviously, his age hurt him, but he's got good leverage, a short stroke and power to all fields, and he seemed to adjust better on sliders away, which had hurt him before. He'll just have to be hidden defensively, but can at least be a platoon guy.

    Allen Craig (Not on top 20): Why? I hit every year and every year you leave me out! Splain Lucy!

Jim Shonerd: Sorry, Allen, but you were pretty close. Guys liked Craig's power to all fields, but didn't see anything else standing out. With all the free agents pending in St. Louis though, Craig should have a shot at a big league job next year, whether at third base or in the outfield.

    Ian (Pittsburgh): Do you think all those "inflatable" ballparks in the PCL might screw up the approach of a young hitter like a Travis Snider? I think it can be hard for a kid not to get too HR drunk out there. Would you avoid putting a hitter in that league if you want him working on controlling the strike zone and plate discipline?

Jim Shonerd: That's a good question, but I think I would worry more about it wrecking a young pitcher's confidence than a hitter's approach. You don't want young pitchers thinking they have to make a perfect pitch every time when they go into places like Albuquerque, Colorado Springs or Las Vegas.

    James (North East, MD): I don't follow the Pacific Coast League, but wow, that is a strong Top 10. Which Top 10 would prefer, the IL or the PCL?

Jim Shonerd: The IL featured a significantly deeper pitching crop, so I would lean towards that one, but I think the PCL list, on the whole, was deeper.

    phil (Scottsdale Stadium): Hello Jim! Thanks for your time! What's the word on Kevin Pucetas? Does he project to be a starter of reliever in the majors?

Jim Shonerd: He ought to be able to be a pretty dependable back-of-the-rotation guy, but he doesn't miss enough bats to be much more than that. Doesn't do anything flashy, but throws 91-93 and has four solid-average pitches, the best of which is probably his changeup, which he can throw to both leftys and righties and has some sinking and cutting action at times. He drew raves for his pitchability and competitiveness as well.

    Jeff (Pittsburgh): Did Aaron Cunningham get any consideration? I'm surprised that Oakland didn't give him more than a handful of sporadic at bats in the majors.

Jim Shonerd: He was on some my initial drafts and got heavy consideration. Managers loved his work ethic and he showed he's got some pop and can play all three outfield positions. But the sense I got is he still has a ways to go. He needs to work on cutting down his swing and being more selective. His speed serves him well on the bases and in the field, but he needs to work on getting better jumps and reading pitchers. On defense, he has a good arm, but needs to clean up his footwork and throwing mechanics.

    Parker (San Fran): Buster has gotten rave reviews this year every step of the way. Jim, from what managers and scouts have said, what kind of power/avg. numbers are we talking for him, if all goes right?

Jim Shonerd: He could be a .300 hitter definitely, but his home run power will probably settle in at around 15-20 per year. His bat isn't the most explosive one on the list, but his positional value is still through the roof.

    Steve V (Plainfield IL): Who is Smoak closer to - AGonz, Tex, Votto or Morneau or other?

Jim Shonerd: Of that group, Votto. He has the switch hitting in common with Teixeira, but doesn't have that kind of power.

    Mike (Los Angeles): Hi Jim - It seems like every prospect watcher has a different opinion on this: Can Brett Wallace stick at 3rd for at least a few years in the big leagues? What exactly does he need to prove, defensively, to get the opportunity to be a big league 3rd baseman? Is it strictly a "range" issue?

Jim Shonerd: Mostly range, yes. Almost everyone I spoke with about Wallace sees him moving to first base eventually. Since he has the hands and arm strength for third base, I could see the A's living with his range for the short term, but he won't get any faster as he ages and I think a move across the diamond is almost inevitable.

    Bob McKenzie (Strange Brew): Smoak, Escobar & Wallace all ranked ahead of Michael Saunders in BA's Midseason Top 25 list. What made Saunders vault up the list ahead of Escobar, Wallace & Smoak?

Jim Shonerd: I felt like Saunders had the most five-tool potential of anyone on the list. He doesn't have the value of Posey or Feliz, or the huge offensive upside of Snider, but his total package was the best in the league.

    JL (San Diego): Did Will Veneble get any consideration, or is he more of a 4th outfielder type?

Jim Shonerd: That's what looks most likely from what I heard. There were some doubts about his bat speed and whether he could still play in center field long term, but he's learning the strike zone and can play all three OF postions at least for now.

    steve S (Davis, CA): Given that BA suggested in its mid-season rankings that Justin Smoak was among the top five or ten prospects in all the minors, I am somewhat surprised that he does not rank higher on this list. Can you elaborate on that?

Jim Shonerd: A lot of that has to do with Smoak not performing in the league, so it was difficult to find coaches and managers who could give him positive reviews. He was very close with Wallace and Blanks, but Blanks looked like he has a more explosive bat and while Wallace has similar power to Smoak, Wallace showed himself to be a more advanced hitter and has positional value for now.

    Jeff (NoCal): I need an honest answer to this question......take away the background story of Samardizja (football star, $10MM MLB contract) and change his name to John Doe.......would he even worth being discussed? I am pulling for him (since I am a Cub fan) but it seems to me that the Cubs are just praying his athleticism is going to kick in at some point and improve his consistency and quality of stuff........what odds to you give him to be successful in some kind of capacity in the future?

Jim Shonerd: Some of the shine has come off Samardzija for sure, but he's still got the potential for three average to above-average pitches. He's just got to get his fastball command down though. Until that happens, it's hard to project him having sustained success in either the rotation or the bullpen, though I think he's got a better chance as a reliever.

    Nelson (Tacoma, WA): Has Travis Snider officially lost his Prospect and Rookie status after this season? Do you see him sticking with the Blue Jays all year next year as a 22-year old?

Jim Shonerd: Yes, Snider is officially no longer prospect eligible, so this list is kind of his final BA sendoff. Same for Maybin, Bud Norris and a few other guys. Snider broke camp with the Jays this year and unless he underperforms like he did this year again, I'd expect he'll be in the big leagues for good starting next year.

    Nick (San Diego): Can Kyle Blanks be Adam Dunn or is that asking to much?

Jim Shonerd: I wouldn't put those kind of expectations on him just yet. I can see the similarities though, and Blanks does have plus power and good bat speed, but I wouldn't expect him to start slugging 40 homers a year consistently like Dunn has. And obviously he has the added disadvantage of playing his home games in Petco as opposed to Dunn hitting in Cincy for all those years.

    Mike (Lynchburg, VA): Thanks for the chat! Do you think Buster Posey opens 2010 in San Fran? Do you make anything of his bad performance in the bigs this September? Was he just overmatched or was it way too small a sample size to take anything from it?

Jim Shonerd: Definitely small sample size. 17 at-bats is nothing. Posey looked ready from almost everyone I talked to, but it looks like the Giants will at least attempt to re-sign Benjie Molina or bring in another veteran catcher, so I won't be surprised if Buster is back in a Grizzlies uniform on Opening Day 2010.

    doug (flushing): Is Mat Gamel ever a big league regular?

Jim Shonerd: I believe so. When a guy's bat is that good, a team will find a way to live with his defense. It'd be helpful he could learn to cut down on his swing with two strikes, but hopefully that'll come as he continues maturing.

Jim Shonerd: Alright everyone, I think it's time to call it a day. Thanks for all the questions, and come back tomorrow as JJ Cooper brings you the best prospects from the independent leagues. Enjoy the rest of the playoffs!