League Top 20 Prospects

Appalachian League Top 20 Prospects Chat With Matt Eddy

Matthew Eddy: Hey, thanks everybody for stopping by.

    JAYPERS (IL): I realize his numbers weren't exactly impressive, but was Jeff Malm considered for this list? What's the word you're hearing on him?

Matthew Eddy: Considered? Sure. The Rays drafted Las Vegas prep 1B Jeff Malm in the fifth round last year because of his pure hitting ability. Then they watched in horror as Malm hit a mere .220/.296/.310 in 61 Appy League games. From what I can gather, he had a poor extended spring training and entered the regular season pressing to prove to people what kind of hitter he can be. The Rays have debated internally how to adjust Malm's swing and approach during instructional league.

    Ben (Leland Grove): Was Crawford Simmons considered, or did he not qualify?

Matthew Eddy: Yes, LHP Crawford Simmons was considered, and he ranked in the Top 20 until the very last moment. The Royals bought the '09 14th-rounder out of a Georgia Tech commitment for $450,000 and he made his pro debut this season for Burlington. Simmons oozes pitchability and finished seventh in the Appy ERA race and fourth with 70 strikeouts. He's athletic and his slightly across-the-body delivery adds deception, but he pitches at 85-87 mph most of the time. I happened to see Simmons at his best late in the season when he mowed down a subpar Kingsport lineup with a fastball that sat more 87-89 (and touched 90) and a very good changeup (maybe a 70 pitch one day) with fading action away from RH batters. He works both sides of the plate and even the RH hitters had a hard time squaring him up, so I really wrestled with how to weigh that one look—because nobody I talked with seemed all that impressed. So in short, I liked Simmons as a pitchability lefty, maybe a Wade LeBlanc if absolutely everything clicks.

    John (Acworth, GA): I am quite surprised that Bluefield's Jonathan Schoop did not make the list. How close did he come? Did any other Orioles prospects come close at all?

Matthew Eddy: Curacao native Jon Schoop, an 18-year-old in his second pro season, was one of a few bright spots on a forgettable Bluefield team. He batted .316/.372/.459 while holding down shortstop as a teenager, so he's got some things going for him. But I couldn't find anybody who believed in his offensive potential. Further, he received average marks for his range, speed and arm. That's hardly the kiss of death for Schoop's prospect status, seeing as he has so much development in front of him. I just couldn't shake images of Pedro Florimon, who hit well at age 19 in the '06 Appy League but had no supporters for his bat. Other Bluefield prospects? The most popular was CF Brenden Webb, who signed for $250,000 as a 30th-rounder in '09. A physical 6-foot-3 lefty hitter, he looks the part and people liked his fluid swing, but he struggles too much with offspeed pitches now (58 strikeouts in 61 games). He could be dangerous if he learns to hit to all fields.

    Matt (Scranton, PA): Was Braves pitcher David Filak close to making it? He was rated much higher than where he was drafted and when he pitched he looked like he backed up that high ranking. From all pre-draft reports he had a chance as a number two or three starter, is that still the case?

Matthew Eddy: Fourth-round RHP Dave Filak threw a lot of innings for Division II Oneonta State, so the Braves used him sparingly, often using him for one or two innings at a time. I got to see Filak twice this season in a pair of two-inning starts. He sits comfortably at 90-92 mph with two promising secondary pitches: a change and a breaking ball both in the low 80s. He's big and physical, and the ball gets on batters quickly because he has a shorter-than-expected stride. People I talked to seemed to like Filak as a potential high-leverage reliever, and as such he's fairly interchangeable with any of the prospects on the back of the list. With all these rankings, you could justifiably rearrange the 16-30 any way you like.

    Mark (Savannah): What about Michael Hebert with Kingsport? big kid with 94-95? Got moved up to the Sand Knats for the end of the year and did pretty well. How does he not make the list?

Matthew Eddy: My reports indicate that RHP Mike Hebert, a Mets seventh-rounder out of high school in '08, sat more at 90-92 mph with a curveball with occasional depth. He's got some arm strength, but he ran up a 4.47 ERA in the Appy League, which would be more forgivable if it wasn't his third season in rookie ball. However, the Kingsport defense was spotty (to be generous) and Hebert allowed 16 unearned runs in 11 starts! Sounds like the defensive support with Savannah made a positive difference, but in the context of the Appy League, Hebert was nothing more than an intriguing arm, but certainly not the only one.

    Paul (Midwest): What is your opinion of Spencer Arroyo?

Matthew Eddy: Bristol LHP Spencer Arroyo has one of the more interesting backstories in the league. A Phillies 31st-round pick in '08, he earned his release during spring training this year, and the White Sox quickly scooped him up in April. Arroyo made 13 starts for Bristol, going 7-2, 2.49 with a strikeout-to-walk ratio a tick better than 5-to-1. He finished behind the Princeton duo of Romero and Lara in the ERA race, but he led the Appy with 75 strikeouts and his 0.93 WHIP. The difference for Arroyo, who had run up a 5.00 ERA for the Phillies in the New York-Penn League in 2008-09? The White Sox reshaped his mechanics during extended spring training, lowering his arm slot from overhand to high three-quarters. He's not overpowering, but he throws his fastball, curve and change for strikes, and Chicago promoted the 22-year-old to Great Falls in time for the Pioneer League playoffs. If you're looking for a parallel, try this: the Phillies once released Brad Ziegler, who turned to indy ball before the A's signed him. After Oakland lowered (make that *really* lowered) his arm slot, Ziegler blossomed into a very useful reliever.

    Wolf Pack (Illinois): Off topic a bit, why is it that more clubs don't try to hire away Minnesota Twin front office types? They are the best team in baseball, generally considered to have the best scouting staff, and continue to operate at a high level with a small market pay structure. I would think Mike Radcliff would be a top GM candidate.

Matthew Eddy: Just a piece of anecdotal evidence: The Twins engender a great deal of loyalty among their front-office employees, field staff and players. In one of correspondent Phil Miller's org report this year he wrote about 1B Brock Peterson, who re-signed with the organization as a minor league free agent despite facing long odds of getting big league consideration.

    chuck K. (Buffalo): If Ryan Copeland, Hector Corpas, Phil Cerreto and Virgil Hill can't crack the top 20, apparently performance counts for little, compared to body language, pre-season hype, draft position, and good face. Can what the voters IMAGINE about someone, really be that important? You better give us your criteria for consideration again. This is getting to be too much like fantasy baseball. - A totally impartial, disinterested, gruntled Cardinals fan.

Matthew Eddy: You can find rankings of Cardinals prospects based on statistical criteria in a dozen places on the internet. We try to inform our rankings with the opinions of those who know the players best: managers, coaches, scouts, front office executives and the like. You'd be surprised how much they know about baseball, seeing as most of the played professionally at a very high level.

    Brad (MO): Connor had mentioned in a hot sheet chat that Crawford Simmons fastball was 88-91 touching 91 and his change was "filthy" in the two starts he watched. Did any scouts you spoke with think he was going to add velocity? Is he throwing a curve or slider and could you give a present future grade on the pitch?

Matthew Eddy: Good question. Simmons is athletic and certainly could add velocity. He throws a slurvy breaking ball now that has its moments but is below-average. But if you're expecting a John Lamb-like monster fastball breakout, you'll probably be disappointed. I like Simmons, though, and he's a safe bet to carve up Class A hitters.

    Bill (Tempe, AZ): Matt, thanks for the chat. I heard whispers of Ramon Morla's potential when he was in the AZL last year, but nothing that would have indicated this kind of breakout. Did you get a feel for why he improved so much between 2009 and 2010?

Matthew Eddy: Bill, I wish I had an answer for you. Morla's manager hinted that a light went on for the young third baseman when he began concentrating on hitting the ball harder and not farther. As it stands, his short track record is just about the only thing holding him down at No. 6. And if he were one or two years younger, I would have ranked Morla ahead of Arcia and Taveras because his defensive profile is more impressive. And that power!

    Jason (Charlotte): Does Carlos Perez project to be in the same class of pitcher as Teheran, Vizcaino, and Delgado ? What are the Braves going to do with all of these pitchers?

Matthew Eddy: It's quite possible that Perez has that kind of potential, and it speaks volumes of what the Braves thought enough of him to promote him to Low-A Rome as an 18-year-old. My gut feeling is that he slots in behind Julio Teheran and is at least on par with Arodys Vizcaino and Randall Delgado, whom you listed.

    Sholom (Smithtown, N.Y): What kind of player does Aderlin Rodriguez project to be?

Matthew Eddy: You have to respect Rodriguez's power and ability to make frequent, hard contact at his age. But when projecting his future you have to accept the likelihood that he'll move to first base at some point. That won't be a problem if his bat continues to flourish, but ask fellow Kingsport alum Nick Evans how hard it is to break into the big leagues as a RH-hitting 1B if you don't hit for 30-HR power. Back in '05, a 19-year-old Evans hit .344/.382/.734 in 15 games for K-port.

    Jose (Bronx, NY): Does Carlos Perez project as a future front of the rotation starter? Were there any other Braves close to make the list?

Matthew Eddy: Sure, Perez has elite stuff, size and athleticism, and he could profile at the top of the rotation. As with any teenage pitcher he'll need to continue throwing strikes and refining his secondary stuff. Danville had a bit of a down year, losing a lot of its best players, like Perez, Joe Leonard, Joey Terdoslavich and Aaron Norcraft, to promotions to Rome. I touched on Filak earlier, but according to people around the Appy League, Danville's middle infield combo was the only thing keeping them in the race at all. SS Andrelton Simmons ranked as the league's No. 12 prospect and 19-year-old Dominican 2B Elmer Reyes just missed the cut. Reyes has defensive skills, including a good arm (maybe enough for shortstop), a quick release, a quick first step, despite below-average running speed. Even at a listed 5-foot-11, he's got some pop, though he takes a very long path to the ball, coiling his bat back so far during his load that the head points to the pitcher. Reyes makes plenty of contact, though, and is definitely a player to watch. Like Filak, he could have made the 20.

    Michael Stern (Rochester NY): Any consideration for 2B Jorge Agudelo of the Mariners for the top 20? He seemed to show a nice bat and very good speed. Did he come close? Is he considered a decent prospect?

Matthew Eddy: More of a fringe prospect, a utility guy in a perfect world. Agudelo is already 21, having spent four seasons in the VSL, but he has surprising power and a nice all-around game. He's an average defender at 2B, an average runner, average arm, but he'll continue moving up if he hits.

    Brad (MO): Luis Piterson hit .517/.533/.931 in June before regressing to a .263/.302/.400 line for the season. He obviosuly wasn't going to sustain anything close to his June line, but was it a preview of his potential or a fluke, and less should be expected next year?

Matthew Eddy: 2B Luis Piterson got a lot of attention among league observers, so don't give up on him even with the poor finish. He plays with flair, runs well, throws well and excels on defense because he reads the ball well off the bat and has plus hands. He sells out for power now, but a more disciplined approach could take Piterson to another level offensively.

    Steve (St. Louis): How concerned would you be with Oscar Taveras' low walk rate?

Matthew Eddy: More concerned with his funky hitting mechanics and probable move to right field, but I'll give Taveras a pass for his walk rate this season. After all, it's his first year in the U.S. Also, his walk rate was on par with other young Latin standouts, like Arcia, Morla and Aderlin Rodriguez.

    km (Washington, DC): Did Nate Roberts get much consideration for the top 20? He had great stats in college. Does he project as a major league player?

Matthew Eddy: He didn't, but that doesn't mean he has no future in pro ball. A Twins fifth-rounder this year from High Point, LF Nate Roberts has life in his bat and hits the ball line to line. He needs to keep his hands inside the fastball better, while defensively he needs to improve his outfield play and his throwing mechanics (though he did play through shoulder soreness with Elizabethton).

    Kyle (West Plains, MO): What are your thoughts on Cody Stanley? Is he all bat? Does he have a glove? Did Matheny inspire him defensively?

Matthew Eddy: I really like Cody Stanley as an offensive player. He's got such a quiet setup, good bat speed and a good eye. As a bonus, he runs very well for a catcher, in part because he gets out of the box so well because of the aforementioned setup. If he can become just an average catcher, he could have a long career in the big leagues. Appy managers really took note of Stanley's improvement behind the plate. We've seen what he can do against rookie ball pitchers, so maybe I shouldn't get too far ahead of myself.

    Kyle (West Plains, MO): Do the Royals have any position guys that are worth monitoring?

Matthew Eddy: Royals '08 sixth-rounder Alex Llanos looks great in a uniform and can run down the ball in center field. He's going to have to make more contact to move up, however. Burlington's top offensive prospect was 2B Luis Piterson, who is referenced elsewhere.

    Steve (St. Louis): Was Virgil Hill in the top 20 discussion? His results still haven't caught up to his athleticism, but the kid has tremendous upside. Do you think he'll put it all together anytime soon? Thanks.

Matthew Eddy: Cardinals '09 sixth-rounder Virgil Hill is starting to turn his raw tools into results. He batted .289/.384/.441 in 152 at-bats for Johnson City and has real bat speed. Though he's not a real big guy, he's strong and has easy power, plus he runs well. The 21-year-old could take another step forward if he makes more contact.

    Michael Stern (Rochester NY): Looking at Arcia's numbers I was thinking big time prospect a la Miguel Cabrera, but after reading about his penchant for strikeouts and his hitch in his swing, should I temper my enthusiasm? Or is he still a big time stud in the making?

Matthew Eddy: Heading into the ranking process, I assumed Arcia would be a shoo-in for No. 1. But I just didn't hear the same kind of support for his candidacy that I did for Perez or Romero or, in some cases, DeShields or Morla. But don't fret about Arica, he's still a fine, fine prospect. He corrected the hitch in his swing in-season and he tore up Appy RH pitchers, batting .398/.455/.760 in 171 at-bats while striking out just 20 percent of the time (compared with 36 percent versus LHPs). This is common weakness for young lefthanded batters, but he will need to tighten his strike zone overall.

    Jordan (Tampa): Was Andrew Belatti considered for the list before his horrendous finish?

Matthew Eddy: An '09 12th-round pick by the Rays, RHP Andrew Bellatti throws strikes with an 89-91 mph sinker, a changeup and a slurvy breaking ball. He's a solid under-the-radar prospect, but not someone to go crazy over just yet.

    Andy W. (Iowa City): Cards farm director Jeff Luhnow seemed excited about the number of pro proscpects at Johnson City this year. Aside from Taveras and Stanley, who else (Valera, Ruiz, Hill, Garcia, Whiting, Rosenthal?) from Johnson City should Cards fans keep an eye on?

Matthew Eddy: Johnson City outclassed the other Appy League teams this year, scoring the most runs during the regular season and then breezing almost uncontested through the playoffs. Taveras and Stanley ranked in the Top 20, and I mentioned Virgil Hill earlier, but the two arms worth monitoring are RHPs Hector Corpas, the closer, and Trevor Rosenthal. Corpas, from Panama, sits in the low 90s and relies on a splitter as his strikeout pitch. He throws a serviceable curveball, too, and he has the classic closer's mentality. A 21st-rounder in '09 from Cowley County CC in Kansas, Rosenthal has all kinds of arm strength. He sits at 92-94 mph and began controlling his fastball better this year, hitting the corners and locating down in the zone with life. He'll flash a solid-average slider from time to time that could be his ticket to bigger things. LHP Ryan Copeland, the league's pitcher of the year, locates a mid-80s sinker and a changeup. He's got a great pick-off move to first base and a short slider/cutter, but location is key for him.

    Josh (Shepherdstown, WV): If Jr. Rodriguez were healthy the whole season does he make the list? How does he project going forward?

Matthew Eddy: The Mets' Javier Rodriguez, a second-round pick from Puerto Rico in '08, weathered two separate injury stints and hit .319/.353/.513 in 160 at-bats when healthy. Those who saw him early in the year tended to like him more than those who saw him late. A lanky player with a short swing, Rodriguez makes solid contact with occasional power, but while he has no glaring weakness on offense, he has no plusses either. He played more right field than center this year, and he might be stretched offensively if he settles in a corner. As a center fielder he's got a chance to move up.

Matthew Eddy: Thanks for all the great questions. Time will tell how great this Appy class turns out to be, but at first blush it appears to be at least as strong as the Pioneer League group, which we'll unveil on Monday.