League Top 20 Prospects

New York-Penn League Top 20 Prospects Chat With Aaron Fitt

Aaron Fitt: Hello everyone. A bit of a late start today — just saw Jerry Crasnick's shocking tweet that Cal will eliminate its baseball program after next season. Very disappointing news, for sure. But let's turn our attention to the NY-P.

    Tom (San Francisco, CA): Did Marcus Knecht garner any support?

Aaron Fitt: He sure did — he was in the group of two or three guys that just missed the cut. Knecht can really hit — that's his calling card. It's not the prettiest swing, but he consistently squares balls up hard. He's a little tougher to profile, though — I'm not sure he'll have left-field power, and I think that's where he fits best defensively, though the Jays did dabble with him in center field this summer. Certainly, though he's interesting, and he's definitely a prospect.

    JAYPERS (IL): Had they qualified, about where would Taillon, Allie, Machado and Gary Sanchez have ranked on this list?

Aaron Fitt: Certainly Taillon, Machado or Sanchez would have been No. 1 easily had any of them qualified, and Allie might have been also. It wasn't a very strong year in the Penn League, and there was no consensus at the top.

    Nick (Delmar, NY): Hey Aaron, thanks for the chat. No Derek Dietrich on the list? What did scouts have to say about him this summer?

Aaron Fitt: Dietrich was in that group along with Knecht that just missed the Top 20. Others in that group included Trent Mummey of Aberdeen, Felix Sanchez of Lowell, Zach Russell of Batavia. Most managers in the league weren't impressed with him at shortstop, but I did at least one positive report mobility at short from a scout. His arm helps him compensate for any range shortcomings — it is a very good arm. He also showed a decent gap-to-gap approach, though he wasn't great against lefties. And while his lack of power production was a disappointment this summer, he should hit for more pop in time. He's a prospect, albeit a divisive one.

    JAYPERS (IL): How would you rank Aaron Altherr, Domingo Santana and Anthony Hewitt from 1-3, in terms of projectability, plate discipline and overall tools?

Aaron Fitt: I suppose Hewitt has the loudest pure tools, but I also doubt he'll ever hit at the high levels. Altherr, to me, has the best discipline of the three and is the safest bet to hit moving up the ladder, although his raw power certainly lags behind the other two. Santana's power is very significant, and he's very young — just turned 18 this summer — so I think he's got time to refine the plate discipline. He's got more of a chance to figure it out and tap into his tools than Hewitt does, the way I see it.

    Tom (San Francisco, CA): Gustavo Pierre seemed to improve as the year went on...is there any way at all he remains at short?

Aaron Fitt: He has shortstop actions, he just needs to play with a little more urgency and intensity. He also is better going to his left than his right. But yes, I think he has a chance to remain at short. He's only 18 still, remember.

    Kyle Reese (The Future): How close was Matt Curry to making the 20? Could he skip Low A to go to Bradenton next year?

Aaron Fitt: For a first baseman who was drafted in the 16th round as as a college senior, I really like Matt Curry. He made a huge jump from his junior year to his senior year at TCU, cleaning up his body and improving his approach and defense, and his power is impressive. I could see him taking a Mitch Moreland type career path and getting to the big leagues, although he's not as athletic as Moreland and probably couldn't fill in at a corner outfield spot. He really has gotten a lot more mobile, though, and now plays a solid first base. Definitely a guy to keep an eye on, but he's got a lot to prove before people start buying into him as a serious prospect — just like it took Moreland a few years of consistent high-level production before anyone really took him seriously.

    Ben (Leland Grove): How much did Cain's back injury affect his velocity? Do you think in 2011 he can add a few mph?

Aaron Fitt: I don't think it was a major factor. It slowed him down early but he was completely healthy after that. I do think he can add a few ticks and wind up pitching around 93-94 — he's a big, physical kid.

    Steven Alengakis (NYC): Hi Aaron.... I know the Yankees didn't have any real standouts in the NYPL this year. What Yankees player, if any, impressed scouts most with his tools and/or performance and got the most consideration for this Top 20 list— if any? Thank you.

Aaron Fitt: Maybe the leanest year I can remember at Staten Island — nobody from that team really came close to the top 20. I think Rob Segedin's an interesting prospect, even though he did not perform well in a 20-game cameo this summer. He's got a nice line-drive bat with some pop, and he's a good defender at third with a strong arm. Key will be how his power develops, I think. Zach Varce could be a sleeper who could move quickly — he's a polished college product. Chase Whitley, a righthanded reliever who was a 15th-round pick out of Troy, also drew a little bit of interest, showing a fastball that reached 92 with hard sink. He also threw a decent slider for strikes. He's a bullpen guy, but he's got a chance.

    Vinny (Queens NY): Ryan Fraser on the Cyclones had a great year - made the all star team, put up very impressive numbers. I heard he throws in the low to mid 90s and from what I've seen he looks like he has a strong arm. Is he someone us Mets fans can look have some hope for or just another college arm that does well against inexperienced competiton?

Aaron Fitt: Fraser's arm strength is legitimate. He has a lively fastball in the 88-92 range and good command of his hard slider. Again, a bullpen guy with a chance to make the big leagues. Real nice find for the Mets in the 16th round.

    Joe LeCates (Easton, MD): Hey, Aaron, thank you for the chat and the great work as always. Though he certainly had nowhere near enough AB's to qualify here, but as seeing that he won't be profiled in any League Top 20's, what are your thoughts on Manny Machado? Would he be the best prospect here had he seen more time with Aberdeen?

Aaron Fitt: Flattery will get you nowhere, Joe. Machado was unquestionably the best position player who appeared in the NY-P this season, although it was a brief stint. One evaluator who saw him just raved about him — it's a loose, easy swing and a terrific all-around tools package. He also looked like he was having fun out there for Aberdeen, which is always nice to hear. He's the real deal — going to be a very special player, I think.

    Jon (Peoria): What position do you think Vitek will ultimately end up at? Can he play second or was he moved because of Pedroia?

Aaron Fitt: No, most scouts don't think he has middle infield actions, and they are divided over whether he'll be able to handle third base. My gut says he winds up at a corner outfield spot, which would certainly diminish his value, but I believe in his bat and athleticism, even though his production this summer was nothing special.

    Jon (Peoria): What are your thoughts on Zach Russell and Justin Edwards with Batavia?

Aaron Fitt: Russell is extremely interesting and garnered much more buzz than Edwards. He comes from rural Arkansas and is still on the raw side, but he's an outstanding athlete with a loose arm. I got one report that he worked at 92-94 and topped out at 96 this summer, and he flashed a promising curveball. But "he had no idea what he's doing," in the words of one manager, so he's very much a work in progress. But certainly he has upside.

    Chris H (Boston, MA): If RHP Asher Wojciechowski had sufficient innings, I assume he would have cracked the Top 20 list?

Aaron Fitt: Yes, and might have topped it. I'm a big Asher fan — I once heard a scout compare him to Curt Schilling for his physicality and the way he pounds hitters with his fastball. He doesn't have a splitter like Schilling, but I believe in his slider. I think he's going to be a good one.

    Chris H (Lady Lake, FL): I am finding a lot of high praise for Carlos Perez. Is he the catcher of the future for the Jays or do you think one of Arencibia, Jeroloman, d'Arnaud or Jimenez holds the position? Could Carlos manage a position change to 3B, 1B or the OF? How much power do you expect from Carlos at the major league level?

Aaron Fitt: The Jays are just loaded at catcher, but you really can never have too much behind the plate. They'll leave him at catcher for the forseeable future, and should he force them to make a decision at some point, they'll deal him or someone ahead of him or move him to a new position. One manager invoked the name Craig Biggio when talking about Perez, the idea being that he is athletic enough to handle second base or an outfield spot if need be. His versatility is an asset, for sure.

    tim (missouri): I wondered why John Gast did not make your list. Also, any other Cardinals prospects you liked.

Aaron Fitt: Gast got some consideration after carving up the Penn League. His spotty college track record gave me some pause, but certainly he has the size and arm strength to be considered a legit prospect. He has a 50 or 55 fastball and showed good feel for his changeup this summer, but I'm not as sold on the curveball or the projection. He also needs to avoid those occasional lapses in fastball command that still reared their heads even this summer. And he has an exceptional pickoff move, which is a nice asset. At the very least, he's got a shot to be a big league reliever.

    John (Springfield): Adalberto Santos had a very nice well-rounded season. Is he just an org guy long-term because of his age?

Aaron Fitt: He's a hard-nosed player who can run and make some contact, but I do think he's an org guy — not a lot of size or strength, and I question whether he'll hit as he moves through pro ball.

    John (Acworth, GA): I know Aberdeen did not have that many prospects. But did Trent Mummey or Kip Schutz merit any mention among managers? Any other Aberdeen players get consideration? Thanks!

Aaron Fitt: As I alluded to earlier, Mummey came very close — he might have been No. 21. He's not very tall but is quite strong, actually, and he has good speed. He's also a baseball rat, and one manager described him as "an animal in center field." I like him.

    skinnyjh (Duncan, SC): What do we make of these rankings? If Mendez was still in BOS organization, would he rank higher than Vitek or Brentz in BOS top 30? Just trying to put all these league rankings in context. Thanks.

Aaron Fitt: Maybe, but not necessarily. These league top 20s are a bit more weighted toward performance in the individual leagues than our offseason organization top 30s. In general, they should roughly match up, but sometimes how a player looked in one specific league doesn't tell the whole story (if it did, neither Vitek nor Brentz would have sniffed this list, because neither of them performed well this summer, and for that matter, neither did Domingo Santana or Mike Kvasnicka). At the short-season and Rookie levels especially, it is tricky to reconcile summer performance with how guys did in the spring, when they were fresher but also were using metal bats. We generally believe that players deserve a little benefit of the doubt if they have established track records as prospects before signing, even if they struggle in their debuts. In some cases, fatigue can be a reason for the struggles at the end of a long season; in others (like that of Brentz), they simply need to make adjustments to pro pitching and have not really had time to do it yet. But it would be folly to write off a highly touted player who flopped in the NY-P. Ike Davis was simply awful in this league two years ago, and I stuck him on the back of the NY-P list just out of respect for his prospect pedigree. Glad I didn't leave him off completely.

    Brian (Toronto): If Webb puts it all together, what is his ceiling and what are the chances he reaches it? If he ends up in the pen, can he be a late inning guy with his stuff?

Aaron Fitt: I don't think he'll ever have the command to be a No. 1 starter in the big leagues, even though he has that kind of arm strength. I think his ceiling is as an erratic mid-rotation starter with big arm strength, like an A.J. Burnett-lite. But that's if everything comes together — and that's a huge "if." I think he profiles better as a late-inning guy, yes, but again, he'll have to improve his command, mechanics and feel for his secondary stuff if he is to become a big league closer. Very much a work in progress, but you can't ignore the arm strength.

    Matt (Pittsburgh): Hi Aaron...what kind of mechanical adjustments were made by Zach Von Rosenberg to net such a drastic improvement? What level do you see the Pirates starting the following five next season: Von Rosenberg, Cain, Dodson, Allie, Taillon?

Aaron Fitt: Credit pitching coach Mike Steele for working with him, and credit Von Rosenberg to taking the teaching to heart after his rough opening stretch. The biggest adjustment was holding his front side together better, not opening up, and landing a bit firmer on the front leg. I could really see all five of those guys starting at low Class A, but I think it's more likely that Allie, at least, opens in short-season. I'll bet Taillon skips right to full-season ball. That's pure speculation on my part, though.

    cliff jordan (chicago): Great to see the Pirates signees showing well. Which of the three mentioned will fly upwards the fastest? Not that we Bucco fans are anxious or anything. Thanks!

Aaron Fitt: Glad to see all the Pirates questions — nice that there's some reason for optimism in that system! Von Rosenberg certainly will move the fastest of those 09 high school draftees. The others have less polish.

    bryan (ohio): aaron-followed the mahoning valley scrappers this summer, and was wondering if consideration was given to several of their top prospects such as INF giovanni urshula, OF-1B chase burnette, or one of the top RHP in the nypl this season alex kaminsky.

Aaron Fitt: Not the most prospecty Mahoning Valley team, but Urshela is interesting and garnered some consideration. He might have been the best defensive third baseman in the league, with arm strength and very good actions, and he has some feel for hitting, but he needs to get stronger. He's young, though, and has plenty of time to add muscle. Burnette has plenty of muscle and a strong arm — not a bad right-field profile, actually. He's a nice sleeper prospect and an intriguing find in the 18th round, but he needs to improve his approach offensively — there's too much swing-and-miss. I also liked Jordan Cooper in college, though he got very little support for this list from people I spoke with.

    Kyle (West Plains, MO): Does Nick Longmire profile to stay in CF for the long term?

Aaron Fitt: You know, I didn't think so coming into the summer, but he impressed people with his defense. He plays a shallow center field and does a good job going back on balls. He worked very hard this summer to become a better center fielder, and now he's at least put himself in the discussion to stay there, whereas he was pretty widely regarded as a corner guy coming out of the draft.

    Kyle (West Plains, MO): Mike Kvasnicka had a low average, will this be something that plagues him throughout his career?

Aaron Fitt: Actually he's got a pretty good feel for hitting, and I think he projects as an average hitter — think .270-.290. His swing has a little length, but nothing too bad, and he squares balls up pretty well. I've got a feeling he'll perform much better in his first full pro season than he did this summer.

    Kyle (West Plains, MO): Where does Jake Thompson start next season? How quickly do you think he'll progress?

Aaron Fitt: Wouldn't be surprised if he skips a level and starts in high Class A, where he dazzled in two starts at the end of this summer (giving up just two hits in 11 scoreless innings). Coming out of the draft, he wasn't expected to move particularly quickly — he was more of an arm strength guy who needed to work on his slider, mechanics and command. But he made some big adjustments this summer and just took off, and now it feels like he might be on the fast track. But that depends on whether he can continue to repeat his delivery and build on the progress he made this summer.

    Kyle (West Plains, MO): What's wrong with Madison Younginer? The report says he has some funkiness in his delivery. What is fixable?

Aaron Fitt: It's just a long, herky-jerky delivery with a digging motion at the bottom and some stiffness. Is it fixable? Good question. I think he probably needs to smooth it out so he can repeat his delivery better and improve his command, but every pitcher is different — some can succeed with funk.

    Howard (Hayward, CA): What is your impression of Rylan Sandoval of the Brooklyn team?

Aaron Fitt: He was way too old for this league (23), but he's actually a very good little player, and scouts were at least intrigued by him — while managers liked him quite a bit. He has surprising pop for his size and played a solid shortstop this summer, showing arm strength and instincts. He probably profiles as an up-and-down sort of roster filler, but you never know — he certainly has some feel to play the game, and he could make the most out of his tools. He's a guy to keep an eye on, but the Mets need to challenge him next year (yes, we all know it's important to field a competitive team at Brooklyn, but multiple managers said Sandoval probably should have been in high A or Double-A).

    alex (los angeles): did cameron rupp and eric pettis get any consideration for the list??

Aaron Fitt: Both were very good college players, and Pettis performed very well this summer, but Rupp is the better prospect. He did not get a ton of consideration for this list — a lot of people aren't sold on his defense behind the plate, and his swing has some length, but he does have power. Pettis has excellent pitchability and competitiveness, which is why he carved up the NY-P, but he's short on velocity and will have to prove himself at every level.

    Jake (Chicago, IL): Derek Dietrich and Phil Wunderlich were 2 interesting prospects for the NYPL, but was that due to their age or should we expect a Tyler Bortnick-like surprise from either of them in Low A?

Aaron Fitt: I like both of them, actually. I already addressed Dietrich, but Wunderlich is very strong and has great makeup — he really knows the game, and those guys tend to get the most out of their abilities. He doesn't have the perfect body, but he's not a slug at first base, either — he played third for Louisville and made a lot of progress there throughout his career. He's another guy to keep an eye on, for sure.

Aaron Fitt: OK everybody, that's all I've got time for today — thanks as always for the great questions. Really enjoyed this chat today. Come back tomorrow for Conor Glassey's Northwest League chat. Thanks!