League Top 20 Prospects

Northwest League Top 20 Prospects Chat With Conor Glassey

Conor Glassey: Hey everybody, thanks for coming out to my Northwest League chat! I had a great time putting the list together, so thanks for reading it and visiting Baseball America to submit your questions. Let's get going. . .

    Toby (Bronx): If you stacked this list up against last year's, which one would you take, and why?

Conor Glassey: Hey Toby, that's a good question to start off with. I think this year is better all around. At the top, managers and scouts liked Profar better than Hak-Ju Lee, and then there's some really good depth in this year's top 5. You could have made a compelling argument for any of this year's top 5 to be No. 1 on the list. The same can only be said for last year's top 3 (Lee, Edinson Rincon & Brett Jackson). In addition to that, I think this year's list is a little deeper, too.

    Joe LeCates (Easton, MD): Conor, I'm a sucker for tooled-up players who fly under the radar - are there any names out there that didn't make the Top 20 which I should keep an eye on?

Conor Glassey: Ah yes. . . the always-popular "Who just missed the list question." Here are the guys that were eligible for the list and just missed: Rockies lefthander Edwar Cabrera, Diamondbacks first baseman Yazy Arbelo, Mariners catcher Steve Baron, Athletics righthander Matt Thomson and Rockies second baseman Russell Wilson.

    Paula (AR): I'd like to see Profar play in Hickory. Can I expect to see him there next April?

Conor Glassey: Paula, I think you're in luck. Although I didn't get any word from the Rangers about where Profar will play next year, I think that's a reasonable expectation. Profar still needs some work offensively and there's no reason to rush him with Andrus in Arlington.

    Greg (Fort Worth, TX): Conor, In consecutive days we've read about two possible all-star shortstops in Hamilton and Profar. Who has the better bat long-term and which of the two do you prefer?

Conor Glassey: I can't speak for Matt Eddy, but I prefer Profar (say that five times fast!). That could partly be just because I've talked to more people about him, but he's also younger, played in a more advanced league and sounds better defensively.

    Jason (Walnut Creek, CA): Was Vancouver RHP Matt Thomson given any consideration to make this List? I know he was a bit old for this League but still, his stats indicate he was still unhittable. How do you see him progressing through the Minors? As a Starter or Relief Pitcher long-term? Thanks.

Conor Glassey: Hi Jason, Thomson was one of a handful of players considered for the last few spots on the list. Like Zach Walters, Thomson was a bit of an underachiever at San Diego, but made a good first impression in pro ball. The Athletics took Thomson and teammate, righthander A.J. Griffin, and then flip-flopped the two. Thomson was a reliever at USD, but started games as a pro, and Griffin was a starter for the Toreros, but closed for Vancouver. Thomson has a fastball that sits in the 89-92 mph range and gets up as high as 94. The pitch has a lot of life and movement, but he can spot it to both sides of the plate. His breaking ball is slurvey in shape, but has crisp, late movement and he can locate it for strikes. He also mixes in a changeup, and both of his secondary pitches showed signs of being average offerings.

    Jon (Peoria): Do you think Steve Baron will ever be able to hit enough to even be a backup catcher or do you think he'll ultimately be a conversion candidate?

Conor Glassey: That's the million-dollar question, isn't it? No one questioned his defense and he got a lot of support because he is *that good* behind the plate. So, he doesn't have to hit very much to have value, like you said, as a backup catcher or even as a starter like Mike Matheny or Brad Ausmus. But, even then, scouts were very skeptical and he has a lot of work to do. But, if Mariners fans want a glimpse of hope, Baron did hit .315/.367/.438 in August and was good for the Frogs in the playoffs. Because he's so good defensively, I don't think he'll ever be a conversion candidate.

    Frank (PA): Lollis is extremely impressive, both physically and performance-wise. What does he best project as?

Conor Glassey: Hey Frank, Lollis needs to continue to refine his secondary stuff—sharpen up his breaking balls (maybe by picking one and sticking with it) and continue to improve his feel for his changeup—but he has top-of-the-rotation potential because of his size, fastball velocity and athleticism. I don't think he'll be a No. 1, but I could definitely see him becoming a solid No. 2 or 3.

    AC (Atlanta): How were reports on Edwin Escobar? He was pretty young this year and showed a knack for the strikeout.

Conor Glassey: Escobar didn't come particularly close to making the list, but he is an interesting guy to keep an eye on. He was young for the league and was in over his head at times, but also showed a good feel for pitching, too. His fastball showed a big variance in velocity. He coasts at 87, but it also dipped down to 84. But, when he gets in trouble, he'll reach back for 92 and his fastball has occasional sink to it. He made good pitch sequences and showed a curveball that has the ability to be an average pitch, as well as a cutter that he uses for a changeup.

    Joe LeCates (Easton, MD): Conor, thanks for the chat and the great work, as always. Does Jake Skole's performance impress more at all considering he essentially missed the entire spring and hopped right into pro ball? If you were lining up position players, is there anyone in the league with a better package of overall tools?

Conor Glassey: Thanks, Joe! That did make it a little more impressive, yes. I was surprised to see the Rangers bump Skole up to the Northwest League in the first place. He seems like the prototypical Arizona League guy. But he held his own, for sure—so, kudos to them for pushing him. From a tools standpoint, obviously I think the guys in front of him have better packages of overall tools.

    Kyle (West Plains, MO): How worried about Michael Choices strikeouts should we be? 40% of the time is outrageous.

Conor Glassey: I would say, "mildly worried." He has good strike zone awareness, so I think the strikeouts are just a function of some extra moving parts to his swing, being too pull happy and possibly a desire to impress in his debut. But he's young for a college player, has good athleticism and works hard, so I think he'll be able to tone some of that down and cut back on his strikeouts.

    Adam McInturff (Lexington, KY): Is Choice a .275 hitter at the ML level? Would a more patient approach and the elimination of his over-pronounced load enable him to be maybe a .300 hitter?

Conor Glassey: Choice is closer to .275 than .300

    Tom (Chicago): How is it possible that the league's top hitter Alvaro Ramirez and the 4th leading hitter Pierre LePage don't rate in your top 20?

Conor Glassey: Hey Tom, hitting .350 in the Northwest League is a nice feat and not easy to do, but Ramirez is a 5-foot-9 24-year-old that's already been released by the Yankees. He'll have to settle for being on the Northwest League's official postseason all-star team. LePage did get a little more support, but he's more of a grinder-type that's going to have to prove himself every year than a real prospect. The players from Boise that got the most support were lefthanders Cam Greathouse and Austin Kirk and righthander Aaron Kurcz.

    sig (philly): Portillo sounds like a closer to me, can he succeed as a starter??

Conor Glassey: I think he certainly has a chance, especially when you consider how young he is. If his writeup reads the same when he's in Double-A, then maybe the Padres will start to think about moving him to the bullpen, but there are a lot of major league starters that needed work on their secondary stuff when they were 18.

    Joe LeCates (Easton, MD): Conor, though he didn't qualify, nor did he play particularly well in limited action, where would Gary Brown fit into this list as a prospect?

    Zeebs (Palo Alto, CA.): I know Gary Brown only had 22 ABs in the Northwest League but what did the managers have to say about him? Is he the real deal as a future impact lead-off hitter?

Conor Glassey: I think he does have the potential to be a good center fielder and impact leadoff hitter. Just off the cuff, I think Brown would be in the 6-10 range, probably No. 7.

    John (Ashburn, VA): Conor: I am confused about the selections. In comparison of their numbers, what was your criteria to determine that Zach Walters (Yakima) ranked higher than Mike Freeman (Yakima)? Although his ABs are higher by 86 and he has three more HRs (4 to Freeman's 1), I cannot see a noticeable difference in their statistics Freeman has a higher BA and OBP. Yet, Walters has a higher RBIs, SLG and significantly higher Ks. Not sure if this is an apples to apples comparison (Freeman-average and Walters-power), but shouldn't Freeman be considered in the Top 20 along with Walters? Thanks.

Conor Glassey: John, our lists are based on players' tools, not their statistics. For position players, the five tools scouts look for are hitting for average, hitting for power, speed, fielding and arm strength, and Walters' tools are more impressive than Freeman's. For more information on tools and what scouts look for in players, you should read this: http://www.baseballamerica.com/today/majors/best-tools/2010/2610540.html

Stats are nice, but they mean less and less the further away a player is from the major leagues.

    Drew (IL): I was supprised to see the absence of Matt Szcur, considering he has only devoted half of his efforts to baseball thus far. Or does his absence have to due with the possibility of him choosing football over baseball after his college season is over?

Conor Glassey: Szcur didn't qualify, but he is definitely interesting.

    Don (Rosemont, IL): How does Profar's ceiling compare to Elvis Andrus? Who do you think will be the better player?

Conor Glassey: Good question, Don. Overall, I think their ceilings will be pretty similar, but the skills that go into those ceilings are a little different. Andrus is at least a grade faster and the better defensive player and they're similar players, offensively—though Profar may have a little more gap power (can't believe Andrus is slugging .299) and has the advantage of switch-hitting. So, overall, I think Andrus winds up as the better major leaguer, but they're close.

    Pedro (Costa Rica): No Jimmy Reyes? He is awesome! What did managers have to say about him?

Conor Glassey: Pedro from Costa Rica, huh? Reyes did put up great numbers and the numbers are even better when you consider that Reyes tweaked his elbow a little bit midway through the season, so the Rangers took away his slider and made him pitch with only his fastball and his changeup. In the long run, that probably helped him learn how to pitch with his changeup more, but he does have a great slider when he's allowed to use it. It didn't sound like the injury was anything serious.

Conor Glassey: All right, it's been a solid hour, but I've got to get back to other things. After all, we still have a magazine to put out. Thanks for all the great questions, though, and be sure to check back tomorrow for Bill Ballew's South Atlantic League chat.