Eastern League Top 20 Prospects Chat With John Manuel
Ike (dc): Curious as to why Brackman was # 5 here, yet was dead last at # 20 on FSL's Top 20?
Thanks for coming to the chat. I figured
we'd get a lock of Brackman questions today. Since I do our Yankees Top
30, I've been asking scouts about Brackman all year, and he was bad
early. How bad? I talked to one scout who turned him in as a middle
reliever at best. But the managers and scouts who saw him in August saw a
different pitcher, and they saw one with two plus pitches, in fact two
pitches that were 70s at times. They also saw a guy who threw a lot of
strikes, especially compared to what he had done in the past. He's
improved that profile to a No. 2 starter with the fastball and curve. He
was consistent down the stretch with good stuff and throwing strikes,
so that improvement probably explains why observers in the EL liked him
better than those in the FSL. Players improve over the course of a year;
he's one that did.
Tom (San Francisco, CA): What distinguishes Nieuwenhuis from Eric Thames?
Better athlete, better speed, better
defense, ability to play CF. Those are his advantages. Thames has better
power, though, and that's a pretty big selling tool. Not a lot of
separation between the two, and Thames was one of the last players cut
from the 20, would be 21-25 if I kept ranking. Thames' ceiling is
slightly higher, I kind of see him as a Luke Scott type of guy if it all
comes together, while Nieuwenhuis will at the least be a fourth
outfielder and has a chance to be a bit more, kind of a David DeJesus
type offensively with a chance to stick in CF.
Steven Alengakis (NYC): Hi John, thanks again.
Again, Banuelos and Betances failed to qualify for this league's
prospects, but what did scouts say about them? I've read reports that
Banuelos' stufff now compare very favorably to LHP Martin Perez who was
widely regarded as the top LHP prospect in the minors prior to this
year. If he and Betances were on this list, where might they have
Both those players received some raves. I
didn't ask anyone to compare Banuelos to Perez so I'll leave that to
others. Again, doing Yankees prospects, it's going to be fascinating to
see how Banuelos, Betances and Brackman lineup. One source recently told
me he had them Betances first, Banuelos second, then Brackman; another
had Brackman at the top, then Banuelos, then Betances. Not sure what the
consensus will wind up being; for me, I like Brackman's athleticism and
give him a slight edge on Betances, but Banuelos might be best of them
all for his poise and lefthanded-ness.
Kyle Reese (The Future): How close was Jeff Locke to the list? 57 IP, 57 H, 56 K, 12 BB and a four pitch mix should get him close, if not on.
Not really as close as you make it sound,
Kyle. (I was surprised at how much I liked that last Terminator movie
for what it's worth. I don't think I would have gotten your reference
He's more of a 3-pitch guy if you're talking average pitches, and
there's nothing plus with Locke. It's a fourth-starter profile ceiling
according to the people I talked to, so no, that didn't get him on the
list. Altoona had a deep pitching staff and he ranked behind Morris,
Owens and also Justin Wilson for most, though not all; one scout liked
him better than Wilson. Tony Watson also got some support but fits
better in a bullpen.
Tom (San Francisco, CA): Kinda ironic that
Adeiny Hechavarria has a rocky introduction at Dunedin, yet makes the
Florida League top twenty, goes to the Eastern League, hits nearly a
hundred points better, and fails to make the list. Did he garner much
He did but so did Iglesias, and the people
I talked to preferred Iglesias. Again, not a lot of separation.
Hechevarria runs better, but Iglesias has better bat speed, so I went
Steven Alengakis (NYC): Hi John.. Did David
Phelps and DJ Mitchell receive strong consideration for this list, or
are they not very well regarded by scouts who saw them?
Steve, Mitchell did not. He had a nice
year but scouts view him as a middle reliever at the big league level,
and not as a high-leverage guy either, more as a sixth- or
seventh-inning type. Phelps had a tremendous year and throws very hard,
though at times it's very straight at 92-94 mph consistently, touching
higher. He's behind Noesi and Adam Warren for this list and on the
Yanks' 30, in my opinion, but again I'm still gathering info for the
Yanks list. His secondary stuff gets a lot of fringe-average grades from
scouts, whereas some scouts like Warren's cutter-type of slider as a
second average pitch.
Ben (Leland Grove): Is Laird considered trade bait, being as blocked from the Bronx as he is?
Lots and lots of Yankees questions as
expected, I'll try to take a break from them in a minute . . . yes,
people outside the Yanks organization definitely like Laird as a guy
they would try to get in a potential deal. He's seen as a solid-average
3B, with below-average range the biggest question mark. He hit good
pitching this year; I've been a skeptic in the past on Laird but this
year definitely has changed my mind.
JAYPERS (IL): Had he qualified, would you have had any qualms ranking Strasburg above Brown for the top spot?
John Timwilbur (Everywhere): What was the word around the campfire about Chase d'Arnaud's up and down season? Is he a starter in the majors at 2B or SS?
Kind of mixed on d'Arnaud, whom I like. He
just plain didn't hit enough to make this top 20, but he was probably
the best position player prospect on Altoona's club until Andrew Lambo
arrived; then it's a tossup, and some people liked Lambo better.
d'Arnaud is a shortstop to those I talked to, good enough tools, better
instincts and feel for the position.
Joe LeCates (Easton, MD): Matt Hague — starter, platoon guy, bench guy, none of the above?
Not a big Matt Hague believer. Solid 4-A type, don't see him as more for his major league role.
Shane (Miami): Kipnis really proved his
capabilities offensively this year, even in the AAA playoffs. Would you
say, bat alone, that he's moved past guys like Ackley and Lawrie?
I like Kipnis, but no, not for me; he's 3
years older than Lawrie, they're similar players, and neither may stay
at 2B when it's all said and done. I believe in Ackley but I acknowledge
the scouts I've talked to really like the explosion in Kipnis' bat, and
that what was lacking with Ackley. I just think with Ackley (a) the
power came on as the year went on, as he adjusted to pro ball, (b) he's a
pretty unique player. The first thing scouts say about him almost
always is, "He's not what I expected." I think that colors scouts'
perceptions of him. He had one awful month, and then a very good year.
Dan ((Boston)): Hi John, thanks for the chat.
Did Bowie 2B Ryan Adams get any support after leading the EL in 2B? Was
he close, or was this season alone not enough evidence to indicate that
the 2006 2nd-rounder has a shot at becoming a big league regular?
He did get a little support, actually,
would be the next-best prospect on that Bowie team, and he's a 21-30
type of prospect. It's not a certainty that he'll stay at 2b, and he
would be helped greatly by staying there. He'll never be more than an
average defender at 2b, and he needs to keep polishing his game to be an
average MLB defender there, though he's better there than, say, Brooks
Daniel (Boston, MA): Where did Thomas Neal fall
on your rankings? He was a Top 100 prospect last year who appeared to
at least hold serve with a solid showing in a pitcher-friendly league.
Fine points all, and he did hold serve, no
doubt. I think we may have put a bit too much stock in his Cal League
power numbers last year, and I heard more questions about his athletic
ability than I heard praise for it. He looks like he's destined to be a
left fielder, and he'll hit for more average than power while being a
fringy defender. One line from two pro scouts who said the same thing
said it all: "He can hit but he's not a frontline guy."
Jack T (Staten Island NY): Hello John, I am surprised Zach Lutz did not make this list.. comments by you and the scouts?
He has his supporters, but there's more to
the game than hitting the ball. Those things, such as defending and
throwing and running, he doesn't do so well, so there's a real question
about his future role and where he plays; it's probably not 3B. But he
is a prospect, and he has some real power. I got a Nick Evans comp on
him; that's not a top 20 guy for me.
Ben (Leland Grove): Did Chris Marrero and Michael Burgess make your short list? Your thoughts on both at this point?
I asked one scout who's better defensively
at 1B, Adam Dunn or Marrero, and he answered Marrero, but he had to
think about it. That tells you what you need to know on Marrero's
defense. As my son would say, he's a 5 for strat-o-matic purposes.
Burgess didn't qualify, but I'd be leery of his big hack-no contact
PT (IBC): Would David Adams have made the list
if he hadn't gotten injured? What were scouts saying about him? Joseph
or Adams longterm?
No way to really judge it, because he did
get hurt and it's going to affect what kind of player he is, because his
defense and range at 2B is the biggest question with D. Adams. As for
him vs. Joseph, that's a tough one, and Bowie's Ryan Adams is in the
same mix. David and Ryan Adams are pretty similar players. None of them
is Robbie Cano on defense or offense, Joseph has the smoothest swing and
best chance to be average at 2B defensively, I might take him even
though the other two have more impact bats.
JAYPERS (IL): How would you rank Casey Kelly's
progress throughout this season, from 1 to 10? Is there any discussion
whatsoever about putting him back at SS?
He made progress with his velocity; I'm
not sure he made a ton of other progress other than getting innings, so
I'd go with a completely arbitrary 3. He was a one step up, two steps
back guy in a lot of ways this year. But no, no way he's going back to
Steve (Reading, PA): What were scouts telling
you about Harold Garcia, Cody Overbeck and Matt Rizzotti (outside of
Anthony Rizzo being a better prospect)?
I ran into more support for Rizzotti than I
expected. Biggest issue for him also is defense; he's an American
League type of player it sounds like. But he has legit power, a patient
approach and can hit. Garcia is the best prospect here and a better bet
to make the majors than Overbeck by a lot, he's athletic, can hit, can
run . . . probably a utility guy, but a chance to be kind of a poor
man's Placido Polanco if it all comes together. If Garcia could play SS,
he'd be a lock big league utility guy, right now he fits better as a 2B
who can also play 3B.
Dan V (Boston): JM, any buzz around the league
about Altoona southpaw Justin Wilson? After reports of increased
velocity to go with an impressive statistical performance, what would
you say his ceiling is? What kept him off the list? Thanks for the chat!
Several questions about Wilson, who didn't
so much have improved velocity as much as more consistent velocity.
He's always touched 94 or so, he's got what one scout called "easy arm
strength." He also never throws consistent strikes and has an arm action
that makes it hard to imagine him throwing consistent strikes, or a
consistent breaking ball. All that said, he's got a live fastball, he's
lefthanded, his changeup's average . . . he's got a chance to be in a
rotation, just not at the front of it because of the lack of
consistency. The breaking ball issue also hinders him for the bullpen as
a left-on-left guy. Doesn't mean he can't do it, just makes it harder.
Joe (Oshawa): No Zach Stewart...Really???
Pretty close call on him as well, I was
surprised he didn't get more support. His fastball is exciting for both
its velocity and its life, and his slider gives him an average secondary
pitch. The scouts I talked to thought he was destined for the bullpen
because he was better with the two-pitch mix and wasn't as adept at
changing speeds for the rotation, and because the two pitches should
work in short order in Toronto. I may have sold him short because he
might just wind up closing sooner than later, but that's why he didn't
make it—because he's more likely to relieve than start according to the
scouts I talked to.
Chris (Secaucus, NJ): In his FSL chat, J.J.
Cooper said that Brackman and Betances both project to be late inning
relievers in the Yankees system because they don't project as front of
the rotation starters and therefore won't be given a shot to start at
the ML level. Do you agree with his take on these two players?
Asked and answered on Brackman; he got
better in the EL. I have talked to one scout who believes that Betances
threw strikes this year but not enough quality strikes and believes he
lacks the athleticism to start, and he had him as a reliever. But others
have given Betances two 70 grades as well for his fastball and
curveball. I believe more in Brackman because he's the better athlete,
but I'm starting to sense the Yankees think more highly of Betances.
Trevor (Cleveland, OH): Offensively, Lonnie
Chisenhall's ceiling kinda reminds me of Ryan Zimmerman, is that a fair
comp? IF not, what players were given as comps?
No, because Zimmerman (a) is a Gold
Glove-caliber defender, even with all his crazy arm angles, and
Chisenhall isn't; and (b) Zimmerman hit 58 homers the last two seasons,
and I don't think Chisenhall will do that. He's more of an 18-22 HR a
year guy, not 25-30. Chisenhall as a hitter to me is more like a Nick
Markakis type in that he's going to hit for average more than he'll hit
for power. Chisenhall's got a lot of 50 tools, and some scouts like him
as a 60 hitter. Zimmerman's tools are louder.
Danny V (IBC): Hi John, thanks for the chat.
Clayton Tanner keeps moving up the ladder and groundballing his way to
impressive statistics at each successive level, yet rarely earns a nod
from talent evaluators. Still just 22, does Tanner have a long-term
future as a back-end SP or long reliever in the bigs?
It's just not an exciting profile, he's a
lefty sinker-slider guy with fringe-average velocity but good life on
his fastball and changeup. I think you have his ceiling pegged as a
lefty reliever or fifth starter.
TheWhale (Civic Center Mall, Hartford): How
many seasons bouncing between AA and AAA does it take before a 25
year-old former elite prospect leading the EL in HR and TB barely
elicits a shrug from observers? Barring a monster 2011 start at AAA and
an injury opening in Baltimore, should we just ignore that at 25 yrs
old, the artist formerly known as Joel Guzman just awoke from a 5-year
slumber and showed signs of life?
He's not a guy. Few players go out there
with less energy on a daily basis than Joel Guzman; he still has crazy
power but that's about it. I think "slumber" is the operative word here.
Kent (Sonoma, CA): Hi John,
Thank you for the chat. Pretty disappointing year for the Giants'
prospects at Richmond - how far have Neal, Galaspie, Noonan, Kieshnick
and Ford fallen in terms of prospect status?
Several Flying Squirrel questions, so I
thought I'd take the consolidated question. Neal didn't fall too far,
after Belt he's considered the top position player off that team. I'd go
with Crawford next because he can definitely play SS. He's not too
terribly far behind the Cuban SSs and Freddy Galvis as a prospect. He's
not an elite SS but he can play short, and he's got a great utility
profile as a LH hitter who can run average, play SS and hopefully many
other positions. Scouts were mixed on his bat but some saw a bit more
feel for hitting this year, just not much power. Noonan probably needs
to repeat the level; he's still young but I got a mixed bag on him as
well. Some of the scouts and managers thought he lacked the bat speed to
hit enough to make up for his lack of patience and inconsistent glove.
Others thought he was wiry strong and had average tools across the
board. Ford's an extra guy whose big year last year appears to have been
a Cal League mirage; he's like another Fernando Perez, a speed guy
without great game feel. Gillaspie lacks impact power and isn't athletic
enough to be an average defender at third; his stock is down for me.
Kieschnick didn't do it for anyone that I talked to; I still like the
raw power but he didn't make a lot of progress this year. For me, the
most hope there is for Neal, Crawford and Noonan, in that order.
Chuck (Wichita): I know it's hard for relievers to make these lists, but was Tim Collins and his ridiculous K/9 ratio considered?
He was, he's definitely a prospect, but I
didn't rank anyone who I thought would wind up in the bullpen. White,
Oliver and Morris it gets mentioned, but White and Oliver got enough
support from scouts and managers for their competitiveness and
pitchability with their fastball for them to remain starters. And Morris
has two filthy breaking balls. Collins would have to rank behind Zach
Stewart and perhaps Danny Moskos (yes, that Danny Moskos) and Carlos
Gutierrez among relievers, off the top of my head. I have heard that
Collins is a long-toss guy, though, maybe if I'd heard that before I
would have run him up the list a bit . . .
Tim (Pittsburgh, PA): Do you expect to see Kyle
Gibson in the Twins rotation at some point in 2011? Also where do you
see his ceiling topping out at (#2 starter?)?
I guess I do, considering he finished 2010
in Triple-A, but where would he fit in? Even if Pavano leaves — I
believe he's a free agent — they still have Liriano, Baker, Slowey,
Duensing and Blackburn. He would seem to be sixth in that pecking order,
unless you want to still count org non-favorite Glen Perkins. I do
expect him to reach the majors next year, and yes, I'd say he's got No. 1
starter makeup and command potential, but No. 3 starter stuff right
now. He didn't throw as hard as consistently as you'd like to hear, and
his slider was more 6ish than 7ish this year. No. 2 starter is still an
awfully high ceiling.
Jon (Peoria): Is Kipnis' bat good enough to
negate the impact that he might be an average or below average defender
at 2b? How does his offensive ceiling compare to another former ASU
player, Dustin Pedroia?
He has more power than Pedroia but less
feel for the game, instincts, confidence, etc. I don't think it's
constructive to compare players to Pedroia, he's just a different,
David (New Britain): I've heard Joe Benson's
name come up relatively often, but having watched him, don't get the
love. Any thoughts on whether he can actually hit enough to be a
big-league regular in a corner outfield position?
He has top 20 tools no doubt, but he and
the breaking ball still are not friends. He just had too much
swing-and-miss for the scouts and managers I talked to for him to rank
in the top 20, and for him to be an elite prospect. He still has tools
and he still has time, though. He's not finished by any stretch, and it
was good to see him have his best season this year. He was once our No. 2
Twins prospect, his ceiling is still considerable, and he still has a
chance to reach it as a power-speed CF with a big-time throwing arm.
Greg T (London, ON): Thanks for the chat! What
differentiates SS Iglesias and SS Hechavarria in terms of defense? I
have read both are exceptional defensively and it was Iglesias who moved
to 2B for the Cuban team in order for Hechavarria to play short.
Hechavarria just outside the top 20?
You're welcome, and I have read that as
well on their careers in Cuba. Both have big tools on defense, and both
can make plays look easy. Iglesias had better body control according to
the scouts I talked to; a couple of sources described Hechavarria in the
field as "wild." Iglesias got a slight edge offensively as I mentioned
earlier in the chat, little more power and bat speed while Hechavarria
runs better. There was some thought that Iglesias' power gets him into
more trouble than it helps, though, and he needs to play more within
David (New Britain): As you compile your
rankings, how much do you think the amount of time a player spends in a
league impacts the quality of the input you get from
managers/coaches/front office types? I wonder if Gibson and Drabek
flip-flopped their times assigned to the EL this year, would their
rankings on this list likely reverse as well since more managers would
have been advocating Gibson?
The amount of time may have an effect on
how managers and scouts see them just in terms of when they saw the
player; for example, some scouts saw, say, New Hampshire before
Hechavarria was promoted from the FSL, or saw Trenton early before
Brackman got there or really got rolling. Thankfully I wound up talking
to a number of scouts so I got some who were in early and some who were
in late. Drabek's big finish helped; since writing this, I actually
believe Drabek's slow start in terms of velocity was probably due more
to him throwing his cutter and learning that pitch than anything else,
and as his cutter improved, as he threw it better mechanically, his
fastball velocity returned. So he throws harder than Gibson, has a
better fastball; he's athletic, probably a bit more athletic; both have
big-time breaking balls, and I'll take a curve (Drabek) over a slider
(Gibson) because it's more of a strikeout pitch. Gibson's advantages are
his changeup; better command (though Drabek throws harder so he doesn't
need to be as fine); and he's never had TJ. I take Drabek, but you can
craft a Gibson argument I suppose.
Jose (Orlando,Fl): What happened to Luis exposito? He was one of the leaders in RBI. What are the red sox going to do with him ?
He didn't get a ton of support, but still
has some tools, with a plus arm and plus raw power. His receiving is a
bit sloppy and needs to be cleaned up for the scouts I talked to to
consider him a regular and not a backup catcher. He led the league in PB
with 14 in 85 games.
Bryan (Orange, CA.): Are you personally sold on
Brandon Belt? Do you think that he is a future star at 1B and impact
bat in the middle of a weak Giants lineup? Can we add him to the Giants
young core of homegrown players that they are collecting? (Posey,
MadBum, Kung Fu Panda, Timmy, Cain, and Wilson)
I personally do believe in him; I haven't
talked to anyone that doesn't. I think I have some skepticism about just
how much of an impact bat he'll have, and I see him more as a 15-25
home runs guy rather than as a masher. But he can hit and probably will
wind up cranking 40 doubles a year. He's got a chance to be at least as
good as James Loney and should have more of an impact bat than Loney,
15-20 HR rather than 10-15, but he's that kind of smooth hitter, geared
more for average than for power. He's also more athletic than Loney,
runs better, and has a chance to play in the OF. I think he's for real,
just not 1.000 OPS for real.
emilfaber (faber college): John,
Could you please expand a bit on Casey Kelly's potential? Has the past
year dimmed his prospect status a bit or can it be chalked up to typical
growing pains. Does he still have a chance to be a #1 starter?
Personally, I think it was more growing
pains than anything else. I don't quite understand why he was in
Double-A but what's done is done. I do think he still has No. 1 starter
stuff, and he's had some real feel in the past. He did not show that
same feel this year and really didn't pitch off the fastball enough.
Maybe he needs to watch David Price more (or maybe not . . . )
Stephen (Guelph): Mr. Manuel, thanks for the
chat. I was surprised to see only one Fisher Cat (Drabek) make the list
after their impressive season (especially after the rave reviews the
Jays' brass has had for Stewart and the improvement Hech showed after
jumping to AA). What's more, Mastroianni and Thames, though not young
for the league, have shown steady progress at each level since being
drafted and posted some very impressive numbers this year. I've yet to
hear anything from BA on these two, any thoughts on their potential?
I've addressed the other Fisher Cats but
will say Mastroianni earned some plaudits for his speed and CF defense.
His bat is not that of a championship-quality CF starter but he has a
chance to be a nice 4th outfielder if not a second-division regular, and
our sources seemed pretty impressed with how he plays, his energy, etc.
Joel (Washington, DC): What's the word on Danny Moskos? He was a legit shut-down reliever in the Eastern League.
Moskos is back in the role that suits him
best, as a reliever. I had a couple of reports of him sitting 92-94,
touching 97 mph, and showing flashes of his old plus slider, showing
some depth and tilt. He just isn't athletic enough to be a starter, to
repeat his delivery over and over again for longer than one or two
innings. I think he'll be just fine in a relief role in the majors,
whether or not he closes, that's more about what goes on above the neck
after a certain point, but it was encouraging to hear good things about
Moskos for once.
DG (Paris, France): Fate, luck or whatever you
want to call it found me in Binghamton in July on an evening where I
could watch the B-Mets in their rather lacrymose stadium. Nieuwenweis
hit a homer as the team lost, but I must say that I was actually rather
impressed with Sean Ratliff that night. I had heard he had holes in his
swing but statistically he improved significantly this year. Is there
any chance in your mind that he might amount to something on the major
Ratliff had quite a year and I definitely
tried to ask about him, because I've liked him as a prospect since his
Stanford days. Ratliff has fringe-average tools across the board aside
from his raw power, which is plus, but scouts don't seem convinced he'll
get to it enough in the big leagues. The scouts I have talked to don't
like his slider-speed bat and didn't see him hit good fastballs.
PT (IBC): If Ryan Adams was the second best BAL prospect in AA, what did the people you talked to have to say about Xavier Avery?
Avery didn't qualify, and the scouts I
talked to about Bowie didn't have lots of reasons to go in and see that
team again late, it wasn't exactly teeming with prospects.
vi (New Jersey): Better prospect, Noesi or Nova?
Asked that question to one scout specifically, and he said Noesi.
confused (Amherst): Curious to know what type
of #s Casey kelley would put up in AA in 4 years ? Brackman has
struggled his whole career and still recovered with one good half season
whereas Kelley has been dominant and scuffled some in AA at 20 and he
slipped ? Doesnt make any sense to me....puzzled
I'm quoting a veteran scout here, but they
don't check IDs on the mound. Brackman is a different cat; he played
two years of Division I basketball, which tends to stunt your baseball
development, and I understand Kelly's development also took a hit last
year when he played shortstop. Brackman also lost a year to Tommy John
but his stuff has bounced back from the surgery, so right now the
surgery just cost him time; he's been durable since coming back, I don't
consider the TJ a concern any longer, but it contributes to the age
difference. Brackman also is, what, 8 inches taller? It tends to come
together later for tall pitchers as well, and it has for Brackman. Kelly
doesn't have two 70 pitches; Brackman does. He has velocity and plane
on his fastball, a willingness to pitch off the fastball that Kelly
lacked and feel for the breaking ball. That was more than enough for me.
Thanks for coming out to the EL chat.
Texas League is coming on Monday, and next week Jim Callis and I expect
to record a podcast after finishing our Draft Report Card calls. I look
forward to that and the weekend, hope you enjoy yours.