Texas League Top 20 Prospects Chat With Will Lingo
Will Lingo will answer your questions beginning at 2 p.m. ET.
All right, everyone. We're in the midst of
great playoff action and nearing the end of our minor league prospect
run, but of course prospect season is just getting under way. Today's
it's the Texas League, so I thought it appropriate to listen to Stevie
Ray Vaughan during our time together. I was lucky enough to see him live
on New Year's Eve in Atlanta many, many years ago, so I've got that
going for me, which is nice. But you don't care about that. You want to
know why I didn't rank your favorite prospect. So let's get to the
business at hand.
Ben (Leland Grove): Was Juan Nicasio a 21-25 prospect? Thoughts on his pitches?
Nicasio I think we almost have to hold in
abeyance because of the ugly injury he sustained after moving up to the
big leagues. We had an organization report in the issue with all the
minor league prospect lists that said his rehab was going well, but it
also had a quote from Jim Tracy, who was asked when Nicasio might pitch
again: "That's a complete unknown for sure." On pure talent, he's
certainly a top 20 kind of guy. Not a lot of people saw him because he
only made nine starts before getting called up, but he was impressive,
with a power fastball, good curveball and solid changeup/split. Let's
just hope he can come all the way back from his injury, both physically
@Jaypers413 (IL): A bit surprised to see Simon Castro missing out. What's the skinny on his season and overall game, Mr. Lingo?
Castro was in the top 10 on this list last
year, and I certainly would not have expected him to be back in the TL
this year. But a horrendous month in Triple-A to start the year got him
sent back. In a nutshell, Castro was just incredibly erratic this year.
His velocity in particular was all over the place, and most of that was
attributed to inconsistency with his delivery. At his best, he still
throws his fastball 90-94 mph, has a plus slider that's late and quick,
and flashes a plus changeup. But he didn't show that often enough this
year, and it came mostly in flashes. There are also questions about his
command. Some scouts think his fastball is going to be his only reliable
pitch and see him as a bullpen guy. He was better at the end of the
year, and I think the organization was happy with how hard he worked to
get through the season and work through his problems. But there were
enough questions out of this season that I didn't really see him as a
top 20 guy this time.
Harry (Dover, DE): Thoughts on Jaff Decker at this point?
Decker was a much tougher call to keep off
the list. Ultimately his .235 average (yes, I know the on-base is 140
points higher) and high strikeout numbers kept him off, but he's a
definite 21-25 guy and was on one version of the list. Decker got off to
a great start, hitting eight home runs in April, but went into a funk
for much of May, June and July. He was hitting the ball with more
authority at the end of the season but still never got his average above
.239 in the second half of the season. Few doubt that Decker will hit.
He has a short, quick stroke with good strength. He should have at least
average power. He obviously has a good idea of the strike zone, shown
by his walks, but his mechanics were out of whack this year too often,
leading to strikeouts. Critics dismiss him as one-dimensional, but San
Antonio manager Doug Dascenzo said of that, "Those people haven't
watched him play this year." Dascenzo wasn't the only one who thinks
Decker can be an above-average defender in left field, and he even
played a few times in center this year. Will be interesting to see what
Decker does in 2012.
Dan (Idaho Falls): Just curious why Juan Nicasio was not on the TL list - innings requirement (56.2 IP)? Thanks!
Nicasio is referenced above, but just
wanted to make clear that he did meet the innings requirement, which in
case you missed it is one plate appearance or 1/3 inning per team game,
or 20 appearances for relievers.
Morrie (Staten Island, NY): How does this list of 20 stack up against last year's?
Last year's list is stout at the top, with
Moustakas and Hosmer, but I felt like the depth this year was better
than last year. (Moustakas and Hosmer v. Trout and Miller is an
interesting debate in itself.) There were a good 30 guys I would have
felt comfortable putting in the top 20. Interesting that from last
year's top 20, there were so many guys who ended up returning to the
league. Rosario, Perez and Darnell all repeated in the top 20, and
Castro, Friedrich and Reckling returned to the league but were not
ranked this year.
Inside Will Lingo's Mind (Limbo): Did I make a mistake leaving off Jose Altuve and his amazing campaign this year....hmm.....
Credit to this person for phrasing the
inevitable Jose Altuve question in the most creative way. If there was
ever a year to rank Altuve, this was the one, as he was incendiary in
the Cal League and nearly as good in the Texas League, albeit for just
35 games before making his way to the big leagues. It's impossible not
to love Altuve, who is listed at 5-7 but isn't that tall. Managers used
terms like "little pest" and "pain in the butt" to describe him, and
they mean that as a compliment. One manager compared him to Johnny
Giavotella as a guy who grinds out at-bats and will be an offensive
contributor. When it comes down to ranking guys, though, it's just hard
to figure out a role for Altuve on a championship team. He's a solid
hitter but probably not as good as he showed this season, and he doesn't
offer much power. He's a solid defender at second base, but his arm
prevents him from playing at short or third. Speed is probably his best
tool, but some scouts say that's only average. He got off to a hot start
in Houston but tailed off to a .654 OPS by the end of the season. So I
like the guy, but I see him as a utility player ultimately, so he just
missed the list.
Eddie B. (CA): I think you made an error in
describing Green's speed as solid average or slightly above average. Of
course, Oakland is known to think differently, but most clubs put only
plus to plus-plus speedsters in CF, even on a trial basis. At USC, I
timed Green at 6.63 and 6.55 in the 60. That is 65-70 (well above
average) speed on the scouting scale.
Some have seen Green as an above-average
runner, but there were also people this season who saw him as just an
average runner, so the truth is probably somewhere in between. The
difference may come in whether you see him running on the bases or in
the field, as some folks I talked to thought he put more effort into his
offense than his defense.
marlowe (Albuquerque, NM): Any love for Angels' 3b prospect Luis Jimenez?
Not much. Good defender with a good arm,
but no plate discipline and fringe-average power for a third baseman.
Ultimately, the bat probably isn't there to be an everyday third
Ike (Houston, TX): Had he qualified, where would Cosart have ranked? Is he a SP or RP to you?
Hard to say exactly, but feels like he
would have been in the top 10. He and Clemens certainly made the biggest
impression on people of anyone on the Corpus Christi roster. Both came
over in trades and did not qualify for the TL list. I think Cosart will
get every chance to be a starter.
Franz (Bristol, Maine): Did Matt Shoemaker get
any consideration? Does he have any future in the Majors, or is he just a
finese pitcher who can dominate at the AA level?
Shoemaker definitely gets "personal
cheeseball" designation from this year's TL crop for me, but ultimately
his stuff is short to win top 20 consideration. In the Prospect Pulse in
the current issue of BA—check out the digital edition!--we each wrote
up one additional favorite guy from our leagues, and Shoemaker was my
guy, so you can read more about him there, particularly his background.
He sits 91-93 mph with an average slider, and his best pitch is probably
his split-change. He throws strikes with all his pitches and goes right
after hitters, and he gets high marks for his makeup. Ultimately,
though, he's a back-end of the rotation guy at best.
Andrew (Minneapolis): Vince Belnome (college
teammate of Gyorko) had crazy-good numbers in the Texas League. Did he
just miss, and could you give us a short scouting/league manager report?
Belnome wasn't really in consideration for
the top 20, but he is an interesting guy for Padres fans to watch. He
missed more than a month but was back in the lineup for the TL playoffs,
and as you note, he can flat-out hit. He was originally a third baseman
but played mostly second and some first base this year. He has a
simple, firm swing with power, as well as good pitch recognition, and
his approach is straightaway or to the opposite field. The problem comes
in where you play him. He might fit into a super-utility role, and he
could be a good pinch-hitter because he has a simple swing without a lot
of moving parts. So not a star, but quite possibly a major league
Mike (Chapel Hill, NC): Will, Tulsa's bullpen
featured a handful or interesting arms. Can the Rockies expect (former
first rounder) Casey Weathers, (deceptive) Dan Turpen, (mid-90s)
Jorgensen or (low 90s/ exceptional GBO rate) Stephen Dodson to
contribute in the big leagues and if so in what role(s)?
Of prospects with any type of pedigree,
Weathers was probably the least-liked guy of anyone in the league—as a
player, of course; I'm sure he's a very nice person. Straight fastball
with little idea of where it's going. Of the guys you mention, Turpen is
probably the most interesting guy: straight power, up to 98 mph, with
an aggressive approach. Another interesting arm, who was a starter this
year but would probably be a reliever if he makes it to the big leagues,
is Rob Scahill. He's another guy with a live arm but little to go with
his fastball. He needs to develop a useful breaking pitch and improve
Henry (Memphis): Joe Kelly's still not having
the results his stuff would suggest. Are the Cardinals serious about
him being a starter, or is he destined for the pen?
It's all about fastball command. He's not
consistent commanding the fastball down in the zone, and Double-A
hitters punished him for it. He also had trouble getting lefthanders out
(they hit 50 points higher against him), though that improved as time
went by. He also needs to develop better consistency with his curveball.
But he's a good competitor with a good arm, and he's still just 23, so
he'll get every opportunity to be a starter. Nice to have that electric
fastball to fall back on if he does have to go to the pen, though.
Andy W. (Iowa City): How close was Ryan Jackson
to the top 20? His defense has always been regarded as major-league
ready. The only question was his bat, but he has put up decent
offensive numbers the past 2 years. How close is he to being the
Cardinals starting shortstop?
In consideration but off the list a little.
He is a premium defender, and there are few questions about his glove.
His manager talked about how much he liked his reliability—he could
count on him offensively and defensively and always knew what he was
going to get from Jackson. The questions are with how much he's going to
hit at higher levels. He did put up decent number this year, but you
can't find a lot of people who think he'll do that in the big leagues.
He's aggressive against fastballs but struggles against breaking balls
and offspeed stuff.
BL (Bozeman, MT): What did scouts say about Christian Colon's performance this summer?
This is probably the most notable guy we
haven't yet addressed in the chat today. The short version is probably
that his tools don't measure up to what you would expect from the No. 4
overall pick in the 2010 draft. Looking deeper, people universally love
his feel for the game and leadership skills, and most give high marks to
his approach at the plate and defense. Most people think he will find a
role in the big leagues. When it comes to tools, though, he doesn't
quite measure up. He probably doesn't have a legitimate plus tool. Some
people think he'll eventually have to move to second, and they don't see
any impact in his bat. As one scout said, "He knows how to play within
his tools, but his tools aren't that good." So overall he's probably a
fringe starter or perhaps a utility guy. He's going to be an interesting
guy to watch because he came into pro ball with a lot more experience
than most players, so will his approach continue to work as he moves up,
or will other players catch up to his as his ceiling runs out?
@Jaypers413 (IL): Are managers as high on Christian Friedrich now as they were at this time last year? Was he a late cut?
All right, we're going to have to switch to
lightning round as we wind down. For some scouts, Friedrich's stuff has
backed up, though if you saw him good he still had the plus fastball
and a good curveball. He also threw a slider on occasion.
Matt Adams (AFL): Am I likely going to be trade bait, with Albert blocking my way to the bigs?
Pujols is obviously priorities No. 1, 2 and
3 for the Cardinals this offseason, so they'll worry about that first.
If he signs to a long-term deal, Matt, you are probably going to have to
move on because you're limited to first base.
Chuck (Wichita): What kind of ceiling would Herrera have as a starter if he could stay healthy and develop his curveball?
That ship has sailed, Chuck. The Royals
tried to make him a starter and that's why he spent three years in the
Midwest League, most of it on the DL. So enjoy his electric arm out of
Jeff (Bay Area): Did San Antonio's Juan Oramas get any consideration? Is he a viable prospect (as a starter)?
There are other San Antonio arms I would
look at before Oramas, like Jorge Reyes, Anthony Bass, Nick Vincent,
Brad Brach and Miles Mikolas. But that was a loaded roster, and Oramas
is a lefty, so he's worth keeping an eye on.
Mike (KC): I don't want to know why my favorite
prospect didn't make it but what I want to know is why Chris Dwyer
continues to show up on these rankings. What does BA or the scouts see
that I am missing?
He has a live arm, and that can't be
taught. Remember that Aaron Crow was No. 6 on this list a year ago after
it looked like he didn't have a clue at NW Arkansas.
Dustin (Winnipeg): Where do you stand on Casey
Kelly, a #2 or a #3 or lower? As a Padre fan I hope his prospect status
wasn't a product of Bostons prospects always being overhyped. A
rotation of Latos, Kelly, Luebke, Erlin and Wieland two years down the
road sure would be sweet.
I think because of his athleticism and
relative inexperience as a full-time pitcher, I still see Kelly as a No.
2 or 3 guy. But people were definitely jumping off the bandwagon this
Paul (St. Louis): Has Jim Callis changed his
mind about Zach Cox yet? Isn't it beginning to look like his ceiling is
a league average third baseman at the plate and in the field?
Not that there's anything wrong with that.
BL (Bozeman, MT): The narrative surrounding Wil
Myers' season remains the injury and the perhaps-related struggles, but
he played in AA as a 20-year old, right? Isn't that a fairly solid
season for a 20-year old transitioning to a new position?
Lots of Wil Myers questions, and he will be
a player to watch next year. It's easy to explain away his struggles
this year for sure. The worrying thing is when you talk to scouts who
aren't sure he'll have the power to really fit the corner outfield
profile. So there were questions about his ceiling that I had not heard
Doug (Woodbury, NY): I saw Steve Ray live at CW
POST / LIU way back in the day. Other than the Skynard Tribute Tour
concert ( I was 5 in 1973 ), could be the best concert I ever saw. Can
you please rank the following 5 bands - Pink Floyd, The Who, Lynard
Skynard, Rolling Stones and Led Zepplin in order of preference and
Wow, we're almost the same age, which is to
say old. SRV was definitely one of the best. Hard to rank those
bands—you have four English bands plus the war horses of Southern rock.
I almost have to set Lynyrd Skynyrd aside, because the band that has
continued to tour under that brand name really has no resemblance to the
original band. Personal preference: Led Zeppelin, Rolling Stones, Pink
Floyd, The Who; though at various times I have listened to all those
bands obsessively. Definitely remember having a Wish You Were Here
poster in my college dorm room.
All right, folks, that's enough music and baseball for one afternoon. Tomorrow, it's on to the International League!