League Top 20 Prospects

Texas League Top 20 Prospects Chat With Will Lingo

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Moderator: Will Lingo will answer your questions beginning at 2 p.m. ET.

Will Lingo: 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?

Will Lingo: 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 and psychologically.

    @Jaypers413 (IL): A bit surprised to see Simon Castro missing out. What's the skinny on his season and overall game, Mr. Lingo?

Will 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?

Will Lingo: 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!

Will Lingo: 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?

Will Lingo: 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.....

Will Lingo: 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.

Will Lingo: 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?

Will Lingo: 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 baseman.

    Ike (Houston, TX): Had he qualified, where would Cosart have ranked? Is he a SP or RP to you?

Will Lingo: 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?

Will Lingo: 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?

Will Lingo: 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 contributor.

    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)?

Will Lingo: 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 his command.

    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?

Will Lingo: 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?

Will Lingo: 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?

Will Lingo: 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?

Will Lingo: 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?

Will Lingo: 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?

Will Lingo: 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 the bullpen.

    Jeff (Bay Area): Did San Antonio's Juan Oramas get any consideration? Is he a viable prospect (as a starter)?

Will Lingo: 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?

Will Lingo: 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.

Will Lingo: 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 year.

    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?

Will Lingo: 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?

Will Lingo: 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 before.

    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 importance?

Will Lingo: 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.

Will Lingo: All right, folks, that's enough music and baseball for one afternoon. Tomorrow, it's on to the International League!