League Top 20 Prospects

International League Top 20 Prospects Chat With James Bailey

Moderator: James Bailey will answer your International League questions beginning at 4:30 p.m. ET.

James Bailey: It's chat time. Looks like we've got a lot of great questions today, so let's get rolling ...

    @Jaypers413 (IL): Could you tell us how close Betances and Banuelos came to cracking your list, and what was said about their stints in the IL this year? Thanks.

James Bailey: A couple of managers threw their names at me, but because we had a minimum of 1/3 IP per # games played for each team (roughly 48 IP), neither qualified for our IL list. Should they return next season and stick around long enough to qualify, I'm sure Betances and Banuelos will garner some attention from league managers.

    Brad (Boston): Did Jose Iglesias regress this year in your eyes? What does he need to work on most?

James Bailey: Iglesias was Boston's #1 prospect last spring kind of by default after the Red Sox traded so much talent away in the Adrian Gonzalez deal. At 21, he was young for the IL, and it's clear he wasn't really ready to be there yet offensively. His defense is phenomenal and he could play a big league shortstop right now. But the days of Mark Belanger are behind us and no team is going to put up with a shortstop who bats .235/.285/.269. He needs to hit with more authority to earn his shot in Boston. I could see him repeating the IL next year and posting significantly better numbers, though he's never going to be an offensive force. His defense is good enough that he just has to hit enough not to stand out as an obvious hole in the lineup.

    Argun (Michigan): Better major league career...Kipnis or Chisenhall?

James Bailey: Managers nearly unanimously preferred Kipnis over Chisenhall. I'd give him the edge, though Chisenhall should be a solid major league regular for quite some time.

    Dave (Atlanta): Any support for Gwinnett pitchers Juan Abreu, Jairo Ascencio, or Todd Redmond?

James Bailey: Abreu and Ascencio got some love. Abreu has great, loose arm action with a 95-96 mph FB and a plus curve. He just needs to realize that he doesn't have to rare back and reach for 100 mph. Dave Brundage, his manager at Gwinnett, said sometimes he was better when he was behind in the count because he was less inclined to overthrow. Ascencio has 3 above average major league pitches. FB 93-94, plus change, plus curve. When he learns to throw all three he can be even better. He needs to trust all three, and utilize all three and not be predictable.

    T (Boston): While not worthy of Top 20 consideration, Lars Anderson did seem to show strides of improvement as the year went on. He's he back on the radar as a legimitate prospect (ie mlb regular)?

James Bailey: I could see Anderson playing in the big leagues, possibly as a regular, but not on a first-division club unless his power comes around. He had a couple of nice streaks, but 14 home runs in Pawtucket doesn't excite the imagination. He obviously needs a trade, with Adrian Gonzalez blocking his path. There are a couple of teams he could challenge for a starting role with, but he's got work to do to hold down a job for 500 AB's.

    Kelly (St. Cloud, MN): Prior to his injury, was Kyle Gibson on the road to making your list?

James Bailey: Yes. Had he not been facing a year off due to Tommy John surgery he would have snuck in there at the bottom somewhere. He didn't post great numbers, though some of that was likely due to the elbow problems. I talked to a scout who absolutely loves him. Hopefully he comes back the same way he was throwing before he got hurt and the Twins have a much-needed starter on their hands. He throws strikes with four pitches, his breaking balls are effective, and he gets good movement. Good arm action, with a loose, clean delivery. Of course, he still got hurt. Twins fans will have to keep their fingers crossed that package is all there when he returns.

    Matt (Scranton): What do you think of Julio Teheran's ceiling-is he an ace or a very good #2? Is it time to worry about a K rate lower than most top pitchers?

James Bailey: I'm going to go with a very good #2 guy, but that's using a definition of ace = elite #1 starter, of which not every team has one, so there are fewer than 30 true #1 starters in the majors. For the first half of the season he was phenomenal. I think he wore down a little in the second half, and at his size, durability may be a factor. But he was just 20 years old all season, and in the first half he was nearly untouchable in a league stocked with plenty of hitters who have spent significant time on big league rosters. His fastball and changeup are his two best pitches right now. The curve just isn't consistent enough yet, though it has gotten better. I think if/when that becomes sharp enough to use as a chase pitch, his strikeout rate could climb. He knows what he's doing out there, he just needs to keep working on a couple things.

    Trevor (Cleveland): James - This list, especially the top 10, looks fairly deep. On Chisenhall, he seemed to really start barrelling up on balls in September, showing plus power potential. What kind ceiling would you give the bat .285 seem realistic?

James Bailey: It's a very deep list, particularly with elite prospects. 26 of our top 100 preseason prospects spent time in the IL. Chisenhall did seem to start figuring things out a little better toward the end of the year there. .285 seems within the realm of possibility, but I'm not sure I see him hitting that high every year.

    Randy (Detroit, MI): Can you tell us about Andy Oliver's reviews from scouts, and was he considered for the list?

James Bailey: He was considered. Probably somewhere in the 26-30 range for this league. Oliver was a bit inconsistent this season, and didn't always wow with his stuff. Phil Nevin, his manager in Toledo, said that Oliver sometimes doesn't seem to realize how good his stuff can be. His fastball runs up to 96-97 mph, he has a decent slider, and his changeup is coming along. But he needs to trust it all. The key for him is gaining confidence and improving his control. When he does, he'll be ready for Detroit as a middle-of-the-rotation guy.

    Randy (Detroit, MI): Is Jacob Turner Major League ready in your opinion, or should he spend some time in Toledo next season?

James Bailey: In honor of the Tigers advancing to the ALCS, we'll allow Randy two questions. Turner was the #5 prospect on our Eastern League list, but with just three starts in Toledo he didn't qualify for the IL list. He's an exciting arm, with a higher ceiling than Oliver, though I could see him needing some further fine-tuning. Per John Manuel's EL report, he needs to pitch more off his fastball and his curve lacks consistency. Both issues are easily remedied with experience.

    Grant (NYC): How does this list of 20 stack up against last year's?

James Bailey: I like this year's a little better, particularly with Moore at the top. Of course, Montero, Jennings, and Alonso are all repeaters. Last year's top 10: Carlos Santana, Jeremy Hellickson, Aroldis Chapman, Jesus Montero, Freddie Freeman, Zach Britton, Desmond Jennings, Pedro Alvarez, Ivan Nova, Daniel Hudson. That's a pretty deep first 10. With 14 teams in the league there are generally a lot of interesting guys to follow.

    mymrbig (New Orleans): Wow, the "Five Years Ago" list is terrible. The top 9 prospects from that list (Delmon Young, Milledge, Sowers, Gorzelanny, Ryan Sweeney, Josh Fields, Hayden Penn, And Marte, Humberto Sanchez) have all been major disappointments! Looking back at that list, was the IL just weak that season or were there just a lot of toolsy misses (Young, Milledge, Marte)?

James Bailey: To follow up on the last question, even good leagues have bad years. And, yeah, that's an ugly list. In hindsight you'd want to move James Shields up from 10 and Pedroia way up from 18. Go back in time and throw Jon Lester and Martin Prado on there somewhere. But it wasn't like 2010 or 2011.

    Steve Dakota (Orlando,Fl): After the way Matt Moore dominated both the Yankees and Rangers,how in the world can he NOT be your Minor League Player Of The Year?

James Bailey: Because we don't have a time machine. That choice was made long before the playoffs began. Not to say Moore's performance would necessarily have changed the result, because we really like Trout and what he accomplished despite not turning 20 until August. But Moore is a tremendous prospect as well. He topped the Southern League in addition to the IL, and it's safe to say he's the best pitching prospect in the game right now.

    Dave (Atlanta): Are you back at BA full time?

James Bailey: No. Just an assignment basis. In addition to the IL list I'll be doing the Marlins again this year when we do the organization Top 30s. And I do a ton of book reviews here on the site. I'm slowly trying to establish a northern outpost up here in Rochester, NY.

    Matt (Wickliffe, OH): Clippers question - you mentioned Cord Phelps and Scotty Barnes just missing the list. Thoughts on other Clippers like SPs Jeanmar Gomez and Zach MacAllister, 1B Beau Mills, OF Ezequiel Carrerra and RPs Josh Judy, Zach Putnam, and Nick Hagadone? Any that I failed to mention that scouts liked?

James Bailey: Jeanmar Gomez actually didn't qualify, because he had 57.2 IP in the majors in 2010, so he used his rookie status up already. Carrera looks like he could stick as an extra outfielder. Great defense, he can run, not much pop. Maybe a #9 hitter or a 4th/5th OF. Judy, Putnam, Hagadone are all nice bullpen arms with a chance to contribute. I'll throw Chen Lee at you as another reliever to watch. Funky, underneath delivery, lower than 3/4. 94 mph FB, with heavy movement. Slider. He's going to be real tough on righties. Could be a situational guy or setup man. McAllister made some strides this year, but I like Barnes better.

    Dan (Chicago): Do you see Brandon Guyer opening next year as the Rays starting right fielder? or possibly center if B.J. Upton is dealt?

James Bailey: I like Guyer's tools, but I'm not sure he's ready to unseat Matt Joyce in right field. I could see Upton being dealt and Jennings moving to center, with Guyer seeing time in left field. One manager said he thought Guyer had 30-30 potential. That was the most optimistic assessment. I think 20-20 is probably more realistic, but there's a lot of ability there.

    Matt (Scranton): How close was Randall Delgado? Or did he fail to qualify?

James Bailey: Delgado is another nonqualifier, with just four starts and 21.2 IP for Gwinnett this year. Great arm, though.

    Greg (Ky): So is Dom Brown ready for big leagues or what?

James Bailey: Apparently not. He's still got great tools, and I think he'll be an exciting part of Philadelphia's lineup soon, but he got nearly 200 at-bats there this year and didn't do much, though if he doesn't hurt that hamate in spring training maybe those numbers look a lot different. He did take a major step forward in the plate discipline realm, both in the majors and in Lehigh Valley. But he'll need to hit with more authority to hold down a corner OF job up there. I think he'll be ready next year.

    Coomish (NY): Fernando Martinez just can't seem to stay healthy. Was he even a consideration for this list? Assuming he can ever stay healthy, does he still have the ability and the key is ability to be a good or great major league starter, or have injuries sapped him of whatever promise he once may have had.

James Bailey: He wasn't really a factor this time around. He's starting to remind me of Alex Escobar, though we need to keep in mind that F-Mart only turns 23 on Monday (Happy Birthday, Fernando!). But he's never had 400 at-bats in a season, and only topped 300 twice. It's hard to develop your skills when you're in the infirmary. Some guys are just too fragile to make it and he may be one of them.

    Keith (Manchester, CT): Thanks for the chat, James. How concerned are you about reports that Teheran's curveball isn't developing? Is his future in the pen? Does he start 2012 back in Triple A ?

James Bailey: Not that concerned given his age and maturity. If he can't figure it out he could go to the pen, but I'd be reluctant to start viewing a 20-year-old with his stuff as a reliever when a little patience might reward you with a frontline starter. He could wind up back in Triple-A, given their depth. Minor and Delgado are fighting for spots too. They won't have 3 openings.

    Dan (Chicago): Now that you mentioned organizational top 30's...when do those start coming out?

James Bailey: The issue with the NL East prospects, which is first in line this year, goes to press at the end of the month. We don't have a schedule yet for when they will start running on the web. But it's within sight.

    Jim (Miami): What are your thoughts on Tom Milone? He had a nice season in Syracuse then pitched fairly well in 5 starts in Washington. Do you think he can be a contributor for the Nationals, both short-term and long-term?

James Bailey: Milone has exceptional control and command. He walked just 16 hitters in 148 IP for Syracuse while striking out 155. That's outstanding at any level. His command was the best in the league, and his changeup may have been. But ... his fastball runs only 88-91 mph. He doesn't have the same margin for error that a lot of the guys who throw harder have. I think he can be a contributor as a back-of-the-rotation guy or long man.

    Dan (Idaho Falls): Question on a few Mets: how far outside of the top-20 did Duda, Tejada and Niewenhuis fall? Thanks!

James Bailey: Ruben Tejada has 216 AB for the Mets in 2010, so he wasn't eligible. Duda and Nieuwenhuis were in the next bunch beyond the top 20. Duda's got a nice frame for power, but I think he generates it more from strength than bat speed. He's also a below-average defender in the outfield. I like Nieuwenhuis better long term, but he missed so much of the season that he didn't garner much support for this list.

    Kyle (Oxford): Do you think Cozart will be a league average starting shortstop or better in the long run?

James Bailey: One scout I talked to saw him as a potential all-star, so that would put him at better than league average. I'm not sure he's a perennial all-star, though. He's a nice, well-rounded player, who does everything well, though he won't hit for a lot of over-the-fence power. More of a doubles guy than a home run guy.

    Steven Alengakis (NYC): If Montero were to actually become the kind of elite hitter that many project him to be: .300 Avg., .500 SLG, 30-40 HR annually — yet be a full-time DH, why would that diminish his value? If he becomes that and can do that for the next 15 years, he'd essentially be David Ortiz. David Ortiz is a weapon at DH that other teams can't match! Unless the DH is abolished, having that kind of DH has tremendous value. With Russll Martin already in the majors, Austine Romine and Gary Sanchez behind Montero, I am not worried really about Montero being the Yankees long-term solution at C. I think he heas tremendous value as a RH hitter and middle-of-the order presence. And based on what I saw of him in September, I'd be surprised if he doesn't turn out to be an elite hitter (just like Cano's ability was very evident right from the start in 2005). I bet the Mariners wish they'd made that deal with the Yankees last summer rather than gettign Justin Smoak! Thank you.

James Bailey: Any time a player's defense limits him to DH, that by definition has diminished his value compared to what it would be if he were good enough defensively to play the field. Clearly Montero is a gifted offensive player. It's hard to quantify how much so based on his Triple-A numbers, because several of the managers I talked to thought he was bored/distracted in the IL and possibly not always, shall we say, locked in. He sure turned things up a notch in NY. But if you tell me you'd rather have a great-hitting DH than a great-hitting catcher, I'll politely disagree. Regardless of position, yes, he sure seems to me to have more value than Justin Smoak.

    Vic (San Diego): What kind of power potential are we talking for Kipnis? IF all goes right for him, could he be an elite offensive second baseman, 20+Hrs with a .290+ average?

James Bailey: I'd feel comfortable projecting him to hit 20 HRs. Could be more. He's got good pop. A .290 average also seems realistic. I could see him being one of the better offensive second basemen in the AL within 2-3 years.

    Kyle (Oxford): Do you think Todd Frazier will ever get regular at-bats in Cincinnati with Francisco, Alonso, and Sappelt in the picture? Is Cincinnati the only team that would value Francisco more than Frazier?

James Bailey: Frazier's versatility might win him regular at-bats, because he's the kind of guy that can fill in for a number of players, should they get hurt or struggle. As to the Reds valuing Francisco over him, they didn't give Francisco much PT this year and I won't be surprised to see him move on soon. One scout I talked to absolutely drooled over his power, saying he has as much raw power as any player he's ever seen. While he's never going to walk much, this scout saw enough improvement in his approach, saying he had cut down significantly on his free-swinging compared to a couple years ago. Players who don't walk are more prone to streakiness, but if he gets on the right roll, Francisco could post some intriguing numbers. Offensively, I like his upside more than Frazier. What earned Frazier a spot on our list was he seems a better bet to reach his ceiling than Francisco does, and he has the versatility to play a variety of roles, where Francisco is limited to third base, and he's not all that good there.

    Paul (NYC): Jorge Vazquez - is he likely going to be a 4A type of player in the foreseeable future?

James Bailey: The future is now. Vazquez is already a 4A type player. He could probably fill in short term on a big league roster and pop a few balls out. But he turns 30 in March, so he's well beyond the prospect range.

    steve (western Mass.): Is the cupboard really bare in Pawtucket? Alex Wilson only made 4 starts there, but he seems to have a good arm. Any comments on him, although he didn't pitch enough innings to qualify?

James Bailey: Wilson put things together this year after really struggling in Double-A in 2010. He spent most of his time with Portland this year, so I didn't consider him for this list. But he's got some nice upside and I could definitely see him moving up the Red Sox list this winter. I wouldn't call the Pawtucket cupboard bare. In addition to Lavarnway and Reddick, they had Iglesias (discussed earlier) and Che-Hsuan Lin, an intriguing center field prospect. On the mound they had Kyle Weiland, Felix Doubront, even Junichi Tazawa. Those guys could all contribute to the Terry Francona-less Sox.

    Dennis (Chicago): Does Mesoraco make a couple All Star Games or just a nice everyday catcher?

James Bailey: I think he's got a shot at some All Star rosters. I'm not saying next year, but he's got a nice all-around game, with enough to offer on defense that he's a legitimate catcher with power. Let him learn and develop in the big leagues for a couple of seasons and I think he'll stack up favorably against most of the catchers around the league.

    Kyle (Oxford): Did Brad Boxberger get any consideration for the back end of the list? Does he profile well as a big league closer?

James Bailey: More Reds questions. Kyle was stuffing the ballot box this afternoon. Here's another for Oxford ... It's hard for relievers to make these lists unless they project as elite closers. Keep in mind that 20 players from 14 teams is less than 1.5 players per team on average. That said, I like Boxberger's upside. He got cuffed around pretty good in the Southern League last year, when he was just adjusting to a bullpen role, but returned this season and had the last laugh. He kept on rolling after joining Louisville. Low 90s fastball, average slider, usable changeup. I like him as a setup man in Cincy's deep pen more than I do as a closer.

    Lloyd (Lakewood): Can Yonder Alonso play a passable major league LF, or is hje destined to become trade bait?

James Bailey: Last Reds question. I promise. (They had a lot of talent at Louisville this year, so there's a lot to talk about.) Define passable. Will anyone get hurt? Maybe not. Will he let in as many runs as he contributes to the offense? Again, maybe not, but you have to factor that in when measuring his overall value. I think he'd be better off in another organization. If he had a clear path to first base we wouldn't be talking about how bad his defense is, because he's a first baseman and is capable of doing a decent job there. His lack of speed limits his range in left field. He catches what he gets to, but that's not really what you're looking for.

    Brian (Pittsburgh): Did anyone other than Alex Presley get consideration for the Top 20 IL prospects?

James Bailey: I assume you mean Pirate prospects in Indy. Chase D'Arnaud got some support. People are mixed on whether he's a future starter at short or a utility guy. He's very athletic. The bat's the key. He needs to hit enough to hold onto an everyday job. Josh Harrison is probably a notch below him. Enough versatility to help out in a few infield spots, but probably not enough bat to play full time. And I'll throw Matt Hague out as a guy that managers loved, though scouts weren't as high on. He gives maximum effort out there. Good knowledge of the strike zone, never gives away an at-bat. Primarily a 1B, but can play a little 3B. He just doesn't have the power you're looking for on the corners. He's got great makeup, though, and will squeeze as much out of his career as he can.

James Bailey: Thanks for all of the questions today. This is always fun. Glad you guys could all tune in for this one. PCL is up next, on Monday.