Arizona League Top 20 Prospects Chat With Bill Mitchell
Prospect season is now underway! It was a
truly fabulous year in the Arizona League, with the deepest pool of
prospects in the history of the league. I could easily have gone 30 deep
and still omitted players that would have made the list in previous
years. Since we already have quite a few questions in the queue, let's
get started a few minutes early.
PT (IBC): Thanks for the chat Bill. What can
you tell me about Royals RHP Miguel Almonte who got 6 games in the AZL
after starting the season in the DSL?
PT, I was at Almonte's first start and
was very impressed. When I first saw him warming up in the outfield I
thought I was looking at Yordano Ventura's younger brother. His delivery
even resembles that of Ventura's. His fastball was usually in the low
90s, but touched as high as 96. He's got a changeup that is just a tick
above average and a curveball that's still a little inconsistent. What
stands out about Almonte is the command of his pitches and his composure
on the mound. He was one of the last cuts for the top 20. Keep an eye
on this one!
JR (Iowa): How many on this list do you think might make the top 100 overall prospects list?
JR, I'm not involved in the development
of the Top 100, but I'd guess that at least the top five on the list are
shoo-ins and perhaps Brinson and Trahan, too. Also, don't forget about
the three guys that didn't play enough to qualify —- Fried, Zimmer and
@Jaypers413 (IL): Had they qualified, where would Zimmer and Fried have ranked on this list? Thanks for the chat, as always.
Jaypers, it's always good to get
questions from the iron horse of BA chats. Zimmer and Fried definitely
would have been in the top ten and more likely in the top five.
PT (IBC): Last year the Indians had a huge
lefty in Araujo, this year it was Luis Lugo. Does Luis project to have
the same kind of power arm for the tribe?
PT, I received some favorable comments
on Lugo. He's a big kid and is very competitive on the mound. Fastball
was usually 88-90 and he'll likely add velocity as he gets older and
more experienced. While he's already got a strong frame, I could see him
Ben (Leland Grove): Your impressions of Anthony Santander? Was he a late cut from this list?
Ben, Santander was in my 25-30 range.
He's still very young, with a strong frame at only 17, and showed
improvement in the second half of the season. He should show more power
as he gets older. He needs a lot more experience and to develop more
instincts. He's going to likely slow down as he gets older so the bat
will need to carry him.
Ben (Leland Grove): Dillon Howard definitely had his struggles in the AZL. What went wrong with him?
I'll take another question from Ben
because this is an important one to answer. I saw Howard several times
and he really had a rough season. His biggest issue was consistency and
ability to repeat his delivery. He's be cruising along and then the
wheels would fall off —- he'd start elevating his pitches and it would
look like he was throwing batting practice. There's still a lot to like
about Howard's build and his repertoire, but there's a lot of work to
David (San Diego): How close to your list were Weickel and Eflin? Who impressed you more between the two?
David, neither Weickel or Eflin pitched
enough to qualify. The latter came down with mono and didn't finish the
season, although he's back pitching in instructs. I saw both pitchers
first start and liked Weickel a little more, but they were both only one
Morrie (NJ): Did Jose Valentin's son get any rave reviews this year?
Morrie, Jesmuel Valentin showed a lot of
baseball savvy (not surprising, since he comes from big league roots).
He was better early in the season but tired in the second half because
he was playing just about every day for the Dodgers. His tools are
pretty much average across the board. He's selective at the plate and
switch hits. Valentin may profile better as a utility infielder. I liked
him and have him in my top 30.
Kyle (Dallas): In last year's AZL chat, you told us to keep an eye on Shawn Duinkerk. Still feel this way?
Kyle, there is still something that
intrigues me about Duinkerk but he's really, really raw. To give you an
idea, I heard that he never faced a left-handed pitcher before coming to
the U.S. I think he'll need another AZL season before he's ready to
move up. He just needs a lot more experience, but the raw athleticism is
Shawon Dunston (Sr.)'s Clone (Nearby): What did you think of my son's game, Mr. Mitchell?
Shawon Dunston Jr. showed a much better
swing late in the season. He was overmatched in the Northwest League
early in the year but to his credit he didn't mope after being sent back
to the AZL. He's got solid makeup and is a hard worker.
Ty (Baltimore): Did Tanner Rahier have enough IP to qualify? Thoughts on his pitches?
Ty, Tanner Rahier fell way short of
having enough innings, since he strictly played infield. However, he did
have enough ABs to qualify but didn't show enough offensive upside to
merit consideration for the list. He's an average defender at third base
and may profile better as a utility infielder.
Navin (Pasadena, CA): Obviously they didn't
have enough innings to qualify but which of the young Cubs pitchers
amongst Dillon Maples, Paul Blackburn, Duane Underwood and Ryan McNeil
impressed you the most? Which one is the most advanced?
Navin, Maples and Underwood are the two
pitchers from your list that stood out. Maples was 91-96 with the
fastball and showed a good curveball. While the numbers weren't there in
his brief appearances, Underwood impressed scouts with a fastball that
touched 97 and a good easy motion.
Grant (Chicago): What does Duane Underwood need to work on? Did he and Paul Blackburn get any consideration for the list?
Grant, I just addressed Underwood in the
previous question. Blackburn was impressive at times, although a little
inconsistent with his velocity. He's got an athletic build with smooth,
Josh (Oakland): Who would you say is more advanced as a hitter, Russell or David Dahl?
Josh, I only saw Dahl play one time on
one of my Pioneer League excursions but was very, very impressed with
him. Both Russell and Dahl have a tremendous amount of upside, so I
can't pick one as being more advanced right now. They are both very good
Mike (Cincinnati): Jonathan Reynoso led the league in steals while also hitting .311. What are the reports on him saying?
Mike, I got some good reports on Reds
outfielder Reynoso and he was one of the guys in my 21-25 range. He's
got plus speed and should add more power as he fills out. In the
outfield, he's got a strong arm but needs to improve his routes. They
moved him from right to center out of necessity and he handled that
position well. He's an aggressive player and plays hard every day. He
needs experience and better baseball instincts, but he's definitely one
to keep on the radar.
Elliot (YOungstown OH): The Indians don't much
have much talent anywhere but they do have a lot of young shortstops
(Lindor, Paulino, Ronny Rodriguez). Where do you think Paulino will
wind up and how soon will he get there? Indians are desperate!
Elliot, there's a lot to like about
Paulino, but don't forget that he's only 17 and is likely at least four
or five years away from reaching Cleveland. Opinions are mixed as to
whether he can stay at shortstop but the Indians will keep him there for
now. The bat will play regardless of where he winds up, and one scout
said that he'd be an above average regular in a corner outfield spot.
@Jaypers413 (IL): Your impressions of AZL Indians' Jorge Martinez?
There are several questions about
Martinez in the queue so I'll address him now. He's a bit of a
polarizing prospect —- some observers love him and others see a lot of
flaws in his game. I really planned on working him into the top 20
despite the fact that it was his third year in the league. He got
stronger this year and had a better feel for what he could do with
pitches. Some observers think he can handle third base while others
believe he's better suited to an outfield corner. The enormous potential
is still there, but now I want to see more consistency from him and to
see him challenged by moving to a higher level.
PT (IBC): Aside from Puig, anyone else who didn't qualify catch your eye?
We've got several questions about Cuban
outfielder Yasiel Puig in the queue so I'll handle them now. Puig is an
absolute beast. I really don't think he even knows how strong he is. I
saw him hit balls without solid swings that carried to the fence. He
would watch the balls out of the batters box and not realize how hard he
hit it. Needless to say, he's better than some of the early reports on
him. His swing is much cleaner and he was in much better physical
condition. I'm really intrigued by the guy —- he's one of those players
that you just can't look away from when he's on the field. He would
have easily been a top ten prospect if he had qualified. More than just a
few AZL observers liked him better than Jorge Soler.
ScottAZ (Phx, AZ): If Russell had to move does his bat profile better at 2b or does he have the pop to profile at 3b?
Scott, Russell's bat would profile well
at any position, but right now I don't see any reason why he will have
to move off shortstop. He's got the range and arm to stay there, and he
got himself into good physical condition prior to the season.
Chuck (Wichita): Who were the top Royals?
Chuck, I mentioned Miguel Almonte at the
beginning of the chat. Also just missing the list was outfielder Alexis
Rivera, who should have gone much higher than the 10th round. He's a
big, athletic kid who scouts really loved. The most favorable comment I
got from a scout was he liked how much his hands worked in the zone.
Rivera struggled with his routes in right field and was more comfortable
when they moved him to left. If he profiles better as a left fielder,
then the bat is really going to have to develop. One scout labeled him
as a high risk, high reward prospect, and I think that's appropiate.
Roger (Washington, DC): The Giants club obviously wasn't one of the stacked rosters in the AZL this year. Any good sleepers on that Giants roster?
Roger, you are right —- the Giants
didn't have any high profile prospects that qualified but there were a
few interesting guys. Scouts liked Tyler Hollick, a local juco
outfielder with plus speed and good baseball instincts. Another
interesting player is shortstop John Polonius, who is from Curacao but
played juco ball in New York state and then a year at West Virginia. He
has a lean, projectable shortstop body and showed some good hitting
skills, although he needs to get stronger. Polonius has an interesting
backstory —- do a search on his name and read about how he wound up in
the United States.
Joe LeCates (Easton, MD): Mr. Mitchell, thank
you for the chat today - and thank you as always for the outstanding
photography! What was the word from scouts on Nick Williams this year in
Arizona? A raw high school draftee, who has some pretty interesting
tools and ended up (surprisingly) making some pretty solid adjustments
to pro ball.
Joe, thank you for the compliments. Nick
Williams was considered for the list. He's an interesting power/speed
prospect with a potentially high upside if it comes together for him.
His defense is not good and he lacks baseball instincts. I hesitate to
use the high risk / high reward label again, but it really applies to
Williams. He can be very good but has a long way to go.
Ajax (Fairfax, VA): A lot of Ranger fans are excited about C.J. Edwards. How fast could he rise? How good of a prospect is he?
Ajax, I'm a big, big CJ Edwards fan. I
think he's got the arsenal and the attitude to move quickly, but keep in
mind that he's still relatively inexperienced and needs to fill out his
very lean frame. I saw one inning of his first instructs outing on
Saturday and reports were that he was using his changeup more. With such
a great feel for his secondary pitches and velocity that could someday
be hitting triple digits, there's a lot to like about Edwards' future.
Rod (Seattle): Does Jaypers have a life, or is he just a shill for BA to make sure all the "important" questions get asked?
I don't know Jaypers personally —- I
just regularly see his chat questions and follow him on Twitter. But I
love your question and want to put it out for Jaypers to later provide a
little biographical info. Thanks.
Jeff (PA): So, how raw is Amir Garrett?
Jeff, Amir Garrett is very raw but
somewhat promising. I only saw the Reds left-hander one time. His
delivery is very rough and his velocity fluctuated quite a bit, but he
showed a good curveball and good composure on the mound. Assuming he
sticks with baseball, he's a good pitching prospect but it will take
time as long as he spends the rest of the year playing basketball.
DH (Pittsburgh): Is this list more an indication that the player had a good year or that he is a good prospect?
Is Addison Russell the top prospect on this list- would you rank him highest on your personal list?
DH, this is a list of the best prospects
and not necessarily who had the best year. I've never wavered from my
belief that Russell was the best prospect in the league but that he's
closely followed by Almora, Gallo, Soler and Paulino. The fact that he
also put up very good numbers certainly didn't hurt his prospect status.
ttnorm (Connecticut): Did Timmy Lopes get consideration for the list?
Mariners infielder Lopes did get some
consideration for the list. He had a very good season, primarily playing
second base for the Mariners. He's more of a gamer type than a tools
guy, but has some hitting skills and can handle either middle infield
Mike (Boston): What were the reviews on the Diamondbacks SS/2B Andrew Velazquez?
Mike, you just hit on one of my favorite
players who didn't make the list, although he was in my top 25 or 30.
Velazquez can certainly hit, with above average bat speed and good
hands. His speed (I got grades ranging from 60 to 70 on him) plays up
well. He's very athletic and just does a lot of things right. He had
never played second base before coming to the AZL, and really didn't
play infield in high school until his senior year, but was a quick study
after they put him at second to stay.
Jake (Chicago, IL): Hi Bill, had he pitched
enough innings to qualify, would Kyle Zimmer have ranked as the Arizona
League's top pitching prospect over C.J. Edwards and Max Fried?
Thanks for the chat and taking my question.
Jake, I haven't thought about that one
before since Zimmer didn't stay in the AZL very long and was really only
there because he was coming off an injury from late in his college
season. But I think he'd have ranked as the top pitcher just because
he's closer to the big leagues and more advanced than Fried. I only saw
him pitch once, but what incredible movement on his fastball.
Jimmy (Palo Alto): What was your impression of the Athletics BJ Boyd?
Jimmy, I liked Boyd but he's very raw,
primarily because he was more of a football player in high school (and
he still looks like a football player!). Right now the success he has on
the field comes primarily from his physical ability because of his
limited baseball experience. He's very explosive on the bases now and
could develop into an interesting power/speed guy.
Elliot (Youngstown OH): It's a long way from
the Arizona League to the American League, but do you foresee Paulino as
a 300 hitter or a 30 home run hitter or maybe even both?
Elliot, you are correct in stating that
it's a very long way from the AZL to the American League, especially for
Paulino who is still only 17. I could envision Paulino being that kind
of hitter but it's way too early to project those kind of numbers. Just
enjoy watching him along the way.
Gary (Mesa,AZ): I was just wondering, are you a
scout or do you work directly for BA and get your info from other
scouts? Thanks for all the helpful info!
Gary, I am not a scout and don't work
full-time for BA. I get my info for this report by talking to managers,
coaches and scouts, not to mention the fact that I'm out at the ballpark
every night during the season and at least consider myself an "armchair
Ray (Austin): How would you rank Russell,
Almora, Gallo and Soler as overall prospects (not just AZL performance)?
And where would Puig fit in there?
Ray, I do the ranking here based on
overall prospect status, so I'd keep Russell, Almora, Gallo and Soler in
that exact order. Puig would be right there with those four players but
at this point until we see more of Puig I don't want to guess where
he'd fit in that group. But he certainly is a very intriguing prospect.
Bob Sacamento (Ft Myers): Hi Bill, Vogelbach
showed a good stick with power and eye at the plate but is that all he's
ever going to be? Or can he stay at first base? I know there's not too
many guys his size playing proball.
Bob, you are right on target about
Vogelbach. There aren't many players his size in pro ball. He gets
compared at times to Prince Fielder but it's not a good comp because
Fielder is much more athletic. Perhaps the defense will develop or
perhaps he'll wind up in the American League as a DH. But the bat is
Jay (Ca.): What was your impression of the Juan Carlos Paniagua?
Paniagua looked very good in his few appearances. He was up to at least 97 (and maybe 98) with an easy delivery.
Thanks for all of the questions, and feel free to hit me on Twitter at @billazbbphotog.
The deep pool of talent in the AZL this
year is now rivaled by the deep pool of thoughtful, intelligent
questions from our BA readers. But now I've got to head off to an
instructional league game to see how Addison Russell is looking this
month! Thanks again.