Appalachian League Top 20 Prospects Chat With Matt Eddy
Welcome to the 2012 Appalachian League
Top 20 chat. I've had the honor of ranking the league's finest prospects
every years since 2005 — with a year off in 2007 — and this year's
group ranks right up there with any previous class. The closest Appy
class in terms of qualify might be 2008, which featured Matt Moore,
Craig Kimbrel, Randall Delgado, Kelvin Herrera, Jordan Lyles, Wilmer
Flores, Tim Beckham, Paul Clemens and Greg Infante.
Also worth mentioning: You guys have
brought your A-game. I see a ton of interesting questions already
waiting in the queue. I'll try to answer as many as I can, as
thoughtfully as I can.
@Jaypers413 (IL): Despite his struggles in the
Appy league, the Jays promoted Daniel Norris to Vancouver anyway. Why do
you believe they did this?
And we'll begin with a Jaypers question.
This hasn't been articulated to me by the Blue Jays, but I suspect they
like to treat their Vancouver affiliate as sort of a stepping stone to
Low-A next season. By pushing the top Bluefield players to the NWL,
Toronto can expose its teen high school and international players to a
more advanced league setting for 2-3 weeks (counting the playoffs). This
theory jibes with the org's recent activity. They promoted RHP Roberto
Osuna, C Santiago Nessy, LHP Daniel Norris, CF D.J. Davis, LF Dwight
Smith Jr. and 2B Christian Lopes to Vancouver this year, after sending
RHPs Noah Syndergaard and Aaron Sanchez and LHP Justin Nicolino there
Ben (Leland Grove): Did Fred Ford and/or Kenny Diekroeger come close to this list?
The Royals who missed the cut would
probably stack up like this: SS Humberto Arteaga, RF Fred Ford and LF
Terrance Gore. Arteaga positions himself well, has sure hands, good body
control and a strong arm, but not everyone was sold on his ability to
play impact defense because he's a below-avg runner with 4.6 times to
first base and a thickening lower half. I didn't receive any glowing
recommendations on his ceiling with the bat. Ford can really put a
charge in the ball, and hit with power to all fields, but he'll have to
show he can make more contact after hitting .248 with 83 whiffs in 62
games. No player was more fun to watch bunt, run to first or chase down
balls in the outfield, but Gore has a lot of work to iron out his swing.
Still, he's an 80 runner, so the Royals will be in no hurry to give up
Carlos (Philly): Taking the names you mentioned
in your introduction (Carlos Correa, D.J. Davis, J.O. Berrios, Lance
McCullers Jr. and Keon Barnum), about where would they have ranked, had
I can tell you for certain that Correa,
Berrios and McCullers wold've made the top 10, probably the top 5-7.
Davis was in and out of Bluefield in 2 weeks, so not many got a good
look at him, but based on his tools he'd be a strong top-10 candidate.
@Jaypers413 (IL): Given the fast pace the Sox
like to promote their prospects, about how many years from Cellular
Field is Courtney Hawkins, assuming he stays on track?
Hawkins and (to a lesser extent) last
year's supplemental first-rounder Keenyn Walker (a JC product) will be
the test cases for Chicago. The White Sox hadn't made a high schooler
their top pick in 10 drafts before they took Hawkins. The fact that they
pushed Hawkins to High-A for the playoffs suggest he could begin there
in 2013 if he has a good spring training. Give him a year in Double-A in
2014, and a 2015 arrival doesn't seem outlandish.
Brian (Burbank, CA): Shocked if Roberto Osuna breaks out next year as top 25 pitching prospect or does he have a lot more developing to do?
The attractive thing about Osuna is that
he's already developed, physically and in terms of his feel for
pitching. While this means he should have little trouble with low-level
competition, it does leave open the question as to how high his ceiling
might be, given that we can't project the same amount of growth that we
can with other teen pitchers. Put it this way: Osuna is about as safe a
bet as there is among 17-year-old to one day develop into a mid-rotation
Ben (Leland Grove): Would you consider Luke Sims to be the same kind of mold as Sean Gilmartin and Mike Minor, or are you higher on him?
Sims is definitely cut from a different
cloth than Gilmartin or Minor, and you should expect different results.
Just don't expect them to come in Double-A until probably 2015. Sims
pitched and also played shortstop in high school, so he's not quite as
refined as other first-round pitchers, but still the Braves must be
excited with the raw tools — athleticism, plus fastball, plus curve —
they have to mold into a pitcher.
Tom (San Francisco, CA): Matt, the performances
of Matt Dean and Jacob Anderson were particularly disappointing.
What's the likelihood that either of them make the necessary adjustments
in order to move up the ladder? Thanks.
Tom asks about Blue Jays 2011 bonus
babies 3B Matt Dean and Corner OF Jake Anderson, both of whom signed out
of high school and didn't hit a lick in the Appy League this year. Dean
might have the highest ceiling among Bluefield's crop of high-school
position players (Anderson, LF Dwight Smith Jr., SS Dickie Joe Thon, 2B
Christian Lopes, et al.). One manager said that Dean has tremendous
hidden power, but at this point it's about working the pitcher to get a
good pitch to hit and taking confident swings. He should be fine at
third base. There were fewer silver linings with Anderson, who just
looked lost at the plate and hit .194 in 57 games as pitchers could just
expand the zone on him. If you're inclined to give him the benefit of
the doubt you could point to his youth, but at this point Anderson is
teetering close to non-prospect status.
Roger (Greenville, SC): How close was the comparison between Buxton, Hawkins, and Starling?
I felt fortunate when Buxton joined the
league and then qualified for the list because it gave the league a
sure-fire No. 1. Even allowing for Hawkins' probable move to RF, I think
his offensive ceiling separates him from Starling, who could be the
best defensive CF of the trio. The comp for Starling that made the most
sense to me was Drew Stubbs, a player with impressive raw power,
terrific range, a good arm but a swing that will suppress his batting
average, probably below the league average.
Jon (Baltimore): Would you take Max Kepler in a
heartbeat over Joey Gallo? I feel he has less raw power a but much
safer kind of investment(assuming they their pay checks were even),
Interesting question. If you can tolerate
the risk, then Gallo has the loudest tool of either player with his
power. Kepler has the higher floor, as they say, because he projects to
do many things well.
Eric (Atlanta): Can you explain what you mean
by "A wrist wrap compromises his control of his breaking ball" with
regard to Mauricio Cabrera? Also, what's his ulitimate ceiling as a
When a scout says a pitcher has a wrist
wrap, he's referring to the excess motion at the back of his arm swing,
where a pitcher will flick his wrist in an upward motion. The thought is
that since this motion complicates one's arm stroke and (theoretically)
makes it more difficult to repeat one's delivery taht it will affect
release point and thus command. Good examples of big leaguers with wrist
wraps are Ublado Jimenez or Homer Bailey.
Dave (Atlanta): Did any of Danville's other Latin players (RHPs Ernesto Silva and Williams Perez, 1B Aris Alcantara, OF Felix Marte) impress?
The two Danville prospects not ranked who
stood out were 3B Carlos Franco and RF Felix Marte. Franco is a fine
defensive third baseman with arm strength who switch-hits and has enough
power to be interesting. Marte is more of a long shot because he's
limited to the corner outfield, but he has good balance and bat control
at the plate. One manager described him as a quick-twitch player with
power, so he's at least interesting.
Ben (San Diego): You can only have one, Roberto Osuna or Rafael Montero. Who would you rather have?
For those who don't know, Rafael Montero
is a late-blooming RHP in the Mets system. He reached High-A this year
with a combined 110-19 SO-BB ratio. Picking between the two, I think
you'd have to take Osuna because he's accomplished much more at a
younger age and already has a second reliable pitch with his changeup.
He's also much more physical than Montero.
Richard B. (West Columbia, SC): What do you
think is the ceiling for Mauricio Cabrera from Atlanta? Does he project
as a #2/3 starter or a bullpen arm? Reports so far have been good and
the Braves have a track record of turning guys like Cabrera into very
serviceable MLB arms.
Cabrera has the raw tools to start, so
that's why he ranked as the league's top righty pitching prospect. He
could develop an intriguing mid-rotation profile if his breaking ball
takes another step forward in the next 2 seasons. Maybe you'd like to
see him miss more bats or walk fewer batters against Appy competition,
but that's just nitpicking when talking about an 18-year-old who has had
success and already holds 93-94 mph velocity though his starts.
gerry (toronto): What's the word on Jacob
Which of the non top 20 Bluefield hitters, Dwight Smith, Christian
Lopes, Dickie Thon, Matt Dean or Anderson was closest to the top 20?
Managers seemed to regard Smith as second
to Dean in terms of upside. Smith takes competitive at-bats but could
be a tough sell as a left fielder without profile power and without the
range for center. At this stage he's still interesting, though.
ttnorm (Connecticut): Was Christian Binford close to making the list?
An over-slot, 30th-round pick by the
Royals in 2011, RHP Christian Binford is 6-foot-7 and throws a heavy
ball. He bears watching in 2013, but in the context of this year's
league prospects he didn't garner much attention.
Chris (Boston): Hi Matt - what factors had you rank LHP Blake Snell over other players such as RHP Roberto Osuna and OF Max Kepler?
The big separator for Blake Snell was his
lefthandedness and the potential that he develops his slider and
changeup into consistent weapons. Lefties have an advantage over
righties in that last regard because they have to hone their changeups
in the low minors just to survive lineups stacked with 6, 7 or even 8
righty batters. Teams are always looking for strike-throwing, power
lefties, like Snell could be, to neutralize opponents'
heart-of-the-order lefty sluggers.
Tom (Long Beach, CA): Could you comment on 3B Travis Harrison's season (offense & defense)? (Elizabethton Twins - 1s 2011) Thank you!
I really expected to find more support
for Harrison, a Twins supplemental pick out of high school in 2011 who
hit well in the Appy League. As it turned out, managers had a litany of
concerns, ranging from his swing is too pull-oriented, with a bat path
that dips in and out of the zone; he's not quick enough to play third
base, and he has poor body control; his arm action is long and his
throws lack carry; and he didn't always play with confidence.
JR (Iowa): How many on this list do you think might make the top 100 overall prospects list?
Buxton would be a no-doubter, Hawkins has a good chance for the back half, and Starling would also be a back-half candidate.
Bill (Bozeman): Any interesting arms at Burlington?
In addition to Binford, who I mentioned
earlier, 2012 third-round LHP Colin Rodgers is probably your best bet.
His stuff faded down the stretch, but at his best he pounds the zone
with an average fastball and a rapidly-developing changeup. He threw
more of a curveball in high school, so the rapidity with which he picked
up the change is encouraging.
Zach (Lizard Lick, NC): What did evaluators have to say about Adam Brett Walker this season?
Twins third-rounder this year, Adam Brett
Walker has big-time power — maybe a 70 raw — but he needs to make
more contact for the juice to play. He's strictly corner OF material, so
it's all about the bat.
Roger (Greenville, SC): Why does Snell's
lefthandedness forcing him to develop his changeup give him an edge over
Osuna, who's best pitch is his advanced change?
Because the preferred No. 2 pitch of
choice for a righthanded starter is a breaking ball. Osuna won't face
nearly as many opposite-side hitters in game situations as Snell will,
just given the distribution of lefty and righty hitters in pro ball. To
reiterate, most scouts and managers like Osuna but view his ceiling as
lower because he doesn't have as much room to grow into it. Pitchers
with good changeups (and arm speed) typically carve up the low levels of
the minors. This does not condemn Osuna to a life of mediocrity, but
just be careful about reading too much into his strikeout totals at this
Laura (Miami): Is Oscar Hernandez (Princeton) someone to keep an eye on?
Yes, check back in a year on Rays C Oscar
Hernandez. He had a tough year this year, but his hitting approach and
defensive tools could lead to a breakout in 2013.
Brett (The ILL): What were the impressions of Steve Matz before the Mets shut him down?
The Mets top pick in 2009, Matz made his
pro debut with Kingsport this summer. He got shut down with shoulder
fatigue in July, but some reports had him touching 96 mph with explosive
life and showing feel for a breaking ball and changeup. If he had
stayed healthy, he probably would have made the back of the list.
JH (Berkeley): I know their performance wasn't
great and they didn't belong on or near the top 20, but did scouts have
anything good to say about either Philips Castillo or Martin Peguero
I talked with one scout who saw Mariners
LF Phillips Castillo good, and he was a candidate for No. 20 on our
list. Castillo has hitter's actions and a quick bat to handle good
velocity. It's not necessarily reflected in the numbers, but he also did
a good job of picking up spin and staying back on breaking balls.
Definitely don't write him off. I'm interested to see how he fares in
2013. Perguero did not receive anywhere close to that level of support
— he has a flailing hitting approach and doesn't recognize pitches
well. He also played a lot of second base this year, instead of
shortstop, and most seemed to regard him as an org player or emergency
Richard (Raleigh, NC): What type of reports did
you hear from scouts and managers concerning SS Jean Batista & OF
Ariel Ovando from Greeneville? Were either close to making the Top 20?
Astros RF Ariel Ovando rebounded nicely
from a poor debut with Greeneville in 2011, but still I couldn't find
much support for his prospect status around the league. He's a
low-energy player who might be facing a shift to first base/left field
in the future because he's a 30 runner. Ovando has incredible raw power
but a long swing that Appy pitchers could exploit. He could develop into
a low-average, all-or-nothing slugger, kind of like 2006 Braves
first-rounder Cody Johnson.
Wow, great questions this year. The Top 20 chats return tomorrow with Bubba Brown and the Pioneer League. Stay tuned.