2012 Northwest League Chat
Hey everybody! Happy Friday and thanks
for subscribing to Baseball America and taking the time to read my
Northwest League Top 20. This is my fourth year doing the league and
it's always fun to see players you've ranked make it to the big leagues.
Several players from my first NWL list (Brett Jackson, Ryan Wheeler,
Robbie Ross and Rob Scahill) made their MLB debut this year. Lots of
great questions in the queue, so let's get to it!
@Jaypers413 (IL): As this league wasn't as
enhanced by the earlier signing deadline as the others that, up to this
point, have been, if you stacked up this list against last year's, which
one has more depth and ceiling to it?
A fine place to start...Yeah, I expected
the league to be a little better this year with the earlier signing
deadline, but it seems like other young leagues got bigger boosts from
that. That's how it goes with the eight-team leagues, I guess. Last
year's list is better. I would take Zunino over last year's No. 1, Blue
Jays lefthander Justin Nicolino, easily. But going down the rest of the
top 10, there aren't many guys who I would take ahead of last year's
player in that spot except probably Joe Ross over Joe Panik.
Harry (Chicago): Where would Joey Gallo have ranked? thx
What a huge year for Gallo! That was
awesome to see. I still have questions about how much he'll hit (he did
strike out 78 times in 59 games, so it's obvious he'll need to make some
adjustments), but he's in the handful of guys in consideration for best
power in the minors. He would have been an easy No. 2 if he qualified
(and none of the other guys like Almora and Stratton did too).
Ben (Leland Grove): Do NWL evaluators see a future in the bullpen for Joe Ross, or can he remain a SP?
He has the repertoire, athleticism and work ethic to remain a starter.
Eric (San Fran): Is Stratton likely to repeat this league next year, or are the Giants convinced he can hold his own at Augusta?
I haven't heard anything definitive, but I'd be shocked if Stratton doesn't start next year in Low-A.
Frank (Denver): Should we Rox fans write off Peter Tago, or is there hope?
There's certainly cause for concern, but
no, don't write him off just yet. Tago's performance has been dreadful,
but he still has plenty of talent and athleticism. And it wasn't just
Rockies folks I spoke to who still liked him. I talked with opposing
coaches and scouts who still liked Tago. He sits 89-93 and showed a good
73-75 mph curveball. With regard to his trouble throwing strikes, it
sounds like that's a combination of being too mechanical in his delivery
(limiting his athleticism) and a lack of focus or confidence on the
Carlos (Seattle): Can we conceivably see Zunino playing at Safeco sometime next season?
That's too aggressive, I think. He needs
to fine-tune some things behind the plate and learn how to handle a pro
staff. But I could see him battling for a spot in spring 2014.
Ernie (Seattle): Connor,
Where would Roberto Osuna have placed if he had qualified ?
Lots of "Where would this guy" rank
questions in the queue. So, here's how I think the Top 8 would have
looked if the guys mentioned in the intro had qualified: Zunino, Almora,
Stratton, Gallo, Vogelbach, Sanchez, Ross, Osuna.
Roger (Washington DC): What's your take on
Chuckie Jones at this point? Doomed to future as A ball BP legend, or is
there a glimmer of possibility for development of his tools
He has some tools, but he's more suspect
than prospect at this point. There are definitely pitch-recognition
issues, but it also sounds like his problem is partly mental and that he
needs learn that baseball is a daily grind and be able to forget his
Jon (Peoria): The obvious comp on Vogelbach based on the body is Prince Fielder. But is he anywhere near that comp for the bat?
Prince Fielder is just special. He has
258 home runs (and counting) over the first eight seasons of his career.
Thanks to Baseball-Reference's Play Index, I can tell you that ranks
10th all-time and it's more than Hank Aaron, Willie Mays, Mickey Mantle,
Miguel Cabrera, Alex Rodriguez, Ken Griffey Jr., Manny Ramirez, Mike
Schmidt, Vladimir Guerrero, Mark McGwire and Barry Bonds, to name a few.
Fielder is more athletic than Vogelbach, was drafted 61 spots higher
and his dad played in the big leagues. So this is a roundabout way of
saying, no, Prince Fielder is not a good (or fair) comparison for
Vogelbach. I think a better comparison would be John Kruk.
Josh (Oreong): After watching Mac Williamson
for most of the year I was impressed with his skills but I kind of see
him topping out around AA. Is he projected as a potential major league
player or was the northwest league just really down this year in talent?
Like I've mentioned, it was a down year.
I always want every player I rank to make it to the big leagues, but
the reality is that at least half the guys on this list, maybe more,
probably won't. That's just how it works and what makes ranking players
so fun and challenging.
Mike (PA): Vogelbach and Sanchez are back to
back at a combined 505 lbs! You don't often see top prospects that big.
We've heard a lot about how the big body might effect Vogelbach, but
are there similar concerns about a 255 lb 17 yr old pitcher?
Yeah, when I submitted my list to Jim
Callis, he thought that might be a record combined weight for the No. 2
& 3 prospects in a league. There's no way I'm taking the time to
find out for sure, but it's a good bet. I think it's less of a concern
for pitchers than it is for hitters. Sanchez is huge, but he's also very
muscular. On paper, they look similar, but in person they have very
different physiques. Sanchez is huge, but he's ripped. Teammates called
him Ray Lewis around the clubhouse!
Navin (Pasadena, CA): Did you hear anything about Boise's Jose Arias? He put up some interesting numbers and I've heard he has tremendous velocity.
Navin, I did get some information on
Arias, though I wouldn't say he was close to making the list. You're
right about his fastball—he has a power arm and sat in the 93-95 mph
range. But his offspeed stuff needs a lot of work and he's very young.
He needs to do a better job preparing between starts and keeping his
composure on the mound.
Matt (Brussels,belgium): Is Vogelback a top 100 guy? Is a good comp Fielder? As a big guy one concern is work ethic, what were you hearing about his?
Already covered the Fielder thing, but no—the only Top 100 guy on this list is Zunino.
Peter O. (Coeur d'Alene, ID): Trey Martin
really stood out to me watching him this year, as you can really see the
tools. What do you think is the main aspect of his game that he needs
to focus on to really take off next year?
Hey, Peter. I was just in Coeur d'Alene
for my sister's wedding a couple weeks ago and loved Hudson's Hamburgers
& Java On Sherman! Martin is certainly toolsy and has the type of
body that could add 15-20 pounds without sacrificing athleticism. The
biggest thing he needs to work on is pitch recognition and swing
mechanics. His swing is a little long now, so he's vulnerable to
fastballs inside. If he can learn to shorten up and turn on those
fastballs, that will allow him to track balls a little longer, which
will help his pitch recognition on breaking balls. That's how Bill
Buckner explained it to me and he had 2,715 hits in the big leagues.
After that, Martin needs to work on getting better jumps on the
basepaths. He has very good speed, but was only 6-for-11 in stolen bases
Jon (Peoria): Is it safe to say that Bruno is
more polished than Amaya right now but that Amaya has a higher ceiling?
Does either have a higher ceiling at 2b than Logan Watkins in the Cubs
Yeah, I believe that's fair to say, Jon.
Bruno profiles as a better pure hitter, but Amaya has the edge in
power, speed and defense. Watkins (who ranked as the No. 19 prospect on
this list in 2009) is still at the top of that group, but it's a nice
problem to have. I'm not writing off Zeke DeVoss, either!
gerry (toronto): Was Vancouver's Javier Avendano close to the top 20. His numbers were as good as Cole's.
Avendano was a minor league Rule 5 guy
from the Cardinals system and 2012 was his fifth year in pro ball. He
pitches in the 88-92 mph range and succeeded because he can really hit
his spots, has some late life and deception. But that's about it right
now and, while he did put up good numbers, it's tough to get excited
Evan (Seattle): How does Zunino compare past
top catching prospects? Does he have the ceiling to be in the same class
as someone like Matt Wieters?
Zunino's not quite in that class. He's
not as good as Posey, Santana and Wieters. But he might be the best
catching prospect in the minors. I think it'll be close between him and
Josh (California): How "real" do you think
Stephen Bruno's season was and how much of it was the NWL? And what
position, if any, do you see him ending up at?
Bruno's always hit. The OBP was inflated
a little bit by how often he got Dos'ed and Bill Buckner told me he
better get a better elbow guard next year. He fits best at second base
and I could see him as an everyday guy there or as a super utility guy.
Josh (California): Do you think any of the Hawks players on the list are capable of skipping Kane County and going directly to Daytona?
Bruno's probably the only one with a shot at doing that.
Joe LeCates (Easton, MD): Hey, Conor! Kind of a
down year in the NWL this year, but a) I had to say what up and b) give
me some #personalcheeseball goodness: who ya got?
What's up, Joe? You know Everett first
baseman Taylor Ard has always been my personal cheeseball! I got some
mixed reviews on his pure hitting, but he has legit power to all fields.
But he's a right-right first baseman, so I got a lot of guys saying,
"He'll go as far as his bat takes him."
Jonathan (San Francisco): Since his bat would
likely profile just fine at catcher, any word on how well Marcus
Littlewood's skills behind the plate have progressed over the year? What
(if any) comps might you have for his peak?
I got some good reports on Littlewood.
He took to the new position well, which isn't really a surprise
considering his athleticism, soft hands and makeup. Scouts who saw him
this year didn't think his bat has really progressed much since high
school, but I had several sources tell me they still liked him and could
see him grinding his way into a future backup role in the big leagues.
Joe R (Newport News, VA): John Kruk didn't have a lot of power for a major-league first baseman. Will Vogelbach have more power than Kruk did?
Yeah, I do think he'll have a little more power. Maybe lefthanded Billy Butler is a better comp. Just not Prince Fielder.
Warren (New London): I'm wondering about Christopher Taylor, who played with Bruno
in college and played as well or better in the NWL before he
was promoted. Thanks for the list!
Taylor was a guy I expected to be on the
list when I first started sorting through things. There's a lot to like
there and, like Bruno, he's a steady, heady player. Taylor's manager
told me, "He's about as polished as you can be as a shortstop in your
first year. His angles to the ball were good, his transfers were very
good. He's not a real flashy player, but just solid at everything he
did. He's very fundamentally-sound." But I spoke to some scouts who
weren't real high on him. They thought he profiled as a weak-bat /
up-and-down utility kind of guy.
Jack (Toronto): I was surprised that Amaya
wasn't higher on the list, at least higher than Marco Hernandez. He
showed power, patience and speed this year. I understand defence is the
difference, but that Marco hasn't shown much power and very little
patience I would have thought they'd be flipped in the rankings. Can
you elaborate on your choice?
There really isn't a lot of separation
between 6-9. I gave Hernandez the edge for his ability to remain at
shortstop and his switch-hitting ability. We're projecting on this, so
while Amaya showed more present power, Hernandez projects to hit for
similar or better power as he continues to fill out.
Greg (Boise): Who are some of the players who qualified and just missed the list?
Okay, going team-by-team, the group of
guys who qualified and just missed making the list would be…Willson
Contreras, C, Boise (new to catcher, athletic with loud tools, very raw
in games), Genison Reyes, RHP, Eugene (BIG arm. Sits 92-94, but was up
to 98. Still learning how to pitch, fastball is straight), Justin
Hancock, RHP, Eugene (Thin kid with good stuff. Sits 90-93. Secondary
stuff needs work), Chris Taylor & Taylor Ard, who I mentioned on
Everett, Peter Tago, who I already wrote about, and then Blake Perry,
RHP, Yakima (90-92 with a good curveball and developing changeup) and
Enrique Burgos, RHP, Yakima (anywhere from 92-98 with a slider and
split. Just inconsistent. Struggles with strikes and is up in the zone a
Jesse (ABQ): Conor! You know we always love sleepers! Who ya got?
A good place to end it. The three
sleepers I have are all lefthanders. Michael Heesch from Boise, Will
Locante from Yakima and Brandon Alger in Eugene. Heesch and Alger are
starters and Locante is a power arm out of the bullpen. Keep an eye on
Thanks for all the great questions,
everybody. That's a wrap for me. Hit me up on Twitter with any other
questions and tune in Monday for Aaron Fitt's New York-Penn list,
scouting reports and chat. Have a great weekend and thanks again for
subscribing to Baseball America!