2012 South Atlantic League Top 20 Prospects Chat With Bill Ballew
Welcome everyone! Let's see your burning questions regarding the South Atlantic League....
@Jaypers413 (IL): Would you say Foltynewicz is ready for Lancaster? Your opinion of his secondary stuff this past season?
I thought he was ready midway through this
past season, to be honest. The Astros, however, wanted to make sure he
had a solid foundation. He ran out of steam a little bit late, which is
understandable given the workload. His secondary stuff was much better
this year than it was in 2011 but the entire package is going to
continue to need some polish. He's definitely headed in the right
Lisa (San Francisco, CA): Between Crick and Blackburn, who are you higher on in terms of pitches and ceiling?
Both pitchers had great seasons at Augusta
and both have great makeup. Based on overall talent as well as their
ceiling, I like Crick as many as any pitcher in the league this year. I
felt after he quit overthrowing early in the season that he was on par
with Jose Fernandez. Crick reminds me a lot of a young Matt Cain, which
is about as good as it gets.
Ben (Leland Grove): During the limited amount of time he got to play, what did evaluators have to say about Josh Bell?
I absolutely love Josh Bell. He's a great
kid and an outstanding five-tool player. I saw him several times in the
first month of the season before he got hurt and I thought I was
watching the best prospect among position players in the league. Several
scouts I spoke with thought along those same lines. He's still a little
raw, but once he gets some experience under his belt, he has a chance
to be a star.
Ike (NY): Rumor has it Blake Swihart is impressing quite a bit in instructs. Do you believe he will be repeating the Sally League?
I don't think he will, based in large part
on the progress he made over the course of the season at Greenville.
His manager, Carlos Febles, raved about Blake's improvements in all
areas of the game. He really started to show a feel for the ups and
downs the game presents at the professional level and made steady
strides with his work behind the plate. His bat will play at higher
levels, so I believe he's ready for Salem and the Carolina League in
Rafe (Dallas, TX): Between Montero, Tapia and Fulmer, who has the most impressive arsenal and the most polish, in your opinion?
Good question. Fulmer probably has the
most polish of the three right now, and Tapia may have the best pure
stuff. I feel all three of those guys are a little underrated in the big
picture. In fact, I believe Savannah had much more talent than a lot of
people gave them credit for.
Dick (Jersey): Whose toolbox is bigger between Trevor Story and David Dahl?
Having seen Story play many times this
year and Dahl not at all, I'm not the best source for this question.
Having said that, Story is a stud. He's much better than advertised at
shortstop and has a well-above-average approach at the plate who will
hit for power and average at higher levels.
Sam (Chicago): Did the Nats buy themselves a proverbial lemon in Matt Purke? Can he return to form?
I loved Matt Purke when he was a freshman
at TCU but the fact is he hasn't been the same guy since the Horned
Frogs made the run to the College World Series. He was unimpressive once
again in 2012, and he received virtually no love from the scouts I
talked to. Being lefthanded, he'll get plenty of opportunities to prove
if he's capable of succeeding in pro ball, but right now he's little
more than a big question mark.
Ben (Leland Grove): Is Henry Owens likely to remain as a SP in the near future? Was he close to this list?
He was very close to this list and
actually was one of those guys who bounced on and off as the scouting
reports were weighed and different people were contacted. Right now I
still see him as a starting pitcher. Many major league relievers were
starters in the minors and Owens might wind up in that category.
Brian (Iowa City, IA): I'm shocked Luis Sardinas is not in the top 20. What did scouts say about him?
Going into the process of accumulating the
information and interviews I expected Sardinas to make the list as
well. I believe some observers were a little concerned that he had a
better first half than his second-half performance, but there were
several things that came into play, including a few minor injuries. He's
definitely a prospect, much like a handful of other players with
Hickory that didn't make the list.
Ryan (Pittsburgh): Between Hanson and Polanco, who had the bigger breakout season overall, according to the experts?
Probably Hanson. Both of those guys
received love from just about every manager in the league that I spoke
with as well as from most scouts. Hanson has so much ability up the
middle, even if he moves over to second base down the road, while
Polanco showed so much athleticism, especially for his size. Both of
those guys appear to have very high ceilings.
Carter (Atlanta): Why did Alex Wood not make the list? He had a fantastic half year and statistically was dominating.
He was another guy who was on and off the
list. If my opinion played a heavier role in determining these guys,
Wood would be on it. I think scouts are a little concerned about the
funky delivery he has, and some considered him to be a college guy
dominating less-experienced hitters. I believe both of those evaluations
are overrated. He can be filthy when he's in rhythm, and the Braves
raved about the adjustments he made after signing as a second-round
@Jaypers413 (IL): Before the season began, there was talk of Alex Meyer becoming an eventual reliever. Has his season convinced scouts otherwise?
I think so, at least for now. He did a
much better job of repeating his mechanics in his delivery, which in
turn helped him command his pitches with more consistency. He has great
size and an improving repertoire, which should allow him to remain in
the rotation for the foreseeable future.
Rick (San Diego): What were the scouts saying
about Will Swanner. Very surprised he was not in the top 20. I know his
bat is ahead of his defense but prior to a late season injury he had to
have been in the discussion for player of the year in the SAL. BA also
had him as the 2nd team all minor league catcher and he does not make
Swanner is a guy who received evaluations
that were all over the board. He was not the same player after getting
hurt in early August and looked lost at the plate upon his return.
Nevertheless, his bat will play at higher levels. His defense is not
only behind his catching but I don't see him staying back there for the
long haul. He works hard but the improvement is not overwhelming. Look
for him to move to one of the four corners in the near future.
Austin (Amherst MA): Why Story ahead of
Polanco? Seems like there is a decent chance that he might have to move
off SS while Polanco seems likes a sure bet in CF. Polanco outproduced
him all year and seems to have potential 5 tool upside. Story's ceiling
I wouldn't move Story off shortstop just
yet. Yes, Tulo is a mainstay at the position in Colorado, but he might
be the guy who moves to third when a younger Story is ready to
contribute at the major league level. Polanco has everything you want to
see in a center fielder, but he might wind up in right if he adds any
significant weight at higher levels. Story's approach at the plate is
much better right now, which is probably the biggest reason for the
slightly higher ranking.
Brett (Tampa): How close are Tyler Austin, Gary
Sanchez and Mason williams? It seems each prospect list has them ranked
differently? Are they pretty much interchangable?
I think certain evaluators like certain
players better than others based on a few things they notice at
particular times. Austin is the least-heralded of the three, but he's
the guy I like best because of his all-out approach to the game. Sanchez
is the best hitter of the three but there is some concern about where
his defensive ability will play. Williams has a world of natural ability
but I have concerns about his makeup and the way he plays the game at
times. That's just my opinion, but those same thoughts were repeated to
me on many occasions.
Craig (Miami, FL): Bill,
Brent Keys had a great year but is considered a prospect or was he just old for the league ? Thank you
Brent did have a great year and he was
close to making the list. His age definitely played a factor in his not
making the list but I believe he will overcome that stigma if he puts up
a similar campaign next season.
Al (Wisconsin): How far did Bichette Jr. fall after his struggles this season?
He fell somewhat, but he's still a young
guy trying to discover exactly what type of player he is and is going to
be. He's a little overshadowed by the likes of Austin, Sanchez,
Williams, et al, and he would be considered more of a premier prospect
if he were in another organization. That said, I think he's making the
proper adjustments and learning to be more of a contact hitter than a
guy who could put up big power numbers.
Patrick (Lake Forest, CA): Any Braves prospects worth noting?
Alex Wood was the player closest to making
the list. I'm also high on Kyle Kubitza. He made some adjustments as
the year went on and could be on the verge of putting together a solid
season next year in the Carolina League. Robby Hefflinger is a sleeper.
He has a great approach to the game and seemed to discover where his
abilities fit best on the field as the 2012 season went on. The 2013
campaign will go a long way in determining Hefflinger's ceiling.
Mick (Chicago): What does Cecchini lack to play
his high school position shortstop? I thought it was quickness/speed
but after reading his scouting report it would appear not.
I believe the knee injury he suffered
earlier in his career really prevented him from continuing at short. He
has a very strong arm and above-average quickness at third base. With a
little more experience at the hot corner, I believe Cecchini will be a
standout defensive player and an above-average offensive player.
Alex (NYC): It seems like Aderlin Rodriguez
(Savannah) took a very positive step forward in his development this
year by increasing his avg (.274 - .223), his walk rate (8.2% - 5.2%),
his slg (.497 - .376) and lowering his error total. Plus he was one of
the youngest players in the league. Did Aderlin get any consideration
for this list? How about Maron or Taijeron?
Yes, all of the players you mentioned were
strong contenders for the list. I thought Rodriguez had a very
impressive season and I really liked what I saw from Taijeron. As I
mentioned earlier, Savannah had upwards of 10 true prospects who played
for the Sand Gnats at some point this season. Rodriguez was the best
position player of the group. Be patient, Mets fans, I believe the tide
is slowly turning for more success in the not-too-distant future.
Pierre (Ottawa, Ontario): Do you think Mike Foltyniewicz has the potential to be a starter in the major leagues?
He does if he continues to develop his
secondary pitches. Right now he's a little fringy in that area. At the
same time, he was much more of a pitcher this year after being primarily
a thrower in the league in 2011.
Norm (Connecticut): Thanks for the chat, Bill.
Do Mason Williams tools play down because of his attitude? Or put
another way, would he have ranked higher if he had a better makeup?
Yes and yes. I don't want to label him as a
bad guy because I don't know Mason personally. At the same time, there
are some concerns based on the way he carries himself and performs on
the field. Of course, my opinion means nothing; those situations are for
Williams and the Yankees to work on.
carlos (philly): Maikel Franco had 1 of the best second halves in milb as a 19 year old. Is he 1 of the elite 3b prospects in milb?
He has the potential to be that good, yes.
According to several scouts, there were times this year when they could
literally see the light come on for Franco. He has a deep tool kit and a
high ceiling that should allow him to make adjustments as well as
improvements as he continues to advance to higher levels.
Dean (LA): Clayton Blackburn and Tyler Anderson both had big seasons but missed your top 20. Will either be a MLB starter?
I believe they both can be. Anderson was
outstanding, and like Blackburn, he bounced on and off the lower half of
the list as everything was being accumulated. Anderson is not
overpowering and will need to continue to stay ahead of hitters with his
pitchability at higher levels. Of the two, I believe Blackburn has the
better chance of remaining a starter but at this point both will
continue along those lines in the near future.
Rafa (Los Angeles): Alen Hanson cracked the
Mid-season Top 50 while Polanco did not. Does Polanco crack the Top 50
now and where would you rank him if so?
I don't have much input into BA's Top 50
but I believe Polanco is in that range. He's probably in the lower half
but could continue to make major strides along the list if he continues
to do what he did this year at higher levels.
Vern (Corpus Christi): Edwin Escobar finished very strong for Augusta, what do you see for his future?
You can't take anything away from the
dominance Escobar showed this year. He turned 20 early in the season and
was unhittable for much of the campaign. Relievers in the lower minors
tend to get overlooked on lists like this one, and I believe Escobar is
definitely a pitcher to keep an eye on in the near future.
Rafa (Los Angeles): Jorge Alfaro missed
significant time with minor injuries. Where would he rank? 21-25? What
were the scouts saying he needs to improve besides his approach?
Alfaro was another casualty of a deep and
talented league. In years past, he could have made this list. You hit
the nail on the head regarding his approach at the plate. He's
definitely a major league prospect and I believe he and a handful of
other Crawdads will be toiling in the big leagues down the road.
jack (lexington, ky): Where would nick tropeano have been on the list had he been in Lexington all season?
Probably so. He pitched very well with
Lexington before receiving a promotion and looks to be on the fast track
to Houston. He's yet another guy who fell victim to a deep and talented
league in 2012.
Dave (Atlanta): Brandon Drury and Carlos Perez
were major disappointments for Rome. Which of the two do you think is
more likely to regain prospect status next year?
Fortunately for both players, they're
relatively young, which means they will get more opportunity. Drury
played first and third base and didn't seem to get in a rhythm either
defensively or offensively during the season. He didn't show an ability
to make adjustments to what pitchers were doing to him, which he will
have to do when he likely repeats at Rome in 2013. Perez has been an
enigma since he was tabbed as the top prospect in the Appalachian League
a couple of years ago. He has not had any success at Rome in a couple
of opportunities. The Braves put him in the bullpen upon sending him
back to Danville this summer. Due to his limited repertoire,
particularly in terms of throwing all of his pitches for strikes,
Perez's best chance appears to be as a reliever.
Grant (NYC): Is Fernandez ready for Double-A?
I believe he is. He was a man among boys
in the South Atlantic League and scouts seemed to like what they saw of
him in the Florida State League. He looks to be on the fast track to the
Thanks for all of the great questions. I
apologize for not getting to all of them but that would take all night.
Anyway, thanks for reading and I look forward to chatting again in the
near future. Enjoy the postseason!