2012 International League Top 20 Prospects Chat With John Manuel
Thanks for coming everyone. We had more meetings than anticipated today so I apologize for the delay.
Ben (Leland Grove): Tony Sanchez - prospect or suspect?
He's still a prospect, but certainly the
Pirates were hoping for more. The bat looks like more of a backup bat or
second-division bat. Reports on his defense were much more positive
than last year in the Eastern League, when he had the yips, and the arm
is plus. Catching is hard; he still has fair offensive tools. But few
ever saw him as an impact bat.
Mike (Tampa, FL): Had he not succombed to injury, about where would Alex Colome have placed, were he eligible?
I like Colome a lot; comparing him to
Chris Archer, he throws with similar velocity, touching 97-98, with the
fastball but throws a tick harder than Archer on a consistent basis. His
fastball command is probably a tick better too. His changeup is a much
better than Archer's, but his slider isn't the same quality, not by a
longshot. If you buy the breaking ball, you're talking about a frontline
starter potentially. If you don't, you're looking at a premium closer
with the dominant fastball-change combo. I lean toward the latter.
Frank (Chicago): Of those who are still eligible, how many of these 20 do you see making BA's top 100?
Very few are still eligible. The only ones
that jump out as possible top 100 guys are the mysterious Julio
Teheran, who sounded like Colome prior to this year, and DiDi
Gregorious, who is more of a solid prospect at a premium position rather
than an elite guy. The top guys who we thought would make the IL
list—guys like Bryce Harper, Will Middlebrooks, Zack Wheeler,
etc.—either got promoted too soon or promoted too late.
@Jaypers413 (IL): In your scouting report of
Archer, you said he could become either a #3 SP or a late inning
reliever. Which do you believe will be more likely at present?
I'm coming around on Archer as a starter.
Depends on the Rays a bit, but I think he made real progress with his
fastball command late. The scouts I talked to thought the command issues
related more to focus (almost analogous to giving away at-bats) as to
mechanical mistakes. It's too much to expect him to have premium command
that a true front-of-the-rotation guy would have, that's why I said No.
3 starter. But his combination of three pitches, loose arm, swing &
miss stuff, makeup and the aptitude he showed this year make me think
Ryan (Dallas): Where would Gerrit Cole have ranked? Thanx for the chat.
There's another guy who didn't pitch
enough to qualify. He got destroyed in the playoffs, which didn't augur
well. But after being behind other pitchers in the EL and FSL, I think
Cole would have topped the IL list. I am a Matt Harvey believer; he's
been pretty special since he came up with that slider at UNC. But I
would take Cole.
Ben (Leland Grove): Kyle Gibson certainly seems
to be on the road back, especially with yesterday's AFL start. Are his
pitches any better than before, or about the same? Is he still projected
to be a #4-5 SP?
Definitely one of the players I'll focus
on for the Twins Top 30; he was still in the top 10 last year even after
his Tommy John surgery, and in a system full of potential impact
hitters (Sano, Arcia, Rosario, Buxton), he's the best pitching prospect
at higher levels. We had a good report on him from the AFL on the
Prospects Blog today, particularly the velocity on both his fastball and
his slider, which always was a good pitch for him. If he regains the
feel for a change he had pre-injury, I can see him with more than a 4-5
ceiling. He can be more than a back-end guy if he can maintain that
velocity and throw strikes like he did before. Remember, he was once the
Twins' No. 1 prospect. He's about to turn 25; it's time for Gibson to
graduate to Minnesota next year. It's not like there isn't opportunity
in that rotation.
Paul (New York): No offense meant John, but
would you consider this list to be the weakest in terms of potential
when stacking it up against all of the other league top 20 lists this
Ha, I take no offense. I'm the one who
assigned the leagues this year! I gave myself the weakest collection of
talent, no doubt.
Kelly (Atlanta Georgia): Despite his struggles this year, would you still consider Teheran to be the Braves' #1 overall prospect?
Truth be told, I'm not sure who the
Braves' No. 1 prospect is right now. It should be Andrelton Simmons, but
he logged too much MLB time. Among pitchers, I almost prefer J.R.
Graham; always liked the quick-armed, athletic little guys who spin it
and throw hard. Terehan's breaking ball always was a question mark. Now
you throw in a velocity dip and iffy fastball command ... doesn't sound
like a No. 1 to me. I like Sean Gilmartin and Lucas Sims but not over
Teheran right now, and Christian Betancourt doesn't hit enough to be a
No. 1. It's a vexing question. If I had to pick right now, I suppose it
would be Graham for me, and believe me, I'm shocked that I am saying
@Jaypers413 (IL): If Tim Beckham's potential was a "10" when he was drafted, what number would you give it now?
It's pretty funny that I seem to have
become Tim Beckham's biggest defender not employed by the Rays. He
didn't help me much in an interview for the column I wrote on him,
making several big topics off-limits. That said, I've seen him and
talked to scouts around here about him for two seasons now (end of '11,
much of '12), both times in August. I can see why the Rays like him in
that he has solid righthanded power; he just doesn't control the strike
zone well enough to get to it. He was one of the youngest regulars in
the league this year, a big reason why he made the list. One scout I
talked to thought he was a Sean Rodriguez type; the other thought he was
better than that, a better hitter, a regular, everyday 2B. To answer
your question, I'll put it in 20-80 terms. If he was an 80 when he was
drafted, he's a 45 now. He's a fringe regular at this point. His ceiling
is about a 50/Medium (to use the Handbook term) on that scale — I can
see him becoming an average regular. I don't think that's optimistic or
pessimistic; I really think that's a realistic ceiling.
Randy (Detroit, MI): Should we write off Andy Oliver as a SP in the system? Is his future to be a 4A player?
He could be. I recall getting Alan Embree
comps on him earlier in his career, and he still throws that hard, but
he doesn't throw consistent strikes unless he dials it down. When he
does that, he's not special. Right now, he's a 4-A guy because he hasn't
shown the ability to get consistent outs with his fastball. You have to
throw strikes to do that.
Grant (NYC): How close to this list did Melky Mesa land? What are his biggest strengths?
Melquisedec didn't have the PA to qualify
but certainly made strides. Tools are still big and the defensive
ability is still there. His inability to control the strike zone remains
a constant, but it's hard to find center fielders with his
power-speed-defense combination. And hey, the Yankees already have a
center fielder hitting .220. I still see Melky as more of a fourth OF in
the Greg Golson mold with a small chance to turn into a Chris Young
type — power, speed, high Ks, good defense, low averages. I don't see
that as a Yankees regular.
MetsMan (NYC): Can Zach Lutz be a positive
piece for an MLB team? Which pitcher has the higher chance of sticking
in the rotation, Mejia or Famillia? And Edgin and Ramirez, future
closers? Productive middle relief?
In the right situation, sure, I can see
Lutz as a platoon 1B-DH type. Not much otherwise. Mejia and Familia were
covered in the reports but it seems like the Mets are putting both in
the bullpen. I ranked Familia ahead because the scouts and managers I
talked to thought he had a better chance to start, but no one was
putting themselves out there, staking their reputation that Jeurys would
start. Edgin and Elvin Ramirez are more setup types; Ramirez runs it up
to 98 but lacks much feel for his secondary stuff. Edgin has big velo
too for a lefty but I see him more as a specialist than as a closer.
Dave (Atlanta): Gwinnett's Ernesto Mejia had a
strong AAA debut season and was the IL's best power prospect in the
tools issue. With his poor defense, is he a viable platoon/bench player?
Surely he would have been a better pinch hitter for Atlanta than guys
like Eric Hinske or Tyler Pastornicky.
Well, Pastornicky runs and defends, which
makes him a useful reserve. Hinske, I can't explain that one but he has
veteran-ness I suppose. There wasn't a lot of competition for Best Power
in the Best Tools; Mejia won a bit by default, if I can speak for the
managers that voted. To me, he's a classic 4-A right-right 1B with some
stiffness that tends to struggle against premium velocity. He could have
a hot streak and have some MLB success, but he's not a true prospect.
Andrew (At Work): If you were to compare top
prep draft prospect from years past (Tim Beckham and Josh Vitters) Which
players would scouts, managers and GMs, prefer to have in their
organization? both have really failed to live up to their draft
position, but I would not be surprised if 3-4 years down the road one of
the two was able to contribute at the major league level, in a non star
type role with another organization, what do you think?
Interesting comp. I'd take Beckham
(obviously, I've become his champion!) because he's more athletic and
can play defense up the middle. But both have let their respective
organizations down to this point, no doubt. I think the Rays
over-estimated Beckham's athleticism. He is not a BJ Upton-level
Greg (London, ON): Hi - I guess I am surprised
to see the 26-year old Corey Kluber and reliever Cody Allen ranked
higher than RHP Zach McAllister. Can you elaborate? Thanks!
They both have bigger stuff than
McAllister, though McAllister did add some velocity this year. But
Kluber vs. McAllister, that really is a toss-up. Kluber's slider is a
better strikeout pitch than McAllister, which is why I went in that
direction. Cody Allen to me has a chance to close — closer velocity,
closer swing-and-miss breaking ball, closer confidence. He's more than a
setup guy. Kluber and McAllister are more 4th starter types, so I like
Allen's impact a bit more even if it's reliever vs. starter there.
Kevin (MN): I was surprised to see Chris
Parmelee so high (though it seems like it's not a terribly strong group
after the first four). Do you think he has the bat to be an average
regular at 1B moving forward?
Me too! The league was just that down, and
in the league context, Parmelee just crushed it. What did it most for
me was his aptitude and improvement after getting sent down early in the
year. I do think he has the bat to be a regular 1B, maybe more of a 2nd
division regular than a Morneau type certainly. But he has improved his
approach, closed up some holes and gotten to his power more
consistently in each of the last two seasons. He's no star but I think
he can be a solid regular and have an occasional 25-homer season.
Chris (Boston, MA): Hi - do scouts see Josh Phegley as anything more than a backup catcher at the major league level? Thanks!
Not really, no. Better defensively than was expected but not a ton of impact in the bat, pretty slow pole.
Elliot (Youngstown OH): Tim Fedroff showed more power in AAA than he ever did in the lower minors. Does he excite anyone as an OF prospect?
I like Fedroff. He did get better this
year, but he's not a big guy, doesn't run, is an average defender in
left field who can't quite hack CF ... he is more of a bench or platoon
type than anything else. He'd have to be an elite hitter to make it as a
regular with his current profile. That said, he's a career .296 hitter
in the minors, and these are the Indians. Not like there are a lot of
better hitters blocking him in Cleveland. They tried Thomas Neal and
Russ Canzler there in September; not sure why Fedroff wouldn't get a
look. The fact that he didn't probably means he's going to be Rule 5
eligible, so maybe he gets a chance with another organization.
Norm (Connecticut): John, Thanks for the chat.
Certainly seems like a list with far more questions than answers. Is
this an historically bad year for prospects for the IL or am I
I think that's accurate. Matt Eddy is our
resident Triple-A expert and we were floored by how poor this list was.
Jim Callis and I kept going over it to see who we were missing ... it
was just a down, down year in this particular league.
Warren (New London): Is what Chris Nelson did this year a reasonable expectation for
Tim Beckham going forward (with possible adjustment for hitting
in Colorado)? Your comments about the quality of the list seem
spot on, as evidenced by Beckham being 10th here. Thanks for
Chris G. (Grafton, MA): I can understand why
Ronnier Mustelier's age might have kept him off this list, but it seems
like an undervalued asset in an organization that lacks for consistent
right-handed bats at the Major League level. Do you see him as more
valuable as a trade piece, or as a call-up/bench piece for New York in
I see him as a player for a potential
Cuban ex-pat team in the WBC. I do not see him as an MLB option. Guys
like Mustelier and Barbaro Canizares and Leslie Anderson and other Cuban
ex-pats can make a good living in professional baseball outside of the
major leagues, but he doesn't strike me as a player with a position
outside of the batter's box. He does have bat speed and he can hit a
good fastball. Maybe that gets him a chance.
Joe R. (Newport News, VA): Teheran's struggles
remind me of Chris Tillman, in a way — a very young pitcher dominating
at AAA then struggling the following year(s). Is it possible that the
struggles are due to simple physical maturity — mechanics that worked
before don't work as the pitcher gets bigger/stronger?
I have not heard that explanation; it's
worth asking about, and the comparison to Tillman is an intriguing one.
Tillman regained fastball velocity this year and found an answer to LH
hitters. That's not Teheran's problem; with his changeup he handled LH
hitters better than RH ones. He lost velo and didn't locate well enough,
but most of the managers I talked to thought his biggest issue was
confidence. He pitched with a lot of swagger last year and this year,
without the 95-96 when he wanted it, he just didn't have the same
confidence and mound poise.
jack (Staten island): What is the upside of Matt Den Dekker? Do you think he will be a starting major league outfielder?
den Dekker can really defend in center
field, he runs, he throws ... there are tools there. Unfortunately he
seems too similar to an old fave of mine, Jason Pridie, in his pitch
recognition, and he doesn't have Pridie's short, quick bat. He has a
longer swing and less impact. I can see him tightening up his zone a bit
and becoming a second-division CF as a ceiling, but he's more of an
extra OF, with tools fairly well suited to that role. It would be better
if he ran a bit better for that.
Matt (Philly): The Lehigh Valley bullpen had
some interesting arms in it over the course of the year, how would you
rank Aumont, DeFratus, Diekman, Rosenberg, and Schwimmer going forward?
Do any of them have closer or late inning reliever upside?
I always liked DeFratus out of that group,
but Aumont is just such a beast physically. It always has seemed like
he should be better. Rosenberg has less upside, Schwimmer less and then
Diekman is what he is, a left-on-left guy with some velo, up to 96
according to our reports. Still think Aumont has the highest ceiling of
those guys but we've been waiting a while, haven't we?
@Jaypers413 (IL): Had he qualified, would you
have ranked Zack Wheeler above Harvey on this list? When do you expect
the Mets will give him his cup of coffee? Thanks, John.
Saved this for last ... Wheeler vs. Harvey
is a real tough one. Part of me sides with Wheeler because of the
superior fastball command. As I'm sure you know, I'm more of a FB
command guy when it comes to evaluating pitchers. But RH pitchers need a
big time breaking ball too to pitch at the front of a rotation, and
Harvey's slider is superior. I would give the slight edge to Wheeler
because of the better fastball but it's a fun debate.
Elliot (Youngstown OH): John, Your Tim Fedroff
answer suggests you think less of Russ Canzler. Could he be useful RH
bat at DH, 1B and LF for a team that has a void in those positions? (I
can think of one such team.)
Real quick ... I like Canzler actually,
for what he is, a reserve Ty Wigginton type. I was commenting more on
the fact that I don't see why the Indians wouldn't evaluate Fedroff in
September with a callup. They outrighted Shelley Duncan the other day,
they couldn't do that in September and see what they had, if anything,
in Fedroff? I think that tells you what they think of Fedroff.
OK, everybody, that's probably more time
than the motley crew of IL prospects deserved. I appreciate the
questions and your time. We wrap next week with the PCL and indy ball,
and next week also includes our Draft Report Cards, with me, Conor
Glassey and Jim Callis podcasting on one of our favorite issues of the
year. Have a good weekend!