Los Angeles Dodgers: Top 10 Prospects Chat With Alan Matthews

Los Angeles Dodgers




Baseball America's Top 10 Prospects lists are based on projections of a player's long-term worth after discussions with scouting and player-development personnel. All players who haven't exceeded the major league rookie standards of 130 at-bats or 50 innings pitched (without regard to service time) are eligible. Ages are as of April 1, 2007.

Moderator: Alan Matthews will discuss the Dodgers farm system at 3 p.m. ET.

 Q:  John from Georgia asks:
What kind of ceiling does Chad Billingsley and Matt Kemp have?
 A: 

Alan Matthews: Thanks for dropping by BaseballAmerica.com for today's prospect chat. The Dodgers were our organization of the year in 2006, not only for their success in the big leagues, but for doing it with so many homegrown players on their roster and also continuing to stock their farm system. This should be fun . . .

Alan Matthews: Billingsley and Kemp were two players that graduated to the big leagues this year, and thus didn't qualify for the Top 30 list. However, they both still fit the more general prospect designation, simply because they are still very much unrefined players with room for improvement. Billingsley's ceiling remains that of a No. 2 starting pitcher. He struggled at times in L.A., but as he improved his command and pitched down in the zone, he had enough life to his stuff to succeed. Kemp got off to a blizing start and then struggled greatly. He's going to require some more seasoning in Triple-A, most likely, but has potential to be a middle-of-the-order run producer, with 27-34 home runs and a .270 average.

 Q:  Richard from British Columbia asks:
What sort of tools does Bridger Hunt have? His performance in low A as a 9th rounder drafted before his 21st birthday seems pretty noteworthy.
 A: 

Alan Matthews: Hunt is a real gamer, who did indeed overachieve after signing for $60,000 out of Missouri State in 2006. His tools are below-average across the board and he profiles as an organizational player with a chance to develop into a utility man with plus makeup.

 Q:  john johnson from texas asks:
Did Josh Bell prove he is ready to move to high A where most of the other top prospects from his draft will be going?
 A: 

Alan Matthews: There's not really any reason to expect an '05 draftee from high school to be playing at a high A level in 2007. Sure, the most advanced high school draftees will take that step, and Bell might be there, but he has a long ways to go with his approach and plate discipline. He has huge raw power, arguably the biggest tool among the Dodgers low-level minor leaguers, and that's why he is so intereseting. But he won't be a guy to blaze through the system at a rapid rate.

 Q:  JAYPERS from IL asks:
Hi Alan, thanks for the chat. I'd have to give Loney the "Just can't get a break" award this year. He put up great offensive numbers overall, and that 9-RBI game last year certainly opened people's eyes. Was his ceiling overshadowed by the re-signing of Nomar, and where do you see him fitting in best - 1B or OF?
 A: 

Alan Matthews: Loney really caught a break, frankly, when Garciaparra was injured early in the season. I think the quick call to the majors and the limited success gave Loney's confidence a boost, and he reinforced himself as a front-line position player prospect. The re-signing of Nomar was curious, but it does perhaps illustrate that the Dodgers would prefer not to hand the reigns over to Loney--yet. Garciaparra wanted to come back, he was very productive, when healthy, and for that reason, it made sense. Loney can now ease his way into a major league role, and the face he can play some right field from time to time will help him get at-bats, but his future position is first base, where his defense is an asset.

 Q:  JAYPERS from IL asks:
With the hot corner being highly contested this time around (LaRoche, DeWitt and Bell), if you had to pick one of them as your fulltime guy at third, based purely on defense, who wins out? And offense?
 A: 

Alan Matthews: LaRoche is the choice for both. He's the best pure hitter of the three, has more playable power than Bell, though Bell's raw power is superior. His defense is going to be at least adequate, whereas Bell as DeWitt both have some concerns with the glove--in Bell's case, mostly erratic throws and DeWitt's hands and footwork are questionable.

 Q:  Jean-Paul from Springfield asks:
Had Andrew Miller slipped by Detroit, would LA have grabbed him instead of Kershaw?
 A: 

Alan Matthews: I seriously doubt the Dodgers would have passed on Kershaw, even if Miller was there. Of course, only their scouting department can answer this one, and Logan White, the man running the draft last year, took a time-out during the draft when the pick came up, which was somewhat unusual with the eighth pick in the first round. But L.A., liked Kershaw from the get-go, and I believe he will be a better major leaguer with a longer, more consistent career, than Miller.

 Q:  Mike Marinaro from Tampa, FL asks:
It seems a lot of people forgot about LaRoche last season. Names like Braun, Delmon, Gordon, and Maybin, have been mentioned much more in recent months than LaRoche. How does LaRoche's bat stack up against Ryan Braun? Who has the hotter bat from the hot corner?
 A: 

Alan Matthews: Not sure who "a lot of people" are, that you refer to. I did notice that BA's prospect coverage seemed to be a little cooler on LaRoche than I am personally, but that's understandable given his injuries. Braun's power isn't comparable to LaRoche's, and LaRoche has better feel for hitting. There's no real debate between those two, for me.

 Q:  Richard from British Columbia asks:
To quote Jim Callis from his Houston Astros' chat a couple weeks ago, "It's harder to make the Top 30, in general, as a reliever. Most of your big league relievers were starters in the minors." Given the above, I was surprised that you chose a full ten minor league relief pitchers to be among the Dodgers' Top 30 prospects. I could see that happening if the Dodgers's system was really starved for talent and you had to "reach" to fill out a Top 30 list, but you excluded starting pitchers like James McDonald, Jesus Castillo, Javy Guerra (all of whose fastballs reached the mid-90's in 2006, albeit in Guerra's case in instructional league), and Eric Stults (who was quite effective in his two major league starts in 2006). Could you explain this please?
 A: 

Alan Matthews: That's a fair point. One thing to remember is that the Dodgers' system is not one of the top 5 in baseball, like it was a year ago. The depth is not the same, given trades and the graduation of so many guys to the big leagues. So this year's list was a little more difficult to fill in on the back end, and arms like Miguel Sanfler (No. 28) and Weslery Wright (No. 30) offered at least one whipe-out offering that makes me think they have a chance to pay dividends in the big leagues. Guerra, Castillo and Stults are completely different animals, but all three were considered in the talk for the Top 30. Guerra is recovering from Tommy John surgery, but has lots of potential. McDonald has nice numbers and a great body, but the stuff and arm speed aren't there, and his command is below-average. Castillo is a nice sleeper, though he pitches near 88-91, just touching 94, and there's a difference. He's never gained a feel for a breaking ball, but was beginning to do so during instructional league.

 Q:  Jean-Paul from Springfield asks:
What separates Kershaw from Elbert, ceilingwise? Who will make it to the Majors first, and with these two power lefties contributing, do you see LA's starting rotation being the best in baseball in the forseeable future?
 A: 

Alan Matthews: Kershaw is more of a pitcher, with better command, whereas Elbert has a tendency to want to overpower hitters. Kershaw's more calculating, but does it with overpowering stuff, too, so that combination makes Kershaw the player with the higher ceiling. Elbert has a couple of years on Kershaw, so he'll get their first, and they should both make the Dodgers rotation one of the best in baseball, along with Billingsley, by 2010.

 Q:  Jean-Paul from Springfield asks:
What tools does Mattingly share with his father, and does he have the potential to be every bit as good?
 A: 

Alan Matthews: The two are completely different players, as Mattingly relies on premium athletic ability rather than uncanny knack for hitting like Don did. I don't believe that Preston will ever hit for average like his father did, but he has potential to hit for more power and steal far more bases.

 Q:  Ben from Midwest asks:
Just how raw is Orr, and with enough experience, do you see him factoring into LA's plans at 1B in the future?
 A: 

Alan Matthews: Orr is going to require a season in extended spring training in 2007, and might not even be prepared for the Pioneer League at mid-season. He's very raw. His swing has holes and he doesn't figure to control the strike zone well as he gets his first taste of pro ball. He's athletic, however, like Mattingly, and has a high ceiling. How much power he develops will be important, as his body and defensive tools appear to play the best on the corners, most likely 1B.

 Q:  J.P. from Leland Grove asks:
How much of a ceiling does Wall have?
 A: 

Alan Matthews: Josh Wall could be a No. 4 starter. He regressed in 2007, but it was only his first full season of pro ball. He has a big arm and good stuff, and seemed to improve his mental approach to the game as the season wore on. No reason whatsoever to allow his poor performance in 2006 to lead you to believing he has lost his promise and potential.

 Q:  J.P. from Leland Grove asks:
Thoughts on Jamie Ortiz? How would you compare his tools to other first basemen such as Orr, Dunlap and Loney?
 A: 

Alan Matthews: Jamie Ortiz, 1b, signed for $115,000 as the Dodgers' seventh-round pick last year from Puerto Rico. I like Ortiz' swing a little better than Orr's, but he doesn't have the ability to work counts and control the strike zone like Dunlap does, and none of these hitters are in the same category as Loney in that regard. He has some raw power, and runs better than Dunlap and Loney, but he's not going to be a base stealer, either.

 Q:  J.P. from Leland Grove asks:
I noticed you gave the nod to Trayvon Robinson as the fastest runner in the system, yet he didn't make the Top 30. How close was he, and is speed his only tool?
 A: 

Alan Matthews: At this stage, Robinson's only playable above-average tool is probably his plus-plus speed. He has some holes in his swing and needs to refine his approach.

 Q:  Richard from British Columbia asks:
If BA's organization Top 30 lists were Top 35 lists instead, who would fill the last five slots for the Dodgers?
 A: 

Alan Matthews: Righthanders Eric Hull, Javy Guerra and Jesus Castillo, lefty Eric Stults and outfielder Jamie Hofmann would have been in that mix, in no particular order.

 Q:  John from San Francisco asks:
Hes young, yes, but at what point should we be worried about Matt Kemps plate discipline? Didn’t look like he did much in the winter league. Is there any improvement or is he fading in potential the way Joel Guzman did?
 A: 

Alan Matthews: While the organization might not necessarily agree, Kemp's free-swinging approach is somewhat disconcerting presently. He doesn't make many adjustments from at-bat to at-bat, and seems to be able to get away with remarkable hand-eye coordination to make hard contact, but not as consistently as he could if he improved his plan and improved his ability to recognize offspeed stuff. Matt's power and speed are special tools, so his empty swings can be forgiven, as long as he reaches his potential with the power to overcome the deficiencies in his overall offensive package.

 Q:  Nick from AZ asks:
Its great to Josh Bell on the list because alot of list out there exclude this prospect. Why is that and do you think he has the ability to be a better prospect there where you have him?
 A: 

Alan Matthews: Bell, the Dodgers' fourth-round pick in 2005 from a high school in Florida, has been a popular name today in chat inquiries. He had a big season in the Rookie-level Pioneer League, where his 70+ raw power made believers out of opposing managers and coaches we interviewed. I first saw him at the East Coast showcase in 2004, where he had a thunderous stroke and a penchant for making solid contact. He's been through some adversity in his life, and his senior season that summer was poor, which is why he slipped to the fourth round. But this kid has good pedigree as a prospect. I don't spend any time reading other sites about prospects, but rely on the opinions of those who work in the industry, and it was hard to find many people who didn't like the potential Bell showed last season.

 Q:  Jamie from Olney, MD asks:
Can you tell me anything about Carlos Santana? Is he a real prospect?
 A: 

Alan Matthews: Santana played right field in Ogden last summer to make room for Bell at third base, and the Dodgers had him show off behind the plate for the first time in instructional league. There, he showed passable catch-and-throws skills in his audition at catcher, and has bat attributes that could make him an interesting prospect. He's very athletic but his baseball acumen is limited. He uses his hands well at the plate, and has above-average bat speed and good plate coverage. Santana could spend this season in the low Class A Midwest League.

 Q:  Jay from DC asks:
What happened to Travis Denker? Is he still in the future plans at all, or do the Dodgers just have too many MI?
 A: 

Alan Matthews: We here at Baseball America have been conservative in our assesment of the gritty Denker, whose tools fall short in most of the 5 categories. He had an exceptional season in 2005, but we still ranked him just 23, so there's no reason to say he's fallen off the map. He has some bat speed and some raw power, with a leveraged, somewhat max-effort swing. He's probably going to have to play left field because he lacks the speed and range for the middle of the diamond, and that decreases his value, which again, we pointed out previously.

 Q:  Paul from Williamstown, MA asks:
What ever happened with Chin Lin Hu? Did he completely fall off, get traded, or do I just need to by the prospect handbook?
 A: 

Alan Matthews: Hu had a rough year in 2006, but he is still among the Dodgers' top 20 prospects. Of course, you have to get the Handbook. The content online is great, but we really go into more detail in the Handbook. Hu has to do a better job of taking pitches and working counts. He's not a power hitter, and he swung and missed and failed to make consistent hard contact too often last season.

 Q:  Casey Rogowski from Spring Training asks:
What's your take on my little brother, Ryan? Could he some action in the Midwest League in 2007? He played well with Ogden in 2006. Do you see him playing in the Majors? Thanks!
 A: 

Alan Matthews: I enjoying watching Casey rake his way through the SAL in 2001 in the White Sox, even if he was a little more experienced than others in the league. His little brother Ryan was signed as a free agent in 2006, and has interesting athletic ability and is another sleeper in the system. Nice sign by scout Gerric Waller, who did his homework on Ryan.

 Q:  Eric from Elk Grove asks:
Alan, thanks for the chat. Reviewing the scouting reports, I'm particularly concerned with the "weaknesses" section for 2 of them. Meloan's makes him sound like a ticking timebomb and kinda creeps me out with the visual of a "ripped physique that lacks looseness". Then there's Donnie Baseball's kid who seems to have an interesting bat, but is described as raw and lacking a defensive position. So these things do not inspire much confidence. Can you talk me off the ledge here?
 A: 

Alan Matthews: The one word that scares me more than anything with Meloan is "recoil". This guy really logged a lot of innings in college and it was clear that the Dodgers were doing their best to monitor his workload this year. The delivery is a concern, without question, but the stuff is outstanding. Which will prevail? There's no way of being sure. Mattingly is not a cinch-prospect either, but the tools are present. I was surprised to hear the reports about him not being a little more skilled, presently, given his bloodline. But it's unwise to doubt an organization that has produced talenbt the way L.A., has of late, so at this stage in his career, Mattingly should receive the benefit of the doubt.

 Q:  Chad from Washington, DC asks:
Alan- thanks for the chat. When Scott Elbert was drafted, there was some speculation that he would eventually be moved to the bullpen, specifically to close. Is this still a possibility with the way he has progressed and with the strength of the current Dodgers' rotation and bullpen?
 A: 

Alan Matthews: We'll wrap up with a question from a radio personality by a former one. There remains a chance Elbert will close. He has the two-pitch mix, power, and demeanor for the back of the bullpen. The Dodgers have developed him exactly as they should, allowing him every opportunity to make it as a starter , first, but yes, it remains a possibility. Keep up the good work, Chad, and thanks to all the Dodgers fans and prospect mavens for stopping by. Jim Rome rules the airwaves out West, so, we'll close out in his style . . . War Russ Martin. OUT.