New York Yankees: Top 10 Prospects Chat With John Manuel

New York Yankees: Chat




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, 2008.

Q:  Steven Alengakis from Brooklyn New York asks:
Xaipetai Ioanni! (Hi John) The Yankees have a lot of young pitchers returning from serious arm problems. What's the word on their progress — and what do you realistically expect from guys like Humberto Sanchez, Christian Garcia, J.B.Cox, Marc Melancon, and Andrew Brackman due to their injuries over the past season? It seems to me if these guys recover fully, the Yankees have possibly the deepest young pitching in all baseball at the moment. What do you think?
 A: 

John Manuel: Yiasou Stavros . . . The Yankees do have a ton of injury guys, and I should have talked to their strength & conditioning guy at the ABCA Convention but I missed him. I have talked to several in the org about those pitchers. Garcia's setback with his knee and the fact that he's still fairly raw led me to drop him the most of these guys; I actually dropped him out of the top 30, against the advice of several people in the organization. cox and Melancon are relievers obviously, college draftees, and should be ready to go come spring training, with Melancon throwing well in the D.R. instructs. I always thought of Cox as more setup man than closer stuff-wise but he had the moxie to close; Melancon has the same kind of killer instinct with better stuff when he's 100%, let's just see him throw more than 7 IP as a pro; he just missed the top 10. Brackman won't pitch until 2009 so I don't know that he can count toward that depth yet, but his ceiling is so high, I had to put him in the top 10. NYY does have superior pitching depth; the Rays are similar, the Rangers also have good pitching depth, but NYY has depth and impact guys close to the big leagues. I'd give NYY the nod for best pitching depth in the minors.

 Q:  Mike from Pelham, NY asks:
Could you see Jeff Marquez making the big club this year in a role similiar to Ramiro Mendoza. Both were sinker ball pitchers. Also Marquez had a much stronger first half than second, leading me to believe he might not be able to handle starting.
 A: 

John Manuel: If they didn't have other options, then yes, but they have about a dozen other options. They want him to start, and scouts outside the org like him, like him as a starter, that's why he ranked where he did. I think just conditioning and getting stronger are the keys to Marquez finishing better, and he really had 3 poor starts; his ratios in the second half were pretty close to his first half. I think he's a No. 3 or No. 4 starter profile, could relieve but more likely to remain a starter b/c his secondary stuff has improved, he's not just a sinkerballer.

 Q:  Todd from Wauwatosa asks:
The Yanks have two infield prospects in Marcos Veccionacci and Alberto Gonzalez that'll never see the light of day with A-Rod and Jeter in tow. What do you see there future as and where did land in the Top 30?
 A: 

John Manuel: Neither made the 30; Gonzalez' hit tool doesn't do it for me in an organization this deep, and I see him as an extra guy in most organizations, not just one with Jeter at SS. Vech also didn't make it, as he's not showing improvement, not showing aptitude. Tools are nice, at some point there must also be performance OR the hint of the light going on. That said, both of those are top 30 talents; the organization's depth had a lot to do with them not making it. They could both be big leaguers, I just don't see either one as a starter for a first-division club.

 Q:  JAYPERS from IL asks:
What a difference a year makes. On last year's list, Betances was # 3. This year he's M.I.A. What's been the biggest reason for his downfall, and do you see a rebound for him this season?
 A: 

John Manuel: More about the rest of the org getting better and also me tempering my enthusiasm a bit for a guy who is more of a project than I realized a year ago. Also, there is the strong whiff of future Tommy John surgery surrounding Betances. Though he threw well in the Dominican instructs program, indications I got from the org are that Betances has a long way to go, a long way. Still think the ceiling is higher than that of Ian Kennedy (whom I ranked behind Betances last year). But I also had Dellin a spot ahead of Joba, wish I could take that one back.

 Q:  Travis from TX asks:
Where does Juan Miranda fit in the Yankees' future?
 A: 

John Manuel: He's a good platoon option; Miranda + Shelley Duncan would make a productive 1B platoon. Miranda's 26, Duncan's what, 28? At least Duncan has proved he can hit big league fastballs, and can lay off the occasional slider. Miranda has some length to his swing but he has legit power from the left side. If either one was good defensively, he'd probably win the job outright. But I think Miranda and Duncan as a 1b/DH platoon the next few years could make a lot of sense and be very productive offensively.

 Q:  Dave from Atlanta asks:
Are guys like Taylor Grote, Carmen Angelini, and Brad Suttle worth their over slot bonuses, or are the Yankees just giving out large bonuses because they can afford it?
 A: 

John Manuel: Way too early to tell is the easy answer, but it's also true. Angelini ranks the highest of that trio. In fact, he's the only one who ranked in the top 30. The Yankees' better draft picks actually might have been lower-round, lower-bonus guys like Brandon Laird, Damon Sublett and Justin Snyder. I like NYY's draft for its depth, not because of the guys they spent a lot of money on.

 Q:  Sean from Cranford, NJ asks:
Has Chamberlain surpassed Hughes in your opinion or that of the baseball community? Is it premature to think so given Hughes status as the #1 pitching prospect this time last year?
 A: 

John Manuel: No, it's not premature. Joba's best is better than Hughes' best. Joba didn't hold that kind of velo or two plus breaking balls or show an average changeup in college, he's gotten better with the mechanical tweaks Nardi Contreras & the Yankees have brought to him. Give Joba the credit; he's basically got Hughes' command (Hughes' greatest strength) with a much better fastball and similar, if not better, breaking stuff. I can't really say enough about Joba. I ranked him No. 1 on my personal top 50 prospects list in the Handbook, put it that way.

 Q:  Hector from Miami asks:
What does the future hold for Christian Garcia? What's his ceiling and ETA? Thanks for the chat
 A: 

John Manuel: You're welcome. To elaborate a bit on Garcia, he was still not throwing when I was having to finish my top 30 up in late November or early December. So that was not a good sign for me. He didn't pitch in '07, and I don't see him throwing more than 70-100 innings in '08 coming off injury, and he's never pitched above A-ball. He's still learning to be a pitcher, and now he's 22. His ceiling remains very high, because when he's on, he's got two plus pitches in his fastball and curveball. But he's had TJ and now a knee issue, and he's still raw. I think the chances of him reaching his ceiling go down with every injury and every loss of development time.

 Q:  Warren from Texas asks:
Not surprised to see Humberto Sanchez not in the Top 10 but, I am curious as to where he now stands as a prospect? Any chance he could still be a starter? What does his profile look like now? Thanks for the chat!
 A: 

John Manuel: He's in the 11-20 range, and the Yankees actually talked about him more as a reliever than as a starter this year, which was something of a surprise. I have less faith in his rehab because he has had past conditioning problems, but Mark Newman said he worked out and threw on his honeymoon this fall and was working hard, so the organization has faith in his ability to bounce back. Looking at my notes, the relief role was more of a short-term, they need a reliever and he needs to be worked back in gradually kind of thing, rather than a "he's not good enough to start" deal.

 Q:  NYY Fan from NY asks:
I'm detecting a subtle lack of Suttle. I know he's got the bat to make the list, but did his heavy legs play a part in his ranking?
 A: 

John Manuel: I didn't rank him. Unorthodox approach that the Yankees already have changed in Hawaii Winter Baseball. I heard this with Suttle and Matt Wieters in Hawaii, first time I've heard this, but apparently a lot of college switch-hitters have a similar problem, they get into some bad habits always being pitched away and their first step is toward the plate, not toward the pitcher, a lot of muscle memory that needs to be corrected. Difference is, Wieters is an elite athlete with other tools. Suttle is all bat, though he defended well in HWB, impressed the scouts I talked to with his defense. I just had enough doubts about his No. 1 tool, his bat, to not rank him.

 Q:  Warren from Texas asks:
Who, in your opinion, that is in the Top 30, will move up the most next year on the list! (yes, the handbook is ordered). Thanks for the chat!
 A: 

John Manuel: Brandon Laird just missed the top 30 and I bet he jumps on next year, I should have listened to my ample gut and ranked him. Abe Almonte is another that just missed that could jump way up, I leaned more toward guys in full-season ball but the Yankees list is quite deep, I like the system pretty well. As for in the 30, Zach McAllister could jump up if it all comes together for him, good body, good arm, just hasn't quite performed yet but also hasn't been to full-season ball yet.

 Q:  Todd from Wauwatosa asks:
What's the latest with The Handbook? Last I heard, Callis was proofreading. How soon till I can completely ignore my family and friends?
 A: 

John Manuel: Expecting to have it back in these parts (in our Durham office) in mid-January, which means it starts shipping, hopefully, at the end of next week. That's exciting stuff.

 Q:  Taylor from Houston asks:
Where does Kevin Whelan rank on this list? What is his ceiling? And finally, what do the Yankees think of him and have planned for him?
 A: 

John Manuel: He's in the 11-20 range as well and has the profile to be a good setup man, when he's right. He's a guy whose stuff warms up with the weather, not good for NYC, you know? (Or for October for that matter.) He has closer stuff, low 90s FB, plus-plus split, not sure if stuff is as important as makeup at closer though, and Whelan seems more like a solid setup guy who could help in '08 than a closer. The Yankees have a lot of guys who seem like good setup guys; that's the worst thing about their pitching depth. Lots and lots of setup guys. The plus there is some of those guys might be undersold, and also the Yankees NEED lots and lots of setup guys. I'd rather develop my own setup guys than overpay big leaguers for them, considering their volatility.

 Q:  Steven Alengakis from Brooklyn asks:
Hi John How is it possible that Ross Ohlendorf and Jeff Marquez are more highly regarded than Dellin Betances and Jairo Heredia? The Top 10 really surprised me.
 A: 

John Manuel: Steven, read the report on Ohlendorf—he's got 2 pitches that graded as 60s or 70s as a reliever, his stuff really jumped up, and that was not from the Yankees, that info was from scouts with other orgs. He's ready to set up in '08, so closeness to the majors had something to do with it. Same with Marquez—he had a good year in Double-A and seems ready to be a big league starter in 2009. Betances and Heredia are high-ceiling RHPs who have yet to pitch 100 pro innings, and while Heredia has some polish and could move quickly, his stuff is good, not great. Ranking players is always going to be inexact and marrying ceiling with likelihood to reach it is difficult, so in those cases I went for the guys who have talent but also have proved it at higher levels.

 Q:  Joe from San Francisco asks:
Despite Ian Kennedy pitching very well at each level, peopledo not seem to think to highly of him. I don't understand how 3 out of 4 pitchs could be average, and he could put up the numbers he did. If 3 out of 4 of his pitches were average, even though he has impeccable control, his results should be much worse.
 A: 

John Manuel: You tell me which of his pitches is above-average, other than the curveball, Joe. He's got all kind of command and moxie to go with that stuff, and we're also talking about major league average. I believe major league average is pretty good; being a No. 3 starter is also pretty good. We're looking at the same info and I see it as a compliment and you don't. But that IS his stuff, and he DID put up those numbers with that stuff. That's not my opinion; those are facts.

 Q:  J.P. from Midwest asks:
Why didn't Greg Peavey sign? His stuff seems to be the real deal. I find it hard to believe the Steinbrenners didn't want to pony up enough to keep him, so was there another reason?
 A: 

John Manuel: He really wanted a lot of money, more than the Yankees thought he was worth, and he was very ready to go to college if his "demands" were not met. So he did. Oregon State has won two World Series this century (two more than the Yankees, incidentally), so it's not like he turned down the Yankees for some losers.

 Q:  J.P. from Midwest asks:
Has Battle fallen off your prospect radar altogether? Can he rebound?
 A: 

John Manuel: Yes. Yanks fans should be happy they don't have to peg any more hopes to Tim Battle. Hope he's healthy, wish him good luck, just one of those all-tools, no-performance guys. Funny how some people think we love guys like Battle too much, and then others think we didn't give him enough credit.

 Q:  Dean from San Francisco asks:
If Melky Cabrera is traded, do the Yankees have any minor leaguers ready to take over center field or do they have to settle for Damon returning to that position?
 A: 

John Manuel: Um, that's why we ranked Austin Jackson second and also Brett Gardner in the top 10 (guess I ranked him 8th). Gardner's closer, Jackson has the higher ceiling, both can play CF better than Damon right now.

 Q:  James from Buffalo, NY asks:
Exactly how strong is Josue Calzado's arm? Also, what do you think of him as an overall prospect?
 A: 

John Manuel: Strong enough the Yanks were ready to move him to P but he started hitting in '06. Apparently, I ranked him in the 30 last year even though the organization had not put a "green dot" next to his name. Prospects—guys managers must bat in a certain spot in an order, guys they must play—get green dots in the Yanks system, and Calzado didn't get a green dot until '07, so I guess I was ahead of the curve. That's the benefit of talking to guys in and out of the org. That said, he's pretty raw and didn't make this year's top 30. Toolsy but lacking some feel for hitting right now. Plus-plus arm, some power, bat speed, needs to get better against stuff that spins.

 Q:  JAYPERS from IL asks:
I see you have Montero at 1B on your 2011 lineup card. Does this mean everyone you've talked to predict a shift, or are you merely wishing for this to happen?
 A: 

John Manuel: Correction: Calzado STILL doesn't have a green dot. Just found that in my notes.

John Manuel: Montero moved to 1B in the lineup because he ranks so high he needed to be in the lineup somewhere, and because it's far from certain that he will be agile and athletic enough to be a big league C. If I wished anything about our future lineups, it would be that we would think of another way to convey the future strength of a team based on the current state of the farm system. That's all the future lineup is intended to do. I'm open to suggestions!

 Q:  Abedin from Utica, NY asks:
I'm really high on Dan McCutchen; I think he's underrated by most. Then again, I'm probably his biggest fan. What kept him from the top 10 over, say, Brett Gardner?
 A: 

John Manuel: Everyone seems to think McCutchen's stuff will play up as a setup man, and that he's fairly average stuff, plus compete, good command as a starter, kind of a poor man's Ian Kennedy. He throws harder and has sharper stuff in relief (touches 94 mph with FB, which he rarely does as a starter according to the Yanks), and I think that's his future role, whereas Gardner's ceiling is as a Juan Pierre who walks CF. That ceiling is higher to me, and Gardner's probability of reaching that ceiling also is higher. Gardner's a year younger and a year ahead in terms of development, with a better health record. Several reasons to rank Gardner higher.

 Q:  Ben from Leland Grove asks:
Will the Yanks bring up Chase Wright again this season? If not, where will he start, and how long do you think he'll be kept down?
 A: 

John Manuel: He's just a NYC-to-Scranton shuttle guy, sorry. I don't consider him a factor as a regular major leaguer.

 Q:  Tom from Syracuse, NY asks:
Let me guess the 11-15(not in order): Frank Cervelli, Mark Melancon, Dan McCutchen, Humberto Sanchez, Dellin Betances. How correct am I?
 A: 

John Manuel: You nailed it except for Cervelli, the scouts outside the org that I talked to were not sanguine on his ability as a hitter and forecast him as a backup C in the Jose Molina mode (maybe a good bit better than that offensively), rather than as a regular.

 Q:  Dean from San Francisco asks:
Your projected 2011 outfield lineup of Gardner, Jackson and Tabata seems very week in the power category. I'm especially surprised that you would include Gardner over Melky Cabera. What are the odds that this lineup will ever occur?
 A: 

John Manuel: Well, Melky doesn't hit for a ton of power, and in fact when Matsui didn't play, Cabrera, Damon and Abreu, that's not a power plant. Tabata wouldn't rank so highly if people didn't think he would eventually hit for power, and he did what he did with a bad hand-slash-wrist this year. Jackson projects to hit for average power as he goes on as well. Chances of that lineup? Very small, because the Yankees don't have to rely only on homegrown players. Point of the future lineup is to reveal strengths and weaknesses of the org, and one Yankees weakness as an org is—you guessed it—lack of power prospects. Very few in full-season ball, really.

 Q:  Hank from Albany, NY asks:
Did the Yanks make a good decision by giving Angelini a 1 million bonus?
 A: 

John Manuel: We'll see but early returns are positive, Mark Newman is very high on him, some scouts in Texas are less optimistic, but he can field and could wind up as Jeter's heir at SS. There is wide disagreement about his offensive ceiling with NYY vs. the consensus, which again was that this was a very good player but not quite a special, million-dollar bat.

 Q:  Michael Stern from Rochester NY asks:
What can you tell me about Mitch Hilligoss. He hit .310 with 35 SB in A ball. He doesn't seem to have any future at 3B, with no power, a .943 fielding pct., and someone named A-Rod ahead of him, but what about a move to 2B? Can he play there? Would he be a prospect if he moved to the infield? If the Yanks ever decide to deal Cano for pitching could Hilligoss find his way to the Bronx?
 A: 

John Manuel: I like him a lot, he can hit and he can field (not tremendous but he can field), I see him as a future utility guy, I'm almost thinking Orlando Palmeiro but able to play IF, and the fact he can fill in at SS and not embarrass himself makes that even more possible. Second base would be his best-case position for being a regular.

 Q:  Lane Meyer from NoMaas, NY asks:
John, what do you think about Michael Dunn's prospects going forward? He posted excellent numbers for a recently converted pitcher, has above average stuff, and throws with his left hand. Does he stand a chance to develop more and become a legit LHP prospect?
 A: 

John Manuel: He's in the 30 and is the Yankees' best LHP prospect, which is another weakness of the org, a shocking lack of LHPs really. Average fastball, plus slide piece, but he did pitch in juco ball, not like the Yankees started him pitching, they just had him try hitting for a year and then moved him back to the mound. He's good not great, the slider should get him to the big leagues as a reliever eventually, a key reason he made the 30. He'll stay a starter if he (a) hones his fastball command and (b) comes up with a solid third pitch.

 Q:  Michael Stern from Rochester NY asks:
Do you think Marquez had been overrated and overhyped as a prospect? He gave up 166 hits in 155 AA innings, and the league hit .270 against him. You say his curveball is average and not a strikeout pitch and you admit he doesn't miss many bats. Isn't a top 10 rank pushing it? Do the Yankees really see him as a potential starter or are they just bulding up his trade value?
 A: 

John Manuel: It's possible but again, I put Marquez in the 10 based on other organizations' thoughts on him, not New York pumping him up. The fastball has life, he's improved the command, again, people outside the organization liked him. The aptitude and improvement from year to year is what the scouts I talked to liked best, that and the ability to get early groundball outs.

 Q:  Ian from Baton Rouge, LA asks:
I really like Abe Almonte. I think he's got it all in terms of tools. In your opinion, how good is he?
 A: 

John Manuel: Sounds like he's pretty good; I had a hard time tracking down as much info as I would have liked on Almonte but he is a speedster who has lots of raw tools and contact ability. His lack of power kept him in the wait-and-see category for me, but there were two members of the organization who told me he was their sleeper, their guy to jump up in '08, so he was right in that 31-35 range. Could be a 2B or a CF, depends on how things go.

 Q:  Lane Meyer from NoMaas, NY asks:
John, what can you tell us about Jose Pirela? The overall skills he showed in the DSL last year were impressive gien his age. 34 BB and 36 K in over 250 ABs is pretty impressive. How does he project going forward?
 A: 

John Manuel: I can tell you that I don't really take DSL stats seriously. He's interesting as well and was on our depth chart last year after the Yankees gave him $300k, and he's still on the depth chart. The Yankees usually skip their top guys over the DSL and bring them straight to the GCL, like Jesus Montero and Robby Cano and Mariano Rivera . . . not a new approach, in other words. So I was fine with leaving Pirela off the top 30 until he shows something in the U.S.

 Q:  Jim from Hoboken, NJ asks:
If they're both stricly relievers, who's better Ross Ohlendorf or Justin Masterson?
 A: 

John Manuel: Ohlendorf's stuff is a grade or two better, as Masterson doesn't have a plus secondary pitch. However, Masterson has much, much better command. Would you rather have Timlin or Jeff Nelson? That's the question, not one someone in a Yankees chat will likely answer dispassionately. I actually think Masterson will be a starter, just not in Boston, so I'd give him the edge as a pitching prospect, and I'd take him as a reliever because relief pitching is less about stuff and more about throwing strikes, for me.

 Q:  Lane Mayer from NoMaas, NY asks:
John, George Kontos seems to really be underrated. He sits in the low nineties and has a wipeout slider. He's shown a consistant ability to miss bats at each level he's pitched at and seems to be a great competitor. How does he project in your view?
 A: 

John Manuel: Not sure he's under-rated. He doesn't perform like Jeff Marquez, for example, though he has slightly better stuff. My problem with Kontos—who probably would be the No. 1 starter if Greece has a World Baseball Classic team in 2009 (and it won't)—is he NEVER performs, despite the stuff you'd talked about. He has NOT consistently missed bats; he's consistently found way too many bats for a guy with that stuff. He gave up 129 H in 128 IP this year combining HWB and Tampa. His fastball's not quite consistent enough in velo, life or command for him to have taken the next step. He is one scout's pick to click for '08, but another guy I talked to pretty much said, "No thanks." His changeup is too firm and he lets little things rattle him too much to be considered an elite prospect yet.

 Q:  Brian from Tampa, FL asks:
The Yanks surprised me when they took Ryan Pope in the 3rd round. However, he did have a very good year in the NY-P. Where will he start next year, and what's his ceiling?
 A: 

John Manuel: Lane, Michael Stern, that's enough, you've filled your quota of Q's, let's move on to some others.

John Manuel: Brian, Pope was a deep sleeper for some but the Yanks aren't quite sure what they have in him, he had some dead arm when he pitched for them. He's more of a pitchability guy with a feel for a curveball and a changeup, and his fastball has some sink. We'll see if he's fingy like he was after signing or average or a tick above as he has been at his best. They didn't invest a ton in him but he's a good guy to watch in 2008 to see how his velo bounces back.

 Q:  Lane Meyer from NoMaas, NY asks:
John, what can you tell us about the futures of two 2007 draftees who had excellent debuts: Braedyn Pruitt and Brandon Laird? Are they as legit of hitting prospects as their numbers in the GCL and NY-Penn showed last year? Both got nice bonuses to sign, so it seems they have some solid pedigree to them.
 A: 

John Manuel: Darn it, I answered one more from Lane! Oh well, he asked good questions. Laird is much more of a prospect, both can hit but Laird has bigger power, might be able to play 3B, a guy who just missed the top 30, both are very legit hitters.

 Q:  Stew from NY, NY asks:
I have heard that Horne has better stuff than Kennedy but Kennedy has a better feel for pitching. How does one determine feel and is it that important?
 A: 

John Manuel: Maybe you read that in our top 10? Hope so . . . Feel is simple—Kennedy can throw strikes with any pitch he wants to and dictates the pitch sequence. Horne throws harder, nastier stuff but doesn't throw strikes with nearly the same consistency, so he gets into a lot more hitters' counts.

 Q:  Joe from Chantilly, Va asks:
What is your take on the decision to add Scott Patterson to the 40 man roster? He had an unreal season, is 6'7 with an impossible high release point and can run his fastball up to 93-94 at times with maybe the best command in the system along with Kennedy, so it isn't like he is tricking people, but the rise from undrafted Indy leaguer to Yankees 40 man is the definition of meteoric. He has put up similarly dominant stats for two years running including this winter in Venezuela. Can he sustain it?
 A: 

John Manuel: I like the decision and have warmed to Patterson, though I'm still not sure where this notion of 93-94 mph fastballs for Patterson comes from; one Yanks official told me Patterson was 90-92 at his best, 89-90 mph more often, the fastball plays up because he spots it and he has deception and a good angle. His curveball is his better pitch. Honestly he's got a lot of Adam Wainwright the reliever in him; when Wainwright was relieving for St. Louis he was 90-93 with the big, lock-up-the Mets slow curveball. Patterson has a bit less velo, more funk, good slow curve. I think he's going to be a good setup man if he continues to pitch that way, and in fact I ranked him ahead of Edwar Ramirez on the top 30. But he's not a power pitcher, despite his K numbers.

 Q:  Jimmy from Da Bronx asks:
It seems to me brett gardener would fit the yankee lineup perfectly as a bottom of the order hitter. I feel like brett gets hated on for his lack of power but he is what he is, no one ever expected him to hit 15+ homers. Seems like the big league club could use more brett gardeners. Thoughts?
 A: 

John Manuel: Gardner would have to beat out Melky Cabrera but I think I like Gardner's ceiling better. I haven't seen Cabrera ever touted as a guy who would develop power and he has yet to slug over .400 in two big league seasons; it was a .432 slugging percentage in the minors, pretty similar if I recall to Jacoby Ellsbury, only he's not the defender Ellsbury is, nor the basestealer. Melky brings energy but to me, Gardner's ceiling is higher and he's also an energy guy. So I'm with you, as long as Gardner hits with enough authority to keep pitchers honest. If he doesn't, then he's Jason Tyner.

 Q:  Joe from Easton, MD asks:
I know that the Yankees have contended all along that Chamberlain will be groomed as a starter, but in a sense is he really just a few bad outings(from Rivera) or an injury to Rivera away from being their closer - especially since he seems such a perfect fit for that role?
 A: 

John Manuel: He just has to start with that stuff and his ability to maintain his stuff and velocity deep into starts. Why pitch a guy 70-80 IP if you can pitch him 175-200? He won't get to 175 or 200 in 2008, and yes, if he has durability issues, then you can put him in the bullpen, but I think the Yankees have to try him as a starter and see how durable he can be in that role.

 Q:  Sean from Centreville, VA asks:
How worried should we be about Brad Suttle's rough outing in Hawaii?
 A: 

John Manuel: I would be quite worried, 80 ABs or not. He was drafted for his bat and has had to have his swing and approach changed somewhat significantly already. I'm not encouraged.

 Q:  Bucky from Madison, WI asks:
Looks like the team at BA has really done a 180 on its view of the Jesus. Last year i believe he was ranked #30. How much has he actually progressed and how do you envision his development proceeding from this point on? Who would you compare his bat to?
 A: 

John Manuel: Bucky, I'm the one who (a) wrote the story when Montero was signed, (b) ranked him last year and (c) ranked him this year. So it's pretty much me. He has progressed in that he's played, he hasn't had his bonus reduced, he hasn't had crazy rumors circulating this year . . . but I wouldn't have ranked him in the top 30 last year if he wasn't a prospect. Ranking him No. 21 (not 30, he was No. 21) was to acknowledge that his ceiling and how far he was from his ceiling were two very different things. He has sick raw power to all fields and the Yankees love how he's progressed defensively, but when pressed, one club official said at best, he'd give Montero's future defense a 40. That's below-average, which a team would live with if he hit 30 homers a year. That appears to be his ceiling—Mike Piazza without the .320 average. That's a pretty interesting player, and that's why he ranks so high.

 Q:  Bernie from Cambridge, Mass. asks:
How does the Yankees' top 10 stack up against Boston ?
 A: 

John Manuel: I've ranked the Yanks system for three or four books now and this is the best shape the system has been in in that span. The same is true for Boston, however. I'd take Joba over Clay Buchholz, though Jim Callis would not. I'm with Jim in that I really think highly of Ellsbury, Anderson, Masterson, Lowrie . . . I think Boston's top 10 is safer than New York's and Boston has more big bats and more strength in the infield (just by having Lowrie, who I like). New York has more pitching depth but less variety; I like Boston's top 10 by a hair and Boston's system by a little bit just because it has more hitters who have a chance to be big league regulars.

 Q:  Taz from San Jose, CA asks:
Why is Alan Horne's long action not fixable?
 A: 

John Manuel: Not a scout or coach so I can't really tell you with confidence. I can tell you I asked three people (two in the org, one Nardi Contreras, and one out of the org) if his arm action can be fixed, and all three said, "No." Also the specifics of the problem is that his arm action precludes him from having a consistent release point, so his control pretty much is what it is, and he has a below-average present and future command grade.

 Q:  Tim from NY asks:
Eric Duncan, despite having only just turned 23, as been all but written off. Is there precedent for a young player being obnoxiously rushed to the point where he is overwhelmed and then rebounding to become a successful major leaguer?
 A: 

John Manuel: He was rushed but he probably just wasn't as likely to reach his offensive ceiling as we thought anyway. The Yanks actually didn't hype him; as I've said before, Mark Newman told me to rank Robby Cano ahead of Duncan when we ranked Duncan 1 and Cano 2 four years ago, but people outside the organization convinced me to believe that Duncan (a) would hit and (b) would stay and third and (c) that Cano would have to move off 2B. Wrong, wrong and wrong so far. Pretty wrong. At least I ranked Cano second . . . I'll pass along that I was never as high on Tyler Clippard as others and had Ian Kennedy ahead of Clippard last year, so yes, sometimes I'm right, I'm just also pointing out that I've been wrong before too, and Duncan's one of the ones I was most wrong about. I do not believe he'll be a big league regular but wish him well.

 Q:  Bernie from Cambridge, Mass. asks:
Do the Yankees have any potential sleepers in the system ? Last years 21st rd pick Justin Snyder put up some impressive numbers at Staten Island.
 A: 

John Manuel: They have a lot of sleepers. No one has even mentioned Ivan Nova, I guess because he didn't have great stats last year. He's my pick to click for 2008, we'll see how that prediction goes. Snyder's interesting, so is Damon Sublett and Brandon Laird. Seth Fortenberry is a sleeper to watch as he has tools and some production despite some advanced age, and I'll throw in personal fave David Robertson, who had sick numbers and is another quality setup option who could help in New York as soon as 2008.

 Q:  Mike from Oceanport, NJ asks:
If you don't mind, where do you have Mark Melancon on the Top 30? Also, do you think he can contribute to the team in 2008, and what do you think his potential role could be going forward?
 A: 

John Manuel: I've divulged that he's in the 11-15 range. Club officials seem to think he'll pitch in the majors in 2008, and they see him as a closer first and foremost. I've never had anyone rave about a guy's makeup like people do about Melancon, both when he was an amateur and since he got to New York. I think very highly of him, just thought Brackman's ceiling was too much to ignore in the top 10, plus I couldn't pull the trigger on putting a TJ guy with 7 pro innings in 2 years in the top 10. But he almost made it anyway; if his stuff had been better in Dominican instructs he would have, but he was 89-91, not 92-94 as he was pre-surgery. But give him time.

 Q:  Kevin from Fairfax VA asks:
Where might Tyler Clippard have ranked in the Yanks' top 30 if he had not been traded to the Nationals?
 A: 

John Manuel: Toward the back of the 30 if he'd been in it; he is what he is, the projection Yanks fans would come on his fastball did not happen, and to paraphrase Denny Green, he is who we THOUGHT he was . . .

 Q:  Rich from Des Moines asks:
I heard that the Yankees fielded a very young and talented squad in the GCL. Aside from Montero, who were the top prospects on that team, and what can you tell us about them? Thanks.
 A: 

John Manuel: Lots of prospects already mentioned, but also guys like RHP Manny Barreda and 1B Wady Rufino. Austin Romine played just one or two games there and he's in the top 30; Lance Pendleton is a long-shot who's older and has had injury issues but threw well in Dominican instructs. but Brandon Laird has the best mix of tools & present ability among the hitters, with Jairo Heredia the top pitcher off that roster.

 Q:  Bernie from Cambridge, Mass. asks:
Looking for your opinion on a couple pick from the 2007 draft: Austin Romine, Carmen Angelini & Richard Weems. Any future star potential here ?
 A: 

John Manuel: Romine and Angelini both have the chance to be regulars and to move quickly, the Yanks are very high on both of them. Weems is athletic but fairly raw defensively and more of a project compared to the other two guys, not a pejorative but just saying he's third of this trio for me.

 Q:  Brian from SF asks:
Jairo Heredia seems like he burst onto the scene. Can you give us a scouting report on him and does he rank among the top 30?
 A: 

John Manuel: He was the top pitcher in their international 2006 signing class and he's in the back half of the top 30, thanks to good feel and control and future command. It doesn't sound like there's a standout pitch yet, not consistent enough for the curve or fastball to be plus, promising changeup, but again, no plus pitch yet to let's wait and see before we crown him, to continue the theme.

 Q:  Tom from NY, NY asks:
Edwar Ramirez in the Yanks top 15? What is a reasonable projection for him in '08? He wasn't very good with the Yankees, but you can't argue with his MILB stats.
 A: 

John Manuel: In the 30, not top 15, the minor numbers are great, he has one 80 pitch, and then the fastball's fringy and nothing else is even that good. I think he's a sixth- or seventh-inning reliever, not a guy who is an integral part of a big league championship roster. Hope I'm wrong; it's a great story. I saw him pitch extremely well in person and his changeup was ridiculous, but the lack of life on his fastball concerned the scouts I talked to.

 Q:  darryl houston smith from quincy, ma asks:
Do you think Joba can handle the role as the Yankee #3 starter over the course of the long season. Do you like his upside better than Ian Kennedy or Phil Hughes?
 A: 

John Manuel: Hard to imagine him getting to 200 IP this year considering he's never thrown 120 in a pro season; just very hard to know how he'll perform when stretched out. Of course I like his upside better than Kennedy's, I've ranked him higher 2 years in a row, and yes, I think his upside is better than that of Hughes. It wouldn't shock me if Hughes had more big league impact in 2008 though.

 Q:  Sammy Mantle from Teaneck, N.J. asks:
What will Alan Horne's role be in 2008?
 A: 

John Manuel: Starter at Scranton, ready to get a call to NYC if needed, much better option for that than the Rasner-Karstens-DeSalvo-Clippard clan of '07.

 Q:  Dan from Windsor, CT asks:
What are your thoughts on that Albaladejo guy the Yanks got from the Nats? I'd never heard of him before.
 A: 

John Manuel: Sinker-slider guy, not an impact guy, sloppy body in the past, could be a decent seventh-inning option if he's in shape.

 Q:  Chris from Chicago asks:
How come Phil Hughes is not on the list? It says that he only has 70 innings in the majors?
 A: 

John Manuel: The minimum is 50 innings . . .

John Manuel: As far as I can tell, we're all out of intelligent questions. The AL East wraps this week with Tampa on Wednesday with Bill Ballew toeing the slab, and Matt Eddy on Friday with the Jays. I'll be back in 2 weeks to talk Twins, rest assured, it will be dramatic. Thanks for coming.