Cincinnati Reds Top 10 Prospects Chat With J.J. Cooper




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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, 2011.

Moderator: J.J. Cooper will answer questions about Reds prospects beginning at 3 p.m. ET.

J.J. Cooper: Hey everyone. I'm excited to get started. Thanks for stopping by and thanks for subscribing.

    Morrie (Cincy): How far off from the show is Juan Duran, and did he stock slip any since last year?

J.J. Cooper: He's a long ways away. The most important thing for Duran is that he stayed relatively healthy in 2010, but he's still rawer than sashimi. I would say his stock didn't improve any in 2010, which isn't a great thing when you've struggled for much of your young minor league career.

    Paul (PA): Could you give us the rundown on Drew Cisco, as well as his ranking?

J.J. Cooper: Cisco is one of the most polished high school pitchers to come out of the draft in a while, he's more like a very young college pitcher than a high school arm. But there's also not a whole lot of projection left. Expect to see him move pretty quickly. Sorry you'll have to wait for the Prospect Handbook for his ranking.

    Jake (Idaho): Yesterday, Jim Callis told us the Cubs and Reds farm systems were neck-and-neck in the NL Central. That said, did the Reds rank above the Cubs overall?

J.J. Cooper: We have our initial rankings in the Handbook (have to wait for it to come out to see those) and we haven't set our final Organization talent rankings, but in my personal opinion, the Reds are slightly better because of better depth.

    Grant (Midwest): What's the skinny on newly drafted Kyle Waldrop? Top 30 guy?

J.J. Cooper: Yeah he's in the top 30. Plenty of upside, especially with his power potential. He's raw because injuries have kept him off the field a lot during his high school career, but he has a chance to be a solid corner outfielder.

    Frank (Dallas, TX): What can you tell us about Ron Torreyes? thanks

J.J. Cooper: One of my favorite prospects in the system. He's short, but he can shows great glovework and has a lot of offensive potential as well. I don't put too much stock in VSL stats for predictive value, but the year he had there was amazing.

    Ben (Leland Grove): Since you graded Chapman's fastball on the 20-80 scale for us, could you do likewise for his other offerings? Thanks.

J.J. Cooper: Here you go. Fastball: 80. Slider: 70. Changeup: 40. Command/Control: 45. Delivery: 50. He will likely never have plus command, but then with his stuff, he just needs to have control.

    Karl of Delaware (Georgetown, Delaware): After other than glowing seasons in the Bosox organization, lhp Tommy Cochran put up some good numbers as a starter in AA. Is he an organization guy, or has he now moved on to the radar screen?

J.J. Cooper: Org guy from the scouts I talked to. Good numbers, but his stuff is well below-average. It's hard to break into the big leagues with an 85-86 mph fastball. Most of the few guys in the big leagues with an 85-86 mph fastball broke into the bigs with an 89-91 mph heater or better and made the transition to being crafty vets. Few crafty minor leaguers ever get that chance.

    Mike (Tampa, FL): Whose fastball would you say has the most life between these guys - Chapman, Feliz or Strasburg (pre-injury)?

J.J. Cooper: As far as life, I'd say Strasburg. The edge for velo obviously goes to Chapman. I think any team would have happy to have any of the three.

    Stephen Michaels (Houston, TX): I saw the Cincinnati Reds Organizational Pitcher of the Year Jordan Hotchkiss not on the list. Not real surprised but what is your take on him? See him as a big league starter?

J.J. Cooper: The scouts I talked to didn't think so. He's a pitcher with good feel, but a below-average fastball and no real plus pitch. Those kind of pitchers often succeed in A ball, but it becomes quite tough to make it to the majors with that assortment.

    Dave (CT): Many opinions have Mike Leake the odd man out in this year's rotation — do the Reds hold onto him for the future and why/why not?

J.J. Cooper: I know he wore down as the season went along, but it's hard to see why the Reds would dump a solid back-end of the rotation starter who is very inexpensive. As the writeup last year explained, Leake is unlikely to be a front-end starter, but there's no reason to think he can't be a successful No. 4 starter for years to come, and that has plenty of value. Last year the Reds ended up needing seven different starters to make 10 or more starts, plus two more to make spot starts. I'd imagine Leake will be sticking around.

    Steve (Michigan): With Votto entrenched at 1B and Alonso not being able to adapt to another position, does this make him an easy trade candidate and does he have good value? Or are the Reds going to give him another shot in the field, 3B or LF? Thanks!

J.J. Cooper: I think long-term the Reds will trade him. He's going to be too much of a liability defensively to stick in LF over any length of time (3B is even more out of the question). Even if the Reds can't get Votto signed to a long-term extension anytime soon, he's still under their control for three more years. Juan Francisco and Todd Frazier can serve as the backup plan for Votto in case of a serious injury, and both of them can play elsewhere as well.

    Mark (Fargo, Nd): If Cozart and Janish have close to the same defensive ability and it sounds like they do why is Cozart the front runner for the 2011 SS job?

J.J. Cooper: From what I understand, Janish is the front runner right now, which is largely because of incumbency. Teams, understandably, generally go with the guy who has done it at the big league level first. Janish has a better arm than Cozart, but Cozart has more offensive ability.

    Samuel (Minnesota): Hi J.J., thanks for the chat. It seems to me that the Reds have a lot of solid pitchers, but none with true ace potential, besides Chapman. My question is why would they not at least try him in a starting role? If it doesn't work out, then they can just move him to the bullpen, because they know that he will be dynamite there. Isn't it at least worth finding out if he can be a true top of the rotation starter?

J.J. Cooper: All of your points are well made and accurate, but development often gets shunted aside for the current needs of the big league club. Chapman has almost no chance to make this team as starter coming out of spring training in 2011—there are already six established big league starters battling for five jobs and that's not counting Matt Maloney or Sam Lecure. On the other hand, the team is in need of a lefthanded setup man now that Arthur Rhodes is gone. While Chapman may have more long-term value as a starter, the Reds want to win now, after all they are the defending NL Central champs. It's hard to tell the big league staff that they can't have a guy who can help them win games now for the possibility he can help them more down the road. So I would expect to see Chapman in the pen all year. They can potentially revisit making him a starter in spring training in 2012, but by then he could have had too much success relieving to make the move, a la Neftali Feliz.

    Keith (Memphis): How close were Juan Duran and Junior Arias to making the Top 10?

J.J. Cooper: Neither is sitting at No. 11 but Arias was much closer than Duran. I wouldn't be shocked to see Arias in the top 10 next year if he has a solid year.

    Keith (Memphis): If you had a choice which farm system would you take, Reds 2008 or Reds 2011?

J.J. Cooper: Reds 2008 and it's not even close. And that's not a knock on this year's system which is pretty good. That 2008 Reds class is the best the Reds have had in decades and one of the better talent hauls in the majors in the past decade. That group has already produced an MVP (Votto), a very solid and still quite promising RF (Bruce), two starting pitchers(Bailey and Cueto), a starting CF (Stubbs) and a quite promising catcher (Mesoraco), and that's only the guys who were ranked No. 1 through 6. Beyond that, Paul Janish (No. 19) is the team's starting SS, Chris Dickerson (No. 27) is a big league platoon outfielder and Travis Wood (No. 21) is a member of the Reds rotation. That top 30 has produced 18 players who have played in the big leagues, plus several more prospects who could be in the big leagues at some point in 2011. If the Reds' current group can do half as well, they'll be in great shape for the next five years.

    Keith (Memphis): Is Juan Carlos Sulbaran still considered a prospect?

J.J. Cooper: Still a prospect, but he has to show more than he's shown. Punching a wall to break your hand and miss significant time isn't a great way to clear up questions about your makeup. But he apparently was pitching well in instructs, so maybe that will end up being a turning point for him.

    Kyle (Middletown): How far behind Zack Cozart are Kris Negron and Didi Gregorius as prospects?

J.J. Cooper: Negron is good enough to handle SS defensively in the majors, but he projects as more of a utility guy. Gregorius has more potential upside than Cozart, but obviously he's a lot riskier than a guy who is basically big league ready.

    Zane (Columbus): Do you still believe in Todd Frazier's bat or has his future become a lot more questionable? And does Mark Derosa work as a decent comp for him?

J.J. Cooper: I still believe in it, but the problem is his bat looks a lot better if he's a third baseman or second baseman than if he's a left fielder. Mark Derosa is a pretty good comp for his potential career now as a guy who plays a little of everywhere, but DeRosa was significantly better defensively when he came up—he was a shortstop who played elsewhere, while Frazier is a third baseman who has moved around.

    Kyle (Middletown): What are the odds that we eventually see all seven of the Reds last 7 first round (not counting comp rnd) picks together on the same big league roster? How often does that happen?

J.J. Cooper: It's possible but unlikely as it's hard to see Alonso being on this team long term unless something happens to Votto, and eventually the Reds will likely have to decide between Mesoraco and Grandal if everything works out perfectly. But that does bring up an excellent point, the Reds have gotten to this point by having a whole lot of hits in drafting and player development.

    zack (Honolulu): How soon do you think Billy Hamilton will get his cup of coffee? And does he have significant game breaking speed?

J.J. Cooper: I think he's probably still 2+ years away, think late-2013 at the earliest, but yes, he absolutely has game-breaking speed. If he stays healthy, I'll predict he wins the minor league stolen base crown this year. Several managers in the PL described him as being the fastest player they have seen in years.

    Bryan (MA): Last month I traded Brandon Wood for Billy Hamilton in a Strat Dynasty League. A+ for me?

J.J. Cooper: Yes. Definitely yes.

    Ed (Redszone): Thoughts on Wes Mugarian?

J.J. Cooper: Heard really good things on him from instructs where there were reports he was touching 95 (although he sits more 90-92). I've gotten several questions about deep sleepers. Count Mugarian as one of those sleepers. I'll throw a couple of others in later in the chat.

    Steve (Bozeman, MT): Why has Donnie Joseph dropped from the list? He seemed to have a good year last year.

J.J. Cooper: He wasn't dropped from the list. But the upside as a probably big league setup man is lower than the guys in the top 10. He's got two excellent pitches from a funky, deceptive (if not pretty) delivery. I wouldn't be shocked to see him in Cincinnati late in the season.

    Zane (Columbus): What are your thoughts on Dave Sappelt. Had a great year statistically but does he project as a major league regular or more of a 4th outfielder?

J.J. Cooper: If he hit lefty, I think there would be more of a consensus belief among scouts that he could be a regular. But as a short righthanded hitting OF, there's a lot of thought that he's a potential solid fourth outfielder.

    Zane (Columbus): Tucker Barnhart. Legitimate prospect, organizational guy or somewhere in between?

J.J. Cooper: In between. He's not a blow-you-away prospect, but there are some things to like and the Reds are pretty high on him. Good makeup, solid tools.

    Keith (NYC): Felix Perez is one of my personal cheeseballs where does he fit into the Reds future?

J.J. Cooper: Considering his age, he's likely never more than a backup outfielder, but he could fill that role tomorrow if the Reds needed him to. The problem for him is that the Reds have a ton of outfielders ahead of him on the depth chart, and it's hard to see what he does that Chris Heisey doesn't already do for the big league club.

    Harry (Trenton, NJ): No Ryan LaMarre? Please explain. Thanks.

J.J. Cooper: I'll give one ranking from the Handbook away. LaMarre was the No. 11 prospect. He's got plenty of potential and will likely make the Top 10 next year with a solid year. Lotzkar just edged him, but it was extremely close for the No. 10 spot.

    ES (Washington): Hamilton is hugely promising, but he's also very young. What's a realistic ETA in the majors for him? If all goes well, does he profile as similar to Elvis Andrus offensively, or will he add some power and hit some HRs?

J.J. Cooper: He's got a lot more SB potential than Andrus. In Andrus' best minor league season he stole 54 bases, Hamilton stole 48 this year in a half season. And Hamilton has more potential to be a top-of-the-order hitter who gets on base than Andrus does. Defensively Andrus is better. I don't see power really being Hamilton's game although he should fill out some, his upside is as an well-above average leadoff hitter.

    Antonio (MIAMI, FLORIDA): What are your thoughts on the Reds having 2 solid catching prospects in Yasmany Grandal and Devin Mesoraco? This will be a good example in the future to compare the advantages and disadvantages of signing out of HS.

J.J. Cooper: It will be a fascinating comparison as both were high school catching prospects coming out the same year with one going pro immediately and the other going the college route. It's a good situation for the Reds—they are staggered enough developmentally that they shouldn't have a problem with having them stack up at the same level. Realistically the Reds should get a chance to take a look at Mesoraco for a year or so in the big leagues before Grandal is ready, then they can decide which one they see as their long-term catcher of the future.

    Gary27 (Des Moines): Seems like Mesoraco exploded offensively, but regressed a bit defensively. Any concerns about the defense moving forward and what kind of power/avg. numbers should we expect?

J.J. Cooper: There have to be some, as by the end of the season with the finger injury and being worn down he had serious trouble handling velocity. The Bats had to bench him for the final game of their playoff series because he was clanking pitches off his mitt repeatedly. But it was a long season for him, so there is some explanation for his late-season (and AFL) struggles. The scouts I talk to think he'll end up being a solid regular, although few think he has much all-star potential. His 2010 numbers would seem to indicate otherwise (no catcher had a better season around the minors), but the general thought from the scouts I talked to is he could be a .270-.280 hitting catcher with 15 or so home runs in the big leagues.

    Kyle (Middletown): How far behind Kyle Lotzkar are Ismael Guillon and Jonathan Correa as prospects? Think we will see any of the three get break out this year and turn into top 100 prospects?

J.J. Cooper: You just named the two pitchers in the system who are next as far as upside. Lotzkar definitely could make next year's top 100 if he can be healthy throughout 2011.

    JAYPERS (IL): I find it almost incomprehensible that the Reds would fork over in excess of $30M for Chapman only to make him a reliever/closer down the road. If he can harness his control and secondary stuff this season, how confident are you the Reds would reconsider and plug him into the rotation?

J.J. Cooper: I touched on this earlier, but I don't think putting him in the pen this year eliminates all chance of moving him into the rotation later. That being said, he's going to be a pretty expensive setup man pretty quickly. If you include his spread-out bonus, Chapman will make $2.5 million this year, $3.5 million in 2012 and $3.5 million in 2013 with a $3 million bonus payable if he qualifies for arbitration after the 2013 season.

    Disgruntled Reds Fan (CI, OH): Would you be so bold as to say the Reds have mismanaged Todd Frazier's career by having him play so many positions? Why won't they simply keep him in one place for an entire season and see how he does?

J.J. Cooper: I won't say it, but I'll say that I've talked to people in the industry who say it. In the ideal situation, Frazier becomes a Tony Phillips, Mark DeRosa type whose ability to play multiple positions adds to his value, but his bat would probably look more promising if he was projected as a third baseman—the problem in Cincinnati is they have a veteran establish 3B (Rolen), and another prospect (Juan Francisco) whose only real options are 3B and 1B (which is filled by an MVP with a solid prospect behind him).

    Dave (Deerfield, MA): Can you give us the names of 3 sleepers Reds prospect watchers should watch for?

J.J. Cooper: I listed Wes Mugarian already. I'll throw in Pedro Villareal as a deep, deep sleeper (he was up to 95 with a power sinker and slider at his best). On a much closer to the majors note, Darryl Thompson showed his old stuff in the AFL. If he can stay healthy (big if), he could be helpful for the big league club at some point before too long.

    Keith (Memphis): Do the Reds have a chance to get 6 (Chapman,Hamilton,Alonso,Mesoraco,Rodriguez,Grandal) in the Top 100?

J.J. Cooper: I'd say the first four are locks. Rodriguez and Grandal are both likely to make it as well—I'd put all six in my top 100. Hard to predict how it will all shape out, but yeah, I think six seems about right.

    Tony (Lakeland, FL): What is the deal with Neftali Soto? Is he a utility guy now? What positions is he playing and what do the Reds project as his future defensive home?

J.J. Cooper: He looks like a first baseman now, which makes it tougher for him to make it obviously.

    Matt (Scranton, PA): Can you tell us anything about middle infield prospects Ronald Torreyes and Henry Rodriguez? Both hit very well last year, but neither got much talk, even though Torreyes continued to hit after leaving the DSL and Rodriguez showed some power potential as a doubles machine.

J.J. Cooper: Torreyes as I mentioned before is one of my favorite prospects in the system. Rodriguez has some potential at the plate, but there are some defensive concerns and more than anything he needs to show better feel/instincts for the game. He made a lot of mental errors last year. That being said, he was one of the few guys who played well on a shockingly bad Dayton team.

    Rick (Chapel Hill, NC): Who do you think is a better catching prospect: Devin Mesoraco or Yasmani Grandal?

J.J. Cooper: Mesoraco, which is why we ranked him higher. He has more upside and he's already produced in pro ball. But Grandal is more polished behind the plate and isn't that far behind him.

    mchaz12 (Ottawa, ON): Where would Philippe Valiquette rank outside the top ten?

J.J. Cooper: He's still in the top 30, but if you took my 2006 scouting report for him and reprinted it now, it would have many of the same weaknesses. At some point, you have to do more than just throw the ball really hard.

    Ryan (Abingdon, MD): Would it make sense to package Juan Francisco, Yasmani Grandal & Yonder Alonso next off season to get some MLB talent and help keep them atop the NL Central? If Mesoraco has a strong encore, all 3 players could be seen as redundant. What kind of quality player do you think they could get for that package?

J.J. Cooper: The problem with that package is that Francisco and Alonso are the kind of players who rarely net massive hauls when you trade them as prospects. Rewinding a couple of years, the Phillies had Ryan Howard available when he was coming up through the minors and never had a team really offer then fair value for him. Obviously Philadelphia is glad that they didn't trade him, but it was yet another reminder that team's rarely trade for minor league first baseman. Now obviously Justin Smoak was just dealt in a big deal last year, and that's the best-case scenario for the Reds in an Alonso trade (now they have to hope he gets off to a fast start), but I think most teams view him as more of a solid 1B not an all-star. If that's the case, him and Francisco are more solid pieces rather than cornerstones of a trade (although maybe some team falls in love with Francisco's power potential). Grandal's a little bit of a different story because there is always a desire to find young catching. That being said, what would the Reds trade for? Teams rarely deal away No. 1 starters, and Cincinnati is already flush with middle of the rotation arms. They have a slight hole in left field, but Gomes and Heisey are really fine for that. I'm sure they've love to land a young, stud shortstop, but there aren't many of those around the majors either.

    Ron (Mobile AL): What is your view on Brad Boxberger long term?

J.J. Cooper: 2011 will be a very big year for him. He seemed to get caught in a downward spiral once he got lit up a couple of times in Double-A. The stuff is still there if he gets his mechanics straightened out, but he needs to have some success to build on to get 2010 out of his head. Long-term I still think he could be a power arm in the pen for them.

    JD (AZ): Thanks for the chat JJ. Did Jeremy Horst find his way into the Reds top 30, and do you expect to see him in the big league pen at some point in 2011?

J.J. Cooper: He's got a chance to be a sixth or seventh-inning guy as a pitcher with fringy stuff and good feel for pitching. But there's not a ton of upside there.

    Kyle (Middletown): Do you expect any of the Reds rookie leaguers (outside of the top 10) to break out this year in full season ball?

J.J. Cooper: Yeah, Daniel Corcino, Torreyes, Ismael Guillon and maybe Junior Arias could all get noticed in Dayton this year. Not sure if Arias or Jonathan Correa will move that quickly to Dayton, but all of them are guys to keep an eye on.

    Greg (Loveland, OH): How do Jonathan Correa & Daniel Corcino compare?

J.J. Cooper: Corcino's more polished and has a better breaking ball now. They have two of the better fastballs in the system.

    Zane (Columbus): Do you see Danny Dorn ever getting a shot in left field for the Reds? And if he does what do you expect out of him?

J.J. Cooper: Realistically? No. To get a shot in left field, he has to leapfrog over Johnny Gomes, Chris Heisey, Todd Frazier, David Sappelt and Felix Perez. All but Gomes are better defensively in left and Heisey, Sappelt and Perez offer more position flexibility in the OF (which makes them more valuable as fourth OFs). Frazier can handle first and left like Dorn, but he can also play third and even a little second, while Dorn is limited to left and first. Dorn can hit, but he needs to get into the right situation to ever get big league ABs, and that situation doesn't seem to be happening in Cincinnati. It's worth noting that he was available in the Rule 5 draft and no one took him, and the same thing was true last year as well.

    Jackson (dayton ohio): Is Brodie Green a sleeper? What position will he play?

J.J. Cooper: Nice sleeper. Has some hitting ability and can play some second and short. His upside is as a solid utility player.

    Tanner (Baltimore, MD): JJ - Enjoyed the write-ups. Did you receive a comparison for Hamilton at all, or someone you liken him to? Luis Castillo a good one?

J.J. Cooper: We actually got some Luis Castillo comps. And if Hamilton can end up being Castillo, that's a quite valuable player, especially now that we are in an era where not everyone is check swinging balls over the wall for home runs.

    Kerm (Milwaukee, WI): I was a little surprised to see Hamilton ahead of Mesoraco, as I view Mesoraco as the obvious #2 in this system. What was the rationale?

J.J. Cooper: Understandably that is probably the one "surprising" ranking in the Top 10. I can definitely see arguments for Mesoraco at No. 2, after all, you're comparing a guy who slugged .600+ and made it to Triple-A versus a guy who's yet to play full-season ball. But everyone I talked to couldn't stop raving about Hamilton and his potential. Several scouts I talked to viewed Hamilton as having more long-term potential than Mesoraco, and said they have Hamilton ranked higher than Mesoraco. That's not meant as a rip on Mesoraco, but there are some reasons to be concerned still with the catcher. Before his outstanding 2010, Mesoraco had struggled at the plate for most of the previous 2 1/2 seasons and he's had a series of injury problems. And as mentioned before, there are scouts who think he still has some work to do on his receiving before he's big league ready. Mesoraco is definitely a safer pick as the No. 2 guy in the system, but this is more of a case of Hamilton's significant potential more than a knock on Mesoraco. I'll be the first to say I could be wrong, but I expect Hamilton to be one of the breakout prospects of the 2011 season.

    jackson (dayton OH): How good will the Dayton Dragons be this season? I'm pretty excited about the prospects coming to the gem city.

J.J. Cooper: A whole lot better than they were in 2010, I can say without stretching my neck out at all.

J.J. Cooper: Hey everyone thanks for the questions. I have to wrap up so I can put the finishing touches on the Prospect Pulse for this issue, which looks at the Reds' newfound ability to develop pitching. Thanks for the time. John Manuel will be here on Friday to chat about the Astros.