Toronto Blue Jays Top 10 Prospects Chat With Nathan Rode




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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.

    Kyle (Cleveland): I'm sure you'll get this question a lot but just in case, can all 10 of these guys make your top 100 next year?

Nathan Rode: Good afternoon everybody. Thanks for stopping by for another edition of the Blue Jays Top 10. I'll get to as many questions as I can in the next hour or so before getting back to helping edit Prospect Handbook chapters. Kyle's question is a common one and a good place to start. I haven't really looked at a potential Top 100 in detail yet, but I'd start with the first seven, maybe eight players.

    Sammy (Toronto ON): Had he remained, about where would Molina have placed on your list? Thoughts on that trade?

Nathan Rode: Plenty of questions about where Molina would have ranked and what I think of the trade. 1) I had Molina in the 10-20 range before get was shipped to Chicago. 2) I like the trade for both sides. The Blue Jays have enough depth that they could afford to deal Molina and pick up a closer at the big league level. Meanwhile, the White Sox get a solid option for their future rotation and Addison Reed figures to fill in for Santos in the very near future.

    Frank (Chicago): Has Hechavarria's stock dropped much since last year? Still in the 30?

Nathan Rode: Not really. He's still very much in the 30. I keep hearing that he has a very quick bat and good swing path so evaluators think he'll hit, but we just haven't seen it yet. I want to see it before I get too excited, but his speed and defense alone will get him to the big leagues. If he can just come close to being an average hitter, he'll provide plenty of value.

    Tyrone (Tampa, FL): Could you give us the skinny on catcher A.J. Jimenez, as well as his ranking this year?

Nathan Rode: You'll have to buy the Prospect Handbook to see his exact ranking, but Jimenez was close to the Top 10. He's a very good defender that has shown good hitting ability the last two seasons. I'm interested to see how he will progress at the plate at higher levels. Double-A is next up for him.

    Grant (NYC): Could you tell us about Kellen Sweeney? Did he fall any since last year?

Nathan Rode: I didn't knock Sweeney far (if at all), giving him a mulligan because of the injuries. He wasn't completely healthy coming out of the spring and then only got 35 at-bats before getting knocked out for the rest of the season. He has an advanced bat for a high school draftee and could probably handle jumping to Low A next year if his spring warrants it. But I wouldn't be surprised if he starts with a short-season club.

    Paul (Sacramento, CA): Would you consider d'Arnaud to be a top 25 prospect overall, or is that too lofty?

Nathan Rode: I think that's fair. He could be anywhere in the 15-30 range.

    Tom (San Francisco, CA): It sounds as if Jacob Anderson possesses Derek Lee-like defensive capabilities at first base. Why were the Jays intent on moving him to the outfield?

Nathan Rode: I didn't hear anything like that, but everyone we've talked to considers him an outfielder. He played first base in high school because his team didn't really have a better option to put there. He has good speed and will have a chance to stick in center field, but he profiles in right just fine. He has good power, a short, quick stroke and can hit to all fields. I saw him almost land a ball on Waveland Avenue in the home run derby at the Under Armour Game in 2010.

    Harry (Toronto): Did the Jays give up too much or too little for Colby?

Nathan Rode: Neither really. They dealt some pieces that didn't factor too much in their future plans and got a young outfielder with upside left. And the Cardinals got pieces needed to win a World Series. We'll see how Rasmus pans out, but I think it's a win for both sides at this point.

    Drew (Toronto): Really surprised to see Hutchison that low, there have been numerous reports of him being included in many top 50 prospects lists, and I don't believe I have heard anybody list Deck McGuire as the superior talent. Could you please explain your reasoning for having him that low?

Nathan Rode: That low? He's No. 9 in a system that probably ranks in the Top 5 in baseball and has a lot of players in the 11-30 with higher upside (but more risk and less experience obviously). I don't think he's a Top 50 prospect. He's had a very good career so far, but I think his command has given him a distinct advantage over low-level hitters. McGuire has two pitches that can be plus with two more that could be average. Hutchison has a fastball that can have plus velo to go with good life. His changeup is good, but this breaking ball is inconsistent and as the report says not everyone is sold he's a starter in the long term yet. Even so, you're splitting hairs between No. 8 and No. 9.

    Jeff Morris (KC): Any word on Sam Dyson's recovery?

Nathan Rode: When I was making calls for the list, I was told he had suffered some setbacks and wasn't throwing off a mound yet. Not what you want to hear, but hopefully taking some time off this winter will help. We'll see where he is in the spring.

    Jan Itor (Sacred Heart): Where does Chris Hawkins end up on the diamond? He seems like a nice blend of bat and athleticism.

Nathan Rode: He's a left fielder. There isn't a lot of smoothness to his game, but he'll grow on you if you watch him enough. He's a good runner underway and has plenty of strength. He's in the 20-30 range. I want to see how he fares against pitching above the Appy League before getting too high on him. His value is all in the bat so he'll have to keep doing it all the way up the ladder.

    Ryan (Laurel, MD): Is Moises Sierra flying under the radar? If so, how much longer will that go on?

Nathan Rode: Depends on who's radar you're talking about. He's on the Blue Jays and our roster. I've ranked him in the Top 30 the last three years. He fits the right field profile well with at least plus raw power and an arm that grades either a 70 or 80, depending on who you ask. He just needs to control the strike zone more. I can't wait to see what kind of numbers he could put up in Las Vegas.

    Keith (Manchester, CT): Thanks Nathan. I'm a big fan of Justin Nicolino, but I'm worried he needs more velocity on the fastball to be a 2 or 3 starter. Will that keep him from being anything more than a back-of-the-rotation guy?

Nathan Rode: Well, what do you think of Cole Hamels? (Disclaimer: This is NOT a comp. Unless a scout think it's a good one and then you heard it here first.) Hamels' average velo was 91.7 this season. There's more to being a No. 2-3 starter obviously, but Nicolino works 89-93 so I don't think there should be a huge concern over his velo. He has a very good changeup and a curveball that is a work in progress but could be an average pitch.

    Jan Itor (Sacred Heart): It was a nice surprise to see the Jays get Matt Dean signed. Does he make the cut for the top 30?

Nathan Rode: Yes he does. He can be a good defender at the hot corner, hit for average and plus power. He's in the 10-20 range.

    Alexandre (Montreal, Quebec): It seems to me like the Jays have a lot of depth, but doesn't seem to have future superstars like the Royals last year or the Rays a few years ago. Am I correct?

Nathan Rode: Couple questions like this and about where the Jays rank. You're right, there isn't that one slam dunk guy that would fit in the first 10-15 of our Top 100. But they make up for it in depth. Early on I thought this was the top farm system in baseball, but I've backed off a little. It's in the Top 5 I think and will obviously get a boost if Yu Darvish ends up in the mix too. But there are a couple other systems that have very strong arguments for No. 1 as well.

    Ryan (Baltimore): What's the word on the street regarding John Stilson? Is he expected to be ready to pitch this spring? Has he begun throwing yet?

Nathan Rode: He threw a little bit at instructional league, but they're taking it easy on him to start for obvious reasons. I expect he'll be ready in the spring. He'll probably get a shot at starting early on, but will likely end up in a late inning relief role. He could move quickly in the bullpen too.

    Gerry (Toronto): Your write-up for Asher Woj doesn't say why he still deserves a top ten ranking. He didn't have a great season so why is he still top ten, other than FB velocity which you note is down this year?

Nathan Rode: Yes the velo was down, but it's his first season of pitching every fifth day and there wasn't a guy that was an easy call to put over him so I gave him the benefit of the doubt. If the velo returns next year he'll have a plus fastball, plus slider and a changeup that's a work in progress. His ceiling could be that of a No. 2 or back of a bullpen because he's an intense competitor.

    Denny (Chatham): What are the concerns with Syndergaard becoming a legitimate #1? It seems a guy that can hit 100MPH with 2 solid offspeed offerings would have a higher potential than #2 starter?

Nathan Rode: In the Prospect Handbook we have a page that tells you what each position and rotation spot values. A No. 1 starter needs two plus pitches, an average third pitch, plus-plus command and plus makeup. Syndergaard has one plus (probably plus plus) pitch and two more that are works in progress. I think his curveball could be a plus pitch. His changeup could be average. But I think he falls short in the command department. It's not bad by any stretch, but it's not plus plus. Not to mention there aren't 30 No. 1s in the majors, it's lofty to put that tag on a 19-year-old and No. 2 ceiling is pretty darn good anyway.

    Scott (Toronto): Do you think Norris would have been drafted in the first round had teams known he would have signed for $2M? And why would Norris have put $3.9M out there as a bonus demand if he was willing to sign for $2M? BA seems to be awfully high on someone who fell all the way to #74 overall in the 2011 draft.

Nathan Rode: Absolutely, and I don't think it was the price tag alone. He was thought to be strongly committed to attending college. And going 74th overall doesn't mean he's the 74th best player in the draft. We ranked him 16th overall before the draft and he has the potential to have four average or better pitches. Also, if you're a prospect and you're willing to sign for $2 million, are you going to start your negotiations at $2 million? I would doubt it.

    Tom (San Francisco, CA): I keep hearing that everything about Chris Hawkins' game is "unorthodox". Is it the Jays' intentions to smooth out his actions, or will they leave him alone as long as he produces?

Nathan Rode: There's some stiffness to his actions, but I think the Jays will let him be as long as he keeps hitting. If it ain't broke, don't fix it. But if he trails off, I'm sure they'll look to make some adjustments.

    JD (AZ): Nathan, have the Jays written off Kevin Ahrens at this point? I remember those Chipper comps back when he was drafted...

Nathan Rode: Yea...it's time to move on.

    Dan (Idaho Falls): Ignoring the numbers game for a minute, where did Cardona place in this year's list (i.e. middle third, etc.)? Any feel on how well he progressed this past year?

Nathan Rode: He's in the middle of the pack. He's a long ways away, but he has a ton of projection in his frame and the fastball has already gained some ticks since he signed. The question with him is will his max effort delivery and below average curveball move him to the bullpen? The easy answer is yes, but we'll let him get some pro innings under his belt before being too emphatic.

    Terry (Toronto): Are there any middle infielders in the system who project to be regular (or better) contributors at the major league level?

Nathan Rode: Hechavarria and Thon are the top middle infielders for the Jays, but there's significant risk with Thon because he had a lost year and was unrefined to begin with. Hechavarria is a plus defender in runner, but he needs to prove it with the bat.

    Mike (London, ON): Is there anybody in the system that missed out of the top 10 that could take a big step this year a jump into the top 5?

Nathan Rode: Tough to say on Top 5 given we don't know who will graduate or even be traded by this time next year, but I'd look at guys like at Matt Dean and A.J. Jimenez has being able to make the biggest step forward next year.

    Steve (Huntington Beach, CA): Could you give us some insight into Marisnick's speed and power ceiling? Is 30-30 reasonable or am I dreaming?

Nathan Rode: I think 30-30 might be a little rich at this point. He was only in Low A this year, but I think 20-20 is definitely a reasonable expectation.

    Ryan H. (Abingdon, MD): Griffin Murphy was an interesting lefty coming out of high school. How do the Blue Jays feel about his progress after his 1st year in pro ball?

Nathan Rode: He had a modest year as a 20-year-old in the Gulf Coast League. You would hope for more than that from a guy that was thought to be polished out of high school. And I'm hearing they're not completely sold on him being a starter.

    Johnny (Taipei): How about chad Jenkins? gone?

Nathan Rode: He's still on the list. He can be a durable innings eater in the big leagues. I bet he'll make his debut at some point in 2012.

    Morrie (New Jersey): Between Musgrove and Comer, who ranked higher? Opinions on both pitchers' mechanics and ceilings?

Nathan Rode: Comer ranked higher as I think his stuff and upside is a tick better. He had a tough spring, but came on strong late. He's athletic with a clean delivery and plenty of projection remaining. Musgrove is a big, durable arm that will get lots of ground outs because of his heavy fastball. He has some things to clean up in his delivery, but nothing of great concern.

Nathan Rode: Ok folks, that's going to do it for me. I've got a lot to do before the holiday and the Prospect Handbook is getting sent to the printers in a couple days. Thanks for coming out. There were lots of good questions that I couldn't get to, but you can hit me up on Twitter (@bahighschool). I only need 15 more followers to break 2,000! Come back Wednesday for Bill Ballew's chat about the Rays Top 10. Happy holidays everyone!