2012 Kansas City Royals 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.

J.J. Cooper: Hey everyone. Thanks for the questions. Let's dive in.

    @Jaypers413 (IL): Hi, JJ. I'm guessing I won't be the first to say you surprised me this year by ranking Montgomery as KC's top prospect. (We all know he struggled quite a bit with his command throughout the season, and with your lofty ranking it's assumed you believe he will adapt and improve significantly this season.) Did your fellow BA staffers raise their eyebrows at your choice? Is it your opinion he has even more upside than the top athlete of a truly stacked draft in Bubba Starling? Was it basically a coin flip between these two for the top spot? Thanks, and I look forward to your response(s) with baited breath.

J.J. Cooper: I'm sure this isn't the only question about who we ranked No. 1 that I'll answer today. I have questions asking why Myers isn't No. 1 and others asking why Starling isn't No. 1. There was plenty of debate in the BA offices as well. The easiest answer is that there is very little separation between the three. But in the end, the choice was between a lefthander with Triple-A experience, a corner outfielder and a center fielder who has yet to play pro ball. If Starling had a solid year of pro ball under his belt, I'd maybe see him as No. 1, but he doesn't. Both Myers and Montgomery didn't have great 2011 seasons, and both of those seasons were in part mitigated because they were very young for the league. In my mind, I'll take the lefty starter over the corner outfielder.

    Ben (Leland Grove): Did any of the Royals' top 10 grade as "Safe" on the Risk Factor scale in your upcoming Handbook?

J.J. Cooper: No. But then safe is something we hand out very, very rarely.

    Paul (Dallas, TX): I don't get how Montgmery got the top spot after struggling so much. In addition, Starling has the highest ceiling and the most potential in the entire '11 draft. Are you sure you didn't inadvertantly switch these guys' rankings?

J.J. Cooper: As I said, I'll be answering several of these questions. As far as Starling, he does have the highest ceiling of this group, but easily the most risk as well. Not only has he not played pro ball yet, but he also is not nearly as polished as the Royals' other recent top 10 high school picks. In Hosmer and Moustakas' cases you were talking about very polished high school players who played top-notch competition and played baseball nearly year-round. Starling has split his time between three sports, he played in a much weaker area competition wise and he's got a lot further to go to reach his ceiling. Now his ceiling is higher than Hosmer and Moustakas if everything comes together, but there is more risk there.

    Carlos (Kansas City, MO): Are you bullish on Jorge Bonifacio? What stands out about him to you?

J.J. Cooper: I'm a pretty big fan of Bonifacio. He's advanced for his age and has a pretty impressive all around game even if his swing isn't as pretty as one may like.

    Dara (Tampa, FL): Higher ceiling and likelihood to reach it between Cuthbert and Starling???

J.J. Cooper: Starling has the highest ceiling in the system. Cuthbert is more likely to reach his ceiling because he's already shown he can hit full-season pitching.

    Frank (Chicago): Are you as high on Lorenzo Cain now as you were when he came over to KC?

J.J. Cooper: About the same. I don't think he did anything to hurt his stock with his 2011 season in Omaha, but I don't think he made any dramatic strides either. He should be a solid big leaguer center fielder with good defense, a little power, some speed and a decent average and OBP.

    Jesse (Burlington, Vermont): Is the Royals system still a top 5 system?

J.J. Cooper: Right at the cusp of the top 5, which is pretty impressive considering they graduated four members of last year's top 10 and nine of the Top 30 to the big leagues.

    Simon (Edmonton, Alberta): It doesn't seem to me like the Royals have the type of young pitching that equals their collection of hitters. Am I correct?

J.J. Cooper: They have a ton of pitching prospects in the system, so depth-wise I think you can say they actually have more pitching depth than position player depth. But no, they don't have as many pitching prospects that are safe bets like Hosmer and others are on the position player side. Of course by there very nature, pitching prospects are rarely as safe bets as position players.

    Jadam (Byrontown): Obviously last season's list was crazy good, but looking back, do you think it was slightly overrated? I know there were a lot of graduations, but with injuries, setbacks, and poor performance, this minor league system looks good...not great. At this time next year, where do you see this system ranking?

J.J. Cooper: Sorry, not going to agree with you on the overrated part. Eight members of last year's top 30 are no longer rookie eligible. Hosmer, Moustakas, Perez, Crow, Collins, Coleman, Giavotella and Duffy are now up in the big leagues and will likely be there for quite a while for the Royals. That's an outstanding year for any farm system. Throw in the likelihood that Myers, Montgomery and Herrera will likely join them in Kansas City before too long and you're talking about an exceptional class. The Royals had almost nothing go wrong developmentally in 2010. That wasn't the case in 2011, but they still have one of the game's best farm systems. A year from now, I think they will still be in the top third. Even if Myers graduates to the big leagues, Starling, Cuthbert, Adam, Ventura and Lamb are all very solid Top 10 guys who will likely return to next year's Top 10. Throw in a year of development for Bonifacio, Elier Hernandez, Brian Brickhouse, Jack Lopez, Kyle Smith and others and another top 10 draft pick and this farm system should still be impressive next year.

    Dan (Toronto): Hey J.J. Montgomery and Myers both had "disappointing" years, yet Myers was ranked ahead of Montgomery a year ago. Can you please explain why Montgomery is ahead of Myers now? Thought Myers would be the no-brainer #1 in this system.. or MAYBE Starling. Thank you.

J.J. Cooper: When we did these rankings last year, Myers was still a catcher. The value of a corner outfielder is less than that of a catcher. Again, the margin between one and three on this list is very minimal. On my personal Top 50 in the Prospect Handbook, I had Montgomery and Starling ranked back-to-back and Myers wasn't far behind them.

    Greg (New York): Hey J.J.,does Starling become an all star one day or is that too much to ask???

J.J. Cooper: It's not too much to ask. You don't pay a guy as much money as the Royals did without that hope. As I said above though, they'll have to be patient with him. I would be surprised if he had some struggles as he adjusts to pro ball. I also wouldn't be surprised if one day it just clicks as he figures it all out and his tools get a chance to take over games.

    Jim (Frederick, MD): Most unheralded Royals pitcher who could turn into a middle rotation (or better) starter?

J.J. Cooper: Interesting question. It's hard to see how many of these guys will get shots as the Royals head to spring training right now with arguably nine guys competing for a spot. But if they got a chance, I wouldn't be shocked to see Will Smith or Everett Teaford hold their own as a back-end of the rotation starter. Middle rotation or better? Then you're either talking about the more heralded prospects like Montgomery, Duffy or Odorizzi or guys a long way away. Could Kyle Smith end up being a No. 3? Yes. Is he five years away if he does do that? Yes.

    Dave (Pueblo, CO): What are your projections for Royals LH: Noel Arguelles, Will Smith, Ryan Verdugo and Justin Marks. Do any of them see the K as a starter?

J.J. Cooper: Verdugo is a bullpen guy all the way I think. Smith could be a back-end of the rotation guy, as could Arguelles, especially if he gets a tick more velo back in 2012. Marks is a fringy guy to me, but there are other guys in the office who believe in him a little more than that.

    Brian Roberts (Phoenix, Arizona): Do you envision Christian Colon having the ability to play SS at the major league level or do you plan to eventually move him to 2B?

J.J. Cooper: In the Royals org no I don't think he'll be a shortstop. He's fringy there at best and Kansas City now has a plus-plus defender at short in Escobar. With the young pitchers they will be breaking in over the next couple of years, it's hard to imagine they'd go from a 70 shortstop to a 45-50.

    Keith (Manchester, CT): Thanks JJ. Do you think Bubba Starling can remain in center, at least early in his MLB career, or is he destined for a corner right away?

J.J. Cooper: He can handle center field. Maybe later in his career he gets so massive he moves off the position, but he should run well enough to handle center for the next 5-to-10 years at least.

    Dave (Pueblo, CO): What the changes in CBA with international prospects and the draft including the competitive balance picks, how do you see it affecting the Royals farm system. KC has done well in past few years by going overslot for later round picks and spending in DR.

J.J. Cooper: I don't think the Royals will be that harmed by the new CBA. They will have to do things differently, but they'll be a team that gets competitive balance picks and they'll likely get a bigger international signing pool than many other teams. Unless they can find some loopholes, the Yankees and Red Sox and teams like that will be in bigger trouble when it comes to acquiring amateur talent.

    Jon (Peoria): What were your thoughts on Julio Rodriguez after he came over from the Tigers?

J.J. Cooper: He fills a need as Kansas City's depth at catcher was somewhat lacking with Perez's graduation to the big leagues and Myers' move to the outfield. He could be another Manny Pina type.

    Mike (Pleasant Hill, Mo): Did Eliner Hernandez rank in the 11 - 15 range, what is his scouting report, and who would be a good comp?

J.J. Cooper: For the full scouting report, please by the Prospect Handbook, there's that one and 899 more. But yes, he's an 11-15 guy and two years from now he could be right near the top of this list.

    Mike (Pleasant Hill, Mo): Has there been any talk about getting Clint Robinson some time in the outfield to increase his value, and maybe have a Matt Stairs type career for some team (probably not he Royals)?

J.J. Cooper: Sorry I can't comp Robinson to Stairs. It may seem crazy if you remember late-career Stairs, but Stairs was athletic enough to play in the middle infield early in his career. Robinson is a first baseman and really doesn't have other position options other than DH. He's stuck in a tough situation right now. He has to hit at the big league level to prove he's not a 4-A guy, but he's unlikely to get a chance at that in Kansas City because of Hosmer and Butler. And until he does produce in the big leagues, he'll have very little trade value because teams don't really look to acquire athletically limited minor league first basemen, no matter how well they hit. Do remember, Ryan Howard was available cheap when he was stuck behind Jim Thome. Anthony Rizzo is one of the best first base prospects in the game and he just was traded for a reliever (albeit a talented one) coming off a major shoulder injury.

    BL (Bozeman, MT): Thanks for the chat, JJ. Would it be a fair characterization to say that the Royals don't have as many top end prospects as a year ago (because a chunk of them are in the majors) but that the talent base is broader? Thanks.

J.J. Cooper: Last year they had five guys in the game's Top 20 prospects. So yeah, they aren't close to having that this year. I think last year's depth was a little better, but again, that's because you had almost everyone in this year's Top 30 plus eight more guys who are now big leaguers. It's still a very deep system.

    Ryan (Abingdon, MD): I heard a rumor that Aaron Crow might move to the rotation in 2012. Is that really the plan, and do you think he'll be able to make the transition?

J.J. Cooper: Kansas City has said they'll give him a try in the rotation. It makes sense because the Royals have a ton of bullpen depth now—Soria closing, Broxton, Coleman, Holland, Herrera, Mijares, Wood and Jeffress all in the mix for the other spots and that's not even counting Teaford, Verdugo and Adcock. If Crow can improve his command, he's got front-end of the rotation stuff. Even if it means a return to the minors for a little while, it makes sense to see if he can move back to starting. It's not like the option of moving back to the pen won't still be there if he reverts to his 2010 struggles.

    Josh (Pennsylvania): Would you put Montgomery in the class of other top pitching prospects ex.matt moore, shelby miller, julio tehran

J.J. Cooper: Below those guys in the next group. To me, Moore is in a class by himself. He's a big league ready lefty who may have the best lefty stuff in baseball and he's already had big league success. Teheran and Miller are part of that next group (with Teheran at the top) and Montgomery is part of a group of guys like him, Martin Perez, Tyler Skaggs and others who are very solid prospects but less sure-things.

    BL (Bozeman, MT): Mike Montgomery's status as the organization's top prospect surprised me, but as I think about it makes a little sense. Can you please break down the thought process on selecting him over Myers or anyone else in the conversation?

J.J. Cooper: This time I'll answer it a little more from the aspect of Montgomery. There aren't many lefties in the minors with overpowering stuff. Montgomery has two plus-plus pitches on his best nights and even his inconsistent breaking ball has nights where it can dominate. He needs to show better command and he still needs to refine his curveball, but there's nothing in his delivery or background to raise any serious red flags. He spent half his first season in Triple-A as a 21-year-old, so it's not like he doesn't have plenty of time to polish off the final things on his minor league to-do list.

    Mark (Davis, CA): How is Robinson Yambati looking?

J.J. Cooper: Hurt, which is good news. If you're going to be as bad as Yambati was last year, an injury is better news than just the explanation that you've turned back into a pumpkin (sorry my four-year-old daughter watches a lot of Cinderella). Eventually the Royals found some elbow issues, which helps explain how a guy who dominated the AZL in 2010 could throw a really bad BP every time he took the mound in 2011. They rehabbed him. He didn't need surgery and they expect him to be ready to go for the 2012 season.

    Michael (Valparaiso): Any similarities between Matt Moore and Montgomery? Is Moore a better long-term prospect?

J.J. Cooper: They are both lefthanded and throw hard, but Moore is the best pitching prospect in the game. His fastball is better than Montgomery's as is his breaking ball, changeup and command. Advantage Moore.

    Jason (gainesville, fl): Where does Derrick Robinson fit in the organization's plans? Is he a future regular or most likely a 4/5th outfielder?

J.J. Cooper: He's got a ways to go to be a backup outfielder right now. Looking ahead to the next couple of years, Gordon and Cain seem likely to hold down two spots for several years. If Myers replaces Francouer eventually as expected, you've still got a pretty set group until either Starling arrives or Gordon leaves as a free agent (if he doesn't re-sign with K.C.). So now let's look at the backup outfield situation. If you're looking for a defensive replacement who can also pinch run, well Jarrod Dyson can handle that role better than Robinson as he's better in center and better on the bases. If you're looking for a better bat who can still play multiple positions, then you have Maier still sitting in K.C. right now and David Lough is ready as well. If Brett Eibner makes more contact in the future, he could pass Robinson as well and that's not counting the eventual development of Elier Hernandez and Jorge Bonifacio. It's going to be tough for Robinson to make it to K.C. anytime soon barring injury. The fact he's currently on the 40-man roster will help in that regard, but I also wouldn't be shocked to see him dropped from the 40-man roster at some point in 2012 if the Royals find they need the roster spot to promote someone to the bigs.

    Joe R. (Newport News, VA): Two words on Bubba Starling: Roscoe Crosby. Two more: Josh Booty. How many of these football player/athletes-turned-baseball players actually make it?

J.J. Cooper: Good points. You could cite Drew Henson as well. Of course on the other end of the spectrum you can list Matt Holliday, Grady Sizemore, Adam Dunn and Mike Stanton. It doesn't always work out, but when it does you get a potentially great player.

    DH (Pittsburgh): Approximately where did Montgomery rank in your personal top 50? The reason it seems like the system has dropped a bit, in my opinion, is the lack of an elite prospect. I think people felt like they knew Montgomery pretty well and were surprised to see that neither Myers' nor Starling's upside was exciting enough to eclipse a very solid prospect like Montgomery.

J.J. Cooper: I had Montgomery at the back end of the Top 20, just around where he was heading into 2010. I have Starling and Myers right around that range as well. Yes, Kansas City doesn't have three top 10 prospects like they had last year, but they still have a number of Top 100 guys.

    dave (indiana): has tim melville fallen off the prospect radar?

J.J. Cooper: I may be in a shrinking minority, but I still think there is something there. The stuff is still very good, but he's gotten few results with it. There is no reason for Kansas City to give up on him. Sometimes power righthanders take a long time to develop. Melville could be one of those guys.

    Greg (Fullerton, CA): Where's Christian Colon? Is it a product of a deep system or does he no longer project as a MLB starter type?

J.J. Cooper: There are definitely questions now. It wasn't a great year for Colon. At his best, he was always a guy whose baseball aptitude and feel for the game made his average tools play up. Last year he didn't look like a guy who was more advanced than the competition. With that being the case, it reminded scouts that his tools are pretty average. He could be a stating second baseman, but Giavotella hits better than he does. If not, he could end up as a solid utility type.

    Ryan (AZ): People seem to be down on Mike Moustakas after his rookie year. He's only 22, however. What's your assessment of his future and his potential?

J.J. Cooper: Moustakas has always been somewhat streaky—he had a 1-for-41 streak or something like that when I saw him in Wilmington a couple of years back. He showed he could make adjustments after a brutal stretch in Kansas City and I still think there's no reason to believe he won't be a very solid middle-of-the-lineup guy for years to come.

    Clint (Omaha, NE): What is limiting the upside of Arguelles right now? Is it just the loss in velocity?

J.J. Cooper: Yep. He has great command for his age and a good feel for his secondary stuff. Pair that with a plus fastball and you really have something. Pair it to an average at best fastball like he had last year and he has a similar scouting report to about 50 other guys in the minors.

    Brett (Kansas City): Since Salvador Perez had over 150 at-bats in the majors this last year I dont know if he qualified for the list, but if he did would he have been in the top 10? What do you think is his ceiling?

J.J. Cooper: Was asked this on a radio show I did this morning and I came up with probably fifth on this list. He's going to be very good defensively with a chance to hit. That scouting report reminds me in some ways of Yadier Molina's when he broke into the big leagues. That's probably a best case scenario, but similar production to that is probably his top-end ceiling.

    Mike (New York): From a pure athletic side, how would you compare Starling to Trout? Also, if he puts it all together, do you envision Starling hitting 30+ homers a year?

J.J. Cooper: Trout runs better. I see the power as being pretty similar, maybe you could argue a very slight edge to Starling. Starling has a better arm. Now just to make sure this isn't taken out of context, put them on a baseball field and Trout's significantly better right now. He's a better hitter. He's better defensively and he's a better baserunner. If the Royals get 80 percent of Mike Trout out of Bubba Starling, they made a great pick.

    Doc Evil (Kansas City): With Cuthbert being blocked at 3B by Moustakas, is there a position change in his future?

J.J. Cooper: I wouldn't go that far yet. I know Jim Callis got some differing reports in the MWL, but from what I heard, Cuthbert is better defensively at third than Moustakas was when he made the switch. If Cuthbert develops at a normal rate, he might end up hitting the majors just about the time that Moustakas may be growing his way off the position.

    Pete (Coeur d'Alene, ID): How far down KC's Top 10 List could you go and still be better than the White Sox's top prospect?

J.J. Cooper: Hmmmm. I think White Sox No. 1 prospect Addison Reed and Kelvin Herrera (Royals No. 7) are pretty similar. At the same time there are guys in the back end of the White Sox Top 10 that would be in a struggle to make the back end of the Royals Top 30. I mentioned this on the podcast, but the Royals farm system is still dramatically better than anyone else in the AL Central. You could argue that the Tigers, Indians and White Sox are three of the bottom five farm systems in the game. Minnesota is better than that, but they are a tick-below the average farm system at best. Kansas City does have a window here to actually do something, and if they don't win in the next couple of years, it's hard to imagine when they would ever do it. They have brought a ton of young talent to the big leagues already. They have the remainder of that wave sitting in Double-A and Triple-A to filter into the big leagues in the next year or so. And then they have another group of lower level guys like Cuthbert, Elier Hernandez, Ventura, Adam and others to develop or to be trade chips to swing deals to acquire big league talent. At the same time the White Sox are slowly shifting into rebuilding mode with very little talent in the farm system right now. Minnesota is coming off a nightmarish year and has little in the upper levels to help out while Cleveland gutted their farm system through promotions and trades last year and still finished under .500 while doing so.

    Justin Masterson (Cleveland, Yo): BA's July 2 scounting report on Hernandez's bat speed was glowing. But so much can go wrong with a prospect so young. Should I be scared? What is the percentage chance he turns into a .290+ AVG, 25+ HRs star? 10%? 30%?

J.J. Cooper: Oh a ton can go wrong with a teenager who has to adjust to pro ball and a move to a new country. But scouts who have seem a lot of guys come through Latin America think that Hernandez has some of the best hitting tools they've seen in a while.

    Brad (KC): About how many of these guys would make BA's top 100?

J.J. Cooper: Five definites I'd say and Lamb and Herrera could sneak in the back end if everything fell right for them.

    BL (Bozeman, MT): Any sleepers in the organization to keep an eye on?

J.J. Cooper: As a mini-sleeper, Jack Lopez could really emerge in the next year or two as a solid middle infield prospect. Going a little deeper, Terance Gore is quite raw, but he's also faster than Jarrod Dyson, which I barely thought was possible. Going deeper than that Mark Binford is one of those projectable pitchers who could end up never doing much of anything or turning into a front-end of the rotation guy if everything comes together. He's a long, long ways away but he's quite intriguing.

    Mike (PA): General question - why do evaluators so often give the benefit of the doubt to lefty pitchers? It's not like SS or C where every team needs one and a championship team has a great advantage if it has a good one. It's not ideal perhaps, but it's certainly fine to have a staff of righties. Additionally, lefty pitchers will be working against the very real platoon advantage more often than not. If you ask me who can get RHH out a 3rd or 4th time through a lineup, I'll take the RHP over the LHP without much thought.

J.J. Cooper: Interesting question. The reason evaluators give the benefit of the doubt is that there are definitely parks where it's advantageous to be a lefty pitcher (see Yankees Stadium). And many of the better lefty hitters and switch hitters in the game are dramatically weaker against lefty pitchers, something that is not nearly as true when it comes to righthanders. Prince Fielder's career OPS is nearly 200 points lower against lefties. Lance Berkman's career OPS is nearly 250 points lower. Adrian Gonzalez's is 150 points lower. David Ortiz's is 150 points lower. Curtis Granderson's is 200 points lower. So a good lefty starter will often neutralize one or two of your opponent's best hitters. Your point about the RHH the third or fourth time through the order may be true, but in today's game, he's facing a righthanded reliever at that point much of the time anyway.

    Matt (KC): I have this weird gut feeling that Dayton loves Jarrod Dyson and that if Dyson could get on base at a decent clip he could be an everyday CF. Is that even a possibility or is Dyson nothing more than a 4th OFer/pinch runner?

J.J. Cooper: I think Dyson is a fourth or fifth outfielder who can do that role right now. He's a guy who could steal 30 bases in 2012 with less than 30 at-bats. He's unlikely to ever hit enough to be worth playing every day or even infrequently, but if you put him on first base, he's likely standing on second a couple of moments later, and from there he can score on nearly anything that hits the ground in the outfield.

    Chris (KC): Was Hernandez more highly regarded than the Rangers two big international signings, Ronald Guzman and Nomar Mazara? Seems like I hear a whole lot more about Guzman than any of them.

J.J. Cooper: Those two got more money, but I'd say Hernandez ranked with Guzman near the top of most international scouts' lists. There are a lot more questions about Mazara's ability to make contact, although his power is impressive.

    Roger (Greenville, SC): Player A: Mashed in the AFL, possible all star. Player B: Hasn't stepped on the field, tools to dream big on. How do you rate Player B above Player A? I can't imagine a ceiling for Starling that would have me picking him over Myers at this stage.

J.J. Cooper: Roger you left off the part where Player A struggled throughout most of the 2011 regular season. A nice AFL is a good sign, but you can't write off his regular season struggles either.

    David (North Carolina): My question will be applicable to several Major League teams, but in particular Kansas City. With the recent changes in the MLB Draft, do you think that more players will attend college? If so, will teams with 3 Rookie teams/Short Season, like Kansas City, contract down to 2 Rookie/Short Season teams?

J.J. Cooper: I guess that's possible, but the Royals also use those teams for a lot of Latin players as well, so it's still possible they could go with three teams.

    Mike (Pleasant Hill, Mo): Do you think Myers and Odorizzi both start the year in AA with quick tickets to AAA, or do one or both start out in Omaha?

J.J. Cooper: As our writeups stated, I think it's a pretty safe bet Myers goes back to Double-A so he can earn his way to Triple-A at some point this year. Odorizzi has a better shot to make the jump, but I'd expect to see him on Northwest Arkansas' opening day roster as well.

    Ron (Twins Country): The comp I keep thinking about whenever I read Myers is Matt Holiday. I can say the writeup on him this time is NOT very glowing, but do you think Holiday is a good comp and am I reading too far into the writeup or have you soured on him some???? Thanks for taking my question!

J.J. Cooper: I think the tools for Myers are still there like they were last year, but there are more questions at this time than there were a year ago. He has the tools to be a good defensive outfielder, but he looked pretty rough out there last year and he's not shown yet that he's put the work in to fix that. He has excellent hand-eye coordination, but can he make adjustments to hit pitches that he struggled with in 2011? Some scouts aren't thrilled with what they see as a low-energy approach to the game as well. Myers' hitting ability is special, but he has more warts to fix right now than he appeared to have a year ago.

    Chuck (Wichita): Why did Adam's velocity drop so much last year? Can we expect him to regain some of it?

J.J. Cooper: Blame that on the grind of a much longer pro season. His velo fluctuated more than dropped. You'd still see it occasionally but not nearly as consistently. If he gets stronger, sure the velo could come back and it probably will help when he gets more comfortable in his delivery as he had to work a lot on speeding up his time to the plate in 2011.

    Grant (NYC): After Starling, which 2011 draftee came closest to your top 10 and why?

J.J. Cooper: Brian Brickhouse. Power stuff that could allow him to be a middle-of-the-rotation starter.

    Sammy (St Louis): Edwin Carl - great numbers, but old for his league. What's his upside?

J.J. Cooper: We need to see what he can do against older competition, but he's not a soft-tosser. His fastball is plus at times, so there's no reason to completely dismiss his chances.

    Karl of Delaware (Delmarva): He played at high A, AA, and AAA. Was this because catcher Ryan Eigsti was rocketing to the top, or because he was just being patched in as needed?

J.J. Cooper: Sorry to say for Eigsti, but it's more of the latter.

    Kent (Kansas): What's the story on Edwin Carl and Greg Billo? They came out of no where and were nearly unhittable last year.

J.J. Cooper: I mentioned Carl above. Billo is more of the control type who uses a deceptive delivery and a feel for pitching to succeed. His velo used to be some of the worst in the system (think 83-86 from the right side). He's picked up several ticks to where he's now 88-91, but even then, he's the kind of guy who will have to prove it at every level.

    Mike (Pleasant Hill, Mo): More upside Adam, Ventura, or Brickhouse? Who has the best chance of reaching their ceiling?

J.J. Cooper: I'm going to go with the guy who can touch 100 mph as having the most upside. Likelihood of reaching it? Adam, but Ventura isn't far behind despite his small stature and delivery issues.

    Kent (Kansas): Has Brian Fletcher's bat made him someone with a chance to develop into a legit power hitting OF ?

J.J. Cooper: He made the Top 30. It's still an uphill battle, but if you're going to have one plus tool, power is a good one to have.

    Mike (Pleasant Hill, Mo): Do most scouts believe Myers knee injury was the biggest reason for the sub par performance at AA, the position switch, or something else?

J.J. Cooper: The knee injury, the position switch and the struggle to realize that the approach that had worked so well for him in A ball didn't always work in Double-A.

    Jon (Tempe, AZ): J.J., you said on the AL Central Top 10 Prospects podcast that you REALLY liked Cheslor Cuthbert, but how much exactly? Can he be on the same level if not better than the other notable prospects from the 2009 international free agent amateur class like Miguel Sano, Gary Sanchez, Xander Bogaerts? Thanks.

J.J. Cooper: Right now he's done as much as basically anyone else in that class. I'd still put Sano above him and Bogaerts but he's in that discussion.

    Geoff (Charleston, SC): Ali Williams seemed to impress after signing. Does he have a chance to move through the system pretty fast?

J.J. Cooper: Wouldn't go that far yet. He was a college guy pitching in the AZL. He may be ready to head to the MWL this year, which should be a more appropriate test.

    Jason (Seattle): Barring injuries, who is the first call-up of the season?

J.J. Cooper: I think Herrera makes the Opening Day roster, does that count?

Moderator: I better wrap this up after two hours. Thanks for all the questions. The Tigers chat with Ben Badler will be ready to go tomorrow afternoon.