Hawaii Winter Baseball Top 15 Prospects Chat With Matt Meyers

 Q:  Sean from Centreville, VA asks:
Any reports on how Chris Garcia looked? His numbers in HWB were not great, compared to what he put up at Charleston after coming back from injury. Is he still having trouble focusing on baseball (and less on nightlife?)

Matt Meyers: Greetings, and thanks for joining me for the HWB chat. We've got a bunch of questions already, so let's get going.

Matt Meyers: Sean, The reports on Garcia were not great. He showed some promise in the Sally League this year and has some arm strength. However, it sounds like there are some maturity issues there. More accurately, some immaturity issue. Still too early to give up on the guy because he has a live arm, but he was not impressive in Hawaii.

 Q:  Phillip from Overland Park, KS asks:
What do you think Will V.'s future is with the Padres. Do you see him as a everyday player or as a fourth outfielder?

Matt Meyers: Phil, I am a big Venable fan and like what I hear about him. The problem with him is that he does not profile in left field very well, but it is unlikely he can play anywhere else everyday. He has a smooth swing and a mature approach, but there is not that much power. Despite the fact he was a basketball player at Princeton and an excellent athlete, he doesn't appear to have the range to be a regular in center or the arm to be a regular in right. He has big league bloodlines and excellent aptitude, so I think he can at least be a solid reserve.

 Q:  Rick from Rockville asks:
I was curious why Eric Campbell didn't make the cut for the Top 15, particularly if he winds up at second base. What was the thinking about Mr. Campbell's long-term prospect status?

Matt Meyers: Rick, The reports on Campbell were not very good. From what I gather, he look disinterested when he played and ended up being sent home (though I don't know the reason). I did the SAL top 20 and he was a divisive player. Some people really liked him, while his doubters felt he too much of an all-or-nothing approach at the plate and would never stick in the infield. For the most part, players were sent to HWB as an alternative to instructional league and you'd think that most guys would be thrilled for the chance to go to Hawaii and miss instructional league in the process. To hear about Campbell dogging it in Hawaii does not speak well for him.

 Q:  Jerry from Albany, NY asks:
Jeff Clement at #15? Below guys like Mayberry and Cain? I would have put him at #1. I know that his numbers aren't good in Hawaii, but he has gotten very sporatic playing time. Small sample size is a huge issue here. Please explain.

Matt Meyers: Jerry, The problem with Clement is not just his numbers, it is that he looked bad at the plate and behind it. His hitting approach was poor as were his receiving skills. I know it is a small sample, but 12 strikeouts and no walks in 46 at-bats is awful. However, you are right, his playing time was sporadic because he played on a team with four catchers. The biggest complaint I heard about HWB was that there were not enough ABs to go around and it was hard to get into a rhythm. One scout told me that his BP sessions were still great and he definitey looks the part of a big league regular. Unfortunately, no one wants to be known as a five o'clock hitter, and that is all he was in Hawaii.

 Q:  Mike A. from SD, CA asks:
You guys at BA do an unbelievably job covering the minors, but I have to ask: how in the world did a guy who gave up 37 hits and 27 earned runs in 34.1 innings rank number 4 on the list??? (and that's coming from a Yankee fan!)

Matt Meyers: Thanks for the kind words. Admittedly, Marquez performance stands out as the weakest of the top guys on the list but even though his numbers were bad, everyone raved about his fastball. Scouts will talk all the time about how important it is to be able to pitch off of your fastball, and he has the ability to do it. Furthermore, it is a heavy sinker and I really believe in those kinds of guys. He has always had a great groundball-flyball ratio in the minors, and I believe with some improved command, he could get on the fast track.

 Q:  Joe from Dallas asks:
I'm shocked to see Mayberry that high, especially given his age at low A. Do you see him skipping High A and moving to AA to start the season, or is he still on the slow track? Thanks!

Matt Meyers: As far as skipping high Class A, I have no idea. However, Mayberry picked things up in the second-half of the season for Clinton and has been a beast in Hawaii. If he can build on his progress in HWB he could begin to move quickly, but he still gets too long with his swing. It will need to be shortened, but his raw power is rare.

 Q:  Matt from Fullerton, CA asks:
Is the bloom now officially off the rose for Chris Nelson?

Matt Meyers: Still too soon to say that, and having done the SAL top 20 people still like him. He is kind of an odd case because when you grade out his tools, there is nowhere where he is below-average yet he cannot seem to put it all together. From what I gather, he probably will not stick at SS. He just turned 21, so give him another year. Remember James Loney blew up in the Pioneer League in 2002 (like Nelson in 2004) before floundering for a couple of years and then put it together this year. I'll give benefit Nelson the benefit of the doubt for at least another season

 Q:  Derek Jeter from NY, NY asks:
Hi Matt, Hope to see you in Sprint Training. Do you see Joba helping out our rotation within the next 2yrs?

Matt Meyers: Jetes, Heard you are dating Jessica Biel these days, please tell her to stop calling me. Thanks! As for Joba, I'd say he probably needs at least one full year in the minors but he could easily help the Yankees at some point in 2008. Like Marquez, he can pitch off of his fastball and has a very durable frame. One scout described his build as a cross between Roger Clemens and Bobby Jenks, and he meant it as a compliment. The breaking ball needs to be tightened and will probably end up as a solid slider. He was a clear No. 1 in this league.

 Q:  Adam from NYC asks:
How did Dexter Fowler address the issues within his raw package of tools? Is he still focusing on switch hitting, or have the Rockies chosen a side for him to hit from more often? How fast do you envision him moving up the organizational ladder?

Matt Meyers: Adam, Fowler is still raw and he is still switch-hitting. He is a lanky kid, so shortening his swing will be a challenge but he has the tools to be a plus defender in center and is a plus runner. One coach told me he thought he was already a big league caliber defender in center. I don't think he will move very fast, and will likely spend 2007 in high Class A. The Rockies have been searching for years for a center fielder to monitor the enormous outfield in Coors Field and Fowler could be that guy, but it might not be until 2009.

 Q:  Joe from Dallas asks:
I was surprised to see DeWitt as low as he was, especially since most of the big prospects seem to be in the AFL. Is his stock dropping that quickly, and do scouts think he can stay at 2B? Thanks!

Matt Meyers: DeWitt's numbers weren't great, but people still like his approach. I think the comparison to Todd Walker tells you all you need to know about DeWitt. The bat should be a plus at second base, but you'll have to live with mediocre defense. He works hard on his defense, it just doesn't come naturally to him. He should be able to stay there though.

 Q:  Fabian from Ithaca, NY asks:
Joba Chamberlain or Daniel Bard? Why?

Matt Meyers: Though Bard did not pitch in HWB, I'll field this question because I got to see him pitch a bunch of times in Chapel Hill for the Tar Heels. You will rarely see a pitcher touch 97 mph as easily as Bard. He is really fun to watch for that reason, but I'll take Chamberlain because he seems to have better feel for his secondary stuff and throws about as hard as Bard. That being said, this is not a prediction I would bet my life on. I'll be very curious to see how Bard does in pro ball. Joba is off to a great start.

 Q:  lester from Atlanta, GA asks:
Even though his numbers weren't great, what is the prospect status of Bobby Parnell of the Mets?

Matt Meyers: It was a bad year for Parnell. A strained oblique cost him spring training and he never got into a groove. His arm strength is still there (92-94 mph) and it sounds like he has a chance to be an effective sinker-slider guy.

 Q:  Magic Mike Mazza from Harrison, NY asks:
Hey Matt. Thanks for taking my question. I actually have two questions. How could you justify putting Jeff Clement on the list by saying that his BP was good. I know that this list isn't necessarily about how well someone does but come on. You have to come up with something better than his "impressive BPs still showed why he was the third overall pick in 2005." And how come he was in the Hawaiian League? Didn't he play in the Arizona Fall League last year? Isn't this a big step down for someone that finished the year in AAA?

Matt Meyers: For better or worse, pedigree does play a role in putting these lists together and the fact that Clement was so impressive as an amateur gives him the benefit of the doubt. That being said, his pro career is off to a poor start and it seems like he has been jerked around a little bit by the Mariners. He gets injured, and when he comes back they promote him to Triple-A? I don't really get that, particularly when you cosider the Mariners just signed Johjima and do not need to rush Clement. His approach looked bad in Hawaii, but one scout told me that after seeing him take BP, he still believes he will be a guy who hits 25-30 home runs and be an adequate defender. Scouts really put a lot of emphasis on batting practice because it is there best chance to see how well a guy can repeat his swing, and it also gives a good sense of how the ball jumps off the bat.

 Q:  Doug Dilg from Santa Monica asks:
In August, BA rated Mike Carp as the Best Defensive 1Bman in the FSL and today his defense is "solid, albeit unspectacular, but should be no worse than average." Was there just a mediocre group of 1Bmen in Florida this year? How high are the Mets on this kid?

Matt Meyers: The opinions on Carp as a defender vary, but it does sound like he looked better in the FSL then he did in Hawaii. Most of the time, we are simply reporting the opinions of others to arrive at a consensus. In Hawaii, he looked good but not great on defense, but still showed the mature approach at the plate that helped earn him the Mets organizational player of the year. The Mets do like him, and he is the best internal candidate to replace Carlos Delgado when his contract expires in a couple of years. This kid hit 17 homers at the age of 20 in the pitcher friendly FSL. If he had played in the Cal League, he probably would have hit 30 bombs and his name would be everywhere. It is still unclear if he will have the power to be an impact big leaguer at first base, but he is certainly a guy to watch.

 Q:  rich from in DC asks:
With Marquez still appearing to have only two reliable pitches (its been a couple of years now), does he profile more as a reliever or as a back-of-the-rotation starter? If he ever finds that 3rd pitch, does he project to better than the end of a rotation?

Matt Meyers: The biggest issue for Marquez is fastball command. If he can improve that, he will be throwing 70 percent fastballs and will not need great secondary stuff to succeed. As it is, he already has good feel for his change. He is the same type of pitcher as Chien Ming Wang (i.e. groundball machine), but he has a long way to go before he is finishing in second place for the Cy Young. I see Marquez as a solid No. 3 or No. 4 guy.

 Q:  Greg from Toronto asks:
The Yankees 1st pick Kennedy seemed like a stretch. Were they just trying to find a pitcher who would advance quickly despite a low ceiling.

Matt Meyers: It might seem like a stretch now, but remember that Kennedy was dominant for much of his career at USC, even though his 3.90 ERA as a junior was unremarkable. I think they thought Kennedy had a higher ceiling then a No. 5 starter when they took him, but after hearing reports from HWB, it is amazing to think that just five months ago he was thought more highly of then Chamberlain. Alan Matthews and I discuss this phenomenon in our most recent podcast that was posted today, you should all check it out.

 Q:  Nick from New York asks:
Is Joba Chamberlin a front end of the rotation guy? Can you see a rotation in the next 3 years being Hughes, Chamberlin, Betances, Clippard, Kennedy? Thanks

Matt Meyers: I am pretty sure that Wang will still be around. You know, the guy that just finished second in the Cy Young voting at the age of 26. In 2009, I bet that Chamberlain, Huges and Wang will all be in the Yankees rotation. It is too early to tell on Betances and Clippard and Kennedy are less of sure things. I'd also have to think the Yankees will be involved in the free agent market between now and then. Isn't Carl Pavano locked up for another six years or so anyway? On that note, pitchers get hurt all the time so who knows.

 Q:  Brandi from Vermont asks:
BA had Blake DeWitt as its top ranked second base prospect just a couple of months ago, yet here Eric Young ranks higher, has EY Jr's stock risen that sharply or DeWitt's fallen so much? Where would you put Young among the top 2B prospects today?

Matt Meyers: DeWitt's value is tied up purely in his bat. Young, on the other hand, has a wide skill set. He has shown the ability to hit for average, get on base, and steal a lot of bases. He is also a better defender with big league bloodlines and excellent aptitude. I'm sure there are a lot of people who would still take DeWitt, but based on what they did in Hawaii combined with their background and previous performance, Young got the nod for this list.

 Q:  Maximillian Wainwright from London, England asks:
Did Ryan Patterson qualify for the top 15 prospect listing? Also who were a few Japanese fellows who would have placed highly? Cheers!

Matt Meyers: He didn't make the list, but he got a little love from one scout. Patterson's swing is funky and a little stiff, but when he connects it is loud. He is pretty limited defensively so he will need to hit to make an impact.

 Q:  Adam from NYC asks:
Cooler baseball name - Dexter Fowler, Joba Chamberlain, or Van Pope?

Matt Meyers: Lighting round...

Matt Meyers: I will take you to Joba now.

 Q:  Gob Bluth from California asks:
How close was Darren Ford to making this list?

Matt Meyers: Not that close, probably in the 20-25 range. Great speed, but his approach took a step back from the regular. His pitch recongition was terrible and he scuffled. Needs to make more contact to take advantage of his speed.

 Q:  Mark from The D asks:
Who in the HWB do you see as future all star material, and who is the biggest sleeper in the league?

Matt Meyers: Joba, Mayberry and Fowler all have all-star potential. I love what I heard about Vanden Hurk. Not sure if he qualifies as a sleeper though.

 Q:  Jim from Alexandria, VA asks:
Can you please explain to me why the Nationals continue to hype Ian Desmond as a top prospect? I understand their system is weak, but c'mon. While I know he's still young enough, he doesn't appear to me as anything more than an end of a roster middle infield backup.

Matt Meyers: You are preaching to the choir there. I have never bought into that guy. Some people at BA like him though.

 Q:  Adam from NYC asks:
Van Pope - Still heir apparent to Chipper Jones at 3B?

Matt Meyers: Probably the Braves best option within the system, but his .190 average in Hawaii did not help his case.

 Q:  Wes from East Cobb asks:
Was Chris Nelson even close? Top 30 maybe?

Matt Meyers: Yeah, probably top 30. Like I said, remember James Loney career path before giving up on this guy. However, you want to see some progress next year.

 Q:  Neven from Hills of PA asks:
Hi Matt and thank you for taking my question...I like Fowler alot and was wondering who has the highest upside...Fowler, McCutcheon, Rasmus, Bruce, J Upton or Maybin?

Matt Meyers: Of that group, Fowler would be last and Rasmus before him. I don't know who I would take first though. If you asked four different GMs to rank McCutchen, Maybin, Upton and Bruce, you would probably get four different answers. All four of those guys are better prospects then anyone in HWB.

Matt Meyers: Alright folks, thanks for all the great questions. Make sure to tune in on Monday when we begin our AL Central Top 10 chats. Go Michigan!