Hawaii Winter Baseball Top 20 Prospects Chat

Q:  Matthew from Tempe, AZ asks:
Whats the prognosis on Anthony Hatch? He is a corner guy without legit pop and an underdeveloped frame, but an above average hitter. What does he need to do to take the next step?

Chris Kline: Hey everyone, thanks for sticking around. Thanksgiving traffic gives me the blues.

Chris Kline: Hatch is interesting. Compact swing with an approach that incorporates all fields, with very sound defense at second base. Toronto wanted Hatch to play some shortstop in HWB, where he had some trouble with his throws. His actions are smooth, but he doesn't have great range at SS. He needs to stay on top of the ball more to make his throws more accurate. Smells like a utility player.

 Q:  Paul M from VA asks:
Josh Bell vs. LHP was 1-25 and struck out half the time, but against RHP his OPS was close to .900 in the HWL. Will he just stop switch-hitting, and is a potential #5 hitter vs. RHP given his prodigious power stroke? Also, is 3B in the majors not likely?

Chris Kline: Every other winter league is a 'league,' but Hawaii Winter Baseball is 'Baseball.' I know that's weird, but that's the official title. (If I seem a little rammy, it's been a rough morning . . . you guys have no idea) The Dodgers still want him to switch-hit and you can't really put too much stock in the Hawaii numbers. Especially with Bell. I'd be more concerned with the defense. His value is tremendous as a third baseman, and he really needs to fully commit to the position. His footwork wasn't very good in HWB, which negatively affected his throws.

 Q:  Navin from Pasadena, CA asks:
I was a bit surprised that Kyler Burke didn't make the back end of your top 20 list. He seemed to hit well despite an inordinate number of strikeouts (37 K in 87 AB)...what are your thoughts on him in Hawaii and how do you think he'll handle the jump to full season ball in 2008?

Chris Kline: Burke has some tools, and obviously hit for power in the Northwest League, but hasn't hit with much pop since. The Cubs sent him to HWB to shorten his stroke and use the whole field more effectively, which he did extremely well, so I wouldn't put too much stock in the lack of power in paradise. He also hit lefties well, but his pitch recognition still needs work. If he stays committed to his approach, he'll hit in his first full season and the power will come.

 Q:  Jon from Peoria asks:
Chris: Do you think we'll ultimately see Bard in the back end of the bullpen instead of starting? Also, what's Ryan Harvey's status after he was pulled after a handful of games?

Chris Kline: It really depends on the secondary stuff. Bard scrapped the slider he had in college for a hard curveball, which several managers in the league said was plus at times. But he still has to work with his mechanics to get the proper hand position more than arm slot within his release in order to command his pitches more effectively. As far as relieving goes, Bard likely starts again, based on how the secondary stuff looks in spring training. He's not a fast-track guy anymore, but could move quickly if everything comes together in his mechanics. With Harvey, he'll be back in the spring, but his star continues to plummet.

 Q:  alexei606@verizon.net from st jay, vermont asks:
How was Wieters on defense? Is that the reason that McKenry got the call for All-Star at catcher?

Chris Kline: Wieters' defense was fine. He threw out 33 percent of runners in HWB and put in a lot of extra work. But the all-stars were voted on league field staff and media, and McKenry threw out a whopping 47 percent of runners, so he was the obvious guy.

 Q:  Eric from Elk Grove asks:
Chris, please look into your crystal ball for me. Do you see Jermaine Mitchell developing into a starting CF in the majors or is he looking more like a 4th OF type? It sure would help if he would hit for more power...

Chris Kline: I was actually impressed with Mitchell's year in the Midwest League, where he hit eight homers and 20 doubles. The MWL is a tough place to hit. There is talk that the A's might jump him straight to Double-A Midland next year to step up his timetable. That might be the best thing for him, and the biggest test to really get a grip on his true value. Right now, I say starting CF.

 Q:  alexei606 from st jay, vermont asks:
Brandon Snyder was Util All-Star - does that indicate he will be asked to play 1B, 3B and corner OF next year at Frederick? Expected ETA for Snyder and will he be 1B, 3B or OF?

Chris Kline: I wouldn't put much stock in an all-star award in a developmental league, and it certainly doesn't dictate where Snyder's future position lies. He only played a handful of games at third base, but looked good in that short stint. He will play the bulk of time at first base in the Carolina League, but might also see some time on the opposite corner. No word on the outfield, but it'd be best just to keep him at first and see how he reacts to time at third base in a very competitive league at Frederick.

 Q:  Chris from Pittsburgh asks:
No Brad Corley? Was it too much swing and miss, or are there questions about his power will project at higher levels?

Chris Kline: You're right on, Chris. Corley's swing can get long, and his pitch recognition still needs work. People questioned Steven Pearce's power at the higher levels too, and right now it's tough to judge exactly what kind of ceiling Corley has. He hits both lefties and righties fairly well, but needs to tighten up his zone.

 Q:  Karl from Baltimore asks:
It's great to hear that the O's had two of the top 3 prospects in Hawaii, especially since they are both position players, which has been a real weakness for the team. But the real question is, how long until Wieters and Snyder are mashing in Camden Yards?

Chris Kline: Karl, Wieters will get there before Snyder. I think Wieters starts in Frederick and moves to Bowie before the end of 2008 and could be in the big league lineup by 2009. Snyder's timetable is likely a year later.

 Q:  Fabian from Replacement Level asks:
What factors did you weigh in putting together this list and how large was the gap between Wieters and Jackson?

Chris Kline: Prospect status, tools, history and performance. We talked to field staff from all four clubs and even found a scout or three (which wasn't easy). It's tough to quantify the gap between the two players you mentioned, and Wieters' wasn't No. 1 based on his signing bonus. So many people we talked to said he was the hands down No. 1 prospect based on his tools and future projection, that it pushed Jackson to No. 2. Before this season, Jackson hadn't fully grown into his tools, but has always been athletic with speed. Given the fact that catchers are so tough to find, and Wieters automatically becomes one of the top backstops in the minors, gave him the nod. That's not to take away anything from Jackson . . . great year and it's very good for that organization to see a player like that begin to unlock his potential.

 Q:  Kyle from VA asks:
Kontos' etarole in the Bronx?

Chris Kline: Probably at least two years away, depending on the role. Ceiling is a back end of the rotation guy or a middle reliever.

 Q:  alex from palm beach florida asks:
Do you see Josh Bell having a realistic chance of staying at third as he makes his way up the organization?

Chris Kline: The tools are there, but like I said before, he really has to commit to getting better defensively. The work ethic will determine the ceiling.

 Q:  Fabian from Replacement Level asks:
Is Matt Wieters the best catching prospect in the minor leagues? Where does he rank overall for you?

Chris Kline: After looking at the list we ran in August again, I say yes, he's a no-doubt No. 1.

 Q:  ScottAZ from Phoenix, AZ asks:
Is there any hope left for Big Michael Wilson? Although he struggled in AA, he was awesome in the HWL.

Chris Kline: From a confidence standpoint, yes. I just would want to see it extended out against better pitching. He had a great HWB, but there are still too many questions.

 Q:  James from Orlando asks:
What are your thoughts on the future for Royals prospect Tyler Chambliss?

Chris Kline: OK, just rambling thoughts . . . inconsistent. Average fastball, average breaking ball. Needs to command better. He made strides in HWB despite the ERA, but really needs better overall balance in his delivery.

 Q:  Drew from Hempstead, NY asks:
Where does Austin Jackson fit in the Yankees plans? How far from the bigs is he? Do the Yankees see enough in him to stick with Melky in center for a couple years, then sport an outfield of Cabrera in left, Jackson in center, and Tabata in right? Or is Jackson far enough from being big league ready that NY may package Cabrera for a pitcher (Johan) and sign a center fielder to 4-5 years?

Chris Kline: I guess I became known for harshing on Tabata in the Yankees' world because I followed that wrist injury for over a year before we broke that, but I'm still not sold on him. And it's not concern with the hamate as much as it is the body and the overall desire to reach his ceiling. That said, with Jackson, I don't think he's too far away. Everyone I've talked to at three different levels loves his athleticism, speed and he's got that little swagger about him that tells you he's going to have success. For me, he's their everyday center fielder in 2009 at the latest.

 Q:  Redsfest from Cincinnati asks:
Chris, Glad to see Vailiaka made your top 20. The reds appear to have a number of infield prospects, What is your Date of arrival to the Big Leagues for Chris

Chris Kline: Again, depends on the role. As a utility player, Valaika could be there a lot quicker. As a second baseman, he needs at least a full season at Double-A and then a half year in Louisville. It all really depends on the continued success of the bat either way though. Valaika makes quick adjustments offensively, and he definitely took to second base this winter.

 Q:  John from Cailforina asks:
How would you rate the Dodgers prospects in Hawaii?

Chris Kline: The one guy everyone kept bringing up was Kenley Jansen for defensive tools behind the plate. Solid catch-and-throw guy who showed good leadership skills.

 Q:  Travis from PHX asks:
Chris Medlen sounds legit. Can he continue to move at the rate he moved this year? Will his elbow hold him back?

Chris Kline: Medlen is a stud. Sounds like he'll move at the same rate and could wind up in the Atlanta pen sometime later next season. The elbow stuff is concerning, but the Braves view it as minor soreness and nothing that will hold him back.

 Q:  Randy from KC asks:
How far away do you think Blake Wood is from being called up and in what capacity?

Chris Kline: I think he can be a starter, but if not, he definitely has stuff to close. The Texas League will be a big test for him in a hitter's league, and the development of his changeup will be key in where he winds up.

 Q:  Joel from Washngton, DC asks:
Chris, Jamie Romak batted only .209 in HWB, but he still managed an OBP of .361 and almost half of his meager hit total went for extra bases. This is Romak's pattern —- patience and power, but not much else. Is he a prospect or not?

Chris Kline: Everyone I talked to put Romak in the 'marginal' category, which puts him a slight step ahead of the 'NP' department. Like you said, good plate discipline with some pop, but that's about it.

 Q:  Ernie from New York, NY asks:
Chris, thanks for taking all of these questions. When do you think Austin Jackson will be patrolling CF for the Yanks? To whom do you think he best compares? Thanks, Chris.

Chris Kline: Big Ern, the natural comparison I got from his time in HWB was Mike Cameron.

 Q:  Greg Ganter from Mission Viejo asks:
Steve Johnson had some great numbers in Hawaii, is still very young, but didn't make the top 20. Whats your position on his potential ?

Chris Kline: You mean 2004 Aflac All-American Steve Johnson? Fringe-average fastball with fringy stuff across the board. Good feel to pitch with good makeup. Could be an innings-eating back of the rotation starter if everything clicks, but he's going to have to walk a tightrope to reach that ceiling.

 Q:  Matt from Houston asks:
Who were the top Japanese prospects this year?

Chris Kline: All pitchers, with the most interesting being Yakult lefthander Kyohei Muranaka. Just 20 years old, Muranaka showed tremendous poise in HWB, with an 88-90 mph fastball, sharp breaking ball and a ton of deception.

 Q:  Kyle from VA asks:
Wasnt Anthony Claggett in HWB? How were his results? Future in the organization?

Chris Kline: Claggett: 1-1, 6.04 in 22 innings. I don't really see him making an impact in the big leagues, at least with that organization. He rolls up a lot of ground balls, but lefties just crush him.

 Q:  Matt from Amherst, MA asks:
After watching Sinkbeil this Winter, where does he go from here? If he is health for a full season, where does he find himself on Sept 1, 2008?

Chris Kline: Right down the road from us at Double-A Carolina. If he stays healthy and has success in the Southern League, he could be in Miami in September. Sinkbeil did a nice job of keeping all his stuff down in the zone and his sinker was very good. He just needs to command his secondary stuff better, especially the changeup.

 Q:  Paul from San Francisco asks:
Chris, re: Bard, how likely is it that he'll learn to repeat his delivery? My sense is that players have a tough time doing this and rarely do these prospects ever materialize into consistent big league pitchers. Your thoughts?

Chris Kline: The major switch was changing from a slider in college to a hard curveball as a pro. Bard would drop his arm slot with the slider, and then not regain it with his fastball during his first full season, which led to the erratic command. Despite the sketchy strikeout-walk ratio in HWB, there is reason for optimism, especially since he showed a plus breaking ball at times. That's more than he showed during the regular season. I still think it's going to be baby steps in his mechanics as he moves into 2008.

Moderator: Thanks very much for all the great questions as usual. I hope you all have a Happy Thanksgiving. Be safe. CK