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Midwest League Chat with Jim Callis
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Moderator: Jim will begin taking your questions at 1 p.m. ET. Please limit your questions to the Midwest League teams and players.

 Q:  Rich from Sikeston, MO asks:
A catcher that can hit the way Daric Barton projects is All-Star caliber. Is there any way possible he can learn the position, or should the Cardinals send him to the OF immediately to learn one of the corner positions?
 A: 

Jim Callis: Sorry, got a phone call I had to take, but I'll make it up on the back end of the chat! People who saw Barton this year had very little faith that he'll be able to catch in the major leagues. But he's still young enough that it's possible he could improve, so I'd give him another year behind the plate. It's not like catching is ruining his bat, so why not see if he can pull it off? If he can't, he still should be able to hit enough to play another position, though he doesn't really profile well anywhere as a defender.

 Q:  Galen from Cedar Rapids asks:
Where do you believe Matt Moses and Denard Span would have ranked on this list if their season's would not have been interupted by injuries?
 A: 

Jim Callis: If Moses had stayed healthy and had the year he was capable of having, he would have been in the top five along with other very gifted young hitters such as Brian Dopirak, Daric Barton and Eric Duncan. Span actually had enough playing time to qualify for the list. His speed is unquestionable, but he didn't show enough with the bat to make it. Remember, with 14 teams in the Midwest League, it's fairly tough to make the Top 20.

 Q:  Eric from Milwaukee, Wi asks:
I was wondering if Lou Palmisano would be in the top 30, I thought he would have surely been in the top 20.
 A: 

Jim Callis: I didn't take the list down that far, but Palmisano probably would have fit in the 30-40 range. Scouts and managers liked him some but they didn't rave about him. He can do some things offensively and defensively, but didn't stand out in either area.

 Q:  Adam from Dallas asks:
Thomas Diamond didnt crake the top 20, how far of was he? He finished the season in the Midwest League at 1-2 2.61 era, 41.3 innings, 8 walks, and 42 k's. Did he not have enough innings to make the list?
 A: 

Jim Callis: As I mentioned in the Glen Perkins (No. 14) report, Diamond didn't have enough innings to qualify. You need 1/3 inning per scheduled league game, so Diamond needed 46 2/3. Those who saw him loved his arm, and if he qualified I would have put him at No. 5 or 6.

 Q:  Jon from Peoria asks:
Thanks for taking some questions, Jim. I was a little surprised Brad Knox didn't make the list. Was he close? Also, what was the opinion on Stuart Pomeranz? He threw well for someone his age and lack of pro experience. He seemed to have solid mechanics for his height and had a good understanding of pitching.
 A: 

Jim Callis: Knox got some attention, but he didn't make the list because he lacks a single plus pitch. He commands his fastball, curveball and changeup very well. But if you can throw more than one pitch for a strike, you're going to carve up most low Class A hitters. He was old for the league at 22, so while he's interesting, I want to see him in Double-A before I believe in him.

 Q:  Eric SanInocencio from Birmingham, AL asks:
With the Yankees aquiring A-Rod to play 3rd base, is Eric Duncan doomed to be tradebait? Is there any talk of possibly moving him to 2nd base to see if he could fill that hole in the future? Thanks for the chats.
 A: 

Jim Callis: Duncan isn't a bad athlete, but second base would be a stretch. Who knows what will shake out with the Yankees, who never saw an expensive player they didn't want, but Duncan has a very powerful bat and could be their first baseman of the future. Even if A-Rod wasn't in New York, it's not certain Duncan would stick at the hot corner.

 Q:  Marty Smith from Boca Raton asks:
Would you say that Petrick and Jepsen have the most upside of the players that lie between slots 16-20? With two young pitchers throwing that kind of heat, the upside must be huge if they can develop a decent change-up. What separates a guy like Jepsen from a guy like Ervin Santana, who ranked 1st among Angels pitching prospects last year? Is is strictly command?
 A: 

Jim Callis: Ambiorix Burgos has a lot of upside as well, as his arm is every bit as good as Jepsen's and better, from a pure standpoint, than Petrick's. All three of these guys need to do what most young pitchers do, which is located their pitches more consistently and refine their secondary stuff. Jepsen's arm is as electric as Santana's, but as you mention, the difference is mainly command. Santana also has proven himself at higher levels.

 Q:  John from Oklahoma City asks:
Thanks for taking my question! Was the just a great year for Ian Kinsler or should we get use to seeing him put up solid numbers over the next several years? I see him as a Michael Young type player, what about you?
 A: 

Jim Callis: No one knows for sure. A lot of scouts who saw Kinsler in the MWL also covered him as area scouts when he was at the University of Missouri, and he didn't hit the ball anything like he did this year. Kinsler went up to Double-A and continued to hit, so that was a positive sign and I think you have to give him the benefit of the doubt. But his emergence was just stunning. Young is having a fabulous year, and I'm not ready to say Kinsler could match that yet. But his tools are similar to Young's.

 Q:  Fabian from minoryankeeblog.blogspot.com asks:
Defense seems to be something that is hard to conclusively quantify, both for "statheads" and scout-types. That said, what do you think led to Duncan receiving votes as the best defensive 3B in the MWL yet at the same time getting only a lukewarm defensive review in your rankings? In addition, in the last Prospect Handbook, it was said that Melky Cabrera was the Yankee system's "best defensive outfielder and has a plus arm" yet in the rankings he also got a mediocre defensive review. What happened there? Thank you for your time.
 A: 

Jim Callis: Managers aren't always the best judges of a player's defensive ability, and they don't always get a full look at every player in the league. Before he was drafted, there were questions as to whether he had the arm to play third base, and those haven't gone away. When you hear those things this early in a player's career, much more often than not he's going to have to switch positions. Just to clarify on Cabrera, I didn't call him "mediocre." I rated his defensive skills as average. It's also possible to be the best defensive outfielder in a system yet also be no better than solid average.

 Q:  William Ashley from Memphis, TN asks:
Eric Duncan looked good for a little while then tailed off a bit before being bumped to the FSL. When arriving in the FSL, he struggled then picked up his game later. Are these regular growing pains for a teen? Would you consider him to be a potential star, decent regular, or backup in the majors?
 A: 

Jim Callis: I touched on Duncan earlier, so I'll keep this terse: potential star. He's one of the best young power hitters in the minors.

 Q:  Rich from Sikeston, MO asks:
What kept Stuart Pomeranz off of the top 20 list, and can Brendan Ryan become an everyday SS in majors? How do these guys project?
 A: 

Jim Callis: Pomeranz has a heavy fastball that's a plus pitch, but he's pretty much just a one-pitch guy right now. Ryan could become an everyday shortstop in the majors, he has that potential, but he needs to show some more pop, on-base ability and defensive consistency.

 Q:  Rainer Wolfcastle from Springfield asks:
Did Travis Chick receive any consideration for the Top 20 after his dominant turn in the league (5-0, 2.13 ERA with a 559 KBB in 42.1 IP)?
 A: 

Jim Callis: Chick didn't have enough innings to qualify. He did reach 94-95 mph after getting traded for Ismael Valdez, but he's also still trying to develop a second average pitch.

 Q:  Brian Durack from Texas asks:
No Brad Knox or Steve Bondurant? The duo were clearly two of the best pitchers in the league of the course of (almost) the entire season. Surely Knox's 172:24 K:BB and Bondurant's 2.08 ERA count for something, right?
 A: 

Jim Callis: I addressed Knox before. Brian, if you like numbers, here's one for you on Bondurant: 24. That's his age. Here's another: 6.39. That's his ERA in Double-A, the level at which he belonged. I guess I'm getting snippy, but the implication that we don't look at performance bothers me. We understand the importance of statistics and how to interpret them, but you have to take them into context. A 24-year-old with very good command should be able to tear up low Class A hitters, most of whom are 3-5 years younger. You have to balance performance and tools, and Bondurant is a soft-tossing lefty who might be able to become the second lefty in someone's bullpen.

 Q:  bill from grand rapids asks:
jim, tony giarratano made the mwl all-star team before his promotion to high a and ba rated him the 5th best ss prospect in the minor leagues yet did not make this list? please explain?
 A: 

Jim Callis: I like Giarratano but with 14 teams, it's hard to get every prospect on the list. You have to take his performance in the league context into account, and he was a mediocre hitter in the MWL (.735 OPS at age 21), not the force he was in the FSL. The consensus among scouts and managers was that Brandon Wood (.726 at age 19), Ian Kinsler (1.157 at age 22) and Adam Jones (.718 at age 19) were better prospects.

 Q:  Eric SanInocencio from Birmingham, AL asks:
What is John Danks ETA? Also, with his repetoire and size, who is he comparable to and can he be a top of the rotation guy for a pitching starved team like Texas? Thanks.
 A: 

Jim Callis: Danks stalled a little bit after a promotion to high Class A, understandable because he's just 19. He's a good two years away from the majors, but he can be a frontline starter and should be a godsend for the Rangers. It's not a perfect comparison, but because his curveball is so good, I think of Barry Zito. Danks isn't as big and has more arm strength than Zito.

 Q:  Edna Krabappel from Springfield asks:
What exactly are the qualifications to make the list? For pitchers, you said it's 1/3 of an inning for each scheduled league game, but Jairo Garcia had only 30 innings - is it different for relievers?
 A: 

Jim Callis: Nice catch, Edna. In a full-season league, a pitcher making 20 relief appearances qualifies. For hitters, it's one plate appearance for each scheduled league game.

 Q:  Eric from Kansas City asks:
Don't you think that Mitch Maier failed to make the list simply because he was a forgotten prospect after going to Hi-A ball at mid-season? I mean he was leading the league in SB with 35 and was among the top 5 in BA before the call-up. Also did he show enough defensively to profile as a big league thirdbaseman or will he need to move to a corner outfield spot? Thanks for all the time you give to these chats!
 A: 

Jim Callis: No, I didn't forget about Maier. He was in the group that just missed the Top 20, along with Matt Chico, Tony Giarratano, Chris Lubanski, Brian Snyder, Scott Tyler (those guys aren't listed in any order). In a 14-team league, some good prospects are going to miss out. All that said, Maier was old for the league at 22, and though he hit .300 and ran the bases very well, he didn't show a lot of pop or anything beyond ordinary plate discipline. Add in the fact that it's unlikely he can play third base or hit for the power teams want at that position, he missed the Top 20. He's probably going to have to become a left fielder.

 Q:  Henry Calderon from Tucson, Arizona asks:
Where would Matt Chico have ranked if he had stayed in the MWL?
 A: 

Jim Callis: Again, as long as a player qualified for the list, I didn't forget about him. Chico was hard to get a read on, because his stuff fluctuated. Some guys saw him with a 91-93 mph fastball, a hard slider and an intriguing change. But several others saw him in the mid- to high 80s with uninspiring secondary stuff. He just wasn't consistent enough to make the Top 20, and again I'll also blame having to mash prospects from 14 teams into one Top 20.

 Q:  William Ashley from Memphis, TN asks:
I like to see the ball hit hard and far, but I am concerned with the strikeouts from Brian Dopirak. Is this something that may be corrected in the next few years or an ongoing problem in the future? Would Calvin Pickering be a good comparison to Dopirak? I am a Calvin Pickering fan, but obviously his baseball career has not panned out the way many thought it would.
 A: 

Jim Callis: William, Dopirak's strikeout concern me too. He was only 20, though, so he should have a decent amount of growth ahead as a hitter. He'll probably always whiff a lot, but that will be the tradeoff for 35-40 homers (possibly more) and 60 or so walks a year. I don't like the Pickering comparision because Dopirak isn't close to 300 pounds, works hard and actually can play a defensive position.

 Q:  Jon from Peoria asks:
I was a little surprised to see Baltazar Lopez on the list. Can you tell me more about him and will he stay at first with Kotchman already there?
 A: 

Jim Callis: I was surprised, too, because I didn't know anything about him when I started working on the list. The Angels signed Lopez out of Mexico in 2003 and he has hit ever since. Very smooth swing, very smooth glove and some power potential in there. I'm not sure Lopez can play another position, and teams generally won't switch a player because he's blocked by another until he reaches the high minors.

 Q:  Eric from Kansas City asks:
Chris Lubanski had a nice second half after struggling to adjust from low rookie ball last year. Therefore I was surprised he wasn't in the top 20 after being a top 5 pick in last years draft. Do you think the Royals over drafted him and what type of potential does he have as a player? The Royals have stated they see him as a 3-hole hitter in the big leagues.
 A: 

Jim Callis: Lubanski finished strong and has some nice tools, but everyone I talked too expressed reservations about nearly every aspect of his game. MWL observers didn't like his swing, his baserunning instincts or his ability to track fly balls in center field. His best tool when he was drafted was his speed, but the consensus is he'll wind up being a left fielder. The most encouraging thing about his game is that he might hit for more power than originally expected, but I don't see him as a star or a No. 3 hitter at this point. He was slightly overdrafted, as most teams had Lubanski pegged in the 8-15 range, but he also went fifth partly because he took a below-market deal. Considering that, he wasn't a reach at the time.

 Q:  Professor Frink from Springfield asks:
With league size ranging from 8 to 16, was there ever any thought to lengthening the list for larger leagues to give everyone a fair shot to make it? Would Tyler Clippard have made a larger list or was he like Brad Knox - tearing up low A without an overpowering pitch?
 A: 

Jim Callis: Wow, all the obscure Simpsons characters are out today. We've kicked the idea of varying the length of lists according to league size a little bit, but it would get kind of unwieldy. It would be like going shallower or deeper on teams in the Prospect Handbook based on how good the system was. So I think you'll see Top 20s and only that for the leagues. Clippard was in the 26-30 range. All three of his pitches (fastball, curveball, changeup) can be average and slightly above, but you're right in that he doesn't have one dominating pitch. He was young for the league at age 19, and he's one of the Yankees' better pitching prospects.

 Q:  Alex Stanton from Chicago, IL asks:
I see that Vasili Spanos, a Kane County player continues to swing it well. I was wondering what his ceiling is as a player. Could we ever see him in a Major League uniform? Although I have seen him play a few games, and his swing is uncanny, he continues to put up big numbers, even when surrounded by higher draft picks and pro ball projects. How good is this kid?
 A: 

Jim Callis: He's a good MWL sleeper. Too old for the league at age 23, like many of the Kane County players were, but he has power, more speed than you might think and is adequate at first base and third base.

 Q:  John Althouse from Greenville, SC asks:
The Swing had a good pitching staff this year. I was wondering about 2 guys that were mentioned in the intro but didn't make the list: Errol Simonitsch and Scott Tyler. Is Simonitsch similar to Perkins (except much taller of course)... how did his secondary pitches look? And did observers think Tyler will ever harness his stuff?
 A: 

Jim Callis: Perkins has a slightly better fastball, a better changeup and a little more feel than Simonitsch. I'm not trying to downplay Simonitsch, who's worth keeping an eye on. Tyler was much more effective in his second tour of the MWL, showing a 90-95 mph and an improved slider. If he keeps progressing like he did in 2004, he should be fine.

Moderator: We've got 15-20 minutes left, so it's time for some lightning-round action!

 Q:  Jon from Peoria asks:
Over the last 3-4 years, the MWL has had an abundance of prospects, though it might have been down a bit last year. How would you compare this year's class to the last few years?
 A: 

Jim Callis: Average by Midwest League standards, better than it was in 2003, not as good as some of its vaunted prospect classes at the beginning of the decade.

 Q:  Mark Stema from Detroit, MI asks:
I was surprise no players from west michigan made the top 20 considering they won the league title, were there any players close to making the list.
 A: 

Jim Callis: The Whitecaps were a good team without a standout prospect. Their best was Giarratano, whom we discussed earlier. I thought Kody Kirkland would have a better year. Eulogio de la Cruz has a nice arm, but no one besides Giarratano came close to making the list.

 Q:  Erick Deberry from Statesboro, GA asks:
Where would you rank Chris Walker? Did he crack your top 30 and where do you see him in the future?
 A: 

Jim Callis: Walker was one of the fastest players in the league, if not the fastest, but there's not enough bat there for me to get excited about him.

 Q:  Mike from DC asks:
Chris Dickerson showed some good OBP skills at Dayton. Is he a prospect?
 A: 

Jim Callis: A little bit old for the MWL at 22, but one of the best all-around packages of tools in the league.

 Q:  Mike from Merrimack, NH asks:
What was the nature of Matt Moses's ailment, and how might it affect his career?
 A: 

Jim Callis: He had back problems, which isn't good news because those types of things can be chronic. But Trot Nixon had a lot of back problems in the minors, and he has turned out pretty well, so I'd keep the faith. Moses can hit.

 Q:  Tokoyo , Janpen from seattle asks:
Wisconsin LHP T.Oldham has a good season whit high so rate and SOBB,but he didn't in the list,what was the opinion on him .
 A: 

Jim Callis: Old for the league at 22, changeup was his best pitch, fastball average at time, curveball still a ways to go as his third pitch.

 Q:  from asks:
In your reports you said that many scouts see Ambiorix Burgos as a future power reliever. Is this because of his command issues, a la Mike MacDougal or is it because they see something that makes them feel like he will never develop a good enough breaking ball to stay a starter? Thanks for the time, Jim.
 A: 

Jim Callis: More because they don't have faith he'll ever have a good breaking ball.

 Q:  Steve from Des Moines asks:
Jim, do you think that Dopirak could go to AA in 2005 and put up similar numbers or would he be overmatched right now at that level?
 A: 

Jim Callis: I think that would be a bit much. He's young and still learning plate discipline, so I'd give him at least a half-year in high Class A.

 Q:  Roger Van Vuren from Northbrook, Il asks:
What are the possibilities of Brian Dopirak becoming a catcher or corner outfielder in his rise to the majors. Is Jake Fox a prospect as a catcher.
 A: 

Jim Callis: Dopirak is going to be a first baseman. Fox can hit some but still has a ways to go with the bat and even further to go as a catcher.

 Q:  Bob from Lake Forest, CA asks:
Bear Bay got some serious love from the AZ League managers and BA recap in '03, but nothing this time around despite some very solid numbers? Was he close or has his stuff tailed off from last summer? Thanks for the great work Jim!
 A: 

Jim Callis: Bay showed similar stuff to a year ago, succeeding by throwing strikes down in the zone, but he's not as good a prospect as Sean Marshall, Billy Petrick or Carlos Marmol off that Lansing staff.

 Q:  Dezi from Newport asks:
What happened to Justin Jones this year? Was his stuff THAT much worse than last season that the Cubs found him expendable? He was as good as any left-handed pitcher in the minors last season. Is the long-term outcome as bleak as it seemed watching him get shelled this year?
 A: 

Jim Callis: Jones was never 100 percent and never looked as great as he did last year in the MWL, though he did bounce back some after the trade. The Cubs weren't down on him, but jumped on the chance to get Nomar Garciaparra at no cost to the big league club. Jones still has a high ceiling but needs to stay healthy, and he also was shut down a couple of times in 2003.

 Q:  Jordan from Cincinnati, OH asks:
Joey Votto appears to be really coming along well with his bat. On the defensive side, do you think he will have to remain at first base or is there any chance he could find his way back behind the plate?
 A: 

Jim Callis: Agree on the bat, has to stay at first base, no chance to catch.

 Q:  Justin from Tampa asks:
How close were Carlos Marmol (Lansing) and Abel Gomez (Battle Creek) to cracking the Top 20?
 A: 

Jim Callis: Both are young guys with plus arms, both in the 26-40 range if I went that deep.

 Q:  Robert Goldberg from Lyndhurst, NJ asks:
Why didn't George Kottaras warrant a spot in the top 20? He put up outstanding offensive numbers for a young catcher, despite missing time with the Greek Olympic Team.
 A: 

Jim Callis: Another 26-40 guy, showed some good on-base skills, needs some more strength and more polished defense.

 Q:  Jon from Peoria asks:
What type of ceiling does Ryan Feierabend have? Also, how would you compare Brian Dopirak with Jason Stokes?
 A: 

Jim Callis: Feierabend has good control for a young guy, no real standout pitch at this point, so he'd be more of a No. 4 or 5 starter. Dopirak and Stokes have similar light-tower power and plate discipline.

 Q:  Bob from Lake Forest, CA asks:
Jim, Kevin Collins had some very impressive numbers. What can you tell us about him? Organizational player or Prospect? How close to the Top 20 did he come?
 A: 

Jim Callis: Not an org player, but somewhat limited as a prospect. He was very old for the league at 23, and has a history of knee problems that limit him to first base or DH (he played some outfield becuase Dopirak was on the same Lansing club). Collins is going to have to keep mashing to reach the majors.

 Q:  Justin from Tampa asks:
I am surprised Jairo Garcia is not higher on the list. I don't dispute there are some excellent prospects at 1-5; however, no one player from the MWL made a bigger splash than Jairo this year with absolutely phenomenal numbers in the MWL, Texas League, and the PCL. He was a little shell shocked in the big leagues, but how can his talent and numbers put him at #6 in Mid Class A?
 A: 

Jim Callis: Garcia has a great arm and took the express route to the majors, but I'll take an impact everyday player or a frontline starter over a reliever every time, and that's why I put him behind Dopirak, Barton, Duncan, Danks and Wood.

 Q:  Justin from Tampa asks:
I have asked questions in just about all chat sessions and have never been given a response. Why is that?
 A: 

Jim Callis: It's hard to get questions answered if you don't get them in early . . . but I just took care of you!

 Q:  Brian from New York asks:
What are your thoughts of Steven White with Battle Creek? His success in the MWL continued down in the FSL. How good can he be?
 A: 

Jim Callis: Inconsistent at Baylor, took a while to sign but fared better as a pro, has a good fastball and breaking stuff showed more consistency.

 Q:  Steve from NJ asks:
What do you think of Cardinals RHP Mark Michael?
 A: 

Jim Callis: Threw a lively 90-93 mph fastball to both sides of the plate, needs to work on the rest of his stuff, but it looks like he needs shoulder surgery.

 Q:  Felipe from Jersey City asks:
Hector Made had a very promising season at Battle Creek. At just nineteen, and with solid to plus tools across the board, Made established himself as the top shortstop prospect in the organizattion. How high of a ceiling does he have?
 A: 

Jim Callis: He can be a solid big league regular, hitting for average (though I'm not sure how much more power) with good speed and getting the job done defensively.

 Q:  Jim Goulart from brewerfan.net asks:
Beloit's lefty Dana Eveland (#20) the 9th best pitcher?, and at age 20 with these numbers: 2.84 ERA, 108 hits and 24 walks with 119 K in 117.1 IP, along with some success at AA! Jim, please explain thyself.
 A: 

Jim Callis: He has a plus fastball and has had plenty of success. But is he going to be able to refine his slider and changeup, which are nothing special, if he won't take the time to make a token effort of conditioning? Scouts wonder if he's going to be able to maintain his delivery and arm strength with such a bad body. He's 6 feet and 240 pounds, and he added 20 pounds during the season.

Moderator: That's it for today. Thanks for all the questions and look for our South Atlantic League chat with John Manuel tomorrow. Jim also says that if your league Top 20 questions don't get answered in our chats, send them to askba@baseballamerica.com. Don't forget to include your full name and hometown!

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