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Texas League Chat with John Manuel

Moderator: John Manuel will begin taking your questions at 2 p.m. ET. Please limit your questions to Texas League players and teams.

Moderator: Thanks for all the questions . . . let's get started

 Q:  Jim S. from Milwaukee asks:
Denny Bautistia seemed to struggle after his September call up. Did his MLB performance change yourscouts mind about his potential? Is there any reason to believe he won't harness his stuff to become a top of the rotation starter? Does he need a full year of AAA?
 A: 

John Manuel: Bautista definitely gives me pause; I don't see anywhere in the track record for him that indicates he's ready. He's got big, big stuff . . . part of me wants to say the Orioles just made a big mistake in letting him go for a middle reliever when they weren't in a pennant race. The other part of me makes me wonder if they know something the rest of us don't. Bautista earned his spot on the Top 10 by throwing hard, throwing nasty breaking stuff and performing. But he's not a sure thing, not for me.

 Q:  Jim S. from Milwaukee asks:
I read comparisons of Alberto Callaspo's hitting style and approach to Rod Carew's. Obviously we can't expect Carew-like numbers but what kind of a career to you see for Callaspo? Will he likely return to 2B? Do you see him getting a shot at the bigs in '06 and are his long term prospects as a starter or more of a utility middle infielder?
 A: 

John Manuel: Jim, Callaspo is a BA fave, has been since he was in the Pioneer League and teamed with Erick Aybar for an electrifying DP combo. They were split up this year for the first time, but I still think they can reunite in the big leagues for the Angels in the near future . . . say two years. Callaspo has a chance to be a Gold Glover at 2B and profiles as an old-school 2-hole hitter, a guy who controls the bat, can run a little, etc. If the Angels continue their current offensive philosophy--which is all about making contact and putting pressure on opposing defenses by running, bunting, etc.--I see no reason why Callaspo can't be a productive part of that approach. I think his ceiling is as a .300 hitter with a .350 OBP who wins Gold Gloves.

 Q:  Jim S. from Milwaukee asks:
I see that K.C. did not pick up the option on Joe Randa. Do you see them going with Mark Tehean next year at 3B? Is he close to being ready and how do you see him doing? I've read mixed reports on his power potential but the consensus seems that it will not develop beyond 15 HRs. Is that about right in your opinion?
 A: 

John Manuel: That does seem about right. Teahen has the unfortunate comparison on him from Michael Lewis' "Moneyball" where his power potential and hitting ability were likened to Jason Giambi. No one saw that power in Giambi 15 years ago, and no one I've talked to (except maybe one A's official) sees it in Teahen now, but TL managers loved his swing, liked his defense, liked his approach. It makes sense for the Royals to take a look next year at a low-cost 3B with the potential to be an average or above-average offensively player.

 Q:  mark from phoenix asks:
How close was Santiago Ramirez, who led the league in saves, come to the top 20, and what do you think of his future?
 A: 

John Manuel: Ramirez didn't really scratch; there was more support for Round Rock's setup man, Mike Burns, but neither of those guys showed a true plus pitch that had managers or scouts thinking they were probable impact big league relievers. To me, that's what it takes for a middle guy or even Double-A closer to make a list like this.

 Q:  Tom McCullough from York PA asks:
Thanks for the chats. Josh Kroeger's 2004 numbers jump off the BA Player Finder page at AA and at AAA. Was he no. 21 on the BA Texas League list?
 A: 

John Manuel: I don't know about 21, but in the 21-25 range. Kroeger's numbers all year were impressive, and he's got an athletic background, and he has some raw power. I admit when I started researching the league, I thought for sure Kroeger would be on the list. He just got very little support from anyone who saw him. I don't know if it was because of the presence later of Jackson and Quentin, maybe he paled in comparison to those guys. He was young for the league and he performed, but I had comments such as "doesn't hit good pitching" or "he didn't do anything for me" come up time and again when I asked about Kroeger.

 Q:  Nate from Denver, CO asks:
Thanks for taking my question. Would Dustin Nippert have ranked higher had he been healthy all year, assuming of course he put up some decent numbers? I was suprised to see him make the list at all actually. Is he a possible front of the rotation starter?
 A: 

John Manuel: Nate, you're welcome, and thanks for coming to the chat room. It's impossible to know where Nippert would have ranked had he been healthy; he didn't have the big velocity he had shown last fall in the AFL this summer but was still effective. Throwing 70+ innings in the TL without giving up a home run is impressive and tells you how much leverage he pitches with out of his 6-foot-7 frame. The track record for Tommy John surgery is good, so yeah, I do think Nippert can come back and be a No. 3 type starter, maybe better. But not until 2007 probably . . . I mean, in 2005, he'll be trying to regain the feel for his stuff and just getting used to throwing again. Then in 2006, he might get to the big leagues, but it will be his first full year back from TJ. So 2007 is when we'll really know what he'll be, and that is a long way off.

 Q:  Bobby from Charleston, SC asks:
Hey... I have heard so much about Carlos Quentin's talent and it seems that he's progressed quickly since his days at Stanford. What are the chances of him being in Arizona next season and how does he project as a major leaguer? Thanks!
 A: 

John Manuel: I don't put it past Quentin to be in Arizona next year. This year was a long time coming for the D-backs; everyone saw they aged quickly, everyone knew about the huge deferred payments, and that it would be imperative for the farm system to produce everyday players who were cheap, because so much deferred money is still being paid out. So to me, Quentin could earn a shot next year; I think he's tough to get a read on ceiling wise. That high OBP is inflated by 43 HBPs, and is he going to keep taking doses like that in the major leagues? I don't know how that will happen. To me, the most likely scenario is Quentin hits .270 with 25-30 homers and brings a team all kinds of grit, toughness and character. I think he can be a starter on a championship team.

 Q:  Tom McCullough from York PA asks:
Jeremy Brown at Midland and Ryan Christianson at San Antonio: are they still major league catcher prospects? Thanks. Tom McCullough. York PA
 A: 

John Manuel: Tom, thanks for another good question. Christianson is a guy I'm rooting for; he's just 23 and he showed this year that he can still hit. He's had numerous shoulder problems . . . the Mariners have a hole at catcher still, but we still need to see how his defense comes back after another year. I have a question about Brown that I'll get to later.

 Q:  David from Boston asks:
What about Omar Quintanilla of Midland. He appears to be the answer to the A's second base position for 2006, possibly 2005. Did he not have enough at bats to qualify for your list? Also for pitchers, Street and Garcia had excellent stops at Midland though brief. Any consideration for them?
 A: 

John Manuel: Quintanilla didn't qualify obviously in terms of ABs in the TL (94), but I'm a Q fan because of his hand-eye coordination and savvy. Street and Garcia also were there too briefly . . . but we just named three of the A's top six prospects, in my opinion, along with Javi Herrera, Nick Swisher and Joe Blanton.

 Q:  Nate from Denver, CO asks:
Eziquil Astacio really seemed to come on this year. Whats his ETA and what do you think his ceiling is? How would he rank in his organization?
 A: 

John Manuel: Nate and Tom asked a lot of good questions, I guess, because I'm going to that well a lot. Astacio's stuff got a tick better; he threw harder more consistently this year and kept his stuff down in the zone more consistently. Based on what I heard in the TL, he could be Houston's No. 3 starter right now, though apparently Brandon Backe is doing well in that role. I could realistically see Astacio settling in as a 3-4 starter as a power sinker-slider guy. The Astros aren't really deep as an organization for me, but I'll let Jim Callis rank him with that organization, which he knows well.

 Q:  Andy from tulsa, ok asks:
What's the deal with Jayson Nix? He started the season with a lot of hype but spent most of the season struggling with the Mendoza line. There was talk at the beginning of the season of him being the starting 2B of the Rockies in 2005 but I don't know if he'll even start in AAA next year. Do you think it would be wise for him to start 2005 back in Tulsa?
 A: 

John Manuel: That's just a wasted year for Nix, who got really pull-happy this year, lost confidence early and saw things snowball on him. He's strong enough to drive the ball without opening up and needs to adopt an approach more about making contact and less about hitting the ball out of the park. I don't think there's any question that Nix, just 22, goes back to Double-A next year. I don't think the Astros are into rewarding hitters that bat .213. And it's not death to repeat a level at that age; I remember writing off Michael Cuddyer when he repeated Double-A in 2000-2001, when he was 21-22, and things have turned out pretty well for him.

 Q:  J.P. from Illinois asks:
What are your thoughts on Jason Botts? He certainly seems to have an impressive physique, but I'm wondering if his plate discipline (or lack thereof) may delay his trip to the Show in the forseeable future. Opinions?
 A: 

John Manuel: Botts is a unique player. The tools are all there, and so are the stats . . . so why is he not considered an elite prospect? Plate discipline is not a problem; he drew 77 walks this year, 66 last year, and has a career .399 OBP. I think scouts see a guy who's pretty robotic or mechanical in his actions; he doesn't do anything easy. While he's big, strong and fast, it doesn't sound like he's a fluid athlete, and he's a poor defender. But he's starting to turn some of his plate discipline and strength into home-run power; he has 61 career homers and 24 of them came this year. To me, Botts is a fourth-outfielder and reserve DH king of guy because he's not a good enough defender or power hitter to be an everyday regular, but I could be wrong on the power. (I suppose I could be wrong about it all, but for the sake of this chat and my ego, let's discount that as a possibility.)

 Q:  Dave from Fresno asks:
Down year for the Midland Rockhounds as far as prospects go with no Top 20 prospects still with the organization. Any sleepers on the roster? Nelson Cruz,John Baker, and the three relievers who didn't pitch enough in the Texas League (Mabeus, Street, and Garcia), seem to be interesting prospects. What feedback did you hear on Midland players?
 A: 

John Manuel: Nelson Cruz is toolsy and is closer to putting it all together . . . He did get some support for the list, but not enough to make it; I think guys see him more as a reserve because of his lack of plate discipline, though that improved markedly this year. Baker did get support and almost made the list; he would rank second to Teahen for me on the Midland roster among players that qualified, with Cruz just behind. The fact that Baker played so much DH and was just OK defensively caused managers to think of him more as a big league backup C rather than a starter. The rest of the team had some intriguing guys (Colamarino, who can hit, and Bynum, more of a utility guy). On the mound, the relievers were the top guys, though I'd sub in Marc Gwyn, who has a plus slider and good fastball command, for Mabeus in terms of prospects.

 Q:  Nate from Denver, CO asks:
What seperates a guy like Carlos Quentin from Shin-Soo Choo?? The rankings for the CA league indicated Quentin has a pretty good glove. Rankings for the TL did not seem to indicate quite the same thing. Is it defense that seperates these two? Who would you compare Quentin too?
 A: 

John Manuel: Choo is a better all-around player . . . he's a true five-tool guy. Quentin projects to hit for more power for most, though I'm not 100 percent sure of that. Quentin played in two great hitters' parks this year and slugged .549. Choo played in a pitcher's park and slugged .462. They're the same age. I do think Quentin should hit for more big league power, but I see Choo as a guy who can hit .300 with 20-30 steals and 15-25 homers while also being an above-average defender (vs. average for Quentin).

 Q:  Jonathan from Dallas asks:
Is Drew Meyer a lost cause for the Rangers or does he still have a chance to turn it around?
 A: 

John Manuel: The Rangers see him as a utility guy now. It's been hard to watch his career, because Drew's an intense competitor who doesn't accept failure. He's been rushed and he's been moved around the diamond to different positions (2b, cf in addition to ss). I'm not making excuses for him, but he also hasn't been set up to succeed very much. He was a reach at the No. 10 spot in 2002 in most opinions, though, because he has a funky swing, always has, and he's pull happy. The track record (what he's done with wood as a pro and in the Cape Cod League in college) isn't encouraging for expecting that to change.

 Q:  Josh from Oakland asks:
What happend to Jeremy Brown? Is this a moneyball player that wont pan out or is he just having a tough time figuring out AA pitching?
 A: 

John Manuel: Here's the Jeremy Brown question as promised . . . No one I talked to liked Brown as a prospect, which came as no surprise. The A's always have liked him better than pretty much everyone else. Brown did some of what the A's like; he walked 71 times this year and he improved in the second half, hitting .287 after July 1 (if you like that metric). Brown is not a good defensive catcher according to the scouts or the stats, not as a receiver (he lacks agility, leading to 11 PBs, second-most in the league in just 87 games at C) or as a thrower (26 % thrown out). He doesn't hit for the power the A's hoped for either, unless they like 24-year-olds in Double-A that slug below .360. I think at best, he projects as a below-average starting catcher or more likely as a backup.

 Q:  Eric from Kansas City asks:
How close where Ruben Gotay and Andres Blanco to making the list? What kind of impact do they profile to have in the big leagues? Thanks for the terrific chats!
 A: 

John Manuel: Both of those guys got support, with more going to Gotay, whose bat is further along at this point than Blanco. I'm not sure either one profiles as a big league all-star, but they both have the tools to be regulars on solid teams. Blanco is still just 20, but I just couldn't rank a guy with a sub-.600 OPS in Double-A at any age. It's hard to know what kind of offensive player he's going to be . . . best-case scenario, he's Cesar Izturis, who needed a couple of years to catch up after being rushed, and Blanco is nearly that kindn of defender. I've never heard he has a real great swing, though, and I used to hear that about Izturis and believed he could come around offensively. Gotay is clearly stronger and drives the ball more consistently; he's a lot closer to having a big league impact but he's just a decent defender made better by playing with Blanco, with whom he has an excellent rapport. It helped him defensively to play under Frank White this year, and managers who had seen him in the past saw progress on that front.

 Q:  Mike from Arlington, Tx asks:
Can you tell me a little about Jason Borgouis of Frisco? Can he turn into the utility type player the Rangers are looking for? Can you see him turning into a Chone Figgins type player once he gains more experience?
 A: 

John Manuel: I like Bourgeois as a player and think the Figgins comp is interesting. He's stronger than Figgins; we've had one report in his career of Bourgeois projecting to hit for above-average power. He tries to hit homers too often though, resulting in a lot of fly-ball outs for a guy with his spee. He also has plus range at second and is a good defender there. For the Rangers, finding room for him in the infield might be tough, and he runs well enough and is versatile enough to be a good utility player. I still think he has the ability to be an everyday player, though.

 Q:  jim from santa ana, calif asks:
Will Sergio Santos be back for a third year in the Texas League? Is there a debate within the Diamondback organization as to his ability to play shortstop at the major league level?
 A: 

John Manuel: It's hard to call it a "third year," seeing as how he's played about 120 games t here overall, but yes, I do think Santos will be back in Double-A next year. Remember, the Diamondbacks go to the Southern League next year at Tennessee (east of Knoxville), so he'll get a change of scenery if he does return. I see that happening particularly if Santos switches positions, which everyone that saw him this year thinks should happen except for D-backs officials, who want to see him play short healthy and see if he can do it. That sounds reasonable.

 Q:  andy from tulsa, ok asks:
Do you see Ryan Speier as one of those possible big league relievers that you mentioned earlier?
 A: 

John Manuel: He is. I'm a Speier fan, I'd put him in that 21-25 range. He's trying to buck a trend that says sidearmers can't get lefthanded hitters out in the major leagues, and he's got a nice slider and decent changeup to combat them. .he handled lefties this year (.189) at age 25 and he's put two outstanding seasons together back to back. The consensus is he's going to have to keep proving he can get those guys out at Triple-A, and that it's unlikely he'd be entrusted with the closer role in the big leagues. I couldn't quite put a 25-year-old middle reliever in the Top 20.

 Q:  JB from P-Town asks:
Thanks for taking my question! What does Erik Thompson's ceiling look like? Does he have a legit shot to be in the Rangers rotation next year?
 A: 

John Manuel: I don't put anything past Thompson, who has a great pro track record . . . 2.91 career ERA, .243 OBA, 231-36 K-BB ratio in 290 innings. It's all good. It's not just that he's short at 5-foot-10 or whatever he is, though, that keeps him off this list. He's fragile, with an arm injury this year, Tommy John surgery in his past and a small frame. He's got starter's stuff (middle of the rotation at best) and starter's command (his best trait), but I think the questions about his durability and his decreasing strikeout rate kept him off the list.

 Q:  andy from tulsa, ok asks:
Danny Sandoval came seemingly out of nowhere this season but wound up being named to the Texas League postseason all-star team. Does he have a future with the Rockies or is he strictly an organizational guy?
 A: 

John Manuel: Organization guy for me . . . he's 25 and spent his third full season in Double-A. This was by far his best year, and while he has some tools (solid arm, runs well), he's going to have to do it again for scouts to believe this is the real Danny Sandoval offensively.

 Q:  Lyonel from New York asks:
Hi, I'd like to know what you thought of Chad Santos of Wichita. Do you see him being promoted next year to AAA...maybe into the bigs? THANKS!
 A: 

John Manuel: Santos got some support. He's pretty good defensively at first even though he's short, and he has a track record of hitting for some power. He repeated the level and improved, but he still strikes out a lot, too much for his raw power to really show itself.

 Q:  Jason from Castro Valley, CA asks:
I'm a little surprised that Midland catcher John Baker did not make the Top 20 list. Left-handed hitting catchers that bat .300 with decent pop are hard to come by. How is he progressing on defense?
 A: 

John Manuel: Baker got some support, as I've talked about, and people liked his bat. No one would say he could be an everyday big league catcher with any confidence, though, and he doesn't hit enough for 1B or DH. He threw out 10 of 61 opposing basestealers and generally was considered below-average in every phase defensively, so maybe he's not a lefthanded-hitting C with pop; maybe he's a poor-man's Scott Hatteberg.

 Q:  Bill from Ft. Worth asks:
Hey John, great chat as usual. It was a frustrating year for Ervin Santana, but what is his outlook for next year? If healthy, is he right up there with Hernandez?
 A: 

John Manuel: Thanks for the kind words, Bill. Santana's outlook is tough. The background noise on him was that he thought he was more hurt than the Angels did, and the organization wasn't terribly happy with him this year. It seems there's a school of thought out there that he's soft. I know that when he has pitched, he has shown frontline stuff and at times has dominated. I think no one is in Hernandez' class right now aside from maybe Matt Cain and maybe Chad Billingsley.

 Q:  Blake Boisseranc from So Cal asks:
Thanks for the chat John! As for my question, what exactly happend to Jeff Mathis this season? I have read that he struggled after Kotchman and D Mac got promoted to Salt Lake. Is it just a loss of confidence or is there something more to it? I am a big fan of Matty and i am looking forward to seeing him in Anaheim. Do you still think he has the potential to be a .285 15-20 85-100 type guy in the bigs?
 A: 

John Manuel: Blake, Jim Callis and I have discussed this and written about the same thing--he pressed some early, then had no lineup protection and got pitched around a ton in the second half, when he got pull-happy and really was just not good at anything. I don't rule out your projection for him, but I'm not putting my name next to it. This is a really bad year, and he needs to have some success and get his confidence back. You don't write off a guy with his talent after a year like this, but you don't act like it never happened, either.

 Q:  Eric from KC asks:
Will Sergio Santos and the possibility of Stephen Drew being in the Diamondbacks organization affect the possibilities of drafting Justin Upton next June? Do most scouts think that Sergio can stay at SS in the majors or will ne move to 3B?
 A: 

John Manuel: Great question. I don't think that has much to do with it, since Santos really isn't a SS and Drew might not be either; the same can be said of Justin Upton, who may be a CF down the line. However, who knows who will be in charge of the Diamondbacks' draft next year, after this ownership change? If it's still Mike Rizzo, it's hard to see him using the No. 1 pick on a prep player, as his track record leans heavily to the college side.

 Q:  Charles Barton from Wichita asks:
Hi John. I love these chats. Can you tell me about Darren Fenster. I haven't heard too much about him in the past, but he finished the season with us here in Wichita and was quite the sparkplug. He really didn't have a tool that stuck out, but seemed to be a very smart player who busted his butt everyday. Will the Royals give him a shot?
 A: 

John Manuel: Charles, I like the chats too . . . I've got a ton of great questions still to go, and don't know if I'll get to them all. I have to say Fenster is an all-time fave of mine from his days at Rutgers, where he was a great player. Fenster is not a prospect in the classic sense of the term, or really any sense, but he's a great guy, a former BA journal-writer, and I can see why you'd write in after seeing him play. He's fun to watch and truly loves the game. Sometimes, those kinds of guys don't get a lot of attention from us . . . OK, most of the time.

 Q:  Adam J. Morris from Houston, Texas asks:
Erik Thompson and Kameron Loe, two Ranger pitching prospects from the 2002 draft -- did either of them get consideration for the top 20, and what do you expect see from them in the future?
 A: 

John Manuel: I've touched on Thompson . . . Loe got some support and already pitched in the big leagues this year. He was pretty average at Double-A and, like Speier, has a sidearm delivery that makes managers and scouts question his ability to get lefthanded hitters out. He profiles best as a major league middle reliever; he's going to have to come up with a wicked change or splitter to keep lefthanded hitters at bay and be an effective starter. I give him a lot of credit for having excellent command for a 6-foot-7 pitcher.

 Q:  JOE C from BOSTON asks:
Is Felix Hernandez the real deal? I know his stuff is impeccable and maybe the best since Mark Prior, or better. But what about his character? What major leaguer does he compare to?
 A: 

John Manuel: Is this the first Felix Hernandez question? Shocking. As for his character . . . is this a presidential debate? If you mean his makeup, I've heard nothing but good things about Felix as far as being a good guy and good teammate; Shin-Soo Choo for one spoke on this subject at the Futures Game. He's kind of cocky in the sense that he knows he's good, but that's generally accepted as a good thing. All the comparisons are to Dwight Gooden; Felix is going to have to stay healthy but otherwise there are few if any caveats with this guy. He's the best pitching prospect in the minors.

 Q:  pat from illinois asks:
what is your opinion on willy taveras? He played great in the texas league with a batting average over .300. Will he be playing a position in houston as early as next year?
 A: 

John Manuel: As Jim Callis would say, "I hate that profile." By that, Jim means Taveras hits for no power (.382 slugging, 16 XBH), and it's hard to imagine a guy like that making an impact in the majors, no matter how fast he is. Several managers noted that most speed-and-slap guys like that (Juan Pierre, Omar Moreno, even Rod Carew) are lefthanded hitters, and Taveras hits righthanded, which means he's going to face a lot of RHPs in the big leagues busting him inside with fastballs, making him prove to them that he can drive the ball. I think it's a legitimate concern and ranked him accordingly.

 Q:  Brian Durack from Texas asks:
What's the deal with Shane Bazzell? He was hands down Midland's best pitcher, but he has always gotten lost in the shuffle.
 A: 

John Manuel: He's a fastball-changeup righthander and he's also 25. He's not so much lost in the shuffle; he's just an organizational player who had a great year in his fourth shot at Double-A. For trivia's sake, he is an A's player who was signed as a high school draftee.

 Q:  Eddy from Lachine, Quebec asks:
Conor Jackson's power seemed to tail off after his promotion to El Paso. Is that a function of a) facing improved pitching; b) moving to a less hitter-friendly park; or c) regression to the mean? In other words, does Jackson project to hit 30-ish HR in the majors?
 A: 

John Manuel: OK, this is the last round of Q's, I've got work to do . . . good question on Conor Jax. He wore down a bit in his first full pro season and did have to adjust to better pitching. I've always thought of him as more a .280-.300 hitter with 20 homers, with Quentin more of the lower-average, higher-power guy. Pretty nice draft for the D-backs in 2003 so far with those two and Jamie D'Antona, among others.

 Q:  Elmer Fudd from Huntersville asks:
What is 1B Ryan Shealy's ETA in the Big Leagues? He has put up great numbers each of his first three pro seasons. Could he be good trade bait for the Rockies (because of Helton) and whom migh be interested?
 A: 

John Manuel: Shealy's ETA is tough to say with Todd Helton ahead of him. Most managers and scouts think he's more of a bad-ball hitter but also like his brute strength and ability to make adjustments. His performance was undeniable this season, and he's kind of like the Texas League's Brad Eldred. I don't know how easy it would be to trade a minor league slugging 1B; ask the Phillies with Ryan Howard.

 Q:  Jon from Austin, Tx asks:
When should we expect to see Kinsler and Hudgins in Rangers uniforms? These two seem to be very high on Texas' list of prospects behind Danks and Diamond. Could Hudgins be the 3rd starter Texas is looking for next year?
 A: 

John Manuel: I love Hudgins but you're getting a bit carried away to think he can be a No. 3 guy next year. John gave up some homers in Double-A, and with his 88-90 mph fastball (on his good days), he's going to have to be fine and stay down in the zone. Everyone knows this guy has excellent aptitude for his craft and truly can pitch, using all his pitches in any count. He's a personal favorite if you can't tell. Kinsler doesn't seem to be terribly high as you think, either; the organization considers Joaquin Arias more of a long-term answer at short than Kinsler, even after Ian's huge year. That said, I don't put it past Kinsler to go up to the majors next year and hit. Frankly, I have a hard time getting a read on him. He's defied expectations to this level; who could have expected 51 extra-base hits, not to mention 51 doubles! He just had an amazing year, and while there are some skeptics, that kind of production can't be ignored. Just don't expect him to do that in the major leagues next year.

 Q:  Robbie Smith from Florence, SC asks:
Do you see Kip Bouknight or Pete Bauer making it over the hump and getting to the big leagues? Both have had some success in the minors but neither has been dominating?
 A: 

John Manuel: Robbie, unfortunately for Gamecocks fans, no, I don't. Bauer had his best year this year and made progress with the Marlins; he's still got a shot. But I don't think these two thirds of the Killer B's (with Scott Barber) will make an impact in the major leagues.

 Q:  Ian from NJ asks:
You can't go through a chat session and not mention Felix Herandnez so... His fastball already can reach 98 and many say that as he matures and fills out he could hit triple-digits. He is a big kid though and much more filling out won't be that good for him. Has his velocity capped or is there really more room for improvement?
 A: 

John Manuel: Good call Ian . . . I did mention him early, but even JJ Cooper had to remark on the lack of Felix questions. I think you raise a good point. I have had so many people tell me that they think he can throw harder if he's in a bit better shape and gets stronger; his mechanics are already pretty smooth. I guess we should phrase it more that with refinements, he can pitch at that 96-98 instead of just touch it, and he could start touching 99-100. Yes, I do think that is realistic, based on the info I've had on him.

 Q:  Jared from Marietta, GA asks:
What are the chances of either SS Tommy Whiteman or OF Charlton Jimerson making it as full-timers in the Pros?
 A: 

John Manuel: Whiteman seems to be an enigma; most of the feedback i had on him questioned the plate discipline and his overall approach to the game. He's been in Double-A for the better part of two years now and he improved from '03 to '04, but no one saw enough consistency to say he was a big league everyday shortstop. Jimerson is a great way to end a chat that had tons of excellent questions, for which I thank you.

John Manuel: I think I used a Reggie Abercrombie comp for Jerome Milons in my SAL chat, and I should have saved it for here. Jimerson is Abercrombie with the added quality that he's succeeded at a high level, as MOP of the 2001 College World Series. Chewdini (One of Jimerson's college nicknames) also has amazing makeup, and I haven't talked to a college coach, scout or minor league manager or player that doesn't want to see Chewdini succeed. He's bright, he's a leader, he plays with passion and he oozes plus tools. He just hasn't figured out how to make consistent contact, and unfortunately for Chewdini, that's the most important part of the game. He's got a lot of Torii Hunter in him, but at his age, Torii was in the big leagues, not struggling with 160 K's in Double-A. So I'm rooting for Chewdini, but it's pretty difficult to project him as a big league regular at this point.

John Manuel: So that does it for the chat. Thanks again to everyone for taking the time.

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