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Devil Rays Chat with Bill Ballew
Note: This page will refresh itself automatically every two minutes.

Moderator: Bill will begin taking your questions at 2 p.m ET.

 Q:  Wonderbread from Kennesaw, Georgia asks:
I met Delmon Young last year. He was a very special talent. However, he believes in himself a little too much (Bonds like!). Will this hurt him in the long run and his quest for the majors?
 A: 

Bill Ballew: I don't think it'll hurt him at all. I think it'll get him over the tough spots. Chipper Jones told me years ago that you have to have some "necessary arrogance" in order to play the game at the top level. Delmon definitely didn't miss that cart when it went by.

 Q:  Chris from Huntsville, AL asks:
Given the chance, would you take Delmon Young over every other minor league player? What are his chances of being B.A.'s #1 prospect this year?
 A: 

Bill Ballew: He definitely will receive consideration for the spot. I don't know if I'd take him first overall, but I also can't think of anyone else I'd rather have.

 Q:  Ben Delbanco from New York, NY asks:
Where would Jeff Niemann have ranked had he signed? Right behind Kazmir? Also, I know he's technically not a prospect anymore, but is there any word about where Upton is going to play next year?
 A: 

Bill Ballew: Niemann would have been somewhere around third, possibly as high as second if he had pitched and impressed. As far as Upton is concerned, he could play third, with Huff moving to first, he could wind up back at Durham for some fine-tuning with the leather, or he could see more activity at short. Spring training will determine where he lands.

 Q:  Wonderbread from Kennesaw, Georgia asks:
one other question. Where on the list would Jason Pridie be? Also, Mitch Jones, a prospect or a suspect? Thanks and keep up the good work!
 A: 

Bill Ballew: Pridie was a strong candidate and would have been a solid top 10 pick. He wound up in the 12, 13 range. Jones has prospect potential, but he's not quite to that level right now.

 Q:  Kiley McDaniel from Odessa, FL asks:
What do you see as the most likely plan of action for the Rays in promoting Delmon Young? Would it be fair to say AA Montgomery this year, with a AAAMLB call-up late and then depending on his 2006 Camp, to start in the majors or AAA? Could he go even faster?
 A: 

Bill Ballew: I think you'll see Young open the season as a Biscuit after campaigning for a major league job in spring training. From there his progress will be based primarily on how much he dominates. He made impressive strides after a tough start last year at Charleston and he could go through another period like that this year.

 Q:  Kiley McDaniel from Odessa, FL asks:
Who would you compare Scott Kazmir to? He is similar to Oliver Perez in a few ways, but I thought a left-handed Roy Oswalt was even more accurate. Their only big difference is Kazmir's slider vs. Oswalt's curveballs.
 A: 

Bill Ballew: I can see the comparisons more to Oswalt than Perez. Kazmir is not unlike Billy Wagner, although I like Kazmir's chances of remaining in the rotation.

 Q:  dave from maryland asks:
what is the latest on the negogations with Jeff Niemann? after he signs will he start 2005 in A Visalia or AA Montgomery?
 A: 

Bill Ballew: The word I have received is that the negotiations have been very amicable, with the amount of slot money the lone hurdle to clear. It's too early to predict where he will start, based on the kind of shape he's in during spring training as well as the makeup of the rest of the organization's full-season rotations. That said, it would not surprise me to see Jeff at Montgomery to start the year.

 Q:  Joshua Heines from Trenton, NJ asks:
We all know of Joey Gathright's speed and his legend of jumping over cars in a single-bound, but what are some projections for what he can do in the major leagues? Is .300 AVG and 60 SB a reality? or will his lack of power pull those numbers down?
 A: 

Bill Ballew: There are a couple of schools of thought regarding Gathright, and I am not completely sold on his becoming a standout at the major league level. His speed is incredible, and he has the ability to steal 60 bases in the big leagues. But several other aspects of his game must come together in order for him to become an impact player for any significant length of time.

 Q:  Tony Farlow from Asheville, NC asks:
What did the Mets see as the problem with Scott Kazmir? I understand his size being a concern (as has been indicated), but he wasn't any bigger when they drafted him. How could the Mets opinion of him have dropped so fast?
 A: 

Bill Ballew: There are rumors that the Mets questioned Kazmir's willingness to accept coaching. While there may be some truth to that, I think it was a desparate move by an organization with a history of making bad trades involving minor league players. The D-Rays definitely came out on top, especially when you add Jose Diaz to the mix.

 Q:  Kiley McDaniel from Odessa, FL asks:
Is Kazmir a shoo-in for the MLB rotation this year, or will he have to have a good camp to earn a spot? I'm afraid that if the Rays already have him penciled in at #2 or #3, and bad camp or not he'll get thrown into the majors, which could ruin his psyche. Is he tough mentally and ready for the majors, or do you think he would benefit more from a half-season at AAA?
 A: 

Bill Ballew: I believe the Rays will be careful with Kazmir, only maybe not to the extent the Mets were with him. Tampa Bay got one of the top lefthanded pitching prospects for a song, and let's hope they don't mess up a good thing. With Piniella still around, I believe they'll do the right thing, based on Kazmir's performance this spring as well as the overall makeup of the pitching staff.

 Q:  dave from maryland asks:
what direction might the devilrays go with the 8th pick in the 2005 draft, maybe jeff clement, wade townsend, or mike pelfrey?
 A: 

Bill Ballew: It's too early to tell, based on what college guys (especially pitchers) might emerge, thereby affecting the first seven selections. I know the Rays absolutely love Cameron Maybin, a high school outfielder from my neck of the woods in North Carolina, but they do not think he will be around when their turn comes.

 Q:  Simon Boisvert from Montreal, Canada asks:
Brian Henderson's numbers are impressive. Is he a legitimate prospect?
 A: 

Bill Ballew: There was more buzz about Henderson last year at this time than there appears to be right now. That said, Henderson is a fringy prospect who could be a sleeper among closers.

 Q:  Jonny from Wichita, KS asks:
I assume that the D-Rays have all but given up on Jace Brewer?
 A: 

Bill Ballew: Brewer seems to have reached his level at Double-A. I don't see him as more than a six-year free agent down the road.

 Q:  dave from maryland asks:
what is matt walker potential as a No. 1, No.2, or No.3 starter?
 A: 

Bill Ballew: I assume you mean Aaron Walker, and I think it's too early to tell. He had some good numbers at Hudson Valley, but projecting him as a top of the rotation guy at this point is stretching things a little bit.

 Q:  Kiley McDaniel from Odessa, FL asks:
I'm curious as to why you chose to rank Gathright so high on the list. He doesn't have the upside of a Brignac or a Dukes and had a sub-par year that brough up questions about his base-stealing and bat. I would think question marks on your supposed strong suits and a relatively low ceiling compared to other prospects would put him at around #5 to #7.
 A: 

Bill Ballew: Those are excellent points, Kiley, and ones that were not bypassed. The Rays are adamant about their positive feelings regarding Gathright, and he does have some God-given abilities that cannot be taught. But Dukes has some skeletons in his closet, too. Give Brignac another year and we could see his name very high.

 Q:  Joe Scardino from Orlando, FL asks:
Do you see Josh Hamilton playing at all during the 2005 season or will the D'Rays cut their losses and "give" him away to any takers in the Rule V Draft?????????
 A: 

Bill Ballew: Who knows? I can't see the Rays making any more commitments to Hamilton after what he's put the organization through. There is not a greater waste of pure talent anywhere else in the game right now than Hamilton.

 Q:  Brad from Ft. Lauderdale, FL asks:
Where does Chris Seddon fall into the mix for the D'Rays? 11-20? He really was strong in the 1st half, then seemed to struggle with his promotion to AA.
 A: 

Bill Ballew: Seddon fell right in the middle of that group, about 14th. His first half was stronger than his second half showing, but he made steady if unspectacular improvement at Montgomery. He does not project off the charts, and needs another solid pitch to remain a starter. But with his competitive streak, I think he'll find a way to pitch in the big leagues.

 Q:  dave from maryland asks:
could chris seddon reach the major leagues by the end of the 2005?
 A: 

Bill Ballew: Sure, anything is possible, especially in the Rays' organization. It all depends on Seddon's progress with his changeup as well as the makeup of the rest of the Tampa roster.

 Q:  Jay from Crackville, VA asks:
Out of our top HS pitchers taken in this year's draft, who was the more upside - Matt Walker, Wade Davis, or Jake McGee? Where would McGee rank with some of our lesser-known lefties in the system like Brandon Mann, Jon Barratt, and even Chris Seddon? Thanks.
 A: 

Bill Ballew: Davis probably has the highest upside among the three. The Rays like all three, of course, and are very high on McGee, who received serious consideration for the top 10. He finished about 17th or 18th, but I think all three could find themselves in the top 10 a year from now.

 Q:  Rays Fan #639 from Home-Plate at the Trop,St Petersburg, FL asks:
Finally, A good farm system to chat about...I would like to know your opinion of Reid Brignac, The Cajun God of Baseball. Is he the "Next Big Thing" in the DRO? He put up some nice numbers in his debut and has Un-Raylike Plate Discipline? Can he stick to his natural position or is a move likely to come for him in the near future? I've spoken enough, Mr. Ballew, hopefully you'll make this Ray fan happy
 A: 

Bill Ballew: We do what we can, Mr. 639. As you can tell, I have very high hopes for Brignac, not unlike the Rays. Tampa is also convinced he can remain at short, even though most scouts see him as a third baseman. I think his ultimate destination centers on his growth over the next 2-3 years. Either way, as long as he continues to produce line drives to all fields, Brignac has a future.

 Q:  Brad from Ft. Lauderdale, FL asks:
What D'Rays prospects are most likely to get traded for pitching help this offseason? Jonny Gomes, Matt Diaz and other OF's? Also, the obligatory Josh Hamilton question, any news on his status? Thanks for answering.
 A: 

Bill Ballew: Word has it that Josh was searching out Ricky Williams' "advisor" for his next step. Just a rumor, but...Anyway, Gomes and Diaz both can be considered possible trade bait, especially with the likes of Crawford, Baldelli, Young, Pridie, et al in the picture.

 Q:  Jason from Salem, OR asks:
Does Chad Orvella take over as the D-Rays closer? When?
 A: 

Bill Ballew: He could, and it wouldn't surprise me if it was sooner rather than later if he continues to develop at the same pace he has over the past two years.

 Q:  Disgruntled D'Rays Fan from Tampa Bay, FL asks:
What is the health status of Matt White?? I know he was 0-8 in AAA during 2003 and missed all of this past season. Any chance of him producing or did the D'Rays waste more money on him??????
 A: 

Bill Ballew: Let's put it this way...at least they spent that money a while back. It just seems like White is at best snakebit.

 Q:  Jay from Crackville, VA asks:
The Rays are said to be worried about Jon Barratt's slight build and how he'll hold up. Do they plan on moving him to the bullpen soon to shield him from the innings workload? And if they did, do you see him as a Billy Wagner-clone and moving quickly like Orvella did this year? Thanks.
 A: 

Bill Ballew: At this point Barratt is deemed to be a starter. Few lefties have as live an arm as Barratt. He does a great job of keeping his pitches down in the strike zone. But based on his build, I don't see him moving excessively fast. A healthy full season in A ball would be ideal for Barratt and the Rays.

 Q:  Nate from Harrisburg asks:
No Chris Seddon??? Hmmmmmmmmm.... He was very good before running out of gas at AA late in the season. What kept him off?
 A: 

Bill Ballew: A variety of things kept him off. Chris needed a little more consistency, and he does not project real well. Since he is not overpowering, he needs another pitch to be considered a long-term piece of the puzzle. He's moving in the right direction, but he was close but no cigar this year.

 Q:  JB from P-Town asks:
Where does Reid Brignac project position-wise and does he have a chance to eventually get legitimate playing time with the already young D-Rays?
 A: 

Bill Ballew: Brignac projects as a shortstop or third baseman, based on his body's maturity and makeup over the next few years. But let's allow him to play a full season in the minors before bumping him to the big leagues.

 Q:  Jacob Larsen from Waukegan, IL asks:
What is the deal with you guys? Wes Bankston should be ranked higher than Joey Gaitright. He may not be able to jump over cars, but unlike most of our outfield prospects he can actually hit for power...C'mon, I expected you guys to wake up with this year's rankings, but obviously not...
 A: 

Bill Ballew: Hi, Jacob, sorry it took a while to get to your question, but I had to get my siesta in. Anyway, I would not be surprised if your assessments prove correct over the next year or two, but at this point, Gaithright gets the nod based on where he is in the organization and his world-class speed.

 Q:  Jason from Baltimore, Maryland asks:
Is Chuck LaMar the problem or the solution for the Devil Rays? He has been on the job longer than almost all GMs in the game and the Devil Rays really haven't shown too many signs of improvement. Is he the problem, the ownership or are their problems in the minor league and scouting system?
 A: 

Bill Ballew: The Rays' primary problem centers on ownership that is not willing to be patient or spend money at the right time. Some of those difficulties has to fall to LaMar, but I feel his hands are tied more often than not. New ownership willing to spend a few bucks in the proper manner would do wonders for a team bursting with youth and potential.

 Q:  JB from Niketown asks:
Is Wes Bankston the first baseman of the future? When?
 A: 

Bill Ballew: I believe Bankston is the first baseman of the future. It may not be until the second half of 2006 or 2007, but right now he's the man.

 Q:  Tony Farlow from Asheville, NC asks:
I was very impressed with the progress I saw in Delmon Young from the start of the South Atlantic League Season to the end, but how much of that was him staying in the league long enough to learn pitchers (not to downplay that ability)vs. true progress?
 A: 

Bill Ballew: Young made better adjustments than the competition, which means he had a better season. He could have used a late-season promotion, but the Rays wanted to make certain he had a solid foundation in his development, which I think will pay off in the long run.

 Q:  Curt Wilson from Bradenton, FL asks:
What do you think the Tampa Bay Devil Rays prospect Chad Orvella's ceiling is?
 A: 

Bill Ballew: I think he could be a successful closer in the major leagues. I'm always a little nervous about a guy who makes extremely rapid progress, but his pure stuff and low-mileage arm could produce bigger and better things in the near future.

 Q:  Jason from Salem, OR asks:
If Elijah Dukes can straighten out his attitude, as it sounds like he's done, is he an all-star caliber outfielder? When will he be with the big club?
 A: 

Bill Ballew: He's yet to succeed at the Double-A level, so let's see if he can be an all-star in the Southern League before crowning him with similar honors in the big leagues. His attitude has improved, but he still is a potential time bomb ready to explode until he proves otherwise for the long haul.

 Q:  Jay from Crackville, VA asks:
Do the Rays plan on using Gabby Martinez in a utility role as he moves up the chain, or will they settle on one position for him? Thanks.
 A: 

Bill Ballew: The Rays want to keep Martinez at third base, but I see him as a utility man in the big leagues. There's some question about his age as well as his defense, but his bat has some significant potential, especially off the pines.

 Q:  Jason from Charlotte asks:
Is there hope that Josh Hamilton can reach his once touted prospect status?
 A: 

Bill Ballew: There's always hope, Jason, as long as we have breath in our lungs. But I wouldn't hold my breath about Josh if I were you.

 Q:  Heath Hunt from Mulberry, FL asks:
What kind of power does Wes Bankston have? Does he have legitimate power for a 1st baseman?
 A: 

Bill Ballew: Bankston has big-time power that will continue to blossom as he gains experience and makes adjustments. There's no doubt he has legit power at the first turn.

 Q:  Kiley McDaniel from Odessa, FL asks:
Why wasn't Elijah Dukes ranked higher than #7? The impression I got from scouting reports and the Cali League Top 20 was that he had undeniable superstar upside and was turning the corner makeup and desire wise. He was ranked 11 spots ahead of Hammel in that list; what changed your opinion for this list?
 A: 

Bill Ballew: Dukes has turned a corner or two, but he remains very raw and more than a slight concern in the makeup category. He has the potential to rank at the top of the list next year or fall completely off. It all depends on what he brings to the field on a day by day basis.

 Q:  Kevin Parlow from San Fransisco Ca. asks:
With all the outfield talent in the Rays system i.e. Badelli, Crawford, Young, etc. is it time to see some of it go for pitching? More specificly do the Rays have plans for the Gomes brothers?
 A: 

Bill Ballew: The Rays are higher on Jonny than Joey, but both could be potential tradebait. I would not be a big surprised if the Rays tried to swing a deal involving an outfielder. In fact, I would go so far as to suggest they do just that. But you know what free advice can produce.

 Q:  Trader J from Indy asks:
Now that Seth McClung is back from TJ surgery, does he have a shot at the rotation in the spring? How does he project?
 A: 

Bill Ballew: All right, time for just a few more...McClung does have a shot at the rotation this spring. The more likely scenario has him refining his game at Durham and making the jump some time during the campaign. I see McClung as a middle-of-the-rotation starter if he can remain healthy.

 Q:  Blair from Anaheim asks:
Where will Dukes start the season, High A or AA? Also, where does he fit in the D-Rays long term plans? Will he be trade bait, play LF with Baldelli in center? He sounds like a really special player on the verge of busting out big time.
 A: 

Bill Ballew: I see Dukes starting the season at Double-A Montgomery and eventually reaching Tampa as a left fielder, possibly in 2006. I see similarities in Dukes to a young Ron Gant.

 Q:  Josh from Work, St. Pete asks:
Did Jorge Cantu receive too many big league at bats to qualify for the list, or was he just not good enough to make the top 10? He had a great year in AAAMajors plus hes hitting a ton in the Mexican Winter League.
 A: 

Bill Ballew: Cantu would have been in the lower half of the top 10 but had too many at-bats to qualify. His performance last year surprised the Rays, but his performance was nothing short of impressive.

 Q:  Jason from Baltimore, Maryland asks:
Are the Devil Rays the anti-"Moneyball" game going with tools players over the stats players? Could this benefit the Devil Rays with more teams using a Moneyball approach and more tools players being available to teams like the Devil Rays?
 A: 

Bill Ballew: The Rays remain one of the teams that loves tools and not stats. Just look at all of the athletes they have drafted over the years, especially in the early rounds. The results have been pretty darn good, including Crawford and Baldelli and Dukes possibly on the way. Don't expect the trend to change as long as Chuck LaMar remains the GM.

 Q:  Tony Farlow from Asheville, NC asks:
Who's decision was it to end the affiliation, between the Charleston River Dogs and Tampa Bay?
 A: 

Bill Ballew: Part of the Charleston ownership also has a very small piece of the Yankees. So when the Yankees' affiliation became available at the same time the Riverdogs and Rays were slated to end, Charleston joined with the Yankees. The Riverdogs fans, meanwhile, will be the losers in terms of prospects.

Moderator: Thanks for all the questions. Sorry I couldn't get to all of them, but thanks for reading!

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