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Mariners Chat with Jim Callis
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Moderator: Jim Callis will begin taking your Mariners questions at 2 p.m. ET

 Q:  Chris from San Francisco asks:
When is Felix Hernandez going to join the big league rotation?
 A: 

Jim Callis: Greetings, everyone. Three of the first six questions deal with when Hernandez would make it to the majors, so let's get that one out of the way immediately. The Mariners would like him to spend some time in Triple-A, so odds are against him making the Opening Day roster. But I suspect we'll see him starting for the Mariners by the second half of the season.

 Q:  jim from bo asks:
what makes hernandez so great?
 A: 

Jim Callis: Lots of things. He has great stuff: plus-plus fastball, plus-plus curveball, plus changeup. His plus-plus slider might be his most devastating pitch, but the Mariners won't let him throw it. He's young, durable, throws strikes and loves to compete. There's no apparent chink in his armor.

 Q:  Greg from LA asks:
Rob Neyer of ESPN wrote today that Beltre and Sexson together probably only mean 10-15 more wins, and that Seattle won't compete without more pitching. What do you think?
 A: 

Jim Callis: I agree with Rob. We're talking about a club that won 63 games in 2004. Signing Beltre and Sexson, as impressive as that might be, isn't going to be enough to turn the team around. It's a step in the right direction, but there's more work to be done.

 Q:  Jim S. from Milwaukee asks:
Why is that no team has acquired Jamal Strong? The M's seem to have little interest (I still can't figure out why they signed Winn without giving him a shot) and Strong has the potential to an adequate leadoff hitter a la Scott Podsednik with a better OBP. Thanks and Happy Holidays to you and the entire B.A. staff !!
 A: 

Jim Callis: Thanks for the holiday wishes, Jim. I don't think it's that the Mariners have little or no interest in giving Strong a shot. Remember, the regime that signed and developed Strong isn't the same regime that extended Winn's contract last offseason. Strong has been hurt in each of the last two years, costing him a chance at some big league playing time. He has no apparent opening in Seattle and I like his leadoff potential, but the Mariners won't just give him away.

 Q:  Jim Osmer from Seattle asks:
I was impressed by Jeremy Reed defensively in center field though others had mixed feelings. Is a future outfield of Choo in left, Reed in center and Ichiro in right going to cover the giant Safeco outfield?
 A: 

Jim Callis: That's the big question. Ichiro obviously can handle right field and Shin-Soo Choo would be fine in left, but whether Jeremy Reed can handle center field remains to be seen. He can do better job with his jumps and routes, and maybe that will make the difference. But if he's a merely adequate center fielder, merely adequate won't cut it at Safeco Field.

 Q:  J Deloney from Dayton, OH asks:
What's the prognosis of LHP Steve Uhlmansiek? He could be a real steal for the Mariners.
 A: 

Jim Callis: Uhlmansiek had Tommy John surgery after blowing out his elbow at Wichita State this spring. I agree, assuming he regains his good stuff and good command, that's a nice 12th-round steal for the Mariners.

 Q:  Ian from Jersey asks:
Yesterday Alex Gordon had to be considered the favorite for the M's #3 draft pick come June. However, with Adrian Beltre on board, has that changed?
 A: 

Jim Callis: Not sure Nebraska 3B Alex Gordon is the definitive favorite for the Mariners, but the Beltre signing shouldn't change things. Teams draft for the future, not the immediate present, and a lot of scouts aren't sold on Gordon staying at the hot corner anyway.

 Q:  Dustin from Sacramento, CA asks:
With the signing of Adrian Beltre, does that make Jose Lopez the favorite to be the M's opening day SS? Also, does Jeremy Reed have a chance of starting in CF for the Mariners? Thanks.
 A: 

Jim Callis: I think Lopez (who no longer qualifies for the Top 10) already was the favorite at shortstop. And yes, Reed has a good chance of starting in center field. I like him better, offensively and defensively, than Randy Winn.

 Q:  JMS from NYC asks:
Are there any questions concerns that Felix Hernandez is as young as advertised?
 A: 

Jim Callis: Nope. No whispers at all. Furthermore, he's Venezuelan, and almost all of the bogus ages have come out of Cuba and the Dominican Republic.

 Q:  joe from fort south asks:
why is nageotte still a prospect?
 A: 

Jim Callis: Why wouldn't he be? He still has one of the best sliders in baseball and an above-average fastball. His less-than-scintillating major league debut doesn't change that.

 Q:  Corey from Seattle, WA asks:
When all is said and done, when this years list of the top propspects in all of baseball will King Felix be #1? I can't envision him outside the top 3.
 A: 

Jim Callis: I can honestly say I've been so swamped with the Prospect Handbook and the holiday season that I haven't looked ahead to our Top 100 Prospects list yet. That said . . . In my mind, he's the top pitching prospect in baseball, and I believe my BA cohorts at the Durham headquarters agree. I'd take Hernandez over Delmon Young or whoever else might be the top minor league hitting prospect. But Joe Mauer still qualifies for our list, and I might have to go with Mauer.

 Q:  Jim Osmer from Seattle asks:
Is Tuiasasopo, Morse or Adam Jones strong enough defensively to stay at shortstop (and maybe bump Jose Lopez to second base in 2006)? Do any of them project as everyday players in the majors?
 A: 

Jim Callis: Out of that group, Jones might be the only true major league shortstop. Matt Tuiasosopo definitely projects as an everyday player with his bat, most likely as a third baseman or corner outfielder. If Michael Morse keeps hitting, he could play regularly as well.

 Q:  Michael C. from Kirkland, WA asks:
Jim, do you sense that the Mariners' brass have a clear plan for how to develop Felix Hernandez? Will they be overty cautious with this Doc Gooden-type talent due to the organization's recent injury history with prospects, or will they allow him to move up at his own (so far rapid) pace?
 A: 

Jim Callis: Yes, they do have a clear plan. I wrote a column about this during the summer, as they limited his pitch counts and innings during the season and wouldn't let him throw his slider. Had San Antonio made the playoffs, the Mariners still wouldn't have let Hernandez pitch. Also, they persuaded him and the winter club that held his rights that it would be in his best interests to rest this offseason. They realize how rare and valuable his arm is, and they're doing everything they can to protect it.

 Q:  Russ from NY asks:
I asked it last year, and I'll ask it again. Is there any hope left for Michael Garciaparra?
 A: 

Jim Callis: I don't remember what I said last year, Russ, but at this point, I don't see much hope. He hit .229 in high A before he hurt his wrist this year. It's just not happening with his bat.

 Q:  Ian from Jersey asks:
In the best tools section you rated Cesar Jimenez as having the best change in the system. With Travis Blackley, Bobby Livingston, and Felix Hernandez all with very good changes, can you explain the reasoning behind Jimenez?
 A: 

Jim Callis: Simply that the consensus of scouts and front-office officials I talked to believed Jimenez had the best changeup. He also has an 87-91 mph fastball and a developing curveball, and he might be able to handle a starting assignment if given one.

 Q:  matt from arizona asks:
thanks for the questions ...did aaron jensen improve his prospect status? also do you have any news on soriano will he start or will he stick to relieving when he comes back can he still be a dominate pitcher in the big leagues? thanks
 A: 

Jim Callis: Jensen had some health issues, since overcome, that affected his stuff. That didn't enhance his prospect status, but he's still very much a prospect. No reason he shouldn't return to throwing in the low 90s with a good slider now that he's 100 percent again. I haven't heard any plan for Soriano, but I would guess they'll bring him back as a reliever, at least initially, just to save some wear and tear on his arm.

 Q:  Brian from Milwaukee, WI asks:
How does Jose Lopez and Cha-Sueng Baek still rate now that they don't qualify as prospects anymore. Lopez seemed to be swinging for the fences alot and connected for some decent power but only batted .230. Baek had one great start to finish the season but other than that he didn't do that much, especially for being hurt early in the season.
 A: 

Jim Callis: Lopez still has a lot of offensive potential for a middle infielder but will need a better approach. He would have ranked anywhere from 2 to 4 on the Top 10 if he were still eligible. Baek still does qualify and will be in the 11-20 range. No real plus pitch, but he throws four of them for strikes.

 Q:  Tim from Seattle asks:
Do you see Chris Snelling helping the team out this year in any capacity? Maybe as a fourth outfielder? If so, would this allow the Mariners to have more confidence in trading Randy Winn?
 A: 

Jim Callis: I have no question that Snelling can hit, but it's hard to have much faith that he'll stay healthy. If he can stay in one piece, he could help the Mariners as a fourth outfielder or DH. He's still young and I still think he can hit .300 with 15 homers a year once he gets going.

 Q:  TaGe from NY asks:
Where did Tommy "Texas" Oldham come up on the list? He made huge strides last season.
 A: 

Jim Callis: Hadn't heard the "Texas" nickname before . . . Oldham did have a nice year. His changeup is his best pitch, he threw 87-91 mph and his curveball got better. He's under consideration but not a lock for the list, as the Mariners have a lot of lefties with the same profile, and most of the others are younger and just as talented.

 Q:  Paul Covert from Lynnwood, WA asks:
Seattle seems to have several guys who won't be all-stars but who seem fairly likely to at least be useful reserves, with an upside of "decent regular": Leone, Strong, Baek, and (our favorite 49th-rounder) Atchison. How did these guys stack up?
 A: 

Jim Callis: Thanks to Paul, who tipped me off earlier this year that Scott Atchison was the first signed 49th-rounder to reach the majors in baseball history. (I did an exhaustive story on the best picks ever from each round, and Atchison made his debut a few weeks later.) That's an accurate assessment, Paul. Justin Leone and Strong could be regulars and Baek could be a starter in the right situation, but more realistically they'll be very good reserves. Atchison fits best as a sixth- or seventh-inning reliever.

 Q:  Shawn from Bellingham asks:
The Mariners are very deep at shortstop. Which shortstop do you feel has the best potential to stay at the position and play in the majors.
 A: 

Jim Callis: The best defensive infielders in the system are, in order, Oswaldo Navarro, Asdrubal Cabrera and Adam Jones. Jones has more offensive potential, so he's got the best chance. But Jose Lopez, who doesn't qualify for the list any longer, is the best all-around shortstop of any of them.

 Q:  Ian from Jersey asks:
Clint Nageotte had somewhat of a lost year in 2004. He still has good stuff, especially his wicked slider. Do you believe he is best suited down the road in the rotation or the pen? What do the Mariners see?
 A: 

Jim Callis: The Mariners still see him as a starter, but most of the other clubs I've talked to think he should head to the bullpen pronto. He doesn't throw his changeup enough and doesn't have a great approach as a starter, but he could be a closer or top-notch setup man. His slider is just nasty.

 Q:  Paul Covert from Lynnwood, WA asks:
I recall that the "super-two" arbitration guys are the top 17% with 2-3 years service; but how does it work for free agency? Is it just three years after first arbitration eligibility? (The real question being, of course: If Felix comes up at the all-star game, does Seattle get his services for 5 12 years, or for 6 12?)
 A: 

Jim Callis: There's no comparable "super-five" status. Felix Hernandez and everyone else needs six full years of service time before becoming a free agent. So if they promote him at midseason, the Mariners still would control his rights for the next six seasons. I guess Seattle fans have to prepare for the inevitability of their superstars leaving town, but isn't this a bit early?

 Q:  Grae from UK asks:
What is the timeframe on Felix being allowed to use the slider we have heard so much about?
 A: 

Jim Callis: He hasn't needed it thus far, and the Mariners have no immediate plans to let him start throwing it. They'd rather not risk an injury.

 Q:  Kevin from NJ asks:
What do you think is Choo's major league upside? Is there a big leaguer to whom you would comare him?
 A: 

Jim Callis: I compared Choo to Mark Kotsay when Choo was in the low Class A Midwest League in 2002, and I still think that comp fits. Former pitcher, line-drive hitter, modest power but good on-base skills, very good baserunning instincts. Choo has a stronger arm but lacks Kotsay's defensive instincts. Funny thing is, I also see a lot of Kotsay in Jeremy Reed.

 Q:  Bill from Austin, TX asks:
Who are some of top prospects who we can look forward to seeing on the San Antonio Missions roster this season?
 A: 

Jim Callis: In no particular order: outfielder Wladimir Balentien; catcher Rene Rivera; lefties Cesar Jimenez, Bobby Livingston and Tom Oldham; and third baseman Jesus Guzman.

 Q:  Travis from Milwaukee asks:
Will Matt Tuiasosopo or Asdrubla Cabrera start the year with the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers? Thanks!
 A: 

Jim Callis: The Mariners have so many middle-infield prospects that they may put some of them on the same club and expose them to other positions besides shortstop. They did that with Cabrera and Oswaldo Navarro at short-season Everett in 2004, and Tuiasosopo joined that club at the end of the season. I think you'll see Adam Jones and Navarro together in high A, and Tuiasosopo and Navarro together in low A.

 Q:  DG from NoTac asks:
Can you talk a little bit about the criterion for what makes one prospect better than the other, besides performance and the obvious area of tools? For example, why Bobby Livingston is a better prospect than Shawn Nottingham. Not many understand the parameters.
 A: 

Jim Callis: I can only speak for myself, but I look at toolsstuff, performancetrack record and the player's age relative to his league. In this case, I'd go with Livingston over Nottingham because they have very similar stuff, but Livingston has succeeded in high A at age 21, whilt Nottingham has succeeded in short-season ball at age 19.

 Q:  L. Jacob from Chicago asks:
The M's seem to be stockpiling "command" lefties. Blackley is obviously the class of the group, but which of the other southpaws (Livingston, Nottingham, Oldham, Jimenez, etc.) seem like the best bet to ever pitch effectively in the big leagues?
 A: 

Jim Callis: I'll go off the board and go with Ryan Feierabend as the second-best lefty in the system. All those guys have the same stuff, but Feierabend has the most projection.

 Q:  Adam from Las Vegas, NV asks:
Hi Jim, Could you tell me the status of Ryan Anderson? Is he still looking as if he'll make it up to "The Show?" He was a great prospect from '98 - '02 until labrum problems derailed him.
 A: 

Jim Callis: I've lost count of Ryan Anderson's shoulder surgeries . . . He hasn't pitched in a game since 2000, so I think you can write him off.

 Q:  Adam Krell from Olympia, Wash. asks:
What is your opinion on Jesus Guzman? He put up great numbers in the Cal league, but he never seems to get much notice. Is he a legit prospect?
 A: 

Jim Callis: Impressive year for a teenager in high Class A, but has to prove he can do more than just hit for average. His power and defense still have quite a ways to go. Definitely worth watching, though.

 Q:  Ian from Jersey asks:
Other than Felix, is it safe to say that Matt Tuiasosopo has the highest pure ceiling in the system? Obviously he rates a little lower because he is further from the majors and less likely to reach that ceiling.
 A: 

Jim Callis: Yes, that's safe to say, and I agree with your explanation as to why I ranked him No. 5 on the Top 10.

 Q:  Michael from San Bernardino asks:
Choo's minor league stats seem to project him to be another Randy Winn type. Is this a fair comparison or do you believe he will develop more power?
 A: 

Jim Callis: I think Choo will have more power, but he needs to change his approach first.

 Q:  Nick from Fayetteville, AR asks:
I just heard Tim Kurkjan on ESPN Radio that the M's may not have enough cash left over from signing Beltre and Sexson to grab quality starting pitchers in Free Agency. Does this help Hernandez's chances of earning a rotation spot right out of spring training?
 A: 

Jim Callis: The only way Hernandez makes the club out of spring training is if he's just unbelievably good in big league camp. Which isn't out of the realm of possibility.

 Q:  Jason from Seattle asks:
Who is the next up and coming Venezuelan, is there any gems in rought who have not proved it at the higher levels yet?
 A: 

Jim Callis: Let's begin the lightning round, because the Prospect Handbook and holiday season continue to beckon . . . Asdrubal Cabrera is the next up-and-coming Venezuelan in the system.

 Q:  Seth Kinnet from South Bend, IN asks:
Being a huge Indians fan I want to know how much better is Felix Hernandez than Indians Ace Adam Miller. It seems like the only thing the Miller is lacking that Felix has is a good changeup, but at the same time it sounds like Miller has a better fastball than him. How much better is Hernandez than Miller and in that case the rest of the best minor league pitchers?
 A: 

Jim Callis: Miller is close to Hernandez and might be the second-best pitching prospect in the minors. Miller doesn't have Hernandez' changeup and hasn't proven himself in Double-A.

 Q:  Shawn from Bellingham asks:
Last year was a comeback from injuries year for Jeffrey Flaig. Do you feel this will be a breakout year for him? Do you feel the Troy Glaus comparisons are accurate?
 A: 

Jim Callis: Flaig has the bat to break out. Hopefully, his shoulder injuries are behind him.

 Q:  Corey from Seattle, WA asks:
How do the young tandem of Asdrubal Cabrera and Yung Chen compare? It seemed to me that Chen was getting more press(Olympics) but Cabrera managed to make the top 10. Is this just because of age?
 A: 

Jim Callis: Cabrera stands out more defensively at this point, Chen more offensively. In time, Cabrera will be the better all-around player, and he's 2 12 years younger than Chen.

 Q:  brad from tampa asks:
Hey Jim, thanks for the chat. Where does Michael Morse rank?
 A: 

Jim Callis: In the 11-20 range. I'll say no more: Buy the Prospect Handbook!

 Q:  Tony from Pennsylvania asks:
With the Beltre signing, what do the Mariners plan on doing with Justin Leone? They did have him at SS a little last year before he was lost to injury, but he's a 3B. Does he have a future?
 A: 

Jim Callis: I think Leone will play a utility role in Seattle, seeing time just about everywhere but pitcher, catcher and center field. Don't forget, Greg Dobbs is now blocked as well, though he was far from certain as a third baseman.

 Q:  Robert Goldberg from Lyndhurst, NJ asks:
How worried are the Mariners about Blackley's late season implosion?
 A: 

Jim Callis: More worried about his declining stuff than his ugly stats, but they believe he'll bounce back.

 Q:  Gordon from CO asks:
How is it that a pitcher can strike out 11+ per 9 in AA as a starter and get zero notice? 10+ for his career and still no notice? Is Dorman THAT bad a prospect?
 A: 

Jim Callis: Just because someone doesn't make the Top 10 doesn't mean he's not a prospect or we hate him or something. Rich Dorman will make the Top 30 list. But he was 25 in Double-A and his stuff isn't very consistent. Sometimes he's in the low 90s with a good curve, and sometimes his stuff flattens out. Strikeout rates alone don't make a Top 10 Prospect.

 Q:  Gordon from CO asks:
How successful do you see Bobby Livingston being in AA? You rate him as having the best control in the system - is it going to be good enough to make up for his fairly average stuff?
 A: 

Jim Callis: His stuff is more fringe average than fairly average. He's going to have to live and die with his command, with little margin for error. Craig Anderson pitched very well in high Class A but struggled at higher levels. We'll have to wait and see on Livingston, but in my mind he has to keep proving himself every year.

 Q:  adam from ny asks:
WOH'D YA RATHER HAVE: JOSE LOPEZ OR JOSE REYES?
 A: 

Jim Callis: Jose Reyes, though I might want to transplant Lopez' hamstrings in him.

Moderator: Thanks for all the great questions, as usual, and happy holidays to everyone. And remember, you can always submit questions to askba@baseballamerica.com (just remember to include your full name and hometown). Take care!

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