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Giants Chat with John Manuel

Moderator: John Manuel will begin our final Top 10 chat of the season at 2 p.m. ET

 Q:  Chris B from SLC, UT asks:
Thanks for the chat John. It would seem that the Giants could have premier scouting organizations in both Latin America (as a result of their history there) and in Asia (as a result of their proximity) but seem rather inept in both places. Whats going on and are there any emerging Latin or Asian prospects?
 A: 

John Manuel: First, thanks to everyone for coming in for the Giants chat, and for all 30 chats. Hard to believe we've been doing these for three months. The Prospect Handbook will be out at the end of this month, so thanks for your patience and interest in what we do. On to the chat!

John Manuel: Chris, I don't know that the Giants have made much if any effort in the Far East since signing Masanori Murakami back in 1964. As for Latin America, they have made inroads there, signing Pedro Feliz out of the D.R., not to mention pitchers used in trades such as Lorenzo Barcelo and Felix Diaz. Right now, they have some intriguing Latin Americans like Lisandro Disla, who hit .351 in the AZL and just missed the top 30; LHP Jesus Reina; and a pitcher in the DSL they are high on named Waldis Joaquin, who had a 1.61 ERA in the DSL and should come to the States next year. So to call their Latin efforts inept is, I'd say, inaccurate.

 Q:  Kenny Graves from Highland Falls, NY asks:
Does Matt Cain have what it takes to be a #1 starter in the majors? Also what is his ETA til he is starting in the majors?
 A: 

John Manuel: He does have both the stuff and it appears the intangibles to be a No. 1; I haven't spoken to anyone who isn't high on him. He got hurt in 2003, then answered that doubts by making every start in 2004. Predictably, never having pitched that much, he tired at the end of the season, otherwise his numbers for the year would have been pretty insane for a teenager. He's in the top 5 pitching prospects in the game for me, and I don't think I'm going out of much of a limb there.

 Q:  Rob from SF asks:
What have you heard about Eric Threats? I know he is recovering from injury and when healthy had little control, but he consistently hit triple digits. Any word on his progress?
 A: 

John Manuel: Threets didn't pitch in 2004, not even in instructional league, to my knowledge. I don't know that he'll hit 103 mph again, but the Giants protected him on the 40-man roster because (a) they could afford to, (b) they had no one better to protect, at least no one they thought they needed to protect in the Rule 5, and (c) because if he gets healthy, he could catch lightning in a bottle and dominate out of the bullpen if his stuff comes back. He's been a fun prospect to follow since we wrote about him in 2000 in the Cape Cod League, but it would be nice to see Threets get healthy and pitch some. I don't think the Giants are counting on him in any way, just hoping he gets healthy and they can see if he can still blow some cheddar. (That's fun to say.)

 Q:  Kevin from Foster City, CA asks:
Standard "Why wasn't he included" question here: Why no Patrick Misch?
 A: 

John Manuel: Just missed, one of the organization's best pitching prospects and its top lefty. He skipped from short-season ball to Double-A and didn't miss a beat. But his ceiling is No. 3 starter at best, and that's unlikely, more like a 4-5 guy. If Craig Whitaker hits it big, he's a No. 2 starter, a power, middle-of-the-rotation horse. If Aardsma hits it big, he's a power closer. If Ishikawa does, he's a 30-homer, Gold Glove 1B. Misch is more likely to reach his ceiling, but I think his ceiling is below those guys, so I ranked him below those guys.

 Q:  Barenaked Ladies from Canada asks:
How is Brian Wilson (the pitcher, not the singer) progressing?
 A: 

John Manuel: Reports I had were that his velocity was about 90 percent back late in the SAL season but his command obviously wasn't there, he threw a lot of fat pitches. This coming season is the big one for him, he had surgery in April 2003, so he needs to have a full, healthy season and see if he can regain some feel.

 Q:  Rob Bishop from Washington D.C. asks:
Thanks for the chat John. Is the Giants front office antagonistic towards Baseball America?
 A: 

John Manuel: No. I just had a great talk yesterday with Bobby Evans, and there are few people in the game I like talking baseball with more than Jack Hiatt. And Brian Sabean, whose scouting legacy with the Yankees is immense, was our 2003 Executive of the Year. That said, the Giants, as I wrote, aren't out to win our Org of the Year award. It's fair to say they aren't as cooperative as some other organizations are when it comes to putting a Top 30 together, and I'm not getting any Christmas cards from them, but I wouldn't call it antagonistic.

 Q:  Dave Alan from San Francisco asks:
What the hecks an ephus?
 A: 

John Manuel: It's just a very soft, looping changeup, a trick pitch, really. Ask Bill Lee or Tony Perez from the '75 World Series.

 Q:  Chris B from SLC, UT asks:
Chris Begg and Brian Burress--can they contribute at the major league level?
 A: 

John Manuel: Begg and Burress both make the Top 30, both profile as back of the rotation starters. Begg's a sinker-slider guy who could pitch out of the bullpen as well, though the Cuban Olympic team would argue that point (I guess they were glad he pitched out of the bullpen in Athens, actually). I like Burress' chances better because he picked up a cutter this year working with Trevor Wilson, and he really attacked righthanded hitters well. He'll have to tighten up his curve a lot, though, to be a lefty reliever; right now, he's more effective against righthanded hitters.

 Q:  Dan from N.M. asks:
Will Eddy Martinez-Esteve's shoulder injury harm his longterm development? Did it affect his performance last year or did it happen in the off season? Thanks for taking our questions.
 A: 

John Manuel: It could; his hamstring injury in college moved him off 3B, and if his arm strength doesn't return from his offseason labrum surgery, he might have to move to 1B. Some scouts think he will have to anyway long-term. No one that I've talked to is sure when the injury happened; EME had the surgery in Florida, in Miami, on his own, not with the Giants' doctors, and there are some rumors he may have been damaged goods in the draft. If that's so, how will the guy hit when he's healthy? He can flat rake; I did our Florida draft coverage, and some scouts I talked to were down on his bat speed at that time, but he answered those doubts after signing with the Giants.

 Q:  Teddy from Palo Alto, CA asks:
When can we expect to see Merkin Valdez in the bigs? Will he get a chance to start or will they put him in the pen?
 A: 

John Manuel: Well, you should already have seen him, he pitched twice for the Giants last year. I saw Merkin in spring training last year and he was electric in a short stint. He has the fastball command to start but lost some feel for his slider this year; he's probably headed for the bullpen if the slider doesn't return, and he also needs help with his change. With San Francisco's starting pitching depth, the bullpen again makes more sense, and he could be a dominant reliever.

 Q:  Dave Alan from San Francisco asks:
Once again, the Giants are the last team reviewed by BA. Are you going to give us an extra long chat to make up for it?
 A: 

John Manuel: I'm trying!

 Q:  Steve Moffatt from Walnut Creek, CA asks:
We love the chats John. What's the future look like for Todd Linden?
 A: 

John Manuel: I don't think it's great in terms of the Giants, unfortunately for Todd. He hasn't made adjustments to his swing to adopt a better two-strike approach, let his natural strength work for him instead of trying to hit every ball out of the park . . . his inability or unwillingness to make adjustments is why he's not in the Top 10 anymore and also why he hasn't established himself in the major leagues yet.

 Q:  Matt Coyle from Arvada, Colorado asks:
Thanks for all the chats to keep us baseball nuts alive through the winter! Aardsma seems to have gone nowhere in the past year. Has he come close to developing a reliable 2nd pitch? It looks as though the Giants don't want him anywhere near the closer role for now, with good reason. Any comments? Thanks again!
 A: 

John Manuel: You're welcome for the chats. Aardsma's a Colorado guy like Kyle Sleeth, Roy Halladay and Tennessee's Luke Hochevar. He improved his changeup last year but lost some fastball velo and the feel for and break on his slider (poor mechanics). He can earn a setup role with a good spring, though. Bright kid, hard worker, my money is on him to make the adjustments.

 Q:  Joseph Jenkins III from Northern Jeresy asks:
Who is the next big bat to coming up in the giants farm system?
 A: 

John Manuel: Martinez-Esteve is the biggest, but don't look past Nate Schierholtz and Fred Lewis. Obviously I think Freddie's the best of the trio as I ranked him the highest, but it wsan't so much on his bat (which I like) as on his speed and ability to play a premium defensive position.

 Q:  Dobbsie from Reno, NV asks:
I was perturbed by your prospect pulse article on Giants hitters . Considering how much they have invested in kids like Ishikawa and Shierholtz, and how hard it is to hit effectively in Hagerstown, how on earth can they have a roving hitting instructor who refuses to leave the office in SF? Shouldnt Willie Upshaw have been fired at the start of the season if he didnt want to do the job?
 A: 

John Manuel: I would be perturbed too; the Giants were perturbed enough to hire Bob Mariano as a coordinator of minor league hitting to work with hitters while keeping Upshaw; they have nearly identical titles. The staff at Hagerstown was let go after the season, so the Giants reacted, they knew something was amiss there.

 Q:  Lefty O'Doul from Seals Stadium asks:
While I share your high opinion of Eddy Martinez-Estivez, I actually see a somewhat higher ceiling on John Bowker. Where did you rank Bowker, and what would you say about him?
 A: 

John Manuel: It's harder to read Bowker's college performance because he hits in such a pitcher's park, but he's not far down the list after not making the top 10. He's also quite a hitter and his best position also is the batter's box, though he didn't quite have the reputation for indifference that EM-E got in college. Bowker profiles to have less power though because his swing doesn't have the natural loft that Martinez-Esteve's does; perhaps he'll add power down the road like Hank Blalock has by sacrificing some average, but Bowker's ceiling is .300 hitter, 20 homers, he's an intriguing bat.

 Q:  Jason Carew from Lima, Peru asks:
Scott Munter had his delivery reworked last year and suddenly started pitching in a manner you would expect for a kid with his big frame. What is he throwing well, and do you see him as a viable middle inning man late in the year?
 A: 

John Manuel: Wow, Lima, Peru. Good stuff. Scott Munter has a fan in Peru. Anyway, he did get in better shape this year, which allowed him to repeat his mechanics, build arm strength, gain confidence . . . it all built on itself. Munter touches the mid-90s and throws a low-90s sinker with real late movement down in the zone, and he is a viable alternative in the '05 San Francisco 'pen if he keeps throwing like that.

 Q:  Chris from San Francisco, CA asks:
Is there any help for the dreadful bullpen coming up from the minors? Are Accardo, Sadler, Hennesey or Valdez likely to provide any help this year? Must I still be subjected to a bunch of relievers who would have difficulty striking out Rob Deer? Thanks, and keep up the great work.
 A: 

John Manuel: Hennessey and Valdez could help this year; Hennessey profiles better as a starter, but his sinker-slider combo could make him an effective middle guy if he could handle the workload. Accardo is a bit further away, remember 2004 was his first year as a full-time pitcher. Sadler's raw but throws hard, had some Double-A success and could be ready soon if he gets hot and starts filling up the strike zone more consistently. His delivery tends to be max-effort and he tends to lose the strike zone for long stretches.

 Q:  Grant from McCovey Chronicles asks:
When adjusting for age in the context of a league, what are you looking for? It seems like Fred Lewis had an awful lot of strikeouts for high-A, even though his overall numbers were excellent. If Todd Linden had hit .310.410.550 with 25 homers in the California league, could that have changed his ranking?
 A: 

John Manuel: I try not to throw a blanket over all players. Linden played at Washington and LSU and was focused on baseball, playing in the summer, has a brother who's a coach. Lewis played two sports and never focused solely on baseball until 2002, so those guys are not the same kind of player. Lewis was old for the Cal League, but he's also inexperienced, and he has physical tools beyond those of Linden in pretty much every facet of the game. So Linden, with his experience, would be an NP if he had been in the Cal League this year, 4 years after he tore up the Cape Cod League.

 Q:  Kevin from Foster City, CA asks:
Three young guys who didn't make the list: John Bowker, Clay Timpner, and Marcus Sanders. What do they have to improve upon to appear on this list in the next year or two?
 A: 

John Manuel: Bowker just has to do it for a full year and show power over a longer stretch, but he's not far from making it at all. Timpner has to show he has enough bat to be more than a fourth OF; I like him more than most, actually. Sanders is probably my favorite Giants prospect, a 70 runner with wiry strength and big upside, but he also tore his labrum in high school and has yet to play a full season. He's slated to play SS in the Sally League this year, and I look forward to finding Augusta during the year to see him play.

 Q:  Alex from Dallas asks:
Craig Whitaker seems to not have made any great strides, is he still progressing or is his stuff not like advertised when initially drafted?
 A: 

John Manuel: I'd disagree; he led his league in strikeouts this year. He's a high school pitcher who's raw as rain, and the Giants are taking a prudent, patient approach with him. He's on the same development path the Blue Jays took with Dustin McGowan and Brandon League, and it worked well for both (until McGowan had TJ, but he had a pre-existing elbow condition in high school anyway . . . ). Whitaker's on track, just not going to move as quickly as Matt Cain. Cain is the exception, not Whitaker.

 Q:  Alex from Dallas asks:
Do the Giants stay with college pitcher, or go with h.s. this years, the crop of h.s. pitchers seems very weak compared to recent years?
 A: 

John Manuel: Far be it for me to give Dick Tidrow advice on the draft, but when you pick first in the fourth round like the Giants do, I think you just take the best name on your draft board who's still around.

 Q:  Steven Cowen from Mission Station, Arkansas asks:
The Giants seem to have a penchant for picking up undrafted college kids and making something of them. Last year we saw Verriker, Floyd, Armitage and Accardo, and this year we saw Brian Horrowitz hit 347 in the NWL. Do you have an impression of Horrowitz in particular and the practice in general you could pass along?
 A: 

John Manuel: Horwitz was a local kid out of Cal who's a corner outfielder, and he's going to have to turn some of those 24 2Bs into homers down the line. My impression of him is he doesn't have the home run power to be a big leaguer, but he's got time to prove me and the scouts wrong.

 Q:  Chris B from SLC, UT asks:
When does the Handbook ship and who are some of the Giants prospects that you are really rooting for?
 A: 

John Manuel: We've done all we can here with the book; it's all up to the printer now, so we expect to have the book back by the end of February and shipping to you our loyal readers. I'm rooting for Marcus Sanders, as I've indicated, and for Sean Martin to get a chance at higher levels. I'll also throw in Todd Jennings, athletic catcher, had a nightmarish 2004 season, injury-plagued, lost confidence, hopefully he'll get it back in 2005.

 Q:  BullsMac from Clarksdale, Mississippi asks:
Hi John, How far down has Dan Ortmeier fallen from 10th BA last year and do you think he has the ability to reach SF outfield before Lewis,Eddy or Nate? Thanks.
 A: 

John Manuel: Not too far, but it's hard to know what kind of ceiling he has left if he can't stay healthy. I wrote last year that his all-out style had some in the organization concerned that he would keep getting hurt; those guys knew what they were talking about. He's fallen behind Lewis and Schierholtz in the OF pecking order; we'll see if EM-E is still an OF when he comes back from shoulder surgery.

 Q:  Lefty O'Doul from Seal Stadium asks:
I question how smart it is to move Shierholtz to the outfield. Isnt his hitting worth more as a 3B prospect? If they dont need to rush him as it is, isnt there time to work on his defensive footwork?
 A: 

John Manuel: Yes, his hitting is worth more at 3B, but if he can't play 3B then it's not worth it to play him there. It seems a bit premature, I don't disagree with you, but it appears the Giants think his bat isn't far from helping them (or some other club) in the big leagues, and lefthanded power is a tradable commodity.

 Q:  William from San Diego asks:
What can you tell me about the potential for Jeremiah Luster and Omar Aguilar? What are the odds of the Giants even signing Aguilar? And from the draft the year before, what can you tell me about J.B. Thurmond and Brian Wilson? Thurmond keeps having nice stats and I've heard Wilson had an incredible curve before surgery.
 A: 

John Manuel: Luster has rare athletic ability and has a strong arm, but he's plenty raw both in the field and at the plate; he'll need a big spring to avoid opening the season in extended spring training, but he's still just 18, and has plenty of time. Aguilar has some leverage now having signed with Oklahoma, so the Giants will probably need a six-figure signing bonus (which they apparently offered last year) to woo Aguilar, who supposedly has touched 98 mph. That's about 10 mph harder than Ben Thurmond throws anymore; scouts are going to be skeptical of him until his arm strength returns to its 2002, Winthrop and Team USA levels. Wilson had a good curve before and it's not back to that level according to those I have talked to.

 Q:  Kevin Pataky from North Haven, CT asks:
Which of the Giants top ten prospects will end up in Norwich? Cain? Valdez? Lewis?
 A: 

John Manuel: Hard to know where Cain will start the year; he spent half a year in Double-A and was pretty good. I'd guess much of San Jose's playoff roster, though--Schierholtz, F. Lewis, Burress, Accardo--those kinds of guys will be in Norwich, along with Ortmeier, for you to photograph.

 Q:  Robert Ross from Indianapolis, Indiana asks:
I am having an argument with a friend about Tony Torcato. My friend maintains that he is a failure of scouting and was a bad draft pick. I maintain that he is a failed prospect through injury, that he was a good 3B draft who just had health problems and that evaluating him on the basis of what they are trying to do with damaged goods isnt fair. Who do you agree with?
 A: 

John Manuel: He reached the big leagues; that's more than a lot of first-round picks. But I'd still guess the Giants hoped to get a lot more out of him. So I'm agreeing with your friend.

 Q:  Andy Cook from San Jose, Ca asks:
Any thoughts on Kevin Frandsen? He raked in college and seemed to keep on hitting in short season, now I hear he is a non-roster invite to big league camp. Do you think he will be playing in front of his home town fans in San Jose summer?
 A: 

John Manuel: One Spartan looking out for another; if I recall, Andy, you pitched for SJSU in Omaha in 2000. Whatever happened to that 5-foot-3 2B you guys had? Anyway, I don't think Fransden is a non-roster invitee, at least he's not listed on the MLB.com roster, but he is an intriguing player and could advance to San Jose because he has a polished bat. Profiles better at 2B, but might have to play SS with the organization's lack of depth there.

 Q:  dave from new york asks:
You're probably going to get this from a million Giant's fans, so why not me? Did Fred Lewis "accidentally" draw a bunch more walks this year too?
 A: 

John Manuel: LOL . . . funny, thought I'd get that sooner. Nice. back in a minute, on an important phone call, sorry.

 Q:  Kevin from Foster City, CA asks:
The Giants drafted a couple of local college infielders in the mid-rounds of 2004: Kevin 'Fish' Frandsen of SJSU and Will Thompson from SCU. Both had solid numbers at S-K in '04. Are these guys sleepers that have a chance to improve, or do they have any chance to progress into solid major leaguers?
 A: 

John Manuel: Sorry about that . . . didn't mean to break up the chat there, but the job is the job. And for the last question about Fred Lewis, I think 'accidentally' was the wrong word to use last year. While Lewis has laudable plate discipline, I think the point the Giants were trying to get across to me is that he still swings at some pitches out of the zone and takes some pitches he really could drive; it's more pitch recognition he needs to work on, not patience.

John Manuel: Both Fransden and Thompson are going to have to produce at every level, neither has loud tools, but Fransden has a chance to move because he's in the middle of t he diamond.

 Q:  Jeff Bennett from Oakland, CA asks:
Lance Niekro still cant stay healthy, but he suddenly started hitting with authority last year. Where do you see Niekros current ceiling? Do you think he can dump the Body by Drew workout tapes? Is he a AAAA player? Could he develop into a above average bench corner IF guy in the Charlie Hayes model?
 A: 

John Manuel: Funny line; it's just hard to know with Niekro. He's never stayed healthy, four injuries on four body parts in four years. Last year, showing some power that befits a corner infielder for the first time, was encouraging, and I think that situation is his best bet, as a reserve corner IF or platoon guy. But Pedro Feliz already has that job in SF, and he can even play SS or some OF, so Niekro is even blocked there.

 Q:  Dobbsie from Reno, NV asks:
After falling completely off the radar, Julian Benevidez put together a nice little season at AA this year, hitting .272 with better ratios.. Was this a complete fluke or has he turned the corner?
 A: 

John Manuel: Benavidez was pretty bad in the Cal League; credit Shane Turner for helping him in Norwich. He's just 22, will be 23 this year, so it's not out of the question for him to turn it around, but my money's on fluke.

 Q:  Kevin Pataky from North Haven, CT asks:
What are the Giants plans for Mike Cervenak?
 A: 

John Manuel: He's on the 40-man but the mayor of Norwich is just a fringe guy at best.

 Q:  Jeff Bennett from Oakland, CA asks:
If Brad Hennessey has taught me nothing else, it is to not completely forget the pitchers who drop off the radar because of injury. Are we likely to see anything next season from Eric Threets, Luke Andersen, Jackson Mackert, Jeff Clark or Jack Trashner?
 A: 

John Manuel: The difference is those guys all hard arm injuries, while Hennessey didn't. Taschner had some success this season but got tattooed in Triple-A. He's got the best shot of those players to be a big leaguer as a lefthander with a breaking ball.

 Q:  Jason from Chico, CA asks:
What's the outlook for Giant southpaws? Pat Misch, Brian Mazone, Brian Burres, and now most recently Jesus Reina and Jonathan Sanchez?
 A: 

John Manuel: I've touched on most of those guys; Reina has a quick arm, needs some polish on his breaking ball, but should be ready for Hagerstown this year. Sanchez is intriguing, he pitched well in winter ball, Puerto Rico native who went to NAIA Ohio Dominican for four years, but he's got a quick arm as well and throws up to 94 mph. Mazone is 28 and is the new Chad Zerbe, if he's lucky.

 Q:  Grant from McCovey Chronicles asks:
Was Pat Misch a, uh, near-Misch for the list? What held him back in favor of Hennessey?
 A: 

John Manuel: Grant, I answered this earlier (Misch is a 4-5 starter type, Hennessey's a 3rd starter if it all works out), but nice blog. Sorry to see Waiting for Boof fall by the wayside.

 Q:  BleacherEd from San Francisco asks:
Does Jesse Foppert have more potential upside than any Giants' pitching prospect, with the possible exception of Cain?
 A: 

John Manuel: If his velo gets back to 2002 levels--and yes, he threw 94-96 effortlessly then and hit some 98s and 99s--I would say Foppert has the highest ceiling, including Cain. He was devastating before the injury and clearly was hurt in his big league season, when his stuff wasn't the same.

 Q:  Darren from Chicago, Illinois asks:
I'm having a hard time getting a read on Lewis' real potential. How would you rank the following outfielders, all of which seem to be a notch below the A+ prospects, solely in terms of offensive potential once they reach the majors: F. Lewis, M. Eintertson (Houston), Zeringue (Arizona), Bourn (Philadelphia) and Smith (Colorado)? Thanks. Darren
 A: 

John Manuel: I like Lewis better than all those guys; I'm not as on Jon Zeringue as, say, Jim Callis is, want to see the home run power in a legit park, but I was surprised by his pro debut. I like Bourn and Seth Smith too, Mitch Eintertson, but leet's see those guys get it done in high Class A, and Lewis has more power potential than all those guys except maybe Einertson.

 Q:  Dave Alan from San Francisco asks:
Where did Justin Knoedler end up on your list? Considering how he was jerked around between the mound and plate, wasnt his 2nd half at Norwich encouraging? How are his catch and throw skills?
 A: 

John Manuel: In the 11-20 range, I'm a big Knoedler fan, ranked him when he was a pitcher, his receiving skills still need polish but he's a solid thrower, very good arm strength, needs to brush up his footwork and transfer but he's solid defensively, and the bat is coming along.

 Q:  Sam G.G. from Sacramento asks:
Thanks for your time. How good is the ceiling for prospects Nate Schierholtz and John Bowker and how is Brian Buscher doing in the eyes of the Giants.
 A: 

John Manuel: Bowker and Schierholtz profile as corner OFs, Schierholtz possibly as a special RF because he has 30-homer potential, and I don't think that's as true of Bowker. Buscher is a personal favorite, a real grinder, makes his teammates better, solid defender, potential .280-.300 hitter, 10-15 homers, kind of a lefthanded-hitting Joe Randa. His return was a key to San Jose's second half playoff push, and the Giants recognize that.

 Q:  Mikey from Martinez asks:
Are there any lingering questions about Fred Lewis' defense? He committed 5 errors in only 22 games in the AFL. Is it a concentration issue, or a developmental issue?
 A: 

John Manuel: It sounds like it's more a question of effort and concentration, taking every game and every play seriously. I've heard praise from inside and outside the organization for Darren Lewis, who is the Giants' OF instructor, and I trust Lewis will polish up Fred Lewis' defense.

 Q:  Grant Horace from Ukiah, CA asks:
Of the Giants soft throwing lefties, who do you like better Burres or Misch? Baseball America didnt see Noah Lowry coming. Why not?
 A: 

John Manuel: No one saw Lowry coming last year; we ranked him 17th last year in the Giants top 30, and he had a 4.72 ERA in Double-A with poor ratios (97-47 K-BB, .284 opp. BA). I saw Lowry pitch in 2001 at Pepperdine (same weekend I got to see Dan Haren, Mark Prior and Kirk Saarloos . . . damn that was a good trip), and he had power stuff then, his changeup wasn't what it is now. OK, I'll stop being defensive now about Lowry and answer your question . . . Misch is the best LHP in the system, followed by Burres, Reina and J. Sanchez, hard-throwing Travis NeSmith (touching 97) is a dark horse if he ever gains some command.

 Q:  Dobbsie from Reno, NV asks:
Some have defended the Giants punting of draft picks as short term economic necessity, some have branded it as foolhardy, but several recent articles have supported the practice after concluding that draft signing bonuses have reached a cost well out of proportion to the probability of drafting a useful player. What are your thoughts on this development?
 A: 

John Manuel: Obviously at BA, we love the draft. But it's hard to argue that amateur players are woth the bonuses they are paid. For every Mark Prior or Mark Teixeira, there's a Colt Griffin getting $2 million for hitting three digits on a radar gun but having little chance to help his big league team. The system is really quite ludicrous in a lot of ways, so I can understand the Giants opting out of it in the short term. The thing is, they had a better draft in '04 with fewer picks than they had in, say, 1998 with more picks. I like their last four drafts--2001, three big league pitchers in the first two rounds. 2002--Matt Cain and Fred Lewis, plus Ortmeier and Correia, plus Glenn Woolard and Clay Hensley, already used in trades, and Ishikawa. Not bad. Then '03, Schierholtz, Whitaker, Buscher, Sadler, Misch . . . Mike Mooney and Marcus Sanders as DFEs. That's a nice run.

 Q:  Dave from Atlanta, GA asks:
John - Last year, for what seems like first time in several years, the Giants draft seemed to lack a clear-cut major league pitching prospect. Am I missing someone? Who's your sleeper pick?
 A: 

John Manuel: Um, Matt Cain, you missed Cain. And Valdez. Sleeper pitcher in the system? I'll say Joe Bateman as a sleeper, possible middle relief help this year, unique arm angle, great command, no fear. I'll also say watch for Kelyn Acosta, who was blowing 97 mph before hurting his elbow last year . . . if he comes back healthy.

 Q:  Tiffythetitan from Oakland, CA asks:
When talking to the Giants did they have anything to say about the following guys: Jon Armitage, Jesse Schmidt, Brad Vericker or Brian Horwitz?
 A: 

John Manuel: Well, I'll tell you what I know about them: Armitage has some power but he's got a ways to go to make more consistent contact, swing has holes. Jesse Schmidt and Brian Horwitz get a lot out of modest tools, Horwitz has a chance to be a 4th OF type because he makes consistent contact, and Vericker's a 4-A type of hitter, no true position, great mistake hitter but might struggle more as he moves up.

 Q:  Nick from Huddersfield, England asks:
Ray Durham's contract is officially up after the 2006 season. Any legit second basemen out there, or will we need a stop-gap solution before Marcus Sanders is ready? (assuming he continues to develop nicely and isn't moved to shortstop).
 A: 

John Manuel: Derin McMains quietly had a decent year at Norwich, but he needs to be more patient and draw more walks to be a viable big league option. Fransden might be the best bet, or Aaron Sobieraj, the last guy with a j at the end of his name standing now that Aaron Hornostaj was released.

 Q:  Chris B from SLC, UT asks:
John--Are the Giants bloggers (McCovey Chronicles, Fogball, Across the Seams, Westwood, El Lefty) the best in the blogging business?
 A: 

John Manuel: Ha! I'll take Steve Shelby's blog because it's not as opinionated and just provides a lot of links, but those are some good blogs. I'm a little blogged out, frankly.

 Q:  tiffythetitan from Oakland, CA asks:
Does Jonathan Coutlangus have any upside as a pitcher? I believe he was converted from the outfield to pitching last year.
 A: 

John Manuel: He was, and he does, lefty with some velocity and some feel for pitching, which he did as an amateur at times.

 Q:  Gaston from San Francisco asks:
Does Craig Whitaker have a ceiling as high as Matt Cain's? Will he be at San Jose next year? Does he profile better as a reliever at this point? Has he filled out at all since he was first drafted?
 A: 

John Manuel: Not as high as Cain, who is a student of the game, mature approach to pitching and has better stuff. Whitaker probably goes to low A next year, but he's still a starter, be patient with him.

 Q:  Sam from Fresno asks:
Am I dreaming, or will Fresno actually have (gasp!) prospects on its team next year?
 A: 

John Manuel: Yes the Grizzlies should, like Cain, Hennessey, Misch and Munter in the pitching staff, probably Valdez as well; Justin Knoedler might be the best position player prospect there.

 Q:  D. Cornell from Madison, WI asks:
What's your take on Carlos Sosa? Does he have Major League Skills? Where does he rank on the Giants List? Thanks!
 A: 

John Manuel: Some big league tools, no big league skills yet, not on the top 30, still very raw.

 Q:  steve S from Davis, CA asks:
Can you explain why you rank Travis Ishikawa ahead of Dan Ortmeier for the final spot on the top ten list? It strikes me that Ishikawa struggled to make contact after his promotion to San Jose (87 AB, 20 H, 23 SO including the playoffs). Am I overly concerned about his ability to make contact?
 A: 

John Manuel: Ishikawa's power is really coming along; he's a potential 30 HR guy, and I'm not sure you can say that about Ortmeier, who also struggled to make consistent contact and is injury-prone. I like Ortmeier but he's got to show he can stay healthy.

 Q:  Brian Daniels from Kennesaw Georgia asks:
Hi, my question is who do you forsee in Augusta this year playing for the Jackets. Also, isn't it wonderful to have a sport that doesn't cancel its' season. I love baseball!
 A: 

John Manuel: Well, what has happened in hockey does have some resonance to baseball; the union is probably happy the NHL players didn't accept a salary cap (though they tried), because that would have left baseball as the lone non-cap sport. Anyway, Augusta should get Marcus Sanders, probably Charlie Babineaux, and some repeat members from Hagerstown last year, like Pat Dobson, Jon Armitage, Dayton Buller, maybe Tim Hutting . . . just my guesses.

 Q:  Nick from Huddersfield, England asks:
Last year, in their talent rankings, Baseball America judged the Giants as 24th out of 30 organizations. Any improvement with this year's list?
 A: 

John Manuel: Giants will move up this year several spots, the system is in better shape than it was a year ago with much better depth of hitters

 Q:  tiffythetitan from Oakland, CA asks:
Okay, if Sabean has to make a deal at the trade deadline and we're not talking a fantasy deal where he gives up nothing to acquire a young, stud outfielder but a deal where he has to give up legit talent...who does he part with and who does keep? Personally, I say if other teams think Merkin Valdez is a premium prospect I start my package with him.
 A: 

John Manuel: Heh . . . I've taken too many Tiffy questions . . . I can see your point of including Valdez, but he could become a key part of the bullpen by that time. The Giants have found good pitchers to trade like Hensley and Woolard, and Pat Misch frankly fits that mold of a guy with nice trade value; Brian Wilson could be as well if he has a strong first half, and a team that saw him good as an amateur is involved in the trade.

 Q:  D. Cormell from Madison, WI asks:
Who has a better shot at playing SS for the SF Giants...Julio Cordido or Roberto Morillo? Thanks!
 A: 

John Manuel: Cordido, I guess, since he's in camp as a nonroster invitee, but neither is the long-term answer.

 Q:  Joe from Atlanta, GA asks:
I know hes a long ways awaybut what kind of player do you envision Marcus Sanders becoming? Is Ray Durham a fair comparison? How close was he to the top 10?
 A: 

John Manuel: Ceiling is as a top-of-the-order, 40-steals SS. Sanders has exciting tools, he's not a thick guy like Ray Durham, and if he has Ray Durham's bat, that will really be something. He's got some plate discipline, he's got some savvy, athletic ability the Giants haven't seen in years in a middle infielder . . very exciting prospect, not far from the Top 10 at all, but he needs to get out of Rookie ball and get his shoulder healthy.

 Q:  Roger Munter from Germantown, MD asks:
Alfredo Simon's stuff didn't translate into much success in the Cal League last year. What's his ceiling? Do you see this year's Norwich team as containing about 7 of your top 10 (plus Buscher)? How will they stack up with other Double A squads?
 A: 

John Manuel: I hadn't mentioned Simon, thanks for the question. Some in the organization compare Simon to Merkin Valdez; the Giants really worked with him on improving his breaking ball and changeup, and if they improve he should settle in as a middle-of-the-rotation starter. Otherwise he could be a power reliever; I'm high on pitchers who command the fastball (with some velocity), and Simon does that. Simon should be at Norwich.

 Q:  William from San Diego asks:
Why did Micheal Mooney spend a second year in rookie ball? He was one of their better players the year before and he dominated last year.
 A: 

John Manuel: One guy in the organization described Mooney as "goofy." It sounds like the Giants like his upside but wanted him to take the game more seriously, plus they had a logjam of OFs at their Class A levels.

 Q:  steve S from Davis, CA asks:
If "Hennessey's slider is an above-average strikeout pitch with sharp two-plane bite," then why was his KIP so low at 0.56 last year? Should we view him as more of a strikeout pitcher or a sinkerballer who induces ground balls?
 A: 

John Manuel: Hennessey worked on getting groundouts more with his fastball, and he is more of a sinker-slider guy than a K guy; he also was somewhat rusty after missing a year and a half, so his command of his fastball wasn't what it needed to be. If you're not ahead of hitters, you can't strike them out, but his slider is an above-average pitch.

 Q:  Bill from Jacksonville, FL asks:
Hi John....thanks for the chat. Who is the top 3rd baseman prospect in the organization?
 A: 

John Manuel: Brian Buscher.

 Q:  James Parker from Vancouver asks:
Good afternoon, the Giants obviously have an old outfield. If they decide to go with youth (unlikely) instead of free agents when the current three finally retire, who do you think will man the three spots and are any of them potential All-Stars?
 A: 

John Manuel: In the future, it's possible the Giants OF could be Bowker in LF, F. Lewis in CF, Schierholtz in RF.

 Q:  Andrew from Athens, GA asks:
Hey thanks for the chat. Why is David Aardsma rated so low at 9? Depth of organization doesn't seem likely, so he is really thought of as that low? I assumed he would be the Giants closer of the future even over Merkin Valdez. Thanks.
 A: 

John Manuel: Valdez has better stuff across the board and better fastball command.

 Q:  Danny from Berkeley asks:
John, thanks for the great work, including the article on the new Giants' emphasis on hitting prospects. And the interview with you this week in Fogball was just terrific. Any sleepers in the Giants system who impressed you last year ?
 A: 

John Manuel: Thanks for the kind words . . . another Giants sleeper I shoudl mention is Aaron Hornostaj, I briefly mentioned him earlier, he needs to get stronger, but he's got some athletic ability and swings it OK from the left side.

 Q:  Chris B from SLC, UT asks:
You mentioned that Freddie Lewis is moody? Is this a major problem or similar to last year when he only took walks "by accident"--gotta have some fun with you on this one?
 A: 

John Manuel: It sounds like it's just an emotional maturity issue and ties into Lewis needing to take the game seriously and bring his best effort to the park every day. AS for the accidental walks . . . it wouldn't be a Giants chat without that reference, would it?

 Q:  Bob from Kosovo asks:
Can Schierholz start the year in AA with a good srping or are the Giants going to tkae it slowly due to the psoition change? Is his ceiling as a middle of the order hitter or more a complementary bat?
 A: 

John Manuel: Middle-of-the-order hitter, 30 bombs a year, he has that kind of power.

 Q:  Pat from SF asks:
What is Cain's time line for the Big Leagues?
 A: 

John Manuel: It's really up to him; the Giants aren't shy with top talents like Jerome Williams and Foppert.

 Q:  Aadik from Boston asks:
Firstly John, thanks for the interview with Steve Shelby a couple of days ago- much appreciated by us Giants fans who have to wait. That being , regarding your methodology, I sometimes wonder whether is unfair to live a Misch of a list, who's more likely to pitch in the majors and be solid, in favor of an Whitaker who has never pitched above low A ball ? I understand upside, but shouldnt the prospect status take into account probability of reaching that upside ?
 A: 

John Manuel: Thank you, and as for this recurring question, yes, chances of reaching their ceiling is factored in on ranking prospects, but Whitaker's upside is just too much to pass up. We have had this question with every organization--take the Reds, Homer Bailey vs. Edwin Encarnacion. Sure, Encarnacion is a lot safer pick at No. 1, but taking the Bill James "Peak Value" argument, we usually pick the guy with peak value, as long as the guy has the chance to reach that ceiling. Whitaker isn't Bobby Jenks out there with bad makeup or something, he's a hard-throwing RHP who led his league in K's and has some projection. He could be special. Misch could or even should be a 4th or 5th starter. We'll err on the side of the guy who could be special.

 Q:  Aaron Mullen from Hornell, NY asks:
John, With Hernandez being the obvious #1, where does Cain stack up among the rest of the best righties: Cain, Adam Miller, Chad Billingsley?
 A: 

John Manuel: I like Miller next in that group, followed by Cain, Jeff Niemann (huge Niemann fan, now that he's signed, he has to be considered) and Billingsley, whose command gives me pause. Jose Capellan and Gavin Floyed and Edwin Jackson are in that mix.

 Q:  BleacherEd from San Francisco asks:
Jeremiah Luster seemmed to be an interesting choice in the 18th round last year. Any news on him? Is he being groommed as a SS or a pitcher?
 A: 

John Manuel: Luster's going to play SS, be brought along slowly, raw at the plate but big-time athletic ability.

 Q:  Dave from New York asks:
Justin Hendrick. What are his chances of appearing on the top-10 list a year from now?
 A: 

John Manuel: Good sleeper pick; former Nebraska HS rival of Kyle Bakker, former GT pitcher who already has retired, also a former football player (Hastings College, I think, before heading to Northeastern). Football mentality on the mound, nice arm . . . good question!

 Q:  Chris from Columbia, MO asks:
How does Garret Broshuis project?
 A: 

John Manuel: He's a 4-5 starter type, sinker-slider guy, smart pitcher, gets the most out of his stuff.

 Q:  Joe from Palo Alto, CA asks:
Is there a good estimate on when EME will actually be game ready this year?
 A: 

John Manuel: sounds like he had surgery in either late Dec. or early Jan., and he'll need 4 months, so probably won't be ready until May or so, extended spring, then maybe San Jose to start and finish in Norwich.

 Q:  Ken from Georgia asks:
Love the Chats - I was wondering if there was still some fear that the previous years arm problems will reoccur for Matt Cain?
 A: 

John Manuel: Not for me, it was just a broken bone, not a shoulder muscle or tissue injury, not elbow ligaments or something like that. Prognosis Positive, to paraphrase Seinfeld.

 Q:  Greg from SoCal asks:
What is your take on Veriker, Armitage and Accardo? Are they legit MLB prospects?
 A: 

John Manuel: I've touched on t hem all, but wanted to mention that Accardo had a nice year for a one-pitch (fastball) guy with limited pitching experience. His slider kind of left him this year, he's flashed a plus one in the past, but he showed he could get outs and save games without it. I like his future.

 Q:  Doug from Redondo Beach, CA asks:
Hi John, What are your thoughts on James Garcia? Does he make the top 30?
 A: 

John Manuel: Not a guy for me, just not enough there other than the breaking ball, which is pretty good, always puts up nice numbers but the Giants know that too. His fastball is short; best-case, he's a righty-on-righty middle guy.

 Q:  Jason from Fullerton, CA asks:
So John what do you think about Sean Martin? A crafty Right hander in the organization. hahaha
 A: 

John Manuel: I'd say he's crafty Jason . . . Spider's the best writer in the Giants system. He's also 87-89 mph, good athlete, little slide piece, commands the fastball . . . I'd just love to see him get a chance in Double-A, and if it works out, great.

 Q:  Bob from San Diego asks:
James Garcia was an All-Star in the Cal league in 2003 and in AAA both then and in 2004. He has a plus slider. What are his Giants in the system?
 A: 

John Manuel: Sorry, asked and answered, counselor.

 Q:  Jason from St. Louis asks:
Hey John, I was wondering where you saw the big Left Hander Tim Alvarez, ala Mike Meyers, fitting into the bullpen down the road for San Fransisco? He's put up some pretty good numbers in his two years and would be a great situational pitcher like Meyers. Thank you.
 A: 

John Manuel: That's the best-case for Alvarez, sidearming lefty reliever, he threw a no-no in college, I think the Giants will give him a chance to keep moving, but he doesn't get a lot of K's.

 Q:  Jason from Chico, CA asks:
What is the main reason most scouts rate Felix Hernandez over Matt Cain? Cain's strike-out totals look more impressive and he has had a better ERA.
 A: 

John Manuel: Hernandez' stuff is just ridiculous, no offense to Cain, but Hernandez has a better fastball, almost as good a curve, wicked slider and a change. He's just pretty much incomparable stuff-wise.

 Q:  Grant from McCovey Chronicles asks:
Can you say something bad about the Dodgers system to play to your audience?
 A: 

John Manuel: It's the second-best farm system in the Southland; the Angels have better hitters. But that's about it.

 Q:  Chris B from SLC, UT asks:
Give BA some credit on Noah Lowry though; in the 03 Handbook BA wrote that if he can stay healthy he'll sail through the minors and in 02 you wrote that he had a plus change and could be a future innings eater.
 A: 

John Manuel: Thanks Chris!

John Manuel: That was a fun chat; I really appreciate all the great questions and the patience during the middle of the chat when I had to take that call. Giants fans represented today. We'll have our Top 100 coming up in two weeks, and we'll have our 2nd annual BA Top 100 roundtable chat, plus a Top 100 chat with either me or Jim Callis or both. Thanks again for all the attention during the Top 10s.

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