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Pioneer League Chat with Alan Matthews

Moderator: Alan Matthews will begin taking your questions on the Pioneer League at 2 p.m. ET

 Q:  Nic from Danville, VA asks:
What do your think about the stats Will Inman put up this year and how do they compare with other top prospects this year?
 A: 

Alan Matthews: Welcome to the chat, the PL was a little thinner this year with good, young impact-potential prospects which made Inman's season that much more impressive. He showed some arm strength in high school but really grasped the instruction of the Brewers minor league instructors well. His season was as good as any other high school pitcher drafted this year, considering he did it in an older league.

 Q:  Bob Fett from BMB asks:
Brandon Allen started out the year on a good note thru the first 37 games he hit .282, 9 doubles and 8 home runs but then seemed to hit a wall finishing only hitting .264 with 11 doubles and 11 home runs. Which Mr. Allen can we look forward to seeing next year? Thanks!
 A: 

Alan Matthews: Smart money says more of the same, actually. Allen is very raw. He was a two-sport star in high school and never dedicated time exclusively to baseball. That's part of why he made the cut this year. His upside is appealing, but he will require at least another 800-1,200 minor league at-bats before the White Sox will really know what they have.

 Q:  Petey Pablo from Carrboro asks:
Any love for infielders Mike Bell or (less likely) Ryan Crew from Helena? Thanks!
 A: 

Alan Matthews: Helena was loaded this year and Bell and Crew were two guys who played a number of positions and did so effectively for the Brewers. I like Bell better than Crew, as managers believe he has a chance to stay at shortstop. He shows a quick bat with some power, too. He just turned 20 and needs sure up the mental side of the game, just like Stephen Chapman, another good young player at Helena this summer that did not make the cut in the Top 20.

 Q:  Wayne from Gurnee asks:
Where would Ryan Braun have fallen on this list if he had enough ABs to qualify? What do you think his MLB numbers will look like when he arrives? Thanks!
 A: 

Alan Matthews: Braun would have been right there with Bruce, battling for the honor as the league's No. 1 prospect. He was there only 10 games but hit well and also, somewhat more surprisingly based on reports on him coming out of Miami, made plays look simple at third base. Braun will be featured in the South Atlantic League Top 20, due to be released soon.

 Q:  Russ from NY asks:
Had Kyle Hancock pitched this season, it would have been in Casper. Just based on potential, where would he have ranked? Do you have any other info on him after he didn't like the atmosphere of the team and tried and failed to go back to Arkansas?
 A: 

Alan Matthews: Hancock is a strong-bodied righthander from Rowlett, Texas whom the Rockies drafted in the third round this year. After reporting to Casper, he left the team quickly because of personal reasons and there remains uncertainty regarding his return to the organization. He has a fastball that touched the low- to mid-90s in high school and a nice hammer breaking ball, so he might have been in the mix in the top 10.

 Q:  Mike from SoCal asks:
Corey Wimberly put up some great numbers as an over-ager in the PL and played SS, 3B, abd 2B. Does he have Major League potential or is this just a case of an older guy dominating younger competition?
 A: 

Alan Matthews: Managers were really impressed with Wimberley's spunk and energy, but also believed he had enough tools to develop into a solid major league utility player. He's an 80 runner who is very raw, but has some ability with the bat. He played in college at Alcorn State, so even though he was a college draft, that league is far from advanced, making his age less of a factor when you consider his level of experience.

 Q:  Ralph Deptolla from Mequon, Wis. asks:
We know Angel Salome can hit, but is he a legitimate catching prospect?
 A: 

Alan Matthews: It remains to be seen if he'll stick behind the plate. He made a bunch of errors this season, though most of them came from his tendency to try and do everything to fast. If he can learn to slow down and make more accurate throws, he should develop into an at least average defender behind the plate. He's very athletic, which I like in catchers and that factor will help him make adjustments.

 Q:  Jon from Peoria asks:
What do you think of Anthony Whittington? Has his command improved much?
 A: 

Alan Matthews: Whittington was drafted in the second round in 2003 from a small town in West Virginia. The Angels knew he was raw, but he hasn't grasped instruction and continues to struggle with his command. With a live arm from the left side and good size, he's be given some time to put it together, though this offseason and next year will be important for him.

 Q:  Brandon from Cincinnati asks:
Jay Bruce-next Larry Walker?
 A: 

Alan Matthews: That's been the most common comparison. Bruce's body is long, strong and lean and his swing is smooth and powerful. He still lacks an advanced feel for the game, though his instincts aren't bad and he has a willingness to absorb instruction and seems to have a strong desire to improve. There's not much pretension to this kid, which you have to like from a player who was taken in the first half of the first round. With his tools and work ethic, the Walker comp might come to fruition.

 Q:  Patrick from Gainesville, Fl asks:
Do you think the Angels made a mistake in converting Mark Trumbo to third base from pitcher?
 A: 

Alan Matthews: It's too early to tell and based on his power potential, there's no reason to make that assesment. Trumbo's lack of athletic ability will work against him, whether it's in development as a pitcher or a hitter, but to watch him take BP makes you understand quickly why the Angels believe he'll hit for power in Los Angeles one day.

 Q:  Ian from London, UK asks:
I thought a couple of catchers might make the list- Kiel Thibault and Juan Apodaca. Both hit, and weren't geriatric (Apodaca 19, Thibault 21). Are they prospects? And how's their defense?
 A: 

Alan Matthews: Thibault was the Royals' ninth-round pick this year from Gonzaga. He's advanced defensively and draws praise for his poise and game-calling ability. Apodaca is younger and turned in a good season at Ogden, though he has a lot of room for improvement in all phases of his game. Both guys were on the fringe of making the list.

 Q:  Sammy from Glendale Heights asks:
How much progress do you think Francisco Hernandez made this year for Great Falls. What's his upside potential.
 A: 

Alan Matthews: It was refreshing to see Hernandez gain some confidence after a rough start in low Class A this season. He came back to the PL where he showed better poise and learned not to press so much. He's going to have to improve his plate discipline as advanced pitchers are going to set him up easily if he continues to swing at pitches out of the zone with regularity. He has nice upside, and good tools behind the plate.

 Q:  Jon Hale from Lexington, KY asks:
Even though the Single A team in Lexington is called the Legends the Bluegrass state isn't exactly known for its Major League talent. How does Lexington native Chaz Roe stack up against recent major leaguers with Bluegrass ties, Brandon Webb and Joe Blanton?
 A: 

Alan Matthews: He's right there with them, though Roe remains very raw. He has a slight head jerk in his delivery that needs to be smoothed out. If he can tone that dowm, his command should improve. His stuff is filthy, and if he can perfect his mechanics, might develop into a potential ace like Blanton is showing he can be in Oakland.

 Q:  Mike from Milwaukee asks:
Thanks for the chat! OK, we've seen a lot of college hitters put up incredible numbers in the Pioneer League over the years. Still, I can't help but marvel at Kenny Holmberg's performance...does he have a shot at making the Show, and was he a consideration for the list?
 A: 

Alan Matthews: What a year for Holmberg. The 22-year-old second baseman shows a polished approach at the plate that helped him post great numbers this summer. He's short on tools, however, and will have to prove he can perform at every level of the minors to be given a chance in the big leagues. He has some power from a good line-drive swing and he's a pretty good fielder, though his arm is slightly below-average. He profiles as a utility guy, as he did play short and third in college and might even see some time behind the plate in instructional league.

 Q:  Jeff from Dry Fork asks:
Out of the top 10 prospects which ones do you see as maybe being superstatrs, everyday players, etc.?
 A: 

Alan Matthews: I believe all of the top 10 guys have a chance to be big league regulars, though Bruce has the best chance to be a big league all-star. Angels righthander Jose Arredondo might have the best arm in the league, but is undersized and it remains to be seen if he'll be durable enough to hold up over the course of a full major league season as a starter.

 Q:  Andre Mouchard from Santa Ana, CA asks:
What's up with the Ogden pitcher, Leach? His numbers were strong, but he gets no mention in the Top 20. Likewise, the shortstop who actually hit at Ogden, Mitchell, I believe, was aced out on your list by the two shortstops who didn't hit, Rivera and de Jesus. Can you explain this? Thanks for the chat.
 A: 

Alan Matthews: Ten of the 18 earned runs Leach allowed came in two starts, which made his numbers even more impressive. He was another savvy draft choice of Dodgers scouting director Logan White and was on the cusp of ranking in the top 20. He was successful getting a lot of guys to chase his average breaking ball down in the dirt and pitched backwards at times, keeping young hitters off balance. He has a funky delivery and real good feel for pitching, but his stuff didn't blow managers away and therefore came up a tick short of making the cut. Meanwhile, Rivera and DeJesus have plus tools in multiple phases of the game and I believe both can play shortstop as the develop, making their value higher than that of lefthander who might fit in at the back of a rotation or perhaps as a reliever, irregardless of their stats in Rookie-ball.

 Q:  Jim from DC asks:
Were any other Idaho Falls players close to making the Top 20. Who else is considered a legitimate prospect other than Chris McConnell?
 A: 

Alan Matthews: We touched on Kiel Thibault earlier, but there was not a deep crop of prospects in Idaho Falls this season. One of their best pitchers was Adam Kalkhof, who left North Carolina following his junior season and signed as a non-drafted free agent. He was a nice sign by area scout Spencer Graham but doesn't possess the ceiling we felt needed to fit into the Top 20 list.

 Q:  Russ King from Janesville, WI asks:
Is there a published percentage on the chances andor probablilty of players from Rookie level ball that make it to the bigs?? Seems like the Brewers always have a good Rookie level team but we rarely never see those players make it??
 A: 

Alan Matthews: I've never crunched the numbers but from thumbing through the Top 20 lists we've done in the past, there invariably is a player we ranked who developed into a good big league regular on each list. That said, there are at least four or five players who never enjoyed success beyond Double-A, so it's hard to say how many of this year's crop will pay off in the majors. J.J. Hardy and Prince Fielder both made it to Milwaukee this year and will likely become cornerstones of the future there. They both played in the Pioneer League.

 Q:  Darren Ford from New Jersey asks:
How good am I and how do I project, now that I am switch hitting?
 A: 

Alan Matthews: Darren Ford was somewhat of an enigma. He was described by a scout as being a 90 runner on the 20-80 scouting scale, so he can run a little bit. But he did not make consistent hard contact and swung and missed a little too much to make the cut. I don't believe he's played baseball exclusively all of his career, so he has some room for improvement and if he can make consistent contact with the top half of the ball at the plate and improve his jumps in the outfield, he could develop into a solid extra outfielder and valuable guy of a big league bench.

 Q:  Carl Lindner from Cincinnati asks:
Where would Travis Wood have ranked had he been eligible? Would you consider him a wise draft pick for the Reds where he was drafted in the 2nd round?
 A: 

Alan Matthews: Great draft. He would have ranked near the top five. He's got good stuff, room for improvement and a sound track record as an amateur.

 Q:  Phyllis Diller from Hollywood, Ca. asks:
Alan, darling! Will David Sutherland fill out & develop the power befitting a first baseman? He looks like a sleeper to me....Love my Dodgers!
 A: 

Alan Matthews: Good call, I had Sutherland, a 20-year-old Australian, down as one of my sleepers, too. He'll have power later on though right now he's a good hitter with some holes, especially in on his hands. He's not fully developed physically, so keep an eye on him as he could become a power-hitting first baseman.

 Q:  Jack Davis from Tempe asks:
Any Missoula Osprey other than Greg Smith that came close? Maybe Mark Romanczuk? Is Matt Torra's injury a concern? Thanks.
 A: 

Alan Matthews: Greg Thompson and Rusty Ryal were both guys who came up often in conversations with managers and coaches. Thompson is described as a professional hitter who is disciplined and uses the whole field. If he's going to become a prospect, he needs to develop more power because he profiles as a corner outfielder with this other tools. Romanczuk is going to pitch in the big leagues, in my opinion, but I don't forsee him becoming an impact starter. Torra has tendonitis, so he should be ok.

 Q:  Jay from DC asks:
Can you talk about Dexter Fowler? What kind of ceiling does he have?
 A: 

Alan Matthews: Fowler has drawn comparisons to Darryl Strawberry, not because of his off-field demeanor but because of his sinewy body and power potential. He is very raw but has a live body and lots of projection. He an above-average runner and can really track down balls in center field but, somewhat similar to Andruw Jones, he has a chance to hit for power, on top of playing a solid center field. He just began switch-hitting this season, so he has some big holes, especially from the left side of the plate.

 Q:  chas from West Palm Beach asks:
Hard to understand why BA would put a player who hit .208 in 72 ABs would get any consideration. Leave him in the GCL list, and tell us about other Pioneer League players whom managers liked for their MLB projection, who put in more of a full season and who actually did something.
 A: 

Alan Matthews: I might not speak for some of my well-respected colleagues here at Baseball America on this one, but personally I don't put a lot of stock into minor league performance, especially in the minors. If there was a player who reached the minimum number of plate appearances and innings pitched in the league, I have a responsibility to evaluate him against the other players in the league and rate them based on absolute ceiling and likelihood of reaching that ceiling. The list reflects that criteria.

 Q:  Mike from Milwaukee asks:
How often do you see a guy who slugs .744 and still you say his best tool is his speed? You guys pegged Fermaint as a sleeper a year or two ago...is he now in the top 10 in a strong Milwaukee system?
 A: 

Alan Matthews: I would assume Fermaint has played his way into the Brewers' mix of prospects, though the organization is deep and talented. Fermaint is very interesting because of that mix of tools, but he struggled somewhat in low Class A so it remains to be seen if his tools translate at higher levels.

 Q:  George Rodriguez from New Jersey asks:
Is it true that Jay Bruce is just an average athlete?Aside from his athletic ability,I've heard that he has great instincts as a baseball player.Some comparisons to Larry Walker and Derek Jeter as far as being a baseball player and not an athlete.I feel that he's going to be a great player and a future superstar in the game of baseball just because of the simple fact that he can execute all the fundamentals on the baseball field and because he's a very celebral hitter(smart hitter) beyond his years.I really feel that baseball players do not have to have great athletic ability to be great players in this game.I just feel that you need to be smart and execute on the field and win.When you win your considered always the best.The best always win.That's how I feel about Jay Bruce.I'll garanteed to you that he'll be in the bigleagues and that he's going to be an impact talent.
 A: 

Alan Matthews: Well, it sounds like you've formed a strong opinion of the club's top pick this year, though I believe he still lacks some of those instincts and is a premium athlete. As noted, his analytical approach bodes well for his future.

 Q:  Brian from Phoenix asks:
He was only there a few games, but any comment on Nick Adenhart vs. the pitchers in this list? And if the draft were held again today, and knowing he'd sign and also recoverer, what round do you think he'd go in? thanks!!
 A: 

Alan Matthews: He'd probably be right back in the mix as a top 50 overall pick. Adenhart has recovered well from Tommy John surgery, came up and pitched well for Orem at the end of the regular season and was lights-out in a win over Ogden in the postseason. He would have ranked in the top 10 had he spent more time in the league.

 Q:  Jeff from Colorado Springs asks:
How do you view Casper's closer, Andrew Johnston? From what I understand, he led the Pioneer League in saves with 18. His numbers seem impressive--1.06 ERA, .171 batting average against, and a WHIP of .85.
 A: 

Alan Matthews: Johnston pitched at 92, 93 with a hard sinker. He attacks the strike zone and elicits lots of ground balls. He's also a tremendous competitor. He needs to improve his slider if he's going to duplicate his success. He has the demeanor and stuff to rank among the Rockies' minor league relievers as a potential closer.

 Q:  Dave from Clifton asks:
What do you think of Gonzalez and Valiquette who were hot and cold at Dayton and Billings?
 A: 

Alan Matthews: Well Valiquette is 18 and lefthanded, and touched 94 mph this season so there si plenty of reason for optimism. He has erratic command and needs to learn how to repeat his delivery better. Gonzalez is also an interesting arm, along with Sam LeCure, from Texas, that came up during conversations with managers.Jose Rojas might be better than them, though, as he was up to 97 mph but is till mostly a thrower. Abe Woody also has good stuff, is aggressive with his sinker and slider and throws a lot of strikes. Woody trusts his stuff, stays down in zone and the slider can be a put-away pitch for him.

 Q:  Another Mike from SoCal asks:
I guess there are at least two Mikes in SoCal. I'm wondering about Mat Gamel and his defense. His bat looks intriguing but I wonder where he'll play and whether he is a tweener, with too little pop for a corner OF or 1b job but not enough D for 3b.
 A: 

Alan Matthews: That's not a bad description but I believe he is a lot better defensively than he showed this summer. At third base he shows an above-average arm and will improve as long as he slows the game down a touch and settles his feet. He might not hit a ton of home runs, but he should hit for a high average.

 Q:  Jared from LA asks:
What were scouts' thoughts on Jon Meloan? Is his future in the rotation or the pen?
 A: 

Alan Matthews: Meloan was one of a handful of arms on Ogden's staff who contended for a spot in the Top 20. After a heavy workload of more than 100 innings at Arizona this spring, the Dodgers wisely curtailed his innings in the PL. He profiles as a back-of-the-rotation starter. Ramon Troncoso reminds some scouts of former Dodgers reliever Marcos Carvajal, who was a rule five pickup of the Rockies last year. Troncoso closed at Ogden and has an overpowering slider. Mario Alvarez is a year younger and also has a live arm, although he struggled with his control this summer. Thanks for all the great questions. Matt Meyers will be here tomorrow to discuss the New York-Penn League.

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