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Sally League Chat with John Manuel

Moderator: John Manuel will begin taking your South Atlantic League questions at 1 p.m. ET

 Q:  Joe from asks:
I know with a league this big as this one is a lot of players are left off that could have easily made it if they were in a smaller league. Was there any talk of 19 yr old Franklin Morales?
 A: 

John Manuel: Welcome in, let's talk some Sally league.

John Manuel: Joe, wherever you are, Morales almost made the cut, he's definitely a sleeper. Asheville's team ERA was around 5.00, and his ERA was around 3.40. That's significant, and so is his fastball, apparently 97-98 that several managers confirmed. However, I never heard much good about Morales' secondary pitches or command. He seems comparable to Delmarva's Radhames Liz, but Liz is about 3 years older. Morales definitely is a sleeper and a nice power arm to watch.

 Q:  Joey from VA asks:
Daryl Thompson was suppose to be another bright spot for the Savannah pitching staff who pitched well until the injury. He was only 19 throughout the season and has time on his side to recover. Does he have what it takes to be a starter in the bigs?
 A: 

John Manuel: Thompson's injury was one reason I left him off the list, the other reason is he just needs experience to learn how to use his electric stuff, and he's not going to be a teenager forever. For a guy who repeated the league, I think he needed to show more. He still has a shot, certainly, and will definitely be in the Nationals' top 20, if I may speak for Aaron Fitt.

 Q:  Someone pretending to be Chuck Lofgren from Cleveland asks:
I don't see my name. Whats up with that. And by the way..where's my good friends Mike Rozier and Rogervine bernadina. I thought we all have top prospect potential.
 A: 

John Manuel: Lofgren and Tony Sipp were the two Lake County Captains who garnered the most support, and both might have been listed had I gone from 21-25, definitely both 21-30. Lofgren's command wasn't quite there for me, but he has upside and had an excellent full-season debut as a full-time pitcher. Again, it's a big league, tough to fit everyone in. Rozier and Bernardina aren't near being in the same class as Lofgren. Bernadina was in his 3rd Sally season and just lacks aptitude to put his tools to use. Rozier is tricky, for a guy who was supposed to have power stuff, he put up very pedestrian numbers and I couldn't get one person to say they had seen him good (i.e., 87-90 mph fastball and power breaking ball he threw in HS).

 Q:  Bill Dictus from Madison, WI asks:
Gaby Hernandez seemed to have a remarkable season and has the stuff and the poise to be an impact player. Why so late in the list?
 A: 

John Manuel: Bill, he doesn't have impact stuff, according to the scouts I talked to. He has good stuff, but impact stuff to me means two plus pitches. I haven't heard that on Hernandez, either when he was in high school in South Florida or as a pro. What I have heard, though, is good--pitchability, solid fastball velocity, solid curveball that could be better if thrown with more conviction, and good makeup. Gaby sounds like he has a chance to really contribute for the Mets down the line, and I think he's a good No. 3-4 starter down the line.

 Q:  Jon from Peoria asks:
What are your thoughts on Lexington's DP combo of Ben Zobrist and Jonny Ash? How does Zobrist compare to Adam Everett?
 A: 

John Manuel: I am a big fan of both those guys, they're just not Top 20 types. I think Ash could be a big league reserve, though his chance would be increased significantly if he were a better runner. He's a good lefthanded hitter who can hit a fastball--ask Chad Cordero. But Zobrist has a better shot. He's a solid player in just about every phase, average across the board, controls the strike zone and plays sound defense at short. He's got big league utility guy written all over him as a switch-hitter who plays hard and plays the game well but doesn't stand out. I got a Bill Spiers comp on him that I think fits well.

 Q:  Cris from (providence, RI) asks:
Were any red sox prospects in contention for the top 20 list?
 A: 

John Manuel: Andrew Pinckney and '05 draft pick Jeff Corsaletti drew the most interest from managers, and RHP Harvey Garcia got some mention as well. Garcia apparently is 92-96 mph with his fastball. Pinckney is a real grinder who has legitimate power, whether he's athletic enough to do it as he moves up, stay and third and hit better pitching is the question. Corsaletti has a poor throwing arm but is a good runner who has the knack for putting the bat on the ball, kind of what people thought Sam Fuld would be out of Stanford. I guess the Jonny Ash mention got Sam Fuld on my brain, maybe I'll compare all these players to recent Stanford Cardinal.

 Q:  Lyonel from NY asks:
Jason Jaramillo, any love for this prospect or is he always going to be behind Carlos Ruiz on the depth charts?
 A: 

John Manuel: Jaramillo was the most solid catch-and-throw guy in the league who also could hit . . . in other words, he's very solid, and I would imagine he'd be very comparable to Ruiz, though he doesn't have that kind of power. I don't t hink Jason will ever be a star, but he frankly reminds me a lot of Jonny Estrada--switch-hitter who sprays the ball, doesn't hit for a lot of power, good catch-and-throw.

 Q:  Chris B from SLC, UT asks:
Thanks for taking time to answer questions. Can you tell us how Craig Whitaker and Jonathan Sanchez fared this year in the SAL?
 A: 

John Manuel: Whitaker's year was pretty rough, and he may be permanently switched to the bullpen. He just doesn't repeat his mechanics like he needs to to throw strikes. Sanchez also might be a reliever but he has more of a chance to start, and his power arm and power breaking ball almost got him on the list. He's 90-94 and could be nasty if he had more feel for anything offspeed. He's intriguing, another example of the Giants finding a power arm where other teams weren't looking.

 Q:  Blake Guyer from Madison, WI asks:
Hey my boy Mark Rogers not in the top ten whats up with that? You said that his mechanical flaws were fixable and he has hit 100mph and he is only 19. Or as the black eyed peas say, "Where is the love?"
 A: 

John Manuel: Blake, Rogers getting to 13 is pretty generous if you think about his performance and the lack of command he showed this year. That ranking is purely on projection. You just don't give up on an arm like that, and I don't think the Brewers are close to giving up on him. They need to be patient with him, an d I think they know that.

 Q:  Richard Smiley from Chicago, IL asks:
Thanks for doing the chat! Did any other Intimidators come close to making the list?
 A: 

John Manuel: Yes, Ray Liotta just missed, actually. His performance is hard to deny; I just heard too many negatives about his delivery being stiff and his curveball lacking sufficient power, being kind of loopy, that caused him to just miss. David Cook is interesting, athletic witih some bat speed, but a bit small and older. Chris Gets and Lucas Harrell also got some love.

 Q:  David Regan from Ventura, CA asks:
Travis Denker is the obvious omission from this list and in my book, it's a GLARING omission. What was the justification for leaving off a 2B, who as a teenager, hit .310.417.556. Please don't tell me it was his height as Craig Biggio and Marcus Giles aren't exactly tall.
 A: 

John Manuel: David, it's not his height at all, it's his glove. Denker can rake--that is a big year and he is a teenager. That said, where will he play? No one I talked to said 2B, and he's not as athletic as Biggio or Giles. He's got stiff hands and limited range and arm. He sounds like a left fielder. Now, how many 5-8 left fielders are there? It's impossible not to like Denker's performance this season, but those questions were too significant for me to rank him in the top 20.

 Q:  Jon from Pennsylvania asks:
Does Greg Golsonís future lie in Philly? With Mike Bourn and Chris Roberson ahead of him and likely to arrive in Philly sooner, does Golson still appear to be the centerfielder of the future?
 A: 

John Manuel: Sounds like Golson has more power than people thought, he's not a burner per se, and I also got a Ron Gant comp on him. If he hits for power like that, he won't have to play CF, whereas Bourn has to play CF really to have value, because he lacks power. Bourn has work to do and needs ABs, though, so there's no rush. He's 3-4 years away.

 Q:  Kendall from Dallas asks:
Juan Gutierrez is already on the Astros 40-man roster. What's the view on him? And, what kept him off the top 20?
 A: 

John Manuel: Not a lot kept him off, he's pretty close. The Lexington rotation had plenty of prospects, including Ronnie Martinez and late in the year Felipe Paulino, who also hit some 97s. Gutierrez' biggest problem seems to be going more than 3-4 innings and maintaining his stuff, which seems to be a conditioning and stamina issue. His mechanics break down when he gets tired and he loses his control and efficiency. That's when he gets in trouble. Stuff-wise, he's right there, close to Barthmaier, but he doesn't maintain it, so that makes it hard to project him as a starting pitcher.

 Q:  Johnny Escalina from New Jersey asks:
Thanks for the chat! Do you think Chris Nelson can regain his batting eye and hitting skills next season or is he going to be a 1st round bust?
 A: 

John Manuel: I wouldn't call him a bust, but this year was not an easy one for him. He also may not be the Rockies' SS anymore, now with Tulowitzski in the organization, but he can play SS. Think about it this way--it's his first full season, and he never got into a groove. I don't think he can really be judged fairly on what happened in '05. Tough guy to rank.

 Q:  Ed from NYC asks:
Wow, BA's bias against Yankees continues to show -- Elbert over Hughes? Puh-lease. Where's Tim Battle on this list? Or Christian Garcia? You guys are either insane or getting paid off.
 A: 

John Manuel: Ed, that's pretty funny. Hughes has not made it through a season yet, and that's a pretty big concern. For a big guy, he hasn't shown much durability yet. Stuff-wise, he's got a lot more polish than Elbert, a clean delivery, very good stuff. It's a question of staying healthy, and for me, the track record of him so far is worrisome. Tim Battle's strikeouts kept him off this list, and if you don't think 195 K's are a problem, that's fine. I do. He's extremely raw still and while he has top 20 tools, he has a ways to go to translate them. Garcia is interesting, I had a good debate with a Yankees fan about it today already. He has big stuff, a high ceiling, but he's also just in his third year as a pitcher and has a lot to learn, such as how to take something off his pitches, how to throw them for strikes consistently, how to pitch inside with a purpose . . . Believe what you want to believe. I took your question to explain to you the legitimate, rational reasons why those prospects were ranked the way they were ranked.

 Q:  Matt from Sacramento, California asks:
Higher ceiling: Gio Gonzalez or Mark Rogers? Are either of them projected top-of-the-rotation guys?
 A: 

John Manuel: I'd say Rogers has the higher ceiling, but those guys almost could not be more different. That's really a subjective call, but I'll take the guy who can throw 100 mph and is really raw but has great makeup.

 Q:  David from Kennesaw GA asks:
Good Afternoon John, I know he had a slumping, cruddy season stats-wise, but I expected Chris Nelson to rank much higher based on upsidetalentstrength of position....I imagine the fact that Marcus Sanders plays SS is what adds to his appeal, and this was mentioned in the MWL chat yesterday regarding Plouffe and his somewhat lofty ranking....Is Nelson simply over-rated then? Also, I imagined Ian Desmond would have ranked higher as well for the same reasons...he was being praised in ST, he made the jump to High A and did quite well for a teenager, and Mark Rogers still ranked 5 slots ahead of him??
 A: 

John Manuel: Long question, here's a quick answer. Sanders ranked that high because of his bat, not his glove. If he can throw, it sounds like he can play SS, but who knows if he'll ever throw well enough for it. If he could throw, he would have ranked No. 1. He was the most dynamic offensive player in the league, and when his shoulder was healthy, he showed solid power. I don't believe in Desmond's bat enough to have ranked him higher than I did. Nelson frankly didn't show the kind of tools to be a first-rounder this year. He just wasn't the same player, though he showed some flashes of bat speed and athleticism that made him a first-rounder. If he plays the same way next year when he's healthy, he won't be on any league Top 20s.

 Q:  Adam from New York asks:
Hi John. Baseball America does a great job and is always on with their assessment of Minor Leaguers but how about Brian Horwitz and Jonathan Sanchez. Horwitz led the league in batting average and Sanchez led the league in strikeouts. What about them?
 A: 

John Manuel: I've addressed Sanchez. Horwitz' great season merits mention, but remember, he was a college senior who signed as an NDFA, and he hit 2 HRs. Part of that is ballpark, but his profile just screams extra outfielder.

 Q:  Kendall from Dallas asks:
Justin Towles really hit well in his time at Lexington. It seems though that the Astros put a great deal of emphasis on their catchers' defensive prowess. How does Towles grade out defensively? And, would he have made the top 20 if he had spent all of the season at Lexington?
 A: 

John Manuel: I heard some good things about Towles' bat and not much about his defense. He's got arm strength but his footwork and mechanics keep him from posting good times to second, or from being more than a decent receiver. His bat is impressive, he's lean and covers teh plate, some were concerned that his swing was a little long, but that's an impressive season. Just didn't show enough to be in the top 20.

 Q:  Joe from USA asks:
If Gio Gonzalez didn't have a history of injury problems would he rank as the #1 pitcher on this list? Thanks
 A: 

John Manuel: If Gio Gonzalez and Philip Hughes were healthy, they probably both would have ranked near the top. Hughes with no injury questions is pretty impossible to argue against. Gonzalez has a slight frame to go with injury questions, two negatives to Hughes' one, hence the lower ranking. That's the logic behind those rankings. Stuff-wise, they were every bit as good as Elbert and Patton, who ranked up there too. Hughes might have the best combo with his size and feel and command. BUT, he hasn't stayed healthy yet. It's like he's the high school draftee version of Anthony Reyes.

 Q:  Robert Goldberg from Lyndhurst, NJ asks:
I realize that Trevor Crowe's debut was less than impressive, but did he show any signs of hope?
 A: 

John Manuel: It's hard to rank '05 draftees in these leagues, in my opinion. Crowe gets a mulligan, as most new draftees do, because there's a lot to get used to. He was playing games that mattered in February, for one, so it's a long season for him. Second, he's adjusting to wood bats mid-stream. I think that's why he didn't really drive the ball at all as a pro. He's got average tools across the board and is a plus runner, and he finished the year in Double-A, so I'd say he has plenty signs of hope.

 Q:  Robert Goldberg from Lyndhurst, NJ asks:
He split time between the Sally & FSL League, but did Jamie Hoffmann make enough of an impact to be considered for the list?
 A: 

John Manuel: Hoffman did made an impact with some guys, and in fact, one scout compared him to Brian Anderson to me, which was pretty good. He likes Hoffmann's body and athletic ability. He's a well-built, toolsy CF, I'd like to see him hit for more power and have some of Travis Denker's hitting skills . . . maybe if we merged those two players together . . . Anyway, I hope you get my point, which is, yes, Hoffmann was considered and didn't quite hit enough to make it.

 Q:  David from Kennesaw GA asks:
Apparently I'm not the only one who was extremely impressed with Neil Walker's quietly excellent season. John, what are we looking at in terms of ceiling or major league numbers assuming he fulfills his lofty potential?
 A: 

John Manuel: Walker probably needs to control the strike zone a little better, but he has the best offensive ceiling in the league. He just centers the ball consistently, has a swing that doesn't get out of whack and could be a .300 hitter with 20-25 home runs. If he stays behind the plate, which sounds like a 50-50 proposition, he's got a chance to be an all-star.

 Q:  Gerald from St Louis asks:
With LaRoche ahead of him at third base, is a position change in the fold for Blake DeWitt?
 A: 

John Manuel: That's very possible, and it might be his best position when it's all said and done.

 Q:  Joshua from Florida asks:
Did Greensboro closer Chris Mobley get any consideration? He led the minors in saves until he had to go to Holland for the world cup. Not bad for a 20 something round pick. How does he project long term?
 A: 

John Manuel: Not much, though I'm a Mobley fan. He has average to fringe-average stuff but he competes and throws strikes. I was glad to see him on the World Cup team but shocked that Davey Johnson used a low Class A pitcher to try to close games against Japan, which used veteran industrial league guys. That didn't work out so well.

 Q:  evan from Cincinnati (OH) asks:
Hi, John. I've been following Jimmy Barthmaier since BA tabbed him as a HOU sleeper a couple of years ago. His numbers look solid and the Astros are typically advancing him one level at a time. Not that it's a crime to be #11 behind these ten guys, but what's holding him back from being a Phillip Hughes-caliber player to you? Since you're not Jim Callis, can I also ask for a comp?
 A: 

John Manuel: Hughes, for example, has better command and a better feel for his craft. Barthmaier has more power on his breaking ball and might be more of a strikeout pitcher. My Barthmaier comp would be me, not from scouts, so it's really not worth it. I think that's Jim's policy, too. I don't pretend to be a scout, and instead I just try to report what scouts, managers, etc., are telling me.

 Q:  jeff from ny asks:
Hi, and thanks for the chat. Is Ryan Braun the real deal as a hitter? Is he really a future third baseman, or will he eventually be moved to the outfield?
 A: 

John Manuel: He is the real deal as a hitter, but my money is on outfielder.

 Q:  Brad H. from Birmingham, AL asks:
Thanks for the chat. How close did Columbus pitcher Blake Johnson come to making the top 20? If you could, touch on his different pitches and his ceiling. Do you think he could become a middle of the rotation starter in the majors?
 A: 

John Manuel: I'd like to see more durability out of a guy who has the stuff to be a middle-of-the-rotation guy. He was 90-91 consistently with his fastball with a true curveball that can be a plus pitch. He stays tall in his delivery, now he just needs to get stronger and hold his stuff, both deeper into games and deeper into the season. He's very interesting.

 Q:  NEC from Henniker, NH asks:
How does a healthy Chris Nelson compare to Troy Tulowitzki? who do you think can become the more reliable major leaguer?
 A: 

John Manuel: Tulo was drafted higher and in my opinion has a better chance to play short. An infield with I-Stew at 3b, Tulo at SS and Nelson at 2B could be the Rockies future, but Omar Quintanilla and Clint Barmes probably have some say in this, too.

 Q:  Begbie from Edinburgh asks:
John, what does Edgardo Baez need to fix to fully utilize his 5-tool potential (or at least 4-tool potential)? I saw him play this past year and he did look foolish fishing for a few curveballs in the dirt (they were, however, Gio Gonzalez hooks), but I loved his raw tools, especially his batarm combo.
 A: 

John Manuel: It's all pitch recognition, knowing when to swing and when to let breaking balls go by. According to Nats man Aaron Fitt, Baez lacks the most important tool, the bat. He just doesn't make enough contact to put his excellent raw power to use. He's also not a plus runner, so maybe he'll be a 4-tool guy if it all comes together.

 Q:  Roger from Charleston, SC asks:
Braves fans have suggested that Escobar could be ready to replace Furcal next spring. Realistically, how soon can we expect Escobar in Atlanta, and what ceiling does he have?
 A: 

John Manuel: I don't know about that, but he's very exciting to watch, every scout or manager who saw him seemed mesmerized by his passion. He'd rank higher if he were younger. It sounds like he's a pretty different player from, say, Yuniesky Betancourt, a fluid, almost graceful SS from Cuba whose bat is in question. Everyone I've talked to about Escobar believes in the bat, even though people I've talked to (well, emailed with) who saw him in Cuba questioned his bat. Escobar has strength and should move quickly, but the Braves also have TJ Pena, who can really defend, same for Luis Hernandez and Diony Hernandez, and don't forget Betemit in the big leagues. I'd say if Furcal signs elsewhere, as seems likely, Betemit would get first crack at the job.

 Q:  JB from CT asks:
Thanks for taking the time to answer the questions. Is Philip Hughes the top prospect a weak Yankees system? Is he a potential #1 starter if he can stay healthy?
 A: 

John Manuel: I'll be doing the Yankees Top 30 this fall, and he goes into the calls as the most likely guy to be No. 1. As for being a No. 1 starter . . . well, I had one guy call him a baby Mark Prior. That's a pretty heady compliment. It sounds like he has a chance. Like Prior, he's had trouble staying healthy. He doesn't have Prior's stuff but he has a big body and throws strikes, hence the comparison. For me, he's more of a No. 2 type of guy.

 Q:  tiffythetitan from Oakland, CA asks:
So, no other Giants prospects in the Top 20 other than Marcus Sanders? Was it a deep league or did the Giants just not have any other worthy prospects???
 A: 

John Manuel: I think it's in my BA contract to take Tiffy's questions in every chat. As discussed, Jonathan Sanchez came close. Brian Wilson also merits mention here, he really had a breakthrough season as he stayed healthy, moved to the bullpen and showed two plus pitches at times, mid-90s heat and a power breaking ball. It's hard to rank a reliever in a 16-team low A league. Last year I wanted to rank Chad Orvella, Chris Resop . . . several other relievers who were close, but the league was too loaded. This year, Wilson came close but there were a lot of starting pitchers who I felt deserved to be ranked ahead of him.

 Q:  Jaypers from Springfield, IL asks:
No Joe Koshanky? How close was he to making it?
 A: 

John Manuel: Koshansky's home-road splits were too much for me to ignore. He's going to have to do it away from Asheville for me. However, he has undeniable raw power, and he can field solidly at first, he's not immobile over there. It's a question of whether or not he's a good enough hitter, whether he'll make adjustments against better pitching and away from Asheville. He hit .227 witih 11 home runs away from home. That's just not encouraging.

 Q:  Jaypers from Springfield, IL asks:
What happened to Einertson this year? He was #4 in your Prospect Handbook, yet didn't live up to the hype. Was it due to family issues (i.e. his brief hiatus)?
 A: 

John Manuel: Einertson's personal issues, which no one talked about, definitely affected him all year. His own manager, Tim Bogar, just said Einertson had real trouble concentrating this season. Bogar managed him last year and said Einertson was basically back in August to what he was in '04, and while Einertson hit .296 in August, he went 2-for-his-last 28 and hit only one homer even in August. I think the power he showed in the Appy League might have been a little exaggerated. It sounds like he can really hit if he can focus, so I wouldn't write him off at all.

 Q:  Elliot Legow from Youngstown OH asks:
Hi, John, Lake Captain struck out on the Top 20 list. But the Captains had a few players who look like prospects to Indians fans. What's the take on pitchers Chuck Lofgren, Tony Sipp and Dan Cevette and OF Brian Barton?
 A: 

John Manuel: Sipp and Lofgren just missed. Barton didn't qualify but is extremely interesting, I would not have expected him to hit right out of the box like he did. Cevette is more solid than spectacular, average fastball, works inside, solid curveball and changeup. Just nothing spectacular, but he's a solid lefty.

 Q:  Jahneiro tha G from St.maarten SG (the carribean) asks:
How is it that zimmerman has alredy reached to the majors and Ryan Braun is still in Class A
 A: 

John Manuel: Well, Braun got hurt, and Zimmerman is an incredible defender. I think Braun's offensive ceiling is significant and matches or exceeds Zimmerman's, but Zim's glove is a real, real difference-maker, he is a Gold Glover at 3B.

 Q:  Steve from Chicago asks:
Which Brave SS prospect has the higher ceiling, Escobar or Andrus.
 A: 

John Manuel: I'll go for the 17-year-old Andrus, he sounds spectacular.

 Q:  Blake Dewitt from Los Angeles asks:
Why is Blake Dewitt at #7? He was nothing spectactular this season, almost a pretty average season. why are you so high on him?
 A: 

John Manuel: I saw Dewitt in high school at a Perfect Game event and remember coming away unimpressed. It sounds like this is what happens when you see the guy once or twice. If you see him over an extended period, as league managers did, you come away impressed with how he constantly gets better, with how he makes adjustments, with how he competes and doesnt' give at-bats away . . . he's a baseball player with tools, and his best tool is the game's most important tool, the bat. He's going to hit. That's why I'm high on him.

 Q:  Jaypers from Springfield, IL asks:
How close was Matt Miller to making the list? 30 HR and 100 RBI was certainly impressive, his age aside.
 A: 

John Manuel: You just can't put his age aside, Jaypers. Or that two-thirds of his home runs were at home. Hard to deny what he did, but he's a left fielder whose power was questioned, and that's a power position. Hope he proves me wrong.

 Q:  Patrick from Milwaukee, WI asks:
I'm curious where some other members of the West Virginia Power stood on this list, such as Yovani Gallardo, Hernan Iribarren and Alcides Escobar. While not as good as prospects due to age relative to the league and their placement on the team (relievers, etc.), did pitchers like Derek Miller, Josh Wahpepah, Robert Hinton and Justin Barnes receive any consideration? Thanks as always for the chats.
 A: 

John Manuel: All three--Gallardo, Iribarren and Escobar--made serious runs at the top 20, led by Gallardo, who got better during the year and showed improved control of his power sinker. He really just missed, not too different in some ways from Gaby Hernandez, but Hernandez has more feel. Iribarren and Escobar are raw teens who have tools. Iribarren's best is the bat, where he's a real slasher with speed. Escobar has excellent fielding skills. Both just have enough holes in their games to miss the top 20 but I expect they'll be in the Brewers top 30 pretty significantly when I work that up this fall. It's my first time doing that organization and I'm excited about it. None of those relievers got any accolades from league managers, Barnes and Hinton got a whiff of prospect mention but those kinds of guys are really better fits in an organization top 30 than a top 20 for a 16-team league.

 Q:  Brad McCann Clone from FL asks:
This is an outrage!
 A: 

John Manuel: That's funny. McCann was right on the cusp, in the 20-30 range with guys like Hagerstown OF Carlos Gomez, Liotta (Hagerstown), Sipp (Lake County), Lofgren (Lake County), Blake Johnson (Columbus), Van Pope (Rome), Brad Harmen (Lakewood), everyone's favorite, Denker (Columbus), Brian Wilson (Augusta) and Morales (Asheville)

 Q:  DK from NYC asks:
Delmarva's probably the weakest team in the O's system, so it's no suprise that no one made the top 20. Which of the too-old strikeout pitchers came the closest - Ramirez, Liz, Hart, or Perez?
 A: 

John Manuel: Liz, because of his power arm. i think I referred to him as a lefty before, which is a mistake I keep making. Liz has a lot more arm strength than Ramirez, who is an 88-90 mph guy. Hart has some pwoer, as does Carlos Perez, but Perez needs to learn to pitch inside better to make a move as a prospect. There's something to work with there, and it seems like Gary Kendall did a good job of working with the talent there. I think there's some hope in the Orioles system, but the mess in the majors makes it hard to imagine the organization will get out of its current doldroms anytime soon. It's really sad.

 Q:  JR from New Jersey asks:
Anybody else from Hagerstown get consideration? Any potential for Concepcion or Gomez, or are they more speedy Met minor leaguers who can't hit?
 A: 

John Manuel: Concepcion, unfortunately, did not have much of a year and didn't really get a mention from anyone. Now that he's 1.5 years older than we thought at this time last year, and we've seen his inability to control the strike zone, I think his prospect status has come down a peg or two . . . maybe three. Gomez and Gaby H. were the cream of that team.

 Q:  fabio from ct asks:
Didn't hunter pence lead the league in homers and slugging pct when he was promoted? why is this guy just #15 on your list?
 A: 

John Manuel: It's in the writeup, Fabio . . . if that's your real name.

 Q:  Jon from Peoria asks:
Did Jeff Allison get much support to be on the list? How was his stuff compared to when he was drafted?
 A: 

John Manuel: He didn't get a lot of support, and people were kind of mum about him, it was weird. Best I could get on Allison was that he showed flashes of a low 90s fastball and flashes of a plus breaking ball, but that the rust of not having pitched much since 2003 really showed, and that he just wasn't consistent from inning to inning or game to game. Getting through the season, getting back on the field, all that stuff is a huge positive for him, but it sounds like his command wasn't there much and that's going to be a factor. Plus, you'll excuse me for being wary of his makeup.

 Q:  Trader J from Indy asks:
Marcos Vechionacci and Estee Harris both had disappointing seasons. Have they lost their prospect status?
 A: 

John Manuel: J, Vechionacci is just 18, no way he's lost his prospect status. He's got tools, he's a very good defender at third, and he has some offensive potential. He was just a little overmatched in a full-season league, maybe not as far along as the Yanks thought, but he's still a good prospect. Harris wasn't in their top 30 to begin this year and I don't think he's going to hit enough to make it.

 Q:  steve S from Davis, CA asks:
For Bay Area baseball fans, what comparisons might you offer between A's prospect Javier Herrera (#4 MWL) and Giants prospect Marcus Sanders (#3 SAL)?
 A: 

John Manuel: Steve, I'm a Marcus Sanders apologist, but that shoulder is so tough to gauge. If he's healthy, I'll take Marcus. But he's not healthy, and that's pretty important. Herrera has more power and seems more well-rounded because he's healthy enough to be an asset at his position. Sanders is the better hitter, but if his power is short-circuited long-term, then he's not going to drive the ball enough to be more than a Juan Pierre type. Thanks for the question.

 Q:  Josh from Florida asks:
JT Restko the next Richie Sexton?
 A: 

John Manuel: There's a decent chance, but if I really was sure he had 30-homer potential, I probably would have ranked him higher.

 Q:  Jim Murray from Anaheim asks:
Following up on the Travis Denker issue: For clarification Travis Denker is actually 5ft. 11" and weighs 190 lbs. He seems more comparable to a Jeff Kent. Travis in the SAL actually was a leader in the league with walks and still was one of the home run leaders prior to moving to Vero Beach. How could he not be in the top 20.
 A: 

John Manuel: I have Denker listed at 5-foot-9, 170 pounds in my Super Register. He had a great year. His own manager said of his defense, "he has a very long way to go." Denker's strengths are his plate discipline and his ability to backspin the ball, hence the home runs. Those are excellent traits, and the bat is the most important tool, but he doesn't fit a good profile for 2b defensively, and I have my doubts about him fitting an offensive or defensive profile elsewhere.

 Q:  Chris B from SLC, UT asks:
You know the Giants system as well as anyone. What would you do with Marcus Sanders?
 A: 

John Manuel: I believe Dick Tidrow probably knows the system a bit better . . . I'd do what the Giants did, try to see if he can play SS, but it sounds like they left him out there long after he should have been relegated to DH by his arm. If he's healthy, and if his arm bounces back to a 30-40 arm as it was in June, Sanders should be able to throw well enough to play 2B, where you do need some arm strength to turn the DP. If he can stay in the infield, that's better than moving him to CF. Scouts seem to think his arm is so bad he'll have to move to CF.

 Q:  Someone pretending to be Tim Battle from Charleston River Dogs asks:
How close was I to cracking the Top 20? I am a great athlete with a huge upside. I have 80 speed on the 20-80 scale, a ton of raw power and an above-average throwing arm. My tools finally started to translate into production on the field this year as I led the league in runs and triples, was among the league leaders in total bases (5th), stolen bases (T-5th), doubles (11th), homeruns (T-13th), hits (13th) and slugging pct. (21st), was voted the best defensive outfielder in the league and was the all-star game MVP. I realize that it was my other league-leading category (195 strikeouts) that kept me ranking near the top of this list, but I played the season as an extremely raw 19 year-old, hit .412 when I wasnít striking out and my KAB rate (37%) was actually the same as it was in the NYPL last year so it didnít increase against the more advanced pitching of the SAL. Is there any hope among scouts that I can get this strikeout problem under control as I gain more experience and live up to my potential or am I destined to be a guy that had all the tools in the world but just couldnít put it together?
 A: 

John Manuel: That's quite a question. The answer is, neither. I think you summed him up well. Battle is just so raw. He needs so much work . . . For me, he needs 1,000 more ABs to really know whether or not he'll make consistent enough contact. I'd let him repeat the SAL, let him make more consistent contact, get more confidence before moving him to the very challenging FSL.

 Q:  Ron from Windsor, CT asks:
I know he wasn't in this league, but can you give me any information on Jesse Hoover. He missed the entire season, does he still look like he can come back and be a good prospect like he was the previous year?
 A: 

John Manuel: His back injury kept him out all year and sounded serious; I don't think the Yankees are acting like it didn't happen, so for me, his prospect status is in pretty serious doubt until he gets back on the field.

 Q:  The Croc Hunter from Perth asks:
Bradley Harman... future big league shortstop or future Kangaroo boxing champ?
 A: 

John Manuel: Sounds like a future SS, who can handle the bat and is a solid average defender, nothing flashy, but very productive.

 Q:  Chipper Jones from Atlanta, GA asks:
What possibility do you see in Van Pope taking my position down the line? How does he compare to Eric Campbell and Andy Marte as far as future projectability?
 A: 

John Manuel: I meant to end with this . . . I think I'm kind of the VAn Pope fan club. Maybe that would make me Pope of the Van Pope fan club. It was hard for me not to put him in the Top 20. He has power tools, impact tools, and he's raw, but starting to put them together. Plus arm, plus raw power, ability to really be a plus defender at third, athletic, runs OK . . . it's all about the bat with him. I think his ceiling is higher than Campbell's and not far from Marte, BUT . . . he has to make more consistent contact. That's pretty fundamental. If he does shorten up his swing and center the ball more consistently, he'll be very special.

 Q:  Andrew from Katy, TX asks:
Is it just me, or does Troy Patton resemble a lefty Roy Oswalt?
 A: 

John Manuel: Sure, that's a fine comp.

 Q:  Eric from Cooperstown asks:
So, Sergio Pedroza. Are you guys going to stick with the he's-too-short-to-make-it mantra, or do you think he actually has a chance?
 A: 

John Manuel: He has a chance, but has to adjust his hands, he wraps the bat, that's his trigger to get started, and scouts doubt that his hands will be fast enough to keep it up against higher level pitching (especially after he hit around .230 in the SAL).

John Manuel: Good stuff, everyone, thanks for all the questions, I hope you enjoyed my answers, even the Travis Denker and Philip Hughes recriminations. More prospect chats to come . . .

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