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PCL Chat with Jim Callis

Moderator: Jim Callis will begin taking your Pacific Coast League questions at 12 p.m. ET

Moderator: Jim has a slight traffic delay and should be joining us soon.

 Q:  William K from Malaysia asks:
Carlos Quentin made just 1 error the whole season while playing in RF and out of position at CF. He is obviously much better as a RF but is his defense in CF adequate enough for him to break into the D'Backs squad next season?
 A: 

Jim Callis: The consensus among people I talked to is that Quentin isn't cut out for center field. His jumps are OK but he just doesn't have the natural speed for the position. However, the Diamondbacks could decide they want his bat in the lineup and play him there and see how it goes. Remember, Lance Berkman logged a lot of time in center for the Astros.

 Q:  Tyler Clippard from Mt. Olympus asks:
Hi Jim. If memory serves, at the end of a recent chat (regular ESPN Wed. variety?) you said that you thought that Willingham was the Marlins best hitting prospect. Does that include Hermida? Just how serviceable a catcher is Willingham and what's his ceiling with the bat? By the way, thanks for the improved Player Finder so I can more easily view the eye-watering 2005 stats of me, King Clippard, the Best Pitcher Ever.
 A: 

Jim Callis: Thank Kevin Goldstein for the Player Finder . . . Did I say that at ESPN.com? If I did, I wasn't including Hermida because he was already in the majors, because I would take Hermida over Willingham. Willingham has good ceiling with the bat, maybe enough to play every day at first base, though that's not an option in Florida with Carlos Delgado. He has worked hard to become a catcher, but at best he's a guy who could serve as a backup and not a regular behind the plate.

 Q:  Ralph Wiggum from Springfield asks:
Jim, Shin-Soo Choo occasionally struggled in his first Triple-A season but finished strongly and continued to demonstrate patience and speed to complement his outstanding defensive abilities. Why did he not received more support from PCL managers and coaches?
 A: 

Jim Callis: Choo had 37 extra-base hits in a full-season in the PCL. The Mariners have projected him to develop power, but it just hasn't come yet. Not making the Top 20 in a 16-team league doesn't mean Choo isn't a prospect. But he's going to have to start driving more balls to play regularly in the majors as a right fielder.

 Q:  Steve from Des Moines asks:
Hi Jim! How close was Jermaine Van Buren to making this list? Were there any other Iowa Cubs worth mentioning? Thanks for your time!
 A: 

Jim Callis: In general, it's tough for a guy who projects as setup man to make a Top 20, especially in a 16-team league. But people did think Van Buren had a chance to be a good setup man in the majors, thanks to his slider and low-90s fastball. He also throws a curveball and changeup and is fearless. Rich Hill and Ronny Cedeno made the Top 20, and the I-Cubs didn't have anyone else who was very close.

 Q:  Mike Marinaro from Tampa, FL asks:
Jim: In all your time spent studying minor leaguers, have you ever seen anybody as equipped and refined as Felix Hernandez at his age? What do you expect out of him next year?
 A: 

Jim Callis: Among pitchers, no, can't even think of anyone else who was close. I think King Felix will be one of the top 10 starters in the American League next year at age 20.

 Q:  James from Guthrie OK asks:
Hi How much more does Ben Johnson, Ronny Cedeno, Josh Barfield, and Jeff Mathis have to prove before their big league teams give them an everyday chance? Correct me if I am wrong but I think Johnson is now in San Diego's line up for the post season.
 A: 

Jim Callis: Johnson didn't start San Diego's opener, so I don't think he has everyday status yet. Let's go through these guys . . . Johnson may get the opportunity in 2006. He just needs the Padres to create an opening in the outfield, but they have some corner outfielders who had down seasons or could play first base, so that could happen. Cedeno really should start for the Cubs next year, though who knows what Dusty Baker will do there. I'd play him at shortstop over Neifi Perez, and there's also talk he could wind up at second. Barfield is blocked by Mark Loretta but finished strong and is ready for a big league chance, so it will be interesting where they try to fit him. Maybe one of those two goes to third base. Mathis is blocked by the Molina brothers for now.

 Q:  John Dark from Moline, Illinois asks:
Is health the biggest impediment to Anthony Reyes's future success? That is, if his health were more certain, would he be more highly regarded, or is it a matter of his stuff simply not being that good? Thanks.
 A: 

Jim Callis: It's all health with Reyes. He hasn't had a fully healthy season since his freshman year at Southern California, which I believe was 2000. Scouts worry about his arm action and think he'll get hurt again. If he can stay healthy, he could be a No. 2 starter.

 Q:  Phil McHugh from Frederick, MD asks:
Do you see Rich Hill or Ronny Cedeno having much of an impact in the major leagues? It seems to me Cedeno didn't do much of anything until this year, and I wonder if he can be even a solid starter, let alone an all-star. Hill does have a great curve, but I don't see him ever having an ERA under 4.50 at the major league level. Am I wrong? I hope so.
 A: 

Jim Callis: I think they both have the chance to be regulars, Hill as a starter and Cedeno as an everyday guy in the lineup. Cedeno was rushed too quickly by the Cubs and it led to two awful years with the bat, but he finally starter to recover in 2004. He might not be an all-star, but he can hit for average with some pop and play very good defense. Hill always had great stuff and very little command or control. The light switched on for him this year (at least it did in the minors), and if he can maintain his newfound control he could be pretty good.

 Q:  Blair from Anaheim, CA asks:
Hi Jim, thanks for the chat as always! I was wondering about Ian Kinsler and how he projects as a big leaguer. He didn't really stand out numbers-wise, but it was only his second full season in the minors and he played all of it at AAA. If Soriano gets moved, will he be the opening day secondbaseman for the Rangers?
 A: 

Jim Callis: Kinsler would have made a PCL Top 30 if we went that deep. He didn't blow guys away, and they thought he was a little stiff at second base and that his swing was too long. But he gets results and makes plays. Very well could wind up at second for the Rangers if they trade Soriano, but he'll have to worry about Joaquin Arias taking a middle-infield job alongside Michael Young in the long run.

 Q:  (Rodney) Dan(gerfied) Jonhson from 1B Oakland A's asks:
Talk about no respect! Its about time you guys gave me some credit. And how about my buddy,Ryan Shealy? He has consistantly put up excellent numbers with a good glove.Why isn't he in the top 20? He is the same age as me. What do you mean "clean up my body?" Am I a leper? Tell that to David Ortiz.
 A: 

Jim Callis: No respect? I've been on the Dan Johnson bandwagon for years, and I don't think he got nearly enough credit for the impact he had on the A's this year as he deserved. Every guy on the PCL list ahead of him is an elite prospect! As for the "clean up his body" remark, that was in the past tense--he's getting credit for getting in much better shape than he was signed. I really do like Dan Johnson! As for Shealy, he was in the next group of guys who just missed the Top 20. I already had six first basemen on the Top 20, counting Willingham. Wouldn't say Shealy is a good defender, but he does have legit power.

 Q:  Amelia from Oakland asks:
What are your thoughts on A's RHP Jairo Garcia? Is he still a good prospect? Do you think his problems this year stemmed from being rushed in 2004, or are they actually that everyone figured him out this year and he wasn't able to adjust? Many Oakland fans are hopeful that he'll be a good setup option in tandem with Huston Street.
 A: 

Jim Callis: He's still a good prospect. Garcia did move awfully fast, but his main problem is that he needs better command of his mid-90s fastball and hard slider. Once he gets that down, he'll be in Oakland setting up the more polished Street.

 Q:  ScottAZ from Phx, AZ asks:
Does Andy Green project anything more than a MLB utility guy? Is his power #s he showed just do to playing in Tucson, or could he be a legit 20 hr guy in the Bigs?
 A: 

Jim Callis: He's probably just a utility guy, but the PCL MVP could be a good one. He can play just about anywhere on the diamond and has good pop. Tucson helped his power numbers, but he might be a 20-homer guy if he played every day in the majors. Plays hard and helps his teams win.

 Q:  James from Guthrie OK asks:
Hi Jim. I noticed several players that I think should have been in consideration let me know your thought on these guys. Ian Kinsler, Jason Botts, Gerald Laird, Jose Lopez, and Shin Soo Choo. Thanks.
 A: 

Jim Callis: I already covered Choo and Kinsler. Lopez and Laird didn't qualify for the list because they entered the year with too many big league at-bats to meet our definition of "prospect." Botts has some power but his swing is a bit long and he's not much of a defender. He might have to be a DH. Would have been in the 21-30 range if I went that deep.

 Q:  Steve from Des Moines asks:
Do you see Bobby Brownlie still having any type of major league career, and if so in what capacity?
 A: 

Jim Callis: It's looking more and more like Brownlie might have to be a big league reliever. His curveball is good but not as great as it was in college, and his fastball is down in the 88-89 mph range now. His stuff just isn't what it was at Rutgers.

 Q:  Marc from Halifax, Canada asks:
It has been written that Carlos Quentin and Conor Jackson have similar offensive ceilings, but Quentin is the far superior defensive player. Why then is Jackson ranked above Quentin? They both had solid seasons. Was Jackson's that much better?
 A: 

Jim Callis: While Quentin can do more things defensively, when it comes down to it, their ultimate worth will depend on how much they produce with the bat. I like Jackson as a hitter more than Quentin, hence the ranking. While Jackson ranked No. 4 and Quentin No. 7, that's not a huge difference. Everyone in the top seven ranks among the very best prospects in the game.

 Q:  Chris I from San Francisco, CA asks:
Cain below Jackson and Fielder? Are you guys biased against the Giants like you are against the Yankeee? In all seriousness, Cain seemed to throw more sliders than curveballs when he was with the big club. Was this also true in the PCL. The times I saw him in San Jose, he threw what looked to be a big, hard curve very effectively. Anything changed?
 A: 

Jim Callis: I know you're joking, Chris, but I'll repeat that the top seven guys on this list are all elite prospects, and after putting King Felix No. 1, you could argue for just about any order for Nos. 2-7. As for Cain, some people call his breaking ball a curve and some call it a slider. I think it's the same pitch, a hard breakers that doesn't quite fit the traditional definition of either curve or slider.

 Q:  Marc from Halifax, Canada asks:
Earlier in the season, there were worries about the development of Casey Kotchman's power. Did his solid end to the season and the power he showed in his time in the majors quiet those concerns?
 A: 

Jim Callis: No, there's still a wide range of opinions on how much power Kotchman will have. There's no doubt in my mind that he'll be a good big league player, but some guys see him as a Mark Grace and others see him as growing into 30-homer power. The jury is still out.

 Q:  Al from Boston asks:
Would Dan Meyer have made the list had he simply been shut down and allowed to fully recover, instead of trying to hide his injury (and thus putting up some lousy numbers)? Has his stock really dropped with scouts to the point where he's a good bet to be a bust?
 A: 

Jim Callis: Meyer's stuff and performance were down that it's hard to see how he would have made the PCL list in any scenario this year. I wouldn't call him a bust, because he was one of the best lefties in the minors before injuries struck. But he had more shoulder problems after he tried to come back, and I haven't seen any definitive diagnosis of what's going on. Don't give up on him, but there's reason for concern.

 Q:  Jerry from Mexico asks:
Jim, Love your coverage of the M's system. You guys do great work. I have a question about my favorite M's prospect: Chris Snelling. He absolutely destroyed PCL pitching this year, and was doing well in his brief callup before injuring his knee again. Was he close to the top-20? Was the injury the only reason he was left off? And do you think that has any chance to be a quality ML player?
 A: 

Jim Callis: Jerry, Snelling is one of my favorite Mariners prospects too. I've been calling him the Australian Pete Reiser for years, and unfortunately, while he has kept hitting he also has kept getting hurt. The injuries are the main reason he missed. Doing a Top 20 in a 16-team league, it's hard to put guys on there if they don't project as big league regulars. And multiple scouts told me while they like Snelling's bat, it's impossible at this point to think he'll stay healthy enough to play every day.

 Q:  Greg from LA asks:
Your thoughts about Delwyn Young and Willie Aybar. Do you see either sticking with the Dodgers next year?
 A: 

Jim Callis: Both got some mention, much more for their bats than their gloves. Neither was universally beloved in PCL circles, though. Young won't push Jeff Kent off second base, and Aybar is a longshot for me right now to factor into LA's third-base picture in 2006.

 Q:  Blair from Anaheim, CA asks:
Hi Jim, one more from me. Did Mathis really ever project as a superstar? Right now, I agree with your assessment of him. But he's supposed to be such a good athlete with good tools that he has potential to be more. He was only 22 in AAA as well. What adjustments does he have to make to become an all-star?
 A: 

Jim Callis: I think "project" is the key word there, Blair. When he was in low Class A, scouts believed he'd continue to improve at the plate, but he's more leveled off. There's nothing wrong with being a .270 hitter with 15 homers, the current projection I used in the PCL Top 20, but three years ago scouts though he could be more than that. That and his defense and leadership could make him an all-star. To become better, he'll need to improve his pitch recognition and smooth out his swing a little.

 Q:  David Testa from L.A.,CA asks:
Jim love you on BA and ESPN, tell me Jim what are the major differences betweek PCL and International league, why is it that PLC has much better hitters?
 A: 

Jim Callis: For the most part, it's the parks. A lot of the West Coast parks in the PCL really favor hitters.

 Q:  tony from tucson, az asks:
How close was Sergio Santos to making the list? Do you still see him as a shortstop in the future? If not, there doesn't seem to be room for him on the big league team.
 A: 

Jim Callis: Not close because he had a rough year, but he was 22 and still has some potential. He was better at shortstop than people expected and could stay there, though Stephen Drew and Justin Upton are Arizona's shortstops of the future. Santos needs to get going again at the plate.

 Q:  Bill from St. Louis asks:
To me it looks like the Cardinals had a fairly decent draft last year, is there any chance that any of these prospects (Rasmus, Greene, Anderson, McCormick, Stavinoha) could reach memphis next year?
 A: 

Jim Callis: Probably not. Rasmus and Anderson are high school kids, and McCormick lacks a lot of polish. That would be a stretch for Greene. Stavinoha may have the best shot because he's older (23) and may get pushed on a fast track, but I wouldn't count on it.

 Q:  alfonso soriano from japan asks:
If you made all the hitters on this list DH's who do you think will be the best? Is Rickie a good enough hitter to win that title (and eventually take my best hitter at 2b crown)?
 A: 

Jim Callis: I'd take Rickie Weeks.

 Q:  John from Des Moines asks:
What about Matt Murton? Would he have made the cut had he qualified?
 A: 

Jim Callis: Murton had only nine games at Iowa. But assuming he performed like he did in Double-A and the majors, he would have fit in the 10-12 range.

 Q:  Trader J from Indy asks:
Jim, Ezequiel Astacio posted a solid K9 with the Astros but gave up a large number of HR and had a high ERA. What does his future hold?
 A: 

Jim Callis: He can be a solid mid-rotation starter. He just needs to keep the ball down more and get a little more consistent with his secondary stuff. Could be an interesting bullpen option too if the Astros decided to go that route.

 Q:  from asks:
Jim i have a hypothetical question, if a player is a #2 on the pitching staff in AAA, and if he stays healthy is it reasonable to expect him to be a #2 type of guy in majors, in few years can we expect similar numbers in the majors as he had in AAA? Thanks
 A: 

Jim Callis: I don't think that's reasonable. There's a significant difference between Triple-A and the majors, so a guy won't just eventually assume his same role and performance in the big leagues.

 Q:  Doug Kripp from Hagerstown, MD asks:
OF Todd Linden put up some eye-popping numbers for Fresno but I assume from his major league performance that he can be pitched to. Is there any chance he can become a solid regular in the majors?
 A: 

Jim Callis: Maybe, but scouts who saw him in both place still think his swing is too long and that it's easy to jam him when he bats lefthanded. And you're right, he's also pitchable.

 Q:  Al from Boston asks:
General prospect question: I've heard about several prospects who don't have "the same stuff" as they did in college. What are the explanations for this? How does a prospect lose stuff, other than through injury.
 A: 

Jim Callis: Jay from Madison also just asked a similar question. I think one of the big reasons is that as amateurs, starting pitchers usually work once a weak. As pros, they go every fifth day, and some guys just don't adapt as well. In Brownlie's case, he had biceps tendinitis as a Rutgers junior, so that could have contributed as well. And I think it's also the general nature of pitching--it's hard to predict and this just happens sometimes.

 Q:  Red from HB, CA asks:
Jim, thanks for the chats. I'm surprised that Callaspo from the Angels system didn't break in to the top 20. Was he given any serious consideration?
 A: 

Jim Callis: Another victim of the fact that the PCL has 16 teams, making it the most difficult Top 20 to crack. Alberto Callaspo kept doing what he always has done and would have ranked in the 21-25 range.

 Q:  Barrett from Lubbock asks:
What about Adrian Gonzalez?
 A: 

Jim Callis: Another guy who would have been in the 21-30 range. Gonzalez showed more power this year and got some support for the Top 20. Good fielder, too.

 Q:  Chris from Huntsville, AL asks:
With you ranking Willingham ahead of Barfield and Huber, that tells me that you believe he will stay behind the plate. Is that correct?
 A: 

Jim Callis: No. I don't think he'll stay behind the plate. I like Willingham's bat better than Huber's, and Barfield received very mixed reviews. I just think he'll outproduce both, enough more than Barfield to make up the position difference. Barfield has improved defensively at second base, but he's solid and not special there.

 Q:  King Rich Harden from Vancouver, BC asks:
Hey Jim, is it just me or is "King Felix" the lamest nickname ever? I mean, how many famous kings named "Felix" have you ever read about in history class?? Last I checked, "Felix" was a name you give to a cat, not a king.
 A: 

Jim Callis: Hey, I didn't make it up. But I like it.

 Q:  Dave Cowen from Reno, NV asks:
Someone who reached the PCL but has gotten no ink is Kevin Frandsen. I haven't seen a MI get so much out of average tools in years. Don't you just love these 'blue collar' kids? Do you think he's channeling Robbie Thompson?
 A: 

Jim Callis: He may not quite have Thompson's power, but yes, my hat is off to Kevin Frandsen. PCL observers said the same thing: average tools, gets the most out of him, love his makeup.

 Q:  Eli from Houston asks:
Jim, thanks for taking time to do the chat. What can you tell me about Fernando Nieve? It seems his stock has fallen a little in comparison to where it was previously. He was the consensus choice as Houston's top pitching prospect and now he's fallen behind Astacio. What does he project to in the bigs?
 A: 

Jim Callis: Nieve's stock hasn't fallen nearly as much as Astacio's stuff and stock has soared the last two years. Nieve still has a very good arm and the chance to be a No. 2 starter if it all comes together. More likely, he's a No. 3 or 4, but I'm notoriously conservative when it comes to projecting big league roles for pitchers.

 Q:  Jay from Madison asks:
Who would you rather have for next year. Felix or Prior. Who do you think will have the better career?
 A: 

Jim Callis: Oh man . . . give me Prior for 2006 but give me King Felix for his career. But like any big league club, I'd be happy with either one of them. Thanks for all the great questions. Chris Kline will be here tomorrow with our final Top 20 chat -- on the International League.

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