Minor League POY Chat




Q:  Bill from Idaho asks:
It seems like there's little to dislike about Matt Wieters going forward. Maybe it's nitpicking, but are there any weaknesses in his game, any ways he might struggle upon reaching the big leagues? It's hard to find a flaw in his game.
 A: 

John Manuel: Thanks to everyone for dropping by; sorry for a bit of a delay here. It's Kary's first chat so be gentle.

John Manuel: It's hard to pick a huge negative on Wieters from this year; when he first signed he was like a lot of college switch-hitters in that his first move was toward the plate, and he didn't get pitched inside much in college. But he's made every adjustment. Defensively he's obviously big for a catcher but his athleticism and footwork makes him at least an average defender back there. I guess running would be his weakness; in the four tools that matter for a catcher, he's average at worst and well above-average everywhere else.

Moderator: Thanks for joining us everyone. John and Kary will get us started in a moment.

 Q:  Brian Daniels from on the road again.. asks:
Wieters had a great year, however, who were 2,3,4? I personally thought Madison Bumgardner had a better year.. Also anyone on the ECU bandwagaon yet?
 A: 

Kary Booher: Good question. We didn't really have an official list, but Bumgarner, Matt Gamel, Matt LaPorta and Jhoulys Chacin got a lot of consideration. But Wieters was a slam dunk for us. Hard to argue with a .600 OBP in his first full season, and it was actually better in the Eastern League. ... As for the ECU bandwagon, you better hop on now, if there is room left. Can you say $85 for upper end zone tickets to the NC State game?

 Q:  Alcides from Huntsville asks:
I have the best glove in MiLB, a .328 ba, 34sb, and nearly 100 runs - any love?
 A: 

John Manuel: Alcides Escobar was on our final worksheet for Minor League POY, and he'll rank highly in the Southern League top 20. In fact, we've talked to many scouts who have had Alcides as the top prospect on that club, a club that had Matt Gamel and Matt LaPorta on the roster. But I don't believe we've had a minor league POY without power, and that's Alcides. I'd guess Rocco Baldelli or Derek Bell might have had the fewest HRs of any of our winners. I liked Escobar after the '05 year when I did our Brewers Top 30 and have always liked him for his elite glove and because scouts I had talked to believed in his bat. Now he's fulfilling the projections. It's hard to see him as an impact bat but he'll probably be an average hitter in terms of batting average, fringe-average power, with his glove he'll be a valuable player.

 Q:  Todd from Chattanooga asks:
No brainer - good selection! When do we Wieters next - in Arizona (AFL) or Baltimore? Thanks
 A: 

Kary Booher: Todd, You're best bet is to book the next flight to the AFL. MacPhail and the Orioles are content with Wieters' season and have no plans to bring him to Camden Yards. I can see both sides of that debate. But then again, do the Orioles need to worry if he can handle the bright lights of the big leagues? After all, Wieters has played at a high level in college and already has endured the spotlight throughout this season. It probably wouldn't be as much of a hurdle if he was, say, a high school sign moving quickly through the system.

 Q:  Otto from St. Cloud, MN asks:
Did Trevor Cahill get any consideration?
 A: 

John Manuel: He did, and would have merited a stronger spot in the conversation if not for that pesky trip to the Olympics that kind of wiped out his August. Cahill pitched well for Team USA but it just wasn't the same as building up his minor league numbers here in the States, not when it comes to, you know, being Minor League Player of the Year. For what it's worth all our reports are that he threw well in Beijing, and USA Baseball GM Bob Watson calls international baseball a "prospect accelerator" for helping players learn how to produce under pressure. If that's the case, Cahill should be ready for Oakland next year, along with Brett Anderson, as both responded well to adversity with Team USA and won bronze medals.

 Q:  Katie from Springfield, MO asks:
Who would you best compare Wieters to, if you could?
 A: 

Moderator: John Manuel had a wonderful story on this, and it's posted on the front of our Web site today as he interviewed Georgia Tech coach Danny Hall. Hall had special insight, having coached Jason Varitek and Mark Teixeira. When talking to the Orioles about Wieters' game-calling, it takes me back to what I remember hearing back in Pudge Rodriguez's time in Double-A in Tulsa. Hitting-wise, think of a combination of a Varitek-Teixeira in a catcher's body like Joe Mauer. (And nice to get a question from Springfield, my old stomping grounds.)

 Q:  Charles Berg from Houston, TX asks:
Could you compare Matt Wieters to Buster Posey and let us know who projects as a better all around pro backstop? Thanks.
 A: 

John Manuel: Here's a chance to pump up the sidebar I wrote to Kary's lead, as I asked this question to Georgia Tech coach Danny Hall, who not only has coached three premium switch-hitters in Jason Varitek, Mark Teixeira and Wieters, but also coached against Posey the last three years. The sidebar is here; http://www.baseballamerica.com/today/minors/awards/player-of-the-year/2008/266817.html

John Manuel: The gist of Hall's answer is they are very similar but that Wieters switch-hits. I'd say I believe a bit more in Wieters' bat and a bit more in Posey's glove. Gun to my head, who would I rather have, I'd say Wieters because he's done it in Double-A and because I believe he'll stay a catcher, at least for 5-7 years. I don't believe in the tall catcher prejudices out there, not for premium athletes like Mauer and Wieters.

 Q:  carl from KC asks:
Does age factor into your decision for POY? Il take Kaaihue's numbers any day over Wieters if thats the case.
 A: 

Kary Booher: I got a chance to see Kaaihue quite a bit, having covered the Cardinals' Double-A club most of this season. Kaaihue did post impressive numbers, and managers raved about his discipline at the plate. He led the Texas League in on-base and slugging percentage. The Royals liked the way he was more aggressive this season. But the reality is that Kaaihue was in his third tour in the Texas League, whereas this was Wieters' maiden voyage through pro ball. In that sense, Wieters' numbers trump Kaaihue's, and Wieters had the additional responsibility of learning to call games, handle a pitching staff, handle the onslaught of media, etc.

 Q:  Robert Goldberg from Lyndhurst, NJ asks:
While I agree that Matt Wieters is a fine choice for minor league POY, how about some love for the breakthrough season for Carlos Santana? All he did was hit .326/.431/.568, with excellent defense, and more walks than strikeouts. Was he not worthy for the poll as one of the other potential winners?
 A: 

John Manuel: I'm glad you agree Mr. Goldberg. Santana is featured heavily in our issue (just got the print edition back today), with a feature on how catchers are developed and the current bumper crop, if you will, of minor league catchers. Santana is at or near the top of the list of catchers after Wieters who profile as average or above-average starters in the big leagues. He's also on our Minor League All-Star list as the second-teamer. Hard to imagine the Dodgers gave up Santana AND a power arm for three months of Casey Blake; they gave up less comparatively speaking for Manny Ramirez. I believe Victor Martinez may move off C soon with Santana breaking in behind Kelly Shoppach soon. Those are all nice options for Cleveland, with Wyatt Toregas as a possible long term backup option as well.

 Q:  Bob from Long Beach ca asks:
What do you think about the season Hank Conger had in high a ball?.
 A: 

John Manuel: I'm just glad to see him stay in the lineup there for a while. He's got huge raw power and that showed when he played. Of course the down side is he hasn't proved he can make it through a full season, not to mention CATCH a full season. Impact bat, questionable position future, but he's got great makeup and switch-hitter to boot. Mathis and Napoli are young & cheap enough to give Conger time to develop as a catcher, but his bat may speed his progress.

 Q:  Mike Marinaro from Tampa asks:
After slugging away in High A, I have to admit I was still skeptical about Matt Wieters. Blame it on Pat Burrell and other top college draftees that looked invincible at the plate in High A. After Wieters continued to slug away at AA, I joined his bandwagon. The question now is, will he continue to romp in the majors, or will he be more like Burrell, who took until his third year to crack the .260 mark, or even Alex Gordon, who after similar quick success in the minors has been a disappointment at the plate in the majors?
 A: 

Kary Booher: Another interesting question. You're right to be cautious about big-time college draft picks tearing it up in A-ball. Wieters was a man among boys. But for him to continue onward with those numbers — and have an even better slugging percentage in Double-A — was impressive. Obviously it remains to be seen what Wieters will do in the majors. Gordon tore up the Texas League in 2006 and he, too, was a big name and surrounded that season with other legit prospects. I think the Orioles, especially with MacPhail running the club, prefer to see Wieters challenged just a little more next season in Triple-A, if only for a short time. He has yet to experience failure and could benefit from hitting against Triple-A pitchers that have actually been in the big leagues. With Gordon, remember, the Royals bypassed him over Omaha and never sent him down last season. There were some in the Royals system who thought he should have at least gone to Omaha for a time just to see more refined pitching than he had in the TL.

 Q:  John from Pensacola, FL asks:
Where would you rank the Braves' minor league system? Todd Redmond, Kris Medlen, and Tommy Hanson were dominant in their first Southern League playoff series win. The Braves have several elite OF prospects and this year's draft looks strong.
 A: 

John Manuel: The Braves' system is in better shape than it has any business being in considering the shape John Schuerholz left it in after the Mark Teixeira trade last year. Think about the Braves' system WITH Neftali Feliz, Matt Harrison (who'd probably be Atlanta's No. 2 starter right now, which is damning him with faint praise), Elvis Andrus, Beau Jones and Jarrod Saltalamacchia. Instead, it's an improving system with a lot of prospects in A ball and below. You hit on three crucial AA prospects. Hanson is at the top of that heap; I love Kris Medlen but I like him best as a reliever, perhaps a short man, more likely a middle guy. Redmond snuck up on me, average stuff, strike thrower (what is he, a Twins pitcher?), had a very consistent year and we'll see him this week in the SL championship series. I still would be a bit discouraged as a Braves fan by the lack of arms at upper levels; Atlanta's big league staff was desperate for pitching help this year and got none internally, only externally (Campillo, Jurrjens). That's got to change for Atlanta to end its three-year playoff drought.

 Q:  John from Pensacola, FL asks:
Any word on how the Marlins' Jon Fulton and Kris Harvey did in their conversion to pitching?
 A: 

John Manuel: BA correspondent Mike Berardino profiled them as well as a third conversion guy in our most recent org report, which will be online this week. Harvey had big-time velocity at Clemson, mid-90s regularly, and could be a back-end bullpen guy like his father before him.

 Q:  Joe LeCates from Easton, MD asks:
Obviously this isn't a foregone conclusion, but does Wieters winning this award move him closer to the culmination of being the best prospect in baseball ahead of David Price?
 A: 

Kary Booher: I think the award speaks for itself. Price was awesome in the Southern League, but you probably have to dock him points for missing some time. We saw him here in Durham for two of his first three starts and, while there were positives, it was obvious that Price and the Rays would benefit by him remaining in the minors the rest of the season. The thoughts to keep in mind with Wieters are ... switch-hitter with a .600 slugging percentage this season ... handled pitching staffs at two levels, including Olympian Jake Arrieta and 20-year-old Chris Tillman ... and learned how to call games, which in college is handled by the coaching staffs.

 Q:  Harry from Tampa asks:
Had David Price not missed the first part of the season (and would have put up the same type of numbers as he did during his stay in Vero Beach), would he have made a stronger case for POY? Also, is it a sure thing he'll get the call once Durham's playoffs have concluded?
 A: 

John Manuel: Harry, David Price definitely was in the discussion anyway, and he would have been had he been, say, 15-1 instead of 12-1, or if he were 18-1 or whatever. It's not just wins, his peripherals are all strong, and unlike Wieters he's advanced to Triple-A. That said, Madison Bumgarner probably had the best year performance-wise of any pitcher in the minors, even if it was in Low A; he was just so dominant. He was going to get my first pitcher vote. Second, Price has just been OK in Triple-A, and Wieters never let up in dominating high A or Double-A. I don't know that it's a sure thing on Price's promotion; he'll pitch tomorrow night against Scranton in the Governor's Cup finals. The main thing is he can't hit, and the Rays aren't scoring. Pitching isn't the problem right now. He can still be called up and even playoff-eligible thanks to some roster maneuvering by the Rays, but they have to make the playoffs first, and to make the playoffs, they need to start hitting.

 Q:  Ian from San Francisco, CA asks:
Are you confident that MadBum can put up similiar stats in San Jose next year? How's his secondary stuff, in your opinion?
 A: 

Kary Booher: You're question is assuming the Giants do send Bumgarner to the Cal League. I can see a situation where they just jump him to Double-A and continue his development there. The key will be how well Bumgarner develops his secondary pitches. Keep in in mind that his dad quarantined his offspeed pitches as a kid, and that has led Bumgarner developing on a somewhat slower track. He'll need to tighten the slider. I saw him last month against Greensboro and he was dominate with his fastball but not the slider so much. But when he moves up to Double-A, hitters will narrow him down if the slider is as flat as I saw it. But he's still a teenager, and has much time to enhance the pitch.

 Q:  Greg from Rockville, MD asks:
With Matt being so tall, is there any indication as to how long he will remain at catcher? His bat seems to translate to first base if needed.
 A: 

John Manuel: Again, I'm not worried about that. I understand the data about it; I also believe Joe Mauer has debunked a lot of it. Not only is Mauer tall, but he also had knee surgery in his rookie year, and he's still a batting champion and Gold Glove-caliber defender. Players with this kind of athleticism and size didn't play catcher or didn't even try to catch a generation ago, not to mention 50 or 100 years ago. The fact there weren't any tall catcher 100 years ago or 50 years ago is frankly irrelevant; every scout and coach we've talked to about Wieters says the same things about his flexibility, soft hands, good footwork, etc. Of course there are no questions about his arm. But the tall catcher stuff is overdone, for me. You're comparing apples & oranges if you're comparing today's athletes and training to those of two or three generations ago, and in the last generation, there have been some better tall, big catchers, such as Sandy Alomar Jr., Mauer, Carlton Fisk and Gary Carter (6-2) . . . Wieters is bigger than those guys but he's pretty talented. I don't think his height stops him from being an excellent catcher.

 Q:  Dean from Madison asks:
Were Alderson and Parker in the top 10 for MLPOY?
 A: 

John Manuel: Tim Alderson was considered for his precocity, consistency and ability to keep the ball in the ballpark in the Cal League, where that's pretty difficult. Jarrod Parker wasn't as strong a candidate, he was a level lower, better K rate but otherwise not as strong a season as Alderson.

 Q:  Luke from Des Moines asks:
Wieters or Bruce? Chacin or Hanson? Snider or Alvarez?
 A: 

John Manuel: I'll go Wieters because of position scarcity over Bruce; Hanson over Chacin because they're similar in terms of ceiling for me and Hanson has reached Double-A; and Travis Snider, I'm assuming, over Pedro Alvarez. Snider's offensive upside is huge and both of those guys are there for their bat, and one's in the big leagues. The other's in limbo. Ceiling-wise, yes, Alvarez has a higher ceiling, especially if he can play 3B, but I don't think there will be a huge difference between their bats. I'd call the bats a push. Snider already being in the majors vs. the chance Alvarez will stay at third (50-50 shot he winds up at 1B) pushes me to Snider.

 Q:  Laura from DC asks:
How much of an improvement would Wieters be over Hernandez behind the plate today? What area of his catching skills are strengths and weaknesses? (And yes, I know he's not getting called up.)
 A: 

Kary Booher: In the long run, Wieters could be an improvement. But the fact that Hernandez has proved himself behind the plate in the majors and the fact that MacPhail is not bringing him up shows the comfort level the Orioles have with him. Wieters is still learning the nuances of calling a game. I'd be interested to see how he calls one in Triple-A with, say, a guy that spent time in the majors or, better yet, was just sent down. How does he shepherd that guy through six or seven innings? And how does he calm him down so that the pitcher isn't still upset about being demoted or, worse, questioning himself about his status while trying to pitch?

 Q:  Joe LeCates from Easton, MD asks:
Is there even a fair comp out there for Wieters? Not to be too melodramatic, but have we ever seen anyone quite like this with the defense/offense, switching-hitting, and the pure hit/power combo?
 A: 

John Manuel: Joe, he's fairly unique. I think his best-case scenario is that he's a fusion of his Ga. Tech predecessors in Varitek and Teixeira — hits like Teixeira (though probably not quite as well, not .300 with 40 homers, more .270-.280 with 25-30 homers) and leads and catches like Varitek. He'll probably lead a bit less just because Varitek is fairly unique in that regard, and he just throws a lot better. I bet he'd rather be more like Tek, who has two World Series rings, and have Teixeira's soon-to-be-burgeoning bank account.

 Q:  Todd from Chattanooga asks:
Can you see any of the '08 dratees making a push to win the award next year - Maybe Posey, Smoak, or Wallace...
 A: 

Kary Booher: Yes. Yes. And yes. Wallace will be interesting. He handled third base in D-I and in the low minors. But I'd like to get an evaluation on him next season when he is in the high minors and the game moves at a much faster speed. Kind of like I projected in the Wieters question on the difference between him and Ramon Hernandez, I think the question is how does Wallace defend the hot corner with much speedier runners typically from atop the order through cleanup? Does he rush his throws after knocking down a ball and trying to retire a speed burner?

 Q:  Ed from College Station, TX asks:
With prospects like Weiters, Tillman, Arrieta, Reimold, Matusz, Hernandez, etc., where can we expect to see the Orioles ranked this coming year? At least the minor league system appears to be improving.
 A: 

Kary Booher: I'd imagine we'll see the Orioles continue a nice uptick in the rankings, but not a considerable leap. The Orioles themselves are well aware that they still have many holes in their organization. Where they have better depth than a 18 months ago, the O's still don't have the depth to where they can begin to make those significant trades. Look back at MacPhail's time with the Cubs. They built the farm system over several years, sinking money as well into Latin America. Then when they were in the thick of the pennant race in 2003, they had the parts in the minor leagues to make some trades, and the Aramis Ramirez trade immediately comes to mind.

 Q:  Jeff from NPR FL asks:
How big an impact did he have on the Tillman and the rest of the Bowie pitching staff?
 A: 

Kary Booher: Consider what Tillman did down the stretch: He was 4-1, 1.80 with 51 strikeouts and 11 walks in 35 innings. That covered six starts, five that lasted six innings each. Tillman told me that it took the battery about two starts to get comfortable with each other, and the two were on the same page the rest of the season. The mark of Wieters, too, was that he managed the bullpen well, too. Something I didn't get to include in the story because of space was how he recongized that he couldn't force-feed a reliever to pitch exactly like the starter, that he had to let their pitches work. It wasn't lost on Don Werner, the roving catching instructor. That was something he raved about.

 Q:  Tommy from New York asks:
I know hyperbole can push the boundaries at times, but Matt Wieters is the best prospect I've ever seen play in person. To me, he combines the best of Chipper Jones and Joe Mauer. Am I going too far in my comparison(s)?
 A: 

John Manuel: Best prospect you've ever seen; that's neat to think about it that way. I've seen him in college, not yet as a pro. Both Kary Booher and I vote Mark Prior as one guy, as I saw Prior in college and Double-A, and Kary covered him with West Tenn in his pro debut in 2002. Kary also chips in with Alex Gordon and Jake Peavy as guys who stood out as minor leaguers when he covered them. B.J. Upton stands out for me as a prospect with easy opposite field power, and he was playing shortstop for Durham for two years, and I happened to see him play well at short. I thought he was as good as anyone I saw.

 Q:  Simon from Toronto asks:
How does Wieters compare to Mauer? Will he hit for a lot more power? And do you think will be the better defender?
 A: 

John Manuel: I don't think he has Mauer's feel for hitting, and while his arm is stronger, I doubt that he's as accurate as Mauer is. It sounds like Wieters is a quiet receiver who has shown the ability to handle quality stuff in Bowie; I'd still give the edge to Mauer. The separator is Wieters' power; Mauer's never hit for the power Wieters has shown, and he may not ever be a big power hitter, though I still believe he'll hit for more home runs three to five years from now.

 Q:  Joe LeCates from Easton, MD asks:
Who would round out your top five for Player of the Year?
 A: 

John Manuel: Joe, other finalists included Madison Bumgarner, Mike Stanton, Tommy Hanson (He's so hot right now), Derek Holland and Jhoulys Chacin. Other hitters such as Mat Gamel, Matt LaPorta and Jason Heyward either faded a bit or didn't have loud-enough numbers.

 Q:  John from Acworth, GA asks:
If Matt did not have his ability to hit or play catcher and was drafed instead as a pitcher, what would his tools grade out as and where might he have been drafted? How much does his defensive ability at catcher elevate his prospect status-compared to if he say played 1st base? Thanks
 A: 

John Manuel: He was a prospect as a pitcher, and pitched 41 innings as a freshman at Ga. Tech. In fact I remember seeing a Major League Scouting Bureau report that had a higher number on Wieters as a pitcher than as a hitter. So for some he was probably a first-rounder as a pitcher, he ran it up to 94 regularly and threw a decent breaking ball. Being a catcher vs. being a 1B is hard to put into words; it's just a huge, huge difference. Even as a 1B, though, he might have won minor league POY this year, his numbers were that good, he produced better than any other 1Bs that I can think of other than Kila Ka'aihue, and he's two years younger than Ka'aihue.

 Q:  Marc from Minneapolis asks:
In 5 years who would you rather have: Mauer, McCann, Martin or Wieters?
 A: 

Kary Booher: It's hard not to be on the Mauer bandwagon. He's a proven commodity and has steered that staff in Minnesota to the brink of the AL Central title even though the Twins traded Johan Santana. Look at the staff. Slowey, Blackburn, Perkins and Baker have combined for 40 wins this year, and in five years how many pennant chases are we going to be talking about that Mauer has been involved in? Nothing against Wieters, but it speaks volumes about a guy who has been in the baseball wars in September. If you have been a fan of the Tigers or Marlins in their recent World Series runs, you have to thank Pudge Rodriguez going through playoff battles in Texas in the 1990s for readying him for later on in his career.

 Q:  BL from Bozeman, MT asks:
How does Mike Moustakas profile defensively? Is there any internal talk that he might be able to handle catcher, or is that simply outside speculation?
 A: 

John Manuel: Bill, good to hear from you. Moustakas as a catcher was what some thought he *should* be after seeing him as an amateur, due to body type and arm strength. It sounds like his move to 3b has gone just fine. He turned in an awesome year in the Midwest League after that terrible start, and it sounds like he's got a real chance to move quickly. Wonder what the Royals will do with him and Alex Gordon; I'm guessing one of them ends up at first base or left field, and I'm guessing it's Moustakas, but I wouldn't be unhappy with either one.

 Q:  Dave from Massachusetts asks:
Would you consider Mike Piazza with better defense to be a fair estimation of Wieters ultimate upside? And would it make sense to move him to 1b in a few years to save his knees, should he prove to have enough bat to be a star at that position as well?
 A: 

John Manuel: I don't think it's fair to put that on him. Piazza hit .308 career, he hit .340 or better twice, then had nine seasons with 30 or more homers in his career. I just don't know that we can expect that out of Wieters. It's tempting to throw out some lofty comparisons, but expecting him to equal or surpass the best-hitting catcher ever, and throw in that he's a better defender, I guess I'm not quite ready to do that. I think it makes sense to play him at catcher until he's not a good defender at catcher, until he's below-average. The value of having an average or better defender at C coupled with above-average offensive production is just so huge — the Twins and Mauer are making that evident now.

 Q:  Matt from NY asks:
Was Wieters a top prospect coming out of high school?
 A: 

Kary Booher: Wieters was highly regarded coming out of high school in Goose Creek, S.C. But I'm told we didn't highlight him with a great deal of fanfare ahead of the 2004 draft simply because, barring a tetonic shift in thinking, Wieters was heading to Georgia Tech. But he was rated No. 32 on BA's draft board that year. As a high school senior, he hit .407 with seven home runs and 34 RBIs and ranks in Stratford High School's career top 10 in RBIs, hits, walks and total bases. Had his dad not played minor league baseball for the Braves and White Sox organizations, I wonder how hard Wieters would have been pressed to concentrate solely on quarterbacking the football team with hopes of landing an SEC or ACC scholarship. With that size of his (6-5, 235), could you imagine him under center at, say, Tennessee?

 Q:  James from Las Vegas asks:
I know he's doing it in Low-A and his ceiling is limited by his lack of power. But was Ben Revere almost hitting .400 in the MWL in the top 10?
 A: 

John Manuel: Not for me, not with 340 at-bats. In fact, he didn't even make our first two minor league all-star teams. Had there been a third team he'd have been on it.

 Q:  Colby from Forth Worth asks:
Hey Guys, How close was Neftali Feliz to making Team A for pitchers? As a 20 year old more than holding his own, including a 7IP 0runs 3hit 11K playoff game this past week, what are you expecting from him next year? thanks
 A: 

John Manuel: He made the second team; Derek Holland had a bit better year for me, though Feliz has the bigger arm and is the better prospect. It's close though. Feliz still has a ways to go to reach his ceiling yet he's dominating Double-A; it's pretty impressive. He's made huge leaps this year just commanding the fastball and becoming more efficient. His breaking ball needs refinement but I don't expect him to be eligible for this discussion next year; he'll have too much big league time. It's hard to see the Rangers having 5 better options for their big league rotation.

 Q:  Jean-Paul from Springfield asks:
What do you say to people who compare Wieters to Pablo Sandoval, and could you compare each of their abilities?
 A: 

John Manuel: They're not really comparable; I haven't talked to a manager or scout who considers Sandoval a big league starter as a catcher due to his defense. He's unconventional but he's just not in Wieters' league as a defender, particularly as a receiver and blocker. That said, Sandoval's bat is for real, he always has had a good line-drive swing, the power just came on the last two years, and he could wind up as the Giants' answer at first base, but I don't think he's a big league starter as a catcher.

 Q:  BL from Bozeman, MT asks:
Who do you guys have your eyes on as front-runners in next year's POY race, excluding this year's finalists?
 A: 

John Manuel: Mike Moustakas and Jason Heyward are in that mix for me; perhaps Lars Anderson if he doesn't push his way to the big leagues. You also should factor in some 2008 draftees such as Buster Posey, perhaps Brett Wallace because he can flat hit, and Wilmer Flores of the Mets is a nice dark-horse candidate, again because of the bat.

 Q:  Jay from Madison asks:
What does it mean to be player of the year? Is it the minor leaguer you think will have the best MLB career or the guy who put up the best numbers this past year? If the later, then some nonprospects would enter the discussion, no? Please help me understand. Much thanks
 A: 

John Manuel: As good a question as any for this to end on for me. We define Minor League Player of the Year as the best performance by a prospect. You've got to be a prospect first; Terry Tiffee gets jobbed here, I suppose, but he wasn't going to be a factor for us. You have to be a guy who profiles as a big league regular for a championship-caliber club. From that pool we're looking for the best performance, factoring in age, level of play, ballpark factors, etc., all the same stats people use to evaluate performance. Wieters satisfied every category. It was a pretty easy choice.

 Q:  Johnny Bench from Cooperstown NY asks:
Weiters was head and shoulders above the rest but after Weiters who would you list as the best long term catchers? Posey,Skipworth, Montero, Salome, Marson.
 A: 

Kary Booher: Thanks for joining us, Mr. Bench. Loved you and Sparky Anderson in that commercial where you two were waiters. Can't remember the brand name you were pitching, but it was amusing. May have to youtube that one. Anyway, baseball had a deep pool of catching prospects this year, several that weren't on your list. Among them were Rangers and former Longhorns catcher Taylor Teagarden and Cardinals catcher Bryan Anderson, who has hit ever since St. Louis drafted him in the fourth round in 2005. Long term? To stay as a catcher? I think Posey is at the top of that discussion for me, and a name that John Manuel throws out is Blue Jays prospect J.P. Arencibia. Posey has a lot of the same attributes as Wieters: athletic, threw 94 mph-plus off the mound and played all nine positions in a game this year. He could be like a Biggio, capable of catching but also second and maybe could kick the tires on playing the outfield even though it was a brief, failed experiment in Houston for Biggio.