All Day Minor League Chat

 Q:  Jeff Sullivan from Belchertown MA asks:
Did you see Cueto? Wow. I know he has electric stuff but what do you think his end of the season numbers will look like.

Ben Badler: Welcome everyone to Baseball America's all-day chat session. We have big plans for our prospect coverage this season, so stay tuned to see what we have in store for you guys. Bring on all questions prospect-related… we'll have various BA celebrities making appearances throughout the day to tackle your questions. Yes, I did see Cueto, and he was everything we were expecting and then some. Three plus pitches, clean arm action, premium command, athleticism, an ability to miss bats… he's the real deal. He might be a little sharper than most guys right now because he pitched in winter ball (and was under consideration for our Winter Player of the Year, which went to the Arizona's Emilio Bonifacio), but he should give the Reds tremendous value while he's under their control. As for his numbers this year, Cueto should be among the rookie leaders in strikeouts.

 Q:  James from North East, MD asks:
Can Billy Rowell bounce back this year?

Ben Badler: Yes, and I think he and Brandon Erbe could have big seasons with high Class A Frederick. Rowell's limited defensively, but I wouldn't get down on his numbers from last year; he didn't even turn 18 until September, and I'd say his performance within that context was pretty good, and he has hit and power tools to project for more offensive growth. Erbe struggled keeping runs off the board last year, but he was only 19 in High-A, he's got good size, the strikeouts were there last year, and he's got a mid-90s fastball and a slider that flashes plus.

 Q:  JAYPERS from IL asks:
When will Jarrod Parker be making his debut with South Bend? He didn't pitch last night and according to the roster, he's not scheduled to pitch tonight, either. Please tell me he's not injured.

Ben Badler: Parker should be in South Bend this year, but the Diamondbacks are being very careful managing his development. They're going to limit his innings this year, and they haven't let him throw his plus slider yet either. He hit 97 mph in a couple of spring games.

 Q:  Jim from Pere Lachaise, France asks:
Im wondering what your take is on Brignac. Jason Bartlet is now w/ the big club and he's arbitration elegible through 2012. Brignac is in AAA and didnt post impressive numbers during his stay there last year. Given these factors what's your ETA and is he is really an above avergae offensive SS?

Ben Badler: See, I don't think Brignac's statistics last year were bad at all. He was 21 in Double-A, but he drew walks and hit for some power. His average was only .260, but his hit tool is good enough for his batting average to improve year. And once his body matures, he's going to hit for more power. Barlett's a very good defender to have in Tampa and should help the Rays' run prevention, so the Rays can be patient with Brignac.

 Q:  Randy from ATL asks:
Have you heard any updates on Scott Elbert? Does he seem to be progressing ahead or behind schedule? Once he comes off the DL do you know where the Dodgers plan to assign him? Thank you...

Ben Badler: Elbert threw a bullpen session in spring training, but he's still going to need some more time before he's ready to pitch in a minor league game again. Shoulder injuries are tough. I was high on Elbert before his injury, but expectations guys coming back from surgeries having anything to with their labrums, no matter how talented they are, need to be tempered. The Dodgers aren't saying where he's going to start yet because they're just waiting to see how his rehab goes right now.

 Q:  Jeff Sullivan from Belchertown MA asks:
What team has the best pitching staff in all of minor league baseball?

Ben Badler: Yeah, Belchertown represent. I'll be rolling through there in a couple weeks on the way to my alma mater (which I'm sure is a little down today after last night's NIT Championship loss to Ohio State). The best rotation from a prospect standpoint is Stockton, the A's high-A affiliate. Brett Anderson, Fautino de los Santos, Trevor Cahill and Henry Rodriguez. That's just not fair.

 Q:  Ben from Leland Grove asks:
Over-Under 30 HR-100 RBI for Lars Anderson at Lancaster? Do you see him spending his entire season there?

Ben Badler: That won't happen, because if Anderson's hitting that well, he'll get promoted to Double-A. It's gonna be fun to see what Anderson can do in that ballpark, especially as he begins to tap into his power potential.

 Q:  James from North East, MD asks:
The O's seem to be rich with good young pitchers in the minors. Out of all of them, who do you think will make it and fulfill their potential? Erbe? Tillman? Arrieta? Beato? Someone I have not mentioned?

Ben Badler: I'm very excited about Tillman, who was unfortunately referred to in many media reports just as "an A-ball prospect" in the trade that sent Adam Jones to Baltimore and Erik Bedard to Seattle. Tillman's got a good fastball, plus curve, a clean delivery and a good strikeout rate in the Cal League despite being young for his age. Love that trade for the Orioles.

Ben Badler: By the way, typo above... Rowell turned 19 in September, not 18. Arg.

 Q:  Ben from Leland Grove asks:
How is David Price's recovery coming along? Any chance he could start in Vero Beach earlier than expected?

Ben Badler: He was throwing from short distance for a little bit on Wednesday. He should be back in another four to five weeks. He's already a very good pitcher... no need to rush him back before he's 100 percent.

 Q:  Jeff from Jerome. Idaho asks:
Any ideas as to where Juan Duran will begin and end the season this year? Will he get any time in Short-season summer league?

Ben Badler: He could see some time in the GCL this year (turns out there was even more confusion regarding his unusual signing, and that he's not restricted to Billings this year). He's got an elbow problem right now, so he can't throw much anyway. Whether he plays this year isn't that important though for his long-term projection.

 Q:  JAYPERS from IL asks:
Very impressive debut for Mr. Porcello. What will his timetable be this year?

Ben Badler: Wow, talk about impressive, how about that performance last night? It's hard to envision someone as young as Porcello continuing to have that kind of success all year in the FSL, but he's got three good pitches, a clean delivery, athleticism and command, so he's unique. If he keeps pitching like this, Double-A wouldn't be entirely out of the question, but let's wait till he puts up some more performances like last night before we put him there. Still, what a special talent.

 Q:  Adam from New York City asks:
Who will have the biggest breakout season from these names: Nick Weglarz, Reid Engel, Will Middlebrooks, Peter Bourjos, Jordan Zimmerman, John Tolisano?

Ben Badler: Weglarz, at least if we're talking about offensive breakouts.

 Q:  Jason from Charlotte asks:
Who is the Preseason favorite for Minor League Player of the Year ??

Ben Badler: In our issue of the magazine that hits news stands on April 7, we list the Top 10 POY candidates, along with a follow list of other players to watch. I'll give you a sneak peak and tell you guys that Clayton Kershaw was #1 and Travis Snider was #2. For bonus, if you're looking for a bit of a dark horse, I think Kasey Kiker is poised for a big year, although I'm not sure how quickly the Rangers would want to push him through the system.

 Q:  Jimbo Slice from PA asks:
In 5 years, the best 2007 pitcher drafted is: Porcello, Parker, Main, Aumont, Alderson, Bumgarner?

Ben Badler: Put Alderson ahead of Main, and I'm fine with that order.

 Q:  Brian from NC asks:
How far do you see Aaron Poreda going this year? Is there any chance of a late season call-up? He is a 3 year college player with plenty of bulk on him, its doubtfull he breaks down early.

Ben Badler: The White Sox could push him quickly given the command he showed last year in the Pioneer League and given that he's the top guy in a very thin system now that Fautino de los Santos and Gio Gonzalez are in Oakland. But first let's see if he can develop an above-average breaking ball, which isn't easy to do. And bulky guys can still break down too.

 Q:  Adam from NYC asks:
Just how much should we look into Jason Donald's nice spring training? Is he emerging as a legit prospect, or was it a case of playing over his potential?

Ben Badler: He's definitely gaining more notice, but unfortunately for Donald it's hard to see how he would potentially fit into the Phillies lineup ever with Chase Utley and Jimmy Rollins there. Donald's always been a bit old for his level, but he's got a quick, line-drive stroke and a good approach. This year should tell us more about whether he can be at least an average-hitting middle infielder, but there are a lot of questions about his ability to stick at shortstop.

 Q:  Robert from Los Angeles asks:
Speaking of Cueto, who's going to be better: Liriano when he gets back, or Cueto?

Ben Badler: This year? I'll take Cueto. And maybe even for the next few years, too. I'm big on Cueto, and I also think we're at the point where people talk about returning from TJ surgery as if the guy's returning from a year-long vacation in Aruba. It's not that easy, and Liriano's mechanics don't help him. But (hedging my bets) obviously the performance Liriano capable of putting forth is outstanding.

 Q:  Jay from Cali asks:
First of all, thanks for the chat! When do you think Evan Longoria will be called up to Tampa Bay for good? Few weeks or later?

Ben Badler: After about a month, as soon as the Rays have delayed his service clock enough to (wisely) keep him under their control for an extra year.

 Q:  bigpops65 from RHODE ISLAND asks:
Thoughts on Masterson and Bowden starting in AA Portland. I thought maybe one would be in AAA Pawtucket. Was it because of their limited innings above A Lancaster last year?

Ben Badler: There's no reason to promote a prospect to a level before he's ready for it, and that's the case with both these guys, particularly Bowden. Perhaps Masterson could handle Triple-A right now, but what's the harm in keeping him in Double-A? As lethal as his sinker is, his slider still needs some work (heard it was OK, but not great last night), so he can develop that in Portland to start the year.

 Q:  Ralph from Davis asks:
It seems like Trevor Cahill and James Simmons have been lost in the shuffle with the prospects brought in from the offseason trades. Are they legit prospects? How do they project?

Ben Badler: It's interesting, because when our 2008 Prospect Handbook went to press, Trevor Cahill was No. 2 in the system and James Simmons was No. 3. Then the A's cashed in Dan Haren and Nick Swisher for a variety of blue-chippers, so Cahill and Simmons have taken a back seat for now. But I'm very high on Cahill, who struck out more than a batter per innings last year as a 19-year-old in low A, showing good sink on his fastball and a 60 curve.

 Q:  Mike from Connecticut asks:
Are there any unfamiliar teenage prospects that are poised to break out this season?

Ben Badler: This doesn't quite count because he just turned 20 in January, but Rockies righthander Jhoulys Chacin. I ranked him among the top five pitching prospects in the PL last season behind guys like Jordan Walden and Aaron Poreda, and even then I think I may have sold him short. Fastball velocity is just OK, but the sink on the pitch is very good, with plus potential in his breaking stuff and good athleticism.

Ben Badler: Thanks guys, it's been great. But it's off to work the phones now to get more info on the first day of the minor league season. Check back every day on because we're going to have tons of good prospects info on the site this year as always. There's a few hundred questions in the queue here... awesome to see how excited everyone is for the start of prospect season.

Moderator: Thanks for getting us started, Ben.

 Q:  Jeff Sullivan from Belchertown MA asks:
Cameron Maybin will be in the bigs by....

Matt Eddy: You can't keep a good prospect down. Cody Ross can capably play center field for the first few months, but since Maybin is already on the 40-man, he'll probably be up at or near the all-star break. Maybin cracked a homer (and whiffed twice) in his Marlins Double-A debut

 Q:  Marty from Wilmington, DE asks:
Will Jason Neighborgall ever get it together and reach the bigs?

Matt Eddy: Signs point to no. Neighborgall retired this spring.

 Q:  Kevin from Tampa asks:
Do you see Brandon Jones being a factor in ATL this year? I love his approach and athleticism, but it seems as if some people are very high on him, and some are kind of mixed. What are your feelings about him and his future?

Matt Eddy: You're right. Jones does produce divergent opinion. Those who saw him in the International League last year saw him as a high-average, doubles-hitting left fielder down the line — a solid regular but not a star. Jones has a nice line-drive stroke and he's not afraid to go with the pitch, making him more of a top-of-the-order guy than a middle guy

 Q:  John from Tokea asks:
Where is Wade Davis starting and how long until he makes the majors?

Matt Eddy: Wade Davis starts in Double-A, but with the Rays ostensibly gunning for a winning record this year, he could be up near the half-way point, especially if some of the younger starters falter, i.e. Jason Hammel, Edwin Jackson, Andy Sonnanstine, J.P. Howell. Davis is the type who could surprise. He's a big, physical righty with a plus fastball and breaking ball.

 Q:  Jeff from Jerome, Idaho asks:
Thanks for the chat! Do you know what Ian Stewart's position will be in Colorado Springs this year? Will it be 3B everyday, or will he play any at 2B to get to Colorado faster?

Matt Eddy: Stewart will continue to develop as a third baseman. He resisted a chance to play second base this spring, so that he could keep focusing on hitting for power and on improving his hot-corner defense. And that's one of the more underrated aspects of Stewart — he's gotten much better defensively since his offensive breakout in 2004 with Asheville. The Rockies still have faith in Stewart becoming their everyday third baseman, and you should, too.

Matt Eddy: Note: Stewart doubled off Randy Johnson last night and also hit a home run.

 Q:  Big Show from IL asks:
Where is Travis Snider opening the season. I heard AA but I did not see him in the box.

Matt Eddy: Snider is opening in high Class A. The Blue Jays toyed with the idea of jumping Snider straight to Double-A — especially after he tore up the AFL — but opted to keep him in the more favorable weather of the FSL. If he hits, he'll be a Fisher Cat soon enough.

 Q:  Jeremy from Washington State asks:
Thoughts on Matt Mangini? Is he really the heir-apparent to Adrian Beltre in Seattle? He looked solid in Everett last year but once sent to High Desert, it wasn't pretty...and then his 0-4 with 2 K's performance last night. Can he be a .280-20-80 guy (or better) in the majors in a couple years?

Matt Eddy: Mangini could be the first one to the big leagues, but keep in mind the Mariners have a lot of third-base options to sift through in the coming years, including Matt Tuiasosopo, who's starting in Triple-A. Many of their present shortstops are physically mature, too, meaning a move to third may be in the words. Carlos Triunfel, Mario Martinez and Jharmidy DeJesus all fit this bill. And yes, Mangini may be capable of a .280 season with 15 home runs — in his best years — but his defense at third will not make M's fans forget Adrian Beltre.

 Q:  Kevin from Bakersfield, CA asks:
Ben, I'd like your thoughts on yesterday's debuts of Homer Bailey and Joe Savery. Thanks.

Matt Eddy: Speaking for Bailey, only, his first Triple-A outing was very, very encouraging, coming as it did on the heels of a rough spring. Check out the Triple-A roundup for the details . . . ah, who am I kidding? . . . I'll give you details. Bailey surrendered only a wind-blow homer to Adam Lind yesterday's game, and while he struck out just two batters, he threw 53 of his 82 pitches for strikes.

 Q:  Zach from Washington, DC asks:
The Mets gave up a lot of talent in the Santana deal (Gomez, Guerra, Humber, Mulvey). Who (besides Fernando Martinez) is going to get all of the attention now that the top-level guys are in Minnesota? Niese? Parnell? Rustich?

Matt Eddy: Because they're in Double-A and because they hung around big league camp most of the spring, I think Jon Niese and Robert Parnell are your answers. Eddie Kunz could also get an early look if a big league reliever gets hurt. Also, Nathan Vineyard and Scott Moviel broke camp with low Class A, so they may generate buzz if they get off to fast starts. Ruben Tejada, an 18-year-old shortstop starts in high Class A, and he too was on the periphery at Mets' big league camp. It's a tough league in which to hit, the FSL, so it may take him time to get acclimated. Digging deeper still, Lucas Duda and Danny Murphy are your top bats behind Fernando Martinez, but that really says more about the Mets' minor league depth.

Matt Eddy: And yes, losing Gomez and Mulvey does weaken the Mets' depth this season. Those guys don't get a lot of buzz, but they're going to help the Twins win games this year.

 Q:  Fred from Irvine, CA asks:
Fred from Irvine, CA asks: Where is Matt Bush starting this year? Still pitching? What are his chances to make it to the show?

Matt Eddy: Bush had Tommy John surgery last summer and is currently on the disabled list for high Class A Lake Elsinore. His batting days are behind him; he's a power reliever all the way. As to his chances of making the majors, it's tough to say. But seeing as he was the first overall pick in 2004, he'll be given his fair share of opportunities.

 Q:  Ben from San Diego asks:
A name that seems to be popping up on the radar for the Padres is 2B/3B Rayner Contreras. What do you see from him this year and what position does he profile best at?

Matt Eddy: Contreras profiles best offensively at second base, but defensively he's more of a third baseman. His tools are a bit at odds with his ceiling, because he has speed and solid gap power, but he lacks classic infield actions. He bats righthanded, too, and most teams have plenty of options among righthanded backup infielders. Contreras is out with injury at the moment and has not yet been assigned to a minor league roster.

 Q:  Tony from Tacoma asks:
Ben, Triunfel already made an error last night. Are they committed to staying with him at SS. It's also encouraging that he ripped a double in the game, hopefully the power is emerging.

Matt Eddy: Well, it's certainly not a bad sign. Triunfel can get the bat on the ball and he gets such good backspin that the power will come. Seattle is committed to letting Triunfel play his way off shortstop, but they expect him to switch to third or maybe even second at the major league level.

 Q:  Jose from Florida asks:
You guys dont mention Wladimir Balentien much but he seems to have turned a corner in his pitch selection and has what seems to be decent defense. What type of player can we expect him to be in the majors?

Matt Eddy: Look for Balentien to be an Austin Kearns type player — if he improves his routes in right field. He's got an arm to match Kearns and good control of the strike zone, and a slightly elevated K rate.

Matt Eddy: In our defense, we ranked Balentien in the PCL Top 20 last year (and have ranked him in just about every league he's been in) and placed him No. 5 on our Mariners' list.

Moderator: And Matt Eddy hands the baton to JJ Cooper on the back stretch.

 Q:  Anton from The Bronx asks:
You say Lars Anderson ... I say Jesus Montero. What expectations do you hold for Montero? The catching dilemma aside, I think his bat will speak to a tune of a .475 slugging.

J.J. Cooper: It's hard not to mention the catching quandry at the start, because that will go a long ways toward determing Montero's ultimate ceiling. If he can stick at catcher, you're talking about a potentially elite player. The hitting requirements to be elite go up if he puts away the chest protector. That said, Montero's power is legit. A .475 slugging percentage for a 19-year-old in the Sally League would be a very solid season.

 Q:  jason from new york asks:
Does LaPorta or travis snider get a cup of coffee with the big club this year?

J.J. Cooper: Yes to both, although LaPorta is much more of a sure thing to get some big league time. And if injuries crop up, I could see LaPorta giving the Brewers some useful at-bats late in the season.

 Q:  Jason from Macon GA asks:
Thanks for helping pass the day guys! What are your thoughts on Jordan Schafer this year? I see he's at AA, but do you suspect he will move up to AAA by the summer and be the first call-up thereafter to the big club, if there's an injury in the OF? Any stat line projections (including Sb's)?

J.J. Cooper: The Braves loved what Schafer did in spring training. They're trying to not rush him, but yes, I'd expect that he'll be in Triple-A at some point this year. Whether he gets promoted to the big leagues will depend in large part on how Mark Kotsay and Gregor Blanco handle the job in the big leagues. If Mark Kotsay has a dead-cat bounce than the Braves can be patient with Schafer. If not, the Braves know Schafer can handle the job defensively, it will all come down to how quickly his bat shows that it's big league ready.

 Q:  Joe from Easton, MD asks:
Ben, thanks for doing the chat. Just for fun give us a prediction: 2008 BA Minor League Player of the Year is....

J.J. Cooper: My early, early prediction is Clayton Kershaw, but then he probably has to stay in the minors until early August at least to win the award.

 Q:  Joe from Mound MN asks:
Does Clayton Kershaw make his MLB debut this year? If yes, is it before the September call ups?

J.J. Cooper: To follow up the last question, there were arguments being made for keeping Kershaw with the big league club coming out of spring training. You've got to be careful with a talent like Kershaw's, but yeah, with his stuff it's hard not to see him helping the big league club at some point late this year. My wild guess ETA would be mid-August.

 Q:  Jimmy from San Diego, CA asks:
Not sure how or why Josh Geer is the Padres #27 prospect. Watched him on TV last night and he was unbelievable. Threw all his pitches for strikes and not 1 ball was hit hard off him. I know he's not overpowering, but neither was Greg Maddux in his prime. Do you see Geer in the big leagues soon?

J.J. Cooper: Our first Greg Maddux comp of the day. Sure to be followed by a Tom Glavine comp at some point as well. It's true that Greg Maddux had outstanding success without a blazing fastball. It's also true that since than, roughly 3,000 minor league finesse righthanders have been compared to Maddux, and we've yet to see any of them equal Maddux' big league success. Geer had a very nice Opening Day start for Portland, and his ability to throw strikes will likely give him a chance at the big leagues at some point. That said, unless he develops a better breaking pitch to got with his fastball/changeup combo it's hard to see him being better than a middle reliever. The list of successful soft-tossing fastball/changeup righthanders in the big leagues as starting pitchers is extremely short.

 Q:  BL from Bozeman asks:
Analysts seem to dismiss Chris Lubanski's prospect status, with a good start in Omaha at 23 isn't it possible that he becomes a promising young player in KC's so-called youth movement?

J.J. Cooper: I've always found Lubanski fascinating because he's completely different than the player he was supposed to be coming out of high school. In high school he was a blazer who was a defense/speed guy with enough bat. Now as a pro, he's much more of a smooth-swinging guy with average speed and some power. He probably would have been better served keeping the speed. He's now really a left fielder who can't play center field, which means he needs to show vastly improved power to fit the profile.

 Q:  Jay from SF, CA asks:
Nick Blackburn sure looked good this last week. Is he likely to stick with the Twins once Liriano returns or is he the one destined to return to Rochester? If Blackburn doesn't go to AAA, who do the Twins send down to make room for Liriano (I'll admit, this question has some significant fantasy-related undertones to it!)?

J.J. Cooper: John Manuel obviously went out on a limb by picking Nick Blackburn No. 1 in the Twins system, but Blackburn lived up to the scouting reports Manuel collected on him last year. There's no guarantee that Liriano won't need more than two starts to work his way back to game speed, so there's a chance Blackburn could get another 2-3 starts before the Twins need to make a decision.

 Q:  Elliot Legow from Youngstown OH asks:
Kelvin de la Cruz got my attention last year in Rookie ball and opened the year at Low A Lake County with shutout performance. A tall lanky lefty who apparently has a great curveball. He didn't make the Prospect Book but does BA see a chance for a breakout?

J.J. Cooper: Definitely. He's shown added velocity as he's added weight to his 6-foot-5 frame. We're putting calls out to get some updated reports on him, but a 6-foot-5 lefty with a fastball and a breaking ball will likely climb the prospect lists.

 Q:  John from New York City asks:
What happened to Mark Melancon last night? I heard he came into the Tampa game but did not throw a pitch? Did he get injured during warmup? Hopefully its not an injury.

J.J. Cooper: We'll have a blog post about this later, but apparently it was a lineup mixup which meant he couldn't pitch. The main thing is that Melancon is healthy, so Yankees fans can breath easy.

 Q:  Joe from Easton, MD asks:
Any word on why Josh Vitters is in extended spring training and not yet assigned? It's early in his career, but given his struggles last year and now this, any reason for concern?

J.J. Cooper: The official word from the Cubs is that they have a glut of third basemen. I believe the official word when Mark Pawelek didn't break camp with a full season club a couple of years ago was that there was a glut of pitching and he needed to work on his conditioning. Two years later Pawelek still hasn't stuck in full season ball. Yes, it is a concern. It's definitely not time to start panicking about Vitters. He was a pretty consensus top talent for last year's draft, and he should get things figured out. But not making it to Peoria to start the season is a disappointment.

 Q:  Bobo from DC asks:
Juan Francisco of the Reds: possible solid-hitting third baseman in the majors, or does his defense slate him for first base or the outfield? And who do you prefer as a future major league starting pitcher: David Purcey, Sean Marshall, Jon Niese, or Virgil Vasquez?

J.J. Cooper: I'd be surprised to see Francisco stick at third base. I think he'll grow into a power hitting first baseman/corner outfielder. He will have the power to make that move, the question is just the strikeouts. Of the group of pitchers, I'm going to go with Marshall because he already is an established big league starter.

 Q:  Jason from Salem, OR asks:
Why does there seem to be such a wide discrepancy in opinions of Jake McGee? I don't think anyone doubts he's a top LHP, but it seems some think he's more of a 2 pitch power pitcher that will land in the backend of a bullpen while some seem to think he's a potential front-of-the-rotation guy. What gives?

J.J. Cooper: Actually there's no contradiction in your statement. The worst case scenario for McGee seems to be that he'll be a power back of the bullpen guy. But that's only if he can't succeed as a starter. There's some question about his secondary stuff, but we're talking about a guy who won't turn 22 until August. If he refines his secondary stuff just a little bit you're talking about a No. 2 starter, which is more valuable than a closer. So even with the pitching depth the Rays have, it makes sense to stick with him as a starter for now.

 Q:  Jason from Charlotte asks:
Do you think Rohrbough can continue the success he built last year ?

J.J. Cooper: I don't think he'll keep his ERA under 1.25 all year like he did last year, but yes, the stuff is legit, especially the curveball so he should succeed in Rome.

 Q:  Jaybud from Salem, OR asks:
Look into your crystal ball . . . what happens with Brandon Wood? AAAA All-Star or Big League regular that's able to bop out 25-30 HR annually? If the answer is that he's a Big League regular, will it be with the Angels? When?

J.J. Cooper: Given 500 at-bats, there's little doubt that Wood could hit 25-30 home runs, but he has to prove he won't strike out 220 times to hit those 25 home runs. The bad news for Wood is that the Angels are always in the thick of the pennant race, so they don't have a month to let him get settled into the big leagues. As we've described before, Wood has a swing that isn't suited for sitting on the bench. He needs to play everyday to keep his swing in tune. The Angels haven't had the luxury of promising him 50 straight at-bats in the big leagues whether he hits .111 or .330. I still would expect Wood will be a solid big league regular, but the strikeouts will always be a problem as well.

Moderator: Josh Leventhal stepping in here for a few minutes. Thought I'd go ahead and answer some questions about the hottest team in baseball: The Royals.

 Q:  BL from Bozeman asks:
That's a pretty good rotation at NW Arkansas, no? Could you please handicap the prospectdom of Cortes, Pimentel, Rosa and Hardy.

Josh Leventhal: That's certainly the most prospect-laden team in the Royals system — and a nice way for Northwest Arkansas to debut. I'm interested to see how Hardy fares against Texas League hitters. You have to expect Cortes to keep improving and perhaps reach Omaha toward the end of the season. This rotation—in addition to a lineup with Duarte and Lisson at the top—is certainly more intriguing than the Omaha. Besides Hochevar, the O-Royals are throwing out the likes of Tyler Lumsden (who desperately needs to bounce back), Kyle Davies, with Neal Musser in the bullpen (not sure what he has left to prove in Triple-A. Thought maybe he could steal a spot in the big league bullpen from Brett Tomko).

 Q:  Ace from Detroit, MI asks:
Dan from Madison, Indiana asks: Who will make the biggest impact this year and who will be the first to be called up by the Royals: Luke Hochevar, Kyle Davies, Tyler Lumsden, Daniel Cortes, someone else?

Josh Leventhal: I think Hochevar or Musser will be the first called up to fill a spot in the bullpen. Jim Callis predicted that Jeff Bianchi will be the biggest riser in our Organization Talent Rankings. That of course depends on him staying healthy. Moustakas will be interesting to watching in low Class A Burlington, and I think Lisson could have a big year in NW Arkansas if he takes a more disciplined approach at the plate. Joe Dickerson has had three solid seasons going level-to-level, and begins this year in Wilmington.

 Q:  Jeff from Los Altos, CA asks:
I was not able to locate Chris Marrero on any of the rosters. Whats his status?

Moderator: He's starting in Wilmington this year.

Moderator: Like the fat kid at back of the tug-of-war rope, here's John Manuel . . .

 Q:  Tommy from KY asks:
Last year, Ryan Braun was the big bat that came out of the minors and put up some huge stats. Who do you see being that bat this year? Could it be future teammate Matt LaPorta, some powerhouse young guy like Jason Heyward or someone not on the radar?

John Manuel: Tommy! Interesting question. LaPorta just keeps hitting, doesn't he? He didn't as a junior at Florida, but sometimes I think we lose sight of all the injuries he had after his killer sophomore year, when he led the nation in home runs, and obviously the Brewers didn't. Incidentally, the Brewers lost the area scout who worked on LaPorta moving to the outfield, Charlie Aliano, now a crosschecker with the Cubs; he worked for Tim Wilken with the Jays and now they're reunited, nice pickup for the Cubs. Anyway, LaPorta's a good pick for this, and I think Longoria is another. A year ago I might have said Brandon Wood; now I'm not so sure. Not sure that Jeff Clement should be a sleeper, but I'm confident he'll hit for power when called to the majors, and his lefty power fits the Mariners' needs perfectly.

 Q:  Merkado from Times Square asks:
We know that the Rays will be bringing up Longoria in a month, but what about the Cardinals bringing up Rasmus? They currently have Ankiel in CF, which is working so far, but Rasmus would be a much better option. From the reports I read, it was the same situation as Longoria regarding service time. Should we expect to see Rasmus up within a month and manning CF for the Cardinals? How would that shake up their OF with Ankiel, Barton, Duncan, and Schumaker?

John Manuel: Definitely a Rasmus fan, and to me Schumaker is the guy he could push aside. Barton fits in well for that team as a guy athletic enough to play all three OF spots, plus he's a RH bat with a lot of lefty hitters. I think Rasmus is on the Longoria plan, the Cardinals are doing all they can to keep him on the farm, but he's the next great Cardinal, and I think it will happen sooner than later for him.

 Q:  Jerred Gracey from York, Pa asks:
Is this the year we see the real Mark mccormick or have we already seen it?

John Manuel: Our last reports on him were positive, but he's always been more thrower than pitcher, and he needed the development time that he's lost. For me, he winds up a power reliever, he's been passed by the likes of Clay Mortensen and Mitch Boggs and Adam Ottavino in that system.

 Q:  Chris from Pittsburgh asks:
From a prospect standpoint, is there any point in watching any team in the Pirate system other than Indianapolis and their short-season teams? Who in AA, hi-A, or low-A might be worth noticing?

John Manuel: Just an aside, great questions today people, just a lot of good stuff to answer. Thanks.

John Manuel: I can see why you're pessimistic. Looking over the Altoona roster, I almost think, "Move along, nothing to see here." You have some decent guys like Shelby Ford, who can hit, and OFs Brad Corley and Anthony Webser have tools, but hat's an old, old roster—Pedro Powell, Ford and Kevin Roberts are among the youngest players and they are all 23. No 22 year olds on the Curve, amazing, no one truly young or even age-appropriate for the level. Lynchburg at least has LHPs Tony Watson and last year's first-round pick, Daniel Moskos, plsu infielders Brian Friday and Eddie Prasch, a late bloomer who was touted as a big-time hitter out of high school. Prasch is my Pirates sleeper. Hickory, my old stomping grounds, gives you Duke Welker and another surprisinly old roster. Hopefully for the Pirates, there are some younger breakout players there that you and I don't know about.

 Q:  Cashman from Bronx, NY asks:
Will we be able to see Juan Miranda get a call-up this year for the Yanks? He seemed to do well this spring in terms of impressing the club, but the addition of veterans made it hard for him to make the roster. What type of projection does he have in the majors, and does he fit with the Yankees? Trade bait?

John Manuel: Cash — can I call you Cash? — I'm not sure why people are all excited about Juan Miranda. The Yanks have better options, and Miranda is a platoon guy at best. He can hit, the power is legitimate, but he's not a guy to get excited about for me, not a difference-maker. I do think a Miranda-Shelley Duncan platoon could be quite productive offensively, and pretty rough defensively.

John Manuel: Yankee update: Tampa Yanks officials are now confirming what we've been told earlier that essentially there was some kind of lineup snafu with Mark Melancon, rather than an injury.

 Q:  Burt from Jupiter asks:
I watched Tyler Herron last night in the Cardinals High A opener. His command is outstanding. What do you think of the Cardinals using the tandem starting system in High A. Are they over estimating their amount of talent in the system? Thanks

John Manuel: I used to be off the Tyler Herron bandwagon, and I'm not 100 percent back on; we had a report that his velocity was pretty fair this spring, upper 80s, but if he is more average than fringe-average, he has enough feel to make it work. Not an elite guy, but a guy. I am not a huge tandem starter fan, though I see merit in it at lower levels. I wonder if it would work to use it early in a season to see who the real prospects are, then give the guys with more upside more innings as the year goes on. I think the Cardinals have more talent than I've seen in their system this decade, honestly; even their Memphis roster has prospects, and that hasn't happened in years.

 Q:  Morgan Whitebread from Easton, PA asks:
Where is Cole Rohrbough? I do not see him on any Minor League rosters for the Braves. Is he injured?

John Manuel: He's on the Rome DL to start the season. Our latest info is that he had some shoulder soreness but it's supposedly minor and he'll be ready sooner than later. He's a great example of how the Braves have restocked their system even after the big Teixeira trade.

 Q:  Stephen from Iraq asks:
Can Humberto Sanchez make an impact for the Yanks this year? I know he was ranked 58th in the 2007 top prospects list before TJ surgery, but I had heard he was close to MLB ready before he went down. Will he be a part of the rotation in 09? Whats the scouting report on him. Thanks. You guys rock.

John Manuel: Let's go Lightning Round — I will do my best to have short answers. And thanks for serving, Stephen.

John Manuel: It sounds like the Yanks are thinking bullpen for Sanchez, short-term for sure and perhaps long-term. He's never stayed healthy for more than 130 IP in a season so that makes sense. He has power stuff for sure but is a big-bodied guy who has a hard time staying on the mound. At his best, he's mid-90s with power breaking stuff and a feel for the strike zone.

 Q:  Dan from Dallas asks:
What do you think of Gerardo Parra? He hit the ball well in Spring Training and hit a HR last night. Will the Cal League help him have a big breakout?

John Manuel: Solid-average tools with a plus hit tool, best tool to have, and enough athletic ability and arm to go to any spot in the OF. I could see a big Cal League year but that's immaterial; long-term, he's more of a solid, everyday regular than a star, but he's the best hitting prospect left in that system.

 Q:  Steve from Livermore asks:
Adam Bostick looked great for three innings in New Orleans last night (6 K's, 0 R's), then sturggled a bit. Can we expect him to build up arm strength and be a not-horrible option as an emergency 5th starter for the Mets this year, or is this is MO? Are we maybe just looking at a power lefty out of the pen? He finished last year strong as well, right?

John Manuel: I think he can be a fill-in; when he's right, he's got an average fastball, pretty good breaker, can get strikeouts, but his control comes and goes a lot. I don't know that he has enough power to be a power reliever; I see him more as a back-end rotation guy, but a good bet to get a shot filling in.

 Q:  Walt from Templeton asks:
Follow-up on the Jason Donald question, does Adrian Cardenas have the bat to move to 3B or the OF? Or will he also languish behind Utley & Rollins? thanks

John Manuel: He should, three hits last night on Opening Day, and the guy's a natural hitter, more hitter than athlete, actually.

 Q:  Aaron from Wilmington, DE asks:
What ever became of Henry Sanchez? If I recall he was drafted by the Twins out of high school. Amazing power. How is his minor league career going? Also, what about Ryan Harvey for the Cubs? Is the major leagues still in his future, or are there just too many strikeouts? How about Brian Doipirak too? Did he just have that one monster year a few years ago and flame out or is there still any hope for him?

John Manuel: The Twins haven't given up on Sanchez yet because he hasn't had a full, healthy season yet. He's got a lot in common with Dopirak, who was released by the Cubs and picked up by the Jays — both are righthanded-hitting 1Bs with power as their lone plus tool. Just not an ideal profile, and they have to make consistent contact to let their power come to play. Harvey also has had health issues and contact issues, but unlike the other two, he's got other tools and athleticism.

 Q:  Brian from Idaho asks:
Who do you see leading the minors in home runs?

John Manuel: Some educated guesses included Lars Anderson if he stays in Lancaster; Carlos Peguero of High Desert, who has sick power and is playing in High Desert; and Joe Mather, Cardinals, a veteran who had a big year last year and is at Memphis (PCL) this year. My wild guess is John-Ford Griffin, a minor-league slugger playing in Las Vegas, no way that joker gets called up with the Dodgers' depth.

 Q:  Matt C from It Snowed Yesterday, IA asks:
will i see jeff samardzija (i didn't look it up) or tyler colvin play for the i-cubs this year?

John Manuel: I'm guessing no on either one, they need development time, the Cubs are trying to win now . . . don't see a rapid ascent for either.

 Q:  cjb from madison, wi asks:
is this a make or break year for greg golson? do you think everything comes together for him at the plate and what kind of upside does he have?

John Manuel: I suppose it could be; I believe in the guy's tools and intelligence, he's a thoughtful kid, almost too much so for his own good. Upside comp I got a couple of years ago and liked was Ron Gant, there's some resemblance in the tools and upside.

 Q:  Ryan from NY asks:
Trevor Reckling - thoughts?

John Manuel: Big curveball, part of a very young, exciting Cedar Rapids pitching staff — Jordan Walden, Mason Tobin, Robert Fish, Mike Davitt, Reckling, Mike Anton . . . Wow, that's a nice pitching staff, with a talented catcher to handle it in teen Anel de los Santos..

 Q:  Javier from Miami asks:
When will Gaby hernandez will be in the Marlins rotation??

John Manuel: Maybe soon with all their injuries, but Gaby has to pitch a lot better than he did late last season. If he can handle pitching in Albuquerque, he'll be fine, but that's hard to handle.

 Q:  Mike R from Lockport, New York asks:
What do you make of Edwin Jackson at this point ? How would rate him with the other Ray's righties, Davis, etc ?

John Manuel: Makes sense to keep giving him chances because the arm and athleticism are so special; also, why rush Davis? His stock was higher in 2003-2004 than any current Rays' pitcher's stock, other than Price. That's his upside — elite, elite guy. Just a lot less likely that he becomes that now because the feel for pitching hasn't evinced itself. Most likely better suited in relief now.

 Q:  Kyle from VA asks:
Any player in the yanks system to look out for? big breakout season? Rising up the charts?

John Manuel: They love Abe Almonte, cf, Charleston — roster has him listed at 5-foot-9, 205, after listing him at 5-9, 170 last year. If that's correct then that's troublesome, but the Yanks minor league evaluator I talked to the other day said, "Wow, plus plus speed, nice arm, some power, tough competitor, very exciting kid to watch." He made no mention of the body, so maybe that's a typo. Another candidate is Ivan Nova, scouts love the stuff, but the Yanks want to see better performance this year.

 Q:  Chip...oooh wait, call me Skip from FL asks:
You hear a lot about young pitchers having a brash attitude. In the late 90's, there were reports on tis of Seattle's Ryan Anderson. Most recently, the knock is on Blake Beavan. Yet a recent poll claimed Bob Gibson as the most dominating pitcher of all-time. It's difficult to find any pitcher in baseball history with the brashness od Bob Gibson. So why is this considered a bad thing?

John Manuel: Gibson was good for reasons other than brashness — he was a Harlem Globetrotter he was so athletic, and probably a good bit more mature at the same age as this duo. Josh Beckett on the other hand had this kind of brashness (still does), plus the stuff to back it up. I don't think Beavan has Gibson or Beckett-type stuff, do you?

 Q:  Tom from South Carolina asks:
What are the chances of Cale Iorg developing into a .290 15-20 hr per season in the big leagues?

John Manuel: 37.3 . . . Better answer, small, I don't think he'll hit for that kind of average, he's a free swinger and more of a .260-.270 hitter if that. I'm not that bullish on any of the Astros prospects — I know, I'm way out on a limb there.

 Q:  Aarne from Midland asks:
What position will Travis Snider play when he makes it up to Toronto(LF,1B,DH)? Who will get the boot to open up a spot for him?

John Manuel: I'll say LF for a few years before DH, and Big Frank is off the books soon, so first Frank Thomas and then Matt Stairs make way, if all goes according to plan.

 Q:  Shoshana from Chapel Hill asks:
A few O's questions (because really the current season isn't much to look forward to): Which O's pitching prospect is most likely to reach their potential/become a decent major league starter Erbe, Tillman, Penn, Olson, someone I'm not thinking of? Also what chance is there that Rowell and Snyder become good major league players? and play anything other then first base? Weiters and Reimold will be in the Major Leagues....?

John Manuel: First part: Tillman stands out from those guys, he's failed less and he's probably got the best combo of stuff-athletic ability-health of that group. I've never been sure what derailed Hayden Penn. Second: Not bullish on Rowell, Snyder could be OK, he really hit last year, but we'd all feel better if he could play 3b. We'll talk to some scouts who see them together at Frederick soon and see what they think. Third: Wieters should be up next year, but I see Reimold there this year. He could fit in long-term in LF as a nice power compliment to Adam Jones and Nick Markakis as a good, young outfield, the core of a rebuilt team.

 Q:  Steve from Kentucky asks:
Phillies prospect Michael Taylor is one guy I like, where do you see him within the next 2 or 3 years? Can he fit in the Phillies plans?

John Manuel: Great body, looks the part, made improvement in his junior season at Stanford but is still searching for way to get his tools to play. He's got the Stanford inside-out approach that scouts don't care for. I like him better than most, so I can see him as a future LF, but most scouts I've talked see him as an org player because of the hit tool.

 Q:  Jake from Mass. asks:
Give us a Braves sleeper to look for in A-ball. Thanks for the chat!

John Manuel: You're welcome. Tyler Flowers had a huge spring and impressed Bobby Cox, he's got power to spare, and if he can catch, he's a breakout guy. Hard to call their low A pitchers "sleepers" but let's see how Erik Cordier pitches coming back from TJ once he gets off the DL. That's not a sleeper but one I'm interested to see. Only four pitchers on the Rome staff 22 or older, very interesting staff.

 Q:  Kevin from Boston, MA asks:
How well do you see Aaron Bates doing in AA this year? He's got to be better than that .198 avg and .348 obp in his stint last year, right?

John Manuel: Few more for me before I pass the mic . . . Bates is a really good hitter; he has a chance to be a Youkilis or Ryan Garko kind of hitter, a .290 or so hitter who draws some walks and hits for average power as a 1B. That's his upside for me. I expect him to bounce back this season from that rough finish.

 Q:  Toby from St. Paul asks:
Matt, I've read a lot about this Deolis Guerra kid. Are you high on him? What makes him special or just average in your opinion? Any good comparison you like, or have heard?

John Manuel: We're high on him — he's just 18, he throws 96 mph and has a very good changeup. He's got feel for pitching at a tender age. Question remains the breaking ball but it sounds like it's making progress. He's for sure the Twins' top prospect though Nick Blackburn (about eight years older!) had a great start the other night, which was nice to see.

 Q:  Justin from Georgia asks:
With P.J. Phillips in the Cal League this year, do you expect him to put up a 20 HR season, and live up to his full potential on the basepaths?

John Manuel: With Alan Matthews gone from BA, the P.J. Phillips fan club is much smaller here in the office. It took his older brother Brandon a while to break out in the majors, and P.J. has more power, bigger body. Never going to hit for super-high average, but the power-speed combo is for real. He won't hit full potential for several years, most likely — a 1,500 AB in the minors guy.

 Q:  Wade from Nashville, TN asks:
Who is the best pitching prospect (not named Kershaw) in the minors? How would you rank the top 10 including Kershaw?

John Manuel: Price, Wade Davis and Jacob McGee starts it for me, with some interlopers like Rick Porcello and Homer Bailey. Throw in Nick Adenhart, Deolis Guerra, Brett Anderson and Gio Gonzalez and you've got yourself a list. Personal cheeseball would be Tim Alderson, fast-track guy of the day.

 Q:  Mike from Lockport, NY asks:
You mentioned some of the Mets prospects, what about Greg Veloz ? Didn't he spend some time in the major league camp ?

John Manuel: I'm a Veloz guy, some nice power in there for a middle infielder, he's at Savannah. They like Ruben Tejada and put the 18-year-old at St. Lucie, an aggressive promotion, and it helps alleviate a bit of their glut of low-level infielders.

 Q:  Mudcatsfan from Raleigh, NC asks:
What's so great about Aumont? Do you have a good feeling for his repetoire? Any comparables so i can wrap my mind around him? I've read that he impressed in big league camp, but never any specifics as to why.

John Manuel: Big body, fresh arm, natural sink and bore on the fastball, up to 96 mph . . . he's got a chance to be very, very good. Canadian and 6-foot-7, so he's raw and will need time to learn to keep his delivery together.

 Q:  Ben from St. Paul, MN asks:
Hey there! I've been trying to get the scoop on a couple of guys - Mets SS prospect Juan Lagares and Giants starter Nick Schmidt. What are their upsides and likely projections?

John Manuel: Schmidt of the Padres had Tommy John surgery; Lagares opens the season on the DL at Savannah.

 Q:  Mudcatsfan from Raleigh, NC asks:
What are your thoughts on Paul McAnulty? Matt Stairs v2.0? or more? Gotta love his production, can we ignore his lack of upside?

John Manuel: Lots o' Mudcats Fan questions, I took my favorites . . . McAnulty's absolute ceiling is Stairs but I doubt he gets there. Stairs was once athletic (he was a 2b in the low minors). I like McAnulty but not that much.

 Q:  Mudcatsfan from Raleigh, NC asks:
Should the Marlins merely bring up the entire Mudcats staff /team to play in Miami by midseason? Badenhop Volstad Thompson Sinkbeil Tucker Marceaux Maybin Coghlan Kris Harvey (props to Bryan)

John Manuel: No, keep Scott Olson and Andrew Miller around and Ricky Nolasco and Rick VandenHurk do as well. Most of them if not all were better prospects than that Zebulon quintet, though I like Volstad better after his big spring. Maybin is big-time, Coghlan, not for me, won't be as good as Dan Uggla.

 Q:  Adam from Times Square asks:
Can you give any information about two LAA prospects: CF Peter Bourjos and SS Ryan Mount? Both seem to be progressing nicely, along the lines of many other homegrown angels prospects. How do they project at their current positions, and what do scouts and/or the organization think about their potential?

John Manuel: Bourjos is Greek-American so he gets bonus points from me — dad's a scout. He's got easy actions and a nice line-drive swing. Mount is more steady than spectacular and starts on the DL with a knee injury at Rancho Cucamonga, as is Matt Sweeney.

 Q:  Tim from Santee, CA asks:
Ben, what kind of season do you project from Matt Latos? Also, is it spelled Mat or Matt?-I've seen it with one T on a number of occasions.

Matt Eddy: Latos is hanging out in extended spring for the time being. The Northwest League strikeout champ could compete in the Cal League right now.

Matt Eddy: But as to the key question: Matt or Mat? His birth name is Mathew, but he was referred to as Matt throughout his amateur career. But now the Padres refer to him mostly as Mat, so that's probably the way to go.

 Q:  Chris from Connecticut asks:
You think the best rotation is in Stockton? How about Portland with Justin Masterson, Michael Bowden, Kris Johnson, and Dustin Richardson?

John Manuel: I'd also throw out Montgomery, with Davis, Houser, McGee and Wade Townsend (we just should call him "The Gambler" now); how about Jacksonville, with Kershaw, James McDonald, Zach Hammes & that crew; a decent San Jose rotation with Alderson, Clayton Tanner, Dan Griffin and minor league stalwarts Ben Snyder and Kevin Pucetas; and Cedar Rapids as mentioned before — Reckling, Tobin, Walden, Fish, Anton . . .

 Q:  antonio calabrese from hartford, ct asks:
Will Gio Gonzalez' walk rate limit his upside or do you see him developing into a potential front of the rotation type ?

John Manuel: He's a third starter for me, really, and the control's a big reason for that.

 Q:  Milosh from Tennistown asks:
Give me the goods on Pedro Alverez. I just traded for him in my keeper league and I need to know what kind of upside he has. Which player would you compare him to?

John Manuel: Plus-plus power, should be plus hit though you do hear some questions there, should be able to stay at 3B, at least for a little while as a pro. I'd say more 3B than Teixeira but not quite the caliber of hitter Mark Teixeira is. That's the comparison his adviser Mr. Boras will make and there's merit to it. To me, Teixeira was a better prospect by several million dollars.

 Q:  Kevin from Goodyear, AZ asks:
How do you see OF Justin Ruggiano fitting into Tampa's plans this year, if at all? Does he have trade value for a team looking for a solid third OF?

John Manuel: Ruggiano is solid, not spectacular, and kind of more Jason Michaels than anything else, not a guy you trade for, most orgs should have comparable players. He's got some savvy and I'm surprised he's not in Tampa but it just worked out he came back down here to Durham.

Moderator: Well, it's 4:30 ET, and it sounds like six hours is about enough today, coupled with the blogs, the podcast and, oh by the way, a 56-page issue going to press today. What a day! Great questions, thanks to everyone who asked and answered questions. Talk to you again Monday in the college chat.