Independent Leagues Top 20 Prospects Chat With J.J. Cooper
Keith Hudson (Wampsville, ny): The Braves seem
to do well with Indy signings and made several signings during the
season. Ian Thomas was one of those signings. Can you tell me about
Thomas and any other players of note that signed with the Braves, during
or after the season? Thanks
Hi Keith. Thomas is a guy who was
mentioned by a lot of indy managers who saw him before he signed with
the Braves. He's a lefty with improved velo. He used to be 85-88, but
has improved his velo to where he touches 90, 91 much more often
nowadays. But even with that, his velo will always be a question mark.
He does have a good changeup that has late fade and good deception. Put
those two together and I wouldn't be surprised to see him keep climbing
the ladder in the Braves system for a while. He had a good affiliated
debut this season in Rome and looks ready to move to high Class A.
keith Hudson (wampsville, ny): After reading
through the top ten, this appears to be a pretty solid group. Is this
group one of the deeper top 10's in recent years? Thanks
It's definitely deeper than last year.
Last year was really a struggle to find 10 guys to write up. As
mentioned in the opening paragraphs, velocity is much better in indy
ball now than it was five years ago. I remember when it was tough to
find almost anyone in indy ball who could maintain 91-92 mph without a
delivery that would make you cringe. Now you're seeing teams fielding
entire bullpens who throw 92-93 +. With that being said, the best guys
don't go unsigned through the season like they used to. Five years ago,
Daniel Nava could be the Golden League MVP as a 23-year-old rookie and
go unsigned through the season. Now I would imagine 2-4 teams would snap
him up by the all-star break. Indy ball is much better scouted and
followed now than it was several years ago.
Dave (Atlanta): Did you hear anything about the
quality of play in the CanAm League? They only sold one player to a MLB
organization this season-less than the Pecos League.
It's a pitcher dominated league usually. I
would expect to see them sell some more contracts in the offseason
here, but with the A-A and Atlantic League's sharing the same geographic
footprint, the Can-Am League has more trouble than most established
leagues in the battle for top talents. If you live in Texas and want to
stay close to home, you have only a few options. If you live in
California or on the West Coast, you have even less potential teams in
your area. But if you live in the Northeast, there are a ton of teams to
choose from if you want to stay close to home as a player.
Dave (Atlanta): Do you think the North American
League returns next season? They didn't sell a single player to an MLB
team this season, and the league hasn't updated its website in months.
At this point the North American League is
really two separate leagues sharing a name. The United League portion
had a pretty solid season in 2012. The "Northern Division" which is
really the West Coast division had a rougher time, operating with some
pretty significant travel costs (two teams in Hawaii and two in
California) that required some creative scheduling. I know the West
Coast division is looking to expand in 2013, but it also faces
competition for markets from the newly formed America West Baseball
League. Both leagues face a stark fact—it's been tougher for indy ball
to make it on the West Coast than it has in the Midwest and Northeast.
The Southeast (if we're counting Texas as Southwest) is the only area of
the country that has had a tougher time making indy ball work.
John (Amarillo, TX): What does Adam Buschini
need to do to get on your list? He has the stats, tools and versatility
playing the 1st half of the season in OF and in the 2nd half playing 2B.
He runs a 6.5 60 yd dash and was top 5 in most categories in the
Buschini is at the top-end age wise (25),
but he does have very good tools. The biggest thing he's going to have
to prove to scouts is that his excellent A-A numbers are proof he's made
some adjustments and is a better hitter than he was in his first go at
affiliated ball with the Phillies. It was only a season and a half, but
his struggles in affiliated ball in his first go-round are going to make
scouts a little more skeptical about giving him a second shot.
Personally, I think he should get at least some tryouts based off the
numbers he put up this past season.
Steve (Wichita): Outstanding job on the list as
always. Had Josh Lowey (Wichita, American Association) been young
enough, where would he fit into this list?
His lifetime numbers speak for themselves. He has excellent stuff, and
interestingly, he has an identical twin brother (Jason) who got a chance
with the Braves a couple of years ago.
Thanks Steve. I've been following Lowey
since the year I did a story about Jason right before the Braves signed
him. Josh has excellent numbers, but as you mentioned, his age is going
to work against him as far as getting signed. Jason had slightly better
stuff when the two were both indy ball players, but Josh has clearly
taken some steps forward since then.
Wes (atlanta): You missed one from Indy
Ball...David Harden 6'4—210 rhp #1 starting pitcher from Frontier
League champion Southern Illinois Miners...Although a pitch to contact
guy...has been clocked at 94—went 12-5 overall, including two wins on
the road in the playoffs...150 innings pitched -90 k's, and here's the
kicker...ONLY 20 walks and 4 homeruns..don't you think it's better to
get an out on 1 pitch rather than a minimum of three for a K??
Appreciate the comment Wes. Your arguments
about 1 pitch vs. 3 pitches may be true in many cases, but I'll tell
you right now. Talking to pro scouts who follow indy ball, they want to
see that pitchers have a strikeout pitch. If you're not getting
strikeouts in indy ball, most scouts I talk to are very hesitant to sign
a pitcher, largely because they worry that if you can't generate swings
and misses in indy ball, you're going to get squared up way too often
in affiliated ball. You may consider that fair or unfair, but I'm just
passing on what I've been told by guys in the industry.
Dave (Atlanta): Any info on Chaz Roe and Matt Way, two early round picks signed by Arizona after the American Association's season ended?
Few if any teams scout the Indy ball
circuit harder than the Mal Fichman/Bill Bryk combination in Arizona.
Both are guys who have a very good chance of making it through spring
training and ending up on clubs next year, which in itself is a feat for
indy ball signees. Roe is a good athlete who has made some strides
since his release from the Mariners. It was a dominating year he put
together in Laredo. I'll throw one other name to keep an eye on with the
Diamondbacks—Bo Schultz, the former A's righthander who signed with
them midway through the year. Schultz used to be a soft-tossing
sidearmer with the A's. Now he's back up to a more conventional delivery
and is touching 95-96 mph at times.
John (Ohio): JJ, you had a nice story about Ben
Klafczynski who converted from RF to RHP. Boston signed him. What are
your thoughts about his chances? Thanks
He's got a very good arm and several teams
were interested in him, so he's got about as good a chance as anyone
coming out of indy ball. He has a lot to catch up to as a pitcher since
he spent the past 5+ years as a position player, but there are some
Kevin (Utah): Where's Roger Clemens??? In all seriousness, can you touch a bit on Rick Devereaux?
If you want to be skeptical, Devereaux was
a first baseman in college who is trying to catch now. Very few guys
can make that jump up the defensive spectrum when moving up to a higher
level of the game. But he was putting together some 2.0 pop times in
indy ball and seems to have some idea of what he's doing behind the
plate. He has to put up better numbers in indy ball before a team is
going to sign him, but he also looks like he has an idea at the plate.
He's more of an indy follow guy than someone who's ready to make the
jump to affiliated ball right now. He's a perfect example of what indy
ball can do for a young player—it can give him innings behind the plate
and at-bats at the plate to work through some of his inexperience.
chase (chicago): Can you tell me of some players with potential but are a little older than 25 that may off just missed
Not trying to give too much away about our
All-Indy League team that will go live tomorrow, but Blake Gaillen is a
post-25 guy who I do think could step in and help a Double-A club. He
got 100 at-bats in Double-A in 2011 with the Angels (he was signed and
sent to Arkansas when Mike Trout was promoted). He didn't do great in
those 100 at-bats, but he's hit everywhere he's gone in indy ball (.348
career indy ball average) including a dominating year in the Atlantic
League this year. He's undersized, but Gaillen is athletic and can hit.
Mack (Texas): What are the odds of Carlos
Hereaud catching on with an affiliated club for next season? Didnt
stick long with the Brewers after being drafted in 05 but has put up
decent numbers in Edinburg.
Hereaud had an excellent year in the
United League portion of the North American League this past year, but
his age (27 before next season starts) is going to be his biggest hurdle
to getting another affiliated shot.
Kevin (UT): Though just missing on the age (25), any thoughts on San Angelo's Closer, Erik Draxton?
Got good reports on him. Throws 92-94 at
his best with a good split and a decent slider. Again, he's a guy who
should get some workouts based on his results and his stuff. If he gets
to a workout, then it's just a matter of finding a scout who really
believes in him. I've heard of guys going to one workout and getting
turned down and then going to another one and really impressing a scout.
Andrew Brotherton (Atlanta, GA): Do you see the Yankees going after any independent leaguers this year?
The Yankees have followed indy ball pretty
well through the years—Justin Christian, Edwar Ramirez and Scott
Patterson are three guys signed by the Yankees out of indy ball who made
it to the big leagues. They always keep an eye on it, but as with
pretty much all of these players, those names make it clear that we're
generally talking about potential org guys and role players, not impact
guys, especially when you're talking about a team with the payroll of
Derick (Milwaukee): Where could you see Nick
Lenzendorf at next year? He did pretty well this year as the closer of
the Rio Grande Valley WhiteWings in the North American League. At 24 and
with college experience and now a year of pro ball experience, is
another indy league in his future?
Hard to say which indy league Lenzendorf
ends up in next year if he doesn't return to the NABL, that's a level of
detail that goes beyond what I know. But he is an example of what indy
ball can offer to a player. Lenzendorf was a small school (NAIA Viterbo)
two-way player who player a lot more as a first baseman than as a
pitcher. Indy ball gives him a chance to get significant innings and
continue to develop. The chances of him, or anyone in indy ball, getting
signed is always pretty small, but in indy ball he gets a chance to see
how far he can go.
Thanks everyone for all the questions. I
can't believe I have to leave some on the board, but I need to get some
other things done today. Thank you all for stopping by.