HWB Top 20 Prospects Chat




Q:  Keith from Fort Dix NJ asks:
How good do u think Brad Emaus could be? Thanks
 A: 

John Manuel: I like Emaus OK, but I do think there should be a little caution when discussing him. He controls the strike zone and can hit, and we did get a Dan Uggla comparison, but I don't think he has that kind of power. One scout I talked to went out of his way to refute the Uggla comp, so I probably shouldn't even have mentioned it! But the point is, he's going to be an offensive player, and if his management of the strike zone leads to average power, or above-average power somehow, then he'll be a regular, defensive shortcomings or not. The Jays liken him to Ty Wigginton, with more patience and less power, and that wouldn't be a bad career.

 Q:  carmen from New Jersey asks:
Mark Hallberg sounds alot like Dustin Pedroia, Is that true? BTW... I love the Chats!!!!
 A: 

John Manuel: Glad you like 'em. I don't comp anyone to Pedroia because he's a unique player, with his approach, hand-eye coordination . . . he's just not conventional, that's why so many of us underestimated him. The D-backs like to compare Hallberg to Mark Loretta, which would be a great career. He's a contact-oriented guy who has surprising power and seems to be learning which pitch he can drive and which ones he can't. He drove the ball well for a guy coming off a thumb injury. He seems ready for Double-A, and with Orlando Hudson possibly leaving via free agency, who knows? Hallberg could be in AZ sooner than later.

 Q:  Cape from Dade City, FL asks:
I went to high school with domonic brown of the phillies and we grew up together. Whats your take on him as an up and coming prospect?
 A: 

John Manuel: Dominic Brown is surging up the prospect charts, if he wasn't already. He's athletic, he's got a chance to have all five tools, he's young and he keeps producing. The Dom Brown trends are up. I'm working on our Phillies top 30 right now and he's way up the list, with what he did in Hawaii helping that cause a great deal. I know his Phils teammate, Michael Taylor, made the SAL list over him but Brown out-performed him in Hawaii, he's younger and probably has a bit more upside. Taylor also impressed in Hawaii, despite hitting .247.

 Q:  Mike from Boston asks:
How does Todd Frazier profile as a 3B? Good defender, bad, mediocre? And how long will the Reds wait to commit to a position with him? Experience at the position he's likely to play in the majors would seem a pressing concern if he hits in the upper minors. It would be a shame if the club delayed the arrival of his bat because it had failed to sort out his glove.
 A: 

John Manuel: Frazier is such a tough guy to get a read on. He's not conventional offensively or defensively, but I had a couple of solid reports on his defense at shortstop in HWB, not to mention third and left field. I agree in that it would be to Frazier's benefit if Cincy gave him one position and stuck with it. I don't think he's going to be a utility guy; it sounds like he has the bat to be an everyday guy. All that said, I bet he winds up in the OF because it's easier. The Reds could use a righty bat to go with B. Phillips, because otherwise they are quite lefthanded with Bruce, Votto and sooner than later Alonso.

 Q:  Mike from Boston asks:
Two questions on Yonder Alonso: 1) How did his defense look in Hawaii? 2) Does anyone think he could be put on the Will Clark/John Olerud Express straight to the majors?
 A: 

John Manuel: Good reviews on the defense, should be at least adequate if not average over there. He has the approach and short, repeatable stroke that he could move that quickly, though as I wrote in the scouting report, he's going to have to learn to hit a lot of soft stuff, a lot of stuff that spins, because late in games, he's rarely going to see a righthanded pitcher challenging him with heat.

 Q:  Gary from Jersey asks:
Coming out of College, who was the better prospect Posey or Longoria?
 A: 

John Manuel: Longoria for me because the bat was a known commodity. Nothing against Buster but Longoria stood out a bit more in the '06 draft crowd, and by this time, Longoria had hit 20 homers in his first half-season in pro ball (counting the Double-A SL playoffs), so at this time, Longoria's lead was even bigger. Power is the separator.

 Q:  Gary from Jersey asks:
Who will be the better player, Wieters or Posey?
 A: 

John Manuel: Wieters for me due to (a) switch-hitting and (b) power. Posey probably will wind up the better defender but for me that difference is smaller than the difference between the two as hitters. I like Posey a lot but consider Wieters superior.

 Q:  John from Pensacola, FL asks:
How far is the separation between Bleich and Jonny Venters? Do you see Venters getting selected in the Rule V even with his injury history?
 A: 

John Manuel: Pretty big. Bleich's fastball command, velocity and movement are all better, as is his breaking ball. Venters could be popped as a lefty with a plus pitch in the change, and he pitched at full health in Hawaii, so while the Tommy John surgery in his past will be a concern, all these Rule 5 eligible players have a wart or two or three.

 Q:  Jack from Africa - for now asks:
John, How did Scott Shaw not make the list? He didn't have to be #1 but he was the best pitcher in the league statistically - he dominated. He should have been on the list somewhere.
 A: 

John Manuel: I hate to sound like a broken record, but his fastball was a bit short for me to put him on the top 20. He had an incredible year after signing — more than 100 IP as a pro after 50 or so at Illinois, and he sounds like he has a chance to be a durable, back-of-the-rotation guy if it all works out. But he works at 87-88 mph with his fastball, and the life on the pitch is just OK according to my info. Great scouting by the Mets (Scott Trcka's the area guy there) on getting him and he could be a real find, but I thought his fastball was short to make the list.

 Q:  Chulo'a from Hawaii asks:
Thanks a lot for the chat! I wanted to know why Brett Hunter wasn't in the Top 20? He pitched 9.2 innings and recorded 18 K. His opposing batting average has always been extremely low. What gives and is he in the A's long term plans at closer?
 A: 

John Manuel: I used the same qualifications for the HWB list we do for our short-season lists, which was probably too restrictive, but I had to have a cutoff somewhere. He didn't make 10 appearances in relief so he wasn't eligible; his manager also is the only one I have not interviewed, I've just played phone tag with Kevin Boles, and he didn't make enough of an impression on the scouts or managers I did hear from. It's all going to be about health with him; I was not a huge fan of his from the draft, despite his arm strength and past velocity. He never was a big K guy in college even with the fastball, and his delivery has never sounded like one that will lead to long-term success. That said, I think I'm in the minority on him.

 Q:  John from Stockton, CA asks:
At some point, doesn't Brackman have to put up some decent #s to justify his high rankings on all of these lists? His #s were poor his last year at NC State and are equally as poor as a pro.
 A: 

John Manuel: I think it's fair to ask him to perform in 2009. His HWB performance was more about him being healthy, getting innings, throwing games that matter for the first time since May 2007. I don't think the results mattered, but the stuff was the best stuff in Hawaii and it really wasn't close. He showed two present plus pitches and one average pitch (changeup), and if you believe that athleticism leads to the ability to repeat a delivery (and thus throw strikes), then it's very easy to believe in Brackman. He creates unique angles and is quite athletic. Scouts uniformly were impressed with his delivery and arm action, he just needs experience repeating his delivery. He just needs experience, really. He's a great test for the Yankees; we've definitely been on the high side, so far, with several of their pitching prospects in recent years. They could really use a guy like Brackman actually reaching his ceiling. Actually if he comes close to his ceiling he'll be a stud. His ceiling is pretty damn high.

 Q:  Pat from Canandaigua, NY asks:
Where would you put Jeremy Bleich's ceiling, 3rd or 4th starter? Thanks
 A: 

John Manuel: I'd say third starter because he can pitch off the fastball, knows how to move it in and out. Very tough decision leaving him out of the Yanks' top 10, I keep going back and forth on that one, ended up with him at 11, I'm a bit worried about his elbow and the possibility he'll miss more development time down the road, but if he's healthy I could see him as a solid mid-rotation guy.

 Q:  JAYPERS from IL asks:
Could you please compare Andrew Brackman's mechanics to Jeff Niemann's? Is their physical stature the only thing they have in common?
 A: 

John Manuel: I haven't broken them down side by side because that's not what I do, but their height is their biggest commonality. No offense to Jeff but he's a bit of a slow-twitch guy; Brackman is not. He's athletic, not for a 6-11 guy, but for any guy. That's a big difference.

 Q:  Eric from California asks:
Hi John, Great list! You talked about the fact that Alonso might be fast tracked because of his advanced plate discipline, so what would you guess would be a reasonable timetable for him to get to the bigs? Also how concerned are you with Drabek's maturity level and to what degree do you think it might effect his progress? Eric
 A: 

John Manuel: Alonso's going to probably be here (or close to here) next year, in Zebulon, NC, for Double-A but it's hard to say with Votto there. I'd guess Votto moves to LF and Alonso gets to the majors next September to get his feet wet, since he's already on the 40-man. The Phils sound encouraged by Drabek's improving maturity and ability to be a pro. I think the injury helped him, slowed some things down, so while I think that will always be a question about him, he's answering some doubters by coming back from the TJ with stuff as good or better than it was before. That's a very encouraging sign.

 Q:  Mike from Boston asks:
Of the players who didn't make the list, who did the most to attain some sort of prospect recognition (e.g. Scott Shaw)?
 A: 

John Manuel: Shaw's up there. Andy Graham, who wasn't on my radar, would have made the list with another appearance or two. Matt McBride impressed managers out there with his hitting ability, and he's expected to move back to C next year as his shoulder gets further away from surgery, so that could send him back up prospect lists. And Kyle Peter looks like a guy now for the Tigers, he's a raw kid out of Washburn (Kan.) that the Tigers got basically because David Chadd, their scouting director, lives near Washburn, he's got real plus-plus speed and looks like a table-setter. He'll be interesting to watch.

 Q:  Ron from Kaukauna asks:
With Micheal Taylor seemingly coming out so strong this year with little to no notice, how good can he be and who could he be compared to? What do you see him putting up in the bigs?
 A: 

John Manuel: Just not true on the little or no notice. He was a huge deal in high school in 2004 (No. 99 on our final Top 100 HS prospects going into that year), and just didn't hit for his first 2.5 years at Stanford. When he was drafted in 2007, I wrote this in our draft preview: "Scouts who saw him late saw him good; he had 16 multi-hit games in his final 19 starts. Taylor has shown power to the deepest part of the park and has the highest ceiling on the Cardinal roster. He will be a beast if he learns to turn on inside pitches and develops a bit more patience."

John Manuel: He's going to be in the Phils' top 10 and frankly is a better prospect than John Mayberry Jr., who also went to Stanford, also didn't quite live up to expectations there, and now of course both are Phillies. I like Taylor's chances to be a power-hitting corner OF in the next couple of years.

 Q:  Ben from LA asks:
Is Bloom still a legit prospect in Pittsburgh's system in your eyes, or did he simply stand out more than other pitchers in Hawaii?
 A: 

John Manuel: He was a non-factor, and now he's a back-of-the-rotation factor if he's still a Pirate. I don't think he's great, but he has come along, he has gotten better, which isn't typical for guys his age. He's more of a savvy, strike-throwing guy than a stuff guy, but he threw more strikes with better stuff in the second half this year and in Hawaii. Pun completely intended, but I think he's a bit of a late-bloomer.

 Q:  Timmy L. from San Francisco asks:
Does Roger Kieschnick show signs of gaining better control of the strike zone or will always be an all or nothing type hitter?
 A: 

John Manuel: Well, this was his first time, his pro debut, and he showed no signs of that, that's the whole concern. Definitely some scouts who saw him as an amateur and others who saw him in HWB who think of him as an all-or-nothing type, almost a Rob Deer kind of guy, because he does have other tools — he's athletic enough, he has a good arm, he runs fine. But he's never going to be a contact hitter, that's just not him.

 Q:  Joe LeCates from Easton, MD asks:
Mr. Manuel, thank you for the chat. What kind of ETA would you put on Posey given some of the adjustments he will need to make behind the plate? 2010?
 A: 

John Manuel: You're welcome, Joe. It sounds like Posey already has made some of those adjustments. There were certain pitches he was having trouble receiving, but he made some quick adjustments in two weeks in instructs and throughout the Hawaii season. He's going to hit; the power is a bit of a question, but he's going to hit. and he's athletic and has a natural feel for receiving and throwing, so he'll be able to make the adjustments we've talked about. I do think 2010 is fair for an ETA.

 Q:  Dave from NYC asks:
Jim, Any chance that Dominic Brown or Kyle Drabek break in to the top 100 prospects list? Thanks.
 A: 

John Manuel: They'll be on my list.

 Q:  Otto from Houston asks:
Please convince us Astros' faithful that Castro-the-Astro won't become Towles V.2. Thanks.
 A: 

John Manuel: He's better than Towles. We kept hearing all spring we were light on Castro for the draft, snuck him into top 30 overall consideration late, we had him at No. 21 on our top 200. J.R. Towles was never that kind of prospect. I don't think they are similar other than being Astros catchers. Here's hoping he's better than Max Sapp too while we're talking in that vein. Castro's bat is his best tool and he's athletic for the position as well, though not to Posey's level. He had a very impressive year from start to finish, Stanford through pro ball.

 Q:  Joe LeCates from Easton, MD asks:
John, in your opinion why would a club opt to send a player to Hawaii as opposed to Arizona? The talent has grown in Hawaii, but it still lags behind a bit.
 A: 

John Manuel: Slots are hard to come by in Arizona, and HWB is a nice fall-back position. Plus if a player is a bit too inexperienced or young to go to the AFL, Hawaii is a great way to get more experience. Take Drabek and Venters, guys coming off TJ rehab, they just needed innings, and Hawaii is more competitive than instructional league but not as brutal for pitchers as the AFL. It's a good mid-point between instructs and the AFL.

 Q:  ScottAZ from Phx, AZ asks:
Used to see Daryl Strawberry comps with Dom Brown. Obviously those need to be changed since his power is in questions. What does he project now?
 A: 

John Manuel: Those come from being a tall, skinny black outfielder, but he also has a buggy-whip swing and high elbow that evoke Strawberry. That's obviously a big comp to put on a guy, and the power will be a big part of whether or not Brown reaches that kind of ceiling; I think those chances are small. But a fellow BA staffer was talking to a veteran scout we all respect last week, and that scout said he saw Brown and thought of Strawberry, so the comparison is clearly out there. Right now, the consensus is that his hit tool will grade out higher than the power tool, and that was definitely not Strawberry's M.O.

 Q:  Kyle from Middletown asks:
If Todd Frazier's hands are set up too high, why don't the Reds just lower them? Do you personally believe that his swing can work in the major leagues?
 A: 

John Manuel: Because he succeeds with his present approach and hasn't gotten eaten up by being pitched in on his hands, at least not yet. I think there are plenty of exceptions in the major leagues, a lot of guys who don't do things in a textbook fashion who make it work. Until scouts tell me he's getting eaten up inside, I have no reason to doubt him.

 Q:  Jim from Philly asks:
Does Kyle Drabek project as a potential #1 starter?
 A: 

John Manuel: It's No. 1 stuff. The rest of the package that makes a No. 1 is less tangible, and I'm with Jim Callis; handing out No. 1 tags is hard. I wouldn't put that on a guy with such a short track record of success in pro ball. But he does have No. 1 stuff.

 Q:  TG from NYC asks:
I understand it's somewhat delusional to expect a good projection so early into his professional career, but I've heard conflicting reports on Brackman. Most agree his FB is back to pre-TJ levels [hitting the mid-90s consistently], but some anonymous scouts say he doesn't and never did offer much besides his 4-seamer. Is his curveball really that inconsistent and could it be a by-product of rust?
 A: 

John Manuel: Brackman hadn't pitched in a game since May 2007. Throw in Tommy John surgery, an appendectomy, and the fact that '07 was his first time ever as a full-time baseball player, plus the fact he's 6-11 . . . he's a pretty unique character. To expect consistency for him in HWB is expecting too much. He's shown a premium breaking ball in the past, and he showed it in Hawaii, just not with any consistency. His changeup was a shade too firm but also flashed very good potential. I think Yankee fans should be very encouraged by how he threw out there.

 Q:  Mitchell from NYC asks:
What about Austin Romine??
 A: 

John Manuel: He has obvious potential but didn't perform out there and didn't wow anybody. His receiving and blocking were described as "rough" by a manager and a scout and he was thought to be worn down. I think he suffered in comparison to Castro and Posey, he just is so far behind those guys, not in terms of ceiling but polish and physical maturity. He'll be fine, just didn't have a great turn in Hawaii.

 Q:  Jimmy Carter from Georgia asks:
Do the struggles of my long lost brother, Chris (OAK), in HWB concern you at all? Are we looking at a .260 hitter or a .220 hitter in the majors?
 A: 

John Manuel: Hope he's your long lost grandson, because it would be a shame if I ranked a 70-year-old prospect. Carter's power and athleticism got him on the list; he has some holes and won't challenge for any batting titles, but he should hit around .250 or .260, and that will translate into 25-30 homers according to the scouts I talked to.

 Q:  Bainton from NY asks:
Were there ant Met prospects that merited consideration?
 A: 

John Manuel: Shaw almost made it; Ruben Tejada had his supporters but his tools really don't stand out according to anyone I talked to. He was most impressive for grinding out a long season as a teenager, through the Fla. State League and then Hawaii. But there's not a tool that gets scouts or managers raving.

 Q:  Travis from Ewa Beach asks:
I saw alot of Satoshi Nagai and when he faced the vaunted Waikiki lineup he dominated them. Where there any thoughts of listing a Japanese player.
 A: 

John Manuel: I tried asking about more Japanese players but time constraints limited those interviews. Nagai is one guy who stood out to the point that he came up, with one manager calling him the league's best pitcher. He has Japan League experience and touched 94 mph with his fastball with life. He also throws a pair of breaking balls and a splitter. I think the most impressive thing for Nagai is he faced Waikiki five times (Alonso, Posey, Kieschnick, Frazier all on that team), and in his last start he struck out 11 and allowed only one hit, one HR to Kieschnick.

Moderator: I'm going to have to wrap it up here, but I really appreciate all the questions. Thanks, check back tomorrow for the Angels chat with Kary Booher.