Chat With John Manuel
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Moderator: John Manuel will begin taking your questions at 3 p.m. ET

 Q:  Elliot Legow from Youngstown OH asks:
What's the problem with Jeremy Guthrie? He's walking too many, he's being hit hard. Is he hurt? Is he having problems with all his pitches? Is his velocity affected? What does he need to do?

John Manuel: Thanks to everyone for coming to chat. Chinese buffet, don't fail me now . . .

John Manuel: Anyway, Guthrie is a vexing case. Last night's latest debacle for him was in a really cold environment, but fastball command and command in general were supposed to be Guthrie's strengths. That's a story we're following; to my knowledge, there's not an injury issue, and that almost would have me more worried.

 Q:  Jeremy Seglem from Philly asks:
Hey, John, love your work. Who would you say are the top 5 closer prospects in the game? Do you think Van Benschoten will eventually end up finishing games? Thanks.

John Manuel: Good question, since so many teams are rushing closers to the big leagues. David Aardsma is back in the minors with the Giants, so he's a candidate. So is Jesse Crain of the Twins, who is off to a slow start. I'd throw Diamondbacks reliever Brian Bruney and the Indians' Fernando Cabrera into that mix as well. As for Van Benschoten, I suppose that's a possibility in that it might help his pitches go up a grade; right now, it sounds like his stuff is very average across the board, and he's not showing the velo he showed in '03. But the Pirates have no such plans, especially considering this April is the first time he's struggled in pro ball as a starter.

 Q:  Chop Suey from Ft. Lauderdale asks:
Your boy Peter Gammons wrote last week that Stephen Drew would not be a first-round pick. I realize he's had injury problems and has not hit with wood, but in a draft so thin is he off his rocker? What sort of pro do you see Drew being anyway?

John Manuel: I don't think Peter is off his rocker, but I do think Drew is a first-rounder. He has some issues--he hasn't played with wood bats, he's been injury prone (like his older brother), he's a Scott Boras client, so there's a guaranteed holdout . . . but he's still a first-round talent. I think Stephen Drew will be an offensive second baseman in the major leagues, but he'll be one of those guys who always leaves you wanting more. I like the Todd Walker comps for him, though Drew is more athletic and a better runner and fielder.

 Q:  Elliot Legow from Youngstown OH asks:
Corey Smith is having by far his betting start at the plate, but defense is still erratic. Is he going to stay at third or will the Indians have to find another position for him?

John Manuel: Elliot weighs in again. Smith is by far off to the best start of his career with the bat. I'm not a believer that Casey Blake is a third baseman on a championship team, and Smith has the kind of bat to fit that bill. But it sure seems like he cannot play third base well enough to hold that position in the majors. Cleveland's patience with him is laudable, but if he doesn't show any improvement this year, he's got to be headed to the outfield eventually.

 Q:  Gregg Haverstick from New York, NY asks:
What do you think of Christopher Ray down at DelMarVa, the Single-A affiliate for the Orioles? He is having a phenomenal start to the year.

John Manuel: I really wish they spelled it DelMarVa . . . Chris Ray is off to a great start. I could have included him in the top 5 closers answer, because many big league closers started in the minor leagues (or in the majors, like Gagne and Smoltz). Ray has upper-90s gas out of the pen and his live arm has held up well in his starting roles this year. He needs innings and experience, but his fastball-slider-split power repertoire seems best suited for the back of the bullpen.

 Q:  Jeremy from Richmond asks:
Tim Stauffer has looked pretty good so far in his 3 Single A starts. Where do you see him going this year? Will San Diego move him along quickly, or hold him back because of his shoulder injury last year?

John Manuel: Stauffer has looked good, solid 88-92 mph velocity and his arm is working well, according to what we've heard. I do think San Diego will be conservative with Stauffer this year, considering he had that injury and they have some depth at Triple-A, as Dennis Tankersley has pitched well and lefty Chris Oxspring is off to a fast start. I could see Stauffer being pushed to Mobile but I think his health is the biggest concern for the organization.

 Q:  Jeff Smoker from Ferndale, MI asks:
Just wanted an early-season updtae on Mariners prospect Felix Hernandez. Living up to the hype or not? Also, I seem to remember one of his teammates putting up some good numbers on the mound, too. Can't think of his name, but can you fill me in?

John Manuel: Bobby Livingston is the other Inland Empire pitcher you're thinking of; he threw 7 one-hit shutout innings yesterday with a walk and 7 K's, and he's now 2-0, 0.65 overall. Pretty impressive; he's a pitchability lefthander and will be better than that if he can pitch closer to 90 than in the mid-80s. Felix Hernandez, on the other hand, is throwing out-and-out gas in the mid-90s, shut down a team after Rafael Soriano started a game in a rehab stint, and has 22 whiffs in 15 2-3 innings. We've had a report of 98 on his fastball and he was the talk of Mariners camp in the spring. He's definitely living up to the hype so far.

 Q:  John Proctor from Gallows Hill asks:
Only 6 BB after 61 AB? Have the Red Sox ordered Kevin Youkilis to hack away, or do we need to convene a Court of Oyer and Terminer to find out if Mark Bellhorn used demonic forces to usurp Youkilis's legendary patience?

John Manuel: Bellhorn always was patient on his own; he didn't need Youkilis to share. For me, Youk is actually off to a pretty good start, slugging .475 as compared to a .422 career SLG. That's a more important stat for me to see out of him. We know he knows the strike zone; can he punish pitchers for coming into the zone? That's the more important question, and right now, he's doing that relatively well in Triple-A. It's an encouraging start.

 Q:  CLEMSON FAN from GREER,SC asks:

John Manuel: Johnson ranks second behind Rancho's Mike Napoli right now, and he has taken his aggressiveness up a notch. Johnson didn't want to be another Dave Magadan, who was a nice player but who also could play third base. Johnson doesn't do that and wasn't hitting for power last year, and the Padres paid for power when they signed him. The question now is can he make the adjustment, being selective while retaining his power. It's a long year, but I'm encouraged that he already has matched last year's home run total.

 Q:  Matthias from Franklin and Marshall College asks:
What are your thoughts on the multitude of young pitchers the Braves have in the low minors (Jake Stevens, Chuck James, Charlie Morton, Jo Jo Reyes, Kyle Bakker, etc...)?

John Manuel: How are things in Lancaster, Pa., anyway? The Braves' Rome staff is impressive, with Bakker working in relief at this point. He's all about arm strength and quickness, otherwise he's going to be a soft-tossing 6-9 lefty who'll get pounded at higher levels. James is interesting as a fastball-changeup lefty, and those guys usually do better at low loevels. Reyes has more of a power arm but has struggled so far in 2004. Stevens, also a lefty with a bit more of a physical body, has the highest ceiling of the group with a power curve and good fastball velocity.

 Q:  J. Schubert from Milwaukee asks:
Is Jamal Strong injured? He was off to a nice start but hasn't played in a while. What are your thoughts regarding the possibility that he'll see some pt in Seattle...especially with Randy Winn struggling?

John Manuel: Strong does have a right hamstring pull, he's missed about a week, and obviously with a speed guy like him, he has to have his wheels right. I agree that he's a candidate to take over for Winn if Winn keeps struggling because that lineup could obviously use a spark.

 Q:  Aaron Friesen from Canada asks:
How long do you think the Twins can keep Justin Morneau in Triple-A? I know he struggled a bit last year in the majors but he doesn't seem to have a lot left to prove in the minors.

John Manuel: As long as Jose Offerman is hitting -- I mean, he hit third yesterday! -- the Twins can afford to keep Morneau at Rochester. I think it's just a matter of time before Offerman remembers, "I'm Jose Offerman and it's 2004, not 1998," and when that happens, Morneau will make the most of the opportunity. I don't think he'll play for your team in the Olympics, unfortunately. You'll have to settle for Simon Pond.

 Q:  Matt Falk from Winnipeg, Canada asks:
Will Alexis Rios get a shot with the Blue Jays this year? And if he does who do you think he will replace, Reed Johnson or Frank Cattalanato?

John Manuel: If the Jays continue to struggle, I do think Rios will get a shot later in the year. He needs more minor league experierence, and Triple-A is a challenging level. Johnson and Catalanotto are both more fourth-infielder types to me, at least for a championship caliber team, especially Johnson, who had a great rookie year but doesn't have the tools of a Rios or Gabe Gross. Next year's Jays outfield could still be Wells flanked by Gross and Rios; I haven't seen anything to dissuade me from thinking that will happen in '05 sometime.

 Q:  Matthias from Franklin and Marshall College asks:
If Dan Meyer continues his brilliance (albeit in a small sample size) could he see Atlanta (possibly the rotation) by the end of the year?

John Manuel: Yeah, I think we're jumping the gun a bit up there in Lancaster, Pa. I like Dan Meyer, he commands it, he's athletic, he spins it . . . there's a lot to like. He's also made what, two starts above Class A? I counsel patience, but you're right in that Meyer is a guy who can move quickly.

 Q:  Anthony from NJ asks:
Do you think that Ian Bladegroen can keep up his production like he has so far and get promoted soon?

John Manuel: Lots of Ian Bladegroen questions; I picked this one to answer. Ian didn't make the preseason Top 30 because some scouts we talked to thought he lacked the athleticism to maintain this kind of pace at higher levels, but he clearly has raw power and he's overmatching Sally League pitching right now. Thirty RBIs in 17 games is pretty wicked good.

 Q:  Michael F. from Brooklyn asks:
Do you think that Wade Townsend is worth the Mets making him their #1 selection (3rd overall)?

John Manuel: lots of Rice pitcher questions about the draft . . . we'll take a few. Townsend at third overall is a tough call. Is he a starter or a closer as a pro? He's got two plus pitches, a fastball that he throws in the 90-94 range, and he's been 96-97 out of the pen in the past. Is his offspeed pitch good enough for him to start? It might be, but I think I like Townsend best as a big, durable closer, and for me, I wouldn't take a closer third overall. I'm a Wade Townsend fan, but that seems a little high.

 Q:  Jamal from Brooklyn, NY asks:
John, Do you know where W. Townsend's FB has been sitting at & topping out at this year? I read last month that P. Humber was throwing the hardest out of the big 3 (topping out at 96 mph). And if you had the choice, who would you pick, Justin Verlander or Wade Townsend?

John Manuel: Another one, in the same vein, again, we haven't seen the 96-97 readings from Townsend, but he has been dominant . . . another shutout effort this weekend, 11 K's in 8 IP, and he's 9-0, 1.28 overall with 105 SO in 85 IP and a .147 average against. Scouts who saw him early weren't as impressed with Townsend as they were with Humber, but I like Townsend better. Last year, I thought he was the best of the three Rice pitchers. I might give Niemann an edge (despite his injury woes, groin pull now, elbow scope last fall) because of his command and the fact he stays so tall in his delivery. But I'd go Niemann-Townsend-Humber, and they're all capable of going in the first 10 picks. I would take Townsend over Justin Verlander personally; I'm not a Verlander believer and I'm concerned about how hittable he has been of late. He got pounded by William & Mary the other day, and his ODU team won the next two games on the series, including a one-hitter Sunday by Donnie Smith (apparently throwing 92-93 with a plus slider of late, so Smith has some helium). Verlander's stuff is huge, but his lack of polish is a concern. Townsend has done it for two years against all comers. I'd take Wade, painted toenails and all.

 Q:  Corey from Miami asks:
Hey John, whats the buzz surrounding Cleveland righty phenom Adam Miller, he's been overmatching SAL hitters so far and reports I've heard have him touching 96mph with his fastball coupling that with his knockout slider, what is his upside potential ? Thanks

John Manuel: Corey, he's been the shizzle so far. We can confirm that 96, that's what we've heard, and he's missing bats (.096 average against). It's early, but the Tribe is obviously excited; he was the No. 1 prospect in the Appy League for a reason last year. He throws a heavy ball, he's projectable, he has a plus slider . . . there's a lot to like. It's also so early in the season and in his career, the positives outweight the negatives. You find out what a guy can't do the further up the organizational ladder he goes.

 Q:  So Cal Bob from Orange County, CA asks:
What's up with Delmon Young? He has 1 BB and 14 K's? Not looking really good? Is he at least making solid contact?

John Manuel: You have to remember Delmon is in his first pro season; I know he played some in the AFL, but AFL pitching is so sketchy . . . guys aren't always using all their stuff, it's like instructional league. It's a bit surprising that he didn't come out and overmatch the league, but it should serve as a reminder that he's human. I expect him to make the adjustments to hit 20-30 bombs this year, and to do that at his age and experience level would be pretty impressive. I do think Young was a bit too optimistic when he said he'd be in St. Pete by the end of this season.

 Q:  Matthias from Franklin and Marshall College asks:
How long before BJ Upton sees the bigs? Is his bat ready, but is defensive consistency holding him back?

John Manuel: Defense is one thing; starting Upton's arbitration clock is another one. Why rush him? Clearly, Upton's bat has proven up to the Double-A level so far, and no one questions his defensive tools . . . it's a matter of him adjusting to the speed of the game in pro ball defensively and not trying to do too much. It just seems like starting next year off with a chance to win the job in Tampa Bay makes more sense than jumping him before he might be ready.

 Q:  Richy rich from Lansing MI asks:
How comparable is David Wright to Miguel Cabrera? They seem to have put up similar numbers in similar leagues. Will Wright get a midseason call-up like Cabrera?

John Manuel: No, but that doesnt' mean he's not really, really good. Physically, they're very different, Wright is a much smaller guy and doesn't have that kind of raw power. They do have similar approaches, however, and Wright is a guy who could come up to New York and break in for 200 at-bats this year and probably hold his own pretty well both offensively and defensively. Josh Boyd wrote last fall that scouts compared Wright to Edgar Martinez as a hitter; let's stick with that comp instead of the Cabrera one. Don't take numbers comps too far . . .

 Q:  Mike from Akron Ohio asks:
Where do you see Ryan Garko fitting in with the Indians? What about Victor Martinez?

John Manuel: We've had several Garko questions. I don't think Garko is going to bump Victor from the Indians' plans just yet, but Garko has several things going for him. 1. He has an advanced plate approach, gets into hitters counts and mashes. 2. Incredible competitor, leader, makeup is a big plus. 3. He's worked hard at becoming a passable catcher. He's going to go as far as his bat; he's not going to be a Gold Glover. I'm starting to think Garko can be a Craig Wilson type.

 Q:  So Cal Bob from Orange County, CA asks:
How's Edwin jackson throwing? His numbers don't look really "bad", but they aren't stellar either. Is this a product of pitching at "Coors Light"--Cashman Field in Vegas?

John Manuel: I think the home field plays into it a bit, and so does the fact it's his first time in Triple-A. As nasty as Jackson's stuff is, sometimes guys with great stuff get knocked around at Triple-A, by experienced hitters. It's probably better for him to experience a bit of that in Vegas rather than in L.A.

 Q:  Dave from Austin.Texas asks:
Erik Thompson is a control freak, if he is able to compete at Double-A, do you see a possible september callup.

John Manuel: Not if the Rangers are still in first place . . . but then I don't expect that to last. Thompson's pretty interesting; it sounds like he's not even as tall as his listed 5-foot-11. But he pounds the strike zone with quality stuff, and it's a power sinker that is getting him this far. Clearly there should be opportunity in Texas. Realistically, Thopmson's repertoire and size profile him more as a middle-innings, get-me-a-DP reliever than it does starting pitcher. Also, at that size, let's see how he holds up physically and durability-wise. He has had Tommy John surgery already, probably a good thing he got that out of the way . . .

 Q:  Scott from Victoria, BC asks:
At the start of the year, many felt that Miguel Negron( Jays 1st round pick in 2000)was a bust. So far this year he seems to be off to a good start in Dunedin, batting for average, while showing more power and plate discipline. Do you think there is any similarties between him and the Jays 1999 1st round pick, Alexis Rios?

John Manuel: Physically, he just doens't compare to Rios; they were lumped together as Puerto Rican outfielders picked in the first round, and that's about it. Negron played well in winter bal and continues to make progress at playing a speed game rather than trying to hit for power. I still think he's probably a fourth-outfielder type down the line, though, a defensive replacement and speed guy, rather than a regular.

 Q:  David Barker from Eden, NC asks:
What are your thoughts on these two power pitching prospects, Andrew Brown and Matt Cain?

John Manuel: Time for the lightning round . . .

John Manuel: those guys are both pretty impressive, among the most impressive starts of 2004. Brown is throwing in the high 90s, and Cain's in the mid-90s and throwing a wicked curve. Both have to show they can do it over a full, healthy season, though.

 Q:  Eric from Madison asks:
I've been following Jason Kubel for a while, and he's seemed to have a pretty broad based set of skills. This year he is raking at New Britain...what's his future like, especially in the loaded Twins organization?

John Manuel: Muddled by the logjam of outfielders, but he clearly is another ascendant prospect. That depth will make Minnesota very patient; Kubel should plan on finding an apartment in Rochester next year, shouldn't he? He's a more complete player, than Michael Ryan, though, and his lefthanded power helps him stand out in the Ford-Cuddyer-Restovich group.

 Q:  Johnny Stevenson from Washington, DC asks:
Will John McCurdy make it to the big leagues? I see that he has 9 errors already this season at 2B.

John Manuel: Well, it's better that he's a second base; I think McCurdy has utility guy written all over him for me, player of many positions, master of none. His bat will have to carry him, and so far at Midland, he's not going very far.

 Q:  Craig from Houston,Tx asks:
What can you tell me about the young outfielder the Dodgers received yesterday in the trade for pitcher Rick White?

John Manuel: Trey Dyson . . . former South Carolina slugger, not a prospect.

 Q:  Dave from Fresno asks:
I am a season ticket holder for the Modesto A's and I have been enthralled with the performance of Shawn Kohn. He has thus far thrown 11 innings and has K'ed 22 people while not allowing a run. He was a 23 round draft pick, but is he a legitimate prospect or just a guy who is taking advantage of California League hitters?

John Manuel: Kohn was a stud for Washington for two years, but he's a soft-tossing sidearmer-submarine guy. Now I love those guys--I was just digging out my Brandon Belanger-Derrick DePriest-Colter Bean feature last week, as a matter of fact--but there aren't many of them for a reason. Kohn would be bucking some serious trends to turn into the next Chad Bradford, but he's in the right organization for it.

 Q:  Hanley Ramirez from Sarasota asks:
i am off to a pretty solid start in High A Sarasota, am I ever going to make people in Boston forget about Nomar Garciaparra?

John Manuel: No, but Hanley and that whole Sarasota lineup give Sox fans more reason to be encouraged. Let's wait until Hanley gets to Double-A to throw any "forget Nomar" thoughts into the equation.

 Q:  Vince Sinisi from Stockton, CA asks:
Nice start, huh? Is there any chance I'm playing in Arlington this September?

John Manuel: Yes, but no.

 Q:  bill from grand rapids asks:
john, Is tony Giarratano the real deal at ss for the Tigers? The one question mark i remember reading about him when he was drafted was his bat. He had an excellant offensive season at Oneonta last year and is off to a great start at West Michigan(.373ba,.465oba)(11bb,5k). Will he be the Tigers ss in 2-3 years?

John Manuel: Giarratano can be the real deal; his college value was hampered by injuries that really crushed his sophomore season.

John Manuel: And as for Sinisi, sorry, didn't mean to be snippy. Sinisi has 128 ABs as a pro, though, so I think we should temper our enthusiasm.

 Q:  Jace from Groesbeck, Texas asks:
John Hudgins has looked very good in his last couple of appearances for Stockin. What kind of pitcher does he project to?

John Manuel: He is what he is, a 3rd-4th starter type., savvy and with a great feel for the game. At his best, he's going to be 87-90, commands it and has solid average secondary stuff, with his change his next-best pitch. I miss his Pac-10 baseball website.

 Q:  Mark from Cleveland asks:
my new dish gave me a chance to watch 2 games of the FSU Ga-Tech weekend series and there is no doubt that Drew can "flash the leather" - to the point tho, is it possible that Tech's starting pitching, bullpen, and line-up "juggling" has put them back on track, or is it just another hickup?

John Manuel: I think the Ga. Tech-Fla. State series tells us two things. Florida State is incredibly ordinary, and Tech is wildly inconsistent . . . Tech's talent was bound to show through sometime, wasn't it? Neither team is a lock for a regional bid.

 Q:  Dean Quinton from Brooks, Alta asks:
Afternoon, whats your take on the Jays moving Brandon League to the bullpen? Also, do you think he could succeed as a two pitch starter, fastball & slider?

John Manuel: I like that move; he and Adam Peterson could get to Toronto quickly. I think his power repertoire profiles best in the pen, and he would need a third pitch as a starter because he doesn't have the command of those two pitches like a Mark Prior does, who essentially is a two-pitch guy.

 Q:  Robert Goldberg from Lyndhurst, NJ asks:
Are the numbers that Kane County catcher David Castillo are putting up for real, or is he just a flash?

John Manuel: He's a small guy with an odd swing; let's see him keep going at higher levels before we say he's for real. How about Oral Roberts, his alma matter?

 Q:  Mike from London asks:
Josh Banks is of to a great start in Dunedin of the Florida State League. How would you rate his stuff, and looking into your crystal ball do you think he will come quickly given his command and what type of starter do you think he will be 1 2 or 3 thanks

John Manuel: Banks also just needs polish on his offspeed stuff, the slider and split-finger need to be more consistent for him to succeed at higher levels, and if they do, he can be a 2-3 guy.

 Q:  Wellbo from Gainesville, FL asks:
Which Florida slugger will go higher, Ben Harrison or C.J. Smith?

John Manuel: Smith, a switch-hitter with power

 Q:  George from Miami asks:
Hi, and thanks for answering all of our questions. What do you think of Dustin Pedroia? Is he a top draft pick? And do you see him becoming an every day major leaguer?

John Manuel: I wouldn't be surprised is an A's-Jays-Rangers type team takes him in the supplemental first round or second. If David Eckstein can be a big league regular, Pedro can too, though they are different kinds of players. Pedro's hands and bat are his best tools, but I think his makeup is what will make him a big leaguer.

 Q:  Tony from San Jose, CA asks:
Dewon Brazelton looks like he has figured out what was troubling him last year. When is he going to get the call? And do you think he has ace (or at least all-star) potential in the majors?

John Manuel: Not ace potential; his breaking ball is still pretty average, and he doesn't trust it much, it's clearly his third pitch. I think the Rays want to see more consistency with that pitch before he gets the call.

 Q:  Dean Quinton from Brooks, Alta asks:
Hi John, Ryan Roberts is currently batting .434 for Charleston, WV, the Jays Sally League team. Is he for real, he had a good short-season performance last year as well?

John Manuel: He's an interesting sleeper; the guy can hit. He's learning a new position at second base, but he's got some pop (he hit .422-16-69 at Texas-Arlington last year) and he's in the right organization for a guy whose best tool is his bat.

 Q:  Michael F. from Brooklyn asks:
What is your scouting report regarding Cap City's Yusmeiro Petit? If he continues pitching like this will he get promoted soon?

John Manuel: JJ Cooper listed Yusmeiro as his sleeper in the Prospect Handbook, and so far Petit is making him look good. He's missing a lot of bats so far with an 88-92 mph fastball and a good changeup. He's a pitchability guy; at 6-0, 180, there's not a lot of projection left and he lacks a real plus pitch right now.

 Q:  Rocco from Da' Village, NY asks:
On the heels of South Carolina's LHP Matt Campbell's 10-inning shutout, has this guy moved into the mid-first round of the draft? Does he have a Barry Zito-like curve or is it a notch below? Thanks!

John Manuel: I've always been a Campbell fan and I do like him as a late first-rounder. I wouldn't compare anyone to Zito; Campbell doesn't have that kind of K track record, either. Zito had three straight 16-K games in college, I don't think Campbell has ever had one.

 Q:  Jeff from Los Altos asks:
I'm concerned about the start of Brad Sullivan. Is he showing the effects of being overworked in college, or is he just trying to adjust to a change in his mechanics?

John Manuel: I'm concerned too. It sounds like both things are a problem; Brad threw too much in college (not to mention playing 2B and 1B down the stretch last year), and his mechanics have been altered. He was encouraged with his progress in spring training, but my question is, if you drafted a guy in the first round, and you liked him enough to give him a seven-figure bonus, why would you change his mechanics? If you didn't like his mechanics, and didn't think he would succeed with them, why would you give him $1million plus? I don't quite get that.

John Manuel: That's going to have to do it, thanks for all the good questions and even for the lame ones. Take care.