John Manuel Chat: June 22

Q:  James Spencer from NYC asks:
the college season almost over, where are Lonnie Chisenhall and Nick
Fuller going to be playing this upcoming season? Any summer ball
leagues? I mean these guys add an automatic boost to any team.

John Manuel: Hey everyone, let’s see what we can do today with a completely wide-open chat . . .

John Manuel:
James, I would strongly disagree with you. First, some news–we
understand Fuller is going to play at Walters State (Tenn.) CC next
year, and Chisenhall at Pitt (N.C.) CC. I do not believe they are
playing summer ball as they are facing felony charges. It seems that
you and many others who ask about them have forgotten about this. They
didn’t violate team rules or have a fight or something. They stole a
lot of money from their coaches’ office. That’s a big deal. I wouldn’t
have them on my team–people deserve a second chance, but that is a
pretty ridiculous lapse in judgment. I just wouldn’t be the one to give
them the second chance is all I’m saying, because I don’t believe
anyone who would do that would be an automatic boost to my team.

 Q:  Marty from Wilmington, DE asks:
a team finishes sixth in it’s conference, goes just 5-4 against the
bottom three teams in that conference, finishes with a terrible 10-14
conference record, and plays for the national championship. Is this
good for college baseball?

John Manuel:
Marty, that’s one side of the argument. How about that Oregon State is
37-4 outside of the conference (actually 35-4, with two non-league wins
against Arizona State, one early and one of course in Omaha). Which do
you want to emphasize? That amazing non-league record, against a strong
non-league schedule that included the likes of Georgia (an ’06 CWS
team), Missouri, Texas A&M, Evansville, Cal Poly and San Francisco
(the last three solid teams that didn’t make the tournament). It was a
strong schedule and they dominated it. So yes, I’ll say it’s OK for
college baseball. They earned their way into the tournament and earned
their way to Omaha.

 Q:  Marty from Wilmington, DE asks:
of the 40 some odd number of hit batsmen, some of the pitches actually
look as if they may have been strikes if the batter hadn’t been leaning
so far over the plate. This is happenening at such a high rate that
it’s distracting from the beauty of the game, much like the LSU
gorilla-ball, home run glut of the 90’s. Is this an issue that that
will be at the forefront of offseason discussions? Thanks

John Manuel:
One more from Marty . . . who is in a sour mood today apparently. It
will be an issue for the future, because a lot of West Coast teams do
teach hitters to lean in and take a dose to get on base. There just
aren’t as many hard throwers in college baseball who can make hitters
pay for leaning out over the plate. But distracting from the game . . .
I don’t see it. These are the rules as they are now. Frankly, it was
inevitable to break the rules with teams like CS Fullerton and UC
Irvine both in the tournament, both those teams teach their kids to
take a dose. Good thing Carlos Quentin is already in the big leagues or
the total would be higher.

 Q:  Omar from Windsor asks:
Fernando and Guerra-best young combo in the minors?

John Manuel:
Chris Kline had a great scout’s view about Fernando Martinez the other
day that called some of his talent or projections into question, while
at the same time presenting another scout that really liked him. It’s
hard to think of a better tandem, though coming into the year I would
have taken Andrew Miller & Cam Maybin for the Tigers. Now Miller’s
in the majors . . . same with Jay Bruce and Homer Bailey, Reds; and
Philip Hughes & Jose Tabata, Yankees. Those guys are a little
banged up this y ear so that hurts their inclusion here. Right now, I’d
take that Mets duo but that’s mostly because the other tandems’
pitchers have all already been in the majors.

 Q:  joey from (New York City) asks:
was wondering what you know about the giants pitcher henry sosa who’s
going to the futures game in san fransico?Go Oregon State!!!!

John Manuel:
Joey, I wrote about Sosa in our latest low Class A notebook and talked
to the Giants about him. I frankly feel negligent for having left him
out of our Arizona League top 20 last year, he was throwing hard and
showing better control, and I just bonked on him. Still, he’s taken a
quantum leap this year with his secondary stuff to go with a fastball
that sits at 93-94 mph and touches as high as 97, according to the
club. He’s wiry, somewhat athletic, quick-armed . . . sounds like a
legitimate guy, one I’m looking forward to seeing in San Francisco.

 Q:  Luke from Des Moines asks:
looks like it will be another great Futures Game! With all those star
outfielders for the US, who will start? Maybin in left, Upton in
center, Bruce in right? Also, who will be the starting pitchers?
Lastly, which team do you think will come out on top? Thanks.

John Manuel:
Luke, glad you’re excited. I also get excited come Futures Game time.
It’s especially interesting this year with the U.S. outfield; we all
knew this was coming with the performance these guys put together in
2005 leading up to that draft and last year in the Midwest League.
Justin Upton and Cam Maybin and Jay Bruce have to start IMO. No offense
to Colby Rasmus but he’s just not quite at the same level as the other
three, for me. Jacoby Ellsbury is the closest to the majors but has the
lowest ceiling of the quintet. The U.S. team usually is stronger at the
Futures Game, and I’m not sure why that is. That’s one to look at and
study; my guess is, we try hard to have as many countries represented
as possible, so if there’s a player from, say, Saudi Arabia available
(that means you, Craig Stansberry), we try to take him if we can. That
doesn’t happen with the U.S. team. “You know, we don’t have any North
Carolinians on this team . . . ” Doesn’t happen like that.

 Q:  Kevin from Issaquah, Wa asks:
the Beavers win the National Title again, won’t they be the first to
win back to back titles since the NCAA baseball tournament field got
expanded to 64 teams? Do you see this as more a less impressive then
say LSU who won back to back titles in the late 90’s.

John Manuel:
Issaquah represent . . . O-State would be the first repeat champ of the
64-team era. To me it gets a little harder every year, just because of
the increased parity in college baseball. That said, LSU won in ’96,
was the favorite in ’97, and basically went wire-to-wire, falling out
of first late when Jim Wells’ Alabama team beat it in the SEC
tournament finale that year. I think LSU’s ’96 and ’97 seasons stand up
better than OSU’s seasons, but it’s harder to do it now. It is amazing,
but Oregon State has gone from national afterthought–no regional trips
from 1987 through 2004–to potential dynasty, basically during the
career of Darwin Barney. Amazing.

 Q:  Russ from Purple Row asks:
it be better for Chris Iannetta to go back to the Springs to play on a
consistent basis? I’m in favor of him staying with the big club to
learn the pitchers, even if he’s going to get only 2 or 3 games a week
(not that Hurdle will actually give him that many games).

John Manuel:
I don’t have Iannetta’s defensive stats handy but that’s a factor here.
If he’s doing a good job handling pitchers when he plays, controls the
running game, etc., then it’s worth it to keep him in Colorado. That
team is contending now with how well it’s playing, best record in the
majors since late May, and it’s important for the fans there, the front
office and the whole franchise really for the Rockies to do well this
year without mortgaging the future. You just can’t measure a catcher’s
readiness or progress simply by the offense, which I admit has been
quite a disappointment. If he’s a big league defender, he’ll stay in
the big leagues, even if he’s struggling offensively.

 Q:  Derek from Beaver Dam, KY asks:
amazing with all the parity in College Baseball that two teams are both
having repeat appearances in the Finals of the CWS. Though this one
seems to be a little more lopsided talent wise, with UNC being a #3
nationally ranked team and Oregon State being a #3 seed in their
regional. But, Casey and the Beavers know how to win the big game. Who
do you like to win it all, and why?

John Manuel:
Derek, Oregon State was the most confident, loosest, coolest team in
Omaha while I was there for the first weekend. Arizona State made
excuses after losing to the Beavers; Oregon State made jokes about
playing ping-pong to stay loose during the long CSF-UCI game that was
played first that day. Fullerton threw ace Wes Roemer at OSU, and OSU
found just enough offense, while freshman Jorge Reyes wasn’t fazed.
It’s been very impressive. That said . . . I picked North Carolina to
win the whole thing at the start of the tournament (it’s recorded for
posterity in our podcast from late May, you can check it out). I’m
still picking North Carolina because it has a deeper lineup and better
closer in Andrew Carignan. The big ‘if’ is for North Carolina’s
starting pitching to keep up its recent three-start run. Let’s see who
wins Saturday’s battle of freshmen in Reyes and Alex White; both have
big stuff, and Reyes’ first Omaha start was a lot better than White’s.

 Q:  Adam from Hagersville, ON asks:
Any guys the Jays picked that you see as sleepers? Also do you think
Romero will ever stay healthy and be the impact pitcher the Jays hoped
he would be?

John Manuel:
I like what the Jays did in general and especially with LHPs, in that
they took decent ones without overdrafting them. Brad Mills and Marc
Rzepcynski were both seniors with upside they got in the fourth and
fifth rounds, I like both picks. I also like a pair of college
20-something rounders in Jimmy Dougher and Jay Monti, who have had
success against wood bats before, both are more command and control,
feel for pitching guys. As for Ricky Romero, I’m pulling for him, I’ve
always been a Romero fan, but he was a bad pick at No. 6 overall with
Troy Tulowitzki on the board. How much better would you like the Jays
with Tulo at short instead of Royce Clayton and John McDonald? Ricky
needs to get back to his long-toss program and build his arm strength
back up to the way he was at CS Fullerton and he can still be a No. 4
starter, but at No. 6 overall . . . the Jays should have aimed higher.
They over-valued Romero because he’s a LHP, exactly what Gerry Fraley
addressed in our Draft Preview issue cover feature.

 Q:  Joe from Edmonton asks:
Hey John,

What did you think of the Blue Jays draft? Will they sign Jackson and if so where does he fit with Ahrens wanting to stay at SS?


John Manuel:
Lots of Jays questions today . . . I liked Toronto’s draft on draft day
and it’s shaping up well. I don’t think Jackson is going to college,
he’s going to sign. His value is that he’s an SS, and the Jays
certainly see Ahrens at 3B. If Ahrens can stay at SS, then maybe they
have a problem, but too many SSs has not been a problem for any other
organization ever. Those guys always can move and always have trade

 Q:  Josh Mitchell from Lumberton tx asks:
How good is Clay Buchholz and will he get moved up this year?

John Manuel:
Clay Buchholz is stating his case as the best pitching prospect in the
minor leagues. It’s a pretty strong case, as he’s jumped to Double-A,
has plus-plus stuff and athleticism, and he’s dominated. But I don’t
see him getting a promotion to Boston this year, the team just doesn’t
need him and rushing him to the big leagues this year could do more
harm than good. That said, he’s sped up his timetable considerably and
could be in Pawtucket late in the year, if he keeps over-matching
Double-A hitters. He’s right at the front of the list for Minor League
Player of the Year.

 Q:  Chris from California asks:
is there any chance of college baseball having a regular season,
national TV deal in place any time soon? It’s a shame these kids don’t
get national exposure until the NCAA tournament.

John Manuel:
Chris, if only BA ruled the world . . . I don’t know that it’s a shame,
I mean, this is America, the market rules, yada yada yada. That said,
yes, it’s pretty amazing that there are two cable stations dedicated to
college sports, and neither one even has a college game of the week. I
am surprised by that. College baseball is a decent brand (of course I
think it’s a tremendous brand, but I know I’m in the minority). But
college teams are great brands–Texas is a great brand name. Same with
Michigan, and North Carolina, and now Oregon State and Cal State
Fullerton and Arizona State . . . just shouldn’t be that hard to market
those brand names to people, it doesn’t seem.

 Q:  Alex from Fullerton, Ca asks:
was happy to see the Big West well represented in this years
postseason. Do you think the Big West can now be considered a top tier
conference in the nation? Next year I could see five teams in the
conference having fine seasons.

John Manuel:
Alex, five teams did this year–the committee just ignored Cal Poly for
whatever reason. I fault Fullerton’s AD, he was on the committee and
should have spoken up more for the Big West. The Big West has been a
top tier conference in my mind for years–in my mind, always in the top
5 with ACC, Big 12, Pac-10 and SEC. Conference USA was the only other
league in the mix, and with Rice it gained a great program, but it’s
also seen Rice dominate the league, which in my mind speaks ill of the
league. Of course the Big West’s bottom teams are not great either,
Pacific and CSUN really struggled this year, and that poor bottom tier
is what helped keep the Big West to 4 regional teams and not 5. The
league also got a big boost when UC Irvine–in other words, someone
other than Fullerton–got to Omaha. That had not happened since ’98
(Long Beach State). The league needs teams other than Fullerton to rep
and present in Omaha, and this year dave Serrano and the ‘Eaters did
it. (See, Julie St. Cyr, we love the Big West!)

 Q:  Kyle from Seattle asks:
is the real Jeff Clement? When he was struggling there was talk of a
loss in bat speed. Now he is on fire in June. When will he make the
show and what will his production likely be?

John Manuel:
The real Jeff Clement is closer to what you are seeing in Triple-A this
year. I don’t feel he was the No. 3 talent in the ’05 draft, but he was
a legit top 10 talent, and he’s got lefthanded power that is hard to
find at any position. If he’s just a fair big league defender he’ll be
an asset because he should hit .260 with 20-25 homers annually. That’s
pretty good for a catcher, though right now it’s looking mediocre
compared to McCann, Mauer and Martin–this Golden Age of catchers. I
like Clement and he has survived being rushed to Triple-A, and now the
Mariners are about to see a return on their investment. His makeup is
off the charts, a major reason he has survived and has started to
thrive, amazingly hard worker who won’t accept failure or mediocrity.

 Q:  Sam from Salem, OR asks:
impartial and break down the strengths and weaknesses for this final
series between UNC and OSU. Who’s pitching will show up? Will bats fall
quiet or stay hitting like they have been. I’m looking for the cold
hard facts. Let us have it.

John Manuel:
Sam, impartiality is our specialty . . . I did just this on the phone
with Aaron Fitt. Offensively, North Carolina is a big better–it’s a
deeper lineup, with hitters 7-through-9 more capable of hurting
opponents than OSU and with a slightly deeper bench. Oregon State’s
pitching is in better shape in terms of rest, but if the series goes
three games, North Carolina should throw Putkonen in game two and
Robert Woodard in game three, which are the two guys they want with
their season on the line. Of course the big key is Andrew
Carignan–he’s the best pitcher in the tournament. That said, OSU’s
bullpen is excellent with Eddie Kunz and LHP Joe Paterson, who has been
money in the postseason. Slight overall edge to North Carolina but it’s
very slight, and Oregon State’s mojo is incredible right now. I’ve
never been around a more confident player than Darwin Barney and his
leadership has been integral to the Beavers’ success the last three

 Q:  Joel from Washington, DC asks:
why didn’t Neil Walker make the Futures Game? Is there a rule about
only one appearance or did it relate to the need to juggle rosters and
have every team represented? It’s ironic that he made it least year
when he was injured and unproductive, and not this year when he is

John Manuel:
Joel, you’ve been coming to BA chats for like eight years, so I’m going
to answer your question . . . always appreciate you stopping by . . .
Walker just wasn’t the best bet for us at 3B on the U.S. team. Evan
Longoria has to be there–he’s also a Minor League POY candidate. We
liked Ian Stewart bouncing back from a big start, and he worked out as
the second US 3B. We needed a U.S. first baseman and couldn’t ignore
Stephen Pearce, and we like getting as many countries involved as
possible, which led us to Serguey Linares. All the puzzle pieces made
it hard for Walker anyway, and the need for other Pirates
representatives certainly made things harder for him.

 Q:  Joel from Washington, DC asks:
the Pirates have a proven ability to produce right-handed AAAA first
baseman (Shelton, Eldred). Is Steve Pearce next in line or does he have
more of a chance to be a productive major league regular?

John Manuel:
Pearce always has hit, Florida JC ball, South Carolina and pro ball.
That said, you may have nailed it . . . he has to keep hitting to
convince me. Like to root for those former Gamecocks, with Kevin
Melillo going to the big leagues, and Lee Gronkiewicz. Those guys are
overachievers, wouldn’t surprise me if he overachieved too.

Moderator: Thanks for the questions . . . enjoy the CWS Finals and we’ll have more Futures Game chatting in the near future.