Chat Wrap: John Manuel

 Q:  DATMAN from Irvine, CA asks:
for the chat…where do you see Blair Erickson (UC Irvine) and David
Huff (UCLA) slotting in the draft? What’s their respective “best fit”
team scenarios for a quick rise to the big leagues?

John Manuel: Hi everybody (hi, Dr. Nick!) . . . time for a draft chat to squeeze in amidst the other calls . . . let’s dig in

John Manuel:
Erickson’s stock has slipped somewhat this year, not just because he’s
starting and showing less velocity, but because he wasn’t throwing as
well as he has in the past even when he was closing. I think he’s more
in the 3-5 round range. I’m a huge David Huff fan. He has a lot of
things in common with Barry Zito: both pitched for 3 schools in
college. Both were coached by John Savage, noted college pitching coach
who knows what he’s doing; both turned down significant money when
drafted out of junior college, making scouts doubt they really “wanted
it”; and both have a plus secondary pitch. For Huff, it’s a change,
Zito obviously has the curve. Both are 87-90 mph with the fastball as
amateurs. I see Huff in the first round, and in the 15-25 range.

 Q:  stephen from portland asks:
do scouts feel about University of San Francisco’s Stefan Gartrell. He
seems to have a number of excellent tools that are only now really
starting to blossom-largely due to his limited playing time his first
two years and an injury last year.

John Manuel:
He’s a solid senior sign as a big guy who runs well and has some power.
Gartrell probably will go in the first 10 rounds, but teammate Scott
Cousins will go better, perhaps significantly better. Nice year by the
Dons and coach Nino Giarratano.

 Q:  Jim from Coral Gables asks:
is the news on Chris Perez of UM? He has had a great year as a closer
for the Canes. How high do you think he could go and do you think more
teams may want to try and convert him to a Starter or will he stay is
his preferred role of closer?

John Manuel:
Sounds like he won’t get out of the first two rounds, though his stuff
has been erratic in terms of being very good at times and just ok at
others. He hasn’t consistently dominated. I’ve always been more of a
makeup than stuff guy when it comes to closers (see my debates wJim
Callis re: Huston Street), and Perez’s makeup reminds me more of Kyle
Farnsworth than of Street or Chad Cordero.

 Q:  michael from Dulth asks:
is the draft status of john gaub from Minnesota? He was one of the best
pitchers in the country last year, but seems like he hasnt pitched too
much this year.

John Manuel:
Not good. Gaub is apparently healthy this year after shoulder woes, but
he’s just lost a lot of velocity, which is one reason he’s not
pitching. Might just be a case where a team that saw him really good in
the past takes him hoping he rediscovers it in the summer pitching in
Cape Cod or some other summer college league.

 Q:  Mick from Chicago asks:
usually doesn’t have much to offer as far as high school prospects. Who
do you see as some of the top position players coming out?

John Manuel:
Joliet’s Joe Benson sounds like the best of a bad lot, as he has bat
speed and is expected to hit, though not remain behind the plate.
Normal West High’s Luke Stewart, a third baseman, is the next-best
talent, though he’s not likely to sign with a strong college commitment
to Georgia. His father Jeff was the coach at Illinois State.

 Q:  scott from philadelphia, pa asks:
chris perez, mark melancon, blair erickson – where do you see these 3
college closers going in the draft ? do you see them on the fast track
to the majors – like chad codero, huston street, or craig hansen ?

John Manuel:
If he’s healthy, I see Melancon moving the quickest, he has the best
stuff of the trio and the best makeup, he’s universaly praised by his
own coaches, opposing coaches and scouts for his toughness and
personality as well as his stuff. Justin Masterson at San Diego State
should still go at the back of the first round thanks to his size,
low-90s velocity and control, and he profiles better as a closer. Of
course Tim Lincecum might be the best closer of all these guys and
would move fastest of all, if he’s put in the bullpen.

 Q:  chad clements from IA asks:
who are the first 2 catchers taken and do you see any in the 1st round?

John Manuel:
Ugh . . . not a pretty draft for catchers. Hank Conger should go in the
first round because of his bat and his improved defense behind the
plate, though he’s not a sure thing to catch. Not sure who the No. 2
catcher on the board is; just a bad year for catchers. Chad Tracy of
Pepperdine had some helium a month ago, but the home runs stopped and
he’s played some DH lately, leading to speculation about his arm.
Florida prep catcher Max Sapp also could go good based mostly on his

 Q:  Chris from Queens, NY asks:
the Mets don’t have a first round selection are they looking at someone
with a high ceiling and signability issues in the second round? If so

John Manuel:
To go back a question or two, I think I left out that Mark Melancon has
a ligament strain in his elbow and has missed about three weeks for
Arizona, and his health clouds his draft status

John Manuel:
The Mets probably are going to have to spend first-round money to keep
a draft-and-follow, Pedro Beato, out of the draft. He was their
17th-rounder last year out of Brooklyn and has really come on strong
for coach Dave Pano at St. Petersburg JC. He’s been in the mid-90s, and
one scout told our Alan Matthews that Beato would go in the first half
of the first round.

 Q:  Greg from LA asks:
Assuming that Hocheaver goes in the top 10 (giving that this is a weak draft), do you think that Boros’ strategy was correct?

There’s just more that goes into it than what kind of bonus Hochevar
might get. How will the layoff affect his arm? Will he ever have the
control and command he had before, which was the main reason he was a
first-round talent? Those questions won’t be answered until long after
he signs. But if the bonus is the be-all, end-all, then yeah, I think
the strategy will work, because he could re-enter a draft that lacks
top-shelf talent.

 Q:  Charlie from Virginia asks:
high is Jeremy Jeffress (rhp) going to go this year? Any chance he gets
drafted by the Nationals this year? The last two first-rounders have
basically been local kids (Bray & Zimmerman). Thanks.

John Manuel:
He’s at the front end of a trend of high school pitchers; there will be
five-seven HS pitchers who have a chance to go in the first round this
year, because it’s just not a good year for college position players. I
can’t speak for Dana Brown, but I’ll be surprised if Jeffress lasts to
that spot, so Dana may not have a decision to make on Jeffress.

John Manuel: I need to take a break to take a draft call, sorry.

 Q:  Devin S. from Schenectady NY asks:
Pace SS Adrian Cardenas has been lighting up the scoreboard, and is a
possability to break the Florida HS HR record. How is his defense
looked at, and it he a possable first-rounder?

John Manuel:
OK, I’m back . . . Cardenas isn’t a great defender, so he’s not likely
to go in the first round. Some have mentioned a move to C, most think
he’s an offensive 2B.

 Q:  Bob A. from oklahoma asks:
Where Do you see Brett Anderson going on the draft?

John Manuel:
First half of the first round, probably will go a bit better than David
Huff, who is the most comparable pitcher in the draft, because he’s

 Q:  Chris from Orange County asks:
Irvine and USC’s Friday night pitchers, Justin Cassel and Ian Kennedy
have not had as well as year as they had hoped to. Where do you see
these to guys going in this year’™s draft?

John Manuel:
Neither of those guys have ever had plus-plus stuff, like, say,
Lincecum, or Brandon Morrow. So their margin for error was less than
other pitchers, and Kennedy especially just isn’t a big guy at 6-foot,
180 pounds or so. We get consistent reports that Kennedy’s velo is
down, though he’s shown his usual 89-91 mph at times, but I’ve heard
more like 86-88 this year. His command and changeup aren’t what they
were last year. His stock has fallen; he’s a short RHP; and he’s got
Scott Boras as his, well, er, adviser. It’s not a good mix. Cassel’s
just a back-of-the-rotation profile, a pitchability righty with three
solid or fringe-average pitches. Both are first five round talents;
Kennedy hasn’t shown the first-round stuff and command that was
forecast for him, and I frankly have no idea where he’s getting drafted.

 Q:  Mark from Detroit asks:
The Tigers need position players will who will be available when they pick in the first.

John Manuel:
Drew Stubbs . . . The Tigers scored with a toolsy OF with questions on
the bat last year in Cam Maybin, and Stubbs playing next to him in
center would make for one hellacious defensive OF.

 Q:  Ace from Detroit, MI asks:
Are there any prospects worth noting in the state of MI that may be drafted in the first 5 rounds?

John Manuel: Very, very poor year in Michigan. We’re not hearing any players going in the first five rounds.

 Q:  scope from Des Moines asks:
Going bi-coastal with two questions:

1) Chris Minaker or Allen Craig: who goes first, and where?

2) What up with Dellin Betances? Is someone going to grab his huge upside early, or is he looking like a DF now?

Thanks for the great chats. (Ok, a third: Any ideas what the Giants might do at #10?)


John Manuel:
Minaker, a better defender who has hit well this year; Betances started
very poorly but has come on strong and should go good enough (first
three rounds) that he’s not a DNF. Finally, the Giants pick . . . I
have no idea what Dirt Tidrow is thinking, but it’s safe to guess that
in a year with lots of pitching and very few hitters, they are going to
go pitcher; I also could see them go HS pitcher, such as Jordan Walden,
who put up some 99 mph numbers last summer but hasn’t been that good
this year. Would they pop a Kyle Drabek, despite some of the makeup
questions? I think that’s an organization that would do it.

 Q:  kennedy from houston asks:
who are the 5 best texas high school players and where will they go in the draft?

John Manuel:
The obvious trio in Texas is on the mound–Clayton Kershaw, Kyle Drabek
and then Jordan Walden. AFter that, Aaron Miller (Channelview OFLHP)
and Zach Britton (LHP out of Weatherford). Britton has really come on
this spring, adding several ticks to a fastball that was in the
mid-to-upper 80s last summer. Miller was seen more as a pitcher, our
Jim Callis reports, but has come on as a pitcher and will be drafted as
such next month.

 Q:  Dean from Tallahassee asks:
Who will be the 3rd college position players taken? longoria, stubbs, and?

John Manuel:
Really, that’s like being the third tenor . . . it’s just the “other
guy.” Matt LaPorta has had a rough spring and is a Boras advisee, but
he has power and has earned some Billy Butler comparisons. Butler’s
done pretty well for himself; if LaPorta is Butler with more power and
less average, well, he’s gonna be pretty good. As I said, Tracy has
slipped a bit, but he’s earned Mike Piazza comps — WITHOUT THE POWER
— as a hitter who makes great adjustments and uses the whole field
despite an unorthodox swing. The more likely, more complete prospect is
Matt Antonelli, the athletic infielder out of Wake Forest whom scouts
project as an offensive second baseman. He’s the safest bet to go
third, but I don’t think he’s the third-best college position player
available. If he is . . . wow. No offense, Matt.

 Q:  jesse from ny asks:
is emmanual burriss the best middle infielder in the draft? who would u compare him to?

John Manuel:
He may be on the college side. He needs to add strength to stay at
short and to be a factor offensively, but he’s got aptitude, great
speed, great work ethic as detailed by Will Kimmey in today’s college
notes. I think most scouts like guys like Stephen King better, though
he might be a 3B . . . New Orleans prep infielder Ryan Adams is an
offensive 2B who also could go by the second round. The paucity of
players in the middle of the diamond is what truly distinguishes this
as a below-average draft.

 Q:  Erick from NYC asks:
The talk of this draft is that it is as weak as the 2000 draft. Granted
that there were plenty of 1st round busts but there were jewels in the
later rounds. Dontrelle, Brandon Webb, Grady Sizemore, Cliff Lee, Bobby
Jenks to name a few. With that in mind would it be a good strategy to
draft as many high ceiling, high school talent as possible? I mean
there are high schoolers who are raw talents now who can be high draft
choices when they are draft eligible again in 2 years (if they go to 4
yr. school that is).

John Manuel:
Strength of draft . . . every year, scouts tell us it’s bad or mediocre
every year. Most years, Jim Callis and I will say it’s better than they
think. This year, we’re probably more pessimistic than they are, for
whatever that is worth. In such conditions, I would shoot for the moon
as a scouting director–take the guy I believe in, regardless of
position or college or high school. If I believe in him, take him. If
you don’t, don’t waste your money–sign some DFEs, or invest the money
into the organization’s Latin American academy. Don’t waste money on
players you don’t believe in, but oh well, he’ll sign for slot. Is that
an answer?

 Q:  Bill L from Bozeman, MT asks:
tell me this madness about the Royals leaning toward Lincecum is just a
smoke-screen, and how strong is the consensus for Miller as the top
talent available? Thanks for the chat…

John Manuel:
Bill, while Miller is the consensus No. 1, let me break down some of
the issues with him, briefly. 1. He doesn’t really throw a changeup.
That’s usually a problem for a LHP who has to handle righties. Now, his
2-seamer is virtually a change at 83-86 mph, but that’s a little firm
for a change. Scouts would like to see more progress there. 2. Some
scouts question whether or not Miller will have the core strength in
his wiry frame to maintain his mechanics over 34 starts, without
breaking down repeatedly. That has some scouts saying “reliever.” I’ve
heard enough scouts who really, really like him, and I consider him a
legit No. 1 overall talent, not just in a bad draft like this one but
in most drafts. He’s better than the top LHP in last year’s draft,
Ricky Romero. Not sure he has Romero’s moxie, but the stuff is better.
All that said . . . if the Royals believe in him as a No. 2-3 starter
at least, then they would be really foolish, in my opinion, to pass on
him, even for a Pelfrey contract (major league deal, $3.5 mil bonus,
$5.5 overall guarantee . . . just throwing it out there). Where are
they going to find a big league pitcher that good for their bedraggled
franchise at that price? They won’t. So if they like Miller, they
should draft him.

 Q:  Baseball16 from LA asks:
Where do you see Ryan Adams going in this years draft?

John Manuel: Lightning round!

John Manuel: Won’t get out of the third round.

 Q:  Matt from Boston asks:
Is Adam Ottavino moving up on teams’ boards? I watched him pitch a few weeks back and he looked dominant.

John Manuel: Not as much as Peter Gammons is hearing but yes, first three rounds, more 2-3.

 Q:  JB from Lancaster, PA asks:

Where do most scouts profile Hector Ambriz (UCLA)? Which round will he go in?


John Manuel:
I love Ambriz, he’s a harder thrower than Casey Janssen, but like
Janssen, he’s a two-way guy who will have more velo and feel for
pitching as he focuses on pitching. Also like his former UCLA teammate,
Ambriz is a bulldog, he’s pitching Fridays, he holds his velo (91 in
the ninth against Cal) . . . Imagine my Tom Heinson voice saying, “I .
. . love . . . Hector!” He’s got a bad body and an injury history,
those are the things that cloud his status . . . I’m saying 3rd to 5th.

 Q:  Bill L from Bozeman, MT asks:
a draft year that is by all accounts pretty lean, is there an area that
stands out to you as talent-heavy, or at least underrated?

John Manuel:
Florida is strong this year, stronger than it was last year. I happen
to think Arizona is OK but a lot of its talent might sign as DNFs. I
love the AZ JC’s this year. Bryan Casey might be my favorite player in
the draft, and Yavapai–which could have seven-to-nine players drafted
if they don’t sign as DNF–probably is my favorite team in college
baseball right now.

 Q:  JB from Lancaster, PA asks:
Any thoughts on Garrett Olson (Franklin Pierce)? He was the top small
college position player in your draft preview. Is he a top-5 rounder?

John Manuel: Sounds like fourth-to-sixth, solid in a lot of phases but not knocking anyone’s socks off.

 Q:  tiffythetitan from Oakland, CA asks:
Curious…if you were Brian Sabean how would you approach the upcoming draft?

John Manuel:
Tiffy, always love your passion for the Jints . . . I’d do what I
advised before, trust my gut and give Dirt Tidrow the money to sign the
guy he wants. Their best prospects have not been their first-rounders
anyway (Sanders, J. Sanchez, Frandsen, etc.), so I’d also ask him not
to blow the whole budget in the first round to save for later rounds
and draft-and-follows if he needs it. If Drabek’s there, I’d take him
if I were the Giants.

 Q:  Commish from NY asks:
Is the only reason that Kiker and Drabek aren’t projected to go in the Top 5 is because of their height?

John Manuel:
No, they have makeup questions too . . . I can’t get more specific,
unfortunately, but there are off-field questions on both players that
scouts have known about for a while. Everyone hoped they would mature
some this spring, but they’re still waiting is what we are hearing.

 Q:  Yoda from Hiding am I… asks:
Hochevar to whom do you see, if draft re-enter he is? Run now do I…Vader on path of mine…Many thanks of you.

John Manuel:
great question. I think pitching in the AMerican Association is the
equivalent of being exiled to the Dagoba system . . . so maybe you’ve
seen him lately. Anyway, Hochevar is just as good if not better than
any college RHP in this draft. I’d take Miller over him, but after
that, he’s got better size, clean mechanics and fastball command when
he’s at his best. So Hochever would be a factor anywhere. The Rockies
considered him at 7 last year but passed when Tulo was available. I
think it’s hard to over-state, though, the makeup questions that come
up about Hochevar about last September’s agent escapades. Scouts
question why he didn’t take better control of the situation. I think
it’s a very fair concern.

 Q:  Paul from Santa Ana, Ca asks:
State Fullerton’s middle infield is one of the best, and they are
impressing offensively as well. Blake Davis (.374328, slugging .524)
and Justin Turner (.344332, slugging .478) are getting it done as the
number 1 and 2 hitters in the lineup. Where would you project these
players in this year’s draft?

John Manuel:
Davis is the better prospect, solid defender at SS, but Turner can
really play. I’m a huge Red Turner fan. Davis might go first five
rounds; Turner should be a single-digit draft, first 9 rounds, despite
the fact he has below-average tools. He can just play.

 Q:  Tom Ace from Long Island, NY asks:
There has been lots of talk that redshirt-junior Andrew Bailey will go high in the draft? Where do you see him ending up?

John Manuel: Sounds like this Tommy John alumnus is picking up helium, throwing in the low 90s and should go in the first 10 rounds.

 Q:  Kevin from appleton, wisc asks:
If you had to name a handful of guys picking up mometum as the draft apporaches who might you list? Thank you.

John Manuel:
Guys with helium, in the BA parlance? I’ll throw out some . . . Pedro
Beato is definitely one, the St. Pete JC rhp; I’ll say Scott Cousins at
San Francisco; Jeremy Jeffress is picking up steam; Long Beach State’s
Drew Carpenter has been so steady all year, he’s going to go good;
Arizona LHP Brad Mills should go in the first five rounds; and the guy
with lots of helium in California, Trevor Cahill, rhp out of San Diego,
best prep in the city. He had a bad outing the other day but pitched
despite strep throat. He’s a Dartmouth commitment; if he gets to the
Ivy League, he could put up Lincecum numbers.

 Q:  Brandi Griffin from Vermont asks:
really really would like the Rockies to take Andrew Miller with the
second pick, but realize that it might not happen due to signability
concerns or the chance that KC might take him first. If we end up
getting Longoria instead, I won’t mind, but what college pitchers do
you see dropping into the early second round that we can be looking to
take then? Thanks for answering, I love these chats.

John Manuel:
You might get better guys later anyway, like Steven Wright at Hawaii,
who has a plus slider, solid other stuff and might get more velo with a
move to the bullpen (he touched 95 in that role in the past). Who’s to
say where Dallas Buck goes, but he’d be pretty nice in the second round
if his velocity drop takes him that far down.

 Q:  Ryan from California asks:
for all the great insight! How much of a Boras factor are we going to
see in the draft this year? Obviously one of the more prominent ripples
will be Hochevar rentering the draft, but what can we look for as far
as high price tag holdouts and slot slipping due to Boras?

John Manuel:
It will be significant again . . . Max Scherzer, Ian Kennedy, Matt
LaPorta . . . just to name three. Jason Donald and Colin Curtis will be
affected, as neither has been stupdendous this spring and neither
profiles as a regular . . . All those guys have had some warts; none is
a “special player” in the Boras parlance. Hochevar obviously is the
biggest wild card.

 Q:  Gorilla from Tigertown asks:
Lincecum have any chance at remaining a starter? And how much of a risk
do you think he is health-wise? He’s not exactly efficient, he’s small,
and his motion is supposedly violent.

John Manuel:
I think he does actually, he has the pitches for it. Frankly, i don’t
care how different his delivery is . . . he throws ALL THE TIME and is
never hurt, never sore, long-tosses pole to pole the day after throwing
140 pitches. He’s a physical freak, in a good way. Why not let him try
to start before you turn him into Scot Shields? The greatest players
almost always do it a little differently, don’t they? Bonds isn’t
textbook; Jeter isn’t textbook (just trying to irritate some people
there . . .) Big Papi and Manny Ramirez are far from conventional. Just
throwing it out there. . . i don’t see why you would limit a guy with
that kind of stuff.

 Q:  Drew Henson from Tullahoma, TN asks:
know Bryan Morris’ draft rights still belong to the Rays, but if they
do not agree by the upcoming draft, where does he fit? First round this
time around?

John Manuel:
He could go higher, but he’s not going to get significantly more than
the $1.4 million he was offered last year. The Rays just goofed on the
delivery of the bonus, Morris was ready to sign, it just got flubbed.
It sounds like his stuff is still plus, still a little unconventional
(throws across his body) but good, firm stuff.

 Q:  Scott from Kansas City asks:
is the health of Max Scherzer affecting his draft status? He seems to
be right there with Tim Lincecum for the best stuff in the draft but
his tendonitis and being a Boras client have to hurt his draft stock.
Which teams are looking hard at him? Are the Royals in that mix? Thanks
for the awesome chats.

John Manuel:
The Royals aren’t going to mess with a Boras client who hasn’t been
healthy. Scherzer still might be the best pitcher in this draft, but it
has to be the right mix: a team that will deal with Boras, that has
money, and that has seen him good.

 Q:  jared thomas from chicago, ill asks:
has changed from last year to this season in Lincecum that he’s
projected as a top 5 pick versus last season’s afterthought as a 41st
rounder? Please explain.

John Manuel:
Will Kimmey’s interview with Lincecum in today’s college preview hits
this better than I could. Lincecum explains how he became better, but
don’t forget, this guy was Pac-10 pitcher of the year as a freshman; he
didn’t come out of nowhere. And he blew the doors off the Cape Cod
League last summer. He’s been good–very good–before. Subscribers
should go read our scouting report on him from 2003 in high school,
when he was 5-foot-9, 137 pounds, and didn’t throw quite as hard, but
the report sounds familiar.

John Manuel: OK, that’s gonna
wrap it up. Thanks for the questions; we’ll be back next Friday. BA’s
draft coverage proper–the draft preview issue–also starts getting
posted next week. Then my left ear goes into rehab from all the phone
calls, and Jim Callis and I reintroduce ourselves to our respective
families (Alan Matthews meanwhile just keeps cranking it out . . . ).
Enjoy it all and thanks for the time.