Baseball America Wednesday Chat With J.J. Cooper

Moderator: Managing editor J.J. Cooper was here to talk about a variety of topics, including early season results from MLB and MiLB.

Ken W (Missouri): do you see JP Crawford taking over at shortstop for Rollins in the next two years?
J.J. Cooper: Hey everyone. Sorry I’m a little late. Trying to chat between phone calls here. Two years is likely the fastest we’ll see Crawford replace Rollins. Just look at recent history. The best of the ’12 draft class shortstops–Russell, Baez, Lindor, Correa—will likely start arriving in the big leagues late this year. That’s an aggressive timetable. Crawford could match that, but three years is generally a more realistic timetable.

J.James (Kansas): Bubba Starling is bust or still hope? does he still have All-star upside?
J.J. Cooper: Still hope. More likely he has a shot now to be a useful regular. It would take a lot for his hit tool to go from being a liability to a strength, but if he can be an average or even a 40 big league hitter, the rest of his tools/skills (power, defense, speed, arm) would make him a valuable player. Take a look at how long Drew Stubbs has been playing in the big leagues. Stubbs has done that despite a well below-average hit tool.

Roger (Greenville, SC): How wide open is the field for #1 overall in the draft?
J.J. Cooper: Way wider open than it was when the season began. At this point there are a number of viable options at No. 1. In some way, you could say that’s good news for the Astros, as it gives them some flexibility financially at the No. 1 pick, as opposed to what it looked like last fall when there was one clear No. 1 pick (Rodon) who was likely to be looking for at least the full No. 1 slot value and maybe more.

Bren (Pearl River, NY): There's speculation that the Mets are batting Cesar Puello eighth in Vegas because they feel he'll have less protection and be forced to work on his plate discipline. Since the theory of protection is "iffy" at best, shouldn't the focus be on getting your best prospects the most AB's?
J.J. Cooper: Yeah, I’m not a big proponent of protection. Protection in Las Vegas is the fact that any mistake by a pitcher can carry a long way just by the nature of the park.

Mike (Tampa, FL): Thanks for the chat, JJ. Why do you suppose so many pitchers are falling victim to TJ thus far this season?
J.J. Cooper: Asking a lot of smart people about that. Hope to have something before long, but don’t have anything earth-shaking yet.

John (Boston): Hey J.J.,was wondering your thoughts on Allen Webster,do you think he still has a chance to be good or is he starting to fade???? Thanks!!!!!
J.J. Cooper: Still got a good chance, and a pretty good fallback option as a reliever. If he was in an organization with less pitching depth, we’d probably be talking about him more. In the Red Sox’s system, he has to worry about holding off Ranaudo, Owens and a whole lot of other guys. He’s still only 24 and will be all season.

Andrew (NJ): Does Ernesto Mejia ever get a callup by Atlanta? He already has hit 5 home runs for Gwinnett.
J.J. Cooper: All reports I’ve gotten from scouts is that Mejia is the kind of guy who is a Triple-A masher but whose success won’t necessarily translate to the majors. It’s a slower bat but a strength/leverage swing that really works well against mistakes. I had a scout describe it this way to me last year. “Mejia, Mauro Gomez, Jesus Aguilar, they all have strength/leverage swings. They can hit a mistake. They'll hammer mistakes. But in the big leagues you have to have bat speed.” Other members of the phylum include Steve Pearce and Mike Hessman.

Karl of Delaware (Georgetown, Delaware): Which of all the minor league teams is the most prospect laden in your opinion this season? Which of the low A teams only , too...
J.J. Cooper: We ranked the Top 10 teams for most talent from 1 to 10 when the rosters were released. All four levels are represented there, so it would be pretty easy to extrapolate who is the best at each level.

Andrew (NJ): I'm not sure how much more B.J. Upton I can watch. How fast of a track can Kyle Wren be on?
J.J. Cooper: Not fast enough for Braves fans. I could see him being ready by the middle of 2015 if it all break right, but by then, Braves fans may have ripped out all their hair if Upton doesn’t turn things around.

Allan (TX): How does Nick Franklin sitting in AAA make Seattle better? Given the teams who could use upgrades at SS, it seems like Jack Z could have moved him for something they need?
J.J. Cooper: The real issue is likely that teams are skeptical he’s a shortstop. Not a whole lot of teams are in big-time need for a second baseman, which is more likely what Franklin is. You don’t trade him if you’re not getting a good enough offer. There also are an apparent glut of middle infielders that are available which likely lessens Franklin’s trade value. You can sign Stephen Drew off the free agent market. Didi Gregorious is likely available as well, and both of them are much more sure-fire shortstops than Franklin.

STR (Chicago): Do you see Josh Bell moving to 1st base for the Pirates? If so, what do you think his ETA might be for the MLB club? There do not seem like any major obstacles in his way for playing time when he is ready.
J.J. Cooper: I don’t see why you’d move him there right now. He hasn’t been a disaster in the outfield by any stretch and he’s more valuable out there. I follow that there may not be room in a Polanco-McCutchen-Marte outfield when he’s ready for the big leagues, but he could pick up the basics of first base when he’s in Triple-A rather than taking him away from a more challenging position now. If the Pirates put him at first base now, it would be hard to later go back and move him to the outfield. It’s much easier to make a later transition to first base.

Johnn (Brew Crew, WI): 1st base not a strong position for the Brewers and Reynolds and Overbay not long-term solutions. I know the Brewers farm system is poor, but do you think Hunter Morris or Jason Rogers could seize the 1st base job by next season and at least by okay? Thanks
J.J. Cooper: I think it’s more likely that the Brewers go out and they to find a first baseman from outside the organization.

John (Boston): Will we see Henry Owens pitch in the big leagues this year?
J.J. Cooper: Yes. It may be late in the year, but he’s too useful to not see him up at some point.

Ben (Miamisburg, OH): Is there a rotation deeper in Prospects in the minors than in Pensacola with Robert Stephenson, Michael Lorenzen, Carlos Contreras, Dan Corcino, and Jon Moscot?
J.J. Cooper: The Astros’ HiA Lancaster club could make a pretty strong case to equal that–Appel, McCullers, Velasquez, Hader and Kyle Smith (plus more since it’s a tandem starter system).

Tyler (NJ): Wondering ur thoughts on blake swihart. off to a fast start in double-AA. Future allstar C?
J.J. Cooper: Could be. His catching has gotten significantly better. I’m hearing he’s showing a pretty consistent plus to plus-plus arm on his throws now and he’s getting better and better as a reciever. He could be special.

J (Portland): Manuel Margot with 2 homeruns today, you see him as a top 50 guy by the end of this season?
J.J. Cooper: That’s good to see as he’d gotten off to a pretty poor start until today. Lot of talent there. I think it’s more likely he’s a solid Top 100 guy for next year with a strong season, but considering his youth (he’ll play all year as a 19-year-old) he is a guy to definitely keep an eye on.

Roger (Greenville, SC): That article on the 10 most talented teams has Myrtle Beach in the Sally instead of the Carolina League. Which actual Sally team is the most talented?
J.J. Cooper: West Virginia will be. Already Reese McGuire is there as is Luis Heredia, Wyatt Mathisen, Harold Ramirez and more. But the team will get a further boost when Austin Meadows makes it there in a couple of weeks.

Greg T. (Twin Cities): Is there an update on Buxton? Haven't read or seen anything about his rehab for a while now. When/where will we see him? Thanks.
J.J. Cooper: No reason to rush. Last I heard should be back before too long from the wrist injury. Likely to start in Fort Myers and move to Double-A New Britain as soon as he’s comfortable at the plate again.

Tyler (Nj): Hunter harvey had a very nice debut. Is This guy another potietial frontline starter to go with bundy n gausman ?
J.J. Cooper: Yes. We need to see if he can maintain his premium stuff over a long season as he did tail off in high school, but the stuff is front-line stuff.

Tim (Sarasota): Good Afternoon J.J., With Dee Gordan off to a strong start what is happening with Alex Guerrero?
J.J. Cooper: We’ve got to see more than a week of Dee Gordon success to declare him the second baseman for good in Los Angeles, but Guerrero hasn’t really impressed all that much since signing either. Consider second base a significant question mark for the Dodgers on a team without a whole lot of question marks.

Ralph B (Atlanta): do you see either Jose Peraza or Tommy LaStella taking over at 2nd base and being a long-term answer? When would you expect to see them in Atlanta?
J.J. Cooper: Yes. LaStella likely gets first shot because he’s hit everywhere he’s played. If second base proves too taxing defensively for him, then Peraza would be a second option. But a lot of scouts I talk to think LaStella will be just good enough defensively to be playable there with his bat. If Uggla keeps this up, LaStella could be making a case by midseason.

J.J. Cooper: I’m sorry I’ve got to cut this a little short but I have to start hitting the phones again. Thanks for all the questions. We’ll be back Friday with our first Prospect Hot Sheet and Prospect Hot Sheet chat of the season.