Moderator: Josh Norris will answer your Eastern League questions beginning at 2:30 p.m. ET.
Josh Norris: Good afternoon, this is my first chat for Baseball America. I’ll be talking Eastern League prospects and … if you want to challenge me about Marcus Mariota’s amazingness, you can. You’d be wrong, but go ahead. In any case, hit me with your best shot. Fire away.
@Jaypers413 (IL): Thanks for the chat, Josh. What did evaluators have to say about Cesar Puello's season, and did he end up close making your list?
Josh Norris: He didn’t end up close to making the list, and quite frankly, a great deal of it had to do with the Biogenesis scandal. It also didn’t help that people within the Mets organization have told me beforehand that they don’t really consider him a prospect.
Lisa (San Francisco, CA): Did any of the Flying Squirrels come close to making this list?
Josh Norris: No. Joe Panik was probably the closest, and that was mostly on the strength of his defense. There were plenty of guys ahead of him in line for the next spot among the top 20.
Anthony Ranaudo (Boston, MA): What do you see as my ultimate upside if my injuries are completely behind me?
Josh Norris: I think you’re a middle of the rotation guy if everything pans out. You have good stuff in flashes, but your command and arm slot sometimes is lacking. You need to work more at the bottom of the zone to be successful. Stay healthy, my friend.
Chris (CT): Your thoughts on Christian Vazquez, Drake Britton and Matt Barnes?
Josh Norris: Christian Vazquez, according to one manager, was neck and neck with J.R. Murphy as one of the best catch/throw guys in the league, but otherwise was unspectacular. Mr. Britton earned comps from scouts to Jeremy Affeldt, but earned dings for his makeup and tendency to work himself into deep counts. Matt Barnes did not draw rave reviews. His ceiling seems to be somewhere in the neighborhood of a No. 5 guy, but his heater, while hard, is straight. His curveball comes and goes, which is a problem.
Mike (Utica, NY): Very surprising that Brian Goodwin didn't make the top 20, what is the rational for him not making it?
Josh Norris: Getting a lot of questions about this fella: His hit tool is the big issue. He’s OPSed .741 over 164 career Double-A games, albeit with very good defense in center field. He has tools for sure, but he hasn’t put them together enough to crack this year’s very deep top 20.
Ben (Leland Grove): Have Trenton's Heathcott's and Austin's stock fallen this season? Who was closer to this list?
Josh Norris: They have indeed. Slade was closer to this based on his tools, but there were significant questions about his plate discipline, makeup and being injury-prone. Austin had a bad season, some of which was certainly fueled by the wrist injury toward midseason. Even before this season, however, most evaluators I surveyed only thought of him as a fourth-outfielder type.
Michael (West Virginia): Alen Hanson just missed having enough plate appearances to be eligible. Where would he have ranked?
Josh Norris: He was eligible, by eight PAs. He was under consideration, but he didn’t have a great go of it in the EL, so we’ll put a ‘hold’ by his name for now.
Jonathan (Syracuse, NY): Thanks, regardless of reply, for doing the list and the chat! This was maybe the only list of the entire bunch that really surprised me (though not in a bad way!) with a few its rankings. I was expecting to see Taillon, Polanco, Franco, Meyer, with a pretty big gap between the Pirates and the other guys. Does the length of Franco's swing concern scouts at all? Has Taillon's stock fallen at all compared to last offseason?
Josh Norris: You’re welcome. I don’t think it’s a case of Taillon’s stock falling so much as it was of the other two guys (Meyer and Syndergaard) rising. Most guys saw Taillon as a No. 2 at best, while the other two could have ace-level potential, especially Noah.
As for Franco, if you took the name out of the reviews I got from scouts and managers, you’d swear they were talking about a slightly lesser version of Miguel Sano. That’s why he was ranked so highly.
Mike (SD): Is Trevor May going to be more valuable as a starter down the road, or will his best value be in the back end of the bullpen?
Josh Norris: Down the road, I expect Mr. May will find himself in the bullpen, though maybe not as a back-end guy. Command is a problem, as is his concentration on the hill.
Butch (Michigan): Big Tiger fan and was wondering the thoughts on Hernan Perez? I've heard from more then a few people that he has a chance to the 2B of the future for the Tigers.. If that's true, you'd think he'd have made this list.. Was he close at all?
Josh Norris: He was very, very close, In fact, he was in an initial version of this list, and one manager even liked his potential at shortstop going forth. That said, the bat was a bit of a question. If he’s a defense-first second baseman, he’ll obviously fit in nicely with Detroit’s swath of sluggers, but might not be enough to figure in the EL’s best.
Matt (Madison): How much did Biddle's injury and illness keep him up the list? How much do scouts think the control will rebound?
Josh Norris: With Biddle, the question was more of command (though we’ll see how much the whooping cough affected that). He has a great curveball and a very good heater, but the other two pitches are average at best. He has a tendency to come out of his delivery at times, and his ceiling seems to be toward the back of a rotation.
Dan (Idaho): Just curious about any feedback re: Ramon Flores. Projections? Thanks!
Josh Norris: His name didn’t come up with any evaluators for this list. The big problem here is power potential. He’s small and doesn’t project for much, so profiling him a corner just doesn’t work. He walks a lot, which is good, but he doesn’t really have the skills to unseat Brett Gardner (or, if necessary, Curtis Granderson) from center, so it’s hard to rank him among the top 20.
Sam (NY): Syndergaard or Wheeler over the long run?
Josh Norris: Surprisingly, I got two guys who picked Syndergaard over Wheeler long run. That’s a tantalizing future, if you’re a Mets fan and if Matt Harvey comes back as good as new.
Clint (BC, Canada): Where do you stand on the reliever or starter debate with Marcus Stroman? Does the cutter he's added make starting more realistic?
Josh Norris: The pure stuff has never been a question for Stroman. It is, unfortunately, about the height. And I say that as someone who’s 5-foot-7 myself. He allowed 13 homers in 111 2/3 innings this year with New Hampshire, a sign that his fastball, which can have downhill plane, straightens out enough to find its way into hitters’ happy zones. That said, I’m always of the opinion that you give a guy every chance to start before slotting him into the pen.
Sandy (Queens, NY): Great first list! Other than Noah S., Montero, and the aforementioned Puello, any B-Mets come close to making the top 20? Maybe Mazzoni? Verrett?
Josh Norris: Not really. That’s not to say they’re not OK prospects, just not Top 20 worthy.
joe smitz (south carolina): Thanks for all your insight! Who r ur top 3 sluggers in el?
Josh Norris: Sano, Franco, and Bogaerts.
Mitchell (NYC): What went wrong with Slade Heathcott and Tyler Austin this year and is the bloom off their roses??
Josh Norris: Both were very young and in their first go-rounds at the upper levels, which can always be troublesome for players. Moreover, Slade had issues with pitch recognition and overall discipline in the early going, and Austin had issues with breaking pitches, especially sliders. I don’t know if the bloom is off their roses, but the petals are starting to fall.
Jesse (Minneapolis): Is Josmil Pinto a legit prospect? I follow the Twins organization and did not hear much about him until the end of the year. I know he appears to be a good hitter for average. What are his skills in calling a game?
Josh Norris: He is a legit prospect, albeit an older one. He’s a bat-first catcher, which elevates his stock because having a catcher who can hit is especially rare these days.
John (New Braintree, MA): What position do see Cecchini playing when he gets to the bigs with the Red Sox wealth of infield talent.
Josh Norris: Boy that’s a fantastic question. Because of his lack of power, I’d say third base is more likely than first, but the presence of Middlebrooks certainly (but pleasantly) complicates things. In any case, whether it’s for Boston or someone else via a trade, I think he has a chance to stick at third.
Mike (Utica, NY): What did people have to say about A.J. Cole and Henry Owens in their short stays in the EL?
Josh Norris: People liked Cole, but they really liked Henry Owens. He’ll obviously have to iron out the command a little, but the stuff is dynamite, which is the tricky part.
mitchell (nyc): Thoughts on what you saw of Gary Sanchez and Mason Williams?
Josh Norris: Unfortunately I didn’t see any of Williams in Trenton (outside of MiLB TV) and got just one game of Sanchez. Even so, the reviews on Williams from his time with Tampa were lackluster at best. From looking at him in the AFL, he seems to have lost the weight he gained and will merit closer examination next year.
Sanchez had a fine year with the bat but was up and down at best with the glove. He had issues catching hard-throwers and still needs to tighten up his receiving.
Mike (Utica, NY): What did scouts think of the bullpen arms for Trenton?
Josh Norris: Didn’t ask about them for this go-round because I knew they wouldn’t figure in the Top 20.
susan (maryland): Josh , you are best . Who can make asig impact for os and nats in future? Love reading your thoughts
Josh Norris: Well, Anthony Rendon should be an impact guy for the Nats, and Jordan should open back in the rotation. As for the O’s, Dylan Bundy’s still out there and Kevin Gausman will help (though he didn’t qualify for this list based on too few innings). Jonathan Schoop is also interesting, and Henry Urrutia has a chance to be an average outfielder.
mariano (puerto rico): Any latino sluggers that can make bigs?
Josh Norris: Franco and Sano in the top five not enough?
Josh Norris: Thanks for all the questions, fellas, but I’ve got to go back to labeling video from my trip to Arizona.