2014 Pioneer League Top 20 Prospects Chat

Bill Mitchell: Thanks for joining our annual Pioneer League chat. The crop of prospects in the league this year was not real deep but there were plenty of interesting pop-up guys this year. Let’s get this chat started.

Dave (New York City): Is Mason Robbins too old to be a potential prospect based on his Great Falls results?
Bill Mitchell: Because of the range of ages in the Pioneer League, it’s hard to say that anyone is “too old” to be considered. Robbins, 21, drew some interest from observers. Being a lower draft pick he wasn’t getting as much opportunity to play early in the season but the hit tool started showing as he got more playing time. He’s got some pop in that left-handed bat and it’ll be interesting to see how the Southern Mississippi product handles full season ball next year.

@Jaypers413 (IL): Thanks for the chat, Bill. Did Jake Scavuzzo make a case for the list? Besides power, what else does he bring to the table?
Bill Mitchell: Scavuzzo was on last year’s Pioneer League list when he led the league in homeruns. But he only returned to Ogden late in the season after struggling considerably in the Midwest League and did not get enough plate appearances to qualify this year. He needs another crack at full-season ball to show that he’s ready to turn his raw athleticism into baseball skills.

Ben (Leland Grove): Is Grant Holmes ready for full season ball, in your opinion? Where would he have ranked here?
Bill Mitchell: I’m high on Holmes, ranking him #2 in the Arizona League. He didn’t pitch enough to qualify in the Pioneer League, but he also would have been a top five prospect in this league. He’s ready for full-season ball next year, although holding him back in extended spring training for the early part of the season in order to manage his innings count wouldn’t be a bad idea.

Danny (Phoenix): Would it help for Toussaint to repeat the Pioneer League next season, or is he ready for a greater challenge?
Bill Mitchell: The Diamondbacks have three short-season affiliates so there are plenty of options for where to place Touki Toussaint, their 2014 1st round pick, next year. The biggest issue in his first pro season was in consistently commanding his pitches, not uncommon for pitchers new to the pro game. He’s got an above-average curveball, but I saw one game in Arizona when he was throwing mostly fastballs because of command issues. A lot will depend on how he looks in spring training, but I could see him spending time in extended spring training next year before either going to the Midwest League or to the short-season affiliate in Hillsboro.

Mike (Cincinnati): While a bit older than most guys on the list what did you hear about Argenis Aldazoro? He put together a strong year for Billings as well.
Bill Mitchell: Aldazoro’s name didn’t come up in my discussion of prospects with managers, but I was intrigued by his numbers and checked in with a scout who had seen him. Already 22, he’s athletic, has a decent swing and is starting to add power to his game with some bat to ball skills. All 11 of his homeruns came off right-handed pitchers so he may wind up being a platoon player who can handle both outfield corners and first base. Put Aldazoro on your Reds sleeper list.

Matt (FutureSox) (Chicago): Did anyone get a look at Jake Peter? 7th rounder pounded the ball in PIO with a great contact rate, then was double-promoted to A+ as a 21 year old. How does he look at the plate? Did he get consideration for this list?
Bill Mitchell: Peter’s name came up as one of the better prospects on a thin Great Falls team, but he was already gone to A ball until I got to see the Voyagers. He’s got good hand-eye coordination and a solid knowledge of the strike zone. Defensively, his best position is second base where he makes all of the plays. Peter plays with a lot of energy and, according to his manager, makes the whole team better when he’s on the field. He looks to me like a potential utility infielder.

Karl of Delaware (Georgetown, Delaware): Of the Royal's Pioneer League pitchers, who are your favorites that I can expect to see playing for Lexington or Wilmington?
Bill Mitchell: I like the size of 6’7″ left-hander Eric Skoglund (3rd round pick) but he didn’t get enough innings to qualify. One of the pitchers who stood out from the Idaho Falls staff was non-drafted right-hander Torey Deshazier, who looks to be putting it together in his third pro season. He’s very athletic with a loose arm. Fastball is 91-95 with good movement and he locates it well. The changeup is an average pitch but he needs to keep working on his curveball to develop more consistency with the pitch.

Warren (New London): I liked Brandon Diaz last year in the Arizona League. He got off to an excellent start here and then tailed off quite a bit, and I'm wondering what Pioneer League observers think of him.
Bill Mitchell: Brandon Diaz just missed the list. The 2013 8th round pick is a nice centerfielder with twitchy athleticism who barrels up the ball. He has above-average speed with good instincts on the basepaths. Diaz projects as a fourth or fifth outfielder, and I like his chances to getting there.

Hansford (Mansfield, tx): Do you have any sleepers on the Grand Junction team? What did you hear about Hamlet Marte and Henry Garcia?
Bill Mitchell: Because Colorado doesn’t have a complex level team, the Grand Junction team carried a large roster of mostly new draft picks from high school and intriguing Latin players. Hamlet Marte is a good hitting catcher who got some consideration for the list but instead fell into the 21-25 range; he’s got a lot to learn defensively but there’s some potential. Henry Garcia has a wealth of raw power that shows better in batting practice then in games. Max George, the Rockies 6th round pick, is a grinder who will always get the most out of his tools, and profiles better at second base than at shortstop.

Keith (Manchester, CT): Thanks Bill. Which potential 2B has the higher ceiling, Forrest Wall or Franklin Barreto, and how close it it?
Bill Mitchell: I’ve never seen Barreto but the reports on his bat are all very good. He likely won’t stay at shortstop which, like Wall, puts more pressure on the bat to continue to develop. The Northwest League is a higher level than the Pioneer League, so right now I’ll give the edge to Barreto.

Eric (Oklahoma): If Forrest Wall and Nick Gordon had the same arm grade, who would be the better prospect and what kind of separation would there be?
Bill Mitchell: Even without the arm problems caused by his earlier labrum surgery, I don’t know that Wall would profile as a shortstop, but that’s all speculation. Gordon may move off the position at some point, so now we’re comparing bats. I haven’t seen Gordon so I can only go on reports that I’ve read, but I really like Wall’s potential to hit at higher levels especially if he cleans up his pull-heavy approach. They are both very good prospects.

Deywane (Memphis): The Reds had 5 players make the list. Did anyone else come close to making the list from the Billings team?
Bill Mitchell: I mentioned Argenis Aldazoro in response to a previous question. The Mustangs had a couple interesting bullpen arms in Jeremy Kivel, who right now is still pretty much a fastball only guy, and 26th round left-hander Brennan Bernardino.

Mike (KC): Did Zimmer look to be back to 100% during his limited time in this league?
Bill Mitchell: Zimmer was using his short stint in the Pioneer League to get his timing and rhythm back after sitting out all summer. He’s in the Royals instructional league camp right now, prepping for the Arizona Fall League, so I hope to see him soon. I’ve got a call in to the Idaho Falls pitching coach, so check back with me later on a more detailed report on Zimmer.

Dave (Appleton): What were the differences for Devin Williams this year as opposed to last year?
Bill Mitchell: Williams, the Brewers 2nd round pick in 2013, improved his slider this year, but the biggest change came with maturity and understanding the professional game. It was a real up and down season for the right-hander, but results improved significantly in the second half of the Pioneer League season. He still has a lot of work to do, especially in improving the fastball command, but his performance in August is a positive sign.

jason (atlanta): arisitide aquino is a legit 5 tools guy?
Bill Mitchell: All five of Aquino’s tools are at least average now, with raw power and arm being the carrying tools. He’s only an average runner now and may slow down as he gets bigger, but he’s still a pretty instinctual runner. The ability to hit for average took a leap forward this year because of improved pitch recognition; continued development of that skill will be key as he moves into full season ball.

mike (utica, ny): Where would aquino rank in the appy league and was this league down in general?
Bill Mitchell: I haven’t seen too many of the Appy top 20 players, although I expect to watch the Burlington guys in instructs within the next week, but I’m sure that Aquino would rank somewhere in the top five. The Pioneer League was somewhat weak this year although it’s hard to compare with the Appy League because of the presence of more older college players in the Pioneer League.

Joe LeCates (Easton, MD): Bill, thank you so much for the chat today. In regards to Justin Williams, is any of the issue with the lack of power tied-up to any mechanical adjustments he's had to make as a pro? As an amateur I saw him several times and there were definitely some lower-half issues (feet especially) that needed work. Or is this simply the old case of power being the last tool to play?
Bill Mitchell: I believe it’s the latter. The hit tool is there and Williams hits at every level; the power should eventually come out. There are still concerns that he’ll struggle with breaking balls as he faces better pitching, but he’s met every challenge thrown at him so far. There’s a wide range of opinions as to his progress in the outfield, a position he’s played only since turning pro, but the Diamondbacks are pleased with how far he’s come since last year.

David (Scottsdale): Joining Sergio Alcantara at the top of the Missoula lineup was another 18-year old middle infielder--Fernery Ozuna--who seemed to show some pop in his bat. What were managers and scouts' impressions of him?
Bill Mitchell: I received some positive comments on Ozuna’s game, especially related to the thump in his bat for a middle infielder. I’ve watched him numerous times and like the way he plays the game. Originally signed from the Dominican Republic as a shortstop, he’s primarily played second base since then as he doesn’t have the range for shortstop. I believe I saw him at third base in a recent instructional league game, so he could profile as a utility player down the line.

Dave (Appleton): Better pitching prospect for the Brewers, Devin Williams or Kodi Medeiros?
Bill Mitchell: Definitely Medeiros. His stuff is better, although like many young pitchers he’s got to get better command. I said in my recent AZL chat that many scouts still believe he will wind up in the back end of the bullpen, but he’s a starter for now.

Dave (Appleton, WI): What happened to Tucker Neuhaus this year? From just looking at his stats this year, it looks like he really struggled.
Bill Mitchell: I didn’t get favorable comments from scouts on Neuhaus’ performance at the plate and his name didn’t come up in prospect discussions with the managers. He’s gotten too big to handle shortstop, so there will be much more pressure on his bat to develop as a third baseman.

Deywane (Memphis): Does Aquino have the upside to be a star?
Bill Mitchell: I was hesitant to use the Vladimir Guerrero comps that I kept getting on Aquino because that’s a lot to put on a kid who hasn’t yet made it to full season ball. He’s got the tools, the aptitude to make adjustments and the physicality. Yes, the upside is there, but he’s a very long way from the big leagues. As I said in a response to an earlier question, the bust potential is higher for players like Aquino. Let’s instead just sit back and watch how he develops.

natanel delgado (arizona): I am the next top prospect of the angels organization? I mean we dont have good talent in our farms
Bill Mitchell: Natanael Delgado isn’t the top prospect in the Angels organization, despite the fact that it’s a pretty thin system . I will be doing the Angels Top 30 prospect list this year. While I’ve only skimmed the surface so far in researching the system, there are several pitchers I believe will be at the top of the list. Delgado will have a place somewhere in the top half of the 30, but I don’t yet know where.

Bill Mitchell: That takes care of our discussion on the Pioneer League. Thanks for all of the great questions. If you have further questions on the Pioneer League or the AZL, or just what’s happening on the back fields in Arizona, hit me up on Twitter @billazbbphotog. I’m off now to see the Rockies first instructional league game to see how the Grand Junction guys are doing this fall.