Gary (Dallas, TX): I'd like to find out what we have in J.B. Bukauskas - is he a SP or RP to you, and where would he have placed if he'd qualified?
J.J. Cooper: Hey everyone. Thanks for coming out and asking your questions. Bukauskas didn’t pitch enough to garner much attention for scouts or managers around the New York-Penn League because he pitched so little–two outings, six innings. With that, it’s hard to say where he would have ranked because almost no one saw him pitch in the league. But he pitched extensively this past spring and everyone has a pretty good feel for what he is–a pitcher with an average to above-average fastball and one of the best breaking balls in the draft. His slider is a weapon and would make a future transition to the bullpen an easy one, but there’s no reason to not try to develop him as a starter, especially in the new world of baseball where starters can work 5-6 innings before handing it off to the bullpen.
Sammy (DC): Where would you have placed Seth Romero on this list? Any word on whether or not his makeup had improved?
J.J. Cooper: The reviews were less complimentary than expected. The stuff was solid as he showed three average or better pitches, but the slider wasn’t as devastating as evaluators expected. Fellow 2017 Nats draftee Nick Raquet looks just as good or better with a plus fastball, some funk to his delivery and a quality breaking ball. Romero may have been rusty after a long layoff, but next season is a big one for him as he needs to show consistency both on the mound and being a professional off of it.
Tyrone (Charm City): Is Hunter Harvey back to where he was before his rash of injuries?
J.J. Cooper: Yes. As one scout put it, “if he qualified for your list, he should be No. 1.” The fastball is back as is the breaking ball. He now just needs to show durability, whcih is something he’s not been able to do as a pro yet.
Joe (St Louis): When making a scout grade on a fastball, what percentage is velocity, movement, and deception?
J.J. Cooper: Depends on the scout you are talking to. Some teams actually put grades on movement. Some teams have a delivery/deception grade as well. A fastball grade should be based on how it plays, but the bedrock of any fastball is velocity. When you head about a RHP with an 88 mph that plays up because of its movement and his deception, the reality is that “plays up” only gets you so far. A straight as an arrow 99 mph fastball with no deception is going to grade out on the scouting card (or now be entered into the iPad) higher than an 90 mph fastball with exceptional life and deception. As important as deception and life are, there’s also the amount of time a hitter has to decide and then swing and the harder you throw, the less time they have to swing.
J.P. (Springfield, IL): Thanks for chatting, JJ. I'd like to find out what scouts had to say about Austin Franklin and his pitches? What's his current projection?
J.J. Cooper: Pretty impressive pitcher. He was in Top 20 consideration. 91-94 mph fastball with makings of a quality curve and change.
Dan (Newton Mass): JJ: your opinions of the Sox drafting Tanner Houck where they did? I wasn't too impressed by his numbers, but there's obviously more to him than that. What place on this list would he rank for you?
J.J. Cooper: Houck is Mr. Consistency. There’s a long track record on his resume of him having success against quality hitters. He would have ranked at the back of the top 10 if eligible. The fastball is really good and hard to square up.
Grant (Queens, NY): As a Mets fan looking at a desolate system, please reassure me about David Peterson. First, would he have ranked in your top 5 and second, could he become an ace?
J.J. Cooper: You have reasons to be concerned. This is a pretty thin farm system right now. Peterson’s pro stat line right now is 3 outings, 3.2 innings so it’s not like many scouts/coaches saw him pitch. He would have ranked somewhere 5-10 on this list if he had thrown the 20+ more innings he needed to throw to qualify (assuming his stuff looked the same as it did in the 1 inning stints). He looks more like a solid starter rather than a front-line ace, but obviously a lot could change once he gets to work stints longer than 1 inning.
Sal (Boulder): This Yankee dark horse pitching prospect Johnny Loaisiga...what can you tell us?
J.J. Cooper: Really like him….bordering on loving him. Loiasiga was coming back from Tommy John surgery so he didn’t arrive in the league til late, but he immediately made an impact thanks to a mid-to-high 90s fastball and a quality breaking ball. He could rocket up our prospects rankings next year if he puts in a full season.
Luis (Los Angeles): What were scouts/coaches saying about Scott Hurst in his draft year? Was he close to making the Top 20?
J.J. Cooper: He wasn’t all that close to cracking the top 20. He’ll need to prove he’s not a tweener as scouts don’t see him as a long-term CF thanks to his average-at-best speed and evaluators didn’t see him hitting enough for a corner OF spot. That said, the Cardinals do better than almost anyone at improving defense and Hurst fits a lot better as a big leaguer if he can stay in CF.
Luke (NOVA): How close to making the list were Zac Lowther and Brenan Hanifee?
J.J. Cooper: Lowther was not all that far from the back end of the list. He’s a hard guy to rank as going back to our previous deception question Lowther is all deception, command and angles. Hitters don’t pick up the ball all that well out of his hand and he ends up baffling hitters. But he’s largely a two-pitch pitcher right now with an 89-91 mph fastball, and the long-term success rate of pitchers with that profile isn’t all that great.
Joseph (Philadelphia): What is your view of the high school players that the Phillies drafted in 2016 that played in this league? What are the prospects of Stobbe, Stephens and Kyle Young? Thanks
J.J. Cooper: Young is the one that stands out the most. Scouts/coaches were unimpressed with Stobbe’s approach. He has significant power but his approach sells out so much to try to drive the ball that a pitcher can just throw sliders off the plate over and over and know that Stobbe will never hurt him.
Peter (Brooklyn): Any Cyclones close to making the list? Peterson maybe? The cupboard looks bare for the Mets...
J.J. Cooper: Jose Miguel Medina has tools but needs refinement. Trey Cobb is funky. But no there was no one who was in top 20 consideration and overall the cupboard is somewhat bare.
Scott (Houston): Were any Astros players considered being close to the top20?
J.J. Cooper: Corbin Martin impressed with a good arm, a lively fastball and a solid-average slider. He may end up a reliever as some scouts project, but he has a chance to consistently miss bats. J.J. Matijevic can hit but there are questions about his defensive value. Brandon Bielak can pitch with Ok stuff. Miguelangel Sierra is a pretty well rounded shortstop who is advanced for his age.
Luke (NOVA): I'm impressed a late round guy like Cameron Bishop made the list, what did scouts like about him?
J.J. Cooper: He’s a later-round pick but he got early-round money.
Ilya (NYC): Are Jorge Guzman & Juan De Paula legitimate pitching prospects? Potential Top 100 Caliber in the future?
J.J. Cooper: Well yeah. The No. 2 ranking for Guzman would seem to indicate that we’re pretty high on him. He ranks just behind one of the top picks in the most recent draft. It wouldn’t surprise me if 5 Staten Island pitchers or more from this staff make it to the majors. It was an impressive pitching staff.
Jon (Philly): Did you get any sort of feedback on Deon Stafford?
J.J. Cooper: Yes. Scouts liked his simple and effective swing and thought he ran well for a catcher.
Paul (Virginia): Was Wilkerman Garcia in consideration for the top 20 prospects?
J.J. Cooper: Not really because there were some other Yankees prospects who were closer to the top 20. He has tools, but you want to see better at-bats and more contact.
Brian (State College): The Cardinals gave Johan Oviedo a huge signing bonus out of Cuba in 2016. Did he receive any consideration for the Top 20? What feedback did you get on him and what is his ceiling?
J.J. Cooper: Got a No. 5 starter ceiling on him with a likelihood he doesn’t reach it. No one was wowed but he did impress with his pitchability.
J.J. Cooper: Thanks everyone. We have another podcast to record.