AZL/Pioneer League Top 20 Prospects Chat

League Top 20 Prospects Chat

Bill Mitchell: Welcome to prospect season, baseball fans! It’s always an honor to be able to kick off the chat schedule for our league reports. Combined with instructional league games getting underway and the Fall League season just around the corner, this is my favorite time of the year. Let’s get started.

Dan (Baltimore): Somewhat surprised to see Gilbert Lara so high on the Pioneer league list. I've read reports that his approach backed up, and it looks like he is still striking out a lot without much power. Is this placement based more on projection? Or do scouts see some present skills?
Bill Mitchell: I'll start the chat with a question about one of my favorite, albeit frustrating, prospects to watch — Brewers shortstop prospect Gilbert Lara. I keep waiting for him to settle on an approach at the plate that will have him shortening his stroke and not trying to hit every pitch 500 feet. I’ve seen glimpses of it over the past two years. Coming into my Pioneer League research I really didn’t know what kind of opinions I was going to get from scouts and league managers, but everyone still loves the tools and enormous potential. Assuming he doesn’t grow out of the position, he should be able to stay at shortstop in the short term. Lara is still only 18 so there's still plenty of time for the offense production to catch up to the tools.

Roger (Washington DC): Hi Bill, what was your impression of Giants AZL OF Sandro Fabian this year?
Bill Mitchell: Fabian made the top AZL 20 and was a favorite of the Giants coaching staff this year. He's not as toolsy and projectable as other Latin teenagers, but the Giants believe he'll hit and be a solid defender in right field. As for a later question asking where Fabian will rank in the Giants top 30, I don't know the depth of their organization but he'll certainly be in consideration for the list after a strong AZL season.

Scott (Ohio): Which of Leody Taveras or Seuly Matias will reach the majors soonest?
Bill Mitchell: Taveras is more refined than Matias at this point but they both just played their first pro seasons at age 17. Their respective organizations believe that both young outfielders can move quickly now that they’ve each become acclimated to the pro game. I'd bet on Taveras making it first.

Navin (Pasadena, CA): I was a bit surprised to not see Isaac Paredes make the top 20. Was he or any other Cub in the discussion? Thank you!
Bill Mitchell: Cubs infielder Isaac Paredes was considered and I wrote a full report on him when considering candidates for the second half of the list. Observers loved his hit tool and he showed good actions at shortstop. The biggest knock on Paredes is his conditioning. He may only be 17, but he's got an older body and needs to make a commitment to getting in better shape. If that happens, then he may be this year's guy that I'll regret not making room for on the list. If he's in better shape next year, I could see him skipping the Northwest League altogether and breaking camp with the South Bend team (where he ended 2016) just like fellow countryman Carlos Sepulveda did this season. Long term he's not a shortstop but the bat will fit elsewhere in the infield. Another Cubs player who got some consideration was right-handed pitcher Erling Moreno, who also just missed the cut.

Dave (Brooklyn): Braden Webb, drafted in the 4th round by the Brewers as a draft eliglble Freshman out of South Carolina, did not pitch in the AZL or anywhere as a pro. Are the Brewers just being careful, given his TJS history, or has a new injury been detected?
Bill Mitchell: You are correct about Webb, Milwaukee’s 3rd round pick as a draft-eligible freshman. He had a pretty heavy workload at South Carolina after TJ surgery, and spent the whole summer with the AZL team but did not suit up. I don’t believe he’s slated to pitch in instructional league either, so we will need to wait until spring training to get a look at the native Oklahoman.

Navin (Pasadena, CA): I know he only made one start before being shut down but the Internet hype seemed to match the stats for that Jose Albertos start. Thankfully, it sounds like he's healthy for the Instructional League. What are your thoughts on Albertos?
Bill Mitchell: I'll take another Cubs question about right-handed pitcher Jose Albertos. After his AZL start in the first week of the season, when he touched 98, I was already saving a slot in the top 10 for the 17-year-old from Mexico. In addition to a plus fastball, Albertos has some pitching smarts. I could see him moving quickly assuming he comes back healthy.

Matt C (Chicago): A few Great Falls questions... --Since he was entirely new to it, what were the reports on Jameson Fisher's OF defense? I know he had a couple minor shoulder injuries from sliding catch attempts. --The numbers were obviously impressive, but what was seen tools-wise from Aaron Schnurbusch? --What is Yosmer Solórzano throwing? His FB was barely touching 90 last year, has that changed?
Bill Mitchell: Let's take care of a trio of White Sox prospects with this question. Fisher was primarily a catcher and first baseman at Southeastern Louisiana, so the outfield was relatively new for him. Reports are that he was a below-average fielder but in time could be adequate. He can really hit, according to at least one scout. Schnurbusch was one of the bigger surprises in the Pioneer League after a weak college season at Pitt. He's a big dude with some interesting tools. I got a brief glimpse of both Fisher and Schnurbusch in the White Sox instructional league opener yesterday before the last few innings were rained out, but I may see them again tomorrow. Solorzano thrived in the Pioneer League by consistently throwing strikes, but it's high-80s velo with below-average stuff.

Matt C (Chicago): Luis Ledo, with the AZL White Sox, put up very impressive numbers in the AZL and PIO. But he also spent 3 years in the DSL before then. Was he in the discussion for this list? Does he have that level of stuff, or were these just Fire League-inflated numbers for him?
Bill Mitchell: In some ways you are right about Ledo, being 21 in a rookie league and effective against younger hitters after 3-plus years in the DSL, but he showed improvement this year with a fastball at 92 and touching 94. He's got good mound presence and could be a bit of a late bloomer. An interesting guy to follow but not someone I'd look at yet as a top prospect.

@Jaypers413 (IL): Hi Bill, what did you think of Mike Nikorak's sophomore effort in the PL? Is there still sufficient cause for optimism with him?
Bill Mitchell: Colorado's top pick in 2015, Nikorak had nowhere to go but up after a very challenging first professional season. I saw some encouraging outings from the Pennsylvania right-hander during extended spring training and his return to Grand Junction was better, although somewhat inconsistent, until being shut down later in the season with a finger injury. Nikorak just turned 20 so he really needs to show more consistency next year.

Patrick (Phoenix): Gabriel Maciel is young and played well for both AZL Dbacks and Missoula Osprey. Do you have a scout report to share?
Bill Mitchell: I’m intrigued by Maciel. A native of Brazil, he’s still only 17 and is a plus runner. A switch-hitter, Maciel shows a good approach at the plate, but still isn’t strong enough to drive the ball. He got most of his hits on infield singles and bunts. Definitely someone to watch for the future.

Dave (Brooklyn): Happy Friday, Bill! Thanks for taking the time to Chat. Jake Turnbull, ranked 26th for the Reds in BA's always great 2016 Prospect Handbook, had a very poor, and worse than 2015, showing in the AZL and then stopped playing after August 6. Was he injured? Do you and the Reds still consider him a Top 30 caliber Catching prospect?
Bill Mitchell: Jake Turnbull was my AZL sleeper last season when he put up good numbers and showed some skills behind the plate in 2015 at 17. I also saw some good at-bats in extended spring training, but 2016 was pretty much a lost season for the native Australian due to injury. He won't turn 19 until next February, so there's still plenty of time for Turnbull.

Frank (Dayton): Bill, Michael Beltre of the Reds split time between the AZL/PIO and hit quite well. What can you tell us about him?
Bill Mitchell: The switch-hitting Beltre got some support in both leagues. It was tough not putting him on either list, but he just missed out on both. He’s now put in four years in DSL/AZL and is 21, so it’s harder to rank someone with that background against teens playing in their first or second pro seasons. But with that said, Beltre may be a solid late-bloomer who could jump up the Reds prospect list next season. He got himself into better shape this year, strengthening his bottom half and legs, and that helped him stay on the field all season. He’s a plus runner who plays hard and in better control than in the past. It was a good growth season for Beltre and I’m anxious to see how he does in full-season ball next year.

Josh (Bismarck): Did you get to see Tyson Miller, Bailey Clark, or Dakota Mekkes at all? If so, any early thoughts on them?
Bill Mitchell: I got brief looks at each Cubs pitcher during their short AZL stays, with Clark, the 5th rounder from Duke, standing out among that trio. But Mekkes, taken in the 10th round from Michigan State, is sure an interesting guy. He’s a huge person and likely a pretty intimidating presence to a batter. Not an overpowering fastball (92-94 when I saw him), but it plays up because of his size. As a reliever, he’ll likely move faster than Miller and Clark.

William Coleman (Pensacola, FL): Lots of Reds prospects. Which ones are likely to open 2017 at Dayton?
Bill Mitchell: I mentioned Michael Beltre a couple of questions ago — he’s almost certainly to go to Dayton next year. Another guy could be Wennigton Romero, a crafty lefty with a lower ceiling but enough pitchability to do well in full-season ball. His fastball sits in the high-80s and there’s not a lot of physical projection, but the kid knows how to pitch, throws strikes and is poised on the mound.

Malik (Brooklyn): I saw the Cubs play and Javier Assad and Johnny Pereda stood out big time while watching. Just curious if you see the same thing as I did.....Assad has mid rotation upside and Pereda is a raw but highly toolsy C, that's very intriguing.
Bill Mitchell: Javier Assad is one of my sleepers who fell short of the top 20 but is an interesting one to follow. The fastball sits low-90s. Some scouts saw a decent curveball while others a slider that more closely resembled a cutter. Like I mentioned earlier in the chat about Isaac Paredes, Assad needs to work on conditioning and get in better shape.

Pletchner (Northern NY): How close was Idaho Falls' Manny Olloque to making the list? He is a little old at 20, Idaho Falls is very favorable to hitters, and he's only a 16th round pick, so I'm not surprised he isn't on the list. But his numbers were darned good for a guy coming off a year that was mainly lost to injury in 2015. Probably not much more than a "sleeper" at this point?
Bill Mitchell: Idaho Falls third baseman Olloque didn’t come close to making the list, but I’ve got notes from one opposing manager that liked him as a strong, skinny kid who played well against them. I don’t see enough bat there for third base as he gets to full-season ball.

Mick (Chicago): Besides Brazil's Maciel, commented on in a previous question, are there other prospects of note from non traditional baseball countries worth following?
Bill Mitchell: If you consider the Bahamas to be a non-traditional baseball country, then be sure to read the Pioneer League report on Missoula shortstop Jazz Chisholm. The kid could be something special in time.

JY (Chicago): Mariners fans have long been disappointed by the low returns from their higher-profile signings. The trio of Brayan Hernandez, Griefer Andrade, and Christopher Torres were all bigger names that had some good and bad come of their AZL debuts. How close were any of them to making the list?
Bill Mitchell: Chris Torres came the closest, finishing #21 on my top 20 — not bad for a league with 14 teams. He looked really good in extended spring training but then some nagging injuries during the AZL season held him back. Torres knows his game and doesn’t try to do too much. He’s a good contact hitter with a chance to stay at shortstop. If he stays healthy, Torres could be on the Northwest League list at this time next year.

Adam (Kansas City): How do Royals prospects Khalil Lee and Seuly Matias compare to each other as prospects?
Bill Mitchell: I’ll give you a short answer to this question. Bigger upside but lower floor — Matias. Better chance of a big league career — Lee.

bon (DE): Where does Yadier Alverez slot in Dodgers top 5 , top 3? Is he projected to be #2Sp with upside of #1SP?
Bill Mitchell: I don’t do the Dodgers top 30 but I’ve spent a lot of time at their AZ facility and saw three of their affiliates this year. I know it’s a deep system even with Seager and Urias no longer eligible. Alvarez slotted in at number 10 for them in the 2016 Prospect Handbook so I’ll predict that he remains in the top 10 and maybe top 5.

Ben (Seattle, WA): If you had to stack these two lists against each other in terms of overall ceiling, which one wins out?
Bill Mitchell: I’d go with the Arizona League, in part because there are almost twice as many teams and the talent level in the AZL was pretty good this year.

Dave (Brooklyn): Is White Sox switchhitting Catcher Casey Schroeder still a prospect, or does not moving beyond Great Falls at age 22 relegate him to 'organizational depth'?
Bill Mitchell: I don’t have any notes on Schroeder since no one brought up his name when discussing prospects. But he turned 23 this summer and was still in rookie ball, so I don’t see him as much more than an organizational guy. Perhaps he gets to higher levels and gets a chance as an emergency catcher.

Warren (New London): I like your AZL list, but I'd like it more if you switched Anderson Tejeda with Nolan Jones. Your writeup on Jones didn't really touch on his strikeout rate, which was enormous. I'm sure he was working a lot of deep counts, but how concerning are the strikeouts?
Bill Mitchell: I’m glad you brought up Tejeda’s name since we did a lot more homework on the Rangers shortstop prospect because of how he performed after being promoted to the Northwest League. The big difference between Jones and Tejeda is the physical projection of the former compared to the latter. Jones was sometimes too timid at the plate in his first pro season, which contributed to his high strikeout totals, but he projects to develop a lot more power in time. Tejeda hit a lot of homeruns in the NWL but I don’t believe that’s the kind of hitter he’ll be long term. I like both guys quite a bit, but there’s more projection with Jones.

Zach (Wisc.): Is Erceg a candidate to be a top 100 guy before next season?
Bill Mitchell: I’m not involved in the top 100 process, but the Brewers got a first round talent in the second round. I would guess that he’ll get some top 100 consideration. He is one of the guys I really want to see in instructional league and was disappointed that it wasn’t his day to play when I went to the Brewers opening game yesterday.

Bill Mitchell: That’s all the time I have for today as still another instructional league game is on my schedule for today. Thanks for all of the great questions. If I didn’t get to you or if you have any other questions, hit me up on Twitter @billazbbphotog. The BA chats continue next week.