Baseball America Prospect Hot Sheet Chat (Aug. 15) With J.J. Cooper

Moderator: Baseball America managing editor J.J. Cooper was here to talk about this week’s Prospect Hot Sheet.

AJ (Chicago): If you were Theo/Jedd and Washington proposed trading you Harper for Baez, Soler, and a few more prospects would you do it?
J.J. Cooper: Hey everyone. Thanks for coming out. We talked about this a little on the podcast yesterday, although in the podcast variant it was Bryant and Baez, which i said I wouldn’t do as a trade if I was the Cubs. Baez and Soler + some other prospects? Depends on the prospects. Baez, Soler and Addison Russell? No. Baez, Soler and Arodys Vizcaino? I’d have to seriously consider if I was the Cubs. That being said, I don’t think you’ll see Harper traded or even floated as a serious possibility. There’s too much downside for the Nationals. Harper was a relatively dominant player just last year. He’s not arbitration eligible until after next season and he won’t hit free agency until 2019. Harper had a thumb injury this year, so there is a logical explanation for his drop-off. I’d be surprised if he isn’t a star again next year.

MJ (Chicago): Seems like this is the 2nd straight disappointing season for Oscar Taveras. I know he is still very young, but what can we expect from him next season and beyond?
J.J. Cooper: You can find scouts who think Taveras is never going to be as good as we (Baseball America) and the consensus of the industry have believed. The knocks are that he’s a middling defender whose value is all tied to the bat, and the scouts who are “down” on him think he’ll hit .270-.290 with average power, but nothing more than that. Taveras has to have much more power than that to be a star, as there aren’t enough other positives to his game to make him valuable without significant offensive production. Call me a middle-grounder. I think his early MLB struggles are not the full picture of what he’ll end up being by any stretch, but that he’s a little less likely to be a star than we once projected. Going forward, I’d expect .275-.285 with 20 home runs, probably a .275/.335/.460 overall line with years he’ll hit closer to .300 which would bump up everything else. That’s not a star, but it’s a pretty valuable corner outfielder in today’s depressed offensive environment.

Rich (NJ): How do you feel Courtney Hawkins season has gone? He is still striking out a lot but he also is walking and hitting for power. Any updated thoughts on his future potential?
J.J. Cooper: He looks to be much of the same guy we saw coming into the year, albeit with an improved stat line. The trend lines are all positive as he’s striking out less which has made his overall numbers better, but he’s still an easy out for a pitcher who hits his spots. He looks like he’s going to be a low-average slugger who hits for power but piles up lots of strikeouts. The overall prognosis is still pretty iffy for a guy like that.

BW (Denver): Now that Folty has graduted to the majors and excepting Appel, which astros pitcher projects as top of rotation material?
J.J. Cooper: There’s a number who could, but they all have big caveats you have to throw in there. If you believe that Josh Hader can hold up and that his low-slot will work as a big league starter, he’s could be one. Vince Velasquez could if it all comes together, as he’s got a potential three-pitch mix, although he’s had issues staying healthy. Lance McCullers has two plus pitches, but the changeup and the control haven’t taken the strides you’d need to see to be comfortable projecting him as a front-line starter. Michael Feliz has taken strides forward this year and has front-line stuff.

owais (Toronto): Hi J.J, Any love for Richard Urena from your side? What does he project to be in the future? Thank you
J.J. Cooper: He’s made strides with the bat. When you consider his defensive ability, that makes him a very intriguing prospect. Light years away since he’s an Appy League guy, but he may be the best glove in that league and one of the best bats. Nice combo.

Clint (BC, Canada): In the Prospect Hot Sheet you wrote Norris has "three plus pitches", I've read elsewhere he has only two, fastball and slider. What's his third plus pitch?
J.J. Cooper: See him on the right night and the changeup is at least average and will flash plus. I’d probably stick with two plus (fastball and slider) and a third that is presently a tick-below-average to average (Changeup) plus a useable if below-avg curveball, but the changeup projects as possibly plus down the road.

pat (okla. city, ok.): Which minor league club has the best rating Houston or Chicago Cubs??
J.J. Cooper: Cubs are the top farm system in baseball right now and I think there is a pretty significant gap from them to No. 2.

Manny (Ecuador): Hi. who projects better long-term? Lucas Sims, Luis Severino, Sean Manaea, Kyle Crick, or Brian Johnson. thanks
J.J. Cooper: Severino. Best stuff of the group.

JR (DC): What are your thoughts on Gabriel Guerrero? Legit or does he get extra attention because he's related to Vlad?
J.J. Cooper: Maybe a little because he’s not only related to Guerrero but he looks like Vlad. But there are legit tools there that would still be there if his name was Gabriel Gonzalez and not Gabby Guerrero. Still a long way to go and this season is actually good but not great considering he’s in High Desert, but definitely a name to keep an eye on.

Jason (Houston): Do you think Vince Velasquez is ready for AA? What do you think his ceiling is?
J.J. Cooper: Don’t mind at all seeing him finish the year in HiA, but this is one of those promotion calls with no real wrong answer. He missed a lot of time, so letting him stay in HiA and finish strong there is fine. But if the Astros decided to call him up for 2-3 AA starts to get him acclimated for next year, that makes sense too.

Roger (Greenville, SC): For a player from the SEC to come into low A and K more than once per game every month but April, how concerned should we be about Jacoby Jones' bat playing at higher levels?
J.J. Cooper: He’s going to have some swing and miss, but it comes with rare power for an up-the-middle player. He’s not an elite prospect because of those concerns, but he’s a lot better prospect than he looked like when the Pirates took him in the third round. Jones hit only 14 home runs in three seasons at LSU, so this year is a big step forward for him. So yes, it’s a concern, but he’s made big strides this year. Next year, he’ll have to make more.

curious (ky): what's the ceiling for rymer liriano? can he be a .280 20/20 of?
J.J. Cooper: Given enough at-bats, the 20 HR is possible, even in San Diego as Liriano has legit power potential. I think the 20 SBs is much less likely as his speed keeps dropping off. Yes, he stole a ton of bags in the MWL, but he’s an average runner at best now and will likely keep slowing down. The .280 average seems like the least likely prediction. Scouts have long questions Liriano’s approach/contact ability. If he hits .240 with power, the Padres should be very happy.

Joel (Washington, DC): JaCoby Jones skeptics say he's too old for the league and he strikes out too much. What do you make of these concerns?
J.J. Cooper: The too old for the league comments are from people who may not fully understand how player development works. Jones started ZERO games at shortstop in three years at LSU. So if the Pirates are going to make a serious go at developing him a shortstop, it makes sense to keep him in a league where he can handle the job defensively. The alternative is to push him to a level where the game will be too fast for him defensively at this time, and which will likely bleed over into his hitting as well. Yes, there are concerns, but looked at with some understanding of where Jones was as a prospect coming into the year, this is a breakthrough season for him. Now he has to come back and be even better next year.

JohnHavok (Lethbridge, Alberta): Recent comments from Alex Anthopoulos indicate Danial Norris could be seen in the majors this year in September. Is that a rush or has Norris really progressed that far with just 8 AA appearances and 1 very dominatnig AAA start?
J.J. Cooper: AA’s comments indicate he could pitch out of the bullpen. Considering his stuff, that likely won’t overtax him as he could just come in and focus on blowing hitters away in short stints. For a team that still has at least a hope of a playoff spot, Norris could be a valuable addition.

Steve (Manitoba): I've noticed that B.A. Isn't quite as high as other sources on Raimel Tapia, is there a reason for that?
J.J. Cooper: We like Tapia a lot. He ranked No. 4 in our Rockies Top 10 in the midseason update. I can’t really speak to others supposedly liking him more. Line-drive stroke with a lot of hitting ability. Productive power isn’t there in games yet consistently (he has a sub-.400 slugging percentage and no home runs away from Asheville this year), and he may have to modify a very bizarre two-strike squat stance he has right now as he moves up, but he’s a very good prospect.

Shannon S. (Shea's): Hey! How good can Alex Reyes be in the MLB, in time?
J.J. Cooper: If it all comes together, he could dominate, but man there is a lot that still has to happen for it to all come together. Pure stuff-wise, Reyes is one of the filthiest pitchers in the minors. But his delivery isn’t clean yet and he struggles to stay in line to the plate. He’ll have to throw a lot more strikes if he’s ever going to reach that potential. ++ stuff with currently –command.

Shannon S. (Shea's): Any thoughts on Sam Tuivailala?
J.J. Cooper: Talked about him on the podcast yesterday. One of the few pitchers in minor league baseball where you can expect to see triple digits when he comes into the game. He’s made big strides this year and projects a as a potential impact reliever in a year or two.

Hazim (New York): Any recent updates on Trey Ball? The numbers seem to have gotten better over the last month or so.
J.J. Cooper: Stuff has gotten better too. He’s gotten some arm speed back (touching some 93s) and has improved his breaking ball. As one scout who saw him early and late said, “he’s not what you would expect from a top 10 pick, but with his athleticism, you’re seeing positive signs he’s putting it together.”

Luam (Ohio): What are scouts saying about Manuel Margot? Any chance he sneaks into the back of the top 100?
J.J. Cooper: Absolutely a chance. One of the most interesting prospects in the Sally League. Plays a solid CF, very good bat-to-ball skills, power potential and speed. He’s having a great year for a 19-year-old in the Sally League.

J. Paul Starkey LLP (Exploding Woody): Since being sent to Chicago, billy McKinney has been lighting it up. When can we see a AA promotion?
J.J. Cooper: SSS, but yes, he’s been excellent in Daytona. We’re late enough in the season where promotions are often made around helping a minor league club in a pennant race. The Cubs’ AA club is in a pennant race, but so is Daytona, so there’s a good reason to keep him in HiA for now.

Steve (Arizona): Thanks for the chat! If you had to choose between Franco and Lamb for next season, which thirdbase prospect would you take?
J.J. Cooper: I think at this point I’d choose Lamb. Better defender with a similar bat.

John (Chicago): Hi JJ, Thanks for chatting. He hasn't made the hot sheet this year, but 2012 2nd rounder Matt Reynolds is hitting .338/.393/.510 in Las Vegas. If you were a betting man, would you wager that he's just another Brad Emaus Las Vegas illusion or something more?
J.J. Cooper: Playing in Las Vegas does make it hard to judge stats. Reynolds’ .903 OPS actually ranks sixth among Las Vegas hitters with 100+ ABs. Potentially a utility infielder at the big league level, but until the Mets do something about their hole at shortstop, that makes him a starting candidate in New York.

Levine, Starkey, Traylor LLC (The shed): Just read max fried is having TJ surgery...what does this mean for the organizational depth now?
J.J. Cooper: I hate to hear it, as you do with any pitcher. But it’s even more painful because the Padres and Fried tried to see if he could avoid the surgery, which means now he’s going to effectively miss two seasons. He threw 10 innings this year and now he’ll miss all of next season as well. Bad news.

Ben (Miamisburg, OH): Given his progression this year and his new commitment to baseball alone, do you see a good probability of Amir Garrett making it to the bigs so a starter, or is his future most likely in the bullpen?
J.J. Cooper: Anytime you’re talking about a pitcher in LoA, especially a non-first rounder, you’re talking a pretty low probability of being a big league starter. But Garrett has a lot going for him. He’s an outstanding athlete, which makes is easier for him to repeat his delivery and make adjustments than a pitcher who’s stiffer.

J.J. Cooper: Thanks everyone for the questions. We’ll be back next Friday for another Hot Sheet chat. Crazy to think we’re only a few weeks away from the end of the season.