Futures Game Rosters Chat With J.J. Cooper

J.J. Cooper: Hey everyone. Thanks for stopping by. I am extremely excited by the talent coming to the Futures Game this year. Can’t wait to get to New York City in less than two weeks to see all these prospects.

Puello would have been a very solid addition to the World roster, but each team can only have two players in the game on the initial roster, which explains why Puello was left off. Noah Syndergaard and Rafael Montero are better prospects than Puello and also in Montero’s case, finding top notch World arms is tougher than finding solid World outfielders, so the tie went to the pitcher.

    Bill (Memphis): Which Rafeal do you like better? Montero or De Paula?

J.J. Cooper: For now I’ll go with Montero. DePaula has a higher ceiling, but Montero is not far off of DePaula ceiling wise, and he’s a safer bet who is much closer to the majors.

    Matt (KY): JJ, if we said in 5 years, the best hitter and pitcher in baseball will be participating in this years futures game, who would you be betting on? For fun, you can bet on more than 1 at each position...

J.J. Cooper: If you follow me on Twitter (@jjcoop36) I think you would be stunned if I answered anyone other than Byron Buxton for the hitter. As far as pitcher, I’d go with Archie Bradley.

    Tim (Philly): Would obviously like to have seen Stephenson pitch. 2nd straight year Reds send a B or C prospect to pitch (Contreras in '13 and Lotzkar in '12).

J.J. Cooper: I’d have loved to see it too, but he is currently on the disabled list, so there was some uncertainty there. That being said, Contreras is maybe a better prospect than you’re thinking, and it’s always much tougher to find quality world team arms than it is for the U.S. team. That worked in Contreras’ favor this year, much as it worked for Lotzkar last year.

    Mouse (NJ): Adelberto Mondesi and Carlos Tocci, two 17 year olds holding there own in the SAL. I feel like one or both of them should have been selected. Agree or disagree?

J.J. Cooper: Disagree. Both of them will have multiple chances to make it to the Futures Game down the road. As much as I like Mondesi, you only get to bring two World shortstops. So you’d leave Xander Bogaerts, Francisco Lindor, Javier Baez, Carlos Correa or Alen Hanson home to get Mondesi to this game when he’s in low Class A? I’d rather get one last chance to see Bogaerts (and maybe Lindor) and get Mondesi here next year. Same with Tocci, but even more so as Tocci isn’t really holding his own unless you qualify it by saying “for a 17-year-old.”

    Garvey Wagner (Istanbul): The knock on Roughned Odor has been a lack of elite tools. He's currently .297/.369/.456 with 21 SB in 70 G in Carolina League as 19 yo. Has the view of tools or ceiling changed?

J.J. Cooper: When you say he lacks elite tools I don’t think we’ve said that. He can hit, he has good power for a middle infielder. He just doesn’t have range to be a big league shortstop so he’s likely limited to second base. But no, that doesn’t keep him from being one of the best second base prospects in the minors.

    Mat Germain (Halifax, Nova Scotia): How was Rossell Herrera left off the World roster?

J.J. Cooper: He’s a shortstop. Who would you have left off, Bogaerts or Lindor? Both of them are better prospects than Herrera. He also would be in line behind Carlos Correa who is the all-world snub team SS.

    Steve (New York, NY): What's your take on Carlos Correa's (who I believe is a World Team Finalist) steady improvement through the first three months and how do you see him projecting moving forward, medium-to-long term?

J.J. Cooper: I got to see him play a couple of weeks ago in Quad Cities and could see with my own eyes why scouts compare his body to Manny Machado’s. I did hear some more skepticism from scouts about him staying at shortstop long-term, mainly because he’s an average runner at best right now, so there is some thought that as he matures and fills out further he may lose the quickness to handle short. But the scouts saying that also think he could be an excellent big league third baseman.

    Brad (Stand): Speaking of Reds Int'l arms... What have you heard on Corcino? Had first outing of year with 0 BBs and has been past by Cingrani in terms of Reds arms ready to produce. Thoughts?

J.J. Cooper: I will have something on Corcino up before long after talking to some Louisville guys when they came through Durham last week. His velocity has been down this year to go with command problems. Not a good combo.

    Jeff (Madison WI): Who are you most excited to see play?

J.J. Cooper: Byron Buxton and Miguel Sano. Buxton because he seems to something amazing about every other game he plays. Sano because I expect his batting practice may cause problems for jets in the landing pattern at nearby LaGuardia.

    Arturo Perez (Florida): Which country is best represented in the world team, as far as talent this year?

J.J. Cooper: Because you can only have two players on the two teams period, it’s hard to single out any one team as being best represented. Overall, I think the Twins are bringing the best one-two punch of any team, and really it’s not all that close.

    Pete Lunchbox (Handsome City): Does Chris Owings have a chance to stick at SS in the majors? If so, is .290/.320/.460 a reasonable projection?

J.J. Cooper: Not with Arizona unless DiDi Gregorius gets hurt. Owings is a borderline shortstop, so he’s not going to usurp an above-average shortstop defensively. I think it’s way more reasonable to see him becoming the second baseman on a team that is in need of a second baseman. As far as your projection, I’d say .280/.320/.440 is more reasonable, but that’s not far off what I’d project.

    Jiblets (Jupiter): Twins Adam Walker came out of the gates like a menacing meanie, now he's seemed to level out a bit. What kind of player do you see him as in the pros?

J.J. Cooper: Walker’s season is a good reminder to take a breath before asking “is player X ready for a promotion.” In the first month of the season Walker got a lot of fastballs from pitchers testing him. He punished pitchers and forced them to go to plan B. They started pitching him away and using more breaking balls and he’s struggled at times to adjust to them. Walker has legit power, runs well for a big man and plays a generally solid right field. The hit tool is the question. He’s starting to use the opposite field more as he makes adjustments to the pitchers’ adjustments. Let’s see if that takes.

    Eric (Phoenix): Who is deserving of winning the two fan votes in your opinion?

J.J. Cooper: I’d say Cecchini and Baez. But if you want to argue Correa over Baez, that’s an answer with no wrong argument. The U.S. roster decision is a little more clear cut to me, although getting Nimmo there for Mets fans also makes sense to me.

    Kevin (Porland): Nick Castellanos and Gary Sanchez, would you have included either?

J.J. Cooper: Both are very worthy candidates. With Castellanos, it’s just a problem with a lot of good U.S. outfielders. If you bring him, do you leave off Billy Hamilton or Christian Yelich? Sanchez has a better case in my opinion.

    Kevin (Chicago): Arismendy Alcantara seems to have taken a huge jump this year with his patience and power. Is he a top 100 player at this point? Can he be a major league regular in a couple years and, if so, is he at second?

J.J. Cooper: I don’t see him as a Top 100 guy yet, but he could be a major league regular down the road, yes.

    Izzy (New York): Are Montero and Syndergaard going to start?

J.J. Cooper: We’re still likely 17 days away from finding out those answers, but yeah, it would make sense to send Met up vs. Met.

    Rich preciose (Florida): George Springer is on his way to AAA . does he get to Houston before the year is out and how does his speed and power compare to other major leaguers? Thank you

J.J. Cooper: Yes. I would expect we could see him in Houston before the end of the year. Take Mike Trout out of it and Springer’s power-speed combo is near top of the scale, it’s legit plus speed and plus power. He’s going to strike out a lot, but he does enough things that I think the Astros can live with the Ks while he tries to smooth out his swing and stay back more.

    John (CT): Will Dylan Bundy be pitching in next year's game?

J.J. Cooper: Can pretty much guarantee no. He’s going to just be hitting the 12-month mark after the surgery so he’s still going to be fresh off of rehab mode. It’s worth noting that the O’s could not have been more careful with Bundy last year as far as easing him into a pro workload. Now he’s missing all of 2013 and may miss much of 2014. The Diamondbacks sent Archie Bradley out with many fewer restrictions on innings and he’s rolling through Double-A now. That doesn’t mean what the O’s did was wrong or what the Diamondbacks did was right, but it is my personal opinion after researching for a story I did last year (http://www.baseballamerica.com/minors/teams-take-widely-varied-approaches-to-developing-top-young-arms-13436/) that teams don’t really get any advantage by significantly limiting young pitchers innings in their first full year.

    Ryan (New York): What's Your impression of noah syndergaard this season and what's his ceiling ?

J.J. Cooper: Have heard very good things from scouts. He could be a front-line starter. Mid 90s fastball, significantly improved curveball.

    Jared (New jersey): Instead of a USA vs world team, could you see the format being changed to AL teams vs NL team? It seems like there are better prospects that could be playing if the format was different. I'm mainly talking about the World pitching staff.

J.J. Cooper: I like the US vs. World format and I’m sure MLB does because it helps them emphasize the global nature of the game. As far as making for a better roster, this year’s roster already is pretty loaded. You may be right that you could improve it slightly, but there are very few of the top prospects in the game who aren’t going to be in NYC already.

    Noel (Toronto): Who is the biggest surprise to be on one of the rosters relative to where they where at the start of the year? Franco must be in the mix.

J.J. Cooper: Jordan Lennerton is the guy who fits that question to me. He’s been looked at as an org guy for much of his career, but he’s proven over and over he can hit and he’s got a talent for getting on base. He’s 27 in AAA, so we’re not saying he’s an elite prospect, but he’s a one-time org guy who has a legit shot at a big league career.

    Ron (Ohio): What are your thoughts of the starts by Ervin and Thompson of the Reds?

J.J. Cooper: It’s too soon to make any generalizations about guys in the rookie leagues good or bad. As a reminder, Byron Buxton started his pro career 1-for-27. I pay less attention to the day-to-day box scores for guys in SS and rookie ball than I do for guys in full-season ball because I do think there is a lot more noise in the R/SS stats because of widely varied levels of previous experience, etc.

    Dustin (Houston): Could Mike Foltynewicz have been a viable substitute for Delino DeShields Jr.?

J.J. Cooper: Sure. Him or McCullers would both look good on the U.S. pitching staff and Correa would have looked good as a World shortstop. That being said, it’s harder to find good U.S. second basemen than it is to find good U.S. arms. But speaking of Folty, I heard he touched 100 mph last night in the Texas League All-Star Game.

    Ian (OK): Is Puerto Rico considered part of the US or World?

    Eddie Rosario any consideration to be a second baseman at the futures game?

J.J. Cooper: For Futures Game purposes it’s part of the World Team, which makes sense when you consider that Puerto Rico fields its own team in the World Baseball Classic. Rosario would have been a very good fit at second base, but I’m glad he’s not there. Nothing against Rosario, but only two Twins can go and I can’t wait to see Buxton and Sano.

    Michael (St. Louis): J.J., big fan of your work. I know this may be a touchy subject, but I kind of am weary of the comps to Buxton. Everyone that I read has him compared to McCutchen, B.J. Upton, Justin Upton, or Matt Kemp. Of course, I could be wrong and those are the most apt comparisons for him, but I can't help but think something is a little off there. Thanks for the chat J.J.

J.J. Cooper: Michael, our feature on Buxton will be going up at Baseball America tomorrow. We don’t comp him to any of those guys, but we do ask scouts to compare him to Mike Trout, since Trout was the last Cedar Rapids outfielder to play similarly to this. I can see McCutchen comps and I’ve heard that, but as far as his style of play, neither Upton fits, as Buxton’s approach is WAY more advanced at the plate at a similar age.

    Cody (Houston): Do you think Taveras will recover from his injury in time to play in the game?

J.J. Cooper: Signs are looking good that he will be back in time. I really hope so, as his BP in the Futures Game last year was an awesome thing to watch.

    Ryan (Queens): Since the game is at Citi field how is the mets farm system looking at mid season?

J.J. Cooper: Not bad. Travis D’Arnaud’s injury (yet again) raises further concerns about his durability, but Montero and Syndergaard have taken steps forward. Wheeler has graduated to give the Mets two young potential No. 1/2 starters at the big league level, Nimmo has played pretty well and Puello has taken a big step forward.

Before I leave the Mets, I better mention Wilmer Flores, as Mets fans always ask about Wilmer Flores. Yes, he can hit some, but I don’t think he’s an impact guy, unlike many of the guys I just mentioned.

    Jim Bullinger (Sarasota, FL): Any chance that Terdoslavich gets called up to the Braves at some point this season....

J.J. Cooper: I’d put it at pretty unlikely. I think he’s a backup type guy long-term and realistically El Osso Blanco is a better fit at pretty much every position Terdoslavich can play adequately.

    Mat Germain (Halifax, Nova Scotia): Glad to see E. Rodriguez get some recognition and am looking forward to seeing him at higher levels. What is his ceiling?

J.J. Cooper: Solid middle of the rotation starter, which is quite valuable.

    Ian (OK): Is Billy Hamilton the fastest player you've seen?

J.J. Cooper: Absolutely. I was having this conversation with a scout today. The 20-80 scale works fine 99 percent of the time, but it doesn’t really fully explain the top of the scale. Byron Buxton is an 80 runner, but he’s not as fast as Mike Trout. And Mike Trout isn’t as fast as Billy Hamilton. So if you wanted to be silly, Trout’s a 90 and Hamilton’s a 100.

Buxton will give scouts 4.0-4.05 times from the right side to first base extremely consistently. That’s an 80 speed guy. But when Trout was in the Midwest League, he beat out hits on ground balls Buxton couldn’t reach on. That’s because Trout was 3.9-3.95 at his best from the right side. Billy Hamilton is a gear beyond that at his best. I’ve seen sub-3.4 on a bunt from the left side from Hamilton, which is pretty ridiculous.

    Rick (NYC): Josh Phegley has had a great year so far, and has overcome serious adversity to do so. Do you see him as a regular C in the big leagues, or is this a mere good first half we're witnessing? Thanks!

J.J. Cooper: He’s a second division regular/solid backup in my mind. As you said, it’s quite an accomplishment for him to battle though to get to the point where he’s likely to have a pretty lengthy big league career.

    Mike (Chicago): How close was Eric Johnson to earning a spot in the Future's Game? Do you think we'll see him on the Southside this year.

J.J. Cooper: He wouldn’t have looked out of place on a very stacked U.S. pitching staff. And yes, I think we’ll see him in Chicago this year. The White Sox are really impressed with his development.

    Roger (Washington DC): Any consideration for Edwin Escobar on the World's pitching staff? It's a stacked roster but he's put up some pretty eye-popping numbers in the Cal.

J.J. Cooper: He would have fit right in as well. It’s a great year in the Cal League. The Giants sure know how to develop pitching.

    strong>Matt (CT): How does Noah Syndergaard compare to Matt Harvey and Zack Wheeler in terms of long term upside? Could that be the Mets future big 3 at the top of their rotation? Thanks

J.J. Cooper: I’m not going to say it’s a slam dunk he can equal what Harvey’s doing, because Harvey’s already a front-line starter, but Syndergaard’s stuff at this point compares favorably with both when they were the same age/point of development. What’s made Harvey take off is he’s made significant strides from the midpoint of his junior year at UNC to now.

    Bob (Boston): I was glad to see Taylor Jordan make the team, and sounds like he is getting called up to replace Haren in the Nats rotation. Is Taylor Jordan ready?

J.J. Cooper: I think he’ll have some ups and downs, but I think he can give them as many solid starts as bad ones. Of course betting on a rookie pitcher to succeed is a very risky gamble 8 times out of 10.

    Mat Germain (Halifax Nova Scotia): David Rodriguez, C for TB, is having an amazing start to the VSL season. How can we as fans evaluate stats from the VSL, and how long before he gets bumped up a level?

J.J. Cooper: As far as evaluating VSL stats, don’t. That’s overdramatizing it a little bit, but that league is so limited in number of teams and so varied in terms of present skill level and age that it makes GCL stats look predictive, and GCL stats are not very predictive at all. Ben Badler’s Top 20 from the VSL and DSL after the season is a good way to get an advanced jump on the guys coming to the states.

    Harry (MA): What are the latest reports on defense for Maikel Franco and Miguel Sano? Who's more likely to stick at 3B?

J.J. Cooper: I’ve gotten pretty decent reports on Sano sticking at third base from scouts who’ve seen him this year. I think he’s more likely to play third base for a couple of years in the big leagues than not.

J.J. Cooper: Thanks for the questions everyone and I hope to see some of you at the Futures Game in two and a half weeks.