HWB Top 20 Prospects Chat

Q:  Keith from Fort Dix NJ asks:
How good do u think Brad Emaus could be?



John Manuel:
I like Emaus OK, but I do think there should be a little caution when
discussing him. He controls the strike zone and can hit, and we did get
a Dan Uggla comparison, but I don’t think he has that kind of power.
One scout I talked to went out of his way to refute the Uggla comp, so
I probably shouldn’t even have mentioned it! But the point is, he’s
going to be an offensive player, and if his management of the strike
zone leads to average power, or above-average power somehow, then he’ll
be a regular, defensive shortcomings or not. The Jays liken him to Ty
Wigginton, with more patience and less power, and that wouldn’t be a
bad career.

 Q:  carmen from New Jersey asks:
Mark Hallberg sounds alot like Dustin Pedroia, Is that true?

BTW… I love the Chats!!!!


John Manuel:
Glad you like ’em. I don’t comp anyone to Pedroia because he’s a unique
player, with his approach, hand-eye coordination . . . he’s just not
conventional, that’s why so many of us underestimated him. The D-backs
like to compare Hallberg to Mark Loretta, which would be a great
career. He’s a contact-oriented guy who has surprising power and seems
to be learning which pitch he can drive and which ones he can’t. He
drove the ball well for a guy coming off a thumb injury. He seems ready
for Double-A, and with Orlando Hudson possibly leaving via free agency,
who knows? Hallberg could be in AZ sooner than later.

 Q:  Cape from Dade City, FL asks:
went to high school with domonic brown of the phillies and we grew up
together. Whats your take on him as an up and coming prospect?

John Manuel:
Dominic Brown is surging up the prospect charts, if he wasn’t already.
He’s athletic, he’s got a chance to have all five tools, he’s young and
he keeps producing. The Dom Brown trends are up. I’m working on our
Phillies top 30 right now and he’s way up the list, with what he did in
Hawaii helping that cause a great deal. I know his Phils teammate,
Michael Taylor, made the SAL list over him but Brown out-performed him
in Hawaii, he’s younger and probably has a bit more upside. Taylor also
impressed in Hawaii, despite hitting .247.

 Q:  Mike from Boston asks:
does Todd Frazier profile as a 3B? Good defender, bad, mediocre? And
how long will the Reds wait to commit to a position with him?
Experience at the position he’s likely to play in the majors would seem
a pressing concern if he hits in the upper minors. It would be a shame
if the club delayed the arrival of his bat because it had failed to
sort out his glove.

John Manuel:
Frazier is such a tough guy to get a read on. He’s not conventional
offensively or defensively, but I had a couple of solid reports on his
defense at shortstop in HWB, not to mention third and left field. I
agree in that it would be to Frazier’s benefit if Cincy gave him one
position and stuck with it. I don’t think he’s going to be a utility
guy; it sounds like he has the bat to be an everyday guy. All that
said, I bet he winds up in the OF because it’s easier. The Reds could
use a righty bat to go with B. Phillips, because otherwise they are
quite lefthanded with Bruce, Votto and sooner than later Alonso.

 Q:  Mike from Boston asks:
Two questions on Yonder Alonso:

1) How did his defense look in Hawaii?
2) Does anyone think he could be put on the Will Clark/John Olerud Express straight to the majors?


John Manuel:
Good reviews on the defense, should be at least adequate if not average
over there. He has the approach and short, repeatable stroke that he
could move that quickly, though as I wrote in the scouting report, he’s
going to have to learn to hit a lot of soft stuff, a lot of stuff that
spins, because late in games, he’s rarely going to see a righthanded
pitcher challenging him with heat.

 Q:  Gary from Jersey asks:
Coming out of College, who was the better prospect Posey or Longoria?

John Manuel:
Longoria for me because the bat was a known commodity. Nothing against
Buster but Longoria stood out a bit more in the ’06 draft crowd, and by
this time, Longoria had hit 20 homers in his first half-season in pro
ball (counting the Double-A SL playoffs), so at this time, Longoria’s
lead was even bigger. Power is the separator.

 Q:  Gary from Jersey asks:
Who will be the better player, Wieters or Posey?

John Manuel:
Wieters for me due to (a) switch-hitting and (b) power. Posey probably
will wind up the better defender but for me that difference is smaller
than the difference between the two as hitters. I like Posey a lot but
consider Wieters superior.

 Q:  John from Pensacola, FL asks:
far is the separation between Bleich and Jonny Venters? Do you see
Venters getting selected in the Rule V even with his injury history?

John Manuel:
Pretty big. Bleich’s fastball command, velocity and movement are all
better, as is his breaking ball. Venters could be popped as a lefty
with a plus pitch in the change, and he pitched at full health in
Hawaii, so while the Tommy John surgery in his past will be a concern,
all these Rule 5 eligible players have a wart or two or three.

 Q:  Jack from Africa – for now asks:
How did Scott Shaw not make the list? He didn’t have to be #1 but he
was the best pitcher in the league statistically – he dominated. He
should have been on the list somewhere.

John Manuel:
I hate to sound like a broken record, but his fastball was a bit short
for me to put him on the top 20. He had an incredible year after
signing — more than 100 IP as a pro after 50 or so at Illinois, and he
sounds like he has a chance to be a durable, back-of-the-rotation guy
if it all works out. But he works at 87-88 mph with his fastball, and
the life on the pitch is just OK according to my info. Great scouting
by the Mets (Scott Trcka’s the area guy there) on getting him and he
could be a real find, but I thought his fastball was short to make the

 Q:  Chulo’a from Hawaii asks:
a lot for the chat! I wanted to know why Brett Hunter wasn’t in the Top
20? He pitched 9.2 innings and recorded 18 K. His opposing batting
average has always been extremely low. What gives and is he in the A’s
long term plans at closer?

John Manuel:
I used the same qualifications for the HWB list we do for our
short-season lists, which was probably too restrictive, but I had to
have a cutoff somewhere. He didn’t make 10 appearances in relief so he
wasn’t eligible; his manager also is the only one I have not
interviewed, I’ve just played phone tag with Kevin Boles, and he didn’t
make enough of an impression on the scouts or managers I did hear from.
It’s all going to be about health with him; I was not a huge fan of his
from the draft, despite his arm strength and past velocity. He never
was a big K guy in college even with the fastball, and his delivery has
never sounded like one that will lead to long-term success. That said,
I think I’m in the minority on him.

 Q:  John from Stockton, CA asks:
some point, doesn’t Brackman have to put up some decent #s to justify
his high rankings on all of these lists? His #s were poor his last year
at NC State and are equally as poor as a pro.

John Manuel:
I think it’s fair to ask him to perform in 2009. His HWB performance
was more about him being healthy, getting innings, throwing games that
matter for the first time since May 2007. I don’t think the results
mattered, but the stuff was the best stuff in Hawaii and it really
wasn’t close. He showed two present plus pitches and one average pitch
(changeup), and if you believe that athleticism leads to the ability to
repeat a delivery (and thus throw strikes), then it’s very easy to
believe in Brackman. He creates unique angles and is quite athletic.
Scouts uniformly were impressed with his delivery and arm action, he
just needs experience repeating his delivery. He just needs experience,
really. He’s a great test for the Yankees; we’ve definitely been on the
high side, so far, with several of their pitching prospects in recent
years. They could really use a guy like Brackman actually reaching his
ceiling. Actually if he comes close to his ceiling he’ll be a stud. His
ceiling is pretty damn high.

 Q:  Pat from Canandaigua, NY asks:
Where would you put Jeremy Bleich’s ceiling, 3rd or 4th starter? Thanks

John Manuel:
I’d say third starter because he can pitch off the fastball, knows how
to move it in and out. Very tough decision leaving him out of the
Yanks’ top 10, I keep going back and forth on that one, ended up with
him at 11, I’m a bit worried about his elbow and the possibility he’ll
miss more development time down the road, but if he’s healthy I could
see him as a solid mid-rotation guy.

 Q:  JAYPERS from IL asks:
you please compare Andrew Brackman’s mechanics to Jeff Niemann’s? Is
their physical stature the only thing they have in common?

John Manuel:
I haven’t broken them down side by side because that’s not what I do,
but their height is their biggest commonality. No offense to Jeff but
he’s a bit of a slow-twitch guy; Brackman is not. He’s athletic, not
for a 6-11 guy, but for any guy. That’s a big difference.

 Q:  Eric from California asks:
Great list! You talked about the fact that Alonso might be fast tracked
because of his advanced plate discipline, so what would you guess would
be a reasonable timetable for him to get to the bigs?
Also how concerned are you with Drabek’s maturity level and to what
degree do you think it might effect his progress?

John Manuel:
Alonso’s going to probably be here (or close to here) next year, in
Zebulon, NC, for Double-A but it’s hard to say with Votto there. I’d
guess Votto moves to LF and Alonso gets to the majors next September to
get his feet wet, since he’s already on the 40-man. The Phils sound
encouraged by Drabek’s improving maturity and ability to be a pro. I
think the injury helped him, slowed some things down, so while I think
that will always be a question about him, he’s answering some doubters
by coming back from the TJ with stuff as good or better than it was
before. That’s a very encouraging sign.

 Q:  Mike from Boston asks:
Of the players who didn’t make the list, who did the most to attain some sort of prospect recognition (e.g. Scott Shaw)?

John Manuel:
Shaw’s up there. Andy Graham, who wasn’t on my radar, would have made
the list with another appearance or two. Matt McBride impressed
managers out there with his hitting ability, and he’s expected to move
back to C next year as his shoulder gets further away from surgery, so
that could send him back up prospect lists. And Kyle Peter looks like a
guy now for the Tigers, he’s a raw kid out of Washburn (Kan.) that the
Tigers got basically because David Chadd, their scouting director,
lives near Washburn, he’s got real plus-plus speed and looks like a
table-setter. He’ll be interesting to watch.

 Q:  Ron from Kaukauna asks:
Micheal Taylor seemingly coming out so strong this year with little to
no notice, how good can he be and who could he be compared to? What do
you see him putting up in the bigs?

John Manuel:
Just not true on the little or no notice. He was a huge deal in high
school in 2004 (No. 99 on our final Top 100 HS prospects going into
that year), and just didn’t hit for his first 2.5 years at Stanford.
When he was drafted in 2007, I wrote this in our draft preview: “Scouts
who saw him late saw him good; he had 16 multi-hit games in his final
19 starts. Taylor has shown power to the deepest part of the park and
has the highest ceiling on the Cardinal roster. He will be a beast if
he learns to turn on inside pitches and develops a bit more patience.”

John Manuel:
He’s going to be in the Phils’ top 10 and frankly is a better prospect
than John Mayberry Jr., who also went to Stanford, also didn’t quite
live up to expectations there, and now of course both are Phillies. I
like Taylor’s chances to be a power-hitting corner OF in the next
couple of years.

 Q:  Ben from LA asks:
Bloom still a legit prospect in Pittsburgh’s system in your eyes, or
did he simply stand out more than other pitchers in Hawaii?

John Manuel:
He was a non-factor, and now he’s a back-of-the-rotation factor if he’s
still a Pirate. I don’t think he’s great, but he has come along, he has
gotten better, which isn’t typical for guys his age. He’s more of a
savvy, strike-throwing guy than a stuff guy, but he threw more strikes
with better stuff in the second half this year and in Hawaii. Pun
completely intended, but I think he’s a bit of a late-bloomer.

 Q:  Timmy L. from San Francisco asks:
Does Roger Kieschnick show signs of gaining better control of the strike zone or will always be an all or nothing type hitter?

John Manuel:
Well, this was his first time, his pro debut, and he showed no signs of
that, that’s the whole concern. Definitely some scouts who saw him as
an amateur and others who saw him in HWB who think of him as an
all-or-nothing type, almost a Rob Deer kind of guy, because he does
have other tools — he’s athletic enough, he has a good arm, he runs
fine. But he’s never going to be a contact hitter, that’s just not him.

 Q:  Joe LeCates from Easton, MD asks:
Manuel, thank you for the chat. What kind of ETA would you put on Posey
given some of the adjustments he will need to make behind the plate?

John Manuel:
You’re welcome, Joe. It sounds like Posey already has made some of
those adjustments. There were certain pitches he was having trouble
receiving, but he made some quick adjustments in two weeks in instructs
and throughout the Hawaii season. He’s going to hit; the power is a bit
of a question, but he’s going to hit. and he’s athletic and has a
natural feel for receiving and throwing, so he’ll be able to make the
adjustments we’ve talked about. I do think 2010 is fair for an ETA.

 Q:  Dave from NYC asks:

Any chance that Dominic Brown or Kyle Drabek break in to the top 100 prospects list?



John Manuel: They’ll be on my list.

 Q:  Otto from Houston asks:
Please convince us Astros’ faithful that Castro-the-Astro won’t become Towles V.2. Thanks.

John Manuel:
He’s better than Towles. We kept hearing all spring we were light on
Castro for the draft, snuck him into top 30 overall consideration late,
we had him at No. 21 on our top 200. J.R. Towles was never that kind of
prospect. I don’t think they are similar other than being Astros
catchers. Here’s hoping he’s better than Max Sapp too while we’re
talking in that vein. Castro’s bat is his best tool and he’s athletic
for the position as well, though not to Posey’s level. He had a very
impressive year from start to finish, Stanford through pro ball.

 Q:  Joe LeCates from Easton, MD asks:
in your opinion why would a club opt to send a player to Hawaii as
opposed to Arizona? The talent has grown in Hawaii, but it still lags
behind a bit.

John Manuel:
Slots are hard to come by in Arizona, and HWB is a nice fall-back
position. Plus if a player is a bit too inexperienced or young to go to
the AFL, Hawaii is a great way to get more experience. Take Drabek and
Venters, guys coming off TJ rehab, they just needed innings, and Hawaii
is more competitive than instructional league but not as brutal for
pitchers as the AFL. It’s a good mid-point between instructs and the

 Q:  ScottAZ from Phx, AZ asks:
to see Daryl Strawberry comps with Dom Brown. Obviously those need to
be changed since his power is in questions. What does he project now?

John Manuel:
Those come from being a tall, skinny black outfielder, but he also has
a buggy-whip swing and high elbow that evoke Strawberry. That’s
obviously a big comp to put on a guy, and the power will be a big part
of whether or not Brown reaches that kind of ceiling; I think those
chances are small. But a fellow BA staffer was talking to a veteran
scout we all respect last week, and that scout said he saw Brown and
thought of Strawberry, so the comparison is clearly out there. Right
now, the consensus is that his hit tool will grade out higher than the
power tool, and that was definitely not Strawberry’s M.O.

 Q:  Kyle from Middletown asks:
Todd Frazier’s hands are set up too high, why don’t the Reds just lower
them? Do you personally believe that his swing can work in the major

John Manuel:
Because he succeeds with his present approach and hasn’t gotten eaten
up by being pitched in on his hands, at least not yet. I think there
are plenty of exceptions in the major leagues, a lot of guys who don’t
do things in a textbook fashion who make it work. Until scouts tell me
he’s getting eaten up inside, I have no reason to doubt him.

 Q:  Jim from Philly asks:
Does Kyle Drabek project as a potential #1 starter?

John Manuel:
It’s No. 1 stuff. The rest of the package that makes a No. 1 is less
tangible, and I’m with Jim Callis; handing out No. 1 tags is hard. I
wouldn’t put that on a guy with such a short track record of success in
pro ball. But he does have No. 1 stuff.

 Q:  TG from NYC asks:
understand it’s somewhat delusional to expect a good projection so
early into his professional career, but I’ve heard conflicting reports
on Brackman. Most agree his FB is back to pre-TJ levels [hitting the
mid-90s consistently], but some anonymous scouts say he doesn’t and
never did offer much besides his 4-seamer. Is his curveball really that
inconsistent and could it be a by-product of rust?

John Manuel:
Brackman hadn’t pitched in a game since May 2007. Throw in Tommy John
surgery, an appendectomy, and the fact that ’07 was his first time ever
as a full-time baseball player, plus the fact he’s 6-11 . . . he’s a
pretty unique character. To expect consistency for him in HWB is
expecting too much. He’s shown a premium breaking ball in the past, and
he showed it in Hawaii, just not with any consistency. His changeup was
a shade too firm but also flashed very good potential. I think Yankee
fans should be very encouraged by how he threw out there.

 Q:  Mitchell from NYC asks:
What about Austin Romine??

John Manuel:
He has obvious potential but didn’t perform out there and didn’t wow
anybody. His receiving and blocking were described as “rough” by a
manager and a scout and he was thought to be worn down. I think he
suffered in comparison to Castro and Posey, he just is so far behind
those guys, not in terms of ceiling but polish and physical maturity.
He’ll be fine, just didn’t have a great turn in Hawaii.

 Q:  Jimmy Carter from Georgia asks:
the struggles of my long lost brother, Chris (OAK), in HWB concern you
at all? Are we looking at a .260 hitter or a .220 hitter in the majors?

John Manuel:
Hope he’s your long lost grandson, because it would be a shame if I
ranked a 70-year-old prospect. Carter’s power and athleticism got him
on the list; he has some holes and won’t challenge for any batting
titles, but he should hit around .250 or .260, and that will translate
into 25-30 homers according to the scouts I talked to.

 Q:  Bainton from NY asks:
Were there ant Met prospects that merited consideration?

John Manuel:
Shaw almost made it; Ruben Tejada had his supporters but his tools
really don’t stand out according to anyone I talked to. He was most
impressive for grinding out a long season as a teenager, through the
Fla. State League and then Hawaii. But there’s not a tool that gets
scouts or managers raving.

 Q:  Travis from Ewa Beach asks:
saw alot of Satoshi Nagai and when he faced the vaunted Waikiki lineup
he dominated them. Where there any thoughts of listing a Japanese

John Manuel:
I tried asking about more Japanese players but time constraints limited
those interviews. Nagai is one guy who stood out to the point that he
came up, with one manager calling him the league’s best pitcher. He has
Japan League experience and touched 94 mph with his fastball with life.
He also throws a pair of breaking balls and a splitter. I think the
most impressive thing for Nagai is he faced Waikiki five times (Alonso,
Posey, Kieschnick, Frazier all on that team), and in his last start he
struck out 11 and allowed only one hit, one HR to Kieschnick.

Moderator: I’m going to have to wrap it up here, but I really
appreciate all the questions. Thanks, check back tomorrow for the
Angels chat with Kary Booher.