Midseason Prospect Update: Top 50 Prospects Chat With J.J. Cooper

@Jaypers413 (IL): Did LHP Julio Urias not pitch enough to be ranked on this list? Where could you envision him ranking by the time your Top 100 comes out next year?

J.J. Cooper: Hey everyone. I’ll try to get started a little early here. Urias was fully qualified for the list, but we don’t see him as a top 50 prospect, at least yet. Urias’ stuff is solid stuff, but he really seems at times to be more advanced than the Midwest League hitters he’s facing. That’s pretty unreal, and it makes him a very good prospect, but the fact that he’s a 16-year-old pitcher who’s ahead of MWL hitters doesn’t carry the same weight as a 16-year-old hitter doing the same thing in the Midwest League. It’s a definite plus in his favor, but when we ran Felix Hernandez up the prospect lists for dominating the Northwest League as a 17-year-old, he was run up more for his plus-plus stuff than for the fact that he was doing it as a 17-year-old. Age for pitchers is less of a factor than age for hitters.

Grant (NYC): Prior to his injury, Robert Stephenson was dominating the MWL, so I was expecting to see him higher than where you had him ranked. Your thoughts? Could he skip over the CAL once healthy and play for Pensacola?

J.J. Cooper: In an initial list, Stephenson was higher, but a number of scouts and front office player personnel people we talked to thought he was too high on the initial list because he’s still a long ways from the big leagues. As they saw it, guys with similar stuff and more track record at higher levels should rank ahead of Stephenson so we made an adjustment. I think it’s more likely that Stephenson could move quickly through Bakersfield rather than skip it altogether, but if he remains in Dayton all year, I do think he could start next year in Pensacola, a la Daniel Corcino.

Jeff (Philly): I'm just not understanding how Maikel Franco's breakout season across two levels didn't warrant a spot on this list. Sure his swing is unconventional, but the same could be said for Taveras'. Please explain, J.J.

J.J. Cooper: Franco’s swing isn’t just unconventional, it’s one that causes scouts concerns. Because of the way he draws the bat back to start his swing, it takes a longer path for him to get from the decision to swing to the point of contact than a normal swing. It’s worked for him, but there are scouts who worry how well that will play as he faces better pitching in the big leagues, especially when you add in that he has an arm bar as well. No scout has said anything like that about Taveras’ swing to me. Add in the concerns about whether he’s sticks at third base and he’s a good breakthrough prospect, but none of the 20+ scouts/front office execs I talked to thought he needed to be in the top 50.

Frank (Chicago): "Bradley is going to win '13 and '14 by default" - really? You're so confident Bradley will be the nation's top prospect pitcher this far out? What leads you to this conclusion?

J.J. Cooper: The first sentence was the Bundy-Bradley comparison continues. In comparison to Dylan Bundy? Bradley’s going to win that comparison by default because Bundy isn’t going to pitch at all in 2013 and he’s going to coming back from Tommy John in the second half of 2014. I’m very confident that Bradley should contribute more to the Diamondbacks in ’13 and ’14 than Bundy will to the O’s in that same timeframe. One’s having a surgery that takes a year to recover from and the other is not.

Max (FL): Why is Lindor ranked a bit higher than Correa? Correa has and projects more power, is hitting 20 points higher after a slow start, and I've read from you guys that he is a very solid fielder. Obviously both are great prospects, but I'm not sure where Lindor separates himself (besides SBs). Thanks

J.J. Cooper: If you’re in a fantasy league, you want Correa. He’s got a higher offensive upside than Lindor, but scouts question whether Correa is going to stay at shortstop long-term, while everyone sees Lindor as the best shortstop prospect on the game who is definitely going to stay at shortstop. Lindor is significantly better defensively than Correa, he projects to be a tick-better hitter and he runs way better. Correa does have more power and is a great prospect–that’s why he ranks No. 9 on this list.

Aaron (Duncanville): If Mark Appel was eligible would he be ranked higher than Archie Bradley?

J.J. Cooper: No. Our list is a collaboration, but on mine Bradley and Walker would both be ahead of Appel. He’d be slotted right around where Wacha is on this list

Brett (Chicago): What do you make from Albert Almora's season so far? If he continues hitting the way he has been, could he be a top 10 prospect next year? What current big leaguer would you compare him to?

J.J. Cooper: Probably not top 10 as the pre-draft scouting report remains–a lot of 6s but not many/any 7s. But a top 20 spot is very realistic.

Conor (Boston, MA): Has Archie Bradley really passed Dylan Bundy as a prospect or are the rankings a reflection of the uncertainty around Bundy's injury?

J.J. Cooper: The answer is yes to both. Before the injury, Bundy was considered a better prospect than Bradley, but it’s been close enough to be debated going back to their high school days. On one side you have a pitcher in Double-A who very realistically will be ready to start in the big leagues by 2014. On the other side you have a pitcher who is facing a year of rehab from a very significant surgery. The track record for recovery from Tommy John surgery is very good, but it’s not just hitting the reset button and coming back a year later. There are guys who aren’t as good post-surgery. Throw in that uncertainty and Bradley’s a better prospect right now.

Woody (Walla Walla, WA): Is Joey Terdoslavich 3B ALT up for good and what is his floor and ceiling

J.J. Cooper: I think his floor is a 4-A player who spends much of the next decade playing in Triple-A. The ceiling is as a second-division regular, but more likely he could be a useful super-sub who provides some power while playing a number of positions.

Niel (Dallas): If you had to pick one minor league team to watch for a week, which would it be? And how about if you had to pick just one minor league player?

J.J. Cooper: I thankfully got to pick and do it. Watching Cedar Rapids vs. Kane County and Quad Cities in a four-day span before Buxton was promoted was about as close to prospect heaven as I can imagine in 2013–Buxton, Almora, Vogelbach, McCullers, Ruiz, Correa and many more. If you can pick one player to watch, go see Byron Buxton play in Fort Myers.

Chris (Chicago): If Kris Bryant would have signed earlier (hopefully he does), would he be in the top 50? And if so, where would you put him? Thank!

J.J. Cooper: No. We don’t include current draftees in our midseason Top 50 whether they have signed or not.

M Dandy (Cambridge): Hedges over Sanchez because of talent or long-term position stability?

J.J. Cooper: We’re getting better reports about Sanchez’s defense, but it’s still not close to Hedges defense. There’s a better chance that Hedges’ bat improves to the point that it comes close to matching Sanchez’s bat than there is that Sanchez’s defense will ever match Hedges.

John (Minnesota): What will it take for Jameson Taillon to be considered a "top" pitching prospect?

J.J. Cooper: He’s the third-ranked pitcher on this list. That’s a top pitching prospect right now.

Jackie (New York): What do you guys see in Mike Foltynewicz that led to such a huge leap forward in the rankings. It can't all be the fastball can it?

J.J. Cooper: Not just the fastball, but the fact that it’s gone from a league avg fastball when he was drafted to a plus-plus pitch makes a significant difference. He also has performance going for him as he’s 4-1, 2.33 with a 3.75 FP in the Texas League and a 1.22 WHIP. He’s averaging over a strikeout an inning and doing it with plus stuff. There’s a lot to like there.

Anderson (Washington, DC): Things have sure been quiet on the Lucas Gioloto front. How is his rehab coming along and is it likely he will see some initial minor-league action before the year is up? How high do you rate him as a long-term prospect?

J.J. Cooper: He’s already made his first very brief appearance. Four of the five batters he faced reached in a GCL game on July 3. He’s a very good long-term prospect, but you want to see how he bounces back from the TJ before making any further proclamations about his future.

Jerry (San Diego): What are your thoughts on Eddie Butler and how close was he to making the list?

J.J. Cooper: He would have a pretty strong case if we went to 100. I don’t think he compares (yet) to he pitchers even at the back end of this list for the top 50.

Jerry (San Diego): If Alex Wood had remained in AA and continued to put up numbers consistent with his first 10 games, would he have made the list?

J.J. Cooper: Yes. Probably closer to the back end, but off the top of my head, I’d see him as a top 50 guy.

CB (Houston, TX): I love looking at these lists now and seeing multiple Astros on it. What do you think of the Houston farm system now and where do you feel it ranks?

J.J. Cooper: I wrote some about the Astros’ system for subscribers in a look at five systems having good years and five having bad years on the farm. (http://www.baseballamerica.com/minors/midseason-prospect-update-picking-five-organizations-on-a-roll-and-five-that-have-struggled/) The Astros have brought in a lot of depth through trades, but it’s the emergence of potential impact players they’ve acquired through the draft that I think will have a bigger impact on their long-term drive toward respectability and eventually playoff contention. Coming into the year it was a fair knock I think to say the Astros’ had a ton of prospects, but had very few that you could comfortably say could end up as being impact big leaguers who had time above low Class A. Halfway through the season, you could see Singleton, Springer and Foltynewicz all fitting that category while Correa and McCullers are right on their heels.

CW (Houston): What do you think the odds are that Correa will move to 3B?

J.J. Cooper: It’s funny but I went back and looked at some old notes of mine talking to scouts about Manny Machado back when he was in Class A for a comparison. Here’s what I had about Machado back then. The scout: “I think there’s a chance Machado will get too big for SS. He has the hands and instincts to play shortstop, it’s the same with the arm. He may play SS, but he won’t be an average range guy there once he’s fully grown. He’d be a Gold Glove type 3B. I had him as a 45 runner now. Tick below average. He’ll get heavier, but also stronger.” Everything that scout said about Machado sounds very similar to what I’ve heard from scouts this year about Correa. I’ve been told Correa is a 45 or 50 runner right now. The thought from some scouts is that he will become too big/slow to handle the position long-term although he’ll be an excellent third baseman. Now not everyone believes that, some scouts think he can stick at shortstop for the next decade, but of the guys I talked to, more think he ends up a very good third baseman. Machado is playing third base now. I wonder if he’ll ever end up moving back to shortstop considering how good he is at third. If Jonathan Villar comes up and plays plus defense for the Astros with an adequate bat, the Astros may face a similar decision down the road with Correa

Trip (Charlotte, NC): Who has more top of the rotation ceiling for the Twins, Berrios or Meyer?

J.J. Cooper: Meyer.

Dan (New Paltz): No sonny gray? Dominating the PCL at age 23 isn't enough? Newfound control, velocity and wicked curve?

J.J. Cooper: Gray was in the near-misses. He would have comfortably fit in the top 100, but he didn’t really qualify as a breakout guy to be written up in that group either.

Dave (Philly): For the record - Dom Brown also had a long swing. Wally Joyner helped him shorten it up and now he's an All-Star. I can't help but think that leaving a 20-year old who is destroying the Eastern League is a mistake. He can make swing adjustments if needed.

J.J. Cooper: Guys, when you say leaving out, he made the breakout prospects list. That’s not an insult. He would have easily made it if we went 100 deep. But those swing adjustments you talk about aren’t nearly as easy as you make them sound.

a.j. (dallas): What does Mason Williams need to improve to get back in the top 50?

J.J. Cooper: Show more with the bat. Scouts who have seen him this year were pretty disappointed with his approach at the plate and the rest of his tools weren’t as loud as they were expecting either.

Chris (Alabama): It looks like the Orioles' babying of Bundy was unsuccessful. Do you think this will have an impact on the way teams treat their 1st round high school signees in the future? If you want to train an arm to consistently throw 7-8 innings per game, isn't the best way to bring them up in the minors throwing more than the Orioles let Bundy throw in 2012?

J.J. Cooper: I do wonder if it will have at least some impact. I wrote a piece about this a year ago as Bundy and Bradley began their first full seasons that studies the history of high school first-round picks and found seemingly no benefit to the idea of limiting pitchers to such strict innings limit. The link is for subscribers http://www.baseballamerica.com/minors/has-limiting-innings-now-gone-too-far-13437/

John (Tucson): How does Adam Eaton move up from the top 100 ranking without even playing?

J.J. Cooper: Sorry had a quick radio show to do, I’m back now. We have seen 30 prospects graduate from the preseason Top 100 Prospects list, so simple attrition means that guys should move up just because guys above them left. Nothing about Eaton’s injury has really changed his long-term prognosis. It’s really easy to get caught up in what’s happening at this very moment, but you don’t want to go overboard on it. The bigger picture in many ways is more important. At this time last year, Julio Teheran was awful in AAA. We had him ranked No. 24 on our midseason top 50 anyway, because as bad as he had been, the track record, the scouting reports and the stuff for the totality of his career indicated he was one of the best pitching prospects around. I’m glad we didn’t overreact and bury him because he had a bad year. At this time last year, Shelby Miller had a 6.00 ERA in AAA, but we ranked him No. 20 anyway. I’m glad we did, because he’s ended up being everything we expected. This midseason list is the most volatile list we do, but one of the main things we try to do is underreact rather than overreact. Because overreacting based on two and a half months of stats is an easy way to make mistakes. If we’re going to make a guy move massively up or down on this midseason list, it’s going to be based on scouting reports that indicate his tools/stuff have either taken a big step forward or back rather than a good first two months at the plate or on the mound.

John (San Jose): Does Kyle Crick's stuff project him to be a mid-rotation starter or could he be a top-of-the-rotation starter?

J.J. Cooper: He could be a top-end guy if it all comes together.

Mike (Pittsburgh): When Polanco is ready, would you put him CF and slide McCutchen over? I've heard he is a much better defender than McCutchen

J.J. Cooper: I think Polanco ends up being the right fielder with McCutchen in center and Marte in left.

Dan (Denver, CO): Does Addison Russell have a chance to be a top 5 prospect entering 2014?
J.J. Cooper: He’s got a chance, but I don’t expect he will. Looking at this current top 10, I’d expect all but Taveras and maybe Bogaerts would still be eligible next year. Add in the additions of draftees like Appel, Kris Bryant and others and it’s going to be very hard to crack the top 5.

Kevin (MN): Theory: Correa is underrated because of Buxton's explosion. He's the youngest hitter in his league, 9-10 months younger than Buxton, and has been better statistically than just about everybody else. If Buxton hadn't (rightly) grabbed everyone's attention right away, they'd be fawning like crazy over Correa.

J.J. Cooper: He’s ranked as the No. 9 prospect in all of baseball right now. Of the guys ahead of him, only two are not playing in Double-A or above. That’s really, really, really good. I’m not sure how underrated a guy who’s currently a top 10 prospect can be.

Brett (The ILL): To go back to the Correa vs. Lindor question. You said Lindor runs much better, but coming into the year both had been talked about as being above average runners by multiple scouting reports, and both even had matching grades in the BA Handbook. So, did Correa significantly slow down(would seem odd since when I saw him last month he was really lean)? Did Lindor speed up?

J.J. Cooper: Correa may have slowed down. I’ve talked to multiple scouts who have seen him in the MWL who say you don’t get above-average running times on him.

Andy (Ohio): What improvements led to Danny Salazar going from not being a top five organizational prospect (#7 in the Indians org.) to being a "just-missed" guy in the Midseason Top 50?

J.J. Cooper: He’s now healthy and his stuff has gotten better. It’s now a two-pitch mix that’s been described by scouts who have seen him this year as some of the best stuff they’ve seen this year.

Andy (Houston, TX): How close were Tyler Glasnow and Robert Stephenson to making the list?
J.J. Cooper: Stephenson’s on the list at No. 27. Glasnow is written up in the breakout/just missed guys.

Richard (Saint Paul, MN): What are the chances that Sano is able to stick at 3b?
J.J. Cooper: I think very good. Scouts who have seen him this year say they think the questions about him sticking there are very overblown. He may eventually outgrow the position, but that could be years from now.

Matt (New York): Cesar Puello has certainly made a case to be a top 50 prospect by actually staying on the field and putting up good numbers. How close was he to cracking the top 50?

J.J. Cooper: Not too far off, which is a pretty dramatic climb from where he was entering the season. The biogenesis stuff is obviously a concern, but as a member of the Mets’ 40-man roster, he has the MLBPA fighting for him, which is a big difference in limiting the suspension he could face compared to if he was a non-40-man minor leaguer. There still are some concerns about the swing-and-miss in his swing, but he’s coming close to fulfilling the expectations we saw when we tapped him as a Top 100 Prospect entering 2011.

Chris (phoenix): Did olt get an pass because of the vision issues and have all the tools stayed the same from last year?

J.J. Cooper: I do think you throw out his awful April. He had legit vision problems. If you can’t see the ball, you’re not going to hit it.

J.Kam (South Car.): No sniff of Rougned Odor...he's not even a sleeper/breakout guy? He's the youngest player in the CAR LG, or one of the, and he's so solid!

J.J. Cooper: He made the list of just-missed guys last year (http://www.baseballamerica.com/online/prospects/prospect-pulse/2012/2613646.html) ($), so it’s hard to put him on it two years in a row. He would have been in the running for the Top 100. Like him a lot as a prospect.

Ryan (Indianapolis): Any chance Nick Delmonico sees the top 100 going into next season or is he more of a 100-200 ranking right now? He's having a solid season, but for being one of the big name high school bats of the 2011 draft, it seems he hasn't made much noise yet.

J.J. Cooper: In talking to scouts about the midseason list, I seemed to be higher on Delmonico (I saw him as a back end of the top 100 guy) than most of the scouts who mentioned him. But I see him as a guy who’s a borderline top 100 guy.

scott (ny): How good do you think Gregory Polanco can be and will he crack the top 10 next season?

J.J. Cooper: Sky is the limit with this guy. He’s in the consideration for the offseason Top 10, with the caveat as mentioned before that making the Top 100 Top 10 is tougher than making the midseason Top 10 because of the addition of draftees. It’s hard to remember that at this time last year, he was just emerging as a breakout prospect coming from nowhere. We’re pretty proud of last year’s breakout prospect list (http://www.baseballamerica.com/online/prospects/prospect-pulse/2012/2613646.html) ($). Of the 12 guys on last year’s midseason breakout list, four are in the big leagues now (Carter Capps, Tony Cingrani, Trevor Rosenthal and Dan Straily). Another four are in the new Top 50 (Polanco, Kyle Crick, Mike Foltynewicz and Adam Eaton). And of the other four, Jorge Bonifacio, Jimmy Nelson and Wilmer Flores all rank among their organization’s top prospects while only Miles Head looks like a potential miss. If you scroll down to the steady improvement list, Oswaldo Arcia, Ryan Lavarnway and Bruce Rondon are big leaguers. Austin Hedges, Aaron Sanchez and Yordano Ventura are in the Top 50 this year and Roughned Odor and Luis Heredia would make cases to be in a current Top 100. Only the injured Adys Portillo has struggled from that list

wit10born (Seattle): How long before the Cubs consider trading Voglebach? He has no place at Wrigley except as a DH or should Rizzo sustain a major injury.

J.J. Cooper: How much value does Vogelbach have when he’s in Class A? The Cubs are better off letting him develop and down the road he’ll either not make it, or if he continues to hit, he’ll have much more value as a Triple-A masher than as a guy who’s done it in Class A. That being said, even if he continues mashing, the trade market for first base/DH guys is never all that healthy.

Chris (Worcester): Will the blue jays regret including Noah syndergaard in the trade with the mets?

J.J. Cooper: Yes. He could be really good. Have had unprompted calls from scouts praising his stuff this year.

S R (Michigan): J.J......do you see Dorssys Paulino making the cut for Top 100 next season? He made the near misses this past off-season, his numbers haven't been the greatest so far this year, but has he garnered enough to merit the bump into Top 100 territory for you? Thanks!

J.J. Cooper: Don’t see it right now. Lots of questions about his hands at shortstop. If he was destroying the ball at the plate, he’d be making a case, but it’s not been a loud year up to now for him.

Chris (Phoenix): I don't know what it means to have an 'arm-bar'.

J.J. Cooper: Watch Todd Frazier hit and you’ll get an example of a guy with an arm-bar (and one who makes it work). It’s hitting with your front arm extended at load. Scouts generally think it makes it hard to catch up to inside fastballs and makes for a longer swing.

Brian (Austin): Did any of the Rangers' squad of mashers from Hickory come close to making the list (Gallo, Brinson, Alfaro, Williams, or Rua)?

J.J. Cooper: Gallo was the closest, and Alfaro would be next.

Greg T. (Twin Cities): Max Kepler a top-100 guy in 2014? He's a forgotten guy in the Twins' system.

J.J. Cooper: He’s making a pretty strong case for it right now. He’s not forgotten, but yes, it’s hard to be too noticed when you missed half the season with injuries and are playing in the same org as Buxton and Sano.

Andy (Glendale): Jake Odorizzi. Nothing more than a future #5?

J.J. Cooper: I think he could be a No. 4, but yeah, No. 4 or No. 5.

jon (NJ): Is Adalberto Mondesi the next Jurickson Profar?

J.J. Cooper: I’m not going there yet. Mondesi could be pretty special, but he still has a lot of shortstops to leapfrog to take the title of baseball’s best shortstop prospect, let alone No. 1 overall like Profar was. But yes, he has the ability/tools to where he could do that. Now we have to see if he will.

J.J. Cooper: Thanks for all the questions. I’ll be on Twitter @jjcoop36 to answer some more today/tomorrow. We’ll also be talking midseason prospects update on a podcast (and maybe a Google+ hangout) later this week.