Pioneer/Arizona League Top 20 Prospects Chat

Bill Mitchell: Welcome to the combined Arizona League – Pioneer League prospect chat session. It’s the first time we’ve combined these two chats so I’m expecting plenty of questions over the next hour or so. Let’s get to it!

David (Tulsa): What were the league observations on Mitch Hansen and his struggles offensively?
Bill Mitchell: Hansen was the Dodgers 2nd round pick from his high school in Plano, Texas. He struggled significantly early in the season but started to show signs of putting his tools to work later in the year, making progress with his swing which tended to be a little long. He just needs more experience and repetitions in the pro game.

GPT (San Jose, CA): Hello Bill, love your Twitter posts. My question, outside of Bickford and Jordan Johnson, any other AZL Giants stand out to you? Jalen Miller, Mikey Edie, Deiyerbert Bolivar, Kelvin Beltre perhaps?
Bill Mitchell: I liked 3rd rounder Jalen Miller’s glove at shortstop although he was somewhat inconsistent, in part because of wearing down from playing regularly early in the season. He projects as a glove-first shortstop batting near the bottom of the order. The Giants really like Beltre but he spent a lot of time on the sidelines this year due to various injuries. He’s a flashy middle infielder who sometimes plays out of control, but the tools are there. He’s one to watch next season.

Harry (Phoenix, AZ): What were your thoughts on Nash Walters during his time in the AZL? Was he picked at the right point in the draft?
Bill Mitchell: Nash Walters was picked by the Brewers in the 3rd round from high school ball in Texas. He’s still very unrefined and may need another year of rookie ball, but there’s a lot to like in the young Texan. The fastball sat 89-93 and he should add more velocity as he fills out and learns how to use all his body to pitch. The Brewers manager remarked that Walters is a hard work who pays attention to the little details.

Wrenzie (Philippines): Hello Mr. Bill. I have read on JJ Cooper's chat that Phil Bickford's FB is nasty even though it's in the low-90s. What are your projections on his offspeed pitches based on what you saw in his starts in AZL? Is it good enough to complement his FB? Thank you!
Bill Mitchell: Bickford’s slider can be nasty and projects to be an above-average pitch, playing well off the fastball. He’ll have to keep working on the change-up, but there’s no reason that it shouldn’t be at least an average pitch in time.

Todd (Tallmadge, OH): Was Indians RHP Triston McKenzie considered for the top 20? I know he had a short sample of work but in 12 innings allowed just 1 run & struckout 17.
Bill Mitchell: McKenzie, picked by the Indians in the Compensation A round from his Florida high school, is a tall, extremely slender RHP who got just over $2.3 million to sign with the Tribe. He didn’t pitch enough innings to qualify for the list, but I think I’m safe in saying that he would have ranked in the AZL top 5 if eligible. With his advanced feel for pitching, I could see him making the jump to full-season ball next year.

@Jaypers413 (IL): Thanks for the chat, Bill. What went wrong with Mike Nikorak's pro debut, if you could summarize for us? Had he qualified, would he have made your list?
Bill Mitchell: Our first Pioneer League question of the day comes from BA chat regular Jaypers! Just about everything went wrong with Nikorak’s first season after being selected by the Rockies late in the 1st round. According to my sources, he just wasn’t ready for the Pioneer League and would have been better suited for a complex level league if the Rockies fielded an Arizona League club. He showed flashes early in his starts but he didn’t always maintain his release point and the velo would drop. He really started to lose confidence in himself, but will be in instructional league this fall and will get a clean start next spring.

Frank (Cincinnati): Ian Kahaloa put up some strong numbers in limited innings but didn't make the list. What did you hear from managers/scouts on him?
Bill Mitchell: Kahaloa, the Reds 5th round pick from high school in Hawaii, just missed the cut for the top 20 and was on many earlier versions of the list. Here’s what I wrote on him: “Kahaloa has a feel for three major league quality pitches and shows advanced polish and pitchability for his age. The 90-92 mph fastball has good movement and is sneaky fast because he hides the ball so well. He works both sides of the plate and keeps the ball down. His slider and change-up are also good pitches delivered from a three-quarters slot. Talent observers don't see quite as much projection with Kahaloa as other pitchers on this list, and there are also injury concerns because of his delivery.”

Wrenzie (Philippines): What are your thoughts about Jordan Johnson? He made the quick transition from AZL up to A+. Is he a starter material or a shutdown reliever? How's his stuff gonna play out in the future? Thank you!
Bill Mitchell: It’s good to get a question all the way from the Philippines. Johnson could do well in either role but he’ll stay in the rotation for now because he’s got the arsenal to start. He’s got a slight build so I want to see him get through a couple more seasons without injury. The Giants believe that switching his breaking ball from a slider to a curve will help him stay healthy, and so far it’s worked.

James (Helena): I watched Helena this summer and saw lhp jake Drossner throw a very nice game. How does he stack up in the Brewers system????
Bill Mitchell: Drossner’s name didn’t come up in any of my Pioneer League discussions, but the Brewers 10th round pick from Maryland had a nice pro debut with Helena. Check back with me in a couple of weeks after I hopefully have a chance to see him in instructional league.

Ben (Dallas, TX): Your evaluation of Brendan Rodgers' conditioning and makeup sounds a bit troubling. Are you convinced he was the best guy to take in this year's draft?
Bill Mitchell: We won’t know the answer to your question about whether Rodgers was the best player to take with the 3rd pick for at least four or five years. These kids go through a lot in adjusting to the pro game and everyone handles it differently. Let’s see how he looks when minor leaguers report to spring training next March. When I saw him for two games in late July he certainly looked the part of a top pick, with a five-hit game on my last day in Grand Junction. The talent is certainly there.

Nathan (Wisconsin): So many Brewers in these two lists! Who's your favorite of them?
Bill Mitchell: You’re right — the Brewers dominated both rookie league lists this year as well as having a significant number of prospects ranked in the AZL last year. I’m a big Monte Harrison fan. He’s just so freakishly athletic that if he continues to develop the baseball skills he’ll be a stud. Hopefully the fractured ankle will heal completely and he won’t lose anything, but even if he does he’ll still be the most athletic guy on most fields. With that said, I am also a big Marcos Diplan fan and look forward to watching his development.

@Jaypers413 (IL): After talking to scouts and club officials as well as watching him play, do you believe Taylor Ward was an overdraft by the Halos?
Bill Mitchell: Most of the scouts that I talked with believe Ward, taken by the Angels in the 1st round, was a bit of an overdraft. But there’s a scarcity of quality catching in baseball and he certainly helps fill an organizational need. If he gets stronger and the bat develops more than some observers expect, then he could project as a big league regular.

Matt Cassidy (Future Sox) (Chicago): Hello Bill - thanks for putting together the list. As you might guess, going to ask about three White Sox players. Corey Zangari showed unusually mature adjustment to his game as the season went on for a high schooler, and certainly looked hitterish up there while improving contact. Was he in the discussion? Yosmer Solorzano - ground ball machine, command and control, but did you see anything more? Finally, Seby Zavala - how are the defensive skills there at catcher? Thanks!
Bill Mitchell: All three of the players you mention were considered for the AZL list, but more in the 25-30 range. 6th round pick Zangari hit well in his pro debut. His defense was rough at first base, understandable in that he spent most of his high school career as a pitcher and catcher. His bat is his only real tool so it’ll really have to play, and I don’t know that it’s going to be enough to carry him. Solorzano put up a good season in his age 18 season but he’s not as projectable as other pitchers ahead of him in the AZL. Zabala, the Sox 12th round pick from San Diego State, was liked by scouts who give him the ceiling of a backup catcher if the catching skills develop.

Dale (SF): If Dakota Chalmers does work out mechanics and control issues and develops a plus 2nd pitch what is his ceiling.
Bill Mitchell: Chalmers could be at least a mid-rotation starter if it all comes together for him, but he’s still one to dream on.

Warren (New London): A little surprised not to see Rudy Martin here. What did league observers think of him? Thanks for the chat!
Bill Mitchell: Martin fits a Royals profile as a diminutive outfielder (5-7, 150) with plus speed, but also with surprising pop. He hit really well and had his fans among AZL observers. It’s a tough profile to project for success at higher levels, but he’s a grinder who brings everything he’s got to the field and is easy to appreciate. I’ll certainly be following the fortunes of the Royals 25th round pick in 2014.

hurtado (everywhere, man.): Demi Orimoloye seemed to all in the draft, did he redeem himself any or is his just rookie ball?
Bill Mitchell: Originally projected as a 1st round talent, Orimoloye fell to the 4th round after a sub-par performance in his last high school year. He certainly opened eyes in the AZL with a very nice debut season and was just one part of a very good 2015 draft by Milwaukee. He needs to make better use of his hands and become more selective at the plate (that 39-3 K-BB rate is a little scary), but he’s got plenty of tools and athleticism.

Dan (Watertown, MA): Hi Bill. Did Enyel De Los Santos earn any accolades for his performance in the AZL or was he not there long enough to leave a lasting impression? Thanks for the chat.
Bill Mitchell: De Los Santos didn’t get seen much with only five appearances in the AZL and was an under-the-radar guy, but drew the attention of scouts covering the Northwest League. He was still plenty raw earlier in the summer but has a big arm. Check in with Vince next Monday when he covers the Northwest League prospects.

Mike (Chicago): Did any other Cubs come close to making the list?
Bill Mitchell: Scouts liked what they saw from 4th round CF D.J. Wilson, with a few Adam Eaton comps thrown his way. Wladimir Galindo played third base early in the season for the AZL Cubs and impressed with his bat before getting hurt, but his defense at the hot corner is rough and he’ll likely have to move to 1B or LF. 3rd round pick Bryan Hudson is a very tall (6-8), projectable LHP who impressed in his few brief outings.

a guy (a place): Tyrone Perry seemed to play fairly well. Does he have any upside or is he just a minor league 1b?
Bill Mitchell: Perry, taken by the Brewers in the 14th round from his high school in Lakeland, Florida, flashed some of the best raw power in the AZL this summer. With that said, conditioning is the number one priority for Perry. His page lists his weight as 265, but the recent Brewers instructional league roster has him at a more accurate 300 pounds. Carrying that much weight on a 6-2 frame won’t work long term, so it’s imperative that Perry drop a lot of pounds in order to have a pro career.

Dave (New York City): Hey, Bill. Thanks for taking the time to Chat! Any love/buzz for Brewers' 2015 draftees George Iskenderian and Conor Harber?
Bill Mitchell: No mentions on Iskenderian (7th round pick from Miami) or Harber (16th round pick from Oregon). I saw the latter during his time in juco ball and saw something to like, albeit with a delivery with effort, but that was a couple of years ago. Like I said about Drossner a few questions back, check with me after I get to see the Brewers instructional league team.

Kim (The Epicenter of ⚾️ - AZ): Mr. Mitchell: Leadership at the Rookie level is important in the development of young ballplayers: Who would be on your Field Staff "Dream Team" from combined PIO/AZL?
Bill Mitchell: Great question. I’m acquainted with many of the managers and coaches in both leagues and think highly of them all. But if I had to pick one guy to start my staff, it would have to be Ogden manager John Shoemaker. If you haven’t read John Manuel’s recent BA article on baseball lifers, be sure to check it out!

Warren (New London): D. J. Burt seemed to make a lot of progress this year. What did Pioneer League observers think of him?
Bill Mitchell: Burt would have made my Pioneer League list if I could have gone 25 deep. The Royals second base prospect had a real good growth season, finishing the season with a 54-game on-base streak. Here’s an excerpt of what I wrote on Burt: “A high energy player with plenty of athleticism and natural hand-eye coordination, Burt finished the year with a slash line of .290/.392/.391. He doesn't have a lot of power but works the gaps and motors around the bases with plus speed. His 19 percent strikeout rate and 0.76 GO/AO rate are indicators that there's still plenty of work to do to be able to hit more advanced pitching and consistently put the ball on the ground to take advantage of his speed. He's a good defender at second base and has enough arm to handle shortstop in a pinch, although some observers aren't as sold on his glove and believe he'd be a good candidate for a move to centerfield.”

RS (New York): Hello Bill, I've heard the Giants might start a second AZL team next year, have you heard anything about that?
Bill Mitchell: Hmmmm …. that’s interesting. I hadn’t heard that rumor and will certainly check it out. Other teams have talked about adding a second AZL team over the years, but that kind of expansion never happened. I really think the Rockies need an AZL team … maybe that will happen one of these years.

Roy (Indiana): Lots of Brewer prospects. Which ones are likely to open at Wisconsin?
Bill Mitchell: Harrison and Gatewood should get another crack at the Midwest League. Diplan will likely get there but maybe will stay behind in extended spring training in order to manage his innings. Of the AZL guys I’d put my money on Clark breaking camp with the Wisconsin team, but Lara and Orimoloye would be better served with at least a partial year at Helena.

Roy (Indiana): What are the chances Cease or Nix jump to Midwest League next year. Any other AZL Padres or Cubs who might jump to Fort Wayne & South Bend in 2016?
Bill Mitchell: There’s a good chance that both Cease and Nix make it to the Midwest League at some point in 2016, but probably not at the start primarily to manage their innings. That’s especially important for Cease who is still just over a year removed from TJ surgery. The AZL Cubs had a bunch of college guys on their roster early in the summer who eventually made it to Eugene (i.e. PJ Higgins, Alex Bautista), and most of that crop will likely start out in South Bend. The AZL Padres had a late-round reliever from Oklahoma, Blake Rogers, who impressed scouts both in the AZL and in the NWL, so he’s a likely candidate for the Fort Wayne bullpen.

Tyler (WI): Of the six brewers between the two lists, how many would you expect to make top 100 prospects lists in the near future?
Bill Mitchell: I’m not involved in the process for determining the top 100 for BA, so I checked in with prospect maven Matt Eddy back at Baseball America world headquarters. He believes that Trent Clark has a good chance at the top 100 and that Gilbert Lara and Marcos Diplan may get some consideration.

GPT (San Jose, CA): What did you think of a favorite of yours, David Graybill? He didn't pitch much and when he did, his velo wasn't as high as it was in college.
Bill Mitchell: Graybill, who pitched sparingly at Arizona State, was a 9th round pick by the Giants. He’s got a strong arm with a fastball in the mid to high 90s but with no command. The first time I saw him pitch in the AZL he hit a batter in the head and threw several pitches to the backstop. Later in the summer he dialed back the velocity to try to improve the command but then his stuff wasn’t nearly as electric. He’s an enigma but one worth watching to see if he can ever develop any command without losing the zip on the fastball.

Jack (Peoria): Hi Bill, thanks for doing the chat. Thoughts on Austin Byler with Missoula?
Bill Mitchell: Scouts and managers liked what they saw from Byler’s bat, but with the qualifier that he’s a four-year college guy putting up big numbers in an extreme hitters league. I had him in my top 25 so I’ll share part of what I wrote about the Dbacks 11th round pick from Nevada: “Byler led the league in homeruns and finished second in slugging and RBIs, but his 23 percent strikeout rate is a bit of a red flag. He's got above-average raw power and good plate discipline, with all signs pointing to Byler being a three-true-outcomes type of hitter. Byler played strictly at first base for Missoula, but will be given some reps at third base during instructional league. He started his college career playing both third base and outfield and he runs fairly well for his size, so a position change is not out of the question.”

Chiman (Nevada): Bill, Any thoughts on the AZL Mariners and potential sleepers?
Bill Mitchell: The AZL Mariners had a deep pitching staff with some nice sleepers. I covered Neidert and Thompson in the top 20, but a few other names to watch for in the future are Cody Mobley (8th round), Jio Orozco (14th round) and Art Warren (23rd round, college guy).

MJ (Valpo): Could Diaz be moved off SS anytime soon, now that Dansby Swanson is there? Where else might he fit? 2B, CF? Seems like he has the bat to play anywhere!
Bill Mitchell: Isan Diaz, from the Dbacks affiliate in Missoula, will stay at shortstop for now. There’s no reason to move him off the premium position until he gets closer to the big leagues. Ever since he was drafted it’s been projected that Diaz may wind up at second base and that may ultimately be the best place for him, but he’s been better at shortstop than expected. How his body develops will probably determine whether he can stay there.

Steve (San Francisco): Joantangel Segovia (Brewers) looks like he has the hit tool, but zero power. How does he project?
Bill Mitchell: Segovia got some consideration for the AZL list despite moving up to Helena mid-season and then getting hurt. The kid can flat out hit, makes good contact and does all the little things well. It’s more gap power right now. The factor that kept him off the list is that scouts don’t see a carrying tool, but if he keeps hitting like he has done in his first two seasons then he’s certainly one to watch.

Mick (Chicago): I'm surprised to see Gasparini as high as he is. He must have great tools and projection. He had an insane number of errors this year so I doubt he stays at SS. He also struck out a ton. He's only 18 but how long will it be until the Royals turn him into a center fielder?
Bill Mitchell: You are right about Gasparini, the Royals shortstop prospect from Italy. Right now it’s more about tools and projection, but there’s a lot to dream on. The progress he made in the second half is what got him moved into the top half of the Pioneer League list. Don’t be concerned about the number of errors — many great shortstops started their minor league careers by making a lot of errors at the rookie level. There’s no reason to move him off shortstop any time soon, but he would have the tools and athleticism to handle centerfield if that was the plan.

Bill Mitchell: That’s all I have time for today. Instructional League games start this afternoon and the forecasted storms haven’t yet hit the Phoenix area. Thanks for all of the great questions, especially from the Brewers fans who dominated the session. If I didn’t get to your question or you came in late, feel free to contact me on Twitter @billazbbphotog. Hudson Belinsky will be here tomorrow with his top 20 from the Appy League. Thanks again!