Prospect Chat: Matt Eddy

    David (Boulder): Do you think Price's control issues are a byproduct of the pitch counts he is being held to?

Matthew Eddy: Price’s strict pitch counts (currently
75) are certainly affecting his results. He’s completed five innings
twice this season, but his other outings look like this: 3 1/3, 3 2/3
(twice) and 4. But if anything, it seems like lower pitch counts would
mean more fastballs, thus fewer walks — even though opposing batters
clearly are waiting him out — and perhaps more hits allowed. Instead
what we’re seeing is lots of walks (16 in 24 2/3), which suggests that
Price is falling behind and not finishing batters when he does get ahead.

    Doug (Florida): No Sean Ratliff? Especially with the write up on Kirk N, Id figure it would be hard to ignore Sean's week.

Matthew Eddy: Sean Ratliff, the Mets’ fourth-rounder
from Stanford last year, had a very loud week — he batted
.500/.536/1.000 for Low-A Savannah with 8 doubles, a triple and a homer
— so let’s compare him with Kirk Nieuwenhuis, whose name I ought to be
able to spell without looking by the end of the day. Two factors worked
in Nieuwenhuis’ favor. First, the Mets selected Kirk N. higher in the
draft and assigned him to a higher classification to begin ’09 than
they did Ratliff — despite their level of college competition, NAIA
vs. Pac-10. Second, Nieuwenhuis plays center field and plays it in a
much tougher offensive environment (Florida State League); Ratliff
plays a lot of corner outfield. Perhaps when Ratliff moves up to
High-A, we’ll take another look.

    Josh (St. Paul): I know he is no longer listed
    as a prospect, but when do you see Luke Hochevar getting back into the
    rotation in Kansas City? His Omaha numbers are pretty impressive.

Matthew Eddy: A perfect 5-0 with a miniscule 0.90 ERA,
Hochevar has been one of the best pitchers in Triple-A. His
strikeout-to-walk (30-to-10) and home run (two in 40 innings) totals
are fine. He’s recorded 3.58 groundouts for every flyout. To this point
the only small negative has been his work against lefthanded batters,
who have hit .286/.362/.357, as Hochevar works to improve the quality
of his changeup and breaking ball. It’s common, though, for young
sinkerball pitchers to struggle with opposite-side batters until they
refine their offspeed pitchers — or learn to change eye levels up and
down with the four-seamer. Please do not consider this an advocation
for Ponson or Bannister, though; Hochevar deserves a big league
rotation spot, and he could only benefit from being around Meche and
Greinke on a daily basis.

    Timmy L. (San Francisco, CA): Worst pick in last year's top 10 thus far?

Matthew Eddy: Catchers are so difficult to evaluate at
any level, but a good one can put a team over the top. So I’ll ignore
the selections of Kyle Skipworth (6th) and Jason Castro (10th). It’s
very early to make these sorts of evaluations, but my knee-jerk
reaction is that Gordon Beckham (8th) and Justin Smoak (11th) would
have been better No. 7 overall picks for the Reds — but that’s not to
diminish Yonder Alonso’s ability in any way.

    John (Pensacola, FL): Clay Zavada has backed up last year's breakout season. Can he be more than a situational reliever in the majors?

J.J. Cooper: He could end up being a lefty who can
also get some righthanders out, but I don’t see him developing into a
starter or anything like that. That being said, he’s showing he’s
exceptionally good at his role as a lefty out of the pen. Not bad for a
guy who was in indy ball at this time last year.

    Tom (Durham, NC): What should we make of Jake Fox? Any chance he gets a look in Chicago?

J.J. Cooper: We talked about him more last week, but
it’s hard to see where he fits in Chicago with Hoffpauir and Lee ahead
of him. His best hope is that this big season leads another team to
take a chance on him when the offseason rolls around, or asks for him
in a trade.

    Jeff (Idaho): Will Mat Gamel play in the big leagues this year?

Matthew Eddy: Bank on it. Gamel’s hitting
.351/.439/.713 with 8 homers in his first 26 games. His strikeout rate
is up a bit early on, compared with last year, but few doubt he can be
an impact major league bat. He’s already on the 40-man roster, and for
a club as starved for lefthanded presence as the Brewers are, Gamel may
be up in the second half — or as soon as they can find consistent
at-bats for him. Maybe it’s at third base or maybe it’s on an outfield

    Grant (winnipeg): Tim Collins has some amazing numbers, except for his size. What's the word on him?

J.J. Cooper: A very dominant lefty in Class A. Despite
his lack of size, his stuff is actually pretty good—major league
average fastball for a lefty and a plus curveball. There are a lot of
relievers with great numbers in A ball who flame out well before the
big leagues, but most of them are trick-pitch guys. In Collins’ case,
he’s dominating hitters with a fastball/curveball combo that should
play well as he climbs the ladder.

    nick (NY): long-term who has the better grade among emerging international players: Wilmer Flores, Jesus Montero, and Michael Inoa?

Matthew Eddy: This is the sort of question our Top 100
Prospects ranking attempts to answer. Prior to the season, we stacked
them up Montero (No. 38), Flores (47) and Inoa (54). Inoa got the most
money of the three, but he has yet to play a pro game. Regardless, you
can make a case for ranking him ahead of the other two, but I think
most prefer Montero to Flores.

    John (all over the place!): Is this the year we finally see Billy Rowell and Joe Benson have breakout-type seasons?
    They've been much more consisten the past week or so...can they become top prospects again this year?

J.J. Cooper: I’m not expecting one for Rowell.
Rowell’s been pretty consistent all year, but his ceiling just seems a
good bit lower than it once was, especially when you consider that he’s
now an outfielder. As far as Benson, I do think he has a better chance
because he’s got a lot more tools than Rowell. As a potential power
hitting center fielder, I’d give him a better chance of a breakout,
although I’d expect with him it’s still a year or two away if it’s
going to happen.

    Brandon (Columbus, OH): I realize that Matt
    McBride is a little old(24) for High A (Kinston) but his numbers
    .421/.468/.702 so far this year are ridiculous. Doesn't he deserve some
    sort of mention? Is he too old for that level to be considered a

J.J. Cooper: He was on the Sheet last week, so it’s
not like we’re ignoring him. But yes, he’s having a sensational season.
He’s always been able to hit and now that he’s not being worn down from
catching, his bat seems even livelier.

    TJ (Miami): With Coghlan up,do the Marlins start shopping Dan Uggla around now? Is he gonna play 2B or 3b,with Bonifacio at the other spot?

Matthew Eddy: Coghlan profiles best at second base
because he lacks true corner power, but then he’s no better than
average as a defender at second base. He should be a strong average and
on-base presence regardless of where he plays. Coghlan fits better for
the Marlins going forward than do Uggla (cost prohibitive & poor
defense) or Bonifacio (lesser hitter who’s finding his true level after
a fast start).

    Ryan (Vero Beach): Why no love for Mobile's Bryan Augenstein? He continues to dominate southern league hitters

J.J. Cooper: I’m working on a piece on Augenstein,
hopefully for next Friday’s Daily Dish. He’s been sensational this
season, but this wasn’t the week for him to make the Hot Sheet, as he
gave up 2 runs and 6 hits in 5 innings in his only start. But we’re
keeping an eye on him, as he’s starting to live up to the expectations
that were placed on him coming into his junior year at Florida.

    Jeff (Idaho): What can you tell me about
    Hector Gomez? Future star, or average regular with good defense? Did
    his missed year set him behind on his development (age/level)?

Matthew Eddy: My gut feeling on Gomez is that he’ll be
about average as a regular, provided he plays shortstop for the Rockies
(or some other team). He’s a fine defensive player, but don’t expect
his power to remain at the level it was this week.

Matthew Eddy: A reader asked about White Sox LHP
Justin Edwards, but I accidentally deleted the question. Sorry, still
getting used to our new chat software. Edwards, 21, struck out nine in
five innings, giving up one hit, during his ’09 debut for Low-A
Kannapolis on Wednesday. The White Sox took him in the 3rd round of the
’06 draft out of Olympia High in Orlando, but as the reader points out,
there hasn’t been a lot of buzz about Edwards. The biggest reasons: He
carried a 5.64 ERA into the season, he missed all of ’08 while
recovering from an injury, and his stuff is good but not great. He
ranked in the Appy League Top 20 in his debut (access it from “Rankings
Archive” on our Main page) and in our ’07 Prospect Handbook. He pitches
in the mid- to high-80s with a solid curveball and changeup.

    Richard (Ft. Lauderdale): Do you have any
    thoughts on Alex Liddi? Was he close to the 'Helium Watch'? He still
    strikes out too much, but he is still hitting around .380.

Matthew Eddy: Alex Liddi has been a weekly contender
for Helium status. The Mariners never did lose faith in the Italy-born
third baseman, but alas he was a late cut from last year’s Top 30
Prospects. He batted .240/.306/.365 in two season in the low Class A
Midwest League (at ages 18 and 19), but in both years he showed steady
improvement as the year wore on. His swing, the Mariners said, was not suited to hitting in Appleton, Wis., because the righthanded batter
tended to drive the ball best to right-center field, which was not
conducive to hitting home runs in the MWL. You mention Liddi’s
strikeouts as an area for concern, and they are, but he’s also got a
bit of Triunfel Effect in his home run output for High Desert, one of
the best places on Earth to hit a baseball. Six of Liddi’s seven homers
have been hit at home. He’s a good prospect, though, and he’s doing the
types of things he needs to do to establish himself as such. (Perhaps
Team Italy hitting coach Mike Piazza pointed him in the right direction
during the WBC.)

    Michael Saunders (AAA Mariners prospect): what is my impact for 2009 and long term upside?

Matthew Eddy: Michael, I’ll be honest. We’re pretty
big fans of yours round these parts. You can do a lot of things to help
a team win — get on base, hit for power, run, play strong defense,
throw. None of those tools are eye-popping, but if a team features you
as its third-best outfielder, the team probably is a playoff contender.
The big league version of Saunders probably will blend the best
qualities of Ryan Church and Travis Buck (the ’07 version).

    Scott (San Diego): Is Cesar Carillo done as a prospect or can he still be an above average ML starter?

Matthew Eddy: The Padres first-round pick in ’05,
Carrillo would fit perfectly in our “Time Is Running Out For” category
in our midseason org reports. He had Tommy John surgery in June 2007,
so he’s nearing his two-year anniversary (and typical recovery time is 12 to
18 months) — though he hadn’t pitched at full health prior to that
since early 2006. On the comeback trail last summer, Carrillo showed
spotty velocity and command in both the Cal League and the AFL, and the
Padres opted to send the 25-year-old to Double-A to begin ’09. The
results have not been pretty: 6.08 ERA, 11-to-14 K-to-BB, .300 opponent
average. The fact that he has two minor league options remaining after
this season will buy him time, but at the moment he does not appear to
be a candidate for anything more than a bullpen role. And he has a long
way to go to achieve even that goal.