Prospect Hot Sheet Chat With J.J. Cooper

Moderator: J.J. Cooper will answer your prospects and Prospect Hot Sheet questions beginning at 3 p.m. ET.

Sam (Asheville): Micah Johnson advanced to AA yesterday. The White Sox advancement of prospects is questionable at best in some cases (Courtney Hawkins among many others), but do you think he is a legitimate Top 50 or 100 prospect next year?
J.J. Cooper: Hey everyone. Thanks for coming out and thanks for all the questions. I like Johnson, but not that much. There are questions about his hands at second base with scouts often seeing him as more of useful super utility guy rather than a regular at any position.

matthew (jacksonville): Any chance there could be a Sept. 1st callup for anybody taken in the 2013 draft like Bryant , Gray, or Appel?
J.J. Cooper: I don’t think so. Gray and Appel have both been shut down. Bryant seems like his big job will be to help Daytona in the FSL playoffs. Colin Moran is playing in low Class A. With service time concerns and the fact that none of the position players are likely to battle for a big league job out of spring training, I’d guess the answer is no.

Jay V (Texas): I love Buxton and do believe he COULD be an elite talent. But I've always had an issue with players being rated in the top 10 (let alone #1) before having success at the higher levels. To me, guys like Bogarts or Russell are more deserving based on their seasons.
J.J. Cooper: It’s not a deserving thing. The Baseball America Top 100 Prospects list isn’t about rewarding excellent seasons, it’s about projecting who will be the stars and the solid big leaguers of tomorrow. Btw, I found it interesting you cited Russell, as it’s hard to see how Russell would deserve being rated higher than Buxton based on doing it at a higher level. Playing a full season in hiA in a much better hitter’s league, Russell has performed well, but Buxton has outperformed him at the same level, just in fewer games.

But more importantly, I think you’re supposition is misplaced. Last year, we had four players in our Top 10 who finished the year having played all or almost all of their pro games in A ball. Those four were Jose Fernandez, Xander Bogaerts, Miguel Sano and Byron Buxton. A year later, Fernandez is in the running for NL Rookie of the Year and Bogaerts, Sano and Buxton are now all top five prospects in the game with Bogaerts now in Boston. I don’t think anything is gained in waiting til these guys get to Double-A to rank them top 10.

Chris (Chicago): Jonathan Gray is absolutely destroying A+ hitters.

Have scouting services actually UNDER-rated his prospects? Is he in the discussion for Top 10 in 2014?
J.J. Cooper: We ranked him as the No. 1 player in this year’s draft ( Last I checked we can’t rank him any higher than that. He’d definitely in discussion for next year’s top 10.

Fred (Brooklyn): Why'd the Yanks promote Mason Williams to AA given the mediocrity at Hi-A?
J.J. Cooper: I don’t have a real answer for you on that. If you’re picking out prospects who disappointed scouts who saw them in 2013, Williams would be very high up on the list.

Mike (East Lansing, Michigan): Are there any guys drafted this year that surprised in short-season ball that should be on the radar for next year? (A Glasnow type steal)
J.J. Cooper: I’m going to defer answering that one as we have several names, but we’re going to have a lot more once we’re done doing all of our short-season and rookie league calls. We’ll be rolling out the league top 20s in the not-to-distant future.

Stephen A (Chicago): How reasonable is it Springer could hit .260/.340/.500 next season if his k rate remains above 25%?
J.J. Cooper: For his rookie year, I think .250/.320/.450 is more likely. He’s got a lot of swing and miss, but also, we’re not in 2000 anymore. If he slugs .500, he’s a top 10 guy in the AL next year. I wouldn’t go that far.

Bill B (Glen Allen, VA): Given their performance this year, who do you think of Seattle's BIG 3 minor league pitchers (Walker, Paxton, Hultzen) gets added to the rotation with Hernandez, Iwakuma, and Ramirez next year? Or does Brandon Maurer make it instead?
J.J. Cooper: I think Walker comes up tonight and likely never goes back. He’s the best of the group, the youngest and arguably the most ready to help in Seattle. Hultzen has to prove he’s healthy and his stuff is back (both of which are big questions right now) before you put him in that discussion. I think Paxton or Maurer likely goes to spring training with plans to send them to AAA, but they could change those plans with a great spring.

Alex (Houston): Considering he'd take up a valuable 40-man spot if brought up this season, would it wise to wait bringing up George Springer until spring training?
J.J. Cooper: This one’s a tough call. Houston very well may have 100 losses before Springer’s done in Oklahoma City, so I can understand why they don’t start his service clock and use the 40-man spot. Houston’s biggest strength is the depth of talent in the minors. A lot of those guys aren’t Rule 5 eligible yet, but some are. There also are a ton of guys on the Astros’ current 40-man who are no big loss if you drop them, so on the flip side, it’s not like adding him and getting some big league time to get ready for 2014 would be a bad thing either. I’d bring him up, if nothing else it would give the fans something to watch over the final weeks of the season, but it’s not a slam dunk decision.

Keith (Manchester, CT): Thanks JJ. Assuming Byron Buxton does well in the Ariz. Fall League, is he likely to start in AA next spring?
J.J. Cooper: I think if Buxton hits .000/.000/.000 in the AFL you start him in Double-A. He’s handled everything the FSL can offer already.

Ratt (Brooklyn): Thanks for the chat! Thoughts on Brian Flynn's under-the-radar season?
J.J. Cooper: He is a nice sleeper prospect who I think will be a back-of-the-rotation big league starter and maybe a little more. LHP with a tick above average fastball, three other average pitches and solid command. Lot to like there.

Dilson Herrera (Just got to Savannah): What is my chances of being an impact prospect going forward? Do I need another year in Low A with new teammate Brandon Nimmo?
J.J. Cooper: Depends on what you define as impact. I think Herrera could end up being a regular at second base who could snag an all-star game appearance or two. No, I think Herrera heads to the Florida State League in 2014.

John (Klein Oak, TX): What are your thoughts on Matt Purke now that he finally seems to be healthy. He's looked decent since his return, especially considering he hasn't pitched consistently in well over a year. What's his new ceiling? ETA for Washington? GM keeps saying that he'll move up fast
J.J. Cooper: Count me a skeptic. Considering his pedigree–a first-round pick in 2009 who dominated at TCU as a freshman–he has actually been quite disappointing in high Class A. His arm speed doesn’t seem to be the same as it was pre-injury. Now his stuff is generally pretty run of the mill. Right now you can’t put an ETA on a guy who still needs to show he can conquer high Class A. He’s a good enough pitcher that he survived the Carolina League with some ups and downs, but he’s not missing many bats and he’s not showing plus stuff, at least yet.

Mike (Santa Clara): Assuming Walker & Bradley are both up next year, does Kyle Crick seemingly take over as best minor league pitching prospect? The kid just dominates!!!
J.J. Cooper: Like him, but no. I’d take Jonathan Gray over him for one.

Wes (Houston): How would Japhet Amador and Leo Heras rank in the Astros prospects?
J.J. Cooper: Back of the 30 guys at best. It’s a very deep system and Amador is a type of prospect who is hard to categorize because he’s such an outlier. Yes he’s hit, but the list of 315-pound big leaguers is a very small one, if small and 315 pounds can be used in the same sentence.

Phil (San Diego): Who gets more love from scouts: Severino Gonzalez or Miguel Almonte?
J.J. Cooper: In my calls, Almonte.

BrianS (Bloomington Il): Who would you rather have Soler, Polanco, or Hamilton?
J.J. Cooper: Polanco. I think he’s going to be a star. Soler could also be a star, but it’s a riskier proposition than Soler. Hamilton (I assume you mean Billy) would be a clear third among those guys to me.

bkobs (Massachusetts): Are there any 'helium' prospects that you recommend picking up in a dynasty league that have had a strong finish to the season and will likely appear somewhere on the Top 100 prospects for next year? Just trying to get a leg up on the competition!
J.J. Cooper: It’s hard for me to know where the line on sleepers is being drawn. If you count Mookie Betts as a sleeper, I like him a lot. I think he’s going to hit, has surprisingly impressive pop a great batting eye and he’ll be fine at second base.

Joe (KS): Who gets a crack in the big leagues first, Sano or Taveras?
J.J. Cooper: Taveras. I know he lost the year, but if Taveras has a normal Taveras’ spring training, he’s likely in the lineup on Opening Day in St. Louis. Sano could be with the Twins on Opening Day, but he’s more likely to get a little more minor league time.

Francisco (Atlanta): Where should C. Hawkins start 2014 ?
J.J. Cooper: Kannapolis? The best way I can put it is Bubba Starling and Brandon Nimmo, 2 first-round high school outfielders from the 2011 class, spent the full year in low Class A. If Hawkins went back to Kannapolis next year, he’d still be reasonably on track development wise, and it would allow him to actually get some success as he learns to recognize breaking balls. But teams very rarely will make a move like that. It’s more likely he returns to Winston-Salem.

John (Chicago): What do you make of PTBNL Vic Black? Is his control really in the 30/80 range?
J.J. Cooper: Sounds about right. He was one of a trio of hard-throwing Indy relievers. As one scout put it, you see these three guys with 95+ mph stuff and you wonder “why are they in Triple-A?” Then you watch them throw and you see why. It’s a lottery ticket and a good one. If Black figures it out, he could at least be a setup man.

Matt (Fargo): Eddie Rosario going to play average defense at 2b?
J.J. Cooper: I think he’ll play good enough defensively to stay there as long as he hits. He’s a good enough hitter that you’ll live with 45 defense. At second, he can knock a lot of balls down and still make the play.

Stephen A (Chicago): What are your overall impressions (defense, offense, along with eta) of Addison Russell after a full season in high A at the age of 19.
J.J. Cooper: He was a little over his head early, but like many elite prospects, he didn’t take long to catch up and then excel. I think he’s one of the better shortstop prospects in the game in a very deep class of shortstop prospects and he’s a year away from being the A’s regular SS.

Nick (Hickory, NC): Joey Gallo broke the Hickory Crawdads home run record this week. What do you make of his power and lack of average? Do you advance him to High A next year or let the hit tool develop in Low A again next year?
J.J. Cooper: Gallo’s power is insane. It’s hard to describe, as he can hit line drives that seem to leave the park before you can blink, while he also hits some fly balls that seem to take days before they land well beyond the outfield wall. In fact, when he’s in BP, sometimes he’ll hit a towering fly ball, then hit a line drive that will almost catch up to the fly ball as they clear the wall. It’s pretty wild to watch.

That being said, his hit tool is a very big question. I wrote it before and I still think a Russ Branyan career is the most likely progression, but Gallo is young enough that he could exceed that projection. I think he heads to Myrtle Beach next year with most of the rest of the Hickory crew. While the strikeouts are scary, it’s hard to say Gallo needs to go back to Hickory after he hit 35 home runs this year while missing a month.

Nate (Chicago): Is Erik Johnson's ceiling #3? Do you think he is ready for a spot in the 2014 Opening Day rotation?
J.J. Cooper: Yes and yes.

Sean (Atlanta): Has there been the recent dialogue between BA and scouts on B. Starling's development recently, specifically with his bat? Thanks.
J.J. Cooper: There’s been some improvement. Had a scout note recently that while you see all the troubles, Starling’s swing isn’t particularly long. It’s much more about pitch recognition and seeing the ball well. So maybe the Lasix did some favors for Starling. I’ll be bearing down more on that over the next couple of weeks.

Andrew (North Texas): Who has the better MLB career; Courtney Hawkins, Joey Gallo, Josh Bell or David Dahl?
J.J. Cooper: I’ll go with Dahl, even with his lost year.

John (Chicago): Not a question, just wanted to say great job on your first Ask BA and was glad to see that you took that job over from Jim.
J.J. Cooper: Thanks John. I appreciate it. And that’s a good time to remind everyone to send any questions you have to and please include your full name and the city where you live. I’m working on the next Ask BA after I finish this chat with some further details on Mookie Betts.

Frank (Atlanta): Why are the Ms the Mariners and not the Marlins?
J.J. Cooper: Seniority?

DH (Pittsburgh): Appel and Gray or Gausman and Zimmer?
J.J. Cooper: I’ll take Appel and Gray but it’s pretty close.

John (Chicago): Which middle infielder would you rather have, Dilson Herrera or Garin Cecchini?
J.J. Cooper: If you’re talking middle infield Dilson Herrera, because Garin Cecchini is a third baseman. If you’re asking who’d I rather have as a prospect, Cecchini.

Gary (New Jersey): Carlos Correa has dominated at QC this year. What's his likely progress next year and ETA in Houston?
J.J. Cooper: The Astros were very patient with him this year, which is fine, especially when you consider how he was young for his draft class. Next year, I’d expect he’ll speed up. Likely start the year in high Class A, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see him handle two levels next year with a 2015 ETA to Houston.

john s. (Florida): Hi, I saw your answer about Kris Bryant helping Daytona in the playoffs. AA-Tennessee is also in the playoffs, maybe a call-up there?
J.J. Cooper: No. I think the end of the road for him this year is the FSL and then the Arizona Fall League.

Izzy (New York): If Travis d'Arnaud does not reach 130 AB (which it looks like he won't), about where would he rank in the top 100?
J.J. Cooper: Somewhere in the 20-30 range, pretty much the same as last year. On one hand, he’s still the best catching prospects in the game. On the other hand, 2013 just added to the long list of injuries that have sidelined him, leading to further fears that he’s injury prone.

Stephen A (Chicago): Oscar Taveras projection for 2014...275/.325/.475 and 500 at bats?
J.J. Cooper: I think you’ll see a little more average and little less power.

Ken (Raleigh, NC): How good can Byron Buxton be? Where does he stand at this point among baseball's best? Who is the best comp for him?
J.J. Cooper: He’s the best prospect in baseball, so that’s where he stands. The real question is does he end up being a 30+ home run guy or more of a 15-20 home run guy when he’s filled out and matured. Everything else projects as well above average.

SteveB (Philly): Mikael Franco has been really consistent all year. We keep hearing about an "arm bar" concern with him - but the results have been terrific. Has his performance this year superseded the concern?
J.J. Cooper: Yes. There are concerns about whether he ends up at third or if this move to first is a sign that the Phillies don’t think his range will play at third. But the man can hit, that much is pretty clear.

Ryan (Toronto): Is there any hope for Trevor Bauer?
J.J. Cooper: There’s still hope, but at this point, it would be a surprise if Bauer ends up being a long-term front-of-the-rotation starter. He needs to improve his command and his stuff needs to get back to what it was at UCLA. Those are two big ifs.

Grant (Winnipeg): Dalton Pompey was "in the team photo". Is the upside there pretty high, or was this likely more of a little blip? Does it all turn on the hit tool?
J.J. Cooper: He’s worth keeping an eye on, but there’s more reason to be skeptical than enthusiastic at this point. There is some pretty useful upside those if he figures it all out.

J.J. Cooper: Thanks for all the questions and thanks for coming out for the Hot Sheet all season. We’ve enjoyed doing the Hot Sheets. We’ll start counting down to the start of the 2014 season as soon as the minor league playoffs wrap up.