Prospect Hot Sheet Chat With Ben Badler (April 18)

Ben Badler: Hi everyone. Thanks for spending your Friday afternoon with BA. Let’s get going.

Julian (Los Angeles): Who has the highest upside among the thin crop of LAA pitching prospects?
Ben Badler: Ricardo Sanchez. Fastball’s up to 94 now, good curveball, nice delivery even if the control isn’t there right now. Alvarez and Sappington are closer, but they’re relievers for me. Sanchez might end up there too, but he’s got a chance start with more upside.

SoCal Dude (SoCal): Any thoughts on J. Urias' early struggles?
Ben Badler: “Early” is the key word. Hasn’t changed my opinion on him.

Rickster (Delray Beach): What can you tell us about Jacob Scavuzzo of the Dodgers? He's having a nice start in the Midwest League.
Ben Badler: He’s not one of their premium prospects yet, but he has the ingredients to get there. There’s bat speed, a good swing plane and he makes contact when he stays within the strike zone, which he’s done a better job of since he joined the organization. Good chance he’s moving up our Dodgers prospect list at the end of the year.

Nate (Chicago): Ben, I am cautiously optmistic with the video of a simplified swing and stats Courtney Hawkins is putting up. Are the reports positive from people seeing him more often than one or two at bats?
Ben Badler: A lot of his struggles last year were from an assignment he wasn’t ready for, so I cut him some slack there. You take one of the smartest kids in kindergarten and send him to the third grade, he’s going to embarrass himself because he can’t read yet. That said, I’m not a big Hawkins believer. The raw power, the bat speed, the athleticism, that’s all easy to see. But the pitch recognition and the holes in his swing still jump out to me, and those aren’t easy issues to address.

Ratt (Brooklyn): How real is Chris Colabello?
Ben Badler: He’s an everyday player. Probably a league average, 2 WAR kind of guy. Glad he’s finally getting the chance to show it.

MJ (ST Louis): Are the Red Sox still considering giving Mookie Betts some time at shortstop? If not, is he more or less trade bait for them?
Ben Badler: It’s not out of the question, although I don’t think they’re going to put him there. It’s not like there’s a clear path to shortstop in Boston right now either.

Rich (NJ): Maikel Franco is off to a rough start, is that a matter of pressing, trying to hit for more power or have AAA pitchers found a whole in his swing? Thanks
Ben Badler: I think it’s just been two bad weeks. Nothing to move the needle much or raise much cause for concern yet.

Ron Moriconi-Starkey (Manchester, CT): Springer got the early call up, if the pirates start to stuggle, do we see Polanco before July?
Ben Badler: The Pirates are just manipulating service time with Polanco. I’m sure the public reason will be something about how he needs to polish his baserunning or learn to tie the laces on his cleats the Pirates Way or some or other silliness, but he’s clearly their best option in right field right now. If I were them, I would do everything I can to lock him up to a long-term contract right now and bring him up immediately. In fact, I’d like to see more teams lock up their best prospects who haven’t played in the major leagues yet to long-term deals. But unless that happens, Polanco probably won’t be up until mid-late June.

brian (charlotte, NC): Hi Ben, Jake Thompson has been excellent as noted on Hot Sheet. Does he have MLB ace potential? Are there any other pitchers below AA that have opened eyes in the early going?
Ben Badler: There are very, very few pitchers in the minors who I’d put an ace label on. Thompson’s underrated, a guy with solid control of a three-pitch mix that’s average to above-average across the board. How he’s throwing in August is going to tell me more than how he looks right now, because durability is a question mark on him, but if he maintain his stuff over a full season’s workload, he has a good chance to be a Top 100 guy by the end of the season and develop into a mid-rotation starter.

Matt (TX): Theo has repeatedly said the cubs pitching prospects are underrated. Is he just talking up his guys or does anyone share his opinion?
Ben Badler: The pitching in their system was terrible when he took over. It’s better now, especially after getting C.J. Edwards. They have some interesting arms behind them, but nothing beyond what most teams have.

Nick (Washington DC): Hi Ben, thanks for the chat. If Mookie Betts does essentially what he did last year at two levels (this year at AA and AAA) where would you see him ranking in the offseason prospect rankings? Obviously a big if, but he's off to a ridiculous start...
Ben Badler: I had him at No. 40 on my list coming into the year. I don’t think top 20 is unreasonable if he continues tearing it up the rest of the season, which I think he will.

mike (Ontario Canada): Stroman seems to have started the year well, is he ready for the majors? Would you have him relieve or start?
Ben Badler: He’s ready now. I would be 100 percent committed to him as a starter. Four average to plus pitches, a huge strikeout rate and potentially plus command? If they move him to the bullpen just because he’s 5-foot-9, I think they’re out of their minds.

Jon (Boston): Hi Ben, Manuel Margot has showed a little pop to go along with his speed. What does he need to do to improve as a hitter? Is he a guy that could really climb up prospect lists this year?
Ben Badler: See more breaking balls, learn which ones he can handle and which ones he should lay off. Other than that, wow. There’s tremendous upside here between his glove, speed and offensive potential. The fact that the power is starting to come on so quickly this year is exciting. One of my favorite breakout candidates, although I guess I’ve been saying that for a couple of years now.

Mike (Healdsburg, CA): If McMahon's progress continues, do we see him finish this season in high A?
Ben Badler: Sure, it’s possible. I see a wide range of skills and big-time breakout potential. There’s no rush to push him along though.

john (nyc): is trevor bauer fully back on track and what can we expect going forward?
Ben Badler: Yes. He’s throwing 93-96 mph, which is up from where he was last year and more in line with where he sat when he was at UCLA and carving up hitters when he first got into professional baseball. The curveball and slider are both out pitches, but the approach he’s had this year has been better, getting ahead with his fastball, then finishing guys with the breaking stuff, rather than trying to throw early-count breaking balls and falling behind guys like he was in the past. He looks like a No. 2 starter right now.

Darryl (NY): Is Ben Lively for real? 23K's to 0 walks is amazing at any level above Highschool. Thanks
Ben Badler: It’s looking that way. The Reds have had success finding guys who’ve had atypical mechanics that scare away other teams, but they’re able to repeat their deliveries and throw strikes. It’s not like he’s a soft tosser, either—it’s consistently low-90s with a lot of life and up to 95. He could be a steal.

Trish (Colorado): Were the Mets too aggressive with Dominic Smith or do you think this is just an adjustment period and he'll start to hit?
Ben Badler: He struggled a lot when he got to the GCL last year too. By the end of the season, everyone was raving about him. Just a tough start, but he should turn it around.

Roger (Washington DC): Are you going to be doing Hot Sheet podcasts this year?
Ben Badler: We had some technical setbacks getting them up, but we do want to have more regular prospect podcasts for you guys. The interest level has been great, so thanks to everyone who’s written and asked about it.

zac (austin): I know it is SSS, but who are scouts going crazy over that were not top 100 guys going into the season?
Ben Badler: Probably no surprise given where we put him on the Hot Sheet, but Ryan McMahon’s raising his stock pretty quickly. Good athlete who can hit, takes a good approach at the plate with plus power potential that’s already showing up in games and solid defense at third base. Just a well-rounded, high-ceiling player who does just about everything except run.

John (Baltimore): Projection for jesse winker in pros??
Ben Badler: Above-average everyday LF. Potential .300 hitter with lots of walks, 20-25 HR (maybe a tick more some years), then gives back a lot of it in the field.

Jordan Smith (Michigan): When can we expect reports/articles on top July 2 2014?
Ben Badler: Should be coming in the next couple of weeks. Even as the market changes and the competition for these guys pushes the process for teams earlier and earlier, we have a pretty disciplined system in place that I’m proud of and think has served us well over the years in our international coverage. I’m pretty excited for some of the projects and stories we have in store for this year.

Steve (NJ): Does Raimel Tapia tend to hit the ball to the opposite field? I saw a spray chart online that made it seem like there little to no pull in his game. Seemed out of the ordinary for a young lefty like that.
Ben Badler: He hits the ball everywhere. Sometimes you see young hitters who are either extremely pull-conscious and just try to yank everything, other times you see guys who haven’t learned which pitches they can turn on to drive with authority yet (or it’s just a bat speed issue) so you see them using the opposite field more than their pull side. But Tapia has a nice stroke, a good approach and hits the ball to all fields. It’s one of the reasons I’ve liked his bat since he signed.

Dylan (Tulsa): Has Rafael Montero's performance late last year and so far this year in Las Vegas raised what evaluators believe his ultimate ceiling is? If he can keep the ball in the park there, while still throwing so many strikes, what's stopping him from being a TOR guy in the majors?
Ben Badler: I remember when Montero popped up in the GCL in 2011 after he signed that year in January when he was 20, which is basically an old man for a Dominican signing age. I know there were people who saw him as an amateur who barely even remembered who he was, and even after rookie ball, he was a guy with a decent fastball, good control and developing secondary pitches, someone who might have a chance as a back-end starter if everything went right. Every year since then he’s just continued to get better, move quickly and beat everyone’s expectations. When he was in the lower minors, I had him as maybe a No. 4 starter at best, but at this point I think there’s enough there that he has a chance to be a No. 3. I don’t see the consistent knockout secondary pitch to be a front-end guy, but he has a shot to be a very solid mid-rotation starter.

John (CT): Hunter Harvey is off to a fast start. He seems to be the tools to be a frontline starter. What are the scouts saying?
Ben Badler: He looks electric. You don’t see teenagers with the type of velocity and life on his fastball who are able to command it like he can, then back it up with a plus breaking ball. I’m not saying they need to or even should move him now, but if they bumped him up a level tomorrow, I don’t think he’d have and problems handing it. Looks every bit like a frontline starter.

Joseph (West Palm Beach): Do you prefer Sanchez or Stroman? Who gets the call first?
Ben Badler: Stroman, now and in the future. I get what people see with the velocity and movement on Sanchez’s fastball, but I have reservations that he’s ever going to be able to command it well enough to reach the potential other people see in him. Stroman’s a safer bet and a high ceiling, for me.

Ryan (Baltimore): How would you compare Rafael Devers and Luis Encarnacion? Will they both be playing in the States this summer?
Ben Badler: Two of the best bats on the international market last year. Devers more of a pure swing, but Encarnacion hit a ton in games and showed some more raw power than Devers, although I think they’ll both have plenty of power. Encarnacion’s a LF/1B type, whereas Devers has a chance to stay at third, although he’s going to have to work to stay there. Encarnacion’s coming to the GCL and Devers might join him there, although last I heard the Red Sox were still undecided about whether they were going to bring him over yet.

Tyler (San Diego): how does ketel marte not make this list?
Ben Badler: That’s a Ben Badler personal cheeseball right there. Didn’t crack the list this week, but he’s going to keep sneaking up on people.

Ben Badler: Thanks for all the questions, I always enjoy chatting. Hope you guys have a great weekend.