Prospect Hot Sheet Chat With J.J. Cooper

    Lurking Bear (Cupboard): Mark Trumbo, Freddie Freeman or Paul Goldschmidt?

J.J. Cooper: Freddie Freeman by a significant margin.

    W.B. Levine (The Office.): When will we see Moustakas in the bigs?

J.J. Cooper: Sometime next year. They’ve already said they won’t be calling him up this September. I would guess he heads to spring training with at least an outside shot of making the big leagues out of camp, but if he spends half the year or so in Omaha (and pushes his arbitration clock back) the Royals won’t be unhappy at all.

    JAYPERS (IL): Do you see McGee getting the bump to the Trop this month?

J.J. Cooper: I would sure think so. There aren’t a whole lot of teams who couldn’t use a power lefty out of the pen. I’m actually a little surprised he’s not already there.

    Larry W (Atlanta): Who has had the more surprising season, Devin Mesoraco or Brandon Belt? Which of the two has the brighter future?

J.J. Cooper: I’d have to say Mesoraco’s is more surprising. In Belt’s case he was a very productive college player who was thought to not be a great pro prospect—but that was all based on projection. He had hit wherever he’d gone. In Mesoraco’s case, there was a multiple year track record of him struggling. Remember that he hadn’t slugged .400 for a season in a three years as a pro. Belt provided to be a surprise because he’s better than his college scouting report. Mesoraco is a surprise because he lived up to his high school scouting report after three years of struggles. Mesoraco has turned into a solid defensive catcher, even though Belt’s a good defensive first baseman, I’ve got to go with the catcher having a brighter future.

    Pat (ny, ny): Yo mentioned Matt Moore didn't win minor league POY, did you guys already decide who did and when does that come out??

J.J. Cooper: We have decided, and it will be announced on next Tuesday.

    Zach (Saint Augustine): Thanks for the chat. Who's the best pitcher-hitter combo in the minors? Teheran and Freeman? Moustakas and Lamb? And please show some love for Britton and Machado! Also, what does Machado's ETA in Baltimore look like?

J.J. Cooper: I can’t really put Machado in that group right now because we’re talking about two entirely different things. When talking about Teheran-Freeman or Moustakas-Lamb (or Montgomery-Hosmer or Myers-Montgomery, the Royals are stacked) we’re talking about players who have done it in full season ball. Machado’s a great prospect, but it’s all projection right now. As far as his ETA, 3-4 years would be my best guess.

    Trey Hickman (West Blocton, Alabama): What's the ETA for Cubs super-prospect Josh Vitters, and what kind of annual stat line do you see him putting up once he gets acclimated to Major League pitching?

J.J. Cooper: I’m sorry, but I’m not slapping a super-prospect tag on a guy hitting .223/.292/.383 in Double-A after hitting .238/.260/.344 in high Class A last year. I want to see him show he can stay locked in for longer stretches and lay off pitcher’s pitches more often.

    Mark (Ohio): Does Jay Bruce still have star potential or just a solid regular? He climbed up the top 100 rankings(eventually reaching No.1) but has not had great success in the majors just yet. Will his problem always be making contact?

J.J. Cooper: I’m going to say he still has star potential. He broke into the big leagues as a 21-year-old. He’s having a solid, if unspectacular year as a 23-year-old. I still would expect him to have several all-star caliber seasons in his future.

    Jake (Chicago, IL): Hi J.J., thanks for the chat! Do you think we'll see Matt Moore starting for Tampa next September? Also, where does Moore fall among the top pitching prospects? Thanks for taking my question.

J.J. Cooper: No. I don’t think there’s much chance of Moore pitching in St. Pete in 2011, and I wouldn’t even guarantee him a spot in their rotation in 2012. The Rays are stacked with pitchers—right now there is no spot for Jeremy Hellickson in the rotation and he couldn’t be more ready. I’m sure they’ll figure out a way to get Hellickson in the rotation next year, but Tampa Bay likes to take it slow with their pitchers. Look back at Hellickson’s career. Hellickson was better than Moore in high Class A in 2008, and even got a promotion to Double-A that year. But it’s still taken him two more full seasons and he’s not in the rotation yet. I’d expect to see Moore spend at least most of next year in Double-A, and I’d expect to see him spend a good bit of 2012 in Triple-A. Because of his control issues in the recent past, I wouldn’t put Moore in that top, top tier of pitching prospects yet, but he’s in the top 10 to me.

    Joe LeCates (Easton, MD): Putting aside the Greek-American celebration that John is probably putting on in the office today; as the resident Royals expert, JJ, how do you stack-up Moustakas, Hosmer, and Myers as pro prospects? All have a chance to be stars, but who would you lay your money on to be the best?

J.J. Cooper: Yanni may have a different ranking, and let me make it clear, I’m not saying this won’t change completely once I start bearing down to do the Royals’ Top 30, but right now I think I’d have Myers top, then Moustakas then Hosmer. But if you want to argue Hosmer No. 1 of those three, I’m not going to complain. They are oh-so-close.

    Ted (KC): J.Giavotella. how's working his defense in 2nd base? lots of errors kind of worry. he's doing better? or KC has to try him go to OF? thanks for chat.

J.J. Cooper: Haven’t bore down on the Royals for the top 30 yet, but from what I’ve heard it is a little better than last year. You keep him at second base and try to let him work things out there, because his road to the big league is a whole lot tougher as a corner outfielder without much power.

    JAYPERS (IL): When do your League Top 20 prospect lists start up?

J.J. Cooper: We are all working on them right now. They will go to press for the magazine on Sept. 17 and we will have them going up on the Website (I believe) beginning Sept. 21.

    Curious George (The City): If you were starting a new team today........considering everything we now know today up to date.........who would you select first.......Strasburg, Chapman, Moustakas, Hosmer, Trout.....and in what order ? Thanks

J.J. Cooper: Great question. Strasburg obviously slips because you’re not taking a guy facing Tommy John rehab No. 1. I’d start with Trout, but give me any of these guys and I’ll be happy and that includes Strasburg.

    Shane (St. Lucie, FL): JJ - I've seen Wilmer Flores play SS this year, and he's looked pretty impressive. If he is forced off the position, is the bat strong enough for 3rd/OF, what are you hearing?

J.J. Cooper: That’s the big question. Reports I have gotten doing FSL calls lead to a lot of questions of whether he can stay there—a lot of that is based on projecting his body going forward. But there is also a lot of thought that the bat will be good enough for a position switch.

    Matt (law school): what do you make of Aaron Hicks season and is he a top 20 prospect?

J.J. Cooper: My personal Top 20? No. I know he was raw, but I’d expect a little more in what has been a good but not overwhelming second season in Beloit. I’d have him in a top 50, just not in a top 20. That being said, I haven’t put together a top 20, and considering how thin the prospect crop is in general, I might be eating my words if I really sat down and wrote out a Top 20. But does he feel like a Top 20 prospect to me right now? No.

    Greg (Phoenix, AZ): JJ - Jarrod Parker's apparently throwing as hard as he did pre-TJ surgery, and has added a 2-seamer to his arsenal. Is he someone you think will climb back up prospect lists quickly?

J.J. Cooper: Yes. Do remember he was still No. 1 on the Diamodbacks Top 10 even right after the surgery.

    Ben (Leland Grove): Many experts remain bullish on Martin Perez, despite his frequent substandard starts this year. Is he just a case of being better than his numbers would indicate, or what?

J.J. Cooper: The stuff is still very good and he’s so, so young for that league. If Perez spent the next two full seasons in Double-A figuring it out, he’d still young when he made it to the majors in 2013. And I’d expect to see him figure it out before then.

    Big Dave (AR): Assuming Zumaya comes back healthy next season. Who throws the most triple digits pitches in the majors for the 2011 season?

J.J. Cooper: Chapman unless the Reds send him down for much of the season to work on being a starter again. By the way, I am baffled by all this skepticism about Chapman’s velocity. When a guy throws 94-95 on a radar gun, everyone rightly accepts it and we move on. I don’t hear anyone with those velocities say “radar guns are unreliable.” But when a guy throws 103-105, many people disbelieve the same data they would believe if he just threw a little softer. By my best count, there are at least five separate sources substantiating that Chapman threw 104-105 in Louisville last week (let’s assume Price and Gammons’ sources were the same just for argument’s sake. You also the Price/Gammons/Buster Olney source (which could be three separate sources for all we know), you have the stadium gun, an AL scout who talked to ESPN’s Jason Churchill, an NL scout who talked to us and the Louisville’s team gun). Unless there were massive hallucinations, he threw 104-105 that day. At this point the skepticism seems even more crazy when you consider that Pitch F/X, an entirely different device that doesn’t use a radar gun (it uses cameras) had him a couple of tenths below 104 this week. And it wasn’t like this was a fluke—Baseball America had him at 103 in July (we heard disbelief back then as well) and I’ve heard multiple reports from others who had him at 103 in other relief outings. Chapman is the hardest throwing lefty anyone has seen this side of Steve Dalkowski. I know it’s hard to wrap one’s brain around seeing a 103-104 flash up there, but at this point I don’t see any logical reason to disbelieve it except for stubborness.

    Robert (O.C.): Will Trout or Bourjas be the everyday CF? And is Congar destined to be a DH or C?

J.J. Cooper: Long-term I’m thinking Trout in CF, but realistically both can handle the position. With Conger that’s going to depend in part on what the team needs. If Jeff Mathis is your regular catcher I could see Conger as a DH who catches 30-50 games.

    Jeff (New Hampshire): Who has more talent between Michael Pineda and Matt Moore? Are they both top 20 prospects?

J.J. Cooper: They both have a ton of talent. I’d go with a slight edge to Pineda, but it’s close.

    Victor (St. Loo): Did Shelby Miller get any consideration? His second half stats are pretty jaw dropping, especially given his age. Does he sniff the top 20 for you?

J.J. Cooper: Miller made the list last week. He didn’t have a s good a week this week. As far as the top 20, it’s hard for me to sort out of some of those ’09 high school fireballers. He’s a very nice prospect in the second group of pitching prospects to me—that group is comprised largely of guys with great stuff who are still years away from the big leagues.

    Chris (left field): Do you let your POY finalists know that they are under consideration? And does the winner find out ahead of time, or does he get the news when the rest of us do?

J.J. Cooper: The winner knows, because we go interview him for the story.

    David (Bethlehem, PA): Tell me your not going to skirt this question - how can you have already decided on BA's POY when the season isn't even over? When did you decide? If you didn't count Moustakas shredding Triple A this past week, that's makes your selection less credible.

J.J. Cooper: I won’t skirt the question. Because of the long-lead time in magazines, we have to decide before the season is over. Otherwise we’d be awarding our player of the year in mid October (after the league top 20s run). This is the same time-frame that we have used now year after year and in the eight years I’ve been here, I can’t think of one award that would have been changed if we had two more weeks to choose. We’ll have another chat next week when we announce the POY where all these questions can be asked again. We will answer them, I promise.

    MJ (Valpo): Matt Moore is not "top tier" for pitching prospects?!? He's now led ALL of MiLB in K/9 ratio for three years running, total K's two years running, and just turned 21, and will be in AA next year, at 21, NEVER been injured, and is a LEFTY! Aside from some wildness (which pitcher doesn't at his stage) what prevents him from being the #1 overall P prospect? Who's more dominant???

J.J. Cooper: You just brushed aside the wildness like it’s no big deal. But if he’s going to be a No. 1 starter (which you’re talking about when you say the minor’s best pitching prospect) you have to have excellent command. Julio Teheran didn’t have that wildness at his stage (he’s younger than Moore). Neither did John Lamb (younger than Moore). Neither did Jeremy Hellickson. Neither did a ton of other guys. I think Moore is a great prospect, but forgetting the fact that he had a 6.00+ ERA for the first two months of the season is a little convenient. The question with Moore has always been will be have enough control to use his oustanding stuff. For a while the answer was no, but now more and more the answer is becoming yes. He’s a very good prospect, but if you asked me if I wanted the next 10 years of Hellickson or Moore, I’ll take Hellickson.

    Will (Mactaquac): Who leaps to mind for you as no longer being a top prospect after the bulk of the 2010 season? In other words, who's had the worst 2010 without a Martin Perez's mitigating circumstances?

J.J. Cooper: Intriguing question. Is anyone left on the Lars Anderson bandwagon?

    Robert (Secaucus, NJ): Assuming Hellickson still qualifies as a prospect after this season, is he a top 5 guy for you in your personal rankings?

J.J. Cooper: Yes.

    Jon (DC): What's your take on Eury Perez's year at low-A?

J.J. Cooper: Nice season. Would like to see him walk more, but I do like to see a speedy guy who has some sense of how to steal bases. Haven’t done a study on this, but it seems like very few of the speedsters who “need to learn how to get jumps” ever really become great stolen base threats.

    David (Bethlehem, PA): Thanks for the reply. Still, with such a close POY race, it's tough to hand that out before it's all said and done. I hope MOOSE wins. Tough to not give a former #2 overall pick the award after he hits .330 and leads MiLB in HR & RBI.

J.J. Cooper: It’s an amazing year for POY candidates. I sincerely mean this when I say that there are at least six or seven players we could have given the award to and have been quite happy with our choice. If the guy I had seventh on my list had won it, I would have completely understood. There are many years where one great prospect stands out (Matt Wieters year is an example) and a lot of years where you have some so-so prospects having great years and great prospects having good years. But it’s hard to remember a year where more excellent prospects had POY-worthy years. With the Royals—if you argued for Moustakas, Hosmer or Myers, you have a case. If you argue for Dominic Brown, Devin Mesoraco, Jeremy Hellickson or Brandon Belt, you have a case. And I could go on.

    BL (Bozeman, MT): You referenced Salvador Perez (C, Wilmington) today, his performance as a 20-year old in the Carolina League is fairly impressive, even considering his batting average-driven offensive game right now. Does he have any power projection? What kind of offensive player do you see him becoming?

J.J. Cooper: Not a whole lot of power in there. More a gap-to-gap approach. His bat will determine whether he’s a solid second division regular or a good backup catcher. I don’t think the bat will allow him to have any star potential, but I’ve been wrong before and I’ll be wrong again.

    Bob (NY): Hi JJ. Chris Dewyer or Danny Duffy who is better pitching prospect right now?

J.J. Cooper: I’ll go with Dwyer because he’s got better stuff, but both are very intriguing.

    Brian (Nashville): How do you evaluate a guy like Aaron Crow when it comes time to rank prospects? Stuff-wise, he is top 50 material with two plus pitches. However, his command has been off this year and his performance has suffered. Does he make the top 100?

J.J. Cooper: My best guess right now is no. Stuff matters, but results are important too. To have the season he’s had this year, especially when you consider that his experience makes him “old” for the Carolina League would put him outside my Top 100.

    Poindexter Von Goblin (Minneshota): Kyle Gibson, Alex Wimmers, Liam Hendriks...rankem

J.J. Cooper: Gibson-Wimmers-Hendriks, but you know the gap from 3 to 1 there isn’t a chasm.

Moderator: Thanks for all the questions. I have some Florida State League calls to make. We’ll have a POY chat next week, Jim Callis’ regular Wednesday chat will have a whole lot of Cape Cod League info (we’re posting his Cape Cod League Top 30) and we’ll have a Hot Sheet wrapup with chat next Friday.