Prospects Chat With Chris Kline And John Manuel

Moderator: Chris Kline and John Manuel discussed Opening Day
and the 2006 Draft.

 Q:  Bob from Laguna asks:
about some chat love for Nick Markakis’ fantastic offensive debut? 3
BB’s in his first 3 AB’s–err, I mean PA’s–and a 3-2 count line drive
HR about 10 rows deep in right center to cap it all off.

John Manuel:
Thanks to all of you for coming out . . . Chris will be along shortly.
And besides, as the office’s Greek-American, I have to take the
Markakis question. He should be the best Greek big leaguer since Milt
Pappas, and more importantly, he should be an impact bat for the
Orioles as long as he’s handled well in this jump from Double-A. Most
scouts from other organizations we’ve talked to over the years think
Nick can play center field, and he should be a better hitter than Corey
Patterson or Luis Matos even as a rookie. So if the O’s give him 400
ABs, I don’t think it’s a stretch to expect Markakis to hit .260-.280
with 10-15 homers. The high end of that would probably put him in
Rookie of the Year contention.

 Q:  Taylor from Houston asks:
heard talk that Drew Stubbs can’t hit. What are scouts saying now? He’s
having somewhat of a down year, but he’s got great stats. Where do you
see him going? I’m thinking top 10, due to pure athleticism.

John Manuel:
Taylor, that’s the million dollar question on Drew Stubbs. Will he hit?
For me, based on the discussions I’ve had with scouts over the last
nine years, projecting what an amateur hitter using metal bats will do
using wood bats against professional pitchers is the toughest job in
scouting. That said, I haven’t talked to a scout yet who is ready to
invest a seven-figure signing bonus in Drew Stubbs’ bat. One team
probably will still do it; he’s too athletic, too good a defender
(scouts are throwing 80s around with him) at a crucial spot, center
field, to fall out of the first round. Plus, this draft has few
position players. But when you’re being compared to Mike Kelly . . .
that’s not a ringing endorsement of Stubbs’ hitting ability. He has
struck out in 27 percent of his 666 at-bats in college. That’s hard to
get past.

 Q:  Taylor from Houston asks:
is your early favorite for NL ROY – Hermida, Jackson, Fielder, or??
Fielder has gotten off to a slow start, Jackson looks alright so far,
and I’ve had the chance to watch Hermida during the Astros series, he
looks good but kind of got off to a slow start as well. There’s a huge
list of rookies – Cain, Ramirez, etc. – you think they jump up and push
for the award?

Chris Kline:
I hate to go the popular route, but I like Fielder. People made a big
deal of his rough opening series, but the power is there and he will
rake as he’s done everywhere else. Don’t count out Hermida, though.
He’s more patient at the plate than Prince, and obviosuly has better
speed. But for pure power potential, stick with Fielder. Both those
clubs will be exciting to watch all year, regardless of the bumps in
the road the Marlins will face. I think the prospect of the Brewers’
potential success this year will shine a brighter light on Prince.

 Q:  john from columbus, oh asks:
When do you think Franklin Gutierrez and Dallas McPherson will make their way back to the MLs?

Chris Kline:
Interesting question, John.
It seems to take a lot for anyone to crack the Angels roster, and
McPherson is back in Triple-A to further hone his plate discipline. He
also has to shake off the early injury bug, which has haunted him since
he broke into the big leagues.
Gutierrez is more blocked on the depth chart at this point than
McPherson, and with the spring Jason Dubois had, he’s the first in line
for a callup in the Indians outfield picture. Gutierrez still needs
work at Triple-A anyway–his routes to balls and jumps are
above-average, but he needs to make more consistent contact at the

 Q:  Taylor from Houston asks:
how good is Brad Lincoln? Is he really good enough to be the #3
pitcher, ahead of Sherzer, Bard, Kennedy, Chamberlain, and Lincecum. Is
he good enough to be the first college pitcher taken, ahead of a very
very tough crop?

John Manuel:
When I spoke to Deric Ladnier for our story, he was essentially asking
for someone to step forward. Lincoln is one who has. Though he’s not a
big guy (just 6 feet tall), he’s got power stuff, throwing 92-94 mph
regularly and touching 96. He’s also got an effective curveball, and
the ability to spin a breaking ball is vital. Maybe I went to see the
wrong guy last Friday when I saw Andrew Miller mow down Florida
State–Lincoln and the Houston Cougars were down the road a ways in
Greenville, N.C., at East Carolina. I think that’s where the scouts
were, because they weren’t at Miller’s spot. That fact, and some
subsequent poking around, made me think the Royals had basically made
their decision, and maybe they have. At the least, Deric Ladnier and
the Royals are getting a backup plan together. The rest of the industry
isn’t scouting Miller terribly hard, because clubs don’t expect him to
drop far if at all our of the first two or three spots. Put it this
way–in the draft calls we’ve made this year, we’ve heard a lot of
negatives, but not many about Lincoln.

 Q:  Anthony Rozaro from Boston asks:
guys, thanks alot for doing these chats. They’re always informative and
greatly appreciated. I was wondering if you think there will be any
draft picks coming out of the Ivy League this year? Does the fact that
Ivy League prospects play against lower caliber competition than SECACC
guys hinder a possible Ivy League draft pick? Also, are teams weary of
drafting them because of a perceived strong commitment to education?

John Manuel:
Thanks for the kind words, Anthony, and this is our first chat since
the redesign. Still some work to do but we hope you all are enjoying
the work done by our staff on the new site, we’re excited about it.
Anyway, I think Ivy Leaguers generally suffer in comparison to other
college players in the draft because they frankly aren’t as good as
players in other conferences. They are in college for academics, not
athletics, and frankly that background doesn’t attract scouts. It kind
of makes sense–if you want to be, say, a journalist, you’re going to
do something in college to prepare for that, to look good on the
resume. Same with professional baseball. Also, I think one thing
working against Ivy Leaguers is the poor recent track record of Ivy
draftees. Ben Crockett, John Steitz, B.J. Szymanski is still in low A .
. . these guys didn’t tear it up.

 Q:  Greg from Trenton, NJ asks:
If Eric Duncan had chosen to attend LSU, would he be rated today as the best position prospect for this draft?

John Manuel:
That’s intriguing . . . if he had gone to college, his bat would
certainly rank at or near the top of this thin class. Of course, to
play in the SEC, Duncan would have had to show he can hit a breaking
ball, that’s a curve-dominated league. But yeah, he’d rank right near
the top due to his power potential. There’s very little power out
there, which helps a guy like Stubbs who has power (even if he doesn’t
make contact as much as he needs to).

 Q:  Sandy from Chicago asks:
seems to be a lack of college LHPs in this draft. Who, outside of the
few named in the midseason top 50, has a chance of elevating their
stock into the top 5 rounds come June?

John Manuel:
There are some decent LHPs on the West Coast, such as Pepperdine’s Paul
Coleman and Stanford’s Blake Hollar, but you’re right, it’s not a deep
group. Other names I’d throw out there include Stetson’s Nate Nery (an
8th-round pick out of high school in ’03), Miami of Ohio’s Keith Weiser
and Baylor’s Cory Van Allen.

 Q:  Stephen from Providence, RI asks:
you give a quick scouting report on Wade LeBlanc? His draft stock seems
to have fluctuated alot over his three years at Alabama. Where do you
see him going in the 06 draft?

John Manuel:
Scouts seem split on LeBlanc, our 2004 Freshman of the Year. Some see a
guy with an average fastball, good command and a plus curveball. Others
see fringy stuff and a good curve. Everyone sees a guy who has carried
a heavy workload since he stepped on the Alabama campus. He’s not a
lock to go high, but lefthanders who throw strikes, particularly with
the curve, are hard to find and often find work in big league bullpens.

 Q:  William from Houston asks:
an Astros fan, I’m ready to see what Taylor Buchholz brings to the
table. I haven’t seen him pitch in person, but have heard nothing but
great things about him. I was surprised to see he won the 5th spot, but
he deserved it? How good is this kid, and will he contribute to the
team this year? Any chance of making a run at the NL ROY?

John Manuel:
Bucholz was our pick for the Astros’ No. 1 prospect just after he was
traded in the Billy Wagner deal in November 2003, so Buchholz is
supposed to be good. When he’s at his best, he’s got a heavy low-90s
fastball with good sink to go with a plus curveball. He’s been hammered
in Triple-A the last two years, givng up 30 homers in 175 innings
combined, and that’s a big reason he fell to 14th in this year’s
rankings in our Prospect Handbook. A run at NL ROY seems a bit much to
ask; if he gives Houston 20 decent starts this year, that would be
quite an accomplishment.

 Q:  David from Las Vegas, NV asks:
draft notebook. Who are the Rockies focusing in on at the 2 spot?
Obviously its not a good year to have the #2 pick. Is there a chance
that Andrew Miller slides pass the Royals into the Rockies hands, and
if he does, do they take him?

John Manuel:
Thanks David, draft coverage is fun and maddening; the former because
it’s great to speculate, and the latter because the draft is broken and
the money involved prompts people (scouts, agents, etc.) to do and say
things they wouldn’t otherwise do or so. Miller could fall to the
Rockies at No. 2, both clubs are scouting him heavily and will continue
to do so. That’s the biggest sense I get from this update; there’s no
sure thing out there on the college side, so clubs are doing all they
can to be prepared for several different contingencies, even at the top
of the draft, based on the players they want, what they are willing to
spend and what is happening in the draft around them.

 Q:  David from Las Vegas, NV asks:
do you think about that Double-A Tulsa team? Could we really see Macri,
Tulo, and Stewart, with Iannetta at catcher, manning Coors Field in 2

John Manuel:
David asked quite a few questions, for which we thank him. Chris is on
a call and will be back soon, BTW. As for this question, that roster
looks very stout. I’m a big Matt Macri fan, but he needs to show he can
stay healthy, and really the same is true for Tulo and Stewart.
Potentially, that’s an infield with four impact bats, when you throw in
Joe Koshansky at first, don’t discount his lefthanded power and smooth
glove at first. Chris Iannetta is a grinder with solid tools and great
makeup, a Joe Girardi-type with more potential to have an impact with
the bat. That’s one of the better minor league rosters I have seen.
Decent arms too with Ubaldo Jimenez, Manuel Corpas and Juan Morillo
blowing cheddar out there.

 Q:  David from Las Vegas,NV asks:
that the D-Backs have officially moved Justin Upton to CF, how do you
see it playing out with Quentin, Upton, Young, and Gonzales? Whose the
odd man out?

John Manuel:
Upton to CF so quickly is good news for Stephen Drew and potentially
bad news for the rest of the D-backs’ outfielders, besides the ones you
already mentioned. Justin Upton will get to the big leagues when his
bat is ready; that’s what this move is about. He showed the
Diamondbacks how advanced his bat was with his spring performance. The
‘Backs want to expedite his progress. So I actually believe it will be
Upton who moves out of CF ultimately, because his bat will be good
enough for him to profile in RF or LF if need be. I’m not saying he
can’t play CF; I’m saying his bat is so good, he could get to the big
leagues and contribute as a corner OF very soon.

 Q:  David from Las Vegas, NV asks:
Please give me each pitchers ceiling: Ubaldo Jimenez, Juan Morillo, Franklin Morales, Chaz Roe, Shane Lindsay. Thanks

Chris Kline:
I still like Jimenez as a starter, though some scouts and some in the
organization see his long term role as a closer. It’s all going to
depend on the development of his changeup. He flashes it and it can be
an above-average pitch at times, but he needs to use it more.
Morillo is obviously a flamethrower, but his secondary stuff is still
fringe-average. Until he shows he can have better command of his slider
and changeup, he’ll be known as a one-pitch guy.
I was secretly hoping the Rockies would hold back Morales just to start
the year in Asheville for a second straight season, but that was just
me being selfish–with Asheville just a short trip away from the BA
World Headquarters. He’s starting out in Modesto and he’s one guy I’m
very excited about coming into this year. Power fastball, solid curve
and already with an idea of a changeup, Morales could wind up in
Double-A Tulsa by midseason.
Roe profiles as a front of the rotation starter, needing to polish his
curveball and changeup this year in Low Class A. Lindsay injured his
shoulder this past offseason in his native Australia, isn’t on any
Opening Day roster and he could miss all of 2006.

 Q:  Brayden from California asks:
McCann is the catcher in Atlanta right now but do you see Salty coming
up and seeing some playing time this year? And of the two who do you
think sticks and which one moves to another postition?

John Manuel:
We love Saltalamacchia as a prospect, but I just want to see him hit in
Double-A (and catch there) before we move him to Atlanta. McCann has
done both of those things in the big leagues; that gives him a major
advantage. McCann is the better defender, and I could see
Saltalamacchia eventually moving to 1B to get his bat in the lineup.
But the Braves’ embarrassment of riches at C is in stark contrast to
most of the rest of the industry. The Mariners, Indians and Twins are
about the only other organizations I can think of in comparable shape.

 Q:  David Troyer from Indiana asks:
new site looks great guys!!! I was wondering where you guys are seeing
Justin Masterson going in the draft this year, and is he being
projected as a closer, or as a starter? He tore it up in the cape last
summer as a closer, and he’s been pretty solid this spring as a starter
for SDSU. He’s seemingly got the size and the stuff for both.

John Manuel:
David, thanks again. Masterson looks like a possible first-rounder,
he’s pitched OK for San Diego State, not great but certainly not bad
either, and his ERA is the only one on the team under 4.00. He also
closed a game in the Mountain West’s pre-conference tournament, on two
days’ rest after a start, and threw well to get a save. That role is
still where scouts see Masterson, in the back of a bullpen, and he’s
still on track to be drafted high for that role.

 Q:  Bill Dictus from Madison, WI asks:
has such great stuff, but why isn’t anyone giving him a chance to be a
starter in the pro’s. Seems like all the talk is relief.

John Manuel:
Bill, I guess you missed our Draft Dish from two issues ago about
Lincecum, where scouts we talked to noted his improved changeup gives
him a chance to start. But fastball command and overall command issues
are what get scouts thinking Lincecum is better suited for the bullpen.
He leads the nation in strikeouts but he’s still averaging around 4.5
walks per nine. That’s a high rate. Plus, his resilient arm is
tailor-made for the bullpen. I don’t think clubs have completely ruled
him out, but we’ve written the reasons for him starting and those for
him relieving. I think the relieving side has more ammo.

 Q:  Jordan from Nebraska asks:
What do you think about Nebraska’s Ace Joba Chamberlin. How high could he potentially go in the draft.

John Manuel:
Joba Chamberlain remains a potential top-10 or top-15 selection. He’s
had some injury issues, tendinitis, etc., nothing super serious, but
his stuff has backed up a tad from early in the year, when he was
touching some 97s. He’s overcome a lot in his past and I would imagine
his makeup is a major positive. It’s hard to see him falling out of the
first round if he’s healthy.

 Q:  Dennis from Reno, NV asks:
all are aware of the Marlins and how they are loaded with pitching, but
who are the names to look for in terms of position players this year?
Are Brett Hayes and Kris Harvey going to move fast through the system
assuming they both have good years? Thanks -Dennis

Chris Kline:
Hayes is starting the year on the disabled list and Harvey begins in
low Class A Greensboro. Harvey’s overall athleticism is his strongest
suit, and the Marlins were very impressed with him at third in his
debut at short-season Jamestown last year. He could move quickly.
Two guys to really keep an eye on at high Class A Jupiter are Brad
McCann–whose numbers were unreal after April last year–and outfielder
J.T. Restko. With McCann slightly bothered by the cold weather last
April, expect him to get on a roll early on an continue that all season
this time around to build on that 2005 success. Restko has one of the
best two-strike approaches in the system. Hailing from Chicago, Restko
is one of hitting coordinator John Mallee’s favorite students–and
Mallee worked wonders with Reggie Abercrombie last season and through
the Fall League, enough to vault him on the big league roster this
year. Restko is another position player who could move quickly.

 Q:  Enrique from Miami, FL asks:
Jarrod Saltalamacchia spend the entire year behind the plate or will he
eventually be moved to 1st base (assuming McCann continues to impress
in Atlanta)?

Chris Kline:
THe vibe I got from assistant GM Dayton Moore this spring was the
Braves feel both players are athletic enough to move around. But that
said, both are remaining behind the plate for now. One thing you have
to remember with Salty is he catches his first game in Double-A
tonight. The Braves’ approach to both players is keep them where they
are and they can always move one of them if they feel they need to.

 Q:  C Williams from Castro Valley, ca asks:
Name some over hyped players.

John Manuel:
Well, one guy comes to mind, plays third base in Yankee Stadium, but
you probably mean minor leaguers. Turning there, I’d say just because a
player is a No. 1 prospect doesn’t mean he’s an elite prospect. Some
organizations just have to have someone be No. 1 or No. 2. I don’t
think the Rangers, for example, have a guy who’s a true No. 1 prospect.
Good depth there, but I’m not wowed by any member of the DVD trio, and
Edinson Volquez in particular needs to match performance to his stuff.
But he hasn’t exactly been too hyped either. I’d throw Felix Pie in
that, he has a long ways to go in terms of pitch selection, it would
seem. Eric Duncan is a solid prospect too often thought of as elite
because he’s young for his league and because he was the Yanks’ No. 1
prospect in 200405 offseason. That’s another example, and part of that
is my bad, because I should have ranked Robinson Cano over Duncan.

 Q:  Rich from Phoenix asks:
The Tucson Sidewinders roster was just released, and it looks loaded. How do you see them doing in the PCL?

Chris Kline:
Tucson looks good. But for me, I’ll go with either a completely loaded
Las Vegas club coming off a Double-A Southern League title last year or
maybe Albuquerque, who has a ton of arms and a revamped Jason Stokes.

 Q:  C Williams from Castro Valley, ca asks:
you think javier Herrera will atleast DH this year and how much of a
set back is this since he will only be 21? And is he more toolsey then
Carlos Gonzalez?

John Manuel:
It sounds like the A’s will take it slow with him, and if he does play
this year it will be only in instructional league. Herrera is young,
yes, and perhaps a slightly better all-around talent than Gonzalez, but
Gonzalez’ bat is far ahead of Herrera’s and is giong to widen that gap
this year. So for me, Gonzalez is the better prospect.

 Q:  Tim from Providence RI asks:
Any chance former hometown kid Matt Antonelli is still on the board when the Red Sox pick?

John Manuel:
Antonelli almost certainly will be there at 28 or 29. Clubs like him,
but no one seemed sold on him as a first-rounder despite his
athleticism, good performance this year and off-the-charts makeup. He
got owned pretty good by North Carolina’s Daniel Bard and Andrew
Miller, and that weekend hurt his draft stock, because that’s the best
pitching (or best arms) he’s going to see this year, big league arms
and big league velocity, and he didn’t handle it. If the Sox want to
make a provincial pick, though, they could do much worse than the
former Massachusetts HS football player of the year.

 Q:  Steve M. from Fairfax, VA asks:
years of ineptitude, the Orioles farm system seems to have turned a
corner. Can Joe Jordan and Dave Stockstill return the O’s farm system
to its former glory?

John Manuel:
In a word, yes. Jordan got off to a great start last year, the Orioles
could potentially get four impact players out of that draft. Dont’
discount the impact Tony DeMacio and Mickey White made there though,
DeMacio was hamstrung by ownership but still took Markakis, and White
was instrumental in the decision to put Markakis in the outfield rather
than on the mound. Jeff Fiorentino also should be a solid contributor
in Baltimore, and I like Adam Loewen. The Orioles are on the upswing at
the minor league level . . . it’s about time.

 Q:  tim from chicago asks:
for taking the time to chat.
BA seems higher on Alcides Escobar than others. How much of this is
from his strong AFL play? Reports on his defense also seem to greatly
vary. He put up a high error total last year but I have read he could
turn into a solid defender. Do you feel like he will be able to handle

John Manuel:
Tim, I’m the one who ranked him there . . . I just like his upside.
He’s got shortstop tools and more juice in his bat than his running
mate, Hernan Iribarren. I like the profile a lot better for Escobar.
That ranking had quite little to do with his AFL effort; just the fact
he was mature enough to handle it was important. At the low Class A
level, I’m going to err on the side of tools rather than on
performance, and of course I hope I didn’t err in ranking him where I

Moderator: Thanks everyone for the questions. We need to go
and finish up these Opening Day rosters. Get out to a ballpark if you
can tonight and go see some minor league baseball. OUT!