Prospects Chat With J.J. Cooper

 Q:  Bob from West Palm Beach asks:
Who do you feel has the brighter future Jacob McGee or Clayton Kershaw and how comparable are they to Cole Hamels?

J.J. Cooper:
Hey everyone, thanks for stopping by. As far as McGee and Kershaw, I’d
go with Kershaw. He stuff is just a smidgen better than McGee’s
already. He’s two years younger with the possibility of even adding a
little more to his stuff and his command’s better. When you’re ranking
lefties in the minors, there’s not many guys you can put ahead of
Kershaw. At this point in his career, Kershaw is a better prospect than
Hamels. Hamels had injury concerns and makeup concerns that Kershaw
didn’t have–clearly Hamels has grown up some and put some of that
behind him, but Kershaw already had the makeup you’re looking for in a
No. 1.

 Q:  Carlton from Columbus, Ohio asks:
Can Doug Deeds AAA Minnesota have an impact at the major league level some day? I envision him as a fourth outfielder.

J.J. Cooper:
It’s hard to see Deeds as a fourth outfielder as you usually want your
fourth outfielder to have a little more versatility defensively. And
the Twins haven’t really shown signs that they think of him as a future
big leaguer (they sent him back to Double-A for all of 2006 despite a
solid year there in 2005). But getting a backup job in the majors does
depend a good bit on circumstances, so if he had a hot streak at the
right time, got called up and took advantage of the chance it could

 Q:  Patrick from Chicago, IL asks:
been going on with Mark Pawelek? He was so highly-rated coming out of
high school two years ago, and yet he barely even pitched four innings
in Low A before being shipped back to extended spring training. Is he
having mechanical trouble or is it something else?

J.J. Cooper:
The Cubs explained Pawelek’s demotion as they wanted him to get regular
work in the warmth of Arizona instead of cold weather in Peoria, but he
was having mechanical problems before the move. The fact that the Cubs
had moved him into the bullpen when he was sent to Peoria is a bad sign
as well. He did show up in better shape this year than last, when he
was kept out of full season ball because he showed up out of shape.
It’s too early to give up on him, but if you’re looking for a
front-runner in the category of 2005 first-round draft busts, Pawelek
is the leader as they head to the first turn.

 Q:  Luke from Des Moines asks:
J.J. After recently being kicked off the SC baseball team, what does
the future hold for Lonnie Chisenhall and Nick Fuller. Will they go
back in to the draft, to another college, or to the independent
leagues? Do they still have to go three years of college before
reentering the draft? Basically, what are their options? Thanks.

J.J. Cooper:
They don’t have to go through three years of college. If they signed
with a junior college they would be eligible for the 2008 draft. But
they are facing some rather serious charges first–it doesn’t matter
too much if you’re draft eligible or not if you’re facing the potential
of time in prison.

 Q:  Joe from Grand Rapids asks:
Gorkys Hernandez so far this season at West Michigan has been
outstanding. What is his ETA to Detroit and what type of ceiling does
he have?

J.J. Cooper:
Detroit can be patient with the 19-year-old largely because they have a
solid outfield in the majors and a stud ahead of Hernandez in Cameron
Maybin. Considering that Maybin spent all of last year in West
Michigan, it wouldn’t be surprising to see the Tigers do the same thing
with Hernandez. Hernandez’ ceiling is just a tick lower than
Maybin’s–Maybin projects to have more power.

 Q:  Jared from LA asks:
Tony Abreu is hitting .414 in Vegas. Where does he rank among second base prospects?

J.J. Cooper:
As Matt Eddy mentioned in a recent blog post, major league second
baseman are just as often minor league shortstopsthird base as they are
second baseman, largely because the knock on minor league second
basemen is that they aren’t as athletic. That’s not really true in the
case of Abreu. Defense isn’t really a problem, and he can handle
shortstop in a pinch, but since he’s come up through the system with
defensive whiz Chin-Lung Hu, he’s always spent most of his time at
second base. Abreu’s playing in a hitter’s park in a hitter’s league,
but he’s showing he’s nearly ready if injuries strike the Dodgers. Off
the top of my head, with Callaspo and Casilla in the majors, Abreu may
be the best second base prospect in the minors.

 Q:  Cambridge from across the river from Fenway asks:
Wright was almost unhittable in two starts for Trenton, but ran into a
little trouble at Fenway Park. When will we hear from the young Yankees
lefthander again?

J.J. Cooper:
The knock on Wright is that he doesn’t have enough stuff to dominate
major league hitters, who aren’t as fooled by a pitcher pitching
backwards as minor league hitters. When I was doing Florida State
League calls last year, scouts and managers saw Wright as more of a
solid setup man in the big leagues, but he could be a back-end of
rotation guy. Ideally the Yankees are hoping they get enough pitchers
healthy that Wright can spend this year in Trenton. He’s not ready for
the big leagues and the Yankees knew that, he was just the best option
available because he was the only healthy starter left on their 40-man
roster to call up. Here’s the amazing stat for Wright. He’ll be
remembered for a long time for giving up four consecutive home runs,
but last year in 120 innings in the Florida State League he gave up
only one all season.

 Q:  Joe from St. Louis asks:
Justin Upton is on fire right now. What’s been the difference this year?

J.J. Cooper:
His talent is finally coming through. The Midwest League is a tough
place to hit, which made his numbers look a little worse than they
actually were last season. But Upton also didn’t seem to thrilled to be
starting out in Low Class A–and he carried that frustration onto the
field. He had a second strong big league spring training and this time
he’s taken that momentum and professionalism and carried it over into
the season. But again, do remember the difference in leagues. I don’t
have the park factors in front of me, but slugging .500 in the Cal
League isn’t a whole lot different than .415 in the Midwest League.

 Q:  Bernie from North Reading, Mass asks:
Is Hughes up to the big leagues for good or will we see him back in Scranton sometime soon ??

J.J. Cooper:
With the Yankees run of injuries, I’d bet he’s more likely to stay than
go back to Triple-A. He’ll have some adjustments to make as he gets
settled in, but even last night we saw what Yankees catchers were
talking about in spring training–Hughes has the best stuff of anyone
on the staff. The Yankees have been cautious with Hughes and have done
a good job of working him up the ladder slowly, but he did have more
than 115 innings in Double-A last year, so it’s not like he’s being
rushed. Dontrelle Willis had a grand total of 36 Double-A innings and
no Triple-A appearances before being sent to Florida and it hasn’t hurt

 Q:  A.J. from Texas asks:
are the Angels going to do with Jeff Mathis? It seems he’s stuck
between Napoli and Conger. Also, the same with Hainley Statia being
stuck behind Cabrera and Aybar. Will either of them be used to bring in
another bat?

J.J. Cooper:
It’s too soon to say that Mathis is stuck behind Conger, who’s in his
first full pro season and is several years away from the majors. Mathis
is doing what he needs to do, which is prove that he can hit at the
higher levels, in his case, a little patience could pay off, as you
always need two catchers. Statia is more of a blocked prospect–you
forgot to mention Sean Rodriguez, another stud shortstop prospect. The
Angels love to collect talented shortstops, with the idea that you can
always move a guy off the position if needed. It’s what they’ve done
with Brandon Wood, what they might do with Eric Aybar (who they have
talked about playing in center field) and it’s what they could end up
doing with Rodriguez. Statia’s far enough away that they’ll simply let
him play his way up the ladder for now. They can figure out where he
fits in their long-term plans when he gets to Triple-A.

 Q:  Bernie from North Reading, Mass asks:
Any chance of seeing LHP Mike Megrew up with the Dodgers this season ??

J.J. Cooper:
He could be a late-season callup, but Megrew would move a lot quicker
if he was a Royals or Nationals prospect. The Dodgers are as stacked in
talented lefthanders in the minors as any team.

 Q:  Cardinal Fan from Palo Alto asks:
has Greg Reynolds’ start in AA changed his perception among scouts? Do
you see him making an appearance in Colorado in September or maybe

J.J. Cooper:
One of our guys here in the office talked to a scout who saw Reynolds
throw this year. He was really impressed with Reynolds fastball that
was even better than he expected–it’s a really heavy pitch and he was
able to pitch almost exclusively off of it for three innings. He also
saw a very good curveball in his warm-ups, but he didn’t really pull it
out during the game. Reynolds is one of the most polished pitchers in
last year’s draft, but it’s too early to put an ETA on his major league

 Q:  Marco from Las Vegas, NV asks:
Why is Jack Cust still in AAA?

J.J. Cooper:
Because he is a pretty known commodity. After six seasons in Triple-A
and struggles in occasional big league callups a good month is not
going to change a team’s opinion of him. Eight minor league home runs
in April is nice, but team’s know that is pretty much what you’re going
to get with Cust–he will hit for power, he’ll draw an occasional walk,
he’ll strike out a lot and he’ll be a liability in the field and on the
basepaths. With Petco Park’s spacious outfield, Cust is not exactly the
guy you want trying to cover all that ground, which is why the Padres
have three outfielders who have all played center field at some point
in their career.

 Q:  Jared from St. Louis asks:
What is to be made of Bryan Anderson’s terrific start at Springfield?

J.J. Cooper:
Be excited. It’s hard to imagine Tony LaRussa every letting Yadier
Molina and his amazing defense sit, but Anderson has tons more
offensive potential than Molina (who’s slugging a robust .259 right
now). The fact that Anderson could skip high Class A and not miss a
beat is very encouraging.

 Q:  Dwayne from Greensburg, PA asks:
When will be seeing the Draft Tracker?

J.J. Cooper: Next week, we’ll roll it out and hope to update it every week from there on out until the draft.

 Q:  jake from Carlisle, Ohio asks:
do you think about Reds minor league third baseman Juan Francisco? Do
you think Edwin Encarnacion should be looking over his shoulder in the

J.J. Cooper:
Francisco is one of those guys who could go from the back end of the
Reds Top 30 to their Top 10 next year. Scouts love the bat and he seems
to have enough defense to stick over there. Encarnacion has no need to
be looking over his shoulder yet, but as I wrote in the Prospect
Handbook, around the time Encarnacion hits free agency, Francisco could
be ready to replace him.

 Q:  Bill Dictus from Madison, Wis asks:
to Brandon Morrow who picked up his first major league victory last
week. Do you see the Mariners moving him out of the bullpen in the

J.J. Cooper:
They could move him back, but I can remember when Billy Wagner and
Ugueth Urbina came up. Both were accomplished minor league starters,
but once you find a guy who can work in the back of a bullpen, it’s
hard to take him out of that role and send him back to the minors to
figure out how to be a starter. Morrow’s more likely to be a starter if
he fails this year in Seattle than if he succeeds.

 Q:  Zack from Warwick, RI asks:
Is Tim Lincecum in SF by the June 1st ? Once he comes up will be be a starter or in the pen ?

J.J. Cooper:
Yes and in the pen is my bet. In talking about Lincecum, Brian Sabean
this week talked about how some guys make you move them up (read more
about that in Monday’s BAPR

Moderator: Sorry guys, have to get back to putting stuff up
on the Web (stay tuned for a good Josh Hamilton feature going up on the
site later today). Thanks for all the questions and be looking for
Aaron Fitt’s usual college chat on Monday and a Jim Callis chat here
next Friday.