Kegan Lowe: Hey everybody, what’s up? Thanks for all the questions so far! And if you haven’t submitted your question yet, don’t be shy. I’ll try to answer as many as I can over the next little bit. It should be fun, so lets go!
Dan (Atlanta, GA): If they'd qualified, where would Cal Quantrill, Forrest Whitley and Fernando Tatis have ranked?
Kegan Lowe: Before we get started on the Top 20 questions, let’s first talk about the players who did not qualify. For those who aren’t familiar, in order to qualify for a Minor League Top 20, a position player must have one plate appearance per team game (140ish), starting pitchers must have one-third of an inning per team game (46ish) and relievers must have at least 20 appearances in that league. Quantrill, Whitley and Tatis Jr. were probably the three players who would have been highest on the list, had they qualfied. In Quantrill’s case, he missed the cut by a start or two. In terms of where those three would have ranked, I would say safely all three would have been in the top-nine. And I wouldn’t entirely rule out that all of them could have formed a new top-five with Buehler and Tucker leading the way.
Brian (Kansas City, Mo): What kept Springfield lefty Austin Gomber off the Top 20 list? He had an outstanding second half of the season.
Kegan Lowe: There’s plenty of Cardinals questions so far, which is understandable considering they had a league-best six players make the Top 20, so let’s tackle this one first. Gomber was on the short list for the final 2-3 spots and there was some talk over whether he should be No. 20 on this list, instead of Alcantara. Ultimately, we went with Alcantara because of the pure stuff. Gomber is a big-bodied lefty who looks like he could be a durable mid-to-back of the rotation stater and there is definite value there. In the end, Alcantara’s stuff, which has been on display with St. Louis over the last couple of weeks, gave him the nod over Gomber and others that were in consideration.
Jason (St. Louis): Surprised to see sierra ahead of hudson. Do you guys see sierra being anything more than a bottom of the order hitter?
Kegan Lowe: Let’s keep the Cardinals theme going. Deciding how Sierra (9), Hudson (10) and Jose Adolis Garcia (11) should stack was one of the harder parts of this list, right along with who should occupy those final 2-3 spots on the backend. In short, yes, there were some people who believed Sierra could eventually occupy the leadoff spot on a regular basis. Obviously there still needs to be some growth with his bat, and especially his approach at the plate, but Sierra does show a knack for make consistent hard contact. And obviously the speed profiles well at the top of the order. It was a big jump for Sierra to play just 20 games at Palm Beach, spend 2-3 weeks in the Majors, and then spend the rest of his age-21 season in Double-A, so I think there is reason to believe his hit tool will advance. And at worst you can already see the value Sierra brings with his speed and defense.
Max (Schrock): What makes Luis Urias better than Max Schrock? The biggest difference between the two I can see is that Urias is 2 years younger, which might be the main difference here. I don't know.
Kegan Lowe: Hello, Max! I actually typed up your capsule to be included in the Top 20, but in the end you just (barely) missed the cut. Sorry about that. As for your specific question/comparison, yes, Urias is two, almost three, years younger than you, which doesn’t help your case. But more than that, most observers believed that Urias could handle the defensive duties of shortstop, if needed, and play an above-average second base, at worst. On the other hand, Schrock is seen as an average defensive second baseman, at best, and lacks the arm strength to play shortstop. Urias has better foot speed, as well. Offensively, their numbers weren’t that different, despite Urias being much younger. Urias showed a better approach and higher walk rate (12.9% to 7.4%) while Schrock struck out less (7.4% to 12.4 percent). But with Urias already showing his advanced approach at the plate, plus a feel for hitting well beyond his years, I would imagine there’s still some obvious growth there. In the end, I’d take Urias’ defense, arm and speed tools over Schrock, easily. And if they’re not already, I also like Urias’ hit and power tools to surpass Schrock’s, as well.
Loren (San Diego, CA): Which Texas League team in your opinion is most likely to produce the most major leaguers?
Kegan Lowe: Hmm interesting. Springfield is the obvious answer, considering they had a league-best six players make the Top 20, but I’m still leaning San Antonio. Like I said earlier, Quantrill and Tatis Jr. would have made the list had they qualified and that top three of Urias, Quantrill and Tatis Jr. (in no particular order) is hard to top.
Tim (Orange County): Had a chance to catch a good number of late summer TL games while on vacation (Padres fan BTW). I wasn't terribly impressed with what I saw from Naylor based on what I had read about him. Looked like a slap hitter with a bad body. Saw him play in five games. Pulled off a lot of pitches on the outer half. Maybe it was a bad week but I didn't see anything that terribly impressed me.
Kegan Lowe: A few Josh Naylor questions in the queue, so let’s hash it out. He was a tough one to nail down, just because the consensus seemed to be that the raw power and overall talent is there, but he’s yet to come close to fully tapping it. The reports I got on Naylor were that he’ll show you everything you want in an everyday, power-hitting first baseman at times, but he’ll only show it briefly and the overall consistency you’d want is still lacking. There’s no doubt he needs to improve his approach and shrink his strike zone, so your anecdotes don’t exactly surprise me. The body and the feet must improve for him to reach his potential defensively, but let’s not forget he didn’t turn 20 until June and the most time he’s spent at any one level was 105 games at High-A. I’d expect he’ll pick up next season at Double-A, so I’ll be curious to see if these last two or three months significantly help him in 2018.
Don (St. Louis, MO): What is the ceiling for Jose Adolfo's Garcia? I viewed him as a perfect 4th outfielder
Kegan Lowe: Garcia’s reports were almost all positive. There were some big believers in his tools, especially the arm and the power potential. One TL manager told me it was the best outfield arm he’d seen in a long time. Ideally, I think there is strong reason to believe he could be much more than a fourth outfielder, but there’s also no denying that St. Louis seemingly has a surplus of young outfielders at the moment. Which guys win out to take full-time spots with the Major League club will be fascinating to watch over the next few years.
Pedro mota (California): Dennis Santana is the best prospect or Yadier Alvarez
Kegan Lowe: I’m assuming you’re just asking who is the better prospect, and if that’s the case, the answer is Yadier Alvarez for me. Although I will admit it’s probably much closer than people would have suspected six months ago. Alvarez didn’t qualify for this list because he completed only 33 innings in the Texas League this season, but it’s not far-fetched to think he would have been somewhere in the back-half of the top 10 had he made three of four more starts. There are obvious control issues that need to be sorted out, but the fastball velocity is there and the secondary stuff shows flashes. Worst case, I think he’s a late-inning reliever with a high-90s fastball that could reach triple digits in relief appearances. Best case, he cleans up his delivery and his control to the point where he’s a potential frontline starter. Only 21, but you’d really like to see him cut down on the walks in 2018.
Jack (Springfield, MO): What are your thoughts on the pair of hitters (Edman & Knizner) the Cardinals drafted in 2016 and had in Springfield for the last 2+ months?
Kegan Lowe: Back to the Cardinals questions we go! And to talk about two players who have very different strengths and weaknesses. For Edman, the defense is there. He shows excellent hands and enough arm strength to play shortstop. The question will be can he hit and get on base enough to be any more than a utilityman. A .298 OBP isn’t what you’re looking for (hard-hitting analysis, I know) but it was his third different stop during his first full season of pro ball, so maybe there’s reason to cut him some slack? For Knizner, it’s the opposite. Hitting .324/.371/.462 in Double-A in your first full-season of pro ball is quite impressive. I know for a fact there are some true Knizner believers in our office and it will likely all come down to his defense. I don’t expect him to ‘wow’ you anytime soon with his defense behind the plate, but if he can be just average back there the bat will play nicely. Knizner was closer to making the TL Top 20, for whatever that’s worth.
John (San Diego): Crystal ball who we will be talking about this time next year as Texas League Top Prospects
Kegan Lowe: Feels like this is a great question to end on, so let’s do that. The obvious answers are Fernando Tatis Jr. and Forrest Whitley. Tatis is only 18 but ended the season with 57 plate appearances in the Texas League. I’ll say he starts in San Antonio again next year and gets at least 140 plate appearances before moving on to bigger and better things. He’s my way-too-early guess for No. 1 on this list a year from now. Whitley would be my guess for No. 2. He showed dominant stuff in his 14.2 innings in the Texas League this year, so I really don’t see that changing too much in 2018. And to join them, I’d guess (with the help of some friends in the BA offices) that we’ll see Keibert Ruiz in the front half of the Texas League Top 20 next year. A switch-hitting catcher in the Dodgers organization, Ruiz hit . 315/.344/.497 in 38 games at high Class-A Rancho Cucamonga this season. Something tells me he’ll be in our California League Top 20, which comes out next week. *wink, wink*
Kegan Lowe: And with that, I’m out of here! Thanks for all the questions. I really enjoyed it. Don’t forget to check back to our website the rest of this week and next week, as we’ll continue to roll out our League Top 20s each morning. Next up is the Eastern League with Josh Norris, which drops tomorrow. So long, everybody!