Winter Baseball Chat With Chris Kline

Moderator: Chris Kline will chat about the Arizona Fall
League, Hawaii Winter Baseball and the Latin winter leagues in a chat
beginning at 1 p.m. ET.

 Q:  JAYPERS from IL asks:
impressed thus far with Einertson’s AFL debut this year. With such a
sparse system overall, will Houston consider accelerating his timetable
to the show?

Chris Kline:
Hey everyone. Thanks for stopping by to chat a little winter league
action. Let’s get right after it. No music today—the Kline household
is still mourning the loss of Robert Goulet.

Chris Kline:
I think Einertson determines his own timetable. After struggling for
two years in low A, Einertson dropped his straight pull power approach
and was using the whole field effectively in the Carolina League in
2007. That has carried over to the AFL season. Like a lot of AFL
outfielders, he’s going through some growing pains in trying to pick up
balls out of the Arizona sun during day games, and his routes and jumps
haven’t been the greatest. I think he’s more of a station-to-station
guy than one you automatically fast track after a nice year.

 Q:  Ben from Leland Grove asks:
of a September callup for LaPorta? How much time does Milwaukee think
he’ll need to learn LF, as his bat looks to be ready now.

Chris Kline:
The Brewers expect LaPorta to begin 2008 at Double-A Huntsville where
he’ll continue to work with hitting coach Sandy Guerrero, who’s had an
enormous impact on his approach this fall. LaPorta’s AFL BP isn’t quite
Alex Gordon-like from a couple years ago, but it’s certainly still
impressive. He wants to work with balls on the outer half to continue
to develop opposite-field power. That’s taken quite a load of patience
on LaPorta’s part, since he can just sit in pull mode and yank balls
out of any park. And the opposite-field pop is carrying over to games.
During my 10-day stint in the AFL, LaPorta drilled two outside
fastballs to straightaway center field . . . some 460 feet. He’s more
of a doubles hitter to right field now, but he’s learning to create
more leverage and getting more backspin and carry on balls on the outer
half. I think a September callup isn’t out of the question, but he
needs to become at least average in left field. That said, he’s not
Billy Butler out there.

 Q:  Ben from Leland Grove asks:
Very impressive campaign in Hawaii for Wieters thus far. Where will he be starting off next season, and what’s his timetable?

Chris Kline: I wouldn’t be surprised if the Orioles jump him straight to high Class A Frederick. But he’s probably at least two years away.

 Q:  Peter Griffin from Quahog, RI asks:
Atlanta having a void in CF, is there any chance of Jordan Schafer
taking that spot out of 2008 ST? He is very young, but it has been
reported that his defense is major league ready. Do the braves roll the
dice and see if he can succeed, or do they put a veteran there and have
Schafer be a mid-season call-up?

Chris Kline:
Schafer is legit, but the Braves still have to hit the market for a
center fielder this winter. Let’s remember that Schafer hasn’t even had
a Double-A at-bat.

 Q:  Norberto Paulino from New York asks:
Place is playing in the HWL and has shown some power. I know he had a
forgettable year in Low-A, but How do you his improvements in HWL? is
that a good sign?

Chris Kline:
It’s absolutely a good sign. The Red Sox knew when they drafted him
that Place was a project, but he’s got exceptional tools. With some
confidence built, Place could be a guy who explodes in 2008 in the Cal

 Q:  Garrett from Richmond, VA asks:
Lillibridge was scheduled to head to the AFL, but a lingering wrist
injury kept him out. The Braves have indicated they’d like to see him
get some time in CF in winter ball, any word on where he might appear
and thoughts on his chances at CF for the Braves next year?

Chris Kline:
The Braves already have one of the largest groups of players in winter
ball right now, and this might wind up being the best thing for
Lillibridge. I haven’t heard much about a move to CF, and to me,
Lillibridge is more of an everyday second baseman than anything else. I
know the Braves still love the tools in the middle infield, and if he
goes to play in Latin America in December, the level of competition
really picks up with all the big leaguers coming back for the stretch
run. The emphasis there is always on winning, and I doubt a club in the
DR or VZ gives up an OF spot for him—if he goes it will likely be as a
middle infielder.

 Q:  Merkado from White Plains, NY asks:
the high batting statistics in the AFL, are there ANY pitching
prospects holding their own andor standing out? Just how hard is it for
a pitcher to succeed in the desert?

Chris Kline: Despite having several high
picks pitching in the AFL, the league lacked that No. 1 type guy until
Indians righthander Adam Miller showed up a couple weeks ago. It’s a
tough place to succeed in as a pitcher for three reasons: 1) the
lineups are very good, 2) the infields play extremely quick and 3)
balls fly out of the yards there like crazy. But as we’ve seen in the
past, guys like Jamie Shields have flourished because they change
speeds well and keep the ball down. When I did my initial top 20 list
from the AFL (which we’ll unveil in several weeks), I think there were
maybe four pitchers. Miller is one. Anthony Swarzak is another. And so
is Max Scherzer.

 Q:  Mike from Kansas City asks:
How has Scherzer looked in the AFL?

Chris Kline:
Pitching out of the bullpen seems to be the route the Diamondbacks are
going to go with Scherzer, if the AFL is any indication. In late
innings, Scherzer’s fastball has been up to 95 with a plus breaking

 Q:  Mark from Skokie asks:
Who of the AFL National League prospects do you see making the biggest impact in 2008?

Chris Kline:
Eugenio Velez, Giants; Sam Fuld, Cubs; Matt Antonelli, Padres; and I’ll
go out on a limb and say that Rockies lefty Sean Thompson could be a
bullpen fit.

 Q:  Russ from Chicago asks:
Antonelli has not fared very well thus far in the AFL. With Marcus
Giles not coming back to San Diego next year, what are Antonelli’s
chances of even having a realistic shot of claiming the 2B job this
coming spring?

Chris Kline: Going back to the last answer, I think it’s very realistic.

 Q:  Mark from Skokie asks:
is the story on Amaury Marti? Does he have a chance to play in the big
leagues in 2008? And does anyone know his true age?

Chris Kline:
It seems that the truth is finally out there on Cazana-Marti’s age.
We’ve always listed him by what our Cuban records have indicated, and
now he’s officially listed at that age . . . He’s 33. Outside chance of
playing in the big leagues in 2008. Like way outside.

 Q:  Jeff from Toledo asks:
was trying to follow Jeremy Johnson who pitched for the MudHens this
year and put up some good numbers. How is he doing in Mexico and since
he is a free-agent, any chance of him signing a big league contract.

Chris Kline:
Toledo Represent. Johnson is pitching very well for Obregon in the
Mexican Pacific League, with 3-0, 2.91 numbers in 22 innings. Doubtful
he signs a big league deal as a six-year free agent. More likely that
he’ll have several different clubs in the mix for a Triple-A assignment
and probably an invite to big league camp in the spring.

 Q:  J.J. from KC asks:
the deal with Marc Maddox? Hits .250 and slugs .330 in the Carolina
League and is now among the fall league leaders with a .425.478.700

Chris Kline:
Part byproduct of the league and part a lot of hard work and a
consistent approach from Maddox. The Royals have a couple guys in the
AFL who you’d refer to as ‘sleepers,’ and Maddox is one. He’s not going
to be a real high average guy, but is a player who can do a lot of
things to get on base—a gamer type guy.

 Q:  Shoshana from Chapel Hill asks:
How do the O’s prospects look this winter? Specifically Arrieta in Arizona and Weiters and Snyder in Hawaii. Thanks!

Chris Kline:
Touched on Weiters a little bit. Snyder is really having a nice season
in HWB while playing some third base, which is great to see. Arrieta
was the fourth pitcher of the group in the AFL top 20 I’d mentioned
earlier. Ultimate ceiling is still a No. 4 starter, but he really
showed no fear against much more advanced hitters in the AFL, and his
fastball was up to 95.

 Q:  James from Guthrie asks:
heard that Jed Lowrie ahad a good shot at making the Red Sox Big League
club next year but he appears be struggling so far this year what gives

Chris Kline:
James . . . Guthrie? Not sure how that scenario would play out, but I
wouldn’t take much stock in Lowrie’s AFL numbers. He’s bouncing back
and forth between second and short and is expected to see time at third
base before the season is over. Unlike a lot of players in the AFL,
there is a lot on Lowrie’s plate to continue to prove himself
defensively. There’s a lot to like—switch-hitter who plays a solid
shortstop or second base . . . If he can fill in some at third base it
just makes him that much more valuable as a utility player.

 Q:  Anthony from nyc asks:
Yankee organization seems to very high on Gardner feeling he can be the
yanks answer to Ellsbury but obviously u guys arent and many other
experts arent either. With a succesful AFL has your feelings on him
changed at all?

Chris Kline:
Well, Anthony, let’s go back to last year in the AFL when I was singing
Gardner’s praises. I don’t think we’re down on him as much as we are
realistic. Gardner can do a lot of things and you have to love his
energy. I don’t think it’s fair to drop Ellsbury’s name here, since
Ellsbury makes more consistent contact with pitches all over the strike
zone and while he’ll only run into 15 balls a year, Gardner has
virtually no power to speak of. Foot speed is a wash, but if you’re
going to grade defenders, Ellsbury is an elite center fielder with
closing speed while Gardner’s routes and jumps are erratic. That said,
he can usually run down balls regardless . . . I’d just like to see him
show he can handle balls on the outer half more consistently if he’s
going to be a legitimate major league leadoff hitter.

 Q:  Jeff from England asks:
Chris, was just wondering what you thought of Fernando Hernandez Jr.
from the White Sox, his numbers in the AFL have been great and granted
it’s just 8.2IP but do you think there’s a possibility we could see him
in the ‘pen in Chicago next year?

Chris Kline: I’m not sure about next year, but he’s going to pitch in the big leagues.

 Q:  mike from texas asks:
justin sellers from the a’s is having a good winter when do you see him in the bigs

Chris Kline: For me, the A’s shortstop depth goes: Gregorio Petit, Sellers and then Cliff Pennington.

 Q:  bobbysoxs from AtlantaGA asks:
What is the time table of Maybins return in the AFL?

Also Who are the surprises so far in the AFL? Position players? Pitchers?

Best under the radar player?

Santos is heating up? how are the Jays prospects doing?


Chris Kline:
Maybin’s left shoulder continues to bother him and he might be done for
the winter. Biggest Surprises: Sean Thompson, Marc Maddox. Under the
radar: Craig Tatum, c, Reds. Santos has to play third base down the
road. He’s totally outgrown shortstop. Ryan Patterson’s been very good,
and Travis Snider is the best natural hitter I’ve seen in 2007. Period.

 Q:  Geoffrey from Toronto asks:
Comments on Snider’s play in AFL? His stats seem remarkable, given his age – how does he compare to the rest of the league?

Chris Kline:
Let’s stay right here in Toronto for a minute. Though it might take me
more than a minute to ramble about Snider . . . Outstanding at-bats
pretty much sum him up, and he’s hitting .313 against lefties—which
will be one of the biggest benefits of him spending the fall in
Arizona. Power to all fields with a simple, quiet approach. If he’s not
the top guy in the AFL, he’s top three easy. Sure, his defense hasn’t
been pretty, but he’s playing both corner spots too with a slightly
above-average arm.

 Q:  Dale S from Wisconsin asks:
Dexter Fowlers injuries in the past, is he still considered a top
Rockies prospect? He seems to have all the tools. What is your feeling
for his 2008 season and ETA in Colorado please?

Chris Kline:
Simply, yes. The wristhand injury remains a concern and has sapped a
lot of his power, but you’re right—Fowler drips tools and has a great
body. He’s the second coming of Devon White. Provided he stays healthy,
I say 2009.

 Q:  JAYPERS from IL asks:
Dukes seems to be doing well in Winter ball. Is TB considering him to
be trade bait, or do you see them giving him a second chance?

Chris Kline:
Ah, Dukes. Yes, he’s having a great beginning to the season in the DR.
I don’t really see this as a trade bait situation just yet. Putting
Dukes in an environment unlike anything he’s seen and having him handle
it well would be a huge positive step forward. I think the Rays are
hoping putting him on an island (literally . . . sorry) will help the
maturity issue. He’s still scary, but then again, so are the tools.

 Q:  Glenn Quiagmire from Quohog, RI asks:
Yung-Chi Chen for real, or is this just a case of nice stats in a
hitters league? Does he have any shot to play in Seattle with
Betancourt and Lopez up the middle? What is his ceiling?

Chris Kline:
A lot of scouts love Chen’s defense—he’s got exceptional defensive
tools at second base. There is gap power, more of a spray, line-drive
hitter without much raw pop. Ceiling is an everyday second baseman.

Chris Kline: I can’t believe Extreme Paintball is on my TV right now. We are truly in a sports Dead Zone.

 Q:  Ryan from Vancouver Washington asks:
Do you see Neil Huntington wanting to get something accomplished trade
wise at these G.M. meetings or will he wait until the winter meetings?.
I keep hearing conflicting reports as to which way he will go with the
team. Do you see him blowing it up and rebuilding or just retooling a
little bit? Any rumors out there Pirate wise would be appreciated.
Ryan Euverman

Chris Kline:
Tough to say, though it seems like a lot of people in Pittsburgh need
to play a little game of “Get To Know Your New GM.” (Huntington’s first
name is spelled ‘Neal.) I think the first step is to fill the scouting
director and farm director roles. Haven’t heard a lot of rumors lately,
but let’s face it—there isn’t all that much to blow up.

 Q:  walter from Plano, Texas asks:
returned from the AFL and had the pleasure of seeing Jordan Schafer
play. Not only his bat, but his arm is at least a 70. What have you
heard about him and does he get invited to big league camp this Spring?
Also, let me know your thoughts on his career projections. Thanks.

Chris Kline:
Awesome. We’ve written a ton on Schafer this year and he ranked as the
No. 1 prospect in the Carolina League. He definitely gets an invite to
big league camp and I think he could be a .300 hitter who runs into 15
or 20 balls a year in the big leagues and provides you plus defense in
center field. Earlier this year, one scout dropped a Darin Erstad comp
on him. Like the good version. But Schafer will still run into walls
for you, as he already proved this fall in the AFL.

 Q:  Brendan from Yorktown, NY asks:
Austin Jackson’s performance in Hawaii quieted some of the concern that
his time in Tampa was just a hot streakfluke? When do you think he’ll
be the Yanks’ starting CF? Thanks.

Chris Kline:
Jackson really came into his own this season, putting it all together.
He’s always possessed the tools—it’s just been a matter of performing.
I think Jackson starts 2008 at Double-A Trenton and could easily move
from there—quickly if the performance level is maintained.

 Q:  Bill from Richmond asks:
can you tell me about new Mets prospect Wilmer Flores? He was signed
this past summer out of Venezuala, and as a 16 year-old SS is currently
tearing up the minor-league offshoot of the Venezualen Winter League,
the Liga Parallela. Was this guy the top int’l signee from this tear’s
class? And how does he stack up with a guy like Carlos Triunfel from
last year’s crop?

Chris Kline:
Not the top sign money wise, but the tools are for real. Sounded like
some scouts questioned the bat a little bit, but profiles to be a plus
defender that will hit for some power down the road. Triunfel had more
polish offensively than Flores at the same age, but Flores is a guy who
could move quickly—I wouldn’t drop the ‘project’ tag on him, though he
is obviously raw in terms of learning the game in the States and facing
advanced pitching.

 Q:  Paul from San Francisco asks:
How are the Red Sox fallen angel pitchers (i.e. Bard and Hansen) doing in the HWL and AFL, respectively?

Chris Kline:
Hansen’s Fall League is over, and he was effective pitching at 88-91
with an above-average slider. It wasn’t the breaking ball we rated the
best slider in the 2005 draft, but had good late movement. Bard isn’t
getting hammered in HWB, but his command remains an issue. He’s walked
10 and struck out 10 in 12 innings for Honolulu.

 Q:  walter from Plano, Texas asks:
Davis…do you know the severity of his injury and where do you think
he will open in 08. BTW…was it a suprise to you Elvis Andrus was not
at the AFL Futures Stars game?

Chris Kline:
From what I heard, it’s a hairline fracture in his foot. I think he
opens next season back in Double-A Frisco to start. As far as Andrus
goes, it’s an all-star team for a league that lasts less than two

 Q:  Hank Steinbrenner from NYC asks:
scouting reports on Juan Miranda have taken a turn for the better, and
it seems like they think he can contribute at the major league level.
Should my Yankees push him along and try to have him replace Giambi at
1B? What is his ceiling, regardless of his real age?

Chris Kline:
I really like the approach. Quiet, confident lefthanded hitter that has
good plate discipline and power to all fields. I heard from several
scouts during the season that thought the Yankees would give him a shot
at the first base job next year, but Miranda still struggles against
quality breaking balls from righthanders and hasn’t hit lefties well
this fall.

 Q:  Leo Anthony from Boston, MA asks:
love for the AFL’s Sean Gallagher, who continued pitching excellently
while making his first AFL start this week? After his Southern League
and PCL performances during the regular season, Gallagher is starting
to run out of minor leagues for BA to ignore him in.

Chris Kline:
See? I mention the future top 20—just once—and everybody goes all
wacky on me. And when have we ignored Gallagher? We had a huge feature
on him last year and he ranked No. 5 in the Cubs’ system heading into
2007. Aside from exceptional stuff, Gallagher doesn’t back down from
anybody. As far as the top arms in the AFL go, there is no doubt
Gallagher fits into that mix. Does he fit into the top three guys? I’m
not sure. And I don’t see much difference between him and Arrieta in
terms of ceiling as a back-of-the-rotation starter. But Adam Miller?
Nope. Scherzer? Probably not.

 Q:  Jeff from England asks:
Sweeney underprformed this year at Charlotte and has struggled thus far
in the Arizona Fall League. What do you make of him as a prospect now,
do you see him as the Sox’ right fielder of the future?

Chris Kline:
Tough to give up on Sweeney, but he hasn’t looked very good in the AFL.
He struggled against lefties in Triple-A, and hasn’t gotten any better
against them for Phoenix. If anything, he’s regressed. To be honest, he
was difficult to watch. The tools are still there, and I think at this
point a change of scenery might be in order. And another club could
probably get him pretty cheap.

 Q:  Triple threat from AZ asks:
Chris you seem in tune with the Reds situation. What do you think of there contingent out in AZ

Chris Kline:
Well now I would probably be the last guy to make that claim, but here
we go: I know he doesn’t control the strike zone at all, but Chris
Dickerson still showed good power to all fields and I think he might be
more than what a lot of people thought he was two years ago. The
organization likes Adam Rosales a lot, though I didn’t see him play
while I was out there. And I really like Craig Tatum behind the plate.
He’s got everything defensively, and has a nice, compact line-drive
stroke. As far as arms go, I know Viola had a nice year, but he was
gassed. The velocity was there, but he didn’t repeat well and really
elevated his pitches. I didn’t see Lecure and I’m not on Jukich.
Doesn’t have good arm speed and isn’t especially athletic. A lot of
moving parts in his delivery.

 Q:  James from Miami, Florida asks:
you’ve covered the Pirates’ system for some time now. How dumb do they
look by having let go Jonathan Albaladejo, and then seeing him reach
the Majors and do extremely well?

Chris Kline:
I’ll refrain from using the word ‘dumb,’ but you could run down a list
of guys they’ve undervalued from their own system over the years. And
really, if there is one guy I wouldn’t necessarily blame them for it’s
Albaladejo. This is a guy who got numerous opportunities to prove
himself and either showed up out of shape and didn’t perform, or he
lacked intensity on the mound. The latter lasted all the way to the
Caribbean Series last year when he got absolutely raked by the
Dominican Republic. He never showed the ability to bear down. So yes,
they should have tried to get something back, but word on the street at
the time was no one wanted him. It’s a credit to Albaladejo to take
advantage of a new situation and really show what he’s capable of.

 Q:  Jay from Madison asks:
quick follow-up on Arieta from the O’s. Isn’t it disappointing to give
1st round money to a guy who almost immediately displays that he’s a #
4 …at best? That sounds to me to be reason for dispair which doesn’t
match the tone of reports out of the AFL.

Chris Kline:
It’s the lack of bite on his secondary pitches that makes him a
back-of-the-rotation guy. I don’t think getting a No. 4 in the fifth
round is desperation. There’s a lot to like about Arrieta and he could
wind up being more than that if he can consistently command his
secondary stuff. And that goes back to having better balance over the
rubber to finish online in his delivery.

 Q:  Brandon from Jonesboro AR asks:
Hi, What do you expect from Brandon Jones next season. Is he a good enough athlete to play CF?

Chris Kline: Jones is a LF all the way. He’s athletic, but not athletic enough or fast enough to play CF.

 Q:  brian from philadelphia asks:
could you tell me about phillies prospects mike costanzo and joe
savery? how are they doing this fall and what are their ceilings?

Chris Kline:
Savery’s debut wasn’t very good in terms of repeating his delivery that
affected his overall command, but he’s been much better since a short
break between instructs and the AFL. He’s been a ground ball machine.
Costanzo . . . truly an enigma. One time he’ll show you flat out
brilliance defensively and get all tangled up the next. He hits like
crazy in August, but is average at best during the other months of the
season and swings and misses too much. There is above-average power and
he improved against lefthanded pitching in 2007. But a lot of scouts
I’ve spoken with question his ceiling as an everyday player.

Chris Kline:
OK, thanks for all the great questions as usual. Be sure to check back
once the Arizona Fall League Top 20 and the Hawaii Winter Baseball Top
20 both go live in the weeks to come. CK.