League Top 20 Prospects

California League Top 20 Prospects Chat

Josh Leventhal: Thanks for joining me on my debut chat here at Baseball America. Just want to point out that I'm sharing the date with the release of Springsteen's new album, and in that light, look forward to fielding questions on Eric "Born to Run" Young, Bubba Bell (who certainly lived his Glory Days in Lancaster) and why Kyle "The Big Man" Blanks didn't join the band.

 Q:  Elvis Andrus from Bakersfield, CA asks:
Did I not have enough games to qualify, or was I not good enough for the top 20? And if the former, where would I have ranked, had I qualified?

Josh Leventhal: Glad you could join us Elvis. Andrus unfortunately did not join the Cal League in time to get enough plate appearances to qualify. But folks around the league spoke highly of him and he probably would have fallen in behind Triunfel and Nelson but in front of the remainder of a deep shortstop list.

 Q:  Phil from Overland Park, KS asks:
Your thoughts on Kyle Blanks? Could he play LF? He is blocked at 1B which seems like the only position his size would allow him to play? Where did he fall for you on the list?

Josh Leventhal: A lot of questions submitted on Kyle Blanks and why he did not make the list. Blanks has a lot of raw power and certainly ranked high in the league in that category. He had good command of the strike zone, but there were a lot of questions about bat speed and how he'll fare against more advanced pitching. He does have good speed for someone his size, but defense is a question. The Padres are working him out in left field in instructional league and it'll be interesting to see how he fares. Blanks was certainly close to making the list and is certainly and interesting and unusual prospect. I'll be curious to follow his progress next year, presumably at Double-A.

 Q:  Paul from Tacoma, WA asks:
Josh, Great list, happy to see some Mariners on the horizon. Do the M's give Triunfel another year at short? Obviously his bat is that much more advantageous if he sticks, what did you hear?

Josh Leventhal: The Mariners want to give Triunfel time at instructional league and another full season at shortstop and are hardly writing him off at the position. While his range was a bit suspect, he showed off good instincts (particularly for his age) and perhaps the best infield arm in the league. His bat certainly is one of his biggest tools at this point -- he hovered around .300 for most of the year, even if it was at hitter-friendly High Desert -- and despite only 12 extra-base hits, the power is likely to come.

 Q:  Chip from Louisville, KY asks:
How close was Red Sox farmhand Zach DAeges to making the list? I know he plays in hitter-friendly Lancaster, but you still have to put the bat on the ball consistently, and he had a good first year last season. Is he a prospect? Thanks!

Josh Leventhal: Daeges had a great year, a record-setting one in fact. Lancaster certainly makes it tough to get a good read on players. Consider Daeges' home-road splits: Home: .396.476.702, 36 doubles, 13 homers Road: .260.369.448, 19 doubles, 8 homers. Let's see how he does next year.

 Q:  Colby from LA County, CA asks:
Josh, I know Anderson didn't qualify, but where would you have put him if he did? I was able to catch some Lancaster games towards the end of the year, and he looked fantastic, strong, fluid stroke. Anyone comment on him?

Josh Leventhal: Anderson came up short on innings but got good reports around the league. Probably would've been around the Top 10. As did fellow Lancaster pitcher Michael Bowden, who finished 23 of inning shy of qualifying but was dominating enough in the Cal League (though not necessarily Double-A) to have finished among the top pitchers.

 Q:  jason from stlouis asks:
whats henry sosas ceiling?? can he be a 1-2 starter??

Josh Leventhal: Sosa's ceiling is very high and he could potentially be a top of the rotation pitcher. In fact his ranking was so high in the Cal League primarily because of projection. He was inconsistent with San Jose and seemed to tire down the stretch, but had the most live arm in the league and a sometimes plus breaking pitch. That said it sounds like he has work to do and needs to refine that curveball and learn to repeat his delivery. His manager, Lenn Sakata, spoke highly of him (as did many around the league) but noted his work-in-progress status.

 Q:  jason from hazelwood asks:
is leblanc a possible rotation contender for the major league side next season? and what is his future rotation slot?? a 2-3, or lower?

Josh Leventhal: I think LeBlanc will have a shot to make the rotation out of spring training but will most likely return to the minors to the start year. He doesn't really profile as a reliever and will more likely be a midseason, or late-season, callup.

 Q:  Seth from California asks:
Both Chris Davis and Antonelli had huge breakout years this year, and I thought they would be higher on the list.I saw Antonelli at 2 or 3, and Davis at 6. Any reason for Davis and Antonelli being lower than some other guys on here?

Josh Leventhal: Antonelli was No. 4 and the highest-ranked position player (and most major league-ready) besides Upton. Davis also had a great year (and finishing in the Top 10 is nothing to be ashamed of). Davis went on and continued hitting at Double-A. Obviously strikeouts is the biggest concern with him, and though he made improvements at third, defense is also a question (though he does have a plus arm). I think he'll hit for a power wherever he goes and was the best of Bakersfield's top three (Teagarden, Mayberry). I'd say Antonelli has a shot to make the major league roster out of spring training.

 Q:  Auggie from Anaheim, CA asks:
Josh, Really like the list. Dodgers fans are excited about the emergence of Kershaw and McDonald. Kershaw is the better prospect, but McDonald's performance this year, especially after the move to Double A, could mean he's ready to contribute soon. What's his upside and were there any comparisons given?

Josh Leventhal: McDonald definitely had a breakout season. He has the potential to be a back-end of the rotation pitcher. Command is his biggest strength particularly of a plus curveball and a low-90s fastball that he controls to both sides of the plate. Didn't get a comp on him.

 Q:  Henry T from Tiburon, CA asks:
Wow really shocked to see Chris Nelson come in at #8 he has always had tools and he did have a decent performance but those numbers were put up in the cal league are his tools fully back?

Josh Leventhal: Comeback player of the year? Certainly would be among the candidates. He had the most errors in the Sally League last year and probably saved his standing as a shortstop -- he showed good range in the field as most of his errors were throwing this year. Certainly a five-tool player (stole 27-of-32 bases).

 Q:  Kyle Blanks from CA asks:
Who did I upset over there, and why? Maybe next year if I do it again at AA, you'll give me credit? ...or will you wait until I'm doing it in the bigs? Frank Thomas style.

Josh Leventhal: Big Frank. Gotta love it.

 Q:  josh from california asks:
do u think tillman will repeat the cal league next year and prove that he's ready for double-a or will it all depend on how well he does in spring training?

Josh Leventhal: I'd be surprised to see Tillman back in the Cal League next year. He lowered his ERA each month in High Desert (no easy feat at that ballpark) and had an incredible August (4-0, 1.82, 41 strikeouts in 35 innings). The Mariners like to advance their players at a young age, and so you'd figure he'll be at Double-A next season as a 20 year old.

 Q:  Bigfan from SLO asks:
If you got to choose between Upton and Chris Young for your team, which do you choose? How close is it?

Josh Leventhal: I'll take Upton. I think he matches Young's power and will hit for better average. Not a bad combo though.

 Q:  Tom Waits from San Diego asks:
How does Kyle Blanks get left off this list in favor of Bell? 24 year old in the best hitting park this side of Williamsport vs a 20 year old (just turned 21) with a 960 OPS in a much tougher home park?

Josh Leventhal: I like the comp for Lancaster's Clear Channel Stadium, but it's not as if Blanks was hitting in the old Yankees Stadium. Bell made the list because not only did he have the most dominating year of anyone in the league, but he also drew raves from managers around the league. He drove the ball to all fields, hit at home and on the road, and played a good center field. He was old for the league and how he projects remains a question, but his year was awfully tough to leave off the list (and he hit after being promoted before getting hurt).

 Q:  Jon from Peoria asks:
What are your thoughts on Adam Moore and Chris Pettit?

Josh Leventhal: I like Adam Moore a lot and was a great pick for the Mariners in the sixth round. He's big (6-3, 215), hits for power (22 HRs, 102 RBIs) and is a good receiver behind the plate. Was described as a raw prospect with plenty of upside. Pettit had a great season in his first full year out of Loyola Marymount. The Angels comp him to Reggie Willits but with more power. He may work at first and third in instructional league and they project him as a major league utility player.

 Q:  Matt from Wheaton asks:
How difficult is it to pitch in the Cailifornia League? It seems that it must be tough if all of the top 4 pitching prospects there have given up more hits than innings pitched.

Josh Leventhal: It's certainly the most hitter-friendly league in the minors (just ask Daniel Bard, a highly-touted prospect who had a rough pro debut in Lancaster this year). Lancaster hosted two four-homer games this season and lost 30-0, 21-6 and won 19-7 and 16-8 in a five-game span. Don't have time now, but would be curious to see how Cal League run totals compare to, say, the Midwest League.

 Q:  Matt from Wheaton asks:
Can't give any more love for Teagarden!?! A stud defensive catcher who answered questions about his bat with his 20 hr's and .315.448.608 clip? How does he project as a major leaguer?

Josh Leventhal: More love? Man, you Rangers are tough to please. (Just kidding, please don't send e-mails). Teagarden had a great year, did answer any questions about his bat and went a long way toward answering questions about his health. But he did only about half his games behind the plate and, ultimately, it's his defense that's going to get him to the big leagues.

 Q:  ADAM from White Plains, NY asks:
What type of ceiling and success can Brandon Hynick really have with that low velocity? Can he succeed in the the way Kevin Slowey did - location, location, location? What is his ultimate ceiling?

Josh Leventhal: Yeah, that is the question regarding Hynick and ultimately the reason he didn't make the Top 10. That said, it's no easy task to be the organization's best pitcher and lead the minors in innings pitched while playing a full season in the Cal League. Hynick mixes speeds to go along with his control. He definitely has to be on with his control to succeed. One manager noted that he wouldn't be surprised to ee him end up in the back of the bullpen.

 Q:  Joey from La Grange, GA asks:
I was surprised to see Brooks Brown ranked so low. His numbers were better across the board than any pitcher in the Top 10 and it was only his 1st full season of pro ball. Why was he not ranked higher? Do you see him in the big leagues next year?

Josh Leventhal: I don't know, I think I might take McDonald's overall year over Brown. But Brooks did have a solid year. Good sink, able to command his fastball, and a good slider. Good mound presence that apparently rubbed off on his teammates. No shame in No. 19.

 Q:  Molokai from LosAngeles asks:
How close was DeJesus and what do the scouts think of him.

Josh Leventhal: DeJesus was the last cut. There were several shortstops that fit into a similar profile -- major league-ready defense but questionable bat. DeJesus was among them. He's still young and may fill out a little more to add some power, but I think Statia has a little more upside.

 Q:  MC & Juan from DC asks:
Hi Josh! As Yankee fans, we believe Justin Masterson is vastly overrated as a Red Sox prospect. We don't believe he was any better than any Yankee prospect at Trenton after he was promoted to AA. What do you think? And, how are the kids??

Josh Leventhal: Hey MC and Juan. Thanks for the question (the kids are great, but that baby won't sleep at night). Amazing, a Yankees fan begrudging Sox prospects. Save it for the postseason. John Manuel will be better suited to speak of this during his Eastern League chat in a few days, but there isn't much wrong with Masterson from what I hear. Great, heavy sinker with an ever-improving slider. Only question is if he starts or moves to the back of the bullpen.

 Q:  BHSportsguy from Los Angeles asks:
Any chance that Lucas May is a legitimate catching prospect?

Josh Leventhal: I'd say so. He wore down some in the second half of the season but showed off an above-average arm and the ability to hit for some power. Good baserunner for a catcher.

 Q:  Todd from Chattanooga asks:
Was extremely impressed with Michael Saunders as I got to see him when he was promoted to AA this year at West Tenn. He seems to have an excellent blend of power and speed with tremendous athleticism. Can you see him batting leadoff when he makes it to Seattle? Also - do you believe he has 30-30 potential?

Josh Leventhal: Saunders is arguably the best athlete in the Mariners system and has the potential to be a five-tool player in the big leagues. Where hits in the lineup? If he continues to hit for average and improve his baserunning skills (28 steals in 38 attempts), I'd say he has the makeup for a leadoff hitter. Then again, if his power continues to develop he could end up a little deeper in the lineup. I'm curious to see if he stick in center or if the Mariners move him to right -- where he does have enough arm to play.

 Q:  P.J. from L.I. asks:
Had Volquez pitched enough innings, would he have cracked the list, and if so, where?

Josh Leventhal: Oooh, not sure what I would've done with Volquez if he had qualified. He was the Rangers best pitcher in the minors this year, but most of that came at the higher levels. He was 0-4, 7.13 with 38 strikeouts and 20 walks for Bakersfield. Compare that to his 6-1, 1.41, 66-21 k-bb numbers in Triple-A Oklahoma. Hmmm.

 Q:  Tommy from St. Charles asks:
What is Matt Antonelli's ceiling? Does he have a lot of room for improvement? And what current Major League player do you seem him resembling ?

Josh Leventhal: This was Antonelli's first season at second after playing third in college, so I'd expect to see some improvement for him in the field. I wouldn't expect to see him much longer in the minors. Was told that he projects as a good hitting second baseman. Has extra-base power potential and average home run potential. Great makeup.

 Q:  Hauser from St. Louis asks:
You said that Dexter Fowler has great tools. The best outside of Upton in the Cal league. What ranked Fowler so low? Does he not have a great chance to reach his ceiling? What's holding him back?

Josh Leventhal: Fowler is a talent but a raw one. He really just needs more playing time, and missing half a season definitely hurt. He was improving as the ceiling went along -- he was hitting .349 in June when he got hurt after hitting .187 and .290 in the first two months of the season. Gotta think he would've stolen upwards of 50 bases with a complete season. His probably closer defensively, a lot of range in the outfield and can use his speed to chase down balls.

 Q:  steve S from Davis, CA asks:
Giants RHP Henry Sosa ranks much higher on this Cal League list than the SAL list (#2 vs #7), despite how much better he performed in the Sally than in the Cal. Does this suggest that beyond Justin Upton, there was little elite talent in the Cal League this year? I was mildly surprised to see Sosa ranked ahead of Antonelli based upon their second-half performances. Can you explain that decision?

Josh Leventhal: There wasn't necessarily a clear-cut No. 2 behind Upton. I think you could make a pretty good argument for Tillman, Antonelli, Masterson, Triunfel or McDonald to fill that spot. That said, I think Sosa has the most potential of anyone in that group, but is a sure-thing in the way Antonelli or Masterson is.

 Q:  Dee Znuts from ATL!! asks:
Who makes it to the bigs first: Chris Nelson, Eric Young, or Dexter Fowler?

Josh Leventhal: That's a tough one. I'd say you have the order right -- though the Rockies could add Young to the 40-man now as a pinch-runner. Young may have the highest-rated tool of anyone in that group with his speed and as many said around the league, could get to the big leagues on speed alone. I think he did a lot to improve the other areas of his game this season -- defense at second in particular. It'll be interesting to see how he does next year, I assume at Double-A.

 Q:  Kent from sonoma asks:
Josh, I know he is a little old for the league, but did anyone you spoke with mention Sergio Romo? Thank you.

Josh Leventhal: There was some talk about Romo and he was solid coming out of the Giants bullpen. He's only 5-foot-10 or so but his strikeout-walk ratio was ridiculous (106-15). He's a crafty pitcher who throws around five or six pitches for strikes -- including a fastball from three different arm angles.

Josh Leventhal: Okay folks, Bruce just played Rosalita so it's time for me to get back to work. Talk to you again during my Royals chat -- Hochevar or Moustakas for No. 1. Hmmm.