League Top 20 Prospects

Northwest League Top 20 Chat

Nathan Rode answers questions about the NWL

Q:  Patrick from Chicago, IL asks:
Who were the next five prospects who just missed this list?

Nathan Rode: Greetings everybody and welcome to another top 20 chat. We've still got a lot of great info ahead, but lets dive into the Northwest League for a little while. I've got Pandora fired up and I'm ready to go.

Nathan Rode: This seems to be one of the most popular questions when we do rankings, deservedly so. In no particular order, guys that just missed were Sawyer Carroll, Steven Hensley, Dan McDaniel, Daniel Thomas and Carlos Pimentel. Carroll's power is intriguing and there are some that believe his bat is well polished. He has some work to do to stay in the outfield, but the bat could profile for first base. The other guys are interesting arms. McDaniel and Thomas got some love from managers and scouts with good fastballs and performance. Hensley has a four-pitch mix, but its really overwhelming.

 Q:  Robert Goldberg from Lyndhurst, NJ asks:
No Carlos Pimentel? He won't turn 19 until December, held hitters to a .204 average, and was top 10 in the league in ERA. What caused him to be left off?

Nathan Rode: Very close to the list. His stuff is good. He's 88-90 with at least an average breaking ball. His breaking ball and fastball have the chance to be plus, but there is a little bit of effort in the delivery so he might move to the pen. He also tended to leave pitches up in the zone and he was inconsistent. When he works down in the zone, he's good. When he doesn't, he's bad.

 Q:  Patrick from Chicago, IL asks:
What kind of stuff does Ryan Searle have? How does he project?

Nathan Rode: Couple of questions about this guy. Searle, a RHP out of Australia, reportedly has a fastball that is 88-91 with a decent slurve. However, he's got a soft body and I've heard the makeup needs a lot of work. He's got a good arm and is interesting, but probably not top-tier for the Cubs.

 Q:  Josh from Central Coast asks:
I have heard Martin Perez compared to Johan Santana. That is a ridiculous comparison...right?

Nathan Rode: Good question Josh. Here's how I feel about this. Comps run a very fine line. It's good to be able to relate an example to a guy, but you don't want to put any unnecessary pressure on a player. I heard the Santana comparisons too. But I also heard it as a physical and visual comp. When you simply look at Perez, you think Santana. Not necessarily that kind of dominance. Is that ruling out that he could be that good? No. But it doesn't mean he doesn't have a chance to be like that either. The stuff is electric and he was only 17. Anywhere from 3-5 years younger than a lot of the players he faced. I don't think its fair to say he's going to be Santana. That's a very high expecataion, but I also think you have to credit where it's due.

 Q:  david from austin asks:
Only #6 for Boscan? I expected an 18 yr old groundball pitcher (1.5 GO:AO) who strikes out a batter per inning without giving up walks (>6 K:BB ratio) to rank among the top 3 in the NWL. Did I miss something or is this just a particularly good year for prospects in the Great Northwest?

Nathan Rode: When I finished this list I looked back at who I had on it originally and some of the names I left off. To me, this was a deep league. Not necessarily top-tier talent all the way through, but guys that can contribute at the major league level. Let's just say, I had no problem getting to 20 guys. The hard part was leaving guys off. No. 6 is good for Boscan. But he's definitely behind Perez for me and I could see an argument between him and Ramirez. Boscan certainly had the best season of those guys, but Perez and Ramirez have pretty awesome upside with their electric arsenal. But Boscan has his own attributes that make him a very good prospect. I've probably beaten this over Aaron Fitt's head too much, but he's going to have a lot of fun with the Rangers Top 30 this year. It's a loaded system.

 Q:  Jeff F from asks:
Will the Cubs kick themselves for drafting Vitters over Wieters or will he be able to man the hot corner for the cubs the next decade (2011-2020) averaging .300, 25 HR's with big production? Is Flaherty someone to get excited about or was he WAY too polished to be in this league? I'm reserving optimism until he can do this at high A or AA ball in a year or two. Thoughts?

Nathan Rode: I think the first two teams can kick themselves for not taking Wieters in hindsight, but they did get elite prospects with their picks in Price and Moustakas so its moot to me. As for the Cubs, sure they don't have Wieters, but don't knock on Geo Soto. Vitters was a level behind the other high schoolers drafted high (Heyward, Moose, Freeman, Dominguez, etc.) but he played very well this season, overcame an injury and still has tremendous upside. It's still early in his career and if I'm the Cubs, I'm still very satisfied with that pick.

 Q:  Alan from Chapel Hill asks:
Don't the two A's shortstop prospects face an uphill battle with better talent ahead of them in the Athletics' stacked minor league system? i.e. Josh Horton and Adrien Cardenas.

Nathan Rode: Well they face a battle either way because they're not shoo-ins for the shortstop job when they arrive. But I don't think it'll be because of Horton or Cardenas. Horton plays shortstop now, but he'll be better served as a second baseman. And Cardenas has already been playing second for a couple years now. For me, Christian will be the most likely one to stay at short while the A's will eventually make a decision on who gets 2B. Whether it be Coleman, Horton, Cardenas or even Weeks. I like Cardenas, but the others are no slouches.

 Q:  T. Miller from Las Vegas asks:
A couple statements that I've read on Baseball America lately indicate that BA is down on Josh Vitters. Do you share this opinion? Tell us more about his potential.

Nathan Rode: I wouldn't say BA is down on Vitters. Was his debut last season disappointing? Certainly. Disappointing this year? Depends on how you look at it. He started at Low A and developed tendinitis. Then he was sent to short-season and stayed there. The way I see it is he battled some adversity and overcame it and managers had nothing but great stuff to say about him. He can stay at third base and he has one of the easiest swings I've ever seen. It's still early so hang in there.

 Q:  Matt from Seattle asks:
First off, much thanks to you and the BA team for putting these chats on. On to business, what kind of upside does Dennis Raben have with the bat? How does he compare to other college bats drafted early in 2008 now that most of these guys have made their professional debut?

Nathan Rode: Raben is interesting. There is huge power in that bat. I saw him play NC State this spring and saw some monstrous shots. However there are a few holes in his swing so there is question whether he will fill those and be able to produce in the big leagues. Defense is also a question. His arm is average so he may have to move to left field, but there is also question about his range/speed so he ultimately may land at first base. A lot thought he had first-round talent for the draft, but the injury history was a concern. In hindsight, I kind of like Raben's power potential, but I'll still take the other college bats over him.

 Q:  Kyle from Peosta, Iowa asks:
I was wondering how close Ryan Flaherty was to making the Top 20 and do you think he will stick at SS? Thanks.

Nathan Rode: He was extremely close. So close, in fact, that he landed in the top 20 at No. 12. Sorry, couldn't help it. His bat is interesting, but I don't think he'll stick at SS. He has a strong arm, but the range just doesn't play there. He'll get the chance to prove the Cubs wrong though.

 Q:  Larry from Los Angeles asks:
Dan Robertson was MVP and had 114 hits to set a NEW record! Was drafted in the 33rd RD as a SD Padre bargain as senior sign at no cost. I understand his size is an issue, his high-energy, plus speed, and terrific outfield instincts sound like a GREAT ROI for the Padres organization and yet he still receives no love as a top 20 prospect.... Do you believe he has the tools to be a big leaguer?

Nathan Rode: I'm glad you asked about him, because I just wanted to give this guy a shout out for an incredible year. The profile just isn't there for him. I love high energy guys so if he proves me or this list wrong I hope to congratulate him one day. The tools aren't overwhelming, but he might be able to make them work. We'll see. One of the best quotes from my calls came on this guy. I asked an opposing manager what he was like and he promptly responded "He's a pain the (backside)!"

 Q:  Chris Carpenter from Daytona asks:
What's up with my struggles in short-season A ball? I thought my stuff was good enough to move at least as fast as Jay Jackson.

Nathan Rode: You could chalk it up to nerves or simply transitioning to pro ball. Only you could really give us that straight answer. Your stuff is very interesting and could help you move quickly if you stay healthy.

 Q:  Justin from Nashville asks:
Kind of surprising a first rounder like Andrew Cashner didn't make the Top 20. Was he just not impressive during his stint with Boise?

Nathan Rode: Cashner didn't qualify by 10 innings. Had he qualified I'm sure I would've fit him in the Top 10 somewhere.

 Q:  Josh from Ft Worth asks:
What are the ceilings of those 4 Rangers pitchers in the top 10? Where do they fit in the hierarchy of Rangers pitching prospects from Feliz/Holland down to the lower minors?

Nathan Rode: Very good question. I'll touch on this a little bit, but leave it up for more debate when Aaron does his Rangers list. We had a short discussion today at lunch about Perez vs. Feliz. I'll just say that we did not come to a final answer. It was very interesting. But Perez, Ramirez, Boscan and Murphy all belong in the discussion of top arms in that system with guys like Holland and Feliz. I'm still trying to wrap my head around how deep the Rangers pitching is. It's incredible.

 Q:  phil from scottsdale stadium asks:
Wilber Bucardo left Arizona with a good sinking fastball and fringy secondary stuff. Is that still the case?

Nathan Rode: He was one of the final cuts. The sinker is very good, but the secondary stuff is questionable. And he got hit pretty hard this year. If he can develop some secondary stuff he could have decent upside. The secondary stuff is just show-me stuff right now to keep hitters thinking about it.

 Q:  Ross from CA asks:
Can you tell me anything about Michael Ambort?

Nathan Rode: There's a few questions about this guy. His bat is the thing. He showed some power from both sides. He's had an elbow operation already and that may have held him back a little. If he stays healthy, the bat will carry him. One manager said that he could play first base or would be a DH in the American League. Not very encouraging, but worth keeping tabs on.

 Q:  Matt from Seattle asks:
Tyson Gillies, Ichiro's heir apparent to leadoff hitter in the Seattle Mariners lineup? At this stage how is he coming along at the plate and in the field?

Nathan Rode: This much we know...he can defend and flat out run. The numbers were a vast improvement over the AZL last year. He hit .221/.337/.302 there last year and you see the numbers from this year. If he can make contact and keep up those kind of numbers he'd be pretty good at the top of a lineup.

 Q:  Kent from Sonoma asks:
Nathan, Thank you for the chat! Besides Gallaspie, were any other SK players discussed (Bucardo,Loberg, Quirarte, Reichard...)?

Nathan Rode: Bucardo was a final cut as I mentioned before. Quirarte was probably the next closest, but probably outside the 25-30 range. One manager said his fastball and slider were above-average, but he's a bullpen guy.

 Q:  Wade from Harlan, KY asks:
If you had to pick one player not ranked in the Top 5 that you believe has the talent to top this list, who would it be? And what do you think that player's future potential is?

Nathan Rode: I really like this question. The cheap answer is Boscan, since he was No. 6 and in my top 5 at one point. But as far as reaching a little further, I'd say either Darnell or Blackmon. Darnell is a great athlete and Blackmon just sounds like a blast to watch. He's only been hitting for a year and raked at Georgia Tech and in his debut. He's a "young" hitter so he could be a very good outfielder if the bat continues to develop.

 Q:  Nanyt from Winchester, VA asks:
What do you make of Conor Gillaspie's meteoric rise to the major leagues? Are you gonna sit there and tell me he can play the hot corner for the Giants in '09?

Nathan Rode: Ah, I think I know who this is...and you should have used Berryville, VA...my real hometown. I'm going to sit here and tell you that I couldn't believe that Gillaspie was taken to the show in a matter of weeks after signing. I don't think he plays there full-time in '09, but I do think he'll get a fair look. And I'm not the Giants. They were very aggressive this year (See also: Manny Burriss, Pablo Sandoval, etc.) so you never know.

 Q:  pete from chicago asks:
as far as future upside how would you rank Flaherty, Christian, and Coleman??

Nathan Rode: You know, I like Christian. Call me bias if you want, being that I bleed maize and blue, but his glove has incredible potential and if the bat is even average he'll find a place. I'm a defensive-apologist I guess. I love it. After that, I like Flaherty over Coleman, but I'd be happy with either.

 Q:  Joseph W from Fort Worth, TX asks:
What do you think of Matt West? Is he a power guy, or more of a line drive hitter? What kind of ceiling does he have?

Nathan Rode: Very interesting. Hopefully we won't see anymore suspensions (and I don't think we will, lesson learned there I'm sure). He is more of a line drive guy. He punishes fastballs and finds the gaps really well. He can stick at third which is a good thing. Projection on the bat? 15-20 home runs maybe?

 Q:  Timmy L. from San Francisco asks:
I was very surprised not to see Francisco Peguero on the list. What are your thoughts on his upside? He seemed to have a consistent stroke with some power potential throughout Short-Season.

Nathan Rode: He got a little bit of love, but not overwhelming. His speed and arm are very good, but he needs to smooth things out. He wasn't very consistent this season. Don't write him off though.

 Q:  Justin from Nashville asks:
If Daniel McDaniel had made the Top 20 cut, what would his scouting report have looked like?

Nathan Rode: He has a plus fastball and curve. 90-92 consistently and touched 93-94. When it's on, the curve has good downward break. Hitters had a hard time squaring him up. He was out of the bullpen mostly, but starting isn't out of the question. Throws a changeup and slider also but they're not on the same level as the curve and heater. Strong guy, loves to compete and really challenges hitters.

 Q:  Justin from Nashville asks:
Any Boise players besides Vitters and Flaherty catch your eye? I know you mentioned McDaniel earlier. Any other players of note?

Nathan Rode: Ryan Keedy got a little bit of attention. He was near the top in hitting. He has good plate discipline and good path to the ball. He also has a knack for letting bad pitches go. One manager describe his bat as a magic wand.

 Q:  Katie from San Francisco, CA asks:
What kept Mat Latos off the list?

Nathan Rode: 9 IP. The cutoff was 26.1. He had 17.1 Otherwise, he would have found himself in the top 10 somewhere.

 Q:  Mike Loree from Underrated, Pa asks:
I guess EXCELLENT fastball command isn't worth what it used to be?

Nathan Rode: Couple of questions about Loree. Command in general at this level just eats up hitters because of their inexperience. Loree's season was incredible, but his fastball was only 87-88 and the secondary stuff did not stand out. He's serviceable though so maybe something will click or improve enough for him to move along.

 Q:  Devi Cruz from Grosse Pointe, Michigan asks:
The Boise team this year was extremely talented. How quickly do you see a guy like Flaherty moving through the Cubs' system and do we see the Cubs try to keep him and Vitters together on the left side of the infield as they move through the system? Nice Job on the write up and really nice job on Northwest League coverage this year by Anthony Tynan

Nathan Rode: Flaherty could be up as early as 2010 if the bat keeps progressing. He may be given the chance to stay at short through the minors, but I think he has to move to second to in the big leagues.

Nathan Rode: And I'll use this to shout out to our interns (summer and current). They did an outstanding job helping us keep up with the pro coverage this season.

 Q:  El Guapo from Rural Mexico asks:
Jefe, what is a plethora? You said that the Rangers have a plethora of prospects. And I just would like to know if you know what a plethora is. I would not like to think that a person would tell someone he has a plethora, and then find out that that person has *no idea* what it means to have a plethora. And on a more serious note, what are your thoughts on Rob Musgrave and Sawyer Carroll? Does Musgrave stay in the pen or were the Padres trying to limit his innings? Does Carroll have the athleticism to play the OF?

Nathan Rode: Plethora means abundance or excess or en espanol - pl├ętora. The Rangers were well-represented on this list. Musgrave's pitchability helped him dominate the younger, inexperienced hitters. Carroll probably moves to first, where the bat could play, but if he sticks with working hard he could be usable in the outfield.

Nathan Rode: That'll do it for me today everyone. Thanks for all the great questions. Stay tuned for Jim Callis and his Midwest League chat tomorrow.