League Top 20 Prospects

Sally League Chat

Q:  Brent from Appleton, WI asks:
Why is Bumgarner ahead of Heyward? Has his secondary stuff progressed to the point that he's caught up with Heyward in talent, or did Heyward slip?

Bill Ballew: First, you're comparing pitchers and hitters. Both of these guys are oozing with talent, and no, Heyward did not slip. It's just that Bumgarner may be the best pitching prospect in all of baseball.

 Q:  Tom from San Francisco, CA asks:
Hi, Bill. I'm a little surprised that Cody Johnson made the list (albeit at number twenty). What are the chances that he tightens up his swing and avoids the left-hand hitting Rob Deer comps as he moves up the ladder? Thanks.

Bill Ballew: That's the concern, but when you have coaches and scouts who have been in the game for 20 years and more and everyone tells you they have never seen a guy hit the ball harder than Johnson, that's impressive. I saw him hit a ball more than 500 feet in Asheville this year. The ball landed on the football field that's located above McCormick Field. He finally started taking Bobby Moore's advice in the second half and the initial returns were promising, which was one of the determining factors that put Johnson on the list.

 Q:  Ian from Georgetown PA asks:
What was the main reason for Glenn Gibson not living up to the hype in Columbus this season?

Bill Ballew: The Rays were very high on Gibson entering this season, but he simply did not pitch very well. He walked a lot of guys by trying to be too fine at times, and when he did get the ball across the plate, batters hit the ball with consistency. The Rays aren't giving up on him, but his stock has dropped since this time last year.

 Q:  JAYPERS from IL asks:
Had Gordon Beckham qualified for this list, where would he have fit in?

Bill Ballew: It depends on what he showed and how he played, but based on his tools, Beckham would have been in the top five, even on a list as deep as this. He impressed during his short time in the league.

 Q:  Andrew from Philly asks:
How close were Dominic Brown, Freddy Galvis, and Julian Sampson to making the list. I know the last 2 are a stretch but D. Brown seems to have the projection and plate discipline to go along with very consistent production to warrant being on the list somewhere.

Bill Ballew: All three were strong considerations, particularly Brown. Brown is an excellent athlete with a plus arm who has some power. Steve Roadcap, Lakewood's manager, compared him to Darryl Strawberry, believing that Brown will hit in the middle of the order in the big leagues. Galvis was considered by many to be the best defensive shortsotp in the league with good instincts and plus range. He made great strides this year and should appear on these types of lists as he continues to get strong. Sampson has a power arm that could allow him to develop into a second or third starter in the big leagues. He's a workhorse type of guy with a great body. He simply needs more command and to continue to develop his changeup.

 Q:  Brian Daniels from working in Hurricane Ike land asks:
Bill, Greetings from the flooded out streets of Bridge City Texas. I wanted to ask a baseball related question to get my mind off this disaster. Do you hear any rumblings about Bumgardner's delivery? Meaning, the angle could produce arm problems. Also, Angel Villalona, do scouts question his maturity? Thanks

Bill Ballew: Sorry to hear about the floods. Things are really messed up in a whole lot of areas these days. One of the things not messed up is Bumgardner's delivery. It's pretty easy heat and I don't see him doing anything out of the ordinary. Yes, some people question Villalona's maturity, but he was 17 for most of the year, so he gets a pass. He looked much better, both physically and at the plate, during the second half of the season, which should bode well for the future. He's still learning how to be a professional.

 Q:  Ben from Leland Grove asks:
Who would you say has the most power in the SAL at present - Stanton, Heyward, Cody, or someone else?

Bill Ballew: Johnson has the greatest raw power of three. Stanton and Heyward both have plus power. Stanton is showing his power now, plus he also played in a small ballpark this year that accentuated his power. The best is yet to come regarding Heyward's power, but there's no question that it resides in his incredible body.

 Q:  Todd from Chattanooga asks:
Bumgarner had the more impressive year - no doubt, however how close was it between him and Heyward. Isn't there concern as to MadBum developing secondary pitches that might cause trouble in higher levels? Where do you see these guys spending the year in '09? Also, how close was Brian Rike to making the list? Thanks!

Bill Ballew: It was close, but how many true potential number one starters that are lefthanded do you see? Not many. His secondary pitches are coming along. That's an overrated concern among some people. The kid knows how to pitch and he can flat out overpower hitters. I see a strong possibility of Bamgarner and Heyward splitting the 2009 season between Advanced A and Double-A if they continue at anything close to their current pace. Rike, meanwhile, was not close at all. He was one of the biggest disappointments in the league this year. He showed veyr little willingness to make adjustments at the plate, which enabled pitchers with an idea of what they are doing to eat his lunch.

 Q:  Eric from PA asks:
Is Jason Heyward a top 5 prospect in baseball?

Bill Ballew: I don't think you'd get laughed out of a room if you made that statement. And I believe he will be even better next year than he was in 2008.

 Q:  J from asks:
How disappointing was Brad Suttle's season? What is your outlook for him next year and beyond?

Bill Ballew: I don't think his season was disappointing. There are several observers in the league who believe he has a higher ceiling than Montero, although that is not conventional thinking. Suttle makes things look easy. He has outstanding strike zone awareness with power from both sides of the plate. He was considered to be the best defensive third baseman in the league. He has a real chance of being an impact player at higher levels.

 Q:  Eric from PA asks:
Do you think Cody Johnson will start next year in High-A? And what type of average do you see him hitting in the majors? Obviously he will never hit .300, but .250 maybe?

Bill Ballew: A lot of love and concern for the Codeman. Yes, I see him starting next season at Myrtle Beach. It will be interesting to see how he hits in BB&T Coastal Field, which is a pitcher's park. I don't see him hitting .300, but he definitely has the ability to hit .250 and even as much as .275 if he shortens his swing with two strikes.

 Q:  John from Pensacola, FL asks:
What separates Jason Heyward from Freddie Freeman?

Bill Ballew: Position. Heyward plays a corner outfield position and could probably handle center in a pinch, while Freeman is a first baseman. Freeman was scouted heavily as a lefthanded pitcher, but he was adamant that he wanted to pitch. The other thing that separates them is the hype. Heyward has received lots of love for a considerable amount of time, while Freeman has flown under the radar by comparison.

 Q:  Eric from PA asks:
Is Freddie Freeman the Braves 1st basemen of the future, or is Tyler Flowers ahead of him?

Bill Ballew: Freeman is the Braves' first baseman of the future at this point. Flowers is developing into an outstanding power-hitting catcher. If the Braves get to the point where Brian McCann's contract is too expensive, Flowers is the logical replacement.

 Q:  John from Pensacola, FL asks:
Obviously none were top 20 material, but did any other Rome pitchers like Benino Pruneda, Chad Rodgers, Jose Ortegano, or Edgar Osuna impress this season?

Bill Ballew: All four had their moments, but Osuna led the group and nearly made this list. He was Rome's pitcher of the year and has the ability to pitch in relief or start. He showed last year in the Mexican Pacific League that he is not intimidated by facing older, more experienced hitters. Look for Osuna to do well in the Braves' top 30.

 Q:  Elliot Legow from Youngstown OH asks:
I am surprised not to see Kelvin de la Cruz somewhere on that list. His numbers at Lake County were awfully impresive 1.69, BA against .207, more than a strikeout an inning, and a good evaluation at the SAL All-Star game.

Bill Ballew: De la Cruz may have been number 21. He had a breakthrough season in many regards. In most years he would have easily made the list. He's a definite prospect.

 Q:  Anton from the Bronx asks:
As always thanks for sharing your time! Why was NYC product Dellin Betances left off? All he did was strike out 135 in 115 IP, and reduce the BB/9 rate in the second half of play. He's only 20 and has terrific physical measurables.

Bill Ballew: Thanks for taking the time to participate. Betances has the physical tools, including a mid-90s fastball and a potentially plus curveball. He's still working on repeating his delivery, which is why he was able to reduce his BB/9 rate. He's on the right track, regardless of whether or not he made this list.

 Q:  Paul from Springfield, MO asks:
Between Villalona and Montero, who has more athleticism?

Bill Ballew: Both really need to watch their weight, because they are thick-bodied players, particularly in the lower halves of their frames. That's a real close call, but I would give Villalona the slight edge, based on what I saw this season.

 Q:  Richard from Ft. Lauderdale asks:
When do you anticipate Mike Stanton reaching the major league team? Hopefully, it will be by the time the Marlins open their new stadium.

Bill Ballew: Stanton is still at least two years away, I believe. He had a great season at the low Class A level, but there are still hurdles to clear before he reaches Florida on a full-time basis (just as Cameron Maybin). I guess you are assuming the Marlins' new stadium will in fact be a reality one day. But based on the constant road blocks in the Miami area, Stanton could easily get there before then.

 Q:  Bernie from Warwick RI asks:
Higher ceiling ... Bumgarner or Alderson ?

Bill Ballew: Wow, really, really close, but I give the edge to Bumgarner because he's lefthanded.

 Q:  Peter from NYC asks:
I believe LHP Zach Britton should have easily made the list? He had a .224 BAA and was in the top 10 in WHIP, IP, and ERA. He is only 20 years old so age was not a factor. Why did he miss the list?

Bill Ballew: I seemed to like Britton more than many of the managers. I think many of them simply did not see him that much. I didn't, either, but I liked what I saw when I did. His improved slider has elevated his entire game because he's always had the live fastball. I believe he's a guy who is flying under the radar from a national standpoint.

 Q:  Russ from Louisville, KY asks:
How close did Connor Graham come to making the list? I'm assuming control was his major issue. Do you suspect it always will be?

Bill Ballew: Graham was another strong cosnideration, but you're right, his control left a lot to be desired. He had a tremendous amount of success despite that problem, but it will catch up to him at higher levels if he doesn't harness it. He needs to fine-tune his mechanics and repeat his delivery a little better. Otherwise, he has the tools to succeed.

 Q:  Dean from Madison asks:
HOLY COW! That list of the top 10 prospects from 5 years ago is amazing.

Bill Ballew: You could be saying the same thing about this one in five years.

 Q:  Andrew from York, PA asks:
Thanks for the chat, Bill. I know they had a pretty awful season, but were there any Lexington Legends that came close to making the list? A few guys on the team—Abad, Cespedes, and Pellegrini—showed some promise...what can we expect from them going forward? Thanks again.

Bill Ballew: Lexington's difficulties were in many ways the poster child of the Astros' problems with their farm system. Pellegrini received the most attention from scouts. He didn't hit for average but showed good power before tiring late in the season. Abad and Cespedes received only modest attention, but Craig Corrado and Eric Taylor garnered some positive mentions. Corrado did a good job of moving to 2b from SS after having some throwing issues at 3B. Taylor is a UCLA product who has the ability to be a good hitter if he irons out some of the mechanical issues in his swing.

 Q:  Dale Berra's Stash from Pittsburgh asks:
Hickory was a pretty terrible team this year, but did anyone on the roster elict any sort of interest from scouts or managers?

Bill Ballew: Well, DB, it would take a pretty good hit from your stash to make the situation in Hickory this year look good. The most promising player was Miles Durham, an older guy who showed maturity and the ability to leverage the ball. He displayed improvement, particularly with his footwork, at first base and hit the ball very well. But to consider him a prospect at this point is still a little bit of a stretch. Unfortunately, that's as good as it got with the Crawdads this year.

 Q:  Will from Tampa asks:
Was Michael Taylor ranked so low, because of his age? Also I assume he won't be on the FSL list because he's here?

Bill Ballew: Age definitely played a role, but the numbers he posted in the SAL and the FSL were impressive. Don't be surprised if his name appears again in the near future.

 Q:  Timmy L. from San Francisco asks:
Do you think Charlie Culberson can rebound from this year to regain his prospect form? It seemed like his bat started to come around before his season ending injury, but what about his shaky defense?

Bill Ballew: Culberson seemed to struggle with the expectations, but he showed the ability to play the game. I agree with you that he made some strides prior to having to depart. His defense is not that bad and he could hit. I think he'll look more like the player he was supposed to be this year in 2009. If not, the future does not bode well.

 Q:  Raymond from New York asks:
Hi Bill, As an expert on the Braves, do you know if their minor league coaches have found a way to cut down Cody Johnson's strikeouts and enable him to harness his power better ? Is Rohrbough over his injury problems and ready to move forward as a good lefty starter ? many thanks

Bill Ballew: Thanks for the title. Johnson is a little stubborn but he finally started listening this year during the second half. It's just a basic hitting approach instead of trying to hit everything five miles. If he can do that, Johnson should be fine, particularly if he quits hanging his head and hustles all of the time instead of when he feels like it. Rohrbough was hurt all season, particularly his ankle, which he hurt in the offseason while training. He has much promise as he ever did, and I think he will make a two-step jump in 2009, playing at both Myrtle Beach and Mississippi.

 Q:  Dave B from Pittsburgh asks:
Would Montero still be #7 if he already played 1B? Or is some of his upside tied to the slim possibility that he could play C?

Bill Ballew: Catching definitely helps him on this chart. I don't see him as a catcher, but some observers believe he can hang on to the position. He works hard, but he's fringe-average at best back there.

 Q:  Timmy L. from San Francisco asks:
Does Brian Sabean's job hinge on the successful development of this Augusta team?

Bill Ballew: I don't know what Sabean's job is tied to. He lucked up early in his tenure with the Giants by stealing Jeff Kent and J.T. Snow in trades with the Indians and Angels, respectively, but has made one bonehead decision after another ever since. Just ask the Minnesota Twins, Edgardo Alfonso, Michael Tucker, Dave Roberts, Ray Durham, et al.

 Q:  Shae from Boston asks:
Bill, that's quite a list and analysis! Can you tell me how scouts thought Michael Almanzar fared after being called up to Greenville? He was ranked high on GCL list so was it his age and minimal at-bats reason for his exclusion from this list?

Bill Ballew: Almanzar struggled mightily during his short time in the SAL. He was young and showed some immaturity, so he didn't get a lot of love in many places. The raw tools are there, however, and I think he has a good chance to have a solid season at Greenville in 2009.

 Q:  Craig from Calgary asks:
Do you see Angel Villalona hitting for a high average once he matures, or is he projected to be a .250 hitter with power?

Bill Ballew: He has the ability to hit at least .280 with above-average power. I don't see him as a classic power hitter. Instead, I believe he will be a solid run producer by contributing his share of doubles and singles. Again, he needs to push away from the dinner table throughout his career.

 Q:  Travis from Ewa Beach asks:
What should we expect out of Michael Stanton next year in High A? And in your opinion is he the Marlins #1 prospect?

Bill Ballew: He will be in the top three, I would imagine. It's hard to go against Maybin, particularly with the way he's been hitting in Florida since being recalled earlier this month. Stanton's game is still raw in many regards, but you have to like his physical attributes and the potential he holds. And, yes, I see him in Advanced A next year.

 Q:  Shane from Miami asks:
I'm curious as to the Heyward to Parker and Stanton to Winfield comparisons. Do you feel they are accurate, and if so, why is Heyward ahead of Stanton? Winfield is a HOFer and Parker is not.

Bill Ballew: Parker would have been a Hall of Famer if he had avoided drugs and other vices the world has to offer, but that's a discussion for another time and place. Those comparisons are made from body types, the way the veterans played the game at their primes, etc. It's only to give fans an idea of what might be expected. Suffice it to say that any player could do a lot worse than to have the future of Heyward and Stanton.

 Q:  paul from sims asks:
I haven't heard alot said about matt dominguez, what do you think of his first pro season and was there anything to worry about his progress?

Bill Ballew: Dominguez was outstanding. He's excellent at third base and he hit much better than some scouts believed he would when he was in high school. When he and Stanton were in the lineup together, only the Braves with Freeman and Heyward had a better one-two punch. Dominguez has to be in the same conversation as Stanton Maybin regarding the top prospects in the Florida organization.

 Q:  Lucy from New York asks:
Do you see Jon Gilmore starting the season in Rome? Also, is this a make or break year for Adam Coe in terms of reaching his potential? Thanks!

Bill Ballew: Gilmore struggled at Rome this year before moving down to Danville and earning all-star honors. Gilmore is a good hitter with above-average hands at the hot corner who will open next season at Rome. Coe had a pretty good season at Rome this year but is not in the same class of prospect at Gilmore.

 Q:  Sal from Brooklyn asks:
Montero or Romine...who'll reach the major leagues first?

Bill Ballew: Romine if they both stay at catcher, Montero if he moves to first base and/or designated hitter. There hasn't been much attention during this chat placed on Romine, but the strides he made this season make him one of the blue-chip prospects in the Yankee organization.

 Q:  Kyle from Fort Lauderdale asks:
Bill, did scouts/managers give a comparison for Nick Noonan? Offensively does he have 20hr .300 avg. potential?

Bill Ballew: I don't remember any specific comparisons regarding Noonan, but he was mentioned by nearly every manager. His bat has excellent potential and he has the glove and other defensive skills to stay at second base without a problem. I look at the San Francisco roster and see the Giants considering Ivan Ochoa, Eugenio Velez and Kevin Frandsen for the keystone sack next year...wow. Noonan is twice the prospect of those three guys.

 Q:  Jalah from Astoria, NY asks:
Hi, who are your biggest surprises and disappointments in the league?

Bill Ballew: Great question. The biggest disappointments were Lexington's Max Sapp and Asheville's Brian Rike. The biggest surprises are tougher to determine, based on the level. Zach Britton is a strong consideration in that category, and to the extent at which he dominated, Mike Stanton.

 Q:  Elder from Modesto, CA asks:
Hi Bill! Do you see Helder Velazquez repeating Low A or is he ticked for High A in 2009?

Bill Ballew: I believe his performance in spring training will go a long way in determining that. He's right on the bubble in my opinion, but he has the ability to handle the promotion. He's a solid prospect in this league as well.

 Q:  Kelly from Boston asks:
Is Nick Noonan still comparable to Utley w/o the huge power potential? Or, is he best compared with someone else?

Bill Ballew: That's not a bad comparison at all. He can definitely handle the bat, a la Utley.

Moderator: I appreciate all the questions, and I apologize I couldn't get to all of them. Anyway, thanks for participating and hopefully we'll have the chance to chat again soon.