League Top 20 Prospects

Florida State League Top 20 Prospects Chat

Q:  Kevin from Bakersfield, CA asks:
How close was Joe Savery to making the Top 20?

J.J. Cooper: Hey everyone, thanks for all the questions, to get through as many as possible I'm just going to dive in. Savery was actually not close to making the Top 20, which surprised me somewhat. I searched, but couldn't find anyone who saw him really good. He was 86-88 with no real consistent secondary pitch, he struggles to hold runners and proved to be very hittable. He was usually described as a pitcher you wouldn't notice if he hadn't been a first-round pick.

 Q:  bob from asks:
what are your expectations for sean west next year??

J.J. Cooper: West could be on the verge of a breakout season. He has outstanding stuff and proved that it will hold up over the long season as he recovered from labrum surgery. The big knock on him in 2008 was his concentration sometimes wavered, which is something that he should be able to improve as he matures.

 Q:  Carl from Gilbert, AZ asks:
Relief pitchers are a dime a dozen - and a lot of major league relievers were solid starters in the minor leagues who transition to the bullpen because they never fully develop a third pitch. So how can relief prospects like Ceda and Samuel be ahead of McAllister, a 20 year old starter, with three pitches, a low BB%, a decent K%, and an above avereage GB%?

J.J. Cooper: Check out the answer to this question and the next one for proof that it's not possible to please everybody. The reason both of them rank ahead of McAllister is because their stuff is significantly better. It's true that relievers are often failed starters, but both Ceda and Samuel have elite stuff. McAllister profiles most likely as a No. 4, although a very good No. 4 and he could end up as a No. 3.

 Q:  Jeff from NoCal asks:
Ceda's ranking (14) seems quite lowfor a future closer with his 2 plus pitches....is this due to his lack of performance with Daytona as a SP or is this league loaded with top prospects? Also, how close were Tony Thomas and Lalli to the list?

J.J. Cooper: I can't see ranking Ceda any higher than that. He does have two plus pitches, but he still has some issues with keeping in shape and some minor issues with his mechanics. Guys liked Thomas at the plate, but weren't as thrilled with his work at second base. He would be in the 30-40 range if the list had gone that deep. Lalli did have an impressive year at the plate, but as a 25-year-old in the FSL, he was too old for the league.

 Q:  Kyle from Middletown asks:
How much higher on this list would Francisco rank if he drew 30 walks? How good is his power potential?

J.J. Cooper: If he had shown better strike zone awareness he would have been in the top 10. His power potential is massive, but there's a nagging worry that as he moves up the ladder, pitchers will carve him up unless he learns that it's best to swing at strikes. He does have a knack for putting the bat on the ball, and even his check swings can travel to the wall, but he's going to have to learn to mix his aggressiveness at the plate with improved pitch recognition as he moves to Double-A and beyond.

 Q:  Frank from Ft. Worth, TX asks:
Could you give us a rundown on Deolis Guerra, and what excluded him from the list? Thanks.

J.J. Cooper: Guerra, like Savery, was a guy who really only got mentioned because of reputation. Managers, pitching coaches and scouts didn't see a whole lot of velocity this year and he still needs to develop a breaking ball. He was 87-89 mph this year, where some guys last year saw him up to 94-95 in flashes. He still has a good changeup, but it's hard to say that he'll return to elite prospect status unless his velocity comes back. And in his third try at the FSL, Guerra's numbers only got worse. His 71-walk, 71-strikeout numbers are especially alarming. Two seasons ago there was a lot of reason to think he was on the fast track, now he's headed in the wrong direction.

 Q:  JAYPERS from IL asks:
What's been the main reason for Ryan Royster's regression this season? It seems to be a far cry from last year, where he jacked balls out of all of the Sally league's ballparks.

J.J. Cooper: Royster seems to have gotten his swing screwed up. He showed up this year in good shape, but he got way too power hungry, trying to yank everything to the point where he was bailing out of the box and helpless on anything offspeed and anything away. The tools are still there, but he has to settle down and get his swing fixed.

 Q:  TJ from Miami asks:
If Scott Cousins does not almost kill self by running into a wall at the start of the season,how much higher than #9 would he be ranked??

J.J. Cooper: It's hard to see him ranking much higher than No. 9, which was probably a pretty aggressive ranking for a guy who had 288 at-bats this year. Cousins has outstanding tools and has been thought of as a guy who could figure it all out some day. In his time in the FSL, it looked like everything finally clicked for him.

 Q:  Michael from Baltimore asks:
Any thoughts about James Skelton and his possible future? He is a catcher now, but his body size suggests another position or just a part time player? Could his on base skills translate to 2nd or OF?

J.J. Cooper: Guys around the league liked his bat, but thought there was no chance he will be able to stay behind the plate, largely because of his frame. Some managers thought he could end up being a utility infielder/outfielder, which seems like a pretty good role for him, especially as he's a high average guy with little power potential

 Q:  Jeff Allison from Jupiter asks:
How is my comeback coming along? I didn't put up a particularly spectacular season, but at this point, isn't a victory just to have me out there on the field? Do I still have the stuff to become a big leaguer?

J.J. Cooper: It was a victory that Allison made it through a full season, but unlike Josh Hamilton, the tools didn't make it through the comeback. The velocity that was there before Allison's drug problems was gone in 2008. Maybe it will come back, but until it does, Allison is getting by more with guile and deception than the blazing fastball he used to have.

 Q:  Carl from Gilbert, AZ asks:
Where's Daryl Jones? This seems to be a huge omission to your list.

J.J. Cooper: I figured I'd get several Jones questions. He was the toughest guy to leave off the list, and I could see him slipping into the back five, although we decided to go with Green, Iorg and Lucroy as the last three hitters on the list largely because of their ability to play tougher defensive positions. Jones doesn't really have an overwhelming tool, although his arm is his only really below average one. There are a lot of 50s and 55s there on the 20-to-80 scouting scale, as he's an average hitter and has average power. He's a very solid player and the fact that he didn't sneak on to the back of this top 20 doesn't mean he's not a prospect. He was No. 21 on this list.

 Q:  Kyle from Middletown asks:
Is Drew Stubbs a better prospect now than he was at this time last year? Do you think that he will again sneak into the top 100?

J.J. Cooper: Yes, he's definitely a better prospect now. At this time last year, Stubbs was a 22-year-old coming off of a mediocre year in low Class A. Now he's a 23-year-old who has produced in Double-A and Triple-A. More importantly, he has tightened up his swing a little and developed a better understanding of what pitchers are trying to do. His power dipped as he focused on making solid contact, but his power should continue to develop and he's a great defensive center fielder. There's a lot less bust potential to Stubbs now than there was a year ago.

 Q:  Randy from Sandusky, OH asks:
Did Ryan Strieby's excellent season give him any consideration?

J.J. Cooper: He was definitely in consideration and would have ranked in the 21-25 range. There were just too many concerns about his swing to make the list. Everyone was impressed with the power, but the consensus was that he could be pitched too, as there are holes in his swing. But if you make a mistake, he'll hit it a long, long ways.

 Q:  Roger from Minnesota asks:
How come Danny Valencia of the Miracle didnt make your top 20? While he was in the FSL he led the league in avg .336 and second in RBIs 44. He seems to be our future third baseman, what are your thoughts?

J.J. Cooper: It was encouraging to see the light bulb come on for Valencia, as he showed definite improvement in his second full pro season. The biggest improvement came at third base where he showed better range to go with his soft hands. It was enough improvement to think that he may be able to stick at third, which was a concern before. That being said, Valencia was a 23-year-old in his second stint in Fort Myers, so the production was needed to get him to Double-A where he belonged. He wasn't in the 21-25 range, but he would have been somewhere between 31-40.

 Q:  Bake from Riverside asks:
Does Zach Simons have a chance to break camp next year in the Tigers bullpen? I heard reports that he was up to 97 and near impossible to hit. Thanks!

J.J. Cooper: The Lakeland club had an amazing collection of power arms. Simons was 94-95 with an above-average slider. He could move quickly but there are command issues, so I think that would be a little aggressive to promote him that quickly.

 Q:  ScottAZ from Phx, AZ asks:
How does Mike Taylor compare to another Stanford Cardinal, John Mayberry? Both seem to have the same size and similar tool set (including weeknesses). Which will turnout to be the better player?

J.J. Cooper: Considering their Stanford pedigree and similar size I would have expected to hear more people comping them but no one really did. Taylor makes much more consistent contact than Mayberry, and has shown a better batter's eye, although Mayberry has better power potential. The best way to describe it is that while Taylor hit .346 this year, Mayberry hit .268 in low Class A at the same age. I'd rather have Taylor, especially as his bat tool is better and the rest of the tools are pretty similar, although Taylor has a better arm and better speed underway.

 Q:  Richard from Ft. Lauderdale asks:
Any thoughts on Ruben Tejada of the Port St. Lucie Mets?

J.J. Cooper: Tejada was given credit for hanging in there. A scout who saw him early in the year said he looked completely over his head and there was a lot of puzzlement over why the Mets would put an 18-year-old in position to fail like they did. Tejada still has some impressive tools, especially defensively, but it was hard to get much read on him at the plate when he was getting carved up by more experienced pitching. He did show a quick bat and gap-to-gap power, but he needs to get a chance to have some success to build on, which means a repeat trip to the Florida State League is in order.

 Q:  Mikey from Tampa asks:
Wouldn't Jeremy Hellickson be a #1 starter on other teams, if here weren't a Ray? He had to be one of the more dominant pitchers in the minors this year, but being behind Price, Kazmir, Shields, Garza, and even Davis and McGee can't help him...or do you think he could bump into the top-5 in a couple years?

J.J. Cooper: I didn't really find anyone who saw him as a No. 1. He did have a relatively dominating season, but there are some reasons to pull back on the hype. For one, he's pretty maxed out right now, as there's not much projection left in his small frame. And a lot of his success in the FSL came because he was pitching backwards against inexperienced hitters. His outstanding command will make him a big league starter, whether it's with the Rays or someone else, but he'll also need to learn that more experienced hitters love to see the ball left up. He gave up 22 home runs this year as he tried to learn that lesson.

 Q:  J from Toronto asks:
What are your thoughts on Brad Emaus? Was he close to making the list? His stat line looks very comparable to Taylor Green. How is his D?

J.J. Cooper: Emaus was a player who a lot of managers mentioned when you would ask "was there anyone else you liked at Dunedin?" There are a lot of concerns about where he would profile in the big leagues, but he has a nice short stroke at the plate. He turns the double play pretty well at second base but he lacks range, which led some to wonder if he'll have to move eventually. If he does, it's hard to figure where else he could move to and still fit some kind of profile as a big leaguer.

 Q:  Jim Hammond from Wichita asks:
Did the Cardinals have any position players that were close to the top 20 down at Palm Beach?

J.J. Cooper: As I mentioned above, Daryl Jones was the next guy who would have been ranked. He was the only Cardinals' position player who almost made it, as Pete Kozma didn't have enough bats to qualify. Jess Todd would have made it among the pitchers if he had enough innings.

 Q:  Jill from Moline, IL asks:
J.J., Where would Jay Jackson have placed if he qualified and your thoughts on his future ?

J.J. Cooper: It's hard to say where he would have ranked as I didn't get a lot of different opinions on him since he was in Daytona for just a couple of outings, but early reports were good. Good 91-93 mph fastball, slider, and changeup that allowed him to overwhelm guys. Like most young pitchers he needs to develop command but he does have decent control already.

 Q:  Tricky Kid from The Factory asks:
Quite a drop off after Hellickson at spot 6 in terms of MLB impact talent, right?

J.J. Cooper: Actually I'd disagree. Wilson Ramos is No. 8 on this list and I think he could rank as one of the most underrated prospects in the minors. He's a young catcher who is very good behind the plate who has also shown present power. I don't think this list is as strong as some of the previous FSL lists, but it still has some pretty impressive prospects.

 Q:  Aaron from Media, PA asks:
How good can Arencibia be? Will he develop more patience at the plate as he ascends the minor league ladder? How good is his defense? Thanks!

J.J. Cooper: Arencibia carries a very high ceiling as a solid defensive catcher with plus power, but you hit on the big question. When he was in the FSL, managers felt he was just aggressive at driving the first decent pitch he saw. In the Eastern League there seems to have been more concern that he could be induced to chase pitches out of the zone. If he can tighten up that one flaw, he should be a very productive player at the plate. As far as working behind the dish, he got very good reviews in the FSL. Calls a good game, handles himself well back there and showed good agility blocking balls in the dirt and he has a strong arm.

 Q:  Sid Bream is still safe from Palo Alto asks:
What does Porcello project to be on the MLB level? A fireballer or a sinker type of pitcher?

J.J. Cooper: The million dollar question with Porcello is how could someone with his blow-em-away stuff strike out so few batters. After asking that question to everyone I could find who saw him, I still don't have a great answer. He relies on his sinker in two-strike counts a lot right now, and he was very effective at getting weak contact with it, but if he decides to focus on getting more Ks as he moves up the ladder, the stuff is there to get a lot more whiffs.

 Q:  Kyle from Middletown asks:
Did Chris Heisey garner any consideration for the top 20? Can he be more than a fourth outfielder in the big leagues?

J.J. Cooper: It was hard to find an FSL manager who didn't like Heisey, and his tools ended up being better than I had expected going in. There's not any one thing about Heisey that stands out, but he does a lot of things well. He is an excellent defender in the outfield who can play all three spots, he runs well and is an excellent base stealer. He knows how to draw walks, hits for average and has a little power. That being said, he probably projects best as a fourth outfielder. His tools are good, but they're not great. I can't help but see some similarities between him and Chris Denorfia, another Reds late-round pick from a small school.

 Q:  John Jacobs from Sarasota, FL asks:
How is Anthony Slama a guy who lead all of minor leagues with Ks/9 with an ERA around 1 not make the list?

J.J. Cooper: You're talking to the president of the BA chapter of the Anthony Slama fan club, as I think guys around the office here have gotten tired of hearing me talk about him. He was on my initial top 20, but when sitting down to really hammer out the order his lack of a plus-plus pitch ended up dropping him into that 21-25 range. Slama blew everyone away this year with an above-average fastball and a tick-above-average slider, but when you compare that to Ceda and Samuel, there stuff was just better. Slama profiles as more of a setup man in the big leagues, but I wouldn't bet against him, as he was completely dominant in the FSL. Rob Delaney, a teammate of Slama's in that Fort Myers pen, is another guy to keep an eye on.

 Q:  Phil from Chicago asks:
Which tall lefty would you rather have? Aaron Poreda or Sean West?

J.J. Cooper: West. He has shown a better feel for his secondary stuff, which means he has a much better chance of sticking as a starter.

 Q:  Kyle from Middletown asks:
Does Chris Valaika have the bat to start at second or third base? How long will it be until he is ready for Cincinnati?

J.J. Cooper: He has the bat to be an offensive second baseman. The bat isn't the concern with Valaika, the glove is. I'd say he's still a year away, especially if he moves off shortstop at some point, but if Jerry Hairston Jr., and Jeff Keppinger can play shortstop for the Reds, who's to say that Valaika can't?

 Q:  Tom from St. Louis asks:
Where is Daryl Jones? He raked in the FSL showing both power and speed. He is also 3 years younger than Drew Stubbs who didn't play as well and still made the list.

J.J. Cooper: Good points about Jones. The reason Stubbs ranked ahead of him is that Stubbs is a potential Gold Glove center fielder with 70 speed and potential above average power as well. Jones has to prove he can be a center fielder despite his below average arm. He was mainly a corner outfielder this year. If he ends up playing left field, that will put a lot of pressure on his bat, which projects as a solid average to tick above average tool, but potentially not enough to be an every-day left fielder.

 Q:  Boris from Sydney asks:
After seeing Blake Beavan left off the top 20 list for the Midwest League, I was a bit skeptical. After seeing Ryan Strieby left off this list for the Florida State League top 20, I am convinced you are all nuts! Then again, Kyle Blanks never got any respect from BA either. I guess Ryan Strieby will have to pull a Ryan Howard next year before you stop ranking future platoon players ahead of him.

J.J. Cooper: Based solely on numbers, Strieby would have made it, but then, the reason we call as many managers and scouts as we can reach is to try to give you all more depth than just a ranking bases on numbers. I thought Streiby would make the Top 20 when I started making calls, but there were concerns about whether his approach will succeed against more advanced pitching. Maybe it will, but a lot of seasoned observers aren't sure it will. I'm not saying his career will have the same track, but check out what Brandon Sing did in the Florida State League in 2004 as a 23-year-old. It was a very similar year, but there were concerns about Sing's approach as well, which is why he didn't make the FSL Top 20 that year. Strieby has better bat speed than Sing, but there are some concerns.

 Q:  Luke from Des Moines asks:
How close was Heath Rollins? Where would Desmond Jennings and Travis Snider have ranked if they were eligible for the list?

J.J. Cooper: Guys like Rollins, but he had to make some adjustments that he's still working on. He started relying on his curveball too much and had to learn that he has to establish his fastball first. His fastball should have enough to be effective, but he needs to learn to trust it. He's also working on developing confidence in his promising changeup. He likely won't end up in the Rays rotation with their pitching depth, but I would be surprised if Rollins doesn't make the big leagues. Jennings had a season lost to injuries which makes it hard to even project. Snider would have been a top five guy for sure if he had enough ABs.

 Q:  Steve V. from Plainfield IL asks:
How strong is the this leagues talent? I see McAllister at #20 and is projected as a 3 or 4 starter. Isn't that pretty good for #20?

J.J. Cooper: The league had good depth this year, although the elite high-end talent was probably a tick below several recent classes. Just looking back the 2004 class had Hanley Ramirez, Scott Kazmir, Francisco Liriano, Jon Lester, Jonathan Papelbon and Chad Billingsley on it. I don't think this class will compare to that one.

 Q:  Patrick from Elmwood Park, IL asks:
Which Tigers prospect, either Porcello or Iorg, has a closer ETA? Also, which guy has a higher ceiling?

J.J. Cooper: Porcello has the higher ceiling and should make it to Detroit faster.

 Q:  Lance from Memphis, TN asks:
Were any Mets considered for the list?

J.J. Cooper: Dillon Gee and Dylan Owen are a pair of guys who know how to pitch with average stuff. Ruben Tejada is good defensively and has a quick bat, but he was way over his head in the FSL. Josh Thole can hit, but there are few who liked his work at catcher. Those were the highlights, but none of them were right on the edge of the Top 20.

 Q:  Jeff from Amherst, MA asks:
Thanks for chatting JJ. What's your take on Zach McAllister? His 1.88 ERA in the FSL (almost a run lower than Porcello) and very impressive walk rate would seem to indicate a higher ranking than #20. What do you see as his ceiling and was it his lowish strikeout rate (about 7 k's/9 innings) that kept him from being ranked higher on this list?

J.J. Cooper: The concerns are that his stuff is good but not great. His performance definitely had very few dings against it, but while he has a great feel for pitching, his stuff is major league average stuff, which is good, but doesn't compare to some of the guys ranked ahead of him.

 Q:  Karl of Delaware from Georgetown, Delaware asks:
Were Antonio Bastardo and Drew Carpenter with Clearwater long enough to receive consideration for the 'top 20'? did either of them come close to being ranked in your 'top 20'?

J.J. Cooper: Bastardo didn't qualify, but guys liked his stuff. He's added a slider that made his 90-93 mph fastball and changeup more effective. I know Carpenter made the big leagues this year, but no one was blown away by his stuff in the FSL.

 Q:  Jason from Omaha, NE asks:
I know Dunedin's Brian Dopirak was a bit old for the FSL, but he did put up quite impressive numbers, especially considering he'd been hurt during the last two seasons with the Cubs organization. How close did he come to making the Top 20?

J.J. Cooper: He didn't come close to making the top 20, as the fact that he was taking his fourth tour of the Florida State League is a giant flashing warning light, but Dopirak did show that the power that once made him a great prospect is still there. I still think there's reason for a lot of skepticism, but he earned himself a chance to show he can do it in Double-A next year.

 Q:  Brian from Philly asks:
Can Adrian Cardenas play SS at the Major league level or will he move back to 2B? Also Where does he rank amongst the A's Middle infielders? (With Weeks)

J.J. Cooper: Guys in the FSL were wondering if he can stick at second so I don't think any of them would feel like he can be a major league shortstop. The bigger question is will he remain at second or end up moving to third base because of his limited quickness and range.

 Q:  Miitchell from NYC asks:
The only Yankee on the list Zack McAllister you list at 20?? He seemed to dominate the league and is 1 year older then Porcello. Why no respect or such little respect?? Also any other Yankee prospects get consideration for top 20??

J.J. Cooper: Ah the respect card, I was wondering when that would be asked. As I've mentioned above there are concerns about how McAllister's stuff will play at higher levels. We really don't go into these lists trying to decide who to respect and who not to respect, we just try to cull together the wisdom of observers who are good bit smarter than me. While he may be a year older than Porcello, Porcello has three pitches that grade out better than McAllisters and Porcello has more projectability. That doesn't mean McAllister isn't a solid prospect, but that's why he's No. 20. At least this time I didn't enrage all Yankees fans by leaving off Tyler Clippard. Among other Yankees, Mark Melancon would have possibly made the list if he had enough innings and Christian Garcia was in the 26-30 range.

 Q:  The Whale from NYC asks:
With 2 catchers in the top 10 (Arencibia and Ramos) and a handful of other solid backstop prospects (Lucroy, Castillo, Skelton, etc.), the FSL seemed to have some quality depth behind the plate. How do the best of the FSL catchers stack up against the top backstops in the CAL/CAR leagues (Wieters, Flowers, Santana, Sandoval, Donaldson, et. al.)? Was this an unusually strong year for catching prospects across the minors?

J.J. Cooper: This was a great year for catchers around the minors. It's funny but usually there's a running complaint that there's not enough catching talent out there. Right now, it's hard to make that argument.

 Q:  Roy Hobbs from Buffalo, New Yotk asks:
Where would Yonder Alonso have been slotted had he been around long enough?

J.J. Cooper: He barely got into a game, so it's impossible to even start to think about ranking him.

 Q:  Tom from Chicago asks:
Didn't the Daytona Cubs win the title? Where is your love for the winning players?

J.J. Cooper: Seeing which teams win minor league titles is one of the least effective ways of projecting future big leaguers. The Cubs had several older players put up very good years, which is good for winning an FSL title, but doesn't help make the Top 20 list as we try to project future potential.

 Q:  The Whale from NYC asks:
RH starters Dillon Gee (Mets) and Kenny Rodriguez (Jays) posted impressive seasons, and two of the best K/BB ratios among FSL SP. How close did those two come to making the list? Do either have the stuff to continue their success at higher (more age-appropriate) levels next season?

J.J. Cooper: That's the concern with both of them. Gee looks like a potential No. 4 or No. 5 starter in the big leagues with average stuff and some feel for pitching. Rodriguez would have ranked below him if we had stretched the list deeper.

 Q:  Dan from Omaha, Ne asks:
Were would Ryan Perry have finished in the top 20 if he were eligible? Do you see him a future closer or is he a starter? Were do you see him starting next year?

J.J. Cooper: Perry throws extremely hard. He flirted with touching 100 mph, but it is a very straight fastball so there are some concerns about how effective it is even as a high 90s heater. I think he's a reliever. If I had to guess I'd say back in high A or Double-A to start, as he is a college guy who shouldn't need a whole lot of seasoning if he's going to stick in the pen.

Moderator: Two hours is I'll I've got as I need to code John Manuel's Top 20 Eastern League list for tomorrow. Thanks for all the questions.