League Top 20 Prospects

Texas League Chat

Kary Booher answers questions about the league's top 20 prospects

Q:  Todd from Chattanooga asks:
I really thought that Davis ran away with this honor as #1 guy in the TL this year - don't get me wrong I like Fowler, but the guy could stand to put on about 25 lbs

Kary Booher: Thanks for joining us this afternoon and, if you have sneaked away or are secretly asking questions from your office cubicle, all the better. But if you get caught by the boss, don't blame us here at BA. So everybody up? I have to admit. I'm kinda dragging today after staying up into the wee hours watching the end of the Red Sox-Angels game. Looks like we could have another exciting October ahead of us.

Kary Booher: Selecting the Top 20 for the Texas League this year was a nice challenge, as there were a lot of good prospects to consider. But given that the talent level wasn't overwhelming to a number of scouts I spoke with, it took using a fine-toothed comb over and over again to narrow down the list of who was deserving. Davis and Fowler, though, were clearly at the top of my list, and Davis was an obvious favorite, especially by the time the second half of the season got under way. But I gave Fowler the edge because — and in no particular order — 1, league managers thought he was the most exciting player in the TL, 2, he could switch hit and 3, he had the overall athleticism lacking of corner infield or corner outfielders. Davis' knock was that he has had trouble playing over at third, and that's why the Rangers moved him across the diamond. Having covering the Cardinals Double-A club the past four seasons, including most of this year, I saw Fowler a number of times. And each time he always seemed to change the complexion of a game. I remember in early April, the Drillers had a runner at first and his manager called for a hit and run. Fowler, batting left, angled his bat so that he shot a grounder through to the left side of the field. It set up a first-and-third situation, and the Drillers went on to have a big inning. I thought the same thing early about Fowler—that he needs to add some weight. But at the TL All-Star Game, he was walking around with a T-shirt off and you could see his abs and upper chest. I think he'll add some weight to get more power to his bat, but Fowler should be careful because it could cost him with his other tools. Good question.

 Q:  Luke from Des Moines asks:
Can Chris Davis stay at third base, or will he move back to first? Do you expect him to hit .280 with 40 homers in his prime?

Moderator: I look for Davis to move back to first eventually. The only reason the Rangers moved him back to third base—he played there the prior two seasons before returning to Frisco in 2008—was to make room for Hank Blalock. I actually saw Blalock in Oklahoma City in late June, and he handled a tough grounder. The Rangers obviously are wanting to keep Blalock healthy and in the lineup, and they're willing to sacrifice some defense by having Davis shift over to third. In the long run, look for Davis to be a first baseman.

 Q:  Luke from Des Moines asks:
Where would Brett Wallace, Trevor Cahill, Brett Anderson, and Neftali Feliz ranked if they were eligible?

Kary Booher: A few managers politicked for Cahill, but he just missed the list because he missed qualifying by just a few innings. Had he not pitched for the Olympic team, he would have. In that case, Cahill likely would have vaulted up into the Top 10. He was that good from what I gathered from some of the TL South Division managers. Feliz was in that same boat, and Wallace made a huge splash very late in the season. I think he would have been rated within the top seven on this list had he met the qualifying in at-bats (at least 140), and that would have been even more so in a year when the league did not have the enormous star power as it did in, say, 2006, when the TL had Tulowitzki, Gordon, Butler and Pence.

 Q:  Josh from LA asks:
What were the thoughts about Brian Bogusevic's transition to an everyday player? Is he someone Astros fans should be excited about and what kind of player could we expect him to become?

Kary Booher: We already have a lot of questions on Bogusevic, so I figure we'll get this answered as soon as we can. Before going any further, I think any Bogusevic answer has to be couched in terms of the depth of the Astros farm system. It has dropped off dramatically. That, in turn, gives Bogusevic a chance. Someone asked where he would rank on this list had he qualified with enough ABs. I think the safe thing would have been the lower half, maybe in the 15 to 20 range. For me, his numbers are impressive considering he literally went from pitching to hitting in a matter of, what, a week? He's got the athleticism to pull it off. But to annoint him the next Rick Ankiel would be premature. I'd like to see Bogusevic in the first half next season, when he reports to camp in "outfield" shape, not as a pitcher. That was the key to Ankiel bursting through 2007, when he hit 32 homers in Triple-A. His sudden conversion as an outfielder was slowed because he, understandably, had to work his way into shape as an everyday player. More than Bogusevic's average (.371), I liked the fact he drew 16 walks against 24 strikeouts. That shows he's got a good hitter's eye.

 Q:  Kevin from Bakersfield, CA asks:
Any thoughts on Brian Bogusevic's switch from pitcher to outfielder?

Kary Booher: Sorry, chat rookie here. Still learning the system and accidentally clicked on two questions at once. Hope that answers your question.

 Q:  Ben from Leland Grove asks:
Which seems more likely to you - Adrian Gonzalez getting traded away to make room for Blanks at 1B, or Blanks learning an OF position?

Kary Booher: I think after hitting 35 home runs, 14 in Petco Park, Gonzalez is staying put. You ask a question that I'm sure other Padres fans are curious to know. Blanks is a big-bodied guy, but playing the outfield seems like a stretch. That said, he received high marks for the way he played first base in San Antonio, as he showed very good footwork. If you're playing GM, you could see this situation being a good trade chip for down the road. Blanks didn't show tremendous power this year, but his manager, Bill Masse, pointed out that Blanks disciplined himself not to yank everything and try to hit to all fields. I thought that explained, then, why Blanks was a non-factor in the TL All-Star Game's home run hitting contest. Many thought, given his size, he was the favorite. But he didn't do much damage. If the power comes through next year, Blanks will press the issue, but I still think Gonzalez stays.

 Q:  Thom from Ann Arbor, MI asks:
Jess Todd was pretty much off the radar coming into this season, now he is rated just below daniel cortes, who has been highly regarded. What is his ceiling and when do you think he arrives in st. louis?

Kary Booher: Todd became the clear-cut pitcher of the year in the Cardinals system this year, giving scouting chief and farm director Jeff Luhnow and his stats guys reason to pat themselves on the back for getting the righthander into the system. For those of you who don't know, Todd was a second-round pick from the University of Arkansas in 2007, getting noticed with a tremendous finish to that season, particularly with a 17-strikeout game in the SEC tournament. Cortes has the better overall stuff and projects as a big-league starter. Todd began to change perceptions-some scouts see him as a big-league bullpen guy, giving his size (5-foot-11). The Cardinals present an opportunity for him to break in as a starter, given their rotation outlook for next season and the fact Jaime Garcia recently underwent surgery. Todd's added the two-seamer in May and just flat-out dominated, and that will keep him in discussion to remain a starter, as will his bulldog-like mentality. He wasn't afraid to challenge hitters. Cards fans could see him at some point next year, but keep in mind that 2007 first-round supplemental pick Clayton Mortensen likely ranks above him on the depth chart and reached Triple-A in June.

 Q:  Gustavo Gonzalez from Caracas, Venezuela asks:
Hi Kary,A couple of Houston's prospect questions who did not make the list. Did Bud Norris get any consideration? The numbers sure look good. Also, Brian Bogusevic obviously didn't get enough ABs but any thoughts?Is he a legitime prospect?

Kary Booher: Norris did get some consideration, but he was bumped down by guys who had better performances, at least ones that you could sink your teeth into in trying to put together the list. Norris was coming back from elbow surgery and never pitched more than five innings in any of his starts, as the Astros tried to shepherd him through a full season. He'll likely move up, given the stuff he did show in his limited innings. As for the Bogusevic question, read above. Thanks.

 Q:  Ben from Leland Grove asks:
Will Max Ramirez eventually have to learn a new position if his catching abilities still aren't up to snuff? If so, where?

Kary Booher: It'll be a big offseason and then big spring for Ramirez, if he is to show the Rangers that he should remain behind the plate. But more and more it looks as if he will eventually move, and scouts believe that will be the case. Remember, he started his career at third base, but his success has not mirrored that of another corner infielder-turned-catcher (Geovany Soto). I'd look for Ramirez to give first base a try.

 Q:  Mike from asks:
How is Steve Garrison's stuff?

Kary Booher: Garrison, a lefthander, has tremendous stuff, and that's coming from his San Antonio manager, Bill Masse. He's got the two-seam fastball at 88 mph but also a change and putaway curve that Masse described as 12-to-6 bend. The key with Garrison is smoothing out his delivery somewhat. Sometimes he gets too rigid.

 Q:  George from Houston TX asks:
Thanks for the chat Kary and welcome to BA. I'm curious about Daryl Jones, who did not crack the Florida State League (High A) top 20 despite playing a majority of his season there. Is that an indication of the talent level between the leagues, or is it just a difference of opinion between the people picking the lists?

Kary Booher: It's probably a combination of both. The FSL is a 10-team league that, as usual, had a load of talent this year. The TL has only eight teams, and it was a down year as far as star power (and, let's be clear, I'm not saying the TL was barren). Not sure if you got to see Jones in high school, but I've been on the Jones bandwagon since interviewing him and doing the research into his story back in spring training 2006. The best thing about him is that he's got the common sense to understand what he has to do, not merely ride on his raw talent alone. On my last day in Springfield in July, Jones made his Double-A debut and he made a running catch in the left field corner. On that one play, he was clearly the best left fielder we had seen in four seasons there, and that even includes Jon Jay, who was very savvy defensively in left early in 07 before getting hurt. I think Jones, finally healthy, got to show once and for all this year what he could be.

 Q:  jim from san antonio asks:
How did drew sutton get left off this list? he had a monster year at corpus. Does he profile as a big league regular?

Kary Booher: Sutton had a very good season in Corpus, but he's off the list for this reason—there were younger prospects and their ceilings were higher. Sutton was on my list of guys to consider, though. He hit 20 home runs and drove in 69. But much like Oakland's Tommy Everidge, the league RBIs leader this year, he was 25. And that's the thing about doing a prospects list vs. a TL postseason all-star list. I think I did have a vote for Sutton on the all-star list but, framed around prospects, he gets bumped.

 Q:  alfredo from san juan asks:
donde trabajas antes de BA?

Kary Booher: Great to hear from readers in Latin America. And I hope I do this justice: Antes trabajó para BA, he trabajado en Springfield, Missouri; Jackson, Tennessee; Pittsburg, Kansas y Topeka, Kansas. Comencé mi carrera profesional que abarca la escuelas secundarias, incluida la Legión Americana de béisbol, y gradualmente se movió hacia arriba. He sido muy afortunado. Como le digo a los jugadores latinos, hablo español, pero muy mal. Mi greatgrandparents eran de Mexico y he aprendido el idioma en la escuela secundaria, pero no lo uso con regularidad hasta que cubra en favor de béisbol en 2001. Todavía es muy malo Translated: I got my start covering high schools at a small paper in Pittsburg, Kan., working for $17,000 a year and covered American Legion ball before going on to cover Double-A in West Tenn and then in Springfield, Mo. I took Spanish in high school out of respect for family heritage but unfortunately forgot how to speak it well through the years. Some sentences do help me to communicate in clubhouses, but Google translator works in a snap.

 Q:  Adam from NYC asks:
What's the upside for Will Inman? He was pitching in a pretty tough league for pitchers, but still led the league in K% and had the sixth-best ERA.

Kary Booher: Inman thrived this year in the Texas League, and yes he was the strikeouts leader. But people I talked to had concerns about his fastball command. He did walk 71 in 135 innings. If he can enhance his command, it'll make his breaking ball even more effective and he probably won't have to use it as much. His curve got him through this year, but he'll need better command up the ladder. He's still got upside. You strikeout 140 in the TL, and that's doing something in a league known to tilt in favor of hitters.

 Q:  Skip from St Louis asks:
Was Adam Ottavino Considered in the top 20?

Kary Booher: We received a number of Cardinals-related questions, one on Mark Shorey to another on Steven Hill and others on Jon Jay. Ottavino was not considered for this list, and for good reason. 2008 was a forgettable year for the Cardinals' 2006 first-round pick. He struggled with mechanics and command and never looked comfortable on the mound. In one stretch, he changed his warmup music and went back to wearing those red-tinted shades as he did in college. The Cardinals briefly shut him down for two starts in May to nurse a shoulder injury sustained while taking BP three days before the start of the season. But it was also believed to help Ottavino clear his head. As other clubs are beginning to do, the Cardinals turned to former big-leaguer Buddy Biancalana to help motivate Ottavino and get him pointed back in the right direction. Still, he finished 3-7, 5.23 in 115 innings, walking 52 and striking out 96. He'll need a big 2009.

 Q:  Thom from Ann Arbor, MI asks:
Is Mark Trumbo's breakout for real or are there still more questions about making contact?

Kary Booher: That's what I am hoping to find out soon. I have the Angels Top 30 for the upcoming handbook and recently began the legwork on that list. Trumbo will be in there somewhere, given he hit 26 home runs and drove in 68 in the high Class A California League, a hitter's haven. Raising his stock was the fact that he and Hank Conger were sent to Double-A Arkansas to catch the Travs on their playoff run. The two ended up helping them win the league championship over Frisco, a surprise given Frisco's talent and the fact Arkansas was a sub-.500 club in the second half. They changed the complexion of that team.

 Q:  Mitch Einertson's Clone from TX asks:
Have you folks at BA given up on me, or am I still one of Houston's Top 30 prospects? Will I ever again be able to replicate my 2004 season?

Kary Booher: Hang in there, Mitch. You've got nothing really to worry about. You will likely be in the Astros' Top 30 again. Einerston hit .262/.313/.427 with 11 home runs, 26 doubles and 62 RBIs as a 22-year-old in the TL. But he also struck out 88 times in 385 at-bats.

 Q:  Stan from Fresno, CA asks:
How close did Andrew Carignan come to making the list? Do you see him in the A's bullpen in 2009?

Kary Booher: Carignan did get some consideration, and he's a guy that intrigued me this year in the times Midland rolled through Springfield. He also pitched well in the TL All-Star Game and got the win in relief, if I'm not mistaken. He's a very hard thrower with a filthy fastball that he can cut or elevate, and that was solid enough for the TL this year. The A's gave him $126,000 as a fifth-round pick in 2007 after his days at North Carolina, and it wouldn't surprise me if he gets to Oakland next season. What may or may not have hurt him this year was Brad Ziegler's improbable rise. The A's obviously are looking for bullpen arms, but you have to ask if Ziegler now blocks Carignan. Either way, it's not a bad thing for Carignan, who is obviously on the map.

 Q:  Erik from Cedar Rapids, IA asks:
Kary Thanks for the chat and I'm looking forward to hearing from you more and more at Baseball America. I was wondering what sort of consideration did Allen Craig receive for the top 20, if any. And can you tell me what in the world happened with Adam Ottavino this year? Thanks again.

Kary Booher: I have to take this question for two reasons: 1, we received a few other Allen Craig questions and 2, I once covered the NCAA wrestling championships for the Oklahoma State student paper in 1995, when Iowa City was the host (and my photographer and I had to settle for staying in a bed and breakfast ... 30 miles west of Cedar Rapids ... on a hog farm. The bacon was great, btw). As for Craig, he did get consideration and was one of those guys on the outside looking in as I wrapped up the list. An eighth-round pick out of Cal in 2006, Craig made tremendous progress defensively at third base-he played shortstop in college—and hit .304/.373/.494 with 22 home runs, 30 doubles and 85 RBIs. That was despite Springfield manager Pop Warner trying everything to give him protection in the lineup, a situation brought on as former Tulane standout Mark Hamilton suffered through a miserable offensive season before a broken wrist ended his season. Craig batted third most of the year, but he's got to be wondering where he stands in the Cardinals' plans now. David Freese, acquired in the Jim Edmonds trade, held up at Triple-A Memphis after playing last year in the Cal League and apparently is a better defensive players as well. And at season's end, when Craig suffered a back problem, in came Brett Wallace, their 2008 first-round pick.

 Q:  Alex from Atlanta asks:
Is Chris Davis the next Ryan Howard?

Kary Booher: Only if Davis gets the chance to play in the drama of a pennant race. That would be the true test. You're comparing a rookie, albeit one with tremendous power from the left side of the plate, to a guy who could win his second NL MVP award in three years after a blitz through September. Both have the advantage of playing in small ballparks, so Davis can pile up the numbers. The question is whether he will be surrounded by the talent that Howard has in Philly. With Nolan Ryan as the Rangers team president now, the next few years should help answer that question.

 Q:  Brian from Corpus Christi asks:
How truly amazing were the offensive stats that I put up after converting to the outfield this season? Am I now a top prospect in the Astros system? What is my ceiling?

Kary Booher: Pat yourself on the back, Brian. Hitting .371 after ditching your pitching career was pretty amazing. You have a nice ceiling now as an outfielder, as your conversion saved your career. But will the bubble burst next year?

 Q:  Andrew from York, PA asks:
Hey Kary, thanks for the chat. What is Chris Johnson's projection—can he be a big-league regular, or will he ultimately fall short of the Astros' expectations for him? And did any other Hooks garner serious consideration for the list?

Kary Booher: A question from York, Pa. So who wins Pennsylvania? McCain or Obama? And can the Steelers survive all those injuries? That's probably the more important question up there. As for Johnson, I can see him, given the Astros' current climate, reaching the big leagues as a regular and being given a chance to stick. Defensively, while he might have a thick lower half, he has a strong arm, and it was probably the strongest of any Texas League infielder this year. Hitting-wise, he had to overcome a slow start, so that makes his offensive numbers all the more impressive when you comb through the splits. I had one observer tell me that Drew Sutton preferred hitting in front of him rather than after, a very nice compliment from an older and very good player.

 Q:  paul from Seattle asks:
What are the padres gonna do with blanks keep him at first move to the outfield or trade bait? And is blanks gonna be just like James loney?

Kary Booher: We've received a ton of Blanks-Gonzalez questions. It was answered above and, to rehash, Gonzalez hit 36 home runs this year, 14 at Petco. He's probably not going anywhere yet. And if he stays, then Blanks probably becomes a very nice trade chip for the Padres. I'd like to see Blanks' numbers after a good stretch in Triple-A before I drop in any Loney comparisons.

 Q:  Katie from St. Louis asks:
Does Jon Jay have a legit shot at a callup sometime next year?

Kary Booher: I wouldn't quite say Jay has a legit shot. But the fact he figured out how to have better quality at-bats through the course of the Double-A season and then earned a promotion to Triple-A puts him in the running. Jay got off to a slow start this year, but he buried it by hitting better than .300 in April and kept on hitting. If he was in any other organzation that didn't have Ankiel or Rasmus—and an emerging Daryl Jones—he could probably be safe to project for center field. But Jay is behind those two and, more worrisome, he doesn't have the power to be an everyday corner outfielder. That's not to say he can't make an impact. Look at Skip Schumaker, a favorite of Cardinals fans as well as La Russa, obviously. Schumaker worked his way into consideration, even getting to spend time traveling with the Cardinals through their playoff run in 2006. This year, he won a roster spot out of camp and became a huge contributor out of the leadoff spot. Jay could take a similar path, but he'll have to apply himself more atop the order. He's good as a No. 2 or No. 6 hitter, but with his speed, he'd be wise to work on his bunting this offseason. It was a big reason why the Springfield manager yanked him from leadoff early this year and made clear that Jay wouldn't return there.

 Q:  BL from Bozeman, MT asks:
Julio Pimentel became a lot more hittable this year even while his K/BB numbers improved a little, any insight into why?

Kary Booher: Easy. Pimentel was prone to having one bad inning almost every game but then settling in. I liked his stuff and the way he competed. I could see him in Kansas City's bullpen with a chance to become one of those swing guys who could make valuable spot starts. To answer your question in more detail, I'll put it this way: In a start in late June against Arkansas (Angels), Pimentel gave up a single, threw away a sac bunt and proceeded to give up four runs in the first inning. He then went the next four innings almost unscathed, allowing just a run, and then a defensive lapse in the outfield in the seventh blew the game open. If he can harness his emotions sooner, the Royals might have something in that guy. That'll be the last question after typing away for nearly 2 1/2 hours. Great questions by everybody and, to the ones I could not get to, my apologies. We'll have more chat sessions as we finish up our league Top 20s. Triple-A International League is tomorrow, and Triple-A Pacific Coast League is scheduled for Monday.