League Top 20 Prospects

International League Top 20 Chat

Moderator: Thanks for stopping by. Let's get started.

 Q:  JAYPERS from IL asks:
I'm a bit surprised David Price didn't even get a mention in your introduction. Had he pitched enough innings to qualify, would he have ranked above Bruce for the top spot? Also, what are your thoughts on Maddon's decision to give him the last bullpen slot in the playoffs, as opposed to seasoned veteran Troy Percival? Can the kid handle the pressure, in your opinion? Thanks, Matt.

Matt Eddy: Yes, Price would have claimed the top spot had he qualified, despite a wholly mediocre showing in Triple-A. I tried to focus the intro on pitchers who missed the list by 1 or 2 starts. Price compiled just 18 IL innings.

Matt Eddy: It would seem to behoove the Rays to get Price into a low-leverage, left-on-left situation against, say, Thome or, ahem, DeWayne Wise before asking him to do too much in the playoffs. But Price's inclusion on the roster, at Percival's expense, means one more power arm at full strength, and it may have the side benefit of sparing Rays fans from a few of the Percival's tightrope-variety saves.

 Q:  JAYPERS from IL asks:
Do you agree with the decision not to give McCutchen a callup to Pittsburgh this year? If so, why?

Matt Eddy: Sure. He's not yet on the 40-man roster and his performance for Indy did not absolutely demand a callup. After all, McCutchen faded badly down the stretch, and Pittsburgh can now dance around service-time issues next season if the center fielder doesn't tear it up in spring training.

Matt Eddy: All this assumes you're talking about Andrew and not Daniel McCutchen.

 Q:  Ben from Leland Grove asks:
In your scouting report, you said it remains to be seen whether Jeff Niemann will get the chance at a regular starting spot with Tampa Bay. Since their rotation is set for the forseeable future, why do you think Andrew Friedman decided to keep him around, rather than dealing him before the trade deadline?

Matt Eddy: Niemann's name was bandied about in trade-deadline rumors involving Jason Bay. That never materialized, but don't be surprised if his name surfaces again this off-season. Conventional wisdom states that teams are better positioned to get full value after the season because, theoretically, more teams are in play.

Matt Eddy: And not to criticize the Rays for their handling of Edwin Jackson because he rewarded their faith, but the man went 5-15, 5.76 in 31 starts in 2007. If ever there was going to be a time for Niemann to step into the Tampa Bay rotation, it sure seems like 2008 would have been the season.

 Q:  Ian from Denver asks:
Did Clay Buchholz get consideration for your list?

Matt Eddy: Had Buchholz made one more IL start (it takes 48 innings to qualify here), he would have qualified. He carved up league batters with his breaking ball, so he would have fared well in the ranking.

 Q:  Harry from Erie, PA asks:
Had they pitched enough innings to qualify, where would Bowden, Carrasco and Cecil have ranked this year?

Matt Eddy: All three would have been exceedingly strong candidates for the Top 10, probably slotting in somewhere between No. 5 and No. 10.

 Q:  Tim from Proctorville, Ohio asks:
Can Daniel McCutchen be a back of the rotation starter or is he destined for the bullpen?

Matt Eddy: McCutchen is a top-notch strike-thrower, but he's probably going to be a bit homer-prone to pitch at the top of the rotation or in a crucial bullpen role. He sits 91-94 mph, even from the stretch, and has a hard, spike curveball that he locates well away from RHB. He has a usable changeup, too, so he might fit as a No. 4 or 5 starter.

 Q:  Ben from Leland Grove asks:
Fernando Perez has made a loud splash since getting the call. Did he get consideration for this list, and with Crawford now healthy, what will his role likely be?

Matt Eddy: As easy as it is to root for a player like Perez, he still needs to refine his approach at the plate and his routes in the outfield to profile as a regular. He's quite strong from his natural, right side (.301/.354/.486), but he'll need to continue to refine his approach from the lefthanded batter's box. Looks like he's got his foot in the door for an extra outfielder gig next season.

Matt Eddy: He has game-changing speed, though, and he dramatically improved his stolen-base percentage in 2008, from 64 percent in '07 to 78 percent this season.

 Q:  Todd from Chattanooga asks:
Do you think Alvarez clearly jumps McCutchen as the Pirates top prospect?

Matt Eddy: Probably. Alvarez projects to have more impact with the bat. Where McCutchen is average or a tick above across the board, Alvarez could be a plus hitter for average and power.

 Q:  Todd from Chattanooga asks:
JB's the man - however would Longoria have taken this spot if he had qualified? Thanks

Matt Eddy: You better believe it.

 Q:  Kyle from Middletown asks:
Who was the better prospect for their two years at the top of the list, Delmon Young or Jay Bruce? Who do you think will have a better career?

Matt Eddy: At this point in time, I'd take Bruce. In his four months in the big leagues — in fewer than one-third the at-bats — Bruce has nearly equaled Young's career total for home runs. It's 21 to 26 in favor of Young. Both players earned full-time jobs at age 21, and when you consider that their non-hit tools are similar, I'd take the guy who's performing.

 Q:  Kyle from Middletown asks:
Do you think the Reds have pushed Bruce into right field too soon or has he lost the ability to be an above average center fielder?

Matt Eddy: It's a surprising development, made more stark by the fact that Bruce was shifted to right in favor of Corey Patterson, who didn't hit a lick this year. With Drew Stubbs in the organization, though, the move was probably inevitable.

 Q:  Kyle from Middletown asks:
Do you hold out any hope for Homer Bailey? Could he still put things together and surprise people next year??

Matt Eddy: Yes, but if I had to bet, I'd peg 2010 as a more likely breakout season for Bailey, at least in terms of success from start to finish. One source I talked with even said he wasn't expecting anything from Bailey at the big league level until he was at least 24. That's how far his command has to come. In the low minors, Bailey succeeded on raw stuff, despite missing the catcher's target by a foot or more.

Matt Eddy: Things look bad for Bailey now, but keep the faith in pitcher's with pure arm strength. Remember that Mike Pelfrey, for example, entered the year with a career 5.55 big league ERA. This year, he pitched 200 innings, won 13 games and posted a sub-4.00 ERA. Now, Bailey and Pelfrey are different types of pitchers, but getting hammered in the big leagues reinforces how important fastball command is for a pitcher.

 Q:  Kyle from Middletown asks:
What do you think is responsible for the 88-91 mph Bailey has thrown this year, diminishing stuff or bad coaching? Reds fans are worried that he traded in too much velocity for a quicker delivery.

Matt Eddy: Bailey hasn't experienced an arm injury, so chalk up the diminished velocity to the quickened mechanics, sure, but don't forget that he pitched through a strained groin in '07 and a knee injury this season.

Matt Eddy: And don't forget that Bailey went out on a very strong note, striking out 8 Durham batters in 6 innings in the playoffs. He walked one and gave up two hits, saving his best effort for last.

 Q:  Kyle from Middletown asks:
Where would Daryl Thompson have ranked if he were eligible and maintained his performance AAA? Does he project as a #3 starter or set up man?

Matt Eddy: Tough call. With his spotty injury history and lack of a reliable secondary offering, Thompson is tough to get a handle on. I'd go with late-inning power reliever if I had to pick a future role.

 Q:  Kyle from Middletown asks:
Did Ryan Hanigan get any consideration despite his age? He was rated as the best defender in the league and hit .324. Do you believe that he can be at least an average big league catcher?

Matt Eddy: Even in a down year for IL talent, we couldn't find a way to squeeze Hanigan on the list. He's an awesome story, though. A nondrafted free agent from Rollins (Fla.) back in '02, Hanigan has proven himself to be an expert handler of a pitching staff, a great blocker and a very strong thrower, nabbing 37 percent of IL basestealers. On top of that, he's hit for average and drawn walks in the minors, meaning he should have a career as a big league backup.

 Q:  Greg from Orange County asks:
What's it going to take for Cleveland to promote Huff to the majors where he should be?

Matt Eddy: Huff's day will come. This season was more about staying healthy and improving areas of weakness — which Huff did in spades, tightening both of his breaking balls and picking up a little velo on his fastball.

 Q:  T-Shirt from Bean Station, Tn. asks:
Much was made in '06 & '07 about the Twins' abundance of pitching prospects. I see only 1 made your IL top 20. What does the pipeline look like now?

Matt Eddy: This appears to be as good a place as any to mention that Rochester RHP Philip Humber was the last cut from the list. Really, you could have justifiably ranked him in any of the final four spots. He's 25 already, so ideally you'd a whole lot more consistency, but he flat-out dominated in August, when inserted back into the rotation, going 4-1, 2.74 in 6 starts (2 CGs) with 36 Ks and just 7 walks.

Matt Eddy: Humber dominated in spring training and the organization seriously thought about starting the season with him. But then he proceeded to post ERAs in excess of 5.00 in each of the first four months. Still, if you're looking for next year's Gavin Floyd, you might want to look at Humber. The plus breaking ball and solid-average fastball is present in both pitchers, and once Humber began working ahead of AAA batters more consistently, it made his breaking ball play up.

Matt Eddy: The other parallel between Floyd and Humber is, of course, their draft status. The former went 4th overall in 2001, while Humber did him one better, going 3rd in 2004. Many were quick to give up on each of them.

 Q:  Steve Dakota from Orlando,Fl asks:
Wade Davis or Matt Garza, long term?

Matt Eddy: As with Bruce vs. Delmon, give me the guy who'd doing it in the big leagues. I take Garza.

 Q:  Erich from Buffalo asks:
As a bison's season ticket holder i got to see Huff pitch quite a bit, he seemed like he pitched well but not over powering. Where do you see him to start next season? Do you have a major league pitcher comparison that you can offer? Thanks for the chat great job on the list.

Matt Eddy: You're right in that Huff is more of a mid-rotation pitcher who has enough stuff to compete and who doesn't hurt himself with walks. He might begin 2009 back in Triple-A (almost typed back in Buffalo, but of course they're moving to Columbus) as more of a safeguard against a high workload. Remember this guy didn't pitch much at all in 2007.

 Q:  Zach from MN asks:
What are your thoughts on Trevor Plouffe and Brian Duensing's ceiling's as pros.

Matt Eddy: Plouffe could be an extra guy capable of filling in all over the infield. He can sting the ball when he's going well, and he has a terrific arm. At this point last year, we would have given a similarly lukewarm response to a Denard Span question, so who knows?

Matt Eddy: Duensing could make it as a groundball, No. 5 type starter.

 Q:  Kevin from Boston asks:
Was Chris Carter considered for the list? I know he's a little older, but he has hit in AAA for 3 years now and simply lacks an opportunity to play in the Majors.

Matt Eddy: He was considered. He has a good feel for hitting, but his unorthodox hitting approach and shaky defense gives scouts pause. Moving from the PCL to the IL and keeping up the pace argues well for a shot at a big league job. Carter, 26, is a .306/.377/.500 hitter in nearly 400 Triple-A games.

 Q:  Darren from UK asks:
Kind of off topic question, but the Indians just picked Brantley as the PTBNL in the CC trade. Seeing as Brantley will likely be in the International League next year (at Columbus) what are your thoughts on him?

Matt Eddy: You may want to check the ranking and chat transcript from the Southern League, where Ben Badler ranked Brantley in the top 20.

 Q:  Dean from San Francisco asks:
I believe this is the first top 20 this year with no international signees. Were there any that were close to making the list?

Matt Eddy: Interesting point. Scanning my notes, the top ranking international players would have to be Richmond 3B/2B Diory Hernandez and Norfolk RHP Radhames Liz, and because we're getting questions on both, I'll address them here.

Matt Eddy: While he can play the middle infield, the 24-year-old Hernandez's best position is third base, where he has plus range and a strong throwing arm. He's capable of stringing good at-bats together, but his line-drive bat may be *just* good enough to earn a utility gig in time.

Matt Eddy: Liz, 25, has a huge arm and he pitches at 92-97 mph, but he doesn't have a reliable second pitch to pair with his heater. His funky delivery and arm action compromise his command of his slider, but with his arm strength, Liz probably find a home in the bullpen.

 Q:  Elliot from Youngstown OH asks:
Matt: Last year Jordan Brown won his 2nd straight MVP award and launched himself onto the Indians' Top 10. How far back did he set himself in his first year in AAA? Still a future Sean Casey or Mark Grace?

Matt Eddy: The comp I got on Brown was Lyle Overbay. He's a gap-to-gap doubles-hitting, contact-oriented first baseman with a bit of HR power to his pull (right-field) side. Brown is a fluid first-base defender with strong footwork and soft hands.

 Q:  Dale Berra's Stash from Pittsburgh asks:
Pirate fans are thirsting for good news about anything, especially Andrew McCutchen. Some people are disappointed by his 2008 IL season, whereas for a 21 year old I think it's pretty good. What is a realistic peak season for A-Mac in the majors? Something like .285/.360/.450 with 15-20 HR's and 30 SB's? If so, I'll take it. I think people don't realize how difficult it is to find a 20/20 guy.

Matt Eddy: I think you're right on all counts. McCutchen, at his peak, could be a first-division center fielder, more remarkable for the breadth of his ability than for any one of his tools.

 Q:  Mitchell from NYC asks:
Any Yankee other then Gardner get consideration??

Matt Eddy: Sure. RH reliever Mark Melancon missed qualifying for this list, but RHP David Robertson didn't, and he finished in the 21-25 range for the IL. He could be a future set-up guy, with a firm low-90s fastball, a solid curveball and the ability and poise to throw strikes.

Matt Eddy: Two former Yankees, Dan McCutchen and Ross Ohlendorf, also received consideration. Ohlenforf, especially, has a fantastic arm, with the ability to go get 97 mph, but he just hasn't fine-tuned his command to the point where I'd feel comfortable ranking him as a starter. He's already 26.

 Q:  Stever from Minny asks:
What are your thoughts on Denard Span? Is he the real deal?

Matt Eddy: Cautiously optimistic that he can be a four-tool regular for the Twins, offering batting average (with excellent strike-zone judgment), speed, defense and a strong throwing arm. You wouldn't draw him up as a right fielder, but in the context of Minnesota's outfield situation, he's fine. Span's a premium, fast-twitch athlete, so don't expect a lot of give-back.

 Q:  Nick from Melbourne, FL asks:
Do you think Charlie Morton projects as more than a #3 in the big leagues?

Matt Eddy: No. He's got a great arm and three average-or-better pitches, but he's also got to prove he can stand up to the rigors of an entire season.

 Q:  Deywane from Memphis asks:
So between Jay Bruce, David Price, and Evan Longoria you would rank them Longoria, Price, Bruce. Is this how you would have ranked them last year also?

Matt Eddy: That's the order I'd go with. Would I have done the same last year? Honestly, no. But I did give serious consideration to running Longoria up to No. 1 a year ago, ahead of Bruce.

 Q:  Derek from Little Rock asks:
Is Ian Kennedy finished as big leaguer and destined for a career as a AAAA player?

Matt Eddy: A big league No. 5 starter. Traditionally, righthanders without a reliable breaking ball, like Kennedy, need a lot more fastball velocity or life than Kennedy offers.

 Q:  Seth from Augusta, Ga asks:
Matt, thanks for the chat. What's your evaluation of Brandon Jones? Can he be a productive regular out in LF for the Braves?

Matt Eddy: Not the biggest fan, frankly. If he's your third-best OF option, then that's fine. Just seems like you're going to need a thumper on the other OF corner to support Jones' line-drive bat. But hey, he's got a classic lefty swing and he's entering his physical prime, so maybe he's got another level he can reach. Stranger things have happened.

 Q:  Chris from Atlanta asks:
Just curious, why was Jay Bruce even considered for this list? He made his MLB debut at the end of May and only got 175 ABs in the minors and 450 in the majors? How does BA decide who get ranked and who is ineligible? Thanks!

Matt Eddy: If a player enters the season with prospect eligibility, then he's eligible for our league Top 20 lists, i.e. he has to be in the 2008 Prospect Handbook (or eligible for it anyway). Think of this way: Bruce played in the IL as a prospect; therefore, he should qualify for this list.

 Q:  Aaron from Media, PA asks:
What did you think of Reid Brignac's development this year? Will his power continue to develop? Do you see him being more than a league average shortstop?

Matt Eddy: To your last two questions: yes and yes. It's the reason we ranked a player with a sub-.300 OBP at No. 4. It's just going to take a little longer for Brignac's bat to develop than we previously thought. After his strong '06 season in the Cal League, he appeared to be on the fast track because of his offensive potential. Turns out, it's his glove that will get him to the big leagues, after which his bat will catch up.

Matt Eddy: Keep in mind that before he went up to St. Petersburg, Brignac was leading the IL in doubles. The power is there, and it will only grow.

 Q:  Doug from NY asks:
Can Brett Gardner be anything more than a 4th OF for the Yankees

Matt Eddy: It would seem to be the role he was born to play, but if you surround him with enough big bats, you could get away with Gardner as your starting CF.

 Q:  Zach from St. Augustine, FL asks:
How close were any Orioles hands to making it on the list? I know we don't have much talent at Norfolk, but were there any in the top 50 even? I think Liz qualifies, more than 48 IP.

Matt Eddy: Liz was Norfolk's top talent, yes, with 3Bs Mike Costanzo and Scott Moore also receiving consideration. Harbor Park is the most run-supressing environment in Triple-A, so evaluating Norfolk hitters always presents a challenge.

Matt Eddy: Interestingly, Costanzo garnered more attention for his defensive play and strong throwing arm than he did for his (power) hitting.

 Q:  dan from denver asks:
what will the pirates do at third base next year since andy laroche dropped a deuce in his latest big league audition? do you think their starting third baseman will be laroche, bautista or walker? thanks

Matt Eddy: We can say with certainty that it won't be Jose Bautista, because he was traded to the Blue Jays in August. Seriously, though, I would not rule out Walker as Pirates' 3B for the second half of next season. I'm admittedly the low man on LaRoche around these parts, and after a .152/.227/.232 showing in 49 games for Pittsburgh, I'm sure a lot of Pirates fans are in the same boat. I know batting average isn't everything, but LaRoche is now batting .184 in 316 career big league at-bats. Combine that with a spotty injury history and mediocre performance outside of hitter's haven Las Vegas, and I think he's far from entrenched at third base.

Matt Eddy: But if Pedro Alvarez, the No. 2 overall pick in June, sticks at third base, both LaRoche and Walker will need to find new positions or new organizations.

 Q:  jmoultz from Chicago, IL asks:
Thanks for taking our questions today, Matt. What kind of ceiling do you see for Purcey, Happ and Humber?

Matt Eddy: Last question. All three guys could fit as back-end starters or late-inning relievers. Humber and Purcey are more power-oriented, while Happ relies on command and deception.

Moderator: Thanks for all the great questions.