League Top 20 Prospects

Northwest League Top 20 Prospects Chat With Conor Glassey

Conor Glassey: Hey everybody! Thanks for reading Baseball America and submitting many great questions to our Northwest League chat. I'm drinking some coffee and listening to my favorite band from Seattle (my favorite band from anywhere, actually) Gatsby's American Dream, so I'm ready to go!

    JAYPERS (IL): Did Rashun Dixon get any consideration for this list? What are scouts telling you about him?

Conor Glassey: Yeah, Dixon did get some consideration. He had a great season in the AZL last year, but really struggled in the NWL Still, it's a fast league for a guy that only turned 19 late in the year. Dixon is a great athlete who was also recruited as a wide receiver, but still needs a lot of polish as a prospect. Dixon is very athletic and looks the part, though he's just an average runner in the outfield (with an arm that limits him to left) and is below average from home to first because of a big swing. He has big raw power, but was exposed against breaking balls this year, which would help explain his .214/.300/.281 line. Actually, the Vancouver outfielder who received more support (and was a very late cut from the list) was center fielder Tyreace House. His .291/.365/.306 line is one of the stranger ones you'll see (of his 57 hits, 54 were singles and 3 were doubles). Another former football recruit, House is also a supreme athlete that is at least a 70 runner and a well-above average defender in center field. The arm is fringy and he's still learning how to put the ball in play more often to utilize his wheels, but he's a guy to keep an eye on.

    Navin (Pasadena, CA): Conor, thank you very much for answering questions. I loved seeing 3 Cubs in the top 20 but I was wondering if LHP Jeffry Antigua was on the radar. He is only 19 and did very well during his stint at Boise (2.30 ERA and 35 Ks in 31.1 innings) before getting promoted to Peoria and doing well there too.

Conor Glassey: Thanks, Navin. You're right, Antigua had a good season, but didn't garner a lot of support for the list. His fastball sits in the 89-91 mph range, he has a slider that's tough on lefties and a changeup. His fastball has a lot of movement and he's able to throw his secondary pitches for strikes. Boise manager Casey Kopitzke said he liked Antigua the best out of the Hawks other arms this year (Hernandez, Nunez & Gonzalez).

    Brad (San Diego): How does Charlie Ruiz not make this list? He lead the league in saves and was dominant all year

Conor Glassey: For me, minor league relievers (especially in short-season leagues) really have to jump off the page to merit consideration in a Top 20 and leading the Northwest League in saves really isn't a big deal. Just ask previous leaders like Jose Guzman, Daniel Otero, Juan Trinidan and Brian Anderson. That said, Ruiz (a 10th-round pick this year out of Long Beach State) is interesting. His fastball's only 88-90, but he throws a nasty splitter that is "pretty much unhittable," as his manager put it. He can control the pitch and throw it for strikes too, which is why he struck out 46 guys over 32 innings.

    Bill (Tempe, AZ): Conor, thanks for the chat. Edinson Rincon didn't get a single mention from managers when I did the 2008 AZL prospect list, but now he's #2 in the NWL. To what do you attribute the big improvement from one year to the next?

    John (San Diego): Is there any chance the Padres could move Rincon to catcher or right field because of his arm?

Conor Glassey: Hey, Bill. Good to hear from you. Rincon probably flew under the radar last year because he only got 65 at-bats in the AZL. He hit for a good average (.308) and got on base (.429), but didn't show the power he displayed this year with Eugene, which helped him stand out this year too.

John, I actually asked about him moving to catcher because of his build and his arm, but it sounds like it's out of the question because he doesn't have the mobility or quickness necessary to play back there. Right field could be an option - that probably should have said corner outfield instead of left field. But, as one scout put it: "I don't care where he plays, because he's going to hit."

    John (Salt Lake City, Utah): Did Evan Crawford qualify for the top 20? If so, did he get consideration? He had a higher slugging % than his teammate Dominguez and a much higher OPS, plus he's an extremely athletic leadoff-type CF, which every team is looking for.

Conor Glassey: Crawford did qualify and got some consideration, though he's more in the 20-30 range. I grew up in the Northwest and got to see an AquaSox/Volcanoes game this summer when I went home for a friend's wedding and Crawford was a lot of fun to watch. He's extremely fast and when I saw him, he laced a line drive to right field that literally went through one of the tiles in the hand-operated scoreboard for a ground-rule double. I've never seen that before, though it must have happened before because one of the other tiles had a hole in it as well. Crawford played some second base at Indiana, so he's still adjusting to the outfield and learning how to read balls off the bat. His arm isn't an asset out there, but it's getting better. Offensively, the Giants are working with him on his approach at the plate´┐Żworking on his bunting and keeping the ball on the ground to put his speed to use.

    JAYPERS (IL): Had Stassi played enough to qualify, about where would you have ranked him? Did the A's get a steal in your eyes?

Conor Glassey: Stassi certainly would have ranked if he had enough PAs to qualify and probably would have been in the 5-10 range. He's a good player, though it's hard to say he was a "steal" because the A's still paid him $1.5 million.

    Ryan (Boise): Who are the top guys that either signed late or didn't qualify that would have pushed some of these guys from this list if they were here for full season?

Conor Glassey: Hey, Ryan. I'd be in favor of an earlier signing deadline simply because it would make doing rookie and short-season lists a lot more fun! Some of the guys that didn't qualify and likely would have ranked include: Stassi, who I touched on earlier, Everett shortstop Nick Franklin, Eugene outfielder Everett Williams & Eugene righthanders Keyvius Sampson & Jorge Reyes.

Those guys all fell quite a ways short of qualifying, but one pitcher that would have ranked prominently that was just 2 appearances short of making the cut was Tri-City lefthander Rex Brothers, who got glowing reviews from those that saw him. Brothers was sitting 95-97 with a nasty slider that one scout ranked as a 70 on the 20-80 scale. If the Rockies keep him in the bullpen, he could move very quickly. In fact, Tri-City manager Freddie Ocasio said, "The first time I saw him pitch here, I said, 'This guy could pitch in the big leagues right now.'"

    Ben (Dallas): What separates Tommy Mendonca at 11 and Chris Dominguez at 13? Slightly better approach, more willingness to work on his game, or something else?

Conor Glassey: They're similar, in that they're both big power/big strikeout third basemen. What puts Mendonca ahead for me is that he bats lefthanded and is a better defender.

    Jon (Peoria): Hi Conor: How would you rank Lee among the Cubs' middle infield prospects (Castro, Flaherty, Lake, Watkins)? In particular, how does Lee compare with Castro?

Conor Glassey: Obviously I think Lee is better than Watkins. I like Lee better than Flaherty too because Lee is a legitimate shortstop. Overall, I think I would rank them: Castro-Lee-Flaherty-Watkins. Lee might be the best singer though! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e0stmK3oCdg

    Justin (Nashville): So are the Cubs justified in taking Brett Jackson over Tim Wheeler at this point? I know a lot of Cubs fans didn't like the Jackson pick because of his strikeouts.

Conor Glassey: Sure, I think so. In hindsight it looks like we were a little too high on Wheeler and a little too low on Jackson. The strikeouts were a big concern, but maybe (and this is pure speculation) he was swinging harder to try and impress scouts and once he got into pro ball he let out a big sigh of relief and calmed down at the plate. After all, his strikeout rate doubled from his sophomore year to his junior year.

Jackson is a better runner, defender and might hit for a better average. Wheeler profiles for more power, but might fill out to the point that he'll have to move to a corner spot.

    Jerry (Long Island, NY): Hey Conor, The Mariners had a lot of talent at Everett this year. How close were LHP Jose Rios, RHP Nick Czyz, CF Matt Cerione and LF Ryan Royster to making the list?

    Jerry (Long Island, NY): Conor, Where would M's SS prospect Nick Franklin rank on this list if he had been eligible? What do scouts think about him in terms of skills and ceiling?

Conor Glassey: Hi Jerry. Rios, Czyz and Royster didn't get any support and none of them are considered prospects. Cerione showed some tools and a good understanding of the strike zone. He looks like a great pick for the Mariners in the 13th round. Another AquaSox player to keep in the back of your mind is South African shortstop Anthony Phillips. His approach at the plate is terrible (he swings at everything), but he did show a little bit of pop in batting practice and his defense is exceptional. Frogs manager John Tamargo said he's already a major-league quality defender at shortstop. Despite this being his third pro year, he was only 19 in the league this year.

As for Franklin, I talked to Everett's manager before he was called up, so I can't give a more up-to-date report on him, though I did see him in high school and liked what I saw. (Here's a link to what I wrote on him after seeing him in a Florida HS all-star game about 2 weeks before the draft: http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/2009/baseball/mlb/06/01/prospects.florida/index.html). Like Stassi, he probably would have fallen in the 5-10 range if he qualified.

    phil (Scottsdale Stadium): What kept Jorge Bucardo from cracking the top 20?

Conor Glassey: Fringey stuff. He's does a lot of things you want a pitcher to do: works fast, throws strikes, controls the running game, gets groundballs and fields his position well. But he throws sidearm, so it's tough to project him as more than a long man or middle reliever.

    matt (philly): Were the hitters in the NWL that good, or were the pitchers that bad?

Conor Glassey: Many managers said it was a down year for pitchers.

    Paul (St. Pete FL): Did Kent Matthes get any votes and did he impress managers and scouts?

Conor Glassey: Not really. Matthes started off hot, but faded later in the year as he tired out. He shows above-average power and plays a good right field, but needs to cut down on his strikeouts and slow down his at-bats.

    Tim (NorthSideBaseball): Watkins was originally selected as a shortstop. Do you think he could still play there and was moved for Lee, or does he not have the tools for SS?

Conor Glassey: Watkins played hard at instructs to improve his defense. While he did improve his range and footwork, he still profiles as more of a second baseman.

    Brian (SD): Any opinion on Vincent Belnome?

Conor Glassey: Belnome, a 22nd-round pick this year out of West Virginia, was a pleasant surprise for Eugene. He has a selective approach at the plate and led the league with 52 walks. His manager said he's a pure hitter with a swing that's built the other way. "Most guys are all middle-in hitters and you can get them out by throwing to the other side of the plate," Eugene manager Greg Riddoch said. "That takes maybe a year for kids to develop and learn how to do that. He came with that already built in, but he can also pull it. He hit 10 home runs here—five over the left field wall and five over the right field wall."

Belnome worked hard to improve his range, but he has a stocky body and didn't show the speed you'd like out of an up-the-middle guy.

    Mike R (Lockport,New York): What did mgrs and scouts say about Matt Thompson ? It appeared he improved over the course of the season, especially control. I also read he was throwing at 92mph at end of season.

Conor Glassey: You're right that he was better later in the year. His manager said Thompson was phenomenal his last three or four starts. I had him as 88-91 with his fastball, but it's possible that he was touching 92. He uses his fastball a lot and is able to pitch to both sides of the plate. He also has a good slider and a changeup with a clean delivery.

    Chuck (Wichita): Drew Biery was one of my favorite players during K-State's breakthrough year. Can he become a legitimate prospect? Thanks.

Conor Glassey: It was a great summer for Biery. He got drafted, put up great numbers in the Northwest League and got married. His numbers were so good, in fact, that teammates called him "Biery Bonds." But, he's a 22nd-round senior sign, so he's a guy that's going to have to prove it every year. He's a strong, grinder type, but doesn't have any standout tools.

    Fred (Ohio): How close was Nate Freiman to making this list? He put up really good power numbers in the NWL which is nice to see in such a big guy.

Conor Glassey: Nate Freiman wins the award for most questions in the queue. Didn't realize that guy had such a fan club! But no, he didn't come close. He's a huge guy with big-time raw power, but the bat's slow and he's limited to first base.

    Mikey (Vista, California): What Chris Fetter close to making the list or did he just not log enough innings?

Conor Glassey: He did have enough innings and he was a late bump from the Top 20. He sure dominated the league, but that's what he should have done given his experience. Fetter pitches in the low 90s and commands three pitches. He has the stuff and delivery to work as a starter, but could move quickly as a reliever and help the Padres continue to have the tallest bullpen in baseball.

    Michael (Provo, UT): When he was drafted, most scouts I read thought Matt Davidson would eventually move to first base. I take it from your article that he'll probably be able to stay at third base? How much more value would that give him as a prospect? And is Davidson increasing bat speed by developing more of a quick-twitch swing possible, or are some people simply not born with the muscle fibers it takes? Thanks.

Conor Glassey: Yeah, that seemed to be the consensus, but even though he improved defensively it's not out of the question that he'll be able to stay there long term. He could still have to move across if he fills out. You can increase bat speed, but quick-twitch actions are something you either have or don't.

    Ben (Dallas): Miguel Velazquez... What do you expect to see out of him next year? Is he arguably the best OF in the Ranger's system?

Conor Glassey: He's probably in the discussion. Despite having one of the best systems in baseball, the Rangers don't have many outfield prospects.

    Joe LeCates (Easton, MD): Hey Conor, thank you for the chat. With Davidson's defense taking a step forward this year, do you think his offense suffered at all from spending a lot of time working with the glove? Could he take a nice step forward next year with the bat?

Conor Glassey: Well, he better not take a step back with the bat! I think the problem for Davidson offensively was that he was one of the youngest players in the league—well below the average age—and was pounded with off-speed stuff. Even coming from Southern California, it's a big jump from high school to a short-season league.

    Joseph Wall (Fort Worth): Thanks for the chat Connor. I know the stats were ugly, but I curious what you heard about Geuris Grullon...I've read some local writers rave about his stuff.

Conor Glassey: Here's the quick-and-dirty on Grullon: Lots of strikeouts, but lots of walks too. Nice body, loose arm, fastball is 88-91 with good movement, slider is pretty good and changeup is a work in progress.

    Doug (Utah): What is Robbie Ross' ceiling? Mid-rotation starter? Bullpen? Better than either of those?

Conor Glassey: I think mid-rotation starter is safe, though he'll have to get stronger and show he can pitch 150+ innings.

    Katie (Chicago!): Can players qualify in two leagues if they split time?

Conor Glassey: Yes.

    robert (cola sc): Hey conor. thanks for the chat. Ryan Wheeler put up good offensive numbers. IS he a legit 1b prospect in the majors or were his numbers inflated by his age?

Conor Glassey: He sounds legit. Wheeler was the first name out of managers' mouths when they started talking about other players in the league. Looks like the D-Backs got a steal in the fifth round.

    Dan (Colorado): Is there an "under-the radar" prospect that didnt make the list that you like?

Conor Glassey: Here are a handful of deep sleepers before I peace out: Eugene catcher Emmanuel Quiles, who needs to work on his bat, but was one of the younger players in the league and was regarded as the best catch-and-throw guy; two Spokane relievers—Justin Miller, who was 89-91 last year but was up to 95 this year with a plus slider and Reiner Bermudez, a tiny Cuban that was 92-96 with a hard, 77-80 mph curveball; Vancouver outfielder Jose Crisotomo and Boise outfielder Jose Valdez.

Conor Glassey: That's all for me, folks. Thank you for all the great questions. I tried to get to as many as I could. Stay tuned tomorrow for the Midwest League Top 20 list and a chat with Jim Callis.