League Top 20 Prospects

South Atlantic League Top 20 Prospects Chat

Matt Forman: Hey everyone, thanks for joining me for the South Atlantic League chat. I'll try to get to as many questions as I can. Let's get it started.

    JAYPERS (IL): Had Dan Hudson qualified, about where would you have ranked him? For that matter, has he played enough in ANY league to qualify for a Top 20 ranking?

Matt Forman: Thanks for the question, Jaypers. Hudson pitched 22 innings for Kannapolis and needed 46.1 to qualify. For any league Top 20, starting pitchers needed to hurl one-third of an inning per team game. That means for full season, 140-game leagues, they have to reach the 46.1 threshold. Had Hudson pitched that many innings in the Sally, he certainly would have been in consideration for the top three. It's hard to ignore what he was able to accomplish. Check back next week to see where Hudson qualifies in the Carolina League and Southern League top 20 lists.

    Ben (Leland Grove): Did Teheran not pitch enough to qualify? What would his placement on this list have been if he had?

Matt Forman: Julio Teheran missed the cut by about nine innings pitched. I saw Teheran pitch in Burlington earlier in the season when he took a no hitter late into a game against the Royals. He's still got to add a little polish, and I'm a little concerned about his arm stab considering the injury history is there, but the stuff is incredible. He held 94 into the eighth inning and has an uncanny feel for his changeup. Given that repertoire, I would have considered Teheran in the top five of the Sally list.

    the fish (Syndey, Australia): I know he's an older reliever, the red flag for any minor league prospect junky- but did anyone mention BJ Rosenberg as a prospect? Great year, apparently great stuff as well.

Matt Forman: Thanks for the question. Managers throughout the league said they were surprised Rosenberg lasted so long in the Sally League. Of course, by the end of the season he was up to Double-A Reading. It's pretty incredible that he didn't allow a run from the end of May until August. I saw Rosenberg pitch at the World Cup exhibition games against Canada. Though he struggled to get outs, Rosenberg sat 92-95 mph with his fastball and mixed in a 83-85 slider. He also throws a splitting changeup, but doesn't throw it that often. Rosenberg really benefited from being able to repeat his delivery this year. He used to fall off severely to the first base side, but a fix in his motion made all the difference in the world. He has big pitchers legs and a strong lower half. He was voted as the league's best reliever for a reason, and it wouldn't surprise me if he could be helping the Phillies as early as next year.

    Brett (The ILL): What was said about Anthony Rizzo? I have to say I'm shocked he didn't make the list.

Matt Forman: Rizzo's name definitely came up in talking to managers and scouts about the league. He has a classic lefthanded swing, though he doesn't always pull the ball. Rizzo prefers to work the center of the field and go pole-to-pole. He has power in his bat, though he doesn't always try to muscle the ball. His barrel stays in the zone a long time, though that means his swing tends to get long at times. He's a plus defender, and I even had some people tell me that he could play above-average first base in the bigs right now. Rizzo has good glovework and footwork around the bag. The biggest thing managers commented on was his body � he did a great job of getting into shape after chemotherapy, and one manager said he's shaped like an NFL tight end. If you're asking me in the long run, I would take Rizzo over Lars Anderson, but that's just a personal preference. The knock on him is that he really needs to turn on pitches better and drive the ball. He's a solid all-around player.

    Reese (Pittsburgh): Please explain how Melky Mesa made this list.

Matt Forman: There are red flags in Mesa's high strikeout rate, no doubt. But managers and scouts alike were quick to point Mesa out as the Sally's most exciting player. When asking Northern division managers what one player stuck out from the Southern division, Mesa was a near unanimous selection. In fact, I had at least four managers put Mesa in their top three prospects for the entire league. He's a legitimate four-tool player. He has a Howitzer for an arm. He runs above average. He hits for power. And he covers a lot of ground in the outfield. Of course, he's going to have to fix the swing-and-miss problem. Given the raw talent and the 51 extra-base hits, I had several Alfonso Soriano comparisons for Mesa. It made sense to slot him in the back end of the list for those reasons.

    Fred (Ohio): No love for Starling Marte? How close was he to making this list and how good do you think he can be?

Matt Forman: Thanks for the question, Fred. You're not alone in asking about Starling Marte, and for good reason. Marte was just on the cusp of making the list. I actually had him slotted in the preliminary top 20 list that I put together, but through late additions and modifications, he was bumped off. Marte is a plus-plus runner with a very good arm. Defensively, he's a solid player, but one manager had this to say about his defense — "He makes some plays where you say 'Wow,' but then you look and see that he's got 800 errors, so you back off." The numbers say he only had seven errors. At this point, Marte needs a little more mileage. He's still learning pitch recognition and plate discipline, though he did put up solid numbers.

    jose (san diego): Its obvious casey kelly has a brighter future on the mound (he made it to the future's game) but loves ss still. should the red sox let him start out at ss first next year and if he doesnt make the future's game as a ss then use that as leverage showing he should focus on pitching from that point on? where do you think his higher potential is and which would boston most need from him?

Matt Forman: That's an interesting suggestion, Jose. I agree with you. The Red Sox want Kelly to realize that his future is in pitching, but Kelly isn't ready to see it that way. I saw Kelly play against Lakewood in the Sally Championship series, and I wasn't impressed with him offensively. He moves around a lot at the plate, has a weak front side finish and has a weird wrap finish around his shoulder. It almost seemed like he's a bit defensive at the plate, trying to dump the ball into right field. He did make several nice plays in the field, including one soft dribbler that he barehanded and threw across his body to nail the runner by a half-step. If you're asking me, I wouldn't risk playing him at shortstop any more. The next time he makes a play like the one I just described, what happens if he slips or does something to his arm? He's just too valuable of a pitching prospect. I was impressed with his ability to mix in the two-seam fastball and induce groundballs, not always going for the strikeout and enabling him to stay in the game for a longer period. Just as a side note, he is listed as a SS on the AFL rosters.

    Andy Depper (Bellingham, WA): Great work, Matt! Are these lists based more on potential or success in the leagues? Also, how many of these guys do you envision ending up in BA's Top 100 list?

Matt Forman: These rankings are based both on long-term potential and Sally success, though a little more emphasis is put on potential. It's hard to say exactly how many of these players would make next year's Top 100 list right now. Taking a stab at it, I might guess somewhere between six and eight players will be featured on it.

    Peanut (Georgetown): What's the general consensus on Ross Seaton right now?

Matt Forman: Peanut, thanks for asking about Ross Seaton. You're among the many who wonder where he fell on the list and why he didn't make it. On my original Sally list, I ranked Seaton somewhere in or around the 15th spot. After seeing him pitch in Greensboro and talking to several scouts, I was very underwhelmed with what I saw. His velocity was lower than the reported 92-94 when I saw him. He didn't overpower hitters, just pitched to contact and left the ball over the plate. One manager went as far to say this: "I'm shocked that his name keeps coming up. It's one of those things where you don't say anything if you can't say anything nice about him. He plays with 20-foot high grass and gets a lot of ground balls." Though I wouldn't go that far, I'm on the same wavelength. He's more of a control, sinker-slider guy who commands the zone and throws strikes. If you're looking for something positive to take away about Seaton, I did get two Orel Hershiser comps on him, for what they're worth. Seaton's got the chance to throw a lot of innings and be an innings eater in the rotation.

    Mike (Lynchburg, VA): Thanks for the chat! How high would you rank Martin Perez in your personal top 100 overall prospects? Will he remain a starter?

Matt Forman: I have to think Martin Perez will rank prominently in next year's top 100 overall prospects. I would have to give it more extensive thought for an exact placement, but I would put Perez in my top 20. Perez profiles as a starter and I think he'll remain in the rotation. Perez was considered for our midseason top 25 prospects (http://www.baseballamerica.com/blog/prospects/?p=5456), but just missed the list.

    Sal (Evanston): What's up Matt? So what did you see at Lakewood this year? Who should Phillies fans be most excited about, Trevor May? Travis d'Arnaud? Troy Hanzawa?

Matt Forman: There have been several questions about Chase and Travis D'Arnaud, so I'll address that question here, as well as what Phillies get me most excited. I was extremely impressed with the way Travis moved behind the plate against Greenville in the playoffs. He called the entire game himself, and even got respect on what pitches to throw in what counts from rehabbing major leaguer Clay Condrey. He moves with the pitch and does a good job of framing pitches, especially on the outer half, thanks to his strong hands and forearms. Drops down to a knee on lower pitches to get a call. Quiet receiver. Also keeps the ball in front of him well, blocking everything in the dirt. Has a very strong, accurate arm. Several times he blocked a pitch in the dirt and threw a runner out trying to get the extra base. On straight steals he has a tendency to stand up out of his crouch as opposed to exploding toward second base. Offensively he has a slightly closed stance and uses his strong hands to his advantage. When he's ahead in the count, he really looks to drive the ball. He smacked a 1-0 91 mph fastball off the right field fence for a double. When he's behind in the count, looks to dump the ball in front of the right fielder. He has a very advanced approach for a young hitter. As for why he ranked ahead of his brother, I have to say it was a close call. Chase was very close to making the list. I don't think he's going to play shortstop in the long run, he profiles more as a second baseman for me. Catcher is a premium position, and I think Travis' numbers were a little skewed by the ballpark he was playing in. Other Phillies to get excited about? Gose, who ranked highly on this list, impressed me with leadoff homerun in the same game against Greenville. If you're looking for a sleeper pick, maybe Harold Garcia. He plays a good defensive second base and will be a big league utility guy someday.

    Ben (Dallas): Who was considered #21-25?

Matt Forman: I must say, putting this list together wasn't easy given the talent across the board. There were guys who were just on the outside looking in that made me want to do a league top 30 list. Here are some other names that I considered � Starling Marte, Ehire Adrianza, Jefry Marte, Jeurys Familia, Stolmy Pimentel, Ross Seaton, Randall Delgado, J.J. Hoover, Zeke Spruill, Chase D'Arnaud, Jordan Pacheco and Wilmer Font, among other players.

    PT (NH): LF or 1B for Tim Beckham? That seems to indicate someone thinks he could lose all of his athleticism. I can't think of a single SS people thought would end up at 1B.

Matt Forman: You make a good point. I spoke to Beckham after a game in Greensboro earlier this year, and he told me that he came into the season at 207 pounds, significantly heavier than his listed weight of 190 pounds. By the end of the season, he was back down to 195. He said he really worked in the offseason to improve his lower-half strength. Scouts and managers alike thought Beckham just moved slowly on the field with heavy legs and heavy feet. He didn't have that same pep in his step. I don't think there are too many people out there who are questioning his hit tool. I saw him square up a few offspeed pitches and he should grow into his power. Given his struggles at shortstop this year, and the way his body is starting to fill in, I find it hard to believe he's going to stay there. With Evan Longoria holding down third for the foreseeable future in Tampa, that's not much of an option. That's why left field or first base seem like the most reasonable options at this point.

    JAYPERS (IL): Who do you see being the Nats' everyday catcher in five years' time — Norris or Bryce Harper?

Matt Forman: Interesting question. All indications say that Norris is going to be able to stay behind the plate. He's still a bit of a "boxer" behind the plate, but he has worked hard to stay at the position. So much can happen between now and next year's draft, so I don't want to commit to Harper just yet. Catcher is a premium position, but after seeing the job Harper did in the outfield at Tournament of Stars, I'm not so sure I would risk his future in putting on the tools of ignorance. He's got the arm and athletic ability to play right field, and I wouldn't rule that out of the equation. To answer your question, I'll go with Derek Norris.

    Gondeee (Atlanta): No Braves prospects? Not even Adam Milligan? Or J.J. Hoover, or one of the Delgados?

Matt Forman: If I could have ranked a 21st player, it would have been Randall Delgado. Managers and scouts love his explosive fastball, which some had up to 96 mph this year. The biggest question marks were about his secondary stuff and his command. He's got excellent deception out of his high three-quarters arm slot, and a nice projectable frame. I can see why people would have expected him to make the list, especially considering he's 19 years old. Milligan put together a solid year. Most people seem to like hit hit tool, but question how it will translate how he moves up the latter. Next year will be a big year for him.

    Grant (New York): Any consideration for Will Middlebrooks?

Matt Forman: Middlebrooks did get some consideration. He struggled a bit earlier on in the year with the injury, but came on strong toward the end of the season. Really, the most likable thing about Middlebrooks is his body. He's got a prototypical corner infielder's frame. A few managers said that he looks like Ryan Zimmerman at the hot corner because of his build and defensive ability � he has smooth actions, nice hands. At this point, Middlebrooks struggles with offspeed pitches. He has fast hands at the plate, but needs to work on pitch recognition.

    SteveB (Philly): A lot of the attributes mentioned for Anthony Gose normally get associated with older players (getting out of slumps, uber confidence, etc.) He's still very young. With his physical tools what do you see as his upside/comparable player?

Matt Forman: Since I didn't go into detail about Gose earlier, I will now... I saw Gose hit a leadoff home run on an 89 mph fastball. He turned on the up-and-in pitch and ripped it over the tall 20-foot high wall in right center field. Still, Gose is a bit of a free-swinger at the plate and needs to tone down his approach. He chases the high fastball and breaking ball in the dirt. He can play the small ball game, but doesn't do it enough. Often times, he chooses to slap the ball around or bunt only when he wants to break out of a slump. He's a hard-nosed player who doesn't wear batting gloves. His plus-plus speed translates well into the outfield, and he tracks balls down that don't look catchable. He's got a sixth, or seventh, gear that very few players have. Some managers said he could play an above average center field in the bigs today. Right now, Gose is a legitimate four-tool player, and has the potential to grow into his power as he fills out. The only comparison I got on Gose was Carl Crawford, a top-of-the-order guy with some pop in his bat and incredible speed.

    Fred (Ohio): How much power do you project for Wilmer Flores? Thanks!

Matt Forman: Flores is such a young hitter that it's hard to project exactly where he'll be down the line. Though his power numbers weren't great this year, one scout I talked to said he thinks Flores can be a .275 hitter with 20-25 home runs and lots of doubles. Given how often he puts the bat on the ball, I'd like to think those numbers will come true as he ages, but I don't think he's going to put up Miguel Cabrera-type numbers as some have suggested. To me, those comparisons are more based on body type, his big hips and legs.

    Katie (Baltimore): Did Jefry Marte get consideration for this list? Your thoughts on him?

Matt Forman: Jefry made a nice turnaround in the second half of the season, though he slipped a little bit in August. As one manager said, "He wasn't just struggling early on, he was really, really struggling. Hitting .190 is struggling a lot." After the first two months, Marte made a switch to stay more inside of the baseball and lay off the breaking itch. He has legitimate power, giving him the ability to hit it long and far. Still, Marte is a bit of a free-swinger. In batting practice he shows that he can use the whole field, though he doesn't really understand how or why it happens. The errors that he made were a good mix of fielding and throwing, but most of them were routine plays. Marte flashes the ability to make the spectacular play, but loses concentration some times on the easier one. His speed and range are average, but he has a strong arm for third base. Marte did warrant some conversation for the list.

    Allan (Champagne, IL): What is the report on Sean Ratliff? I see lots of K's. but good power potential for a weak prospect position for the Mets.

Matt Forman: As manager Edgar Alfonzo put it, "He has tremendous power, better-than-raw power power." Alfonzo projected Ratliff to be a .250 hitter in the big leagues with a good number of home runs. He had a good number of extra-base hits for the ballpark he was playing in. As you would expect from a Stanford guy, Ratliff has a high baseball IQ and understands the game. In the future he'll likely play left field, not center. Alfonzo added, "Some people consider this guy to be a sleeper, but he's not to me. He'll be a big name guy next year."

    Brian Daniels (at my desk): Matt, Did Wilmer Font get any considerations for the top 20? Also, Andrew Brackman's regression or lack of progression if you will, seems to be a big thorn in the Yankee's side. Do you see him moving to the bullpen due to his large contract amount and his MLB deal to expedite him to the majors?

Matt Forman: Hey Brian, Font certainly did get consideration for the top 20. Managers around the league weren't as high on him as I expected them to be, though. Brackman is an interesting case. Velocity wise, some scouts have had him up to 96, whereas others say he's sitting in the upper-80s. His biggest problem is inconsistency. Once he can repeat his delivery consistently, pump the zone consistently, I think he can still be an effective pitcher, and others agreed. The walks are scary, for sure. His arm and body give him a tremendous upside. As one manager said, though: "If he does figure things out, he's great. If he doesn't, there's no room for him anywhere. What does that get you? A big guy with a big arm." You might be right about the move to the bullpen to expedite his track to the big leagues, but money aside, it might be wise to hold him back and work on the finer things.

Matt Forman: Thanks everyone for joining in, I appreciate all of the questions. Please check back Monday afternoon for our California League Top 20 prospects. Hope everyone has a good weekend.