League Top 20 Prospects

Carolina League Top 20 Prospects Chat With Ben Badler

Ben Badler: I'm a little under the weather today, but that's nothing a hyperdose of zinc, Vitamin C and suck-it-up-and-deal can't fix. The questions and e-mails are already piling up so let's get going.

    Matt (Minnesota): Did Johnny Giavotella get any consideration. His stats weren't as good as I expected of him this year. Did his tools regress? How does he project?

Ben Badler: Yeah, Giavotella was a guy I liked as a sleeper coming into the year, but the scouts I spoke with this year had a lot of questions about him. Giavotella's strike-zone discipline is his best attribute and he has a short, compact swing (then again it's hard to get too long with your swing when you're 5-foot-8). He does some things well, but he's already close to maxed out physically and his fielding at second base is fringy, and the bat really doesn't project well enough to play another position. I still like him as a sleeper, but the defense is going to have to really take a step forward.

    Bryan (San Francisco): Maybe it's splitting hairs, but what pushed a guy like D'Arnaud that much higher than a guy like Morel? Morel had more power and speed, and was also a higher draft pick. Also, does Morel have a chance with Viciedo in his way at third? Thanks for the chat!

Ben Badler: D'Arnaud doesn't have Morel's power, but he gets himself into better hitters' counts, does a better job of getting on base and has a chance to play a more valuable defensive position. There's also something funky about Morel's splits. He was much, much better at home than on the road and hit significantly worse against RHPs than vs. LHPs. I don't look too much into single-season split data, but I do think that Morel benefited from his home park. But I think ultimately the White Sox will have to move Viciedo to first base, which would clear some room for Morel on the depth chart.

    Matt (Jefferson City MO): Why didn't Chris Marrero make this list, and what are your thoughts on his season?

Ben Badler: Marrero is limited to first base, doesn't play the position well and it's not clear that his hitting is going to be good enough to carry him at a position with such high offensive demands. He's an open strider who steps in the bucket, which is a problem the Nationals have been working on him with for a while now. That leaves him susceptible on the outer half, and because of his long arms his swing gets long too, which creates more holes in his swing. I've also had scouts tell me he looks vulnerable against offspeed pitching. He can get away with that in A-ball, but that's a ton of red flags for a player whose value is tied solely to his ability to mash.

    Ben (Leland Grove): When next year do you see Jason Heyward coming up to Atlanta?

Ben Badler: I imagine Bobby Cox will want him there to start the season, but I think he'll spend at least a month or two in Triple-A.

    Ed (Orange, CA): Cody Johnson had another huge power year. Will he ever be a top prospect?

Ben Badler: The raw power is great, but he has a swing-for-the-fences approach with a lot of holes in his swing, and he needs a lot of work to improve defensively in left field as well. Johnson struck out in one third of his trips to the plate, which is an astonishingly high rate. At the major league level, striking out 200 times in a season isn't bad if you can make up for it by drawing a lot of walks and hitting for a ton of power, but a player with that strikeout rate against A-ball pitchers is more indicative of a player who is going to struggle once he reaches higher levels of baseball.

    Michael (NY, NY): What is one guy you originally thought was sure to make the list who got left off, and why was he left off?

Ben Badler: White Sox reliever Nathan Jones was a last-minute cut, but he has outstanding arm strength. His fastball ranges from 94-98 mph, while some people have seen him sitting at 96-98. So that's always going to give him a chance, but he's more of a thrower than a pitcher right now. The command needs work, his breaking ball is a power pitch in the low- to mid-80s but still gets slurvy, and doesn't have much deception, which is one reason why his strikeout rate isn't as high as you might expect for a guy who can pump it into the high-90s.

    Fred (Ohio): Hi- How much power do you see Freddie Freeman developing? 20-25 hrs or more than that. Thanks!

Ben Badler: Most years probably 20-25, but I could see some 25-30 seasons in there, too. The raw power is there, it's just not showing up in games yet, and the wrist injury didn't do much to help him there either.

    Ian (Pittsburgh): How does Jordy Mercer compare with D'Arnaud? Who do you think is the better SS prospect?

Ben Badler: D'Arnaud's a better hitter with a better feel for the strike zone. He's more athletic than Mercer, although Mercer makes up for it in the field with his instincts and feel for how to position himself. The biggest separator though is D'Arnaud's a more advanced hitter with more talent for getting on base.

    Paul Purvis (California): I'm confused on how you determine your top 20? LHP Eric Berger who was with Kinston before being promoted to Akron at the time had better numbers than #11 Duffy & #15 Britton. G 21, GS 21, record 7-8, E.R.A. 2.45,IP 110, H 93, R 38, ER 30,HR 4, BB 45, SO 100, .227 avg. While pitching in his 8 losses the team scored a total of 3 runs so he could of easily been 12-3 and with 10 more inn. would have won the E.R.A. title.

Ben Badler: We don't rank players based on their contributions toward helping their minor league teams win games. We rank them based on our expectations of them at the major league level, which is a synthesis of their inputs (the quality of their pitches, delivery, command, etc.) and outputs (their performance records) to estimate their future talent levels. Berger was a good pitcher in the Carolina League and was crucial to Kinston's run prevention, but he doesn't project as well as guys like Duffy or Britton. Beger works at 89-91 with his fastball and touches 93 with a breaking ball that has its moments, but his offspeed stuff is inconsistent and his delivery has a lot of effort.

    Hoosiers (Hangout North): How close were the Frederick hitters - Angle, Florimon, Widlansky, especially Waring, to the top 20? Are these guys going to have to prove it at every level?

Ben Badler: Florimon and Waring had their supporters, probably Florimon more than anyone else because of his ability to play shortstop. He's lean, athletic, runs well, throws well and shows good actions in the field. The question is whether his hitting will translate to the higher levels, and that strikeout rate is a little higher than I'd like to see for a guy who doesn't hit for a lot of power.

    Hagan (Charleston, Illinois): How close was Bradley Meyers to making this list? I know 24 is on the older side for the Carolina League, but it looked like he had a breakout year.

Ben Badler: He's an older guy who succeeded in the league in spite of mostly fringy stuff because he has an advanced idea of how to pitch in that league. He'll throw an average fastball at 88-92 with decent command, but he's got a lot of deception which leads to more swings and misses than you'd expect with that velocity. The changeup is useable but the breaking ball isn't much of a weapon for him.

    Kyle (Kansas City, Mo): What does Mike Montgomery best project as? How quickly can he make it to the bigs if he lives up to the billing?

Ben Badler: Talking to scouts and measuring his performance record probably got me more excited about Montgomery than anyone else in this league. A lefty with a projectable frame who can touch 94, throws two potentially above-average secondary pitches, repeats a relatively clean delivery with good athleticism and has a good track record? That's a lot of points in his favor. Like any pitcher, he'll have to stay healthy, which is why I wouldn't put him over the big bats like Freeman, Chisenhall or Alvarez, but if he stays healthy he has a chance to be an above-average to well above-average starter in the big leagues.

    Virgil Dahl (Waterloo, Iowa 50702): Ben; Echinacea is also good for cutting short the duration of colds

Ben Badler: I'm not really on the Echinacea bandwagon, though I've never tried it so I won't knock it. My method's kept me going mostly cold-free for the last two to three years or so.

    Brad (MO): Was Hosmer the biggest disappointment in the league among scouts?

Ben Badler: Hosmer didn't play enough to qualify for the league, but mostly I just wonder why he was even in that league in the first place instead of playing the whole year in the Midwest League.

    Peter (NYC): Is Caleb Joseph a legit prospect? Did he get any consideration?

Ben Badler: He's a prospect, but he's not a guy who's going to jump out at you because of his tools. Pretty much every scout or manager I talked to about Joseph said the same thing: they weren't crazy about him the first time they saw him, but the more looks they got, the more impressed they became. There's some length and funkiness to his swing and a couple of scouts mentioned that his release times were a little slow, but he has some athleticism, has a good arm and does a lot of the little things well that managers love to see from a guy behind the plate.

    jared (Houston): Did Cory Gearrin get any consideration?

Ben Badler: A little bit, but it's tough for any reliever to make these lists. He's a sinker/slider/changeup guy who throws a lot of strikes, so I think he'll get a chance at a big league role down the line.

    Chuck (Wichita): Derrick Robinson had a great final month or so. Is there any hope that he turned a corner offensively and can become a Desmond Jennings type prospect?

Ben Badler: They're both athletic speedsters who play great defense in center field, but that's where the similarities end. Jennings is in a different offensive stratosphere from Robinson, and I wouldn't put much stock into a great August after he put up a .550 or so OPS through the season's first four months.

    Brad (MO): Anthony Rizzo didn't make the SAL top 20 and was #12 here, is that because the SAL had superior talent top to bottom or differences in opinion?

Ben Badler: The SAL has eight additional teams, which makes it more of a challenge for a player to rank in that league than in the Carolina League, but I also think reasonable minds can disagree about their forecasts of players who are anywhere from 5-10 years away from their peak.

    JR (Toronto): Are Chisenhall's early returns from AA scare you or is he just a slow starter?

Ben Badler: Not a big deal. He was fine in the playoffs, but even if he wasn't, 100 or so plate appearances isn't much to make a judgment from, and he's still well ahead of the curve for a 20-year-old. Everyone raved about his swing.

    Chuck (Wichita): All year we heard about what a poor hitters park Wilmington is and how that hurt Moustakas. So, should we expect a big year next year when he moves to the hitter friendly Texas League?

Ben Badler: The park did hurt Moustakas' numbers, but even with a park adjustment he should have performed much better than he did. If he learns patience and he learns how to be more of a complete hitter, his numbers should go up, but Double-A pitching is going to eat him alive if he doesn't learn more selectivity because there's not much value in a third baseman drawing 27 unintentional walks in a season. But played the whole season at 20 years old and I never had anyone question his swing or his power.

    Brad (MO): What did you hear from scouts that seperated Chisenhall from Moustakas?

Ben Badler: Chisenhall has a more advanced approach, better pitch recognition and does a better job of using the whole field than Moustakas. Some of those traits are interrelated, but on breaking balls from lefthanders that might tie up Moustakas, Chisenhall shows the ability and the hands to stay with the pitch and hit a line drive to the opposite field. It gives Chisenhall a big edge in the OBP department. Moustakas is young enough that a lot of scouts think that he can learn to be more patient, but Neil Walker would be one example of a guy who still has excellent power and doesn't strike out much but who has never learned a patient enough approach at the plate.

    Lana (St. Pete, FL): If the BA Top 100 list came out today, who would get your vote for # 1 — Heyward, Strasburg, or someone else?

Ben Badler: I'm leaning toward Heyward.

    Garrett (Pittsburgh): Bryan Morris has either been injured or put up horrendous numbers since being acquired as part of the package for Bay last year. Did he drop off that badly in such a sort time or is he simply working through injuries? I'm very curious how you view him now. Thanks

Ben Badler: The injuries have really set him back, and I never like to see pitchers with injuries and mechanical issues, which is the case with Morris. The stuff was inconsistent, fastball anywhere from 87-94, a curve and a slider that have their moments and a changeup that isn't quite up to snuff, but really the injuries have set him back quite a bit.

    rick (Evanston): Where would have Daniel Hudson finished? It certainly seems this guy is getting the shaft he apparently just fell short of qualifying for any top 20 list!

Ben Badler: He didn't pitch enough to qualify in the Carolina League, but he did pitch enough to qualify for Thursday's Southern League list. I'll leave you all in grand suspense until then.

    Nora (Birmingham): About how many steps back has Michael Burgess taken this season in your eyes?

Ben Badler: I wouldn't say his skills have regressed because he has made some progress, but he's another guy with outstanding raw power but enormous contact issues. The bat speed, power and arm strength still stand out, but he has a long swing and a free-swinging approach that leads to a lot of strikeouts and prevents him from getting in good hitters' counts. That caught up to him this year, and it isn't likely to get any easier against more advanced pitching.

    Fred (Ohio): While not a Carolina League question, I was wondering if BA is going to have some more international signing period material up soon.

Ben Badler: Yeah, we'll have some stuff. From Smiley Gonzalez to Big V to Mateo and everything in between, this has been an unusual year even by your typical standards for Latin America, and all the investigations have delayed our ability to wrap things up. There's a tremendous amount of work that goes into anything I write about international signings because I want to make sure that we have everything accurate. We will have more international signing content at some point, I just can't guarantee when yet.

    Matt (Baltimore): Like most pitchers who rely on sinkers, they are tough to gauge on prospects. It seems that when looking at Zach Britton, he made great strides with his strikeout rate. Is next year the real tell-tale sign as he faces AA hitting and we will see if he can keep missing bats enough to be a true middle of the rotation starter?

Ben Badler: I think the key will be the development of his secondary pitches more than anything else. It's easy for fans to fall in love with the great groundball rate, but there are a whole bunch of pitchers who were groundball machines in the minors who never made it in the big leagues because they either couldn't throw enough strikes or didn't have a reliable secondary pitch to keep major league hitters off their fastball. Britton has pretty good control, so it's just a matter of continuing to improve the rest of his repertoire.

    Jon (Peoria): I was glad to see Lough get some love. Do you think he can hit for enough power to play a corner outfield spot or does center figure to be his best position?

Ben Badler: I think he could play either position, though he wouldn't be the prototypical guy at either one. He can play CF, but if they keep him at a corner, his defense would be above-average there and at least somewhat negate the lack of prototypical corner outfielder power, though he does have the power to hit 15-20 HR per year.

Ben Badler: All right, thanks for spending your afternoon with BA, but it's Game 163 time now. I'll be back on Thursday to talk Southern League prospects.