League Top 20 Prospects

Florida State League Top 20 Prospects Chat With J.J. Cooper

    Ben (Leland Grove): Pat Venditte: legit prospect or novelty act?

J.J. Cooper: How about somewhere in between. If you grade out Venditte's pitches, none would be called even an average pitch, but as a scout pointed out, you can't really grade him as you would a normal pitcher since he always has the platoon advantage as a switch pitcher. That has been enough for him to succeed up to now, and there's some reason to think it may allow him to succeed at even higher levels. He's more than just a novelty act, but he'll be treated with skepticism because he's such a unique case.

    Matt (Needles, CA): What do scouts tell you about Logan Schafer, and did he come close to making this list?

J.J. Cooper: He wasn't too far away from making the list. He's a solid CF who can run, but there are concerns that his bat will make him more of a big league backup than an everyday player.

    Ian (dc): Which of these 20 guys do you see making it to the bigs first?

J.J. Cooper: Drabek. Considering his stuff and the season he had, I wouldn't be floored if he headed North with the big league club next year, and if not, he should be up at some point next season.

    JAYPERS (IL): Evan Anundsen put up pretty impressive numbers this year, so I was a bit surprised not to see him. Could you evaluate him for us?

J.J. Cooper: The stuff just wasn't good enough. His velocity was all over the place, but he was 84-88 a lot of nights. He shows two big league average off speed pitches and very good command but he pairs it with a below-average fastball. That combination doesn't usually work at the big league level.

    Jeff (Pittsbugrh): No Reese Havens? I'm a bit surprised by that. He showed good power (considering the league) and pretty good plate discipline. His average was a bit low, but so was his BABIP.

J.J. Cooper: Havens was No. 21 on this list, as proof here is the writeup I did on him as a bonus for subscribers. As you can see from the writeup, the big concern is where he will play long-term. The Mets' first-round pick in 2008 out of South Carolina, Havens was promoted aggressively to the Florida State League for his first full season. He generally held his own, although there are significant doubts that he'll stay at shortstop much longer. A hand injury and other nagging aches and pains sidelined Havens for three weeks in June and another two weeks in July. The hand injury explains in part why Havens struggled to get his average above .250 all year, but he did show solid pitch recognition and the ability to drive the ball for power. Havens power is more gap-to-gap and he's a tick-below average runner. Havens' bat will have to produce because he does not project as a big league shortstop. His range is below average and his problems with his footwork has some scouts wondering if he can handle second base. If not, his arm strength is enough for a corner outfield spot, but there are questions whether he'll have enough bat for an outfield corner.

    Steven Alengakis (Brooklyn, NY): Everyone seems to agree that Jesus Montero will not be a caatcher at the ML level. Do people within the Yankees organization/scouts see him more as a RF (considering the dimensions of Yankee Stadium) or as a 1B? Do they think he has the ability to be adequate at either of those positions? Also, did RHP Hector Noesi receive any serious consideration for the list? What do scouts think of him? Thank you.

J.J. Cooper: Outside the Yankees organization there is some doubt if there is any position where Montero will be more than a below-average defender. His lack of footspeed and his already massive size means right field is a big stretch, and there is concern that he will be below average at first base because of his limited agility. First base is a much better bet, but he looks to be a 30-35 defense wherever he goes. As far as Noesi he didn't qualify, but the next Yankee pitcher who would have made it would have been Jeremy Bleich (3 average pitches).

    Mark (Fremont, CA): How in the world can Logan Schafer be left off the top 20? He lead the league in hitting, committed one error in CF, had an .OPS .816 and had 16 OF assists. Please explain.

J.J. Cooper: Because we're not ranking players based on their contribution to winning in the Florida State League. If that was the case, Darrin Downs and Zach Lutz would be on here as well. With Schafer even though he had a solid OPS this season, there are some concerns that he's a tweener at the big league level.

    Gerry (Toronto): No Moises Sierra? Why did he not make the list?

J.J. Cooper: Sierra was in the 21-25 range. He has a great arm, shows some ability to hit and is a pretty solid athlete, although he is a little thicker in the middle than you would like to see in a 20-year-old. A best case comp from one scout was Jose Tabata, although Tabata has more power.

    JAYPERS (IL): Was Bromberg's season merely a product of the pitcher-friendly FSL, or can he put up those amount of strikeouts at higher levels as well?

J.J. Cooper: He's more than just a product of the FSL as he's struck out batters wherever he's gone. Bromberg has very good stuff—many FSL managers thought he was the best pitcher in the league. He just needs to show improved command to put it all together and show he can maintain his velocity as he seemed to wear down late in the season.

    JAYPERS (IL): If Vitters is unable to stick at the hot corner, which position would be a better fit for him?

J.J. Cooper: You could try right field but first base would seem much more likely for a teenager who is already a tick below average as a runner.

    Kyle (MA): Michael Taylor or Domonic Brown? Does Brown have a higher ceiling? At different levels and Taylor is two years older, I know, but overall how do you see them panning out?

J.J. Cooper: I'll take Brown first, although both should be very solid big leaguers. Statistically I wouldn't be surprised to see Brown end up as a Bobby Abreu type, which would be a very solid player.

    Kevin G (New Brunswick, NJ): Was Stone Crabs righty Alex Cobb considered? He doesn't have a stat that jumps out, but doesn't seem to have a "bad" stat either.

J.J. Cooper: He was definitely considered. His stuff just doesn't stand out. He's got a good changeup and a solid breaking ball but he needs to improve his fastball command. Pair that with a 90 mph fastball and he's a solid pitcher but wasn't going to make the Top 20.

    Kevin (New Brunswick, NJ): Charlotte shortstop Shawn O'Malley led the league in on-base percentage while showing almost zero power. Did his name come up at all?

J.J. Cooper: It did although he wasn't close to making the top 20. He's a "do the little things" player who plays better defense than he would grade out as playing because he positions himself well and understands the game. He throws behind runners who round a bag too far, shows good hands and can play multiple positions if needed although he doesn't have the range to be a traditional big league shortstop. At the plate he shows excellent speed (3.6 on a bunt from the left side) with the ability to put the bat on the ball although as you said he has no power. His hope is to make it as a big league utility type, which is a hard job to get.

    Dave (Pittsburgh): Three of the Cubs' once and future top prospects: Castro, Vitters and Colvin spent time in High A this year. How would you rank them in terms of ceiling and also in terms of likely ultimate productivity, and how clear are the separations between the three? Thanks.

J.J. Cooper: As far as ceiling I'd go Vitters, Castro and Colvin but as far as ultimate productivity I'd go Castro, Vitters, Colvin. Castro has a very good chance of being a very solid big leaguer. Vitters has more potential, but there are a lot more pitfalls as well (position questions, his swing at everything approach). Colvin doesn't have as high a ceiling or the likelihood of reaching his ceiling of the other two in my mind.

    Chris (Philly): What do you think the Phillies will do with all these young talented corner outfielders? Werth and Ibanez both have long term contracts. Could you ever imagine Dominic Brown playing center field?

J.J. Cooper: He's such a good right fielder that I guess you could try to get by with him out there, but you'd be giving up a lot of defense over what you want in center. Ideally you want to keep him in right field, where he can be a plus defender, rather than move him to center field where he would be overmatched.

    Luke (Des Moines): So does Mark Rogers still have a chance? I kind of already gave up on him, but what are your thoughts? Also, I'm a bit surprised Vitters ranked 3rd in the MWL and 14th here (behind lesser-knowns like Carlos Gutierrez and Kirk Nieuwenhuis). Do you think his swing-at-everything approach will preclude him from become a star big leaguer? Thanks for the chat.

J.J. Cooper: I've already talked about Vitters, but as far as Rogers don't give up yet. His stuff is still electric. Sure there are injury risks with him (obviously) but he still has one of the best arms in the Brewers system. Maybe his ceiling now is as a power reliever long-term, but it's hard to give up on a guy who has a plus-plus fastball.

    Nate (North Carolina): I'm very, very surprised by Galvis' inclusion... I've been following him for a few seasons now, and I understand his allure (A glove that gets Ozzie Smith comparisons? Yes, please!), but what can we reasonably expect from a guy who has yet to break the .600 OPS mark?

J.J. Cooper: Galvis was the guy who we debated the most about putting on or leaving off. The Phillies have pushed him quite quickly which makes it even harder to evaluate his offense. If Galvis had spent all of this year in short-season ball as a 19-year-old it wouldn't have been holding him back, but instead he made it to Double-A by the end of the season. Scouts and managers think that the bat could work longterm as he doesn't have any glaring problems besides a need to get stronger (which should come as he matures). Defensively he's very, very good. I don't think he's as good as Alcides Escobar, but it is worth noting that at the same age, Escobar put up nearly identical numbers in the FSL then bounced back to put up a .700+ OPS the next season. I don't think Galvis has Escobar's potential with the bat, but he does have a chance to hit enough to be a solid big league shortstop. The reality is that the FSL Top 20 is thinner this year than it has been in most of the five years I've been writing up the league. When Zach Stewart, Jay Jackson, Andrew Cashner, Mauricio Robles, Chris Carpenter and others failed to throw enough innings to qualify, the league's depth took a hit. So the 17-18-19-20 guys on this year's list would have ranked No. 23-24-25-26 in many past years.

    Nate (North Carolina): How close did D.J. Mitchell come to making the list? I loved his mix of groundball inducement and control/command. Did you get any positive reports on him?

J.J. Cooper: Some positive reports but worries that he needs to improve his breaking ball. He ranked behind lefty Jeremy Bleich as far as the guys on that staff who could have made the Top 20.

    Jim (Toronto): While it's rare for relievers to make these lists, could you tell us about Tim Collins' amazing season and if he came anywhere close to making the cut?

J.J. Cooper: He was considered, but in the end his ceiling (as a big league setup man) limited his chances of making the Top 20. I talked to a scout who is convinced he will be a big leaguer and I'm inclined to agree. He is Danny Ray Herrera sized but he has a solid big league fastball that he pairs with an above-average curveball to go with exceptional fearlessness.

    Navin (NorthSideBaseBall): Thanks for the chat. What did you hear about Chris Carpenter's brief but successful run in the fSL?

J.J. Cooper: Good things. He would have been a Top 20 guy if he had enough innings to qualify. Plus stuff and a feel for pitching.

    Patrick (Milwaukee): While the league was loaded per usual as noted in the lead-in to the top prospect list, I'm curious where a quartet of Manatees factored into consideration: Amaury Rivas, Logan Schafer, Evan Anundsen and Eric Farris? Rivas and Schafer are the ones I'm most interested in, since Rivas was throwing in the low-to-mid-90s with what BA rated as the league's best changeup, while Schafer was among the league leaders in several offensive categories and boasts good tools in CF. Was age the biggest thing held against them? Thanks as always for your time and efforts!

J.J. Cooper: Rivas was close. The scouting reports I got are very similar to what you wrote: a 90-94 mph fastball and a plus changeup although his slider is much more of an erratic pitch. We've covered Schafer and Anundsen. I also like Farris although his stats are a little misleading. He has solid above-average speed, but he's not the speedster his 70 steals make him appear to be. His age and the fact that he's limited to second base worked against him making the Top 20, but he is a very solid 2B and I wouldn't be surprised to see him become a productive big leaguer.

    not JAYPERS (not ILL): Why the lack of pitchers in the top 20?

J.J. Cooper: I touched on this above, but the problem was almost all of the best pitchers in the FSL were promoted out of the league just a start or two before they would have qualified. Zach Stewart and Andrew Cashner would have ranked right behind Drabek on this list and Jay Jackson, Brad Holt, Mauricio Robles and Chris Carpenter would have all made the Top 20 as well. Add those six pitchers to the Top 20 and it would have been a pitcher-heavy list.

    Mudcatsfan (Raleigh): Montero's numbers throwing out runners improved dramatically from the FSL to the EL. Do you attribute this to anything in particular? Small sample size, luck, pitchers holding runners better, better base stealers in the FSL, maybe even........Improvement?

J.J. Cooper: Good question and I don't have a great answer for you on what happened. There were a ton of good basestealer in the FSL this year (as noted in the lead-in to the Top 20 four of the Top 10 basestealers in the minors played in the FSL), but we had a scout in the EL tell us he got a 2.35 pop time on Montero there (the time from the ball hitting his mitt to getting to second base), which was the slowest time he'd seen in a Double-A game, so it's hard to say it's improvement.

    Doug (Oakland): Was there any consideration for Matt Gorgen?

J.J. Cooper: He would have made an FSL top 40. 90-92 mph fastball that touches 93 with control but not command and a decent slider.

    Jorge (Miami, FL): Why are you guys at BA (and others) so skeptical about Matt Dominguez's hitting skills? Are you forgetting he was only 19 for most of the season, playing in hi-A ball, in a pitcher-friendly league (only 3 hitters batted .300+ who qualified for the batting title), against older competition—many college pitchers??? I'd say he's looked very decent, and has more than held his own. He may have struggled a bit in AA, but give the guy a break! It was a small sampling. And don't forget about his mono to begin his career. I predict Dominguez to be one of the top-5 breakout prospects in 2010—you heard it here first!

J.J. Cooper: So noted Jorge. We ranked him No. 12 so it's not like we don't like him. Several scouts and managers questioned the bat, as we passed along, but also many observers think he'll be a very solid big leaguer.

    Brad (MO): Do scouts prefer Dominguez over his high school teammate Mike Moustakas? Who do you rank higher personally?

J.J. Cooper: Very good question. Dominguez is a safer bet at this point because of his excellent defense at third base, but Moustakas has a higher ceiling because he could end up being a plus power guy. I'd still put Moustakas ahead of Dominguez but it's much closer than it would have been coming into the season.

    Jack (Toronto): Who was the closest Jay to making the list? Is the cupboard that bare?

J.J. Cooper: It's not a great farm system and there was a near universal feeling of being unimpressed by the crop of 2007 high schoolers in Dunedin. As one scout put it: "I can see what they saw in them back then, but I'm not seeing a whole lot now." Sierra and Collins were the closest two.

    Deywane (Memphis): What happened to Neftali Soto, is he still a prospect?

J.J. Cooper: Still a prospect, but less of one then he was a year ago. He has good hand-eye coordination and plus power but his lack of first-step quickness means he's not a third baseman long term. And some opposing managers and scouts were not impressed with the effort he put out. I wouldn't be shocked to see the Reds try him at catcher where he may profile better.

    Tom (Nashua, NH): Did Adam Loewen show anything any indications this year that he can make it back to the big leagues as a hitter? He only hit .237 and struckout a lot but would you expect him to move up a level next year due to his age?

J.J. Cooper: Not really. He didn't stand out to anyone I talked to.

    Joe LeCates (Easton, MD): J.J., thanks for the chat. How close is the distance between Montero and Stanton? I imagine Montero's bat is the more sure-thing of the two, though Stanton's overall athleticism and package give him more possible value?

J.J. Cooper: Very close. I originally had Montero No. 1 until as recently as last week. You summed it up, Montero's bat is a better tool than Stanton's and they have similar power, but Stanton's a much better athlete with a clear position while Montero could very well be a 20-year-old DH. In the end, that ended up breaking the logjam.

    Joe LeCates (Easton, MD): Though not quite hindsight 20 20, (until Nov. anyway) J.J., if you were the Phillies would you have moved Brown or Drabek for Halladay? Is their future value too great to risk?

J.J. Cooper: As I said on a podcast at the time, I like what they did. Getting Cliff Lee for the package they put together makes a lot of sense to me.

    Julian (New York): What is your true accessment of Kirk N. He tore up the league and he has the build to continue to grow. he looks like a big leaguer to me. Does he have a higher ceiling the Davis?

J.J. Cooper: Not according to the scouts and managers I talked to. He may have had a gaudier season but there are concerns about how much he swings and misses and he's not a center fielder at the big league level. He can make it as a corner outfielder, but in general observers like Davis' potential at the plate more than Nieuwenhuis.

    twins fan (florida): Any other Miracle players get any consideration?

J.J. Cooper: I asked about Benson and Romero but neither were that close. Benson still has quick hands and good bat speed, but he's still got a long ways to go. Mark Dolenc has a lot of athleticism. Mike McCardell knows how to pitch.

    Dennis Sidler (Chicago, IL): Great job with the chat. Is Montero's bat that strong to make him the #2 prospect and yet he is almost a guaranteed DH? It seems with other prospects if their defense is in question it hurt their ranking far more.

J.J. Cooper: That sums it up. The bat is so good that he can be No. 2 with no clear defensive position. The last guy I remember ranking in the FSL with a similar profile was Adam Lind (back in 2005) who was evaluated as a plus bat 22-year-old who was a danger to himself in left field. Now he's a 25-year-old DH for the Blue Jays, but one who is hitting 35 home runs. In hindsight, I knocked Lind down (to No. 13) because of his defense when in reality a bat like that should have been a Top 10 guy. Montero is a better hitter than Lind, although he's just as bad defensively.

    Gerry (Toronto): You mentioned Mastroianni's speed, did anyone like him as a prospect? Were there any comments on Adam Loewen's season as a hitter?

J.J. Cooper: Yeah, Mastroianni was seen as a pesky type who causes headaches. He has a very good idea of the strike zone and a short swing that fits his approach well. But he's not a 70 runner, he's more of a 55-60 runner who really knows how to pick his spots.

    Mark (Fremont, CA): Logan Schafer concerns with his bat sure do not seem to be correct unless you are rating on power. It is not easy leading the FSL in hitting at .316 and not be able to handle the bat don't you think?

J.J. Cooper: The concerns are concerns about how he will hit at the big league level, not in the FSL. A couple of scouts were concerned about his approach although he clearly was ahead of FSL pitchers.

    Brian Daniels (Still in u2 ephoria): Stanton's power numbers and character are off the chats. Do the strikeouts concern the scouts that he maybe a Rob Deer in the making? Also as noted, does his make up factor in to overall ranking? He seemed like a great guy this year when we met him.

J.J. Cooper: The makeup factors in for me just from the standpoint of his ability to make adjustments and work at improving. Multiple managers and scouts talk about Stanton's drive to become a better player. That may seem like it's one of those dreaded intangibles, but it is a factor in whether a player makes it to the big leagues. I was lucky enough to get to watch Marcus Giles turn himself from being a brutal 2B to an adequate one by showing up at 1 p.m. everyday and taking ground balls from Glenn Hubbard in Macon back in the late 1990s. On the other hand, I've seen more talented players fizzle out because they aren't willing to put in the work to improve.

    Brad (MO): Could Votto or Alonso handle an outfield corner, or will a trade have to take place for both to play everyday?

J.J. Cooper: Votto could more than Alonso. Pretty much it's a universal belief that Alonso is a first baseman and a first baseman only. But do you ask the established big leaguer to move to a position he's played very little (even in the minors) to make room for a rookie? That would be a tough task for the Reds management. When Votto came up to the big leagues there were those who thought he'd be a better left fielder than first baseman, so it is possible.

    Jon (Peoria): What did you make of Vitters' dramatic statistical dropoff from the MWL to the FSL? I know he's only 20 and was young for his league where it's easy to get worn down in the hot weather, but do you think he'll ever show the ability to work counts and not swing at everything that's anywhere close to the zone?

J.J. Cooper: The hope at this point is he becomes more patient, but he'll never be a very patient hitter. That's part of his problem it seems as he makes weak contact on pitcher's pitches instead of working counts to get a better pitch he can drive.

    Mike (Michigan): Which Tiger prospect excites you the most from the FSL?

J.J. Cooper: I'll go with Robbie Weinhardt who sat at 92 mph, touching 94 with a fastball that showed good life and he also had a good slider.

J.J. Cooper: Thanks to everyone for the excellent questions. We'll be back tomorrow with Ben Badler chatting about the Southern League.