League Top 20 Prospects

Southern League Top 20 Prospects Chat With Ben Badler

Ben Badler: I'm back, and I'm chatting at 100 percent strength today. This league was loaded so let's get rolling.

    Navin (NorthSideBaseBall): Hi Ben, thanks for the chat. Could you please touch on Andrew Cashner? I was really surprised Jay Jackson make the top 20 but not Cashner. That isn't to say I'm not a big fan of Jackson, I just thought the consensus was that Cashner is a better prospect.

Ben Badler: I put Jackson ahead of Cashner with no hesitation. Jackson's peak velocity might be 1-2 mph less than Cashner's, but his all-around stuff is better and he holds his velocity deeper into the game. Cashner mostly pitched in 5-inning stints this year, yet he still only averaged 6.7 K/9, which is below-average for the leagues he pitched in. I think Cashner's future is in the bullpen, where he would see an uptick in his strikeout rate, but Jackson has the potential to be an average to above-average major league starter. Major kudos to the Cubs for stealing him in the 9th round.

    Steve (Orlando,Fl): If Jeremy Hellickson were 6'5" would he be rated higher? It seems he is stuck with that so called 'short RHP' stigma.

Ben Badler: No. Hellickson's 22 years old, and at that point I don't care all that much about height.

    Ben (Leland Grove): Why did Juan Francisco miss this list?

Ben Badler: Francisco has bat speed, strength and power, but he's a well below-average defensive third baseman who is unlikely to remain at the position. It's great to have power, but he has a free-swinging approach and doesn't recognize changeups well. He did make some progress quieting down his setup and making more contact as the season went on, but that's all relative; he's still a high-strikeout guy who drew just 16 unintentional walks in 109 games at Double-A. I see a lot of .300-.315 OBPs in his future.

    Nick (Highland): How can guys like Gordon Beckham and Sean West, who have exhausted their MLB rookie eligibility already, even be on this list, when they aren't even considered "prospects" anymore? That doesn't make sense...seems like those two spots could have been given to true "prospects!" What's your rationale at BA for listing those guys?

Ben Badler: If they had prospect eligibility coming into the season and met the playing time requirements to be ranked in the league, we rank them. They won't be in the Prospect Handbook, but it gives us a way for us to provide you guys with reports on these players and stack them up against prospects who are mostly the same age.

    Valerie (West Lake, OH): Daniel Hudson was arguably the best young arm in the minors this year. Why did you rank him where you did?

Ben Badler: It's a good league for prospects, and he's the No. 4 pitching prospect in the league, so I do like him. You could probably put him a few spots higher up there right behind Jay Jackson and I really wouldn't argue. The key for him to me is going to be the development of his slider. Sometimes he'll snap off a good one, but at times he'll cast the pitch, it flattens out, and that's usually bad news when you leave those out over the plate to big league hitters.

    Fred (Ohio): In your mind, what makes Desmond Jennings a better prospect than Mike Stanton? Thanks!

Ben Badler: We're talking about two guys with star potential who are going to rank among the top 10 if not top five prospects in all of baseball going into next season. So this is no slight at Stanton, but Jennings comes with a little less risk because of his ability to control the strike zone. Stanton's power is probably four full grades higher than Jennings', but Jennings could be posting .400 OBPs and playing gold-glove defense at a premium position at his peak, and he's already shown that he can dominate Triple-A pitching. They're both high-reward guys, but Jennings is more of a sure thing right now.

    Fred (Ohio): If Atlanta would not have traded Gorkys Hernandez, would he have made this list? It seems like his star is beginning to dim because of questions about the bat.

Ben Badler: Hernandez did qualify for the list, but the questions about his hitting did keep him off the list. His swing gets long and he chases too many pitches. What he does have is outstanding speed, excellent range and a strong arm at a premium defensive position, which will give him some value, but he's also going to make a ton of outs.

    Jim (Erie, PA): Brandon Allen clearly had a breakout year. Did he get any love for your list at all?

Ben Badler: His numbers were solid in the minor leagues, but scouts have a lot of questions about his swing translating against big league pitching. He does has above-average power, he has good bat speed and he can take advantage of mistakes. But his swing is long so scouts think pitchers can beat him with fastballs on the inner half, and he overstrides, gets out on his front foot and struggles with offspeed stuff away. He's got some athleticism for a guy his size and is a serviceable defender, but it's hard for scouts to be too high on a first baseman when there are that many questions about the bat.

    Fred (Ohio): What are your thoughts on Darwen Barney?

Ben Badler: A few managers around the league liked him and the way he approaches the game. He's a good defender at shortstop and doesn't strike out much. His power is well below average, though, which hurt him when he moved up to Triple-A and is only going to get further exploited by major league pitching. If he gets stronger and can learn to hit for even 40 or 45 power, he could be a solid big leaguer, but that might take a few more years for him to develop.

    Brad (RI): What was the word on Dayan Viciedo's season? How many years from the majors is he?

Ben Badler: He has a lot of the same issues as Juan Francisco. He's huge, which limits his range, and even though he has a strong arm he's probably going to be a first baseman in the very near future. He's strong and hits the ball hard when he connects, but he can be helpless against offspeed pitches and is going to make a ton of outs with just 19 unintentional walks in 130 games.

    Frankie (Casper, WY): Do Scott Elbert and Andrew Cashner best project as starters or relievers, and did either get consideration?

Ben Badler: I already hit on Cashner, but yes, I think both of them end up in the bullpen. Elbert was a close call to make the list, but I just worry about his durability and his command, which is why I think he ends up in the bullpen, but I think he could be an excellent reliever.

    JAYPERS (IL): Will there be a spot in Tampa Bay's rotation for Hell-Boy at any point next season, if you had to speculate?

Ben Badler: He'll probably start back in Triple-A, but injuries in the rotation are inevitable, and I'd have to think Hellickson would be first in line to get called up by May or June.

    Corey (Phoenix): Great list! Parker sounds like the real deal, any word on how his rehab is going and the likelihood he'll avoid surgery?

Ben Badler: The Diamondbacks are taking it very, very, very carefully with Parker in the hopes he can avoid surgery, but there hasn't been any new official word yet on his prognosis.

    Dan (Chicago): I was suprised to see Tyler Flowers this high considering the concensus is that he won't be able to stay behind the plate. Is his bat just that good?

Ben Badler: I think that was the consensus coming into the year, but the reviews of his defense were much better than they were last year, particularly from those outside the organization who have followed Flowers for the last couple of seasons. He's a big guy and he's not Pudge Rodriguez, but he's also not Jesus Montero back there either. Will he be an above-average defensive catcher? No, and maybe his defense is always a tick below major league average, but he should hit enough to not make that a huge concern.

    Derek (Whittier): Are you optimistic about Lorenzo Cain returning to form at this point?

Ben Badler: He battled some injuries this year, but he's still very raw at the plate, which isn't the most encouraging sign for a 23-year-old.

    Peter (Atlanta, GA): What's the outlook for Brandon Hicks? He had a bad season, but at least his contact rates improved. Is he even a prospect at this point?

Ben Badler: Defensively he does a lot of things well. He's got a great arm, a quick release, good range, hands and footwork. Offensively? No so much, although he is an efficient basestealer. He's a free swinger who makes a ton of outs and needs to become less pull-oriented with his approach, but a 24-year-old with those type of contact issues might be too great to overcome.

    Mike (Minnesota): A true testament and measure to how good a hitter is (and will become) would be to look at his extra-base hits vs. # of K's. Jason Heyward stunningly had a ratio of 24-19 in his time in the SL, and overall, was 46-51 in 362 total AB's. Were there any other MiLB'ers this season who were as close to a 1:1 ratio, or better? Especially someone with Heyward's power/slugging numbers? This stat goes widely unnoticed and unmentioned most of the time, but it's a truly rare feat, and the greatest barometer to measure a hitter's true and pure ability with the bat! Fanish or Foolish?

Ben Badler: Off the top of my head, Jesus Montero had almost as many extra-base hits as strikeouts this year, and I know my man Pablo Sandoval was around 1:1 last year, but yeah, it's remarkable when you have as much raw power as Heyward and have the skill to put the barrel to the ball with that type of frequency.

    Jim Webb (West Point, NY): Where was Nick Hill on your list. His numbers looked great and he is only in his second full yr of pro ball and first since being out of the Army. We hear he is going to the AFL and major league spring training.

Ben Badler: He could be a solid starter, though it's not clear how the Mariners plan to use him in the future. He'll throw in the high-80s to low-90s, mix in a slider, a changeup and a two-seamer, and he's effective against righthanded hitters as well.

    Fred (Ohio): Is Jonathan Lucroy's loerw average concerning? He seems to have all of the other numbers to be a plus offensive catcher.

Ben Badler: Not too concerning. He doesn't strike out excessively and he has a short, compact swing. Once (or maybe I should say "if") he gets stronger and develops more power, he'll start driving the ball with more authority.

    Jason (Scotsdale): Assuming Parker can avoid surgery, what's his upside, front end rotation (ace-like) or more a 2-3 type. Love these lists, well done BA!

Ben Badler: Ace, No. 1 starter, top-of-the-rotation guy, Cy Young candidate�whatever vernacular you want to use to describe one of the top pitchers in the game. The elbow is a concern, but he has tremendous upside.

    Fred (Ohio): What are your thoughts on the Reds handling of Todd Frazier (from a deffensive perspective)? It seems like he is frequently moving positions which I believe hurts his development.

Ben Badler: In an ideal world, Frazier would have spent the entire season learning to play third base and master the position rather than running around to play three different positions throughout the season. If you have a player who is already proficient at one position and want to give him some time experiencing a new position for a small amount of time, sure, there's value in that, but Frazier hasn't been given the opportunity to master any one position of much value. He looked overwhelmed when the Reds moved him to second base at the end of the year, but he didn't have the luxury of an offseason, spring training or even just an instructional league to learn the position. I think he has the tools to play third base, but he needs the opportunity to work at the position and the Reds haven't shown that they want to use him there.

    David (Tennesse): No one from West Tenn? Aumont, Fields, Hill, Cortes, Halman? Any of those guys close?

Ben Badler: Aumont didn't pitch enough to qualify for this list, but of anyone on that team, the most intriguing to me is Ezequiel Carrera. Pretty much everyone I talked to called him a future fourth outfielder because he doesn't hit for any power, but he has good bat control, works the count to get on base, runs well and covers good ground in center field. He's got some platoon issues against lefthanded pitchers (even on the bases, he needs to get better at stealing against LHPs), but he should have value with his on-base and defensive skills.

    Dave (NW CT): Where does Zach Cozart fall into your rankings, and what does he need to improve upon for 2010?

Ben Badler: He'd probably be somewhere in that 21-30 range. He's not a speedster but he has good instincts in the field and is a good defender at shortstop. I like him as a sleeper who might put it all together a couple years down the road once he continues to gain strength and become more of a force at the plate.

    TH (Garrett, Indiana): Did John Ely receive any cinsideration, and how does he project in the future?

Ben Badler: Could be a 5th starter or a longman. His best pitch is his changeup, but he doesn't have much of a breaking ball, he sits at 88-90 mph and has a good amount of effort in his delivery, though he does do a solid job of repeating his mechanics.

    JH (Berkeley): Give it to me straight. Gregory Halman: any hope?

Ben Badler: I didn't rank him last year when he qualified for the Southern League list, so I don't see how I could have ranked him this year. He has power, he has some other tools, but the swing and the pitch recognition are just so far away right now from where they need to be.

    Fred (Ohio): What kind of major leaguer can C.J. Retherford become and where do you see him playing deffensively? Thanks!!

Ben Badler: He can play second base. Nothing about him from a tools perspective sticks out and he's a little unorthodox, but he gets the most out of his physical abilities. Most scouts I talked to expect him to be a backup at the major league level, but so far all he's done between college and pro ball is beat everyone's expectations.

Ben Badler: Thank you everyone, that's all for today. Come back tomorrow for John Manuel's Eastern League chat.