League Top 20 Prospects

Eastern League Top 20 Prospects Chat With John Manuel

    Randy (Boston): Well, I"m sure you'll get this question in several formats but how worried are scouts about Lars Anderson? Can a prospect actually appear in the top 100 without appearing in the Top 20 list for a league he played in all year? Or can a guy drop THAT far? Also, what did you hear about Luis Exposito in AA. Thanks!

John Manuel: Thanks everyone for coming out. I will just hop right in, and if a Draft Report Card call interrupts, I'll try to keep it brief. Anderson just didn't do enough to make the 20, simple as that. Maybe we got overheated on the Top 100 last year; maybe Anderson's confidence just took a hit this year. I still believe in the bat, but I am having a harder time believing in him as an elite, difference-making 1B after this season. He didn't handle lefthanded pitching, and he didn't make up for it by mashing righthanded pitchers. The biggest thing he had going for him, in this league context, was age. The reports on him were pretty similar across the board — talented, but a little overwhelmed by being in Double-A this year, something that didn't happen last year. I didn't bear down on Exposito, but the guys who mentioned him actually were impressed more by his defense, actions behind the plate and the way he seemed to take charge of his pitchers.

    Peter (NYC): How close was Brandon Erbe? Did the injury cost him a palce on the list or the control issues?

John Manuel: Erbe was close; probably 21-25 range actually. As I wrote in the Arrieta writeup, some people preferred Erbe. I took Arrieta because of the better fastball velo (Erbe, post-shoulder injury, was more 91-92, where Arrieta was sitting 93 and touching higher), better fastball command and more durable body. Erbe could wind up being better and it wouldn't be a shock; not a big difference there.

    Trevor (NJ): What's your take on Eduardo Nunez? He seems to be putting it all together offensively since he gave up switch hitting. I'd like to see him to make better strides defensively & get the power up but he's looking like a legit starting shortstop prospect.

John Manuel: Way back when (in the Delmon Young Handbook, so it was following the '04 season), we had Nunez as the Yanks' No. 6 prospect. He got some of his mojo back this season. His arm's plus, so he has a chance to play shortstop, though most people I talked to think he'd be overexposed there as an everyday SS. He didn't make the 20 because the consensus was that he wasn't good enough defensively to be an everyday SS, and he's more of a utility guy. The bat is improved, but not enough for most people to be an everyday guy at 2B. He's a little in between, still toosly but not quite refined. But he is back on the prospect map, which is obviously a big improvement for him.

    Peter (NYC): What makes Zach McAllister constantly rank better than Zach Britton and Brandon Erbe of the O's? he does not seem much better than those two but always outranks them?

John Manuel: For some I'm sure he doesn't rank better than those guys. For me, what McAllister did in the EL was superior to what Erbe did. Erbe's ceiling is higher; McAllister is closer to his ceiling and the injury track record with Erbe is a bit troubling. McAllister is a four-pitch, back-of-the-rotation guy who is pretty close to being a No. 4 starter. I also like that he competes well and has success when he doesn't have his best stuff. I think it's kind of obvious that pitchers don't always have their best stuff and have to learn to pitch without it. He's good with plan A, plan B and even sometimes plan C. But again, there's just not a lot of difference between No. 19 or No. 22 or whatever theoretical rank you want to give to Erbe. I can't speak authoritatively on Britton so I'm just leaving him out of the discussion.

    Gerry (Toronto): John: I am looking for glimmers of hope in a weak Blue Jay system. Other than Zep did David Cooper, Danny Farquhar, Reidier Gonzalez or Luis Perez got any love?

John Manuel: Cooper was 21-25 material; Perez was 26-30 material, some guys really thought he has a chance to be a 4-pitch, back-of-the-rotation type, others think of him just as a lefty reliever due to the slider (i.e., the rest of the stuff is just OK but the slider can be plus, so he can be a reliever). Cooper can hit and just got pushed very aggressively. His defense gave a lot of other managers and scouts pause, but it sounds like he improved defensively, even while he's still below-average. Farquhar is fascinating; if he'd thrown more strikes he probably would have made the list, but I have questions about the command, and so did the managers and scouts I talked to. He didn't get squared up very often though.

    Gerry (Toronto): Were you surprised that the Jays fired Dick Scott today?

John Manuel: Not really, no. New GM, even if he's from the organization, and he's going to have some new ways of doing things. Like any org, the Jays have had some success stories in development, particularly in terms of pitching, but they also had some guys go backwards, especially their '07 prep draft picks and this year J.P. Arencibia really struggling in Triple-A. It's not a great farm system right now; we're having a hard time figuring out who their No. 1 prospect is. So I can see why changes were made.

    Ben (Leland Grove): Would you consider Jeanmar Gomez to be one of the Indians' better pitchers, and was he considered for this list?

John Manuel: No, I would not. The consistent response when I asked about Gomez was, "nothing stands out," or "no plus pitch." When he was at his best — say, when he threw that perfect game — his slider was his best pitch and it had some bite to it. But for the most part, it was just an average offering.

    Michael (NY, NY): In hope of any good news, Mets fans are looking to the good season of Josh Thole. Was it his limited upside that left him off the list or is defense still too shaky at catcher to make a positive impression?

John Manuel: He's just not a great profile. He's just fringy defensively, fringy offensively because of the lack of power. James Skelton was kind of a pick to click for some years, especially this year as a Rule 5 pick, but Thole is kind of a similar profile — the all OBP, no power catcher. Scouts don't seem to think that will work long-term, but scouts have been wrong before. The Mets sent Thole up to the majors as much to learn from Brian Schneider on the subtleties of catching and handling a pitching staff as they did any other reason. If we went 30 deep, Thole would have made it, but when I wrote up his report, he just sounded like less of a prospect than the other 25 or so that I wrote.

    JAYPERS (IL): Tim Alderson pitched for two teams within the E.L. this year. What did managers and scouts tell you about him, both pre and post-trade? Also, did he get any consideration for the list?

John Manuel: Jaypers, no one really had great things to say on Alderson, and that was tough for me to hear because I wrote him up in our '06 draft coverage out of Arizona. His stuff sounds significantly shorter now than it was then. It's not just that he lost some fastball velo; he's lost life on the fastball and snap on the breaking ball. Where he once had two pitches that graded out as 55 or 60 pitches, he now has a 40 or 45 fastball for most people, and the breaking ball got similar grades. Everyone credited his success to deception. I kept asking, because I wanted to rank him. But I didn't find an advocate for him.

    Vicki (MN): Your thoughts on Deolis Guerra's somewhat zig-zaggy season? Did the Twins get a bill of goods with him?

John Manuel: Wow, another interesting case. Honestly, I think the Twins did get a bit of a bill of goods on him. He's not a power pitcher. He can throw hard, but he doesn't. He will flash a good fastball at times but is just in love with his changeup, which is a good pitch but obviously would play up more if he worked more off his fastball. I know it's a broken record in my chats, but if the guy doesn't get outs with a fastball in fastball counts, it's not a good sign. It sounds like Guerra considers any count a changeup count. I'll dive in deeper when doing the Twins Top 30, but Guerra had fewer advocates in the EL than Alderson.

    Adrian Thaws (Bristol): Danny Moskos is the most divisive prospect among the fans for the Pirates. There is a small but vocal contigent that still feel that he can be a starter based on this year. Can he be a LOOGY in the majors or a starter or neither?

John Manuel: I think he can be a starter, but he's not an impact guy at this point. As a reliever in college, the guy had a heavy fastball that bumped 97; as a starter he bumps 93 and sits 87-91. He has sink and maintains his velocity, so he can pitch off the fastball. I toyed with ranking him and probably would put him in the 23-27 range. But it sounds like his slider is a groundball slider, not the wipeout, 87 mph pitch he had in college. It's not fair to him that he's always going to be compared with Matt Wieters, that's not his fault, but I still don't quite understand why he's starting. He had impact potential as a closer, not as a starter. He can still be a big league starter, though.

    Joe LeCates (Easton, MD): Was Bumgarner's velo drop more a case of fatigue, or is this were his fastball is going to settle in?

John Manuel: I think it was a case of some arm fatigue, which a lot of high school pitchers go through. I'm not sure why, but Sean Gallagher sticks out in my head as a guy who was 86-90 mph in the Midwest League when he was there, and then when he came through the Southern League we had reports he was 90-94, and I remember talking to one of the scouts who saw him as an amateur and in the SL, and he told me Gallagher threw that hard in high school. He just went through a trough of basically a dead-arm period, but instead of it being a period, it was a whole year, and that is how Bumgarner was explained to me by several scouts. I believe the 97s that maybe he could reach back and get when he wanted, that may not happen. Maybe when you throw once a week in high school, he could do that, but every fifth day, that may not be him. But if he's sitting 90-94 like he has often in his career, then that's going to be a 70 fastball. And a guy with a 70 fastball when the command and life are factored in, he is going to be a front-of-the-rotation starter. His secondary stuff could be 40ish in terms of grades, but if he throws them for strikes, that will be enough because he'll be changing speeds off his heater. I just can't get over an athletic teenager dominating a Double-A league with one pitch. I was more impressed by that than by pretty much anything anyone else did in the league.

    Ben (Leland Grove): Did any Senators come close to making your list?

John Manuel: Ian Desmond's defense wasn't good enough for most but he did get considered, as did Brad Meyers; Detwiler didn't have enough innings. And then manager John Stearns lost his job, even though the scouts I talked to said that team played hard and focused and competed with generally inferior players.

    Dave (Detroit): Your thoughts on Alex Avila's sudden callup and his prospect status?

John Manuel: That surprised a lot of EL managers and scouts. He was the first person I asked about off that club and obviously he didn't get enough support to place in the top 20, despite leading the league in CS percentage. His receiving generally was panned.

    Jeff Sollars (Chambersburg, Pa): Was Gorkys Hernandez close to top 20? What is his upside? Thanks

John Manuel: Not really, more 26-30 type, because for me the guy is a fourth outfielder. He just doesn't drive the ball with any consistency. Still a long way to go for him offensively against quality pitching, and his speed doesn't play on the bases, where he was 19-for-35. Hard to see the offensive upside if there's not significant improvement on one of those fronts.

    Rob (Boston): No Ryan Kalish? What's your evaluation of his tools?

John Manuel: When I started, I thought I'd rank Kalish or Rene Tosoni, and I wound up with neither one. You could make a case for either one over Snyder in terms of profile, as both are LH-hitting OFs who run a little and can play CF, though neither one is a true CF. Tosoni's bat is a bit better, Kalish's other tools are a bit better. Neither one projects as a first-division regular for most guys I talked to because they are a bit short on power for a corner. I think I might be selling Tosoni a little short there, but for me, those guys are quite similar.

    Beth Gibbons (Portishead, UK): Has Alvarez improved his approach to hitting lefties or was he just so white-hot during AA that it didn't matter? Also, what is your personal opinion on whether he can stay at 3B for the near future?

John Manuel: It sounds like Alvarez is just a streaky hitter, and he was locked in with Altoona. I think he's an early career 3B, who will move to first base in three to five years. That was the general consensus among people I talked to, and they were assuming he would put in the work to stay in shape. I talked to Pedro while he was going through customs after the World Cup, and he said defense was his top priority during the season and that his offseason priority is conditioning. He's not playing but is going to Arizona to Athlete's Performance, I believe, and that could go a long way to helping him stay at third in the near-term. He just needs to improve his agility and first-step quickness a bit to be an average defender — average-to-plus arm, solid hands.

    Zach (Wilton, CT): What do you make of Brad Holt's struggles in Binghamton?

John Manuel: First full pro season, a little fatigue, and a little lesson in how to use his breaking ball. He can spin the breaking ball; one scout in particular who has read what we've written about Holt says the problem with his breaking ball isn't that he doesn't have one, it's that he doesn't command one. He didn't throw it often in college because he didn't have to; now, in Double-A, when he needed it, he couldn't shorten it up and throw it for strikes to keep people honest on his fastball. He was in a lot of 2-0 and 3-1 counts and guys were sitting on his heat. That sounded eerily like Phil Humber, and that's not a good sign. I like Holt so I hope he makes better adjustments next season.

    Zach (Wilton, CT): What is your take on Ruben Tejada?

John Manuel: Definite 21-30 guy, would have made the top 30 if he just had one plus tool. He had a nice season, though, and I'm impressed with how well he grinds through a year. He had a poor April and then was solid the rest of the season. But again, he's maybe a 55 runner according to the scouts I talked to, and the guys who liked him considered him fringy offensively with below-average power. The consensus was that he's more of a utility guy as a result.

    Reggie C. (New York, NY): Good afternoon BA! The benefits of signing at 16... Is Jose Tabata still a major OF prospect for the Pirates? He's been around forever. Do you think his bat will play as a corner OF? Thanks!

John Manuel: Hard to say major prospect, more of a second-division regular until he hits for power, but his hit tool is ahead of guys like Kalish and Tosoni, to compare him to those guys. He's another guy that we hear so much about, that the power will be the last tool to come. Perhaps the hand and wrist issues he's had in the past are still an issue as well. He does drive the ball; his swing plane appears to be the problem. I admit I liked him better last year when he played more CF and played it well. As a corner guy, he's more of a stretch, but he can hit, he's short and quick to the ball, and he's fairly athletic despite his squatty build. I still like more as a solid regular than as an impact guy; a couple of years ago, we thought he could be an impact guy. I'll also refer our readers to this "the Comp" we did in 2006 when the scout I talked to liked Elvis Andrus over Jose Tabata. That scout should take a bow. http://www.baseballamerica.com/online/prospects/the-comp/2006/262196.html

    JAYPERS (IL): Michael Taylor certainly seems to be the complete package, especially for such a big guy. He not only hits, but he hits hard. He's also surprisingly fast on the basepaths as well. What is his biggest weakness in your opinion, since you didn't make mention of any in your scouting report?

John Manuel: Despite his results, there are some questions about Taylor's feel for hitting and ultimate ceiling. He's starting to slow down, not a plus runner underway like he was in the past, and he's more of an LF than an RF now. But the biggest strike against him seems to be his age and the fact he's seen as more of a good, solid regular rather than as a potential all-star, as Dom Brown is seen.

    Jerry (NYNY): Scott Barnes won the eastern championship game and looked pretty dominating.Whats his ceiling and dont you think it has risen considering he pitched at aa at 21 yrs old?

John Manuel: Barnes is an Aaron Fitt favorite from his St. John's days, so I'm inclined to like him. The scout I talked to who saw him in the EL (he didn't qualify) wasn't enamored with him, but Barnes has deception and three average pitches when he's at his best. He's a little bit of a nibbler so my question with him is the same as always — can he get swings and misses in the K zone with his fastball? It sounds like he has to prove that at Double-A still.

    Ben (Leland Grove): Which Orioles 1B is better defensively, in your estimation - Snyder or Waring?

John Manuel: Definitely Snyder, who has more experience at the position. Ranking him was definitely based on believing the feel for hitting will translate into average power. He's kind of a righthanded-hitting Sean Casey.

    tiffythetitan (Oakland, CA): Was there anyone else from the Connecticut Defenders (SF Giants) team close to making the Top 20?

John Manuel: Tiffy! So glad you are still coming to the chat rooms. Brett Pill got some support; Mike McBryde got some love as well, though his bat was too raw for most. Pill is a solid player, pretty good defense at first, the swing is too long for most to see him as a regular; just comparing him to Snyder, Snyder has a lot more feel for hit and a better stroke. Henry Sosa can't stay healthy; Waldis Joaquin is more of a 6th- or 7th-inning reliever than an impact setup man or closer. And Brandon Crawford, well, he's a divisive player. That inability to make consistent contact just looks too familiar. He has a long track record of striking out too much. I want to like him because I understand he is a monster long toss guy (cue the office snickering here), but no one had enough confidence in his bat for me to rank him.

    Drew (Boston): What is a fair stat-line prediction for Josh Reddick's career? Are we talking about a .280-.300 hitter with 30 HR potential and fair amount of stolen bases, or is that too much of a pipe dream?

John Manuel: Honestly, I'm not sure. I even got a Darryl Strawberry reference on Reddick, which I think was because we just got done talking about Dom Brown. (Again, that's a physical comp, not a comp on what kind of HR hitter Brown will be, but that's probably my fault for expecting people to pick up on a subtle point like that.) Anyway, I'd think Redick's peak can be .280 with 25-30 homers; I don't know that he can sustain that, but he has power and speed. I would imagine there are many clubs that would take him over Michael Taylor — he's lefthanded, he's younger, he's a bit more conventional. I ranked Taylor ahead because Taylor's present hit tool is better, and I think his present power is better, but it's not a huge difference and again, I could see the case for Reddick over Taylor. Reddick didn't miss the top 10 by much.

    Joe LeCates (Easton, MD): Cheeseball time - who ya got?

John Manuel: Mmmmmm, personal cheeseball. Among guys who made the list, I'm a big Domonic Brown guy, and it was nice of him to have his breakout year after ranking him No. 1 last year in the Phillies list. Among guys who didn't make the top 20, I'm a Joe Savery fan, reports on his stuff were encouraging and better than they were last year, and he competes. I root for Rice pitchers to dispel the legitimate concerns that people have about the track record of Owls pitches; I was obviously excited for Jeff Niemann this year, glad I didn't have to see him in Durham anymore. Also I will include Farquhar; sounds like he's got multiple arm angles and plus stuff, up to 96 mph.

    Joe LeCates (Easton, MD): I'm a sucker for tooled-up shortstops, give me a sleeper that could click?

John Manuel: Freddy Galvis, though he may not hit for 4-5 years. I also have gotten some Aregnis Diaz love the last two years, almost exclusively for his defense. Cale Iorg at Erie has all kinds of tools and has since high school (2004 Tennessee HS class which also included David Price). But he just hasn't hit yet. I'd have ranked him if anyone ha said they thought he would hit, because he has raw power and plenty of defensive tools. But pitch recognition and strike-zone discipline are real issues for him, as they were for his brother Eli, and he (like Eli) has shown no sign of making adjustments yet.

    Casey (Alexandria, VA): Can you share your opinion on what separates Drabek and Arrieta most as prospects? The numbers seem to favor Arrieta, but just from your rankings, it seems to go deeper.

John Manuel: Drabek's secondary pitches are significantly better, from what I gather, and he's also more athletic than Arreita.

    Jack Crow (Grand Rapids, MI): Thanks for the chats! Did any players other than Sizemore come close to making the list from Erie? Specifically thinking of Streiby, Boesch, Wells, or Avila.

John Manuel: Strieby definitely had his supporters and came closest. Boesch has plus power too, both are power guys, but Strieby has better feel for hitting and uses the whole field more. The other hitters weren't guys that stood out to anyone, and Cody Satterwhite was the top pitcher. I've frankly never been a Satterwhite guy.

    MJ (Valpo): Will Jason Place ever live up to his 1st-round pick status and $1 million + bonus, or has he turned into yet another HS kid who was over-hyped, over-paid, and under-achieved? Thanks.

John Manuel: I think that's a little harsh on Place; he was better this year. He has huge raw power, still has speed, he's a plus defender, he's got a plus arm. I like this phrase — he could be Rick Asadoorian, or he could be Torii Hunter. I suppose he also could be somewhere in between. With him, Kalish and Reddick, the Portland outfield had some players with some real tools to work with.

    Blackie (Cincinnati): I think a lot of readers will be surprised to see Wilson Ramos on the list at all, much less #8. What attributes drove that aggressive ranking and is the continued lack of walks of any concern to observers?

John Manuel: He is too aggressive, but he can really mash, and he can defend. His profile is pretty strong. You just hit on the one major weakness, but I talked to scouts who like Ramos over Santana, even. So I didn't consider No. 8 aggressive at all.

John Manuel: I will be back, on a call.

    Jack (Belle Harbor, NY): The Yankees seem very stubborn about keeping Montero behind the plate despite other more athletic catchers in the system. Do you see the Yankees easing Montero into another position DH, 1B or LF where they can rush his bat to the bigs or will they keep down another few years or in an effort to make him a serviceable ML catcher?

John Manuel: I'm not sure what they will do with him, but his future appears to be as a DH. He's not going to play an outfield corner; he just doesn't run enough. And if he's a Yankee, he's not going to play 1B over Teixeira. For a different organization, he might get a shot at 1B, but not there.

    mike (reading): i heard vance worley's name mentioned in some trades at the deadline. did he get any consideration to be in the top 20?

John Manuel: Sorry about the delay . . . Worley and Mike Stutes are both solid pitching prospects, but Worley is more of a back-rotation guy, an innings eater, if it all comes together. More like he and Stutes both are middle relievers, and I think Stutes has the better relief profile thanks to the slide piece.

    Jon (Peoria): Where would you rank Zach McAllister among the Yankees pitching prospects since both Betances and Brackman struggled this year?

John Manuel: Behind Manny Banuelos and probably Arodys Vizcaino, for starters. I have no clue what I'll do with Betances and Brackman at this point. I'd imagine McAllister is in the Yanks' Top 10, but that will probably be a very young list this year.

    Tony (Lakeland, FL): So Rondon was very dominating early in the year but as the year went on he looked less impressive. Why?

John Manuel: Sounds like he got out of rhythm and lost some command, and it took him a while to get it back. He's got good stuff, not great stuff, and like all pitchers he's got to throw more consistent quality strikes. But he's got late life and good velo on his fastball, a good place to start.

    Matt Walsh (Claremont, Ca): Had Josh Bell qualified for this list where would he have slotted?

John Manuel: Pretty high up; probably just ahead of Michael Taylor. Reports on Josh Bell were very encouraging, and I also talked to a scout who saw him in the SL, I got much the same reports that Ben Badler got. Sounds like another piece to the puzzle in Baltimore, a corner power bat, and the reports on his defense were better as well.

    Elliot (Youngstown OH): Beau Mills had a very ordinary season, unfortunately typical of Indian No. 1 draft choices. Is he ready for AAA? Is he developing his game? Is there any reason to look forward to his major league career?

John Manuel: Some managers like him better than Weglarz because he has more feel for hitting. He gets the barrel to the ball too easily, he's too much of a free swinger, but he is making progress, especially defensively. Obviously at first base, getting better control of the K zone so his power can play more consistently will be the key. I'd hold out some hope for him.

    Jeff (Pittsburgh): Carlos Gutierrez got a fairly high ranking on the FSL top 20. He didn't fare nearly as well after the promotion to AA. Has his struggles ended the starting pitcher experiment?

John Manuel: I'll find out more on the Twins' plans for him in doing their Top 30, but I believe relief suits him better personally. No real harm in trying to start him, and they found out that at higher levels, he needs better fastball command and (or) a better secondary pitch to succeed. That said, he was fatigued in the second half; he basically doubled his workload from college, 50 IP at Miami, then he threw another 25 for the Twins, so going up to 106 this year was a pretty significant jump.

    Karl of Delaware (Georgetown, Delaware): Danny and Paco Figuerora, the identical twins with Bowie, both batted over .300. Danny is a super defensive player in center field form what i've seen. Will either or both ever make the Orioles? Break the tie - if you had to pick one for your team, which one?

John Manuel: I'd pick Paco because he's an infielder. One huge issue is neither Figueroa brother can stay healthy for an entire year. I had good reports on Paco a couple of years back in the SAL, and he's got a line-drive swing. He also dominated in the World Cup for Spain, two rounds of play for Spain and he led the entire World Cup in hitting, for whatever that is worth. He has a chance to be an extra IF.

    Josh G (Sacto, CA): Brock Bond was the EL's hitting leader. Is he on the prospect the map at all?

John Manuel: Not enough other tools for me, and it's not a great profile — defense is a bit short, not a runner. He's going to have to keep overachieving.

    Josh G (Sacto, CA): Brandon Crawford had a break out year for the Giants. How did he look in Connecticut and has he surpassed Adrianza as the Giants best SS?

John Manuel: I would venture to no, but I would guess the Giants think so.

    Vic (Norfolk, VA): Had he qualified, where do you think Lonnie Chisenhall would have ranked? After struggling early, he tore it up towards the last week and in the playoffs.

John Manuel: He also would have gone in the top 10, actually probably right at No. 7, ahead of Tazawa. I've heard nothing but good things on Chisenhall. Seeing as how I was wrong about him prior to the 2008 draft, I will try to make up for it by saying he was roundly praised in the EL both offensively and defensively.

John Manuel: OK that's going to have to be it. I appreciate your patience with me taking that call, and hope everyone has a great weekend.