League Top 20 Prospects

Arizona League Top 20 Prospects Chat

Bill Mitchell: Let's get started with the annual Arizona League chat. It's always an honor to kick off prospect season here at BA.

    JAYPERS (IL): Did the A's buy themselves a lemon in Ynoa? What's the verdict on the brief look we saw of him this year?

Bill Mitchell: I'll follow BA tradition and take the first question from chat regular Jaypers. Ynoa looked very good in his first AZL start as well as one time when I saw him in extended spring training. It was a brief flash of his potential, albeit very brief. It's too soon to call him a lemon, but the Athletics certainly wanted more than what they've gotten so far.

    Ben (Leland Grove): Did Ryan Bolden not qualify for this list? If so, would he have made it? Your thoughts on him?

Bill Mitchell: Bolden qualified for the list but fell short. He's loaded with tools but is very, very raw. I started to see some better swings from him later in the season. He could get stronger and add power, but has a lot of baseball skills to acquire.

    Ike (OK): Could you evaluate Rafael Rodriguez's performance this year, and what kept him off the list?

Bill Mitchell: I spent some sleepless nights this summer thinking about Rodriguez's prospect status. I ranked him highly last year, knowing he was a classic high risk, high reward player. I started to see him take better swings in the second half of the 2009 season when he had just turned 17. I projected that he could be primed for a big jump forward IF he added strength and started driving the ball. The Giants were aggressive in starting him in the Northwest League this season, where he was totally overmatched. What I saw when he returned to the AZL was pretty much the same player as last year. He gets some decent swings and even turns on a few balls, but I still don't see him driving the ball with much authority. He doesn't look any stronger than before and I'm starting to wonder if this is it —- 6-5, 200 pounds and a lot of moving parts in his swing. The Giants know that it's going to be a long, slow process with Rodriguez. I'm not giving up on him yet; he's still a prospect, especially since he only just turned 18, but I just couldn't rank him in the top 20 this year.

    Kelly (PA): Were you impressed by Austin Fleet this year?

Bill Mitchell: Fleet pitched very well this well this year. He was the ace for the Giants, one of the better teams in the AZL. But as a 23-year-old 4-year college guy he doesn't profile as a prospect at this point.

    JAYPERS (IL): I'd like to get your thoughts on Cleveland's Felix Sterling. He seems impressive in stature, and struck out more than his fair share. What excluded him from the list? Is he not as impressive as his numbers indicate?

Bill Mitchell: We have two questions about Sterling who pitched very well for the Indians as a 17-year-old. He finished in my top 25. His fastball ranges from 91-93 with an average slider and changeup. He's already got a pretty mature body —- bigger than his listed weight of 200 —- so I didn't see as much projection from him as with other pitchers in the league. Still, an interesting prospect to watch.

    Cloochmere (VT): How does this year's top 20 compare to last year's? It doesn't even seem close at the top.

Bill Mitchell: Correct —- there wasn't as much top tier talent that qualified for the list this year. However, I believe it was deeper with second tier talent. There are another 10-15 players that could have slotted in at the back end of the top 20. But until MLB changes their signing deadline and the policy that keeps players from signing until the middle of August, the top tier is going to be thinner.

    Chuck (Wichita): How close was Mike Antonio? How were his reviews on defense at short?

Bill Mitchell: I like Antonio's bat but not sure he can stay at SS or if he will have the power to play 3B.

    Chuck (Wichita): Any other Royals we should keep our eye on? Thanks.

Bill Mitchell: In addition to the three players in the top seven of the league, plus Antonio who I just mentioned, keep an eye on Jorge Bonifacio. He arrived midway through the season after tearing up the DSL. Unlike his brother, Emilio, the younger Bonifacio is an intriguing power prospect. If he had gotten here sooner he might have gotten more consideration. Still a lot of swing and miss so let's see how he develops next year.

    Brian (San Diego): How much should I worry about Tate?

Bill Mitchell: I believe there is reason to be concerned with Tate. It's been a year and a half since he finished high school. He signed too late to play last summer, missed instructional league last year due to an injury, missed parts of spring training and extended spring training with other injuries, and then missed major chunks of the Arizona League season due to illness. That's a lot of missed development time he'll never get back. He still has the tremendous athleticism but there are big questions about his bat that can't be answered until he can stay on the field on a consistent basis. He's now playing in instructional league, but he's noticeably thinner than earlier in the summer. He's not back to full strength but at least he's on the field. Predicting his future is impossible until he shows he can play a full season. I couldn't get anyone —- scouts or managers —- to grade his tools this summer.

    JY (Manhattan): Did Choi rank low in part because of concerns as to where he'll end up position-wise?

Bill Mitchell: Exactly. He would have ranked higher if he was staying behind the plate. The Mariners say that he's going to be developed as both a catcher and first baseman, but he rarely caught this year. I just saw the Mariners instructional league roster and he's listed there with the infielders. He's still interesting —- more of a fringe prospect coming into the summer, he really had a nice season and should be recognized for that.

    JY (Manhattan): Thoughts on RHP Seon Gi Kim? The 71/12 K/BB in 61.1 innings was pretty impressive, even if he did allow his fair share of hits.

Bill Mitchell: Kim is one to watch. Every time I saw him he pitched well for a couple of innings and then get hit hard. Maybe he's better suited for the bullpen but he's still too young to give him that label.

    Brad (MO): I read something that said Cheslor Cuthbert was sent back to Arizona, but he never made another appearance. He only had 8 at bats after July, and 137 PA's on the year, and never appeared on an injury report. Have the Royals given any reasons why he was basically shut down?

Bill Mitchell: My understanding is that he had a minor back injury —- no concerns for the future. He's a legit prospect.

    Fred (Scottsdale): How would you access the A's pitchers in the arizona league? Did anyone out there have a season that might be worth mentioning?

Bill Mitchell: The guy that I liked was 5th rounder Tyler Vail. He's not going to be a front of the rotation guy but he's got a decent fastball (I seem to remember it being in the 91-92 range) but needs to develop his secondary stuff. He was often reluctant to use his curveball. That will come with experience.

    David Bowen (Potsdam, New York): Were there any Dodgers that were worthy of consideration? If so, who?

Bill Mitchell: The Dodgers staff really liked 7th rounder Ryan Christenson, who was promoted to Ogden before he qualified for the list. The Dodgers obviously have been following him for a while, since this was the third time they drafted him and he went higher than projected. He doesn't have top shelf stuff but he's one to watch. Some AZL managers also liked Arismendy Ozoria, who was also promoted to Ogden during the season.

    Brad (MO): Where will Ventura, Yambati, and Cuthbert rank in a loaded Royals top 30? Will Ventura and Yambati rank ahead of Sample and Mellville?

Bill Mitchell: I don't do the Royals top 30 (I believe that's JJ Cooper). I'm sure he's got them on his list for consideration, but it's too soon to predict where they might rank.

    Kyle (Oxford): How did Kyle Lotzkar look in his return to rookie ball? Is his stuff what it was pre-surgery?

Bill Mitchell: Lotzkar pitched very well both in the AZL and in the Pioneer League. It's an encouraging sign, especially the command he obviously showed with Billings.

    Navin (Pasadena, CA): I know he barely played after signing but do you have any early thoughts on Reggie Golden? Thank you.

Bill Mitchell: I saw Golden bat a few times and was impressed with the swing. He looks to be a good blend of raw athleticism with good baseball skills. He didn't play the field at all, but I've heard that he's got prototypical right field skills. Great makeup, too —- a real good kid. He likely would have qualified for this list if he hadn't had hamstring problems that led to him being shut down early. He's back for Instructional league, so I may know more after possibly seeing him play tomorrow.

    Navin (Pasadena, CA): Were there any other Cub prospects close to making the list? Yao-Lin Wang and Pin-Chieh Chen at least seemed intriguing given their age and stats. Thanks!

Bill Mitchell: The Cubs like Chen, a second baseman from Taiwan. He's an athletic kid with soft hands, plus speed and a solid swing. Luis Liria, a right-handed pitcher, got some consideration from managers; he's got a fastball that gets up to 94 with a decent slider and a good feel for pitching. One more to watch is late-round sleeper Dallas Beeler, who was coming off TJ surgery after pitching one year at Oral Roberts —- a big guy who could add velocity (usually threw around 92-93) and has a really good slider.

    Jeff (Pittsburgh): I know his stint after signing was brief, but did you hear anything on Kaleb Cowart?

Bill Mitchell: Cowart showed up in AZ the very same day he signed with the Angels. He played a few games but was still pretty rusty. He's got a good swing and a big, athletic body.

    Brian (San Diego): Did James Needy get any consideration for the top 20 AZL prospects?

Bill Mitchell: Needy did not pitch at all in the 2010 season. I don't have an official update, but I believe his absence was related to a previous knee issue.

    Elliot (Youngstown OH): Besides Sterling no other Indians stood out statistically. Any other prospects on their team? (Of course most of the top Indian draftees didn't arrive until the final weeks.)

Bill Mitchell: The Indians had the youngest team in the league, with several intriguing Latin teenagers in addition to Sterling. Catcher Alex Monsalve came very close to making the list —- good defensive skills in only his second year as a catcher. He's got some power potential but needs to make better contact and level out his swing. Jorge Martinez is interesting. He played three infield positions but profiles best as a shortstop; he's got a 60 arm. Martinez struggled at the plate but showed a lively bat at times. Third baseman Juan Romero came on strong late in the season and showed good power potential. He's got a body that is easy to project getting stronger, but he needs to make better contact; he struck out nearly half the times he went to the plate.

    Brad (MO): Were there any concerns among scouts that Ventura's size would keep him out of the rotation? How soon could he make an impact as a reliever?

Bill Mitchell: I asked that very concern to Royals pitching coach Mark Davis, and he believes Ventura can be a starter. I also didn't hear any scouts say that he would be better suited in the bullpen. Of course, with that fastball he could be a real asset out of the pen, but the Royals will likely continue to develop him as a starter. He's still too inexperienced to think about him making an impact as a reliever —- he just needs to keep pitching and developing.

    Roger (Washington, DC): I'm interested in the reports you got on two Giants pitchers: Kendry Flores and Jacob Dunnington? 18 year old Flores put up a very nice 56/13 K/BB in 55 innings mostly as a starter. And 19 year old Dunnington struck out a ridiculous 45 batters in 28.2 innings. What say the scouts?

Bill Mitchell: Flores had a good season in his first time in the States at 18. His fastball is 90-94 and touches 95. He's got a good feel for his breaking ball and a plus changeup. He just needs experience and improvement with his breaking ball. I didn't get much of a read from the scouts and managers on Dunnington but his numbers were very good.

    Brian (San Diego): Do the Padres have anything to be excited about in the AZL?

Bill Mitchell: Australian outfielder Corey Adamson showed a lot of improvement from his first season here, but needs to develop more power to be a corner outfielder. Eugenio Reyes is a big, 20-year-old still learning how to pitch. He was usually around 94 but I got reports on him getting up to 98 in his bullpen sessions. He drew a Simon Castro comp from his pitching coach, more for the fact that Castro also didn't put up good numbers in the AZL. I don't think Reyes has anywhere close to Castro's potential, but he's still one to watch. While he didn't play enough to qualify for the list, 8th rounder Jose Dore looked good at the plate in his brief time in the AZL.

    Rudolph (Phoenix, AZ): Do you happen to have the schedule for BA's remaining Top 20 League Prospect lists? As I type this, I'm not seeing a link on BA's homepage. Thanks.

Bill Mitchell: The schedule will be posted later today. Newlywed Nathan Rode will bring you the Gulf Coast League tomorrow with Matt Eddy following on Friday with the Appy League.

    Kyle (West Plains, MO): What do you see Cuthbert doing? What are his greatest tools?

Bill Mitchell: Cuthbert has the potential to be a very good prospect. He projects to be a solid third baseman with good power. His AZL manager says that if everything goes right you could expect to see him in some all-star games. The bat is his best tool but he also projects to be at least an average defender and maybe a little better.

    Kyle (West Plains, MO): Is Yambati the better prospect because of his size? Will Ventura's size limit his chance to start in KC?

Bill Mitchell: As stated in the report on Yambati, the Royals can't decide which is the better prospect —- Yambati or Ventura. And it really doesn't matter as they can just keep putting them out on the mound and let them pitch. I don't see that Ventura's size will limit him —- when you have that kind of velocity they really don't care how big you are. If he develops the curveball like they expect, he'll have enough pitches to be in the rotation.

    Kent (Sonoma, CA): Hi Bill, Thank you for the chat. What do you think is "age appropriate" for an AZ-level prospect? Is it different for guys coming out of the draft versus international signees?

Bill Mitchell: Most of the players that we rank at this level are teenagers, both international kids and players just drafted. Age is taken into consideration when projecting a player's prospect status, but of course it's not the only factor. You'll occasionally see a college guy, like Heath Hembree this season, make the list, but that's somewhat rare. He's the only guy out of his teens on this year's list.

    Dave (Deerfield, MA): Did the Reds' 3B David Vidal get any consideration? His offensive numbers were better than Tyler Roberts, and he wasn't repeating the league.

Bill Mitchell: I try not to use statistics much at all in projecting players at this level. Vidal struggled in a short stint in the Pioneer League before coming to the AZL. He had one monster game in which he hit half of his six homeruns in one night. He drew a few comments from opposing managers and he's one to watch. I'm not sure what else he'll bring other than his power.

    Brian (San Diego): The Padres farm system was a disappointment for the most part. How far have they slid?

Bill Mitchell: I saw three of the six Padres farm teams this year but I'm not the best qualified for an overall analysis of the system. They obviously had some good talent at Fort Wayne and Lake Elsinore. The AZL team was a little thin in projectable talent this year. Not signing this year's first round pick (Whitson) didn't help, and of course Tate's inability to stay on the field is a concern.

    Adam (California): Did you get a chance to see Jeff Urlaub for the A's pitch? I heard he had a great summer and wanted your take on him.

Bill Mitchell: I only saw Urlaub one time. He had a nice season but, to keep it in perspective, he's a 23-year-old with major college experience. The odds are against him.

    Kyle G (West Plains, MO): I got to see Chuckie Jones a few times in HS. How good is he? Will he make it to the majors? He's a kid I'm rooting for.

Bill Mitchell: Chuckie had a nice season here —- better than expected, I think. It's much too soon to predict whether he'll make the big leagues, but he's off to a good start. There's room on that big body for him to get even stronger. If that happens AND he develops better plate discipline, he could turn into a nice return for a 7th round pick.

    Quincy (Virginia): Any thoughts on Brooks Hall? Is his stuff any good? I know he gave up a lot of hits, but his bb and k rate seemed solid.

Bill Mitchell: Hall was drafted by the Brewers in the fourth round and signed late in the summer for an overslot bonus, so he didn't make his official pro debut until this year. He's got a tall, projectable body and a good fastball/slider combo but needs to work on his location.

    Brandon (Pasadena): I know you said James' Baldwin's arm is only average, but could be potentially turn into a 5 tool player down the road?

Bill Mitchell: The Dodgers believe that his arm can get stronger so, yes, he could be a 5 tool player. I really liked how he developed as the season progressed, and mostly by hard he reportedly worked. He's still got a lot of work to do, but I like him.

    Craig (Tacoma, WA): Any other Mariners prospects under consideration for the top 20?

Bill Mitchell: Alfredo Morales got a lot of consideration. Like Pimentel, he's a 17-year-old outfielder with 5 tool potential. Good gap to gap power with the potential to stay in centerfield. He needs to show more consistency and improve his strike zone judgment. Taijuan Walker would likely have been a top 20 prospect if he had pitched enough to qualify. He passes the eye test. When you look at the body, you can see why the Mariners popped for him so high (supp 1st round) without even seeing him on the mound. Tall, athletic body with plenty of projection.

    Pep Guariola (Ohio): Why wasn't Juan Romeo ranked? he was one of the youngest players in the league and showed a lot of power.

Bill Mitchell: I covered Romero when I talked about other Indians prospects. He got some consideration and is one to watch, but I want to see him cut down on his strikeouts.

Bill Mitchell: That's all the time I've got today. Sorry I couldn't get to all of the great questions, but it's time to head out to the field for some Instructional League action. Thanks to everyone who submitted questions. It was great to see so much interest in the AZL.