League Top 20 Prospects

Gulf Coast League Top 20 Prospects Chat

Nathan Rode: Good afternoon everyone. I'm heading to Costa Rica for my honeymoon tomorrow, but I'm yours for the next hour or so to discuss the Gulf Coast League. Let's get started!

    Dave (Atlanta): Looks like an off year for the GCL Braves. Were any others close to making the top 20? Luis De Luna?

Nathan Rode: Edison Sanchez was the next closest guy for the Braves. He's a strong corner infielder. He has power and moves well for a bigger guy. He was banged up this season and didn't get as many ABs as the Braves were hoping for. He'll be interesting to watch once he can get some consistent time on the field. De Luna wasn't close. It's a good year, but he was 20 years old for the season. The frame is good, but he'll need to prove more at higher levels.

    JAYPERS (IL): Could you tell us what you've observed from Exicardo Cayonez, and was he considered for this list? And for that matter, did any of the GCL Pirates get consideration?

Nathan Rode: Cayonez was definitely considered, but I just couldn't fit him in there. It's tough with 15 teams in a league. Cayonez is a good hitter with a good approach. He stays inside the ball well and really works up the middle. He had a good start to the season but got worn down toward the end. A ocuple other guys like Jorge Bishop, Eric Avila and Elias Diaz piqued the interest of some, but not overwhelmingly. Avila is a good defender at third with range and a plus arm.

    Ben (Leland Grove): Nathan, does this GCL list impress you more or less overall than last year's offering?

Nathan Rode: I think they're fairly similar overall. I like the pitching from 2009 more just because there was more depth. But the top two in this league between Sanchez and Sano are hard to argue against.

    Nick (Connecticut): Are Montero comparisons too much to put on Sanchez? Those expectations seem lofty but as a Yankee fan I hope you are right.

Nathan Rode: It might be. Montero has obviously proved a lot in the minors with his bat and seems destined to be in the big leagues very soon. It's definitely lofty to say that Sanchez will follow the same path. But that's not saying he won't. I don't see it as hyperbole comparing Sanchez to him because I had a few managers bring it up on their own and they were guys I trust. Sanchez seems to have a better chance of staying behind the plate, but he still has plenty to work on back there. Montero's bat is pretty special, but Sanchez is showing the ingredients to be a force there as well.

    Peter (NYC): Any Orioles other than Manny Machado that almost made the list or did not have enough playing time to qualify?

Nathan Rode: Connor Narron and Cameron Coffey didn't have enough to qualify, but certainly would have been in play if they did. Coffey is working back from Tommy John surgery that he had in March 2009. Narron was a fifth rounder this year. He'll likely move off of shortstop but has some interesting potential at the plate.

    Andrew (Winnipeg): BA did not rate Aaron Sanchez as highly as others coming out of Barstow. Had he qualified, where would he rank on this list? Has your assessment of his ability/potential changed at all over the past few months?

Nathan Rode: My opinion hasn't changed because I've been a big Sanchez fan since I saw him at the Tournament of Stars in 2009. He was working 89-92, but touched a lot of 94 this summer. He has plenty of projection and good secondary stuff for a high school guy. If he qualified he would have easily made the Top 10. I would've wrestled a while with how he stacks up with Urbina.

    Jim (Philly): If the Phils like high risk toolsy guys, what separates Altherr from Hewitt?

Nathan Rode: Altherr needs some polish and plate discipline, but there's a lot less swing and miss in him than Hewitt. Hewitt is a good athlete, but Altherr's athleticism is better. It's a small sample size at lower levels, but Altherr has also out-performed Hewitt handily. Managers and scouts see five-tool potential in Altherr. I don't think we can say the same for Hewitt anymore.

    JAYPERS (IL): Where will Kepler likely begin 2011? Is he ready for full season ball, in your estimation?

Nathan Rode: Tough to say right now since he still has instructional league to go through and spring training. John Manuel will get a better idea when he does the Twins Top 30 in the next couple months. If I were a betting man, I'd say he'll play some short-season ball in 2011, but have a chance to show the organization that he deserves a shot at Low A.

    darren (grand rapids): Is the Blue Jays scouting department the new Tampa Rays?

Nathan Rode: I hope so! I do the Blue Jays Top 30 for the Prospect Handbook and I'm pretty excited for the talent they've added. Last time I checked, I think they added 16 players in 2011 between the draft and international signings that are very strong candidates for the Top 30. I like the philosophy of having a larger staff. But the size of a staff doesn't automatically bring in better talent. You still have to have good scouts. Time will tell obviously, but there's certainly good reason to be optimistic.

    Mick (Ann Arbor): Better top 20? The GCL or the AZL?

Nathan Rode: Call me biased, but I'll go with the GCL. Seemed a little deeper to me. Maybe Bill agrees. If not, we'll duke it out later.

    Robert (Secaucus, NJ): Matt Lipka was pretty polished for a two-sport guy coming out of high school. Is his bat for real, and does he have the athleticism to handle SS or CF long-term?

Nathan Rode: We had good reports on his bat heading into the draft so yes, I think the bat is for real. Really all he needs to do is continue making contact. He ran a 4.0 down the line on a routine grounder. That's an 80 runner so he'll put a ton of pressure on the defense. He has the range and athleticism for shortstop, but what I'm hearing is that his actions don't really work there. That's no problem though because he'd be very good in center field.

    bill (michigan): Javier Azcona. Whats the ceiling on him? He seemed to get better as the year went on and looks like he has some pop.

Nathan Rode: He's a stronger offensive player than Machado, but less of a defender. He's capable of playing short now and split time there with Machado. There's some pop in his bat and he's an average runner. Like a lot of guys in this league he's a long way off. But he has some potential at the plate and could play up the middle, whether it's second base or shortstop.

    Tom (San Francisco, CA): I know Sanchez & Syndergaard didn't make the list, but what did you hear from managers & scouts in terms of what they saw and what their potential is? Thanks.

Nathan Rode: Neither qualified because of innings. I discussed Sanchez a little earlier. Syndergaard would have been a very strong candidate for the Top 20 if he had one more inning. He was shut down as a precaution. He's behind Sanchez in velocity and overall package, but there's a lot to like. He has a good changeup and sinker. His curveball is a little inconsistent now. On some days it's an out pitch and on others he'll just use it early to induce weak contact. Aside from polishing his stuff he'll just need to work on his competitive mentality. Once he gets used to the process of being ready to pitch in pro ball, he could really take off.

    Nelson (Tacoma, WA): Nathan- Great to see Ryan Brett on the list. Any love for another local produce, Pirece Rankin? He's making the transition to catching everyday, after being a utility guy for the UW. How do you see him progressing for the Blue Jays?

Nathan Rode: Brett is a fun player to watch and was up there with Lipka in terms of exciting to watch for managers. Rankin was a 38th-round pick and 21 years old in the GCL. He needs to show he can play at higher levels where he's more age appropriate.

    john (detroit): It seems the Tigers brought over some toolsy latin american talent this year? On the pitching side, with the exception of Rondon, who garnered the most interest. I would assume Wilsen Palacios. What does he feature and what is his projection?

Nathan Rode: Palacios was probably the next Tiger. He was a little older than most of the competition in the league. He works in the low 90s with a good splitter and he obviously throws strikes. His delivery works well also. If he can maintain his four-pitch mix deep into games he should be able to progress well as a starter. I like Kyle Ryan. I saw him at the Tournament of Stars in 2009. He has a projectable frame and is a lefty. He works 88-89, but can get it up to 90-91. His secondary stuff is inconsistent, but flashes average right now. Keep an eye on him.

    Joe LeCates (Easton, MD): Though he did not have enough AB's to qualify, Nathan, what are your thoughts on Nick Castellanos? And just for fun (though I know it's a difficult hypothetical), where would he have ranked had he qualified?

Nathan Rode: I saw him play a bunch in high school. He can really hit and has some good power. I think he'll be fine at third. He would have been in the top five. I felt like Sanchez and Sano were 1 and 1a. Maybe he would have been 1b, but I also really like O'Conner's ceiling if he stays behind the plate.

    Gerry (Toronto): Two Blue Jay questions: Misaul Diaz and Michael Crouse had good seasons in the GCL and were promoted. Were they close to making the list?

Nathan Rode: Diaz didn't really stand out for anyone, but Crouse had some buzz. He's very physical and improved a lot from last season. I considered Crouse, but in the end he didn't come real close. Wouldn't have been in the next five, but maybe a Top 30 for the league.

    mike (flint): Thought we might see Eddie Rosario on the list. Was he close?

Nathan Rode: Good year, good potential. He was close. There's plenty to like, but I just didn't have enough from managers to make me pull the trigger.

    Tom (San Francisco, CA): I was surprised (and delighted) to see Sweeney rank that high, based on the number of plate appearances. Do you think he'll stick at third?

Nathan Rode: Yes I do. One manager felt he was capable of playing shortstop now, though he'd move as he got bigger and stronger. He's fairly polished defensively. He could play second base down the road as well.

    Joe LeCates (Easton, MD): Nathan, thank you for the chat. Any word on Narron's attitude since starting his professional career? Is it a concern going forward?

Nathan Rode: Since his time there was so short, I didn't really get into that. I know amateur scouts weren't fans of it. He practically grew up in the big leagues and was a big fish in a small pond playing high school ball in North Carolina. Sometimes all it takes is an older guy or even veteran to step in and give him a wake-up call. He has good offensive potential so hopefully his attitude history won't be an issue going forward. Even so, if he can play, he can play. There have been a lot of guys in the big leagues with "bad attitudes" that are assets on the field.

    Warren (New London): I'm wondering what your view of Kelly Dugan is. I presume he wasn't around long enough to qualify, but he was extremely hot here and is roughly the same age as Altherr.

Nathan Rode: Correct, missed the cut by about 20 plate appearances. When he was drafted it was a little bit of a head scratcher and I didn't get great reports on him last year. He needs some polish to progress at higher levels.

    Tom (San Francisco, CA): I know his stats were underwhelming, but was there any love at all for Art Charles? Sounds as if he's a "presence" in the batter's box.

Nathan Rode: There's a lot of power in there, but being limited defensively the bat will play a big role in his future. He won't be a high average guy, but he still needs to cut down on the strikeouts. He's worth keeping an eye on, but I wouldn't be too high on him just yet.

    Bryan (San Francisco): What is the ceiling for Jesse Biddle? Any chance he sees Clearwater next year? Thanks!

Nathan Rode: One manager said Biddle reminded him of Cole Hamels. The body types are different, but it's interesting to think about. Biddle has good stuff that he throws for strikes and he handles himself well on the mound. I think he can a middle-of-the-rotation type. He's not quite an ace for me (I'm very stingy with that label), but No. 2-3 is possible.

Nathan Rode: That's going to wrap it up for me. Thanks for all the great questions and sorry I couldn't get to more. Matt Eddy is the world's foremost authority on Appy League prospects and he'll be chatting tomorrow about that top 20 so be sure to come by and ask questions.