League Top 20 Prospects

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

    JAYPERS (IL): Hi, JJ. Thanks for the chat. Had they qualified, where would Gibson, Banuelos, McNutt, Noesi and Morris have ranked on this list, approximately?

J.J. Cooper: Hey everyone. Let's get started. As usual, Jaypers is first in the queue. I never really got done to figuring out exactly where they would have ranked, but Gibson, McNutt, Morris and possibly Manuelos could have made the top 10.

    JAYPERS (IL): Would you consider Moore's ceiling as that of a true #1? Who has better pure stuff - him or Hellickson?

J.J. Cooper: Moore doesn't yet have the command to be projected as a true No. 1, but then command is a very hard thing to project. If you were watching Randy Johnson in the minor leagues, it would have been hard to have projected him to end up with even average big league command. Moore's pure stuff is better than Hellickson's, but Hellickson's better command and feel for pitching makes for a pretty interesting comparison between the two.

    Ben (Leland Grove): Obviously his numbers suffered as a result of being promoted to AA, but did Josh Vitters' impressive campaign in the FSL get him consideration for this list?

J.J. Cooper: With 118 plate appearances, Vitters didn't qualify. If he had I could have seen him making the back end of the list. He's a pretty tough prospect to peg. His aggressiveness seems to get him in trouble whenever he moves up to the next level (his struggles in Double-A this year aren't dissimilar to his .238-.260-.344 line in the FSL last year). To his credit he seems better in his second try at a league. It's fair to wonder though if his ability to make contact sometimes works against him—he ends up hitting pitcher's pitches instead of working counts to get pitches he could drive.

    Marvin (Hill Valley): Hi JJ, can you compare and contrast Liam Hedricks and Kyle Gibson? Also, if he qualified how high would Gibson have been? Thanks.

J.J. Cooper: We've actually heard some comparisons of the two. Gibson would have ranked higher than Hendriks partly because his slider at times is a better pitch than any of Hendriks' offerings, but also because of Hendrik's injury history.

    Ben (Leland Grove): Is Jeurys Familia a potential SP or RP? Any love for your list?

J.J. Cooper: More reliever than starter. He doesn't have a second pitch with any consistency at all and he struggles a second time through the lineup. His ERA in the first two innings of his outings was 3.00. After that, it was 7.51. Familia right now is pure gas (up to 99 mph) without much idea of where it is going, plus a long arm action that makes it easy to pick his stuff up. He is a hard worker with the makeup to keep plugging away at trying to figure out what's wrong, but I'd be surprised to see him end up as a starter over the long-term.

    JAYPERS (IL): I realize it's tough for relievers to make this list, but I'd like to give props to Zach Quate and his excellent numbers. What was the skinny on him this season? Is he just as worthy of a promotion to Montgomery as Moore is?

J.J. Cooper: He's definitely ready to be promoted, as is Moore. He actually got some support for making the back end of this list because his slider is that good. He doesn't light up the radar gun like Moreno or Marinez, but his slider should allow him to continue to succeed as he moves up.

    Harry (PA): Did Clearwater's Aumont and Hyatt merit any consideration?

J.J. Cooper: Hyatt more than Aumont. Aumont didn't look real comfortable on the mound, although the stuff still seems to be there for a move back to the bullpen down the road. Hyatt may not have a plus pitch (although you could argue his changeup is plus), but having three average pitches with a feel for pitching will get you somewhere.

    JAYPERS (IL): He's rarely mentioned among BA's staff, but are you impressed with Charlotte's Shane Dyer? Could you give us a brief rundown on him?

J.J. Cooper: He didn't really get much consideration for this list. He's the kind of four-pitch guy who succeeds at lower levels because he can pitch backwards, but he'll have to prove his stuff (including a tick below-average fastball) will succeed at higher levels.

    Ben (Leland Grove): Tim Beckham's season was slow overall, but he seemed to figure it out at the end. What did scouts tell you about him? Is he in the 21-30 range?

J.J. Cooper: Scouts like his bat more than his glove. There was some thought that he was starting to figure it out at the plate in the second half, after a pretty poor first half that saw him flumoxed by even average fastballs. As far as defensively, it's hard to see him sticking at shortstop long-term as he doesn't have the hands or the feet for the position, and he's only an average runner. To be honest, I wouldn't have had him in a top 30, as one scout put it, if you didn't know he was a $6 million man, he wouldn't have stood out.

    Jonathan (Milwaukee): Did Cody Scarpetta just miss this list? Thanx

J.J. Cooper: Scarpetta was in the 25-30 range, but the difference between 25-30 on this list and 18 isn't that dramatic. Brackman (No. 20) has a significantly higher ceiling, but Scarpetta has a higher likelihood of reaching his, which is as a back end of the rotation starter. Actually though Wily Peralta from his same staff may have ranked ahead of him if we expanded the list.

    Greg (LA): Which one wins a Cy Young first - Betances or Brackman?

J.J. Cooper: I'll go with c) None of the above. Nothing against those two, but if I'm projecting Cy Youngs from the current crop of minor leaguers I'm going with Julio Teheran as my first choice.

    MJ (Valpo): It's pretty shocking to me that a young lefty with his stuff and results is not on this list...who later went on to AA for the playoffs at the tender age of 20 and dominated in three starts...who is this, you're wondering? BRAD HAND! How does he not make it?

J.J. Cooper: Shocking may be taking it a little bit far. Hand got some mentions and would have been in the mix if we went 30 deep. He is a lefty with relatively average stuff but an ability to throw multiple pitches at any point in the count, which works quite well in Class A but he'll have to prove that it works at higher levels over extended periods of time. He could end up being a No. 4 starter.

    Bob (Mundelein, IL): What in particular puts d'Arnaud ahead of Sanchez?

J.J. Cooper: I was kind of surprised that there was such a consensus that D'Arnaud was ahead of Sanchez as there was. The general belief is that D'Arnaud has a better arm, better power and potential for an equal hit tool to Sanchez eventually.

    Dan (D.C): How much seperation is there between Moore, Archer and Turner? Are there pretty clear distinctions, or are they close enough that they could have come out in any order.

J.J. Cooper: Moore and Archer are a notch ahead of Turner in my book, mainly because their stuff is just better. Turner has very solid stuff, but Archer and Moore's stuff compares with anyone in the minors. That being said, Moore was a pretty clear No. 1 with Archer as a clear No. 2 partly because Moore is a lefty.

    Greg T (London, ON): I see there is a reference to 1B Mike McDade being the home run leader in the FSL but only having 1 above average tool - power. With that, do you see him as a starting firstbasemen in the majors? Was he close to making the Top 20 list?

J.J. Cooper: No. McDade had a nice season, but there are worried about his ability to hit for average and get on base (141 strikeouts vs. 27 walks this year). Throw into that the fact that he's quite slow and below average at first base and he doesn't look like a big league starter at this time. Guys do improve, but he's got some significant improvements to make.

    Don (Louisiana): Did DJ LeMahieu's name come up as a top 20 prospect? He had a solid (yet unspectacular) year but seems to have a decent chance to grow into a solid MLB player. Does he lack big upside from your opinion or is he someone to keep an eye on at this point?

J.J. Cooper: LeMahieu's lack of power is what kept coming up when I asked about him. Scouts saw him as a third baseman, but didn't think his power was enough to profile at the position. Keep an eye on him, but at this point he seems more like a utilityman than an everyday starter.

    Dan (Boston): Hi JJ. Thanks for the chat today. Would you agree that this year's list lacks both the depth and top-tier positional talent of the 2009 FSL Top 20? If that is the case, was the 09 group unusually strong, or the 2010 group weaker than normal? A bit of both?

J.J. Cooper: Absolutely. I've been doing the FSL for seven years now (since 2004) and I'd say this is the weakest list of those seven years. The loss of the five pitchers who fell just short of qualifying really hurt the depth this year. But the league most notably lacked the position prospects it's had in recent years. D'Arnaud, Sanchez and Jackson are nice prospects, but last year the top three on this list were Mike Stanton, Jesus Montero and Domonic Brown. That's a pretty dramatic difference.

    Kyle (West Plains, MO): The two SS's listed are back to back. What seperates Flores and Hechavarria? Whose skills translate to the MLB game better?

J.J. Cooper: They couldn't be more different. Flores is not a shortstop, he's a hitter who goes out to the position. Hechavarria on the other hand is an excellent defensive shortstop who has to make some improvements at the plate. Flores' hands and instincts aren't that bad, but scouts and managers were shocked that someone who is as poor a runner as Flores is (I had a 25 thrown on his speed by one scout) with slow feet can play the position at all.

    Steve (St. Louis): Thanks for the chat J.J. Did Palm Beach have any players in consideration for the top 20?

J.J. Cooper: The Cardinal who got the most mentions was Kevin Thomas. He sat at 90-92, although he touched 94 while showing a nice sinker he could work to both sides of the plate. But he needs to improve his command and refine his secondary pitches. Casey Mulligan has a great feel for pitching (especially for a conversion guy), but his stuff is a little short to project him as more than a sixth or seventh-inning guy at best.

    Ben (Leland Grove): Is Quincy Latimore a prospect or suspect?

J.J. Cooper: A little of both. He's an average runner with an good arm and impressive power but with a poor approach that leaves him helpless against breaking balls all too often.

    Sholom (Smithtown, N.Y): What kind of player does Wilmer Flores project to be?

J.J. Cooper: He's going to have to keep hitting because the scouts I talked to wondered if he can handle 3B, much less SS. Some said they see him as a first baseman down the road because he doesn't run enough to play the outfield, and that's before you get into the fact that 19-year-olds usually slow down as they get older and fill out. But Flores can really, really hit, so he may be able to handle moving way down the defensive spectrum.

    Kade Nelson (Chippewa Falls,Wi.): I can't believe Erik Komatsu or Cody Scarpetta could not crack the top 20...Were they close? ...Also,what can you tell me about Evan Anundsen? He looked so good in '09. I know he was hurt but how is he doing? Still a decent prospect? Thanks.

J.J. Cooper: Guys liked Komatsu, but there's a lot to like and not a whole lot to love. He's got a very solid swing and a good idea of what he's doing at the plate. But he projects as more of a backup outfielder in the big leagues than a starter as his speed, power and range in center is average. But mainly it's because he doesn't project as much thanks to his short size. As one scout put it "if he was 6-foot-3, he'd be a guy." If you want to have something to cheer you up, scouts and managers liked Wily Peralta, who was actually closer to making the Top 20. Peralta's fastball wasn't consistent, but he has a plus fastball at his best (up to 95-96 mph) and an average breaking ball. What he lacks right now is the consistency and feel that a pitcher needs (although that is something that can be developed). His results don't match up to his stuff yet.

    Chris (AZ): I was a bit baffled by the bio information on Jacob Turner and wondering if this is the Jacob Turner I know of. You list him as drafted in the fifth round in 2008 out of a California high school. But I thought Turner went in the first in 2009 out of a Missouri high school? Is this a different guy than the one I'm thinking of?

J.J. Cooper: No I botched the copy and paste when setting it up. It's fixed now. Sorry.

    Joel (Washington, DC): Inquiring Pirate fans want to know: why no Starling Marte? And how about Jeff Locke?

J.J. Cooper: Marte was in the mix but fell just short. The hamate injury was a bad break for him because it cost him much-needed development time. When it comes to defense, speed and arm, he's got three above-average tools, but the problem is his weakest tool, the hit tool, is the most important one. Like Latimore he struggles with recognizing breaking balls. His power isn't nearly as potent as Lattimore's either, but then he's a true CF while Latimore is a corner. As far as Locke, he's another of the nicely polished, well-rounded four-pitch guys without a real plus pitch.

    PT (IBC): Where did Corban Joseph fall; in the 30? Who do the Yankees like more, David Adams or Joseph?

J.J. Cooper: Can't speak for what the Yankees' think—John Manuel has a much better handle on how they view their own prospects, but Joseph did get mentioned multiple times as a guy not really in the mix for the top 20 but worth noting as an intriguing prospect. I'd put him more as a 31-40 kind of guy. Other Yankees that got mentions were Stoneburner and Noel Castillo. Castillo may be way too old for the league (26) with an ugly delivery, but he can run it up to 96-97 mph and he has the makings of a hard slider.

    alex (los angeles): did justin defratus merit any consideration?

J.J. Cooper: Absolutely. It was hard to choose between him, Marinez and Moreno for the best reliever prospect in the league. He's 95-96 with a solid slider and a decent changeup. I wouldn't be shocked to see him help the Phillies at some point next year.

    Ralph (SD): Your thoughts on Nick Barnese's season? Was he considered for the list?

J.J. Cooper: I asked about him, but the answers I got was that his stuff wasn't as good we've heard in the past. I know we've had reports up him sitting 91-92 touching 94 in the past, but this year he was a tick below that.

    Derrick (Wyoming): As far as Wilmer Flores comps go, would Billy Butler be a solid/accurate one to make? If not, then who? Thank you.

J.J. Cooper: I would have never come up with that one, but it's not bad as a comp. Butler came up as a third baseman, not a shortstop, but yeah, slow guys whose best tool is their hit tool.

    Jack T. (Staten Island): Jordany Valdespin get any consideration and what are the scouts assessment on him?

J.J. Cooper: Yeah he got several mentions. He's a pretty impressive shortstop defensively with a live body and the quick actions you look for. But he does have to work on refining his defense as he makes more mental mistakes than you would like right now.

    Steve (St. Louis): I'm a little perplexed by Mulligan. I've heard his stuff knocked before, but has 12.3 k/9 in 154.2 minor league innings, including 14.3 k/9 in the FSL this season. What gives?

J.J. Cooper: I love researching guys like Mulligan too, but from having a minor obsession with Class A relievers with great numbers, the key differentiator seems to be: do they have a plus pitch that isn't a trick pitch. In Tim Collins' case, the answer is yes. In Mulligan's case, the answer is no. He gets his strikeouts by having an assortment of pitches, a deceptive delivery and the ability to drop down El Duque style to screw-up hitters by changing his arm angle. I love K/9 as much as anyone, but here's a look at the 2006 minor league K/9 leaders (full-season leagues) for relievers. Paul Estrada, Mike Sillman, Jesse Ingram, Pat Neshek and Ryan Aldridge Here's 2007: Sergio Romo, Luis Gustavo, Chris Booker, Eduardo Morlan and Carlos Guevara. Romo and Neshek obviously stand out from those lists, but it's pretty clear having a gaudy strikeout rate in the minors isn't a guarantee of future big league success.

    Nick (Connecticut): How come the Yankees pitchers rank in the top 20 but people seem to think that long term that they are better suited in the bullpen? Does that mean that the other starters in the FSL are weak or the Yankees pitchers were that strong? Love the chats thanks.

J.J. Cooper: Part of that comes from the fact that they are Yankees, which may sound weird when I say it. When a scout sees a guy like Betances or Warren and knows he's a Yankee, he knows that unless they develop into a front-line starter they are likely to either move to the pen or be traded. New York has the ability to sign front-line starters in free agency like Sabathia, Burnett and Vasquez, so the chances for a starter who is projected as a No. 3-4 will pitch as a starter in New York is pretty slim. If they were a pitcher in the Marlins system, there probably would be less talk of them moving to the pen. That may sound weird, but when you talk to scouts about Yankees' pitchers, it's a fact of life.

    Tim (Virginia): Diego Moreno over Starling Marte and Jeff Locke? Locke and Marte are regarded as better prospects than Moreno. Why did Locke and Marte miss the list?

J.J. Cooper: Regarded by who? I'm not trying to be difficult, but I talked to a couple of baseball people who would much rather have Moreno than Marte or Locke.

    Dan (Chicago): I expected to see Brett Jackson higher than #7 on the list, does this speak to the depth of the list or concerns with Jackson?

J.J. Cooper: It speaks to the lack of top-end ceiling for Jackson. There are guys in the office who like Jackson more than me, so let me preface by saying that. Guys really liked Jackson, and he had a very good stint in the FSL, but everyone seemed to think he would be a solid big leaguer and not a star. That's not a bad thing, that's very valuable, but the six guys who ranked above him have a higher ceiling.

    Jack Crow (Oregon Coast): How close was Daniel Fields or any other Tigers to making the list?

J.J. Cooper: Fields didn't get a lot of support for making the Top 20. He is an impressive athlete, but he dig struggle at times with the jump to the FSL, and the move to the outfield will put more expectations on his bat than it would if he could have stuck in the infield.

    PT (IBC): I see Francisco Martinez is headed to the AFL, do the Tigers see him as someone who could be fasttracked despite being so raw? Where does his power project on the scouting scale?

J.J. Cooper: He's already being fast tracked. To jump from the GCL to the FSL is pretty much like hopping onto a Saturn 5 for a trip to the 7-11. He really did quite well for such a massive jump, and he already has a good feel for the strike zone. If I was being more aggressive, I could have seen him ranking near the top 10, as scouts and managers thought he had some of the best tools of any of the position prospects in the FSL. In a pretty thin system for position players, Martinez is one of the Tigers' most intriguing prospects.

    PO'd (Does it matter): How about answering a question from someone other than jaypers and those that have the free time to log in at 9AM. And seriously to answer one persons questions multiple times in a row is disrespectful to all of us who have questions

J.J. Cooper: I'm still plugging away on questions and am trying to make sure that I answer questions about every team in the league. But Jaypers asks good questions, so I answer them. I really focus much more on the questions than looking up to see who is asking them. Honestly if I did the approach you advocate all it would do is encourage people to make up fake names—how would I know if Jaypers asked questions under 10 different monikers?

    Steve (St. Louis): When explaining Tommy Pham's line difference between the FSL and Texas Leage would you point to small sample size, the tools coming together through development, or park and pitching factors?

J.J. Cooper: All of the above? I can't speak for whether Pham made some significant tweak to his stance or swing that enabled him to take off in the Texas League (all my calls were for the FSL), but in the FSL his batting eye allowed him to draw walks, but in the FSL his swing wasn't conducive for hitting for as much average as you'd like to see for a potential leadoff hitter.

    JAYPERS (IL): Scouts only got a brief look at him, but did they like what they saw from Alex Wimmers? Can he move quickly through MN's system?

J.J. Cooper: I didn't get to talk to any scout who saw Wimmers, but then it was only four starts.

    Mike C. (Lynchburg, VA): Howdy JJ - let me ask you about Matt Moore. Is he a major league ace in a few years? How does he break into the loaded Tampa Bay rotation? And does the southpaw rank in your personal top 10 of overall prospects? Thanks!

J.J. Cooper: I haven't talked to scouts ready to throw a No. 1 starter projection on him yet because of his command, but his stuff is special. He'd be in my Top 10. As far as breaking into the rotation, as Hellickson has shown, Rays pitchers need to have patience as a sixth tool, but when they hit the big leagues they are usually pretty ready to hit the ground running.

    Gavin (Pitt): Do you see Sanchez repeating the level next season due to his injury, or does he get bumped up to AA?

J.J. Cooper: I think a lot of that depends on how things go in the AFL and spring training. If he looks to be fully back, I wouldn't be shocked to see him start the season in Double-A, as it wouldn't have been shocking for him to have been promoted in the second half of the season.

    Danny V (Boston): Hi JJ, thanks for the chat. It looked like Junior Lake might be turning a corner when he blasted 7 HR in July for Daytona (after going deep just once from April to June), but the power surge didn't last into August, and he hit just one more HR the rest of the way. Was there any discussion around the league of Lake's odd season and what it tells us about his future as a prospect?

J.J. Cooper: Guys liked his defense, but there are still significant questions about his bat.

    Colin (Toronto): Can Gose's bat develop enough to make consistent contact to be that proto-typical .300+ lead off hitter with blazing speed?

J.J. Cooper: That's the big question. A lot of scouts look at his athleticism and his willingness to work and think he will figure it out, but if that was a sure bet, he would have ranked in the top five. Of anyone in the top 10 Gose has the highest bust potential.

    Phil N (North York): RHP Chad Jenkins just made it into the Top 20 on your Midwest League rankings. How close was he to making it on the Florida State League list?

J.J. Cooper: He got some mentions, probably in the 25-30 range. Here's one report: Big strong guy whose fastball has plus sink. Doesn�t walk a lot of guys while sitting 88-90. He projects as a plus control, groundball pitcher.

    Chris H (Boston, MA): Any love for RHP Joel Carreno? 173 SO with 30 BB in 137.2 IP.

J.J. Cooper: The numbers are sensational, but there were some guys questioning how he did it as they didn't see the plus stuff those numbers would seem to indicate.

    Jon (Peoria): What happened to Kyler Burke this year? Does this mean that his year in the MWL in '09 might have been a fluke since it took him three years to get out of that league?

J.J. Cooper: Maybe it's time to move to the mound. When you're talking about a fifth-year pro who's had four bad years in the past five, the four bad years speak louder than the one good one.

    Robert (Sterling Heights): Jacob Turner was said coming into the year to throw a fastball anywhere up to 98 mph. Did he reach that at anypoint? If not why the drop in velocity? Also who does his breaking ball compare to? Is it a drop like Verlanders?

J.J. Cooper: Reports from the FSL had him much more at 92-94, I can't say he never hit that high in game this year, but he definitely didn't sit up there. It's pretty normal for a high school pitcher to see his velocity dip a little bit when he's throwing every fifth day for a full season.

    Steve (PA): Who had worse control problems in the first half — Matt Moore or Trevor May? Would May have ranked as highly if he didn't dominate at Lakewood after his demotion?

J.J. Cooper: May's problems were much worse than Moore's. But even when he was walking a batter an inning, guys were impressed. I'd love to say this is done in a complete isolation chamber, but yeah his performance in the SAL alleviates some of the concerns that sprung up from his struggles in the FSL.

    Steve (St. Louis): Does Niko Vasquez have the bat speed to compete with more advanced pitchers? He showed a solid bb/k ratio this season, but few extra base hits.

J.J. Cooper: The bat speed is there but his swing isn't conducive to hitting for power, which is a problem for a third baseman.

    ryan (ns): JJ, any scouts or managers like Henderson Alvarez as a reliever? i wonder if his small size and two plus pitchers will lead to a bullpen role down the road.

J.J. Cooper: There was some thought he could end up there, but his stuff is good enough to keep him in the rotation for the time being. He'll get the chance to prove he can start first.

    Miller (Vegas): Long term...Archer or McNutt? Which one has higher upside and which one is the safer bet to be a solid big league starter?

J.J. Cooper: Archer, but both are pretty impressive. I'd put Archer as higher upside and safer bet, largely because he's already shown he can do it at Double-A, something McNutt will have to prove in 2011.

J.J. Cooper: Well it's time for me to wrap up. Sorry I couldn't get to all of the questions, but I hope I've covered at least the highlights for each organization.