League Top 20 Prospects

2011 Arizona League Top 20 Prospects Chat

Moderator: Bill Mitchell will take your AZL questions beginning at 2 p.m. ET.

Bill Mitchell: It's time to kick off prospect season here at BA. I'm always proud to be the first in line each year with the Arizona League (also referred to this year by a rehabbing Dbacks big leaguer as the "fire league"), so let's get started. There are already quite a few great questions in the queue. One note: this session is covering the rookie level Arizona summer league and not the Arizona Fall League.

    PT (IBC): How close was the Indian's Robel Garcia to making the list?

Bill Mitchell: Garcia was very close. If we had made it a list of 25 he likely would have been included. The switch-hitting infielder made great strides this year and even showed surprising power with a great ability to square up the baseball, although he's always going to be more of a gap to gap hitter. You've got to love his plate discipline. He played at three different infield positions this year and probably profiles best as a future utility guy, but is certainly one to watch.

    @Jaypers413 (IL): How close did Bobby Crocker come to making this list? What are scouts telling you about him? He seems to have surprising speed for a guy his size. Any comps on him?

Bill Mitchell: Crocker got some consideration. He really wasn't at his best in the AZL as he was pressing when he first got here, perhaps having to make an adjustment to wood bats, and then had an arm injury. I didn't get a lot of excitement on him from scouts but I love the power/speed combo. He'll especially have value if he can stay in CF, and indications so far are that he can.

    Ben (Leland Grove): Did Chevy Clarke and Ryan Bolden get any consideration for the list? Did both regress at all in your eyes?

Bill Mitchell: Chevy Clarke is a bit of an enigma. I saw nice development in his game last year when I ranked him in the top 20, but he had a really bad season (except for one hot streak). I haven't been able to get a good read on him from anyone. My understanding is that he works hard and he's a good kid, but it just hasn't yet come together for him. Bolden still has plenty of tools and looked stronger this year, but he's still a long way from turning those tools into baseball skills.

    Mike (Chicago): Any cub pitchers that were close to making the list or at least is there any pitcher on the AZL cubs that I could get excited about?

Bill Mitchell: The Cub pitcher who just missed the list is Canadian southpaw Brian Smith, a 40th round pick in 2010 who looked good until he wore down late in the season. He's got a live fastball that's 90-93 and a good change-up that he uses to set up the fastball. He's still relatively inexperienced so he won't rush through the system.

    PT (IBC): Was Alfredo Morales promoted before he qualified for the list? Where would he have ranked?

Bill Mitchell: Morales had enough plate appearances to qualify and he was on some early drafts of my list. He hit well here but it didn't necessarily carry over to the Appy League. Like I said about Robel Garcia earlier, if this was a list of 25 he would have been on it.

    @Jaypers413 (IL): How would this year's crop of 20 prospects compare to last year's overall?

Bill Mitchell: The overall quality was down slightly from last year. After the first 8 or 9 players, there isn't that much distinction between the next 25 that I had on my list. The depth was there but just not too much top shelf talent. It's probably going to remain that way as long as most top draft picks wait until August 15th to sign.

    Dan (Chicago): I was pretty suprised Cubs C Neftali Rosario wasn't in the top 20. How close was he and what kept him off?

Bill Mitchell: I liked Rosario and considered him for the list. He's got good power potential at the plate but needs to develop more consistency. Right now he's got a "swing at everything" approach. Like any young catcher, he needs to improve his ability to call a game but that'll come from experience.

    Boris (NYC): Can you tell us a bit about Terry Gore?

Bill Mitchell: Gore is a little guy (5'7") with game changing speed. He was timed at 3.7 to 3.8 seconds to first base on bunts and under 4 seconds on routine balls. His defense is good enough that he can stay in CF but he's got a weak arm. He's strong but power will never be part of his game.

    Ryan (TX): Is Abel de los Santos a legit prospect in your opinion?

Bill Mitchell: I'm assuming you're asking about the Rangers pitcher (the Reds also had a pitcher by the same name). The Rangers version of De Los Santos was one of four pitchers from that team that received some consideration. He showed a lot of improvement during the season as his change-up progressed to give him a nice three-pitch mix. His fastball was usually around 90-91 and he could add more velo as he gets older. The biggest area of improvement for De Los Santos is to improve his mechanics to take some of the max effort out of his delivery.

    @Jaypers413 (IL): Is Wagner Mateo's vision still an issue? Just trying to ascertain the reasoning behind his struggles this year.

Bill Mitchell: Wagner Mateo still has issues with his vision which scouts say affected his pitch recognition. He also moved out of the outfield to first base when the league moved to day games in the second half of the season. The Diamondbacks will be patient with him because he has the ingredients to be a superstar, with enormous power to all fields and a strong outfield arm. He's got some mechanical flaws in his swing which will be addressed in instructional league. He also had some personal issues to deal with this summer so it was a rough introduction to baseball in the U.S. for Mateo.

    Ben (Leland Grove): Had they qualified, would Sonny Gray and Kevin Matthews topped this list?

Bill Mitchell: I think it's safe to say that if Gray had pitched enough innings he would have been the league's top prospect, assuming no other #1 pick (such as Javier Baez) had also played enough to qualify. I don't know that Matthews would have been #1 if he had qualified, but he likely would have made the top ten.

    ScottAZ (Phx, AZ): Does Deandre Toney have the speed to remain in CF? If not, any chance he moves to 2b? He played there a lot at his JUCO and probably have a better offensive profile there than a OF corner

Bill Mitchell: Toney can probably stay in CF but his AZL manager projects that he'll have enough bat to fit in a corner outfield spot. There wasn't any mention of him at second base. He worked hard on improving his outfield defense so I believe that's where he'll stay for now.

    PT (IBC): Did you get caught in the dust storm?

Bill Mitchell: Yes, I drove right through the first big haboob coming home from a rained out game in Tucson. It was scary. Thanks for asking.

    Scottaz (Phx, AZ): Duanel Jones- high profile int'nl signee, hits lots of HR and showed patience at age 18 in the AzL. Why not more hype?

Bill Mitchell: Jones got a decent amount of attention from AZL managers and scouts. He's got some improvements to make to his swing and especially to his defense, but the power is definitely real. While the Padres say they will keep him at third base for now, I'm predicting he winds up at first base down the road. The kid is already huge.

    Kyle (West Plains, MO): D'Andre Toney is a speed guy but really struggled with stealing bases. Is this something that he can learn? Or will this be a knock on him the rest of his pro career?

Bill Mitchell: I'll take another question on Toney —- yes, effective baserunning technique is definitely something that can be learned. He's got the speed now he just needs to learn the rest. He's going to be in instructional league this fall and I'm sure that's on his syllabus.

    Chuck (Wichita): Was Cam Gallagher an overdraft? Any other Royals to keep an eye on?

Bill Mitchell: I'd never call a kid an overdraft after just one month of playing ball. Gallagher struggled in the AZL, in part because the oppressive August heat in AZ got to him (he's not the only player that got worn out from playing day games in 110 - 115 degree weather —- it was a frequent refrain from managers and scouts in attempting to evaluate players). Gallagher is a big strong kid with plenty of raw power but with a long swing. I got mixed reviews on his ability behind the plate and whether he can stay there long term. A sleeper on the Royals team was pitcher Ali Williams, who has a plus fastball (94-95) and a very good change-up. His ability to consistently throw strikes was the biggest factor in his improvement during the season.

    Navin (Pasadena, CA): Jim Callis mentioned 3 Cubs just missed this top 20 list. Who are they and how close were they to making it? Thank you!

Bill Mitchell: I already mentioned left-handed pitcher Brian Smith. The other two were outfielder Oliver Zapata (great bat speed, gap to gap hitter, very fast runner) and outfielder Trey Martin. The latter is especially intriguing as an over-slot 13th round pick with plenty of natural abilities and a good feel for the game; he's still very raw, especially defensively. The classic high risk, high reward player.

    Jack (Toronto): Do either of the Cubs MI prospects Amaya or Hernandez project for good power? Or are they more contact oriented hitters?

Bill Mitchell: Both are more contact type hitters. Hernandez has gotten stronger and could project as a 15 homerun type of hitter. Amaya is more of a line drive hitter with gap power.

    Brandon (Pasadena): The Arizona Dodgers won the league championship, but only had 1 player in the top 20. Anyone else on the team get any consideration?

Bill Mitchell: The only other Dodger player to get any consideration was shortstop Delvis Morales. He slightly resembles Dee Gordon when he's out on field, but without Gordon's plus speed. But like Gordon, he needs to get stronger. He's very athletic and improved his defense significantly this year. The question with Morales is whether he will hit as he moves through the system.

    Aaron (Seattle): Looking at the Martin Peguero investment now, how do you feel about it?

Bill Mitchell: Peguero is only 17 and still relatively inexperienced. He's got the potential to turn into a big league player but it will be many years before we can tell whether the investment in him pays off for the Mariners.

    Jon (Peoria): How did Hayden Simpson look in Arizona? He wasn't very good in the MWL and he seemingly wasn't any better after being demoted. Does he have any health issues or is he still recovering from having mono last year?

Bill Mitchell: Simpson's velocity was generally in the 80-84 range in the AZL. I didn't hear of any injury affecting him. Whether he's still suffering from the effects of last year's case of mono remains to be seen. He was not considered for the AZL prospect list.

    Jake (Chicago): Did Dusty Robinson (A's) fall short of qualifying? Thoughts on him?

Bill Mitchell: Robinson didn't have enough plate appearances to qualify before he moved up to the NYP League. Judging from comments I got from scouts on him, he wouldn't have made the list regardless.

    Jack (Toronto): What players in the DSL are you excited to see make their US debut in the AZL next season?

Bill Mitchell: I don't follow DSL results as closely as resident expert Ben Badler, but I'm intrigued by Cubs third base prospect Jeimer Candelario. He'll be in instructs this fall, so maybe I'll get a sneak preview of him. Renato Nunez (Athletics 3B) is also here for instructs and I got my first look at him yesterday during workouts. But the guy who really intrigued me when I saw him working out yesterday is Athletics outfielder Shawn Duinkerk, from Aruba —- he just turned 17 and he's already on the way to being an impressive physical specimen.

    Mark (Gilbert,AZ): Do you see anything coming from Giants catcher Eric Sim this year? I was at a few games this year and he impressed me with his hitting ability.

Bill Mitchell: Sim hit well in his second AZL season but scouts have him down as primarily an organizational guy. The good news that I heard about Sim was how impressed Mike Caldwell (ex-big league pitcher and AZL Giants pitching coach) was with his defense behind the plate; that kind of ability will keep him in the game for a while.

    Jack (Toronto): I know Baez and Vogelbach didn't get enough experience to qualify, but what did you hear/think about them?

Bill Mitchell: Baez gave me a lasting memory during the last game of the season when he hit a very hard soaring liner off the top of the batters eye at the Cubs complex. It was truly one of the most impressive hits that I witnessed at any level all season. The kid has incredibly strong hands and excellent bat speed. One scout told me that he was going to grade him as a possible future MLB all-star. He also showed the ability to make dazzling plays at shortstop while, like most young players, make too many errors on easy plays. Vogelbach came as advertised —- a big, big kid with impressive raw power, plus a real enthusiasm for the game. There will always be questions about his size and whether the weight will affect him down the road.

    steve S (Sacramento, CA): Your intro noted a lack of top-notch prospects in the AZL. To what extent is this true of the AZL or all short-season leagues? If there was a combined top 30 prospects list for all six short-season leagues (AZL, GCL, Appy, Pioneer, NWL, NYPL), how many AZL prospects do you think might make such a list?

Bill Mitchell: Classification all-star lists are posted on the BA site now (http://www.baseballamerica.com/today/minors/awards/classification-all-stars/2011/2612353.html) with none of the AZL players included on the rookie level list. The lack of top-notch AZL prospects in the last two seasons can be attributed to three factors —- 1) the current draft structure with most of the top picks not signing until the August 15th deadline, 2) more organizations moving to having three short season affiliates instead of two (such as the case with the Mariners, Royals and Diamondbacks), which spreads out the talent at the rookie level, 3) some organizations are pushing their young prospects faster, such as the Rangers who have started new Latin players like Jurickson Profar, David Perez, Rougned Odor and Jorge Alfaro at their Northwest League affiliate instead of in the AZL. (Note: Alfaro was my pre-season favorite for AZL top prospect when I thought that he would be assigned here).

    Jim (Hagerstown, MD): The Royals seem high on pitcher Cesar Ogando, but his ERA was over 10. What's the reason for the optimism?

Bill Mitchell: I really didn't get good reports on Ogando's stuff. He's already a big kid so there's not much physical projection left for him. I'm not sure about that one. I didn't really get any positive reviews on him from scouts.

    BL (Bozeman, MT): Was Nick Cuckovich considered for the top 20? What do you see as his offensive future? Is third base his best position defensively?

Bill Mitchell: I didn't get much from anyone on Cuckovich. He was drafted out of Riverside CC as a pitcher but played third base in the AZL. One scout remarked that he kind of liked him so he's one to watch. At this point his power doesn't profile for the hot corner but I don't have any reports on whether he can play shortstop.

Bill Mitchell: That's all the time I have for today. I appreciate all of the great questions, especially good to hear from all of the Royals fans out there. Sorry I couldn't get to all of them today. Feel free to contact me on twitter at @billazbbphotog with more questions. Ben Badler will be online tomorrow to chat about the Gulf Coast League prospects.