League Top 20 Prospects

GCL Top 20 Prospects Chat With Ben Badler

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Ben Badler: A chat about Gulf Coast League prospects can only mean one thing: a whole lot of raw tools, with the word "raw" underlined, italicized and then underlined again. Let's get to business.

    PT (IBC): Bill said in yesterday's chat there were only 5 or so 'top' prospects in the AZL list and then 20-25 pretty interchangeable guys. Where's the cutoff in the GCL?

Ben Badler: Looking at the Arizona League list, Bill's right, although maybe he's just spoiled from having Mike Trout or being the founder of the Rymer Liriano and Starlin Castro fan clubs in recent years. But, ever since the signing deadline came into place and kept the top draft picks from playing in the league for more than a handful of token games, the AZL and GCL tend to be heavy on young, raw Latin American players and older, more experienced college players who sign quickly and put up big numbers, which is one of the things that makes the league tricky to evaluate. For me, there the top eight or so were the guys who really stood out with a handful of positive reviews from around the league. After that, there were probably another 20-30 or so players who have something you like; one or even two plus tools, but pretty significant risk factors. That's where player development makes its money, but it's a much flatter spread in talent after the guys in the first half of the list, even including a lot of guys who didn't make the list.

    Dale (Detroit): What is Brenny Paulino's ceiling? Does he have top of the rotation potential?

Ben Badler: It's as high as his offspeed stuff will take him. There wasn't a starter in that league with a better fastball, and there might even be more in there given his age and body type. In the DSL last year and even this year, his fastball is so explosive that he can just blow it by hitters, so he just hasn't had the need to refine his secondary pitches, but they're making progress. But it's absolutely a huge arm with a high ceiling.

    jcarm (Acworth,GA): Did Sebastian Vader or Juan Guzman of the Orioles get any mention by league managers?

Ben Badler: Not so much. From that team, one of the intriguing guys for me is Jose Nivar. He's a converted OF, couldn't hit, but he can sit in the mid-90s and I had one report of him hitting 98 mph. He's 22, very raw, but there's arm strength there. Miguel Chalas is a 5-11 RHP who touched 96 but without great secondary stuff.

    Sholom (Smithtown, New York): Do the Mets have any other prospects other than Rafael Montero worth keeping track of in the Gulf Coast League?

Ben Badler: Eudy Pina didn't hit, but he's an OF with raw tools, at least in the field. He's a 70 runner, at least a plus arm, and he's got some size at 6-3. He's a project, but in terms of raw tools, he compares pretty favorably to some of the guys in the second half of the list, just didn't have the offensive production I'd like to see from a 20-year-old in the GCL.

    Sammy (Dallas): How does this year's list compare to last year's?

Ben Badler: The top four last year were better, but other than that, it's pretty comparable. Last year you had Gary Sanchez, Miguel Sano, Justin O'Conner and Jake Marisnick in the top four, and Sano and Sanchez were pretty special bats. I like Bichette and Santana quite a bit, they'll be in the mix for the Top 100, but you won't see them rank as high as Sano and Sanchez did last year.

    @Jaypers413 (IL): How confident are scouts that Bichette's numbers won't take a dive at full season ball? Is he likely going to start off at Charleston next April?

Ben Badler: Most likely he starts in Charleston. Everyone I talked to who saw Bichette brought him up as the top guy in the league. With his approach at the plate and the raw power to back it up, I don't expect any major issues for him against Low-A pitching.

    Kyle (Toronto): Did Dickie Joe Thon make a good impression in the GCL? What does he need to work on?

Ben Badler: He did get some attention from some managers who liked his swing, but man, that's like a Kyle Skipworth type of strikeout rate in the GCL. Actually, it's a bit worse, and his ability to make consistent contact at this level is a pretty major red flag for me.

    Carlos (Philly): Any Phillies Latin America Prospects close to making list?

Ben Badler: Their shortstop, Gustavo Gonzalez. If you read our July 2 reports in 2010, you might remember him as Anderson Gonzalez. Turned out he was older, ended up having his deal totally re-done, so there's less projection than maybe we thought originally, but the tools are still the same. His wrist was hurting him in the beginning of the season, which dragged his numbers down a bit, but he's a solid hitter and does everything well in the field.

    Chris (Pittsburgh): Although it has to be tough to project a 17 year old, what is Heredia's ceiling? Does he combine with Taillon and Cole to give the downtrodden Bucs fans hope of three aces?

Ben Badler: I love Heredia's potential, but I wouldn't put him in the class of a guy like Taillon yet. For a kid who's been 17 for about a month, that's about as good of a starter's kit as you can ask for for a pitching prospect. Taillon, he's sitting mid-90s with a hammer breaking ball and good control. That stuff you can project at the top of a rotation easily. Heredia isn't there yet, but there isn't a kid who's 16 who has that kind of ability. Great arm, and in a year or two, he might be at that level, I just wouldn't put him in that class yet.

    Steven Alengakis (NYC): Hi Ben, I was really surprised and pleased that the Yankees had 3 players on your Top 1o GCL list. One player I was wondering about though was their C, Isaias Tejada. His numbers looked really good, especially as a younger player.Is he a legitimate prospect? What kind of impression did he make on GCL managers and scouts? Thank you.

Ben Badler: He was in the mix. Was a pretty cheap sign but he's come a long ways since last year. Solid defensive catcher, blocks well, average arm, mostly a gap-to-gap guy but showed a bit of pop this year, pretty solid approach, doesn't chase too much out of the zone. Pretty pleasant surprise who put himself on the map this year.

    @Jaypers413 (IL): Do you see Luis Heredia making his full season ball debut next year, or is he not yet ready?

Ben Badler: Those plans aren't set yet, but my bet would be that he needs another year before he hits full-season ball. He's so, so young.

    Greg T (London): Were there any other Jays that just missed the Top 20 list?

Ben Badler: Arce, Thon were interesting. Santiago Nessy, the big catcher they signed out of Venezuela, got a little attention. Big-bodied guy, had a solid year at the plate, just got mixed reviews on his defense, but at the very least he's already conversant in English, which is a huge positive to be able to handle a pitching staff.

    Bobby (Tampa): Did you get any feedback on any of the Rays other Supp picks? I was especially curious about James Harris. Looks like the bat may be a problem, or is he just young? Can he stay in center? How well does he run? Thanks!

Ben Badler: Harris got some attention for his speed and athleticism. He'll play CF, but the hit tool is a pretty big question mark right now.

    Steve (St. Louis): Do you expect Cardinals pitcher Bryan Martinez to develop into a real prospect down the road?

Ben Badler: If he can stay healthy, there's definitely something there. He had a shoulder injury during extended spring training that acted up again during the summer and basically knocked out his year. He's thrown in the low-90s with a plus slider in the past when he's on though, which says there's at least middle relief potential.

    Paul (Santa Clara, CA): Besides the 3 Pirates that made the list, any others get consideration and are worth watching in future years?

Ben Badler: Jodaneli Carvajal, he's a plus-plus runner, very good hands at SS/2B, decent swing, just doesn't have power or enough refinement at the plate yet, but he's got raw tools. Yhonathan Barrios won't play up the middle, but he can handle 3B and his offensive game is more advanced than Carvajal's. The other guy is Gregory Polanco, who has some physical projection and some interesting tools, but he still has to figure it out at the plate.

    Ben (Leland Grove): Did Johnny Eierman and Granden Goetzman get consideration for this list? What did scouts say about both?

Ben Badler: Goetzman got a little attention. His debut didn't inspire much confidence, especially for a guy who's billed as an advanced hitter with power, then didn't show either one of those skills. I like Eierman more of those two, but again, questions about the hit tool.

    Gerry (Toronto): Happy Birthday! Did Jacob Anderson have enough AB's to qualify?

Ben Badler: Thanks. Not enough ABs to qualify, basically the story of most of the top 2011 draft picks.

    Norman (San Jose): what kind of offensive ceiling does Ravel Santana have?

Ben Badler: Higher than anyone in the league's other than Bichette, and from a pure tools standpoint, he had better tools than anyone in the league. I don't think the pure hit tool right now is as advanced as the numbers might suggest; there's still some rawness there against offspeed stuff, but he has a solid approach, makes adjustments and has 60, maybe even 65 raw power depending who you talk to. In terms of overall tools and ceiling, I know there's some scouts who would put Santana ahead of Bichette.

    Muggsy (Minneapple): Did the Twins have anyone worth mentioning this year? Angel Mata? Javy Pimentel?

Ben Badler: Talked to a handful of guys who saw that team, but all of them said nothing really stood out for them. Mata's solid, 88-93, kept the ball down, just didn't have much secondary stuff. Jorge Polanco is solid at shortstop, but his and Pimentel's bats are both pretty raw.

    Dan (Jacksonville): What did you think of HS draftees Kenneth Peoples-Walls, Lance Jeffries, and CJ McElroy?

Ben Badler: Got good defensive reviews on both McElory and Jeffries, but the bats looked raw (have I reached my limit on using that phrase yet today?). Of those two, Jeffries stood out a bit more for having a better approach.

    Norberto Paulino (New York, NY): Any other Red Sox guys that just missed the list?

Ben Badler: Vinicio and Alcantara were pretty clearly the top two guys on that team from everyone I talked to. Oscar Perez has some very good defensive tools, he'll back-pick guys and control a running game, but the bat just has a long, long ways to go.

    jhwl (dc): When do you think Santana and Cardona make it to the majors?

Ben Badler: Not soon. When they're in the GCL, there isn't really a timetable. In a perfect world scenario, maybe Santana gets there in three years, but more likely it's going to take longer than that. Longer for Cardona.

    Warren (New London): How about Phillies SS Tyler Greene? I thought he played pretty well except for the strikeouts. Higher or lower ceiling than the Cardinals Tyler Greene?

Ben Badler: He had a solid debut. Gonzalez is probably ahead of him right now as a prospect, but Greene has a pretty good idea at the plate for his age. Line-drive approach, uses the opposite field very well for an 18-year-old, very good speed, just not at Gonzalez's level as a defender and, again, I'd like to see him be able to make more contact at the plate.

    Avi (New Jersey): Any concerns long tern on Ravel Santana's ankle injury?

Ben Badler: It's a setback, but for now I don't see it as a major long-term concern.

    Avi (New Jersey): Dante Bichette Jr ranked at #108 in Baseball America's top 200 draft prospects prior to the draft. Many people called the Yankess #51 selection a reach. Is it fair to say he outperformed his projections?

Ben Badler: That's probably a fair statement. There were definitely concerns about whether his hitting style would translate to pro ball, and I think his debut came as a surprise to a lot of scouts. Now, dominating the GCL doesn't validate anything, but his ability to hit and his approach at the plate certainly look better than some thought before the draft. There wasn't a player in the league who earned more universal praise than Bichette.

    Bill (NYC): Was any other Yankee close to making the list.

Ben Badler: Jose Rosario was a small signing but he has good speed, a solid arm, solid defense at second base and would probably have played shortstop for most teams, except that the Yankees also had Claudio Custodio. Very aggressive (sometimes too aggresive at the plate), more power than Custodio, but the tools are a tick behind Custudio and he's not quite as refined at the plate. If you want a deep sleeper, Reynaldo Polanco had a John Lackey ERA but actually has solid stuff: 90-94, one report of 95, with the potential for an above-average curveball, but he was mostly a shortstop as an amateur, so he's still learning how to pitch.

    Jack H. (Brooklyn, NY): Do scouts really consider Dante Bichette Jr. to have plus-plus power? I was down on him as a number one overall, but it seems like this may have actually been a good pick.

Ben Badler: The home run totals may not show it, but pretty much everyone who saw him raved about his raw power, and that goes back to before he signed as well. The one he hit in the championship game was a no-doubter to one of the deepest parts of the park.

    Dave (Atlanta): The GCL Braves roster looked pretty weak, but did any of the team's Latin players such as 1B Aris Alcantara, OF Felix Marte, or pitchers Jean Carlos Gil and Rafael Briceno impress?

Ben Badler: From the people I talked to who saw that club, there wasn't much there that excited them.

    Petey Pablo (Carrboro): Do you see Eric Arce starting '12 in full season ball and do the Jays keep him in the outfield or shift him to first or behind the plate? Thanks!

Ben Badler: I'd expect him in full-season ball after his debut. As of now, I don't see him moving behind the plate.

Ben Badler: Thanks everyone for the questions (and the birthday wishes). We've got Appy and Pioneer League Top 20s the next two days, which means you get back-to-back Matt Eddy. Hard to beat that!