League Top 20 Prospects

Pacific Coast League Top 20 Prospects Chat With Nathan Rode

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    Ben (Leland Grove): Thoughts on Drabek's struggles in Vegas? Late cut from the list? What does he project as?

Nathan Rode: Let's get this show started shall we? I'll get to as many questions as I can, but also let you go soon enough to catch Game 2 of the ALCS. As for Drabek, he was on an early version of this list and was a very tough player to place. On pure stuff and upside, he makes the list. But it was just a bad, bad year for him. He didn't command his fastball, which allows hitters to lay off the breaking stuff. Not to mention, Las Vegas is a brutal place to pitch. With that being said, people I talked to still liked him and felt he would figure things out. But they're not sold he's a starter for sure. If he isn't, there is upside in the back of the bullpen for him.

    Frank (Chicago): Did Neil Ramirez qualify? Did he look to be over his head in the PCL?

Nathan Rode: I've been a Ramirez fan for a while now, but that might be a biased feeling because he hails from Virginia. He ended up in the 21-25 range. I tried to find a spot for him at the back end, but it's a 16-team league so it's difficult to find room. With his previous experience and the reason he was in Triple-A, he actually handled it pretty well. It was suppose to be a spot start at first, but turned into something more. He was 90-95 late in the season with a plus changeup and promising curveball. Like a lot of pitchers, he just needs improved command.

    Mark (Los Angeles): Did Jerry Sands and Trayvon Robinson impress you much this year? Which was closer to making the list?

Nathan Rode: Both were definitely candidates to make the back end of the list, but were squeezed out. Guys weren't blown away by Sands, but he has power and could carve out some solid playing time with the Dodgers. Trayvon was probably a little closer with his power-speed combo, though I wonder how much Albuquerque contributed to the offensive side. There is a lot of swing-and-miss to him right now, but it's an interesting package of tools.

    Wendy (Tampa, FL): If you compared this list of 20 to last year's, which one wins out?

Nathan Rode: Tough question for me since I didn't do last year's list. I might give a slight edge to this year's because of how the 10-20s compare between the two. Both have strong Top 10s. But it's close. Maybe Jim Shonerd (@jimshonerdBA) feels differently.

    Charles (St Louis): Hi Nathan, thanks for the chat. Lance Lynn - prospect or suspect?

Nathan Rode: Prospect. Big fastball, No. 3 ceiling. Not to sound like a broken record, but it's a deep league with 16 teams. There are plenty of guys that missed the list that can be solid major leaguers.

    Brian (San Diego): Any consideration for James Darnell? Any chance he ends up in RF?

Nathan Rode: A little, but the tools weren't enough to warrant ranking him and his season over some others that saw success. While he cut down his error total from the past two seasons, there's still a chance he moves to the outfield full-time. It's possible that his error count was down because he saw some time out there this season.

    Russell (Kansas City): Had he qualified, would Duffy have been a Top 5 guy? Thoughts on his early numbers in the bigs?

Nathan Rode: Maybe. I would've had to think quite a bit about him vs. Montgomery. That's a solid start in the big leagues for him. With improved command and experience you would expect to see those numbers improve given his stuff. Answering another question about Duffy/Montgomery, I think I'd still take Montgomery. Duffy had more success this year, but despite the numbers, managers had nothing but good things to say about Montgomery. He just needs improved command (sound familiar). His curveball is a swing-and-miss pitch that young hitters would chase out of the zone. More experienced hitters don't bite as much so he'll he need to show he can throw it for strikes.

    BeerHere (Chicago): Is Brett Jackson in the Cubs 2012 opening day lineup?

Nathan Rode: Obviously that depends on how Spring Training goes for him, but I think he'll be given every shot to make it.

    Brian (San Diego): Do you think it's fair to say that PCL hitting numbers shouldn't be given much attention? Should anything be taken away from prospects like Lawrie and Rizzo who put up monster numbers just because they played in a hitters league? Are you discouraged by Rizzo's struggles in the major leagues this year, or is it just a small bump in the road for this future major league regular?

Nathan Rode: Adding to Rizzo Dave from Fort Good Hope, NT asks: Where do you see Rizzo on a top 100 next year? Do you think he will get the chance to start and potentially play all season in San Diego? First, PCL numbers should be taken with a grain of salt for sure. But not every park plays like Albuquerque or Las Vegas. You can't throw them out, but they're not 100% reliable either. I am not discourage by Rizzo's cameo. There was a hitch in his swing that may have contributed to his struggles in San Diego, but it seems he's fixed it. That's a tough park to play in, but he should have a shot a playing full-time in 2012. Not sure where he'll end up on the Top 100. Haven't really looked at it yet, but he could land in the middle or higher just based on some graduations. As for weighing prospects and their numbers I'll cover that with the next question...

    Jeff (Toronto): Just curious why Cooper can be a 1st Round Pick, lead the league in so many offensive categories (in his first AAA season), and not be among the top prospects?

Nathan Rode: ...This is a fair question and one I even asked myself. Lawrie and Rizzo put up huge numbers in the league, are prominent prospects and that was reflected on this list. Cooper, isn't as highly regarded, but did put up big numbers. This is where the phone calls with scouts and managers really come into play. I didn't talk to anyone that was overly excited by Cooper. They attributed some of his hits to the "parking lot" infield in Las Vegas, saying a lot of his balls in play would be scooped up by the defense elsewhere. He did hit a lot of doubles, but had just 9 home runs in a very friendly environment. He doesn't pull the ball with much authority, essentially living the other way. It's valuable when you can go the other way consistently, but you have to be able to pull the ball to make pitchers respect that. Otherwise they'll just bust you in constantly.

    @Jaypers413 (IL): Your thoughts on Wily Peralta's PCL numbers? Did he not qualify for the list? If he did, how close was he to the list?

Nathan Rode: He did not qualify for the list. Two more starts and he may have made it. That's a good way to finish the season. I'm sure he and the Brewers would love for him to pick up where he left off in 2012.

    Lisa (San Francisco, CA): Is Chris Carter's future a DH, especially with Ka'aihue coming over from KC? How near was he to the list?

Nathan Rode: Not sure what the future holds for Chris Carter. The A's brought in Ka'aihue and Brandon Allen so it's tough to say they're looking to him to contribute. There's a lot of swing-and-miss to his game and that's even against below-average stuff. He has huge raw power, a tool that can't be taught, but there are a lot of questions as to whether it's going to translate.

    steve (western Mass.): On the one hand, Martin Perez is very young for his level. On the other hand, he doesn't seem to make adjustments quickly. Then throw his great talent into the mix. Do you get a future #1 or 2 starter?

Nathan Rode: I don't put a lot of No. 1 labels on pitchers. There's a lot needed in a No. 1. But Perez does have the upside of a 2-3 type starter. He just needs to find some consistency. He's young so there's no need to worry right now.

    Charlie (Atlanta): You said Hosmer would have ranked #1, had he qualified. What tools does he have that Lawrie doesn't?

Nathan Rode: I think Hosmer's offensive tools are slightly better and he's a lefthanded hitter, adding a little more value. That's no knock against Lawrie though. He has a very good bat and good power. Hosmer is a first baseman all the way, but I'm not completely sold on Lawrie sticking at third. We'll have to see how that plays out.

    @Jaypers413 (IL): With Hosmer, Moose, Duffy, Perez and Giavotella graduating from prospect status, would you speculate that KC's farm system has fallen out of the Top 10? Or, would you predict their next crop (Starling, Myers, Cuthbert, etc) is enough to keep them afloat in the top third?

Nathan Rode: Will they land 9 players in the Top 100 next year. It's easy to bet against that. However, and I haven't looked deeply into other systems at this time, I think the Royals can still land in the Top 10.

    Dave Schenkel's bench coach (Burlington, NC): Hi Nate, Do you feel that Blackmon playing the OF corners this year was more due to the Rockies depth chart (and specifically the long-term presence of Fowler), his skills on defense, or some combination of the two? In other words, I'm just wondering if he could hold down CF in a different organization or if he's more of a tweener type. Thanks a ton!

Nathan Rode: Note to subscribers: Clever names in the question submission thingy give you a better chance of having yours answered. Especially if you're lucky enough to have an inside joke with the writer (though this one should know better than to call me Nate.) Sorry for the tangent Sherminator...Blackmon is a tweener when it comes to defense. He can probably play some CF in a pinch, but long term it seems like he is a corner guy so his bat will need to come around. But, he's no slouch on defense even if it's a corner. He has the arm to play RF.

    Chuck (Wichita): Should Eric Hosmer be AL Rookie of the Yeear?

Nathan Rode: He certainly made a case, but I don't think it's a slam dunk.

    Grant (NYC): Hechavarria has looked good in Las Vegas so far (even though it's a hitter's haven). Did he get any love for the list?

Nathan Rode: He didn't qualify, but if he had, he would've been considered. Hechavarria looks like he play in the big leagues just because of his defense and speed alone. The bat is a question though. I had good reports on his bat speed for the Jays Top 30 last year and I've heard this year that evaluators like the swing path, so who knows, maybe it comes through. We'll start to find out in 2012 I guess.

    Steve (Huntington Beach): Speaking of Rockies how about Tim Wheeler? Seems like he hit the ball over the fence a quite a bit this year.

Nathan Rode: He did hit the ball over the fence a lot this year, 33 times in fact. But that was in the Texas League where Will Lingo ranked him at No. 12. You can read his report here: http://www.baseballamerica.com/online/prospects/rankings/league-top-20-prospects/2011/2612448.html

    Commish (NY): Conger and Chatwood, two players that it would appear fit prominently into the Angels future plans spent some time in the PCL last year. I know they didn't have enough IP or AB to qualify, but where would they have placed if they were eligible. What type of future do you see for them both?

Nathan Rode: I could see Chatwood being a Top 10 guy. It would be interesting to stack him against a guy like Jordan Lyles. Conger probably would've been considered for the second half. It's all about the bat for him. Chatwood figures to be a fixture in that rotation. Conger, on the other hand, needs to hit quite a bit to hold down a job there if catching doesn't work out.

    Tyrone (Baltimore): All good things must come to an end. We appreciate these top 20 lists each year, thanks to the entire BA staff. Can you enlighten us when the Draft Report cards and team Top 10 lists will start hitting the site? Thanks Nate!

Nathan Rode: Don't forget J.J. Cooper's chat about the Indy League Top 10 tomorrow! The DRCs will begin going online next week and the first Top 10s will follow not long after that.

Nathan Rode: This seems like a good spot to wrap it up. I have some deadline stuff to take care of before a 4:19 date with an HD TV. Thanks for the questions everyone. I'll be back for the Jays Top 30, but I'm always around on Twitter (@bahighschool) to talk high school, draft, Blue Jays, baseball, etc. Have a great afternoon everyone!