League Top 20 Prospects

Arizona League Top 20 Prospects Chat With Bill Mitchell

Bill Mitchell: Prospect season is now underway! It was a truly fabulous year in the Arizona League, with the deepest pool of prospects in the history of the league. I could easily have gone 30 deep and still omitted players that would have made the list in previous years. Since we already have quite a few questions in the queue, let's get started a few minutes early.

    PT (IBC): Thanks for the chat Bill. What can you tell me about Royals RHP Miguel Almonte who got 6 games in the AZL after starting the season in the DSL?

Bill Mitchell: PT, I was at Almonte's first start and was very impressed. When I first saw him warming up in the outfield I thought I was looking at Yordano Ventura's younger brother. His delivery even resembles that of Ventura's. His fastball was usually in the low 90s, but touched as high as 96. He's got a changeup that is just a tick above average and a curveball that's still a little inconsistent. What stands out about Almonte is the command of his pitches and his composure on the mound. He was one of the last cuts for the top 20. Keep an eye on this one!

    JR (Iowa): How many on this list do you think might make the top 100 overall prospects list?

Bill Mitchell: JR, I'm not involved in the development of the Top 100, but I'd guess that at least the top five on the list are shoo-ins and perhaps Brinson and Trahan, too. Also, don't forget about the three guys that didn't play enough to qualify —- Fried, Zimmer and Puig.

    @Jaypers413 (IL): Had they qualified, where would Zimmer and Fried have ranked on this list? Thanks for the chat, as always.

Bill Mitchell: Jaypers, it's always good to get questions from the iron horse of BA chats. Zimmer and Fried definitely would have been in the top ten and more likely in the top five.

    PT (IBC): Last year the Indians had a huge lefty in Araujo, this year it was Luis Lugo. Does Luis project to have the same kind of power arm for the tribe?

Bill Mitchell: PT, I received some favorable comments on Lugo. He's a big kid and is very competitive on the mound. Fastball was usually 88-90 and he'll likely add velocity as he gets older and more experienced. While he's already got a strong frame, I could see him getting stronger.

    Ben (Leland Grove): Your impressions of Anthony Santander? Was he a late cut from this list?

Bill Mitchell: Ben, Santander was in my 25-30 range. He's still very young, with a strong frame at only 17, and showed improvement in the second half of the season. He should show more power as he gets older. He needs a lot more experience and to develop more instincts. He's going to likely slow down as he gets older so the bat will need to carry him.

    Ben (Leland Grove): Dillon Howard definitely had his struggles in the AZL. What went wrong with him?

Bill Mitchell: I'll take another question from Ben because this is an important one to answer. I saw Howard several times and he really had a rough season. His biggest issue was consistency and ability to repeat his delivery. He's be cruising along and then the wheels would fall off —- he'd start elevating his pitches and it would look like he was throwing batting practice. There's still a lot to like about Howard's build and his repertoire, but there's a lot of work to do.

    David (San Diego): How close to your list were Weickel and Eflin? Who impressed you more between the two?

Bill Mitchell: David, neither Weickel or Eflin pitched enough to qualify. The latter came down with mono and didn't finish the season, although he's back pitching in instructs. I saw both pitchers first start and liked Weickel a little more, but they were both only one inning stints.

    Morrie (NJ): Did Jose Valentin's son get any rave reviews this year?

Bill Mitchell: Morrie, Jesmuel Valentin showed a lot of baseball savvy (not surprising, since he comes from big league roots). He was better early in the season but tired in the second half because he was playing just about every day for the Dodgers. His tools are pretty much average across the board. He's selective at the plate and switch hits. Valentin may profile better as a utility infielder. I liked him and have him in my top 30.

    Kyle (Dallas): In last year's AZL chat, you told us to keep an eye on Shawn Duinkerk. Still feel this way?

Bill Mitchell: Kyle, there is still something that intrigues me about Duinkerk but he's really, really raw. To give you an idea, I heard that he never faced a left-handed pitcher before coming to the U.S. I think he'll need another AZL season before he's ready to move up. He just needs a lot more experience, but the raw athleticism is impressive.

    Shawon Dunston (Sr.)'s Clone (Nearby): What did you think of my son's game, Mr. Mitchell?

Bill Mitchell: Shawon Dunston Jr. showed a much better swing late in the season. He was overmatched in the Northwest League early in the year but to his credit he didn't mope after being sent back to the AZL. He's got solid makeup and is a hard worker.

    Ty (Baltimore): Did Tanner Rahier have enough IP to qualify? Thoughts on his pitches?

Bill Mitchell: Ty, Tanner Rahier fell way short of having enough innings, since he strictly played infield. However, he did have enough ABs to qualify but didn't show enough offensive upside to merit consideration for the list. He's an average defender at third base and may profile better as a utility infielder.

    Navin (Pasadena, CA): Obviously they didn't have enough innings to qualify but which of the young Cubs pitchers amongst Dillon Maples, Paul Blackburn, Duane Underwood and Ryan McNeil impressed you the most? Which one is the most advanced?

Bill Mitchell: Navin, Maples and Underwood are the two pitchers from your list that stood out. Maples was 91-96 with the fastball and showed a good curveball. While the numbers weren't there in his brief appearances, Underwood impressed scouts with a fastball that touched 97 and a good easy motion.

    Grant (Chicago): What does Duane Underwood need to work on? Did he and Paul Blackburn get any consideration for the list?

Bill Mitchell: Grant, I just addressed Underwood in the previous question. Blackburn was impressive at times, although a little inconsistent with his velocity. He's got an athletic build with smooth, easy actions.

    Josh (Oakland): Who would you say is more advanced as a hitter, Russell or David Dahl?

Bill Mitchell: Josh, I only saw Dahl play one time on one of my Pioneer League excursions but was very, very impressed with him. Both Russell and Dahl have a tremendous amount of upside, so I can't pick one as being more advanced right now. They are both very good prospects.

    Mike (Cincinnati): Jonathan Reynoso led the league in steals while also hitting .311. What are the reports on him saying?

Bill Mitchell: Mike, I got some good reports on Reds outfielder Reynoso and he was one of the guys in my 21-25 range. He's got plus speed and should add more power as he fills out. In the outfield, he's got a strong arm but needs to improve his routes. They moved him from right to center out of necessity and he handled that position well. He's an aggressive player and plays hard every day. He needs experience and better baseball instincts, but he's definitely one to keep on the radar.

    Elliot (YOungstown OH): The Indians don't much have much talent anywhere but they do have a lot of young shortstops (Lindor, Paulino, Ronny Rodriguez). Where do you think Paulino will wind up and how soon will he get there? Indians are desperate!

Bill Mitchell: Elliot, there's a lot to like about Paulino, but don't forget that he's only 17 and is likely at least four or five years away from reaching Cleveland. Opinions are mixed as to whether he can stay at shortstop but the Indians will keep him there for now. The bat will play regardless of where he winds up, and one scout said that he'd be an above average regular in a corner outfield spot.

    @Jaypers413 (IL): Your impressions of AZL Indians' Jorge Martinez?

Bill Mitchell: There are several questions about Martinez in the queue so I'll address him now. He's a bit of a polarizing prospect —- some observers love him and others see a lot of flaws in his game. I really planned on working him into the top 20 despite the fact that it was his third year in the league. He got stronger this year and had a better feel for what he could do with pitches. Some observers think he can handle third base while others believe he's better suited to an outfield corner. The enormous potential is still there, but now I want to see more consistency from him and to see him challenged by moving to a higher level.

    PT (IBC): Aside from Puig, anyone else who didn't qualify catch your eye?

Bill Mitchell: We've got several questions about Cuban outfielder Yasiel Puig in the queue so I'll handle them now. Puig is an absolute beast. I really don't think he even knows how strong he is. I saw him hit balls without solid swings that carried to the fence. He would watch the balls out of the batters box and not realize how hard he hit it. Needless to say, he's better than some of the early reports on him. His swing is much cleaner and he was in much better physical condition. I'm really intrigued by the guy —- he's one of those players that you just can't look away from when he's on the field. He would have easily been a top ten prospect if he had qualified. More than just a few AZL observers liked him better than Jorge Soler.

    ScottAZ (Phx, AZ): If Russell had to move does his bat profile better at 2b or does he have the pop to profile at 3b?

Bill Mitchell: Scott, Russell's bat would profile well at any position, but right now I don't see any reason why he will have to move off shortstop. He's got the range and arm to stay there, and he got himself into good physical condition prior to the season.

    Chuck (Wichita): Who were the top Royals?

Bill Mitchell: Chuck, I mentioned Miguel Almonte at the beginning of the chat. Also just missing the list was outfielder Alexis Rivera, who should have gone much higher than the 10th round. He's a big, athletic kid who scouts really loved. The most favorable comment I got from a scout was he liked how much his hands worked in the zone. Rivera struggled with his routes in right field and was more comfortable when they moved him to left. If he profiles better as a left fielder, then the bat is really going to have to develop. One scout labeled him as a high risk, high reward prospect, and I think that's appropiate.

    Roger (Washington, DC): The Giants club obviously wasn't one of the stacked rosters in the AZL this year. Any good sleepers on that Giants roster?

Bill Mitchell: Roger, you are right —- the Giants didn't have any high profile prospects that qualified but there were a few interesting guys. Scouts liked Tyler Hollick, a local juco outfielder with plus speed and good baseball instincts. Another interesting player is shortstop John Polonius, who is from Curacao but played juco ball in New York state and then a year at West Virginia. He has a lean, projectable shortstop body and showed some good hitting skills, although he needs to get stronger. Polonius has an interesting backstory —- do a search on his name and read about how he wound up in the United States.

    Joe LeCates (Easton, MD): Mr. Mitchell, thank you for the chat today - and thank you as always for the outstanding photography! What was the word from scouts on Nick Williams this year in Arizona? A raw high school draftee, who has some pretty interesting tools and ended up (surprisingly) making some pretty solid adjustments to pro ball.

Bill Mitchell: Joe, thank you for the compliments. Nick Williams was considered for the list. He's an interesting power/speed prospect with a potentially high upside if it comes together for him. His defense is not good and he lacks baseball instincts. I hesitate to use the high risk / high reward label again, but it really applies to Williams. He can be very good but has a long way to go.

    Ajax (Fairfax, VA): A lot of Ranger fans are excited about C.J. Edwards. How fast could he rise? How good of a prospect is he?

Bill Mitchell: Ajax, I'm a big, big CJ Edwards fan. I think he's got the arsenal and the attitude to move quickly, but keep in mind that he's still relatively inexperienced and needs to fill out his very lean frame. I saw one inning of his first instructs outing on Saturday and reports were that he was using his changeup more. With such a great feel for his secondary pitches and velocity that could someday be hitting triple digits, there's a lot to like about Edwards' future.

    Rod (Seattle): Does Jaypers have a life, or is he just a shill for BA to make sure all the "important" questions get asked?

Bill Mitchell: I don't know Jaypers personally —- I just regularly see his chat questions and follow him on Twitter. But I love your question and want to put it out for Jaypers to later provide a little biographical info. Thanks.

    Jeff (PA): So, how raw is Amir Garrett?

Bill Mitchell: Jeff, Amir Garrett is very raw but somewhat promising. I only saw the Reds left-hander one time. His delivery is very rough and his velocity fluctuated quite a bit, but he showed a good curveball and good composure on the mound. Assuming he sticks with baseball, he's a good pitching prospect but it will take time as long as he spends the rest of the year playing basketball.

    DH (Pittsburgh): Is this list more an indication that the player had a good year or that he is a good prospect? Is Addison Russell the top prospect on this list- would you rank him highest on your personal list?

Bill Mitchell: DH, this is a list of the best prospects and not necessarily who had the best year. I've never wavered from my belief that Russell was the best prospect in the league but that he's closely followed by Almora, Gallo, Soler and Paulino. The fact that he also put up very good numbers certainly didn't hurt his prospect status.

    ttnorm (Connecticut): Did Timmy Lopes get consideration for the list?

Bill Mitchell: Mariners infielder Lopes did get some consideration for the list. He had a very good season, primarily playing second base for the Mariners. He's more of a gamer type than a tools guy, but has some hitting skills and can handle either middle infield position.

    Mike (Boston): What were the reviews on the Diamondbacks SS/2B Andrew Velazquez?

Bill Mitchell: Mike, you just hit on one of my favorite players who didn't make the list, although he was in my top 25 or 30. Velazquez can certainly hit, with above average bat speed and good hands. His speed (I got grades ranging from 60 to 70 on him) plays up well. He's very athletic and just does a lot of things right. He had never played second base before coming to the AZL, and really didn't play infield in high school until his senior year, but was a quick study after they put him at second to stay.

    Jake (Chicago, IL): Hi Bill, had he pitched enough innings to qualify, would Kyle Zimmer have ranked as the Arizona League's top pitching prospect over C.J. Edwards and Max Fried? Thanks for the chat and taking my question. Jake

Bill Mitchell: Jake, I haven't thought about that one before since Zimmer didn't stay in the AZL very long and was really only there because he was coming off an injury from late in his college season. But I think he'd have ranked as the top pitcher just because he's closer to the big leagues and more advanced than Fried. I only saw him pitch once, but what incredible movement on his fastball.

    Jimmy (Palo Alto): What was your impression of the Athletics BJ Boyd?

Bill Mitchell: Jimmy, I liked Boyd but he's very raw, primarily because he was more of a football player in high school (and he still looks like a football player!). Right now the success he has on the field comes primarily from his physical ability because of his limited baseball experience. He's very explosive on the bases now and could develop into an interesting power/speed guy.

    Elliot (Youngstown OH): It's a long way from the Arizona League to the American League, but do you foresee Paulino as a 300 hitter or a 30 home run hitter or maybe even both?

Bill Mitchell: Elliot, you are correct in stating that it's a very long way from the AZL to the American League, especially for Paulino who is still only 17. I could envision Paulino being that kind of hitter but it's way too early to project those kind of numbers. Just enjoy watching him along the way.

    Gary (Mesa,AZ): I was just wondering, are you a scout or do you work directly for BA and get your info from other scouts? Thanks for all the helpful info!

Bill Mitchell: Gary, I am not a scout and don't work full-time for BA. I get my info for this report by talking to managers, coaches and scouts, not to mention the fact that I'm out at the ballpark every night during the season and at least consider myself an "armchair scout."

    Ray (Austin): How would you rank Russell, Almora, Gallo and Soler as overall prospects (not just AZL performance)? And where would Puig fit in there?

Bill Mitchell: Ray, I do the ranking here based on overall prospect status, so I'd keep Russell, Almora, Gallo and Soler in that exact order. Puig would be right there with those four players but at this point until we see more of Puig I don't want to guess where he'd fit in that group. But he certainly is a very intriguing prospect.

    Bob Sacamento (Ft Myers): Hi Bill, Vogelbach showed a good stick with power and eye at the plate but is that all he's ever going to be? Or can he stay at first base? I know there's not too many guys his size playing proball.

Bill Mitchell: Bob, you are right on target about Vogelbach. There aren't many players his size in pro ball. He gets compared at times to Prince Fielder but it's not a good comp because Fielder is much more athletic. Perhaps the defense will develop or perhaps he'll wind up in the American League as a DH. But the bat is real.

    Jay (Ca.): What was your impression of the Juan Carlos Paniagua?

Bill Mitchell: Paniagua looked very good in his few appearances. He was up to at least 97 (and maybe 98) with an easy delivery.

Bill Mitchell: Thanks for all of the questions, and feel free to hit me on Twitter at @billazbbphotog.

Bill Mitchell: The deep pool of talent in the AZL this year is now rivaled by the deep pool of thoughtful, intelligent questions from our BA readers. But now I've got to head off to an instructional league game to see how Addison Russell is looking this month! Thanks again.