League Top 20 Prospects

Appalachian League Top 20 Prospects Chat With Matt Eddy

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Matthew Eddy: Welcome to the 2012 Appalachian League Top 20 chat. I've had the honor of ranking the league's finest prospects every years since 2005 — with a year off in 2007 — and this year's group ranks right up there with any previous class. The closest Appy class in terms of qualify might be 2008, which featured Matt Moore, Craig Kimbrel, Randall Delgado, Kelvin Herrera, Jordan Lyles, Wilmer Flores, Tim Beckham, Paul Clemens and Greg Infante.

Matthew Eddy: Also worth mentioning: You guys have brought your A-game. I see a ton of interesting questions already waiting in the queue. I'll try to answer as many as I can, as thoughtfully as I can.

    @Jaypers413 (IL): Despite his struggles in the Appy league, the Jays promoted Daniel Norris to Vancouver anyway. Why do you believe they did this?

Matthew Eddy: And we'll begin with a Jaypers question. This hasn't been articulated to me by the Blue Jays, but I suspect they like to treat their Vancouver affiliate as sort of a stepping stone to Low-A next season. By pushing the top Bluefield players to the NWL, Toronto can expose its teen high school and international players to a more advanced league setting for 2-3 weeks (counting the playoffs). This theory jibes with the org's recent activity. They promoted RHP Roberto Osuna, C Santiago Nessy, LHP Daniel Norris, CF D.J. Davis, LF Dwight Smith Jr. and 2B Christian Lopes to Vancouver this year, after sending RHPs Noah Syndergaard and Aaron Sanchez and LHP Justin Nicolino there last year.

    Ben (Leland Grove): Did Fred Ford and/or Kenny Diekroeger come close to this list?

Matthew Eddy: The Royals who missed the cut would probably stack up like this: SS Humberto Arteaga, RF Fred Ford and LF Terrance Gore. Arteaga positions himself well, has sure hands, good body control and a strong arm, but not everyone was sold on his ability to play impact defense because he's a below-avg runner with 4.6 times to first base and a thickening lower half. I didn't receive any glowing recommendations on his ceiling with the bat. Ford can really put a charge in the ball, and hit with power to all fields, but he'll have to show he can make more contact after hitting .248 with 83 whiffs in 62 games. No player was more fun to watch bunt, run to first or chase down balls in the outfield, but Gore has a lot of work to iron out his swing. Still, he's an 80 runner, so the Royals will be in no hurry to give up on him.

    Carlos (Philly): Taking the names you mentioned in your introduction (Carlos Correa, D.J. Davis, J.O. Berrios, Lance McCullers Jr. and Keon Barnum), about where would they have ranked, had they qualified?

Matthew Eddy: I can tell you for certain that Correa, Berrios and McCullers wold've made the top 10, probably the top 5-7. Davis was in and out of Bluefield in 2 weeks, so not many got a good look at him, but based on his tools he'd be a strong top-10 candidate.

    @Jaypers413 (IL): Given the fast pace the Sox like to promote their prospects, about how many years from Cellular Field is Courtney Hawkins, assuming he stays on track?

Matthew Eddy: Hawkins and (to a lesser extent) last year's supplemental first-rounder Keenyn Walker (a JC product) will be the test cases for Chicago. The White Sox hadn't made a high schooler their top pick in 10 drafts before they took Hawkins. The fact that they pushed Hawkins to High-A for the playoffs suggest he could begin there in 2013 if he has a good spring training. Give him a year in Double-A in 2014, and a 2015 arrival doesn't seem outlandish.

    Brian (Burbank, CA): Shocked if Roberto Osuna breaks out next year as top 25 pitching prospect or does he have a lot more developing to do?

Matthew Eddy: The attractive thing about Osuna is that he's already developed, physically and in terms of his feel for pitching. While this means he should have little trouble with low-level competition, it does leave open the question as to how high his ceiling might be, given that we can't project the same amount of growth that we can with other teen pitchers. Put it this way: Osuna is about as safe a bet as there is among 17-year-old to one day develop into a mid-rotation starter.

    Ben (Leland Grove): Would you consider Luke Sims to be the same kind of mold as Sean Gilmartin and Mike Minor, or are you higher on him?

Matthew Eddy: Sims is definitely cut from a different cloth than Gilmartin or Minor, and you should expect different results. Just don't expect them to come in Double-A until probably 2015. Sims pitched and also played shortstop in high school, so he's not quite as refined as other first-round pitchers, but still the Braves must be excited with the raw tools — athleticism, plus fastball, plus curve — they have to mold into a pitcher.

    Tom (San Francisco, CA): Matt, the performances of Matt Dean and Jacob Anderson were particularly disappointing. What's the likelihood that either of them make the necessary adjustments in order to move up the ladder? Thanks.

Matthew Eddy: Tom asks about Blue Jays 2011 bonus babies 3B Matt Dean and Corner OF Jake Anderson, both of whom signed out of high school and didn't hit a lick in the Appy League this year. Dean might have the highest ceiling among Bluefield's crop of high-school position players (Anderson, LF Dwight Smith Jr., SS Dickie Joe Thon, 2B Christian Lopes, et al.). One manager said that Dean has tremendous hidden power, but at this point it's about working the pitcher to get a good pitch to hit and taking confident swings. He should be fine at third base. There were fewer silver linings with Anderson, who just looked lost at the plate and hit .194 in 57 games as pitchers could just expand the zone on him. If you're inclined to give him the benefit of the doubt you could point to his youth, but at this point Anderson is teetering close to non-prospect status.

    Roger (Greenville, SC): How close was the comparison between Buxton, Hawkins, and Starling?

Matthew Eddy: I felt fortunate when Buxton joined the league and then qualified for the list because it gave the league a sure-fire No. 1. Even allowing for Hawkins' probable move to RF, I think his offensive ceiling separates him from Starling, who could be the best defensive CF of the trio. The comp for Starling that made the most sense to me was Drew Stubbs, a player with impressive raw power, terrific range, a good arm but a swing that will suppress his batting average, probably below the league average.

    Jon (Baltimore): Would you take Max Kepler in a heartbeat over Joey Gallo? I feel he has less raw power a but much safer kind of investment(assuming they their pay checks were even), agree?

Matthew Eddy: Interesting question. If you can tolerate the risk, then Gallo has the loudest tool of either player with his power. Kepler has the higher floor, as they say, because he projects to do many things well.

    Eric (Atlanta): Can you explain what you mean by "A wrist wrap compromises his control of his breaking ball" with regard to Mauricio Cabrera? Also, what's his ulitimate ceiling as a starter?

Matthew Eddy: When a scout says a pitcher has a wrist wrap, he's referring to the excess motion at the back of his arm swing, where a pitcher will flick his wrist in an upward motion. The thought is that since this motion complicates one's arm stroke and (theoretically) makes it more difficult to repeat one's delivery taht it will affect release point and thus command. Good examples of big leaguers with wrist wraps are Ublado Jimenez or Homer Bailey.

    Dave (Atlanta): Did any of Danville's other Latin players (RHPs Ernesto Silva and Williams Perez, 1B Aris Alcantara, OF Felix Marte) impress?

Matthew Eddy: The two Danville prospects not ranked who stood out were 3B Carlos Franco and RF Felix Marte. Franco is a fine defensive third baseman with arm strength who switch-hits and has enough power to be interesting. Marte is more of a long shot because he's limited to the corner outfield, but he has good balance and bat control at the plate. One manager described him as a quick-twitch player with power, so he's at least interesting.

    Ben (San Diego): You can only have one, Roberto Osuna or Rafael Montero. Who would you rather have?

Matthew Eddy: For those who don't know, Rafael Montero is a late-blooming RHP in the Mets system. He reached High-A this year with a combined 110-19 SO-BB ratio. Picking between the two, I think you'd have to take Osuna because he's accomplished much more at a younger age and already has a second reliable pitch with his changeup. He's also much more physical than Montero.

    Richard B. (West Columbia, SC): What do you think is the ceiling for Mauricio Cabrera from Atlanta? Does he project as a #2/3 starter or a bullpen arm? Reports so far have been good and the Braves have a track record of turning guys like Cabrera into very serviceable MLB arms.

Matthew Eddy: Cabrera has the raw tools to start, so that's why he ranked as the league's top righty pitching prospect. He could develop an intriguing mid-rotation profile if his breaking ball takes another step forward in the next 2 seasons. Maybe you'd like to see him miss more bats or walk fewer batters against Appy competition, but that's just nitpicking when talking about an 18-year-old who has had success and already holds 93-94 mph velocity though his starts.

    gerry (toronto): What's the word on Jacob Anderson? Which of the non top 20 Bluefield hitters, Dwight Smith, Christian Lopes, Dickie Thon, Matt Dean or Anderson was closest to the top 20?

Matthew Eddy: Managers seemed to regard Smith as second to Dean in terms of upside. Smith takes competitive at-bats but could be a tough sell as a left fielder without profile power and without the range for center. At this stage he's still interesting, though.

    ttnorm (Connecticut): Was Christian Binford close to making the list?

Matthew Eddy: An over-slot, 30th-round pick by the Royals in 2011, RHP Christian Binford is 6-foot-7 and throws a heavy ball. He bears watching in 2013, but in the context of this year's league prospects he didn't garner much attention.

    Chris (Boston): Hi Matt - what factors had you rank LHP Blake Snell over other players such as RHP Roberto Osuna and OF Max Kepler?

Matthew Eddy: The big separator for Blake Snell was his lefthandedness and the potential that he develops his slider and changeup into consistent weapons. Lefties have an advantage over righties in that last regard because they have to hone their changeups in the low minors just to survive lineups stacked with 6, 7 or even 8 righty batters. Teams are always looking for strike-throwing, power lefties, like Snell could be, to neutralize opponents' heart-of-the-order lefty sluggers.

    Tom (Long Beach, CA): Could you comment on 3B Travis Harrison's season (offense & defense)? (Elizabethton Twins - 1s 2011) Thank you!

Matthew Eddy: I really expected to find more support for Harrison, a Twins supplemental pick out of high school in 2011 who hit well in the Appy League. As it turned out, managers had a litany of concerns, ranging from his swing is too pull-oriented, with a bat path that dips in and out of the zone; he's not quick enough to play third base, and he has poor body control; his arm action is long and his throws lack carry; and he didn't always play with confidence.

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

Matthew Eddy: Buxton would be a no-doubter, Hawkins has a good chance for the back half, and Starling would also be a back-half candidate.

    Bill (Bozeman): Any interesting arms at Burlington?

Matthew Eddy: In addition to Binford, who I mentioned earlier, 2012 third-round LHP Colin Rodgers is probably your best bet. His stuff faded down the stretch, but at his best he pounds the zone with an average fastball and a rapidly-developing changeup. He threw more of a curveball in high school, so the rapidity with which he picked up the change is encouraging.

    Zach (Lizard Lick, NC): What did evaluators have to say about Adam Brett Walker this season?

Matthew Eddy: Twins third-rounder this year, Adam Brett Walker has big-time power — maybe a 70 raw — but he needs to make more contact for the juice to play. He's strictly corner OF material, so it's all about the bat.

    Roger (Greenville, SC): Why does Snell's lefthandedness forcing him to develop his changeup give him an edge over Osuna, who's best pitch is his advanced change?

Matthew Eddy: Because the preferred No. 2 pitch of choice for a righthanded starter is a breaking ball. Osuna won't face nearly as many opposite-side hitters in game situations as Snell will, just given the distribution of lefty and righty hitters in pro ball. To reiterate, most scouts and managers like Osuna but view his ceiling as lower because he doesn't have as much room to grow into it. Pitchers with good changeups (and arm speed) typically carve up the low levels of the minors. This does not condemn Osuna to a life of mediocrity, but just be careful about reading too much into his strikeout totals at this stage.

    Laura (Miami): Is Oscar Hernandez (Princeton) someone to keep an eye on?

Matthew Eddy: Yes, check back in a year on Rays C Oscar Hernandez. He had a tough year this year, but his hitting approach and defensive tools could lead to a breakout in 2013.

    Brett (The ILL): What were the impressions of Steve Matz before the Mets shut him down?

Matthew Eddy: The Mets top pick in 2009, Matz made his pro debut with Kingsport this summer. He got shut down with shoulder fatigue in July, but some reports had him touching 96 mph with explosive life and showing feel for a breaking ball and changeup. If he had stayed healthy, he probably would have made the back of the list.

    JH (Berkeley): I know their performance wasn't great and they didn't belong on or near the top 20, but did scouts have anything good to say about either Philips Castillo or Martin Peguero this year?

Matthew Eddy: I talked with one scout who saw Mariners LF Phillips Castillo good, and he was a candidate for No. 20 on our list. Castillo has hitter's actions and a quick bat to handle good velocity. It's not necessarily reflected in the numbers, but he also did a good job of picking up spin and staying back on breaking balls. Definitely don't write him off. I'm interested to see how he fares in 2013. Perguero did not receive anywhere close to that level of support — he has a flailing hitting approach and doesn't recognize pitches well. He also played a lot of second base this year, instead of shortstop, and most seemed to regard him as an org player or emergency utility type.

    Richard (Raleigh, NC): What type of reports did you hear from scouts and managers concerning SS Jean Batista & OF Ariel Ovando from Greeneville? Were either close to making the Top 20?

Matthew Eddy: Astros RF Ariel Ovando rebounded nicely from a poor debut with Greeneville in 2011, but still I couldn't find much support for his prospect status around the league. He's a low-energy player who might be facing a shift to first base/left field in the future because he's a 30 runner. Ovando has incredible raw power but a long swing that Appy pitchers could exploit. He could develop into a low-average, all-or-nothing slugger, kind of like 2006 Braves first-rounder Cody Johnson.

Matthew Eddy: Wow, great questions this year. The Top 20 chats return tomorrow with Bubba Brown and the Pioneer League. Stay tuned.