League Top 20 Prospects

2012 Northwest League Chat

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Conor Glassey: Hey everybody! Happy Friday and thanks for subscribing to Baseball America and taking the time to read my Northwest League Top 20. This is my fourth year doing the league and it's always fun to see players you've ranked make it to the big leagues. Several players from my first NWL list (Brett Jackson, Ryan Wheeler, Robbie Ross and Rob Scahill) made their MLB debut this year. Lots of great questions in the queue, so let's get to it!

    @Jaypers413 (IL): As this league wasn't as enhanced by the earlier signing deadline as the others that, up to this point, have been, if you stacked up this list against last year's, which one has more depth and ceiling to it?

Conor Glassey: A fine place to start...Yeah, I expected the league to be a little better this year with the earlier signing deadline, but it seems like other young leagues got bigger boosts from that. That's how it goes with the eight-team leagues, I guess. Last year's list is better. I would take Zunino over last year's No. 1, Blue Jays lefthander Justin Nicolino, easily. But going down the rest of the top 10, there aren't many guys who I would take ahead of last year's player in that spot except probably Joe Ross over Joe Panik.

    Harry (Chicago): Where would Joey Gallo have ranked? thx

Conor Glassey: What a huge year for Gallo! That was awesome to see. I still have questions about how much he'll hit (he did strike out 78 times in 59 games, so it's obvious he'll need to make some adjustments), but he's in the handful of guys in consideration for best power in the minors. He would have been an easy No. 2 if he qualified (and none of the other guys like Almora and Stratton did too).

    Ben (Leland Grove): Do NWL evaluators see a future in the bullpen for Joe Ross, or can he remain a SP?

Conor Glassey: He has the repertoire, athleticism and work ethic to remain a starter.

    Eric (San Fran): Is Stratton likely to repeat this league next year, or are the Giants convinced he can hold his own at Augusta?

Conor Glassey: I haven't heard anything definitive, but I'd be shocked if Stratton doesn't start next year in Low-A.

    Frank (Denver): Should we Rox fans write off Peter Tago, or is there hope?

Conor Glassey: There's certainly cause for concern, but no, don't write him off just yet. Tago's performance has been dreadful, but he still has plenty of talent and athleticism. And it wasn't just Rockies folks I spoke to who still liked him. I talked with opposing coaches and scouts who still liked Tago. He sits 89-93 and showed a good 73-75 mph curveball. With regard to his trouble throwing strikes, it sounds like that's a combination of being too mechanical in his delivery (limiting his athleticism) and a lack of focus or confidence on the mound.

    Carlos (Seattle): Can we conceivably see Zunino playing at Safeco sometime next season?

Conor Glassey: That's too aggressive, I think. He needs to fine-tune some things behind the plate and learn how to handle a pro staff. But I could see him battling for a spot in spring 2014.

    Ernie (Seattle): Connor, Where would Roberto Osuna have placed if he had qualified ?

Conor Glassey: Lots of "Where would this guy" rank questions in the queue. So, here's how I think the Top 8 would have looked if the guys mentioned in the intro had qualified: Zunino, Almora, Stratton, Gallo, Vogelbach, Sanchez, Ross, Osuna.

    Roger (Washington DC): What's your take on Chuckie Jones at this point? Doomed to future as A ball BP legend, or is there a glimmer of possibility for development of his tools utilization?

Conor Glassey: He has some tools, but he's more suspect than prospect at this point. There are definitely pitch-recognition issues, but it also sounds like his problem is partly mental and that he needs learn that baseball is a daily grind and be able to forget his last at-bat.

    Jon (Peoria): The obvious comp on Vogelbach based on the body is Prince Fielder. But is he anywhere near that comp for the bat?

Conor Glassey: Prince Fielder is just special. He has 258 home runs (and counting) over the first eight seasons of his career. Thanks to Baseball-Reference's Play Index, I can tell you that ranks 10th all-time and it's more than Hank Aaron, Willie Mays, Mickey Mantle, Miguel Cabrera, Alex Rodriguez, Ken Griffey Jr., Manny Ramirez, Mike Schmidt, Vladimir Guerrero, Mark McGwire and Barry Bonds, to name a few. Fielder is more athletic than Vogelbach, was drafted 61 spots higher and his dad played in the big leagues. So this is a roundabout way of saying, no, Prince Fielder is not a good (or fair) comparison for Vogelbach. I think a better comparison would be John Kruk.

    Josh (Oreong): After watching Mac Williamson for most of the year I was impressed with his skills but I kind of see him topping out around AA. Is he projected as a potential major league player or was the northwest league just really down this year in talent?

Conor Glassey: Like I've mentioned, it was a down year. I always want every player I rank to make it to the big leagues, but the reality is that at least half the guys on this list, maybe more, probably won't. That's just how it works and what makes ranking players so fun and challenging.

    Mike (PA): Vogelbach and Sanchez are back to back at a combined 505 lbs! You don't often see top prospects that big. We've heard a lot about how the big body might effect Vogelbach, but are there similar concerns about a 255 lb 17 yr old pitcher?

Conor Glassey: Yeah, when I submitted my list to Jim Callis, he thought that might be a record combined weight for the No. 2 & 3 prospects in a league. There's no way I'm taking the time to find out for sure, but it's a good bet. I think it's less of a concern for pitchers than it is for hitters. Sanchez is huge, but he's also very muscular. On paper, they look similar, but in person they have very different physiques. Sanchez is huge, but he's ripped. Teammates called him Ray Lewis around the clubhouse!

    Navin (Pasadena, CA): Did you hear anything about Boise's Jose Arias? He put up some interesting numbers and I've heard he has tremendous velocity.

Conor Glassey: Navin, I did get some information on Arias, though I wouldn't say he was close to making the list. You're right about his fastball—he has a power arm and sat in the 93-95 mph range. But his offspeed stuff needs a lot of work and he's very young. He needs to do a better job preparing between starts and keeping his composure on the mound.

    Matt (Brussels,belgium): Is Vogelback a top 100 guy? Is a good comp Fielder? As a big guy one concern is work ethic, what were you hearing about his?

Conor Glassey: Already covered the Fielder thing, but no—the only Top 100 guy on this list is Zunino.

    Peter O. (Coeur d'Alene, ID): Trey Martin really stood out to me watching him this year, as you can really see the tools. What do you think is the main aspect of his game that he needs to focus on to really take off next year?

Conor Glassey: Hey, Peter. I was just in Coeur d'Alene for my sister's wedding a couple weeks ago and loved Hudson's Hamburgers & Java On Sherman! Martin is certainly toolsy and has the type of body that could add 15-20 pounds without sacrificing athleticism. The biggest thing he needs to work on is pitch recognition and swing mechanics. His swing is a little long now, so he's vulnerable to fastballs inside. If he can learn to shorten up and turn on those fastballs, that will allow him to track balls a little longer, which will help his pitch recognition on breaking balls. That's how Bill Buckner explained it to me and he had 2,715 hits in the big leagues. After that, Martin needs to work on getting better jumps on the basepaths. He has very good speed, but was only 6-for-11 in stolen bases this year.

    Jon (Peoria): Is it safe to say that Bruno is more polished than Amaya right now but that Amaya has a higher ceiling? Does either have a higher ceiling at 2b than Logan Watkins in the Cubs system?

Conor Glassey: Yeah, I believe that's fair to say, Jon. Bruno profiles as a better pure hitter, but Amaya has the edge in power, speed and defense. Watkins (who ranked as the No. 19 prospect on this list in 2009) is still at the top of that group, but it's a nice problem to have. I'm not writing off Zeke DeVoss, either!

    gerry (toronto): Was Vancouver's Javier Avendano close to the top 20. His numbers were as good as Cole's.

Conor Glassey: Avendano was a minor league Rule 5 guy from the Cardinals system and 2012 was his fifth year in pro ball. He pitches in the 88-92 mph range and succeeded because he can really hit his spots, has some late life and deception. But that's about it right now and, while he did put up good numbers, it's tough to get excited about that.

    Evan (Seattle): How does Zunino compare past top catching prospects? Does he have the ceiling to be in the same class as someone like Matt Wieters?

Conor Glassey: Zunino's not quite in that class. He's not as good as Posey, Santana and Wieters. But he might be the best catching prospect in the minors. I think it'll be close between him and Travis d'Arnaud.

    Josh (California): How "real" do you think Stephen Bruno's season was and how much of it was the NWL? And what position, if any, do you see him ending up at?

Conor Glassey: Bruno's always hit. The OBP was inflated a little bit by how often he got Dos'ed and Bill Buckner told me he better get a better elbow guard next year. He fits best at second base and I could see him as an everyday guy there or as a super utility guy.

    Josh (California): Do you think any of the Hawks players on the list are capable of skipping Kane County and going directly to Daytona?

Conor Glassey: Bruno's probably the only one with a shot at doing that.

    Joe LeCates (Easton, MD): Hey, Conor! Kind of a down year in the NWL this year, but a) I had to say what up and b) give me some #personalcheeseball goodness: who ya got?

Conor Glassey: What's up, Joe? You know Everett first baseman Taylor Ard has always been my personal cheeseball! I got some mixed reviews on his pure hitting, but he has legit power to all fields. But he's a right-right first baseman, so I got a lot of guys saying, "He'll go as far as his bat takes him."

    Jonathan (San Francisco): Since his bat would likely profile just fine at catcher, any word on how well Marcus Littlewood's skills behind the plate have progressed over the year? What (if any) comps might you have for his peak?

Conor Glassey: I got some good reports on Littlewood. He took to the new position well, which isn't really a surprise considering his athleticism, soft hands and makeup. Scouts who saw him this year didn't think his bat has really progressed much since high school, but I had several sources tell me they still liked him and could see him grinding his way into a future backup role in the big leagues.

    Joe R (Newport News, VA): John Kruk didn't have a lot of power for a major-league first baseman. Will Vogelbach have more power than Kruk did?

Conor Glassey: Yeah, I do think he'll have a little more power. Maybe lefthanded Billy Butler is a better comp. Just not Prince Fielder.

    Warren (New London): I'm wondering about Christopher Taylor, who played with Bruno in college and played as well or better in the NWL before he was promoted. Thanks for the list!

Conor Glassey: Taylor was a guy I expected to be on the list when I first started sorting through things. There's a lot to like there and, like Bruno, he's a steady, heady player. Taylor's manager told me, "He's about as polished as you can be as a shortstop in your first year. His angles to the ball were good, his transfers were very good. He's not a real flashy player, but just solid at everything he did. He's very fundamentally-sound." But I spoke to some scouts who weren't real high on him. They thought he profiled as a weak-bat / up-and-down utility kind of guy.

    Jack (Toronto): I was surprised that Amaya wasn't higher on the list, at least higher than Marco Hernandez. He showed power, patience and speed this year. I understand defence is the difference, but that Marco hasn't shown much power and very little patience I would have thought they'd be flipped in the rankings. Can you elaborate on your choice?

Conor Glassey: There really isn't a lot of separation between 6-9. I gave Hernandez the edge for his ability to remain at shortstop and his switch-hitting ability. We're projecting on this, so while Amaya showed more present power, Hernandez projects to hit for similar or better power as he continues to fill out.

    Greg (Boise): Who are some of the players who qualified and just missed the list?

Conor Glassey: Okay, going team-by-team, the group of guys who qualified and just missed making the list would be…Willson Contreras, C, Boise (new to catcher, athletic with loud tools, very raw in games), Genison Reyes, RHP, Eugene (BIG arm. Sits 92-94, but was up to 98. Still learning how to pitch, fastball is straight), Justin Hancock, RHP, Eugene (Thin kid with good stuff. Sits 90-93. Secondary stuff needs work), Chris Taylor & Taylor Ard, who I mentioned on Everett, Peter Tago, who I already wrote about, and then Blake Perry, RHP, Yakima (90-92 with a good curveball and developing changeup) and Enrique Burgos, RHP, Yakima (anywhere from 92-98 with a slider and split. Just inconsistent. Struggles with strikes and is up in the zone a lot).

    Jesse (ABQ): Conor! You know we always love sleepers! Who ya got?

Conor Glassey: A good place to end it. The three sleepers I have are all lefthanders. Michael Heesch from Boise, Will Locante from Yakima and Brandon Alger in Eugene. Heesch and Alger are starters and Locante is a power arm out of the bullpen. Keep an eye on those guys.

Conor Glassey: Thanks for all the great questions, everybody. That's a wrap for me. Hit me up on Twitter with any other questions and tune in Monday for Aaron Fitt's New York-Penn list, scouting reports and chat. Have a great weekend and thanks again for subscribing to Baseball America!