League Top 20 Prospects

2012 New York-Penn League Top 20 Prospects Chat With Aaron Fitt

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Aaron Fitt: Hi everybody, welcome to another NY-P chat! Let's get to it.

    Robert (Secaucus, NJ): I'm a bit surprised not to see Jesus Solorzano in the top 20. Did he get consideration here?

Aaron Fitt: Solorzano got a lot of consideration, in fact. He's got some juice in his bat, and I think he's got some feel to hit as well. The problem is the profile: he's a 6-foot, right/right, likely left field-only player, and he's a tick old for this league at age 22 (compared to a guy like Danry Vasquez, who has some similar skills). Solorzano can run a little bit too, but he's not a good defender. His bat will really have to carry him.

    @Jaypers413 (IL): As Nimmo is considered raw, do you predict the Mets will have him repeat the NY-P next season, or could they take a leap of faith and start him off in the Sally?

Aaron Fitt: No I suspect he will advance to low Class A next year, Jaypers. Nimmo did hold his own against older competition this summer, he showed an impressive ability to work counts, and I think his approach will play at higher levels. He is also a very mentally tough kid, as Rich Donnelly's effusive quote in the Nimmo write-up attests. I think Nimmo will be able to handle some adversity and learn on the fly; I will be very surprised if he repeats the NY-P.

    Ben (Leland Grove): Did any of the Doubledays come close to making this list?

Aaron Fitt: As our college readers surely know, I've been a Tony Renda fan for a long time, and he was in the mix for a spot on this list. He's an undersized second baseman who did not stand out for his performance in his pro debut, but he has an innate feel for his barrel that I think will carry him through the minors. He also made great strides defensively this summer, though he has a few more things to clean up in order to become an average defender. Brett Mooneyham had an encouraging debut, but he's got to smooth out his delivery in order to harness his potential — I think there's a lot of risk there. Robert Benincasa and Derek Self are a couple of college relievers who pitched very well this summer; both have polish, tenacity and solid stuff (working in that 90-93 range with solid-average sliders), and I think both could move quickly. And Estarlin Martinez is an interesting sleeper with some power potential — certainly a guy to keep an eye on.

    Josh (Oakland): Who is your personal favorite future star on this list?

Aaron Fitt: I could go a lot of directions with this answer, but I suppose my gut-feel guy is Patrick Wisdom. I think he's going to hit for both power and average, and be a plus defender at the hot corner. I think there is a ton to like there.

    Jim (Philly): Besides power, what else does Larry Greene bring to the table?

Aaron Fitt: Greene is another intriguing guy who was in the mix at the back of this list. I thought it was a deeper pool of candidates than usual this year — plenty of guys who missed the Top 20 are still quality prospects, and Greene falls into that group. Greene learned a lot about defense this year — pre-pitch positioning, reading the ball off the bat, improving his jumps. He's a decent runner (not a burner), but he's still learning to use his speed, both on the basepaths and in the outfield. He's got a strong outfield arm as well. At the plate, he has a tendency to chase out of the zone and needs to improve his recognition of quality offspeed stuff, but the Phillies were pleased with his ability to work counts. He has a chance to hit for some average as well as power, in time.

    Grant (NYC): Are you impressed with Mitch Walding's tools?

Aaron Fitt: Another Phillies question — that team was loaded with interesting second-year high school guys and some decent college prospects (like Chris Serritella and Cameron Perkins). Walding obviously struggled quite a bit at the plate this year, but he showed good defensive actions and athleticism — definitely a guy who should be able to stay on the infield dirt. He figured to be a long-term prospect when the Phillies drafted him — you're buying the size and athleticism. He needs time to figure out his offensive game, but you could dream on some pop down the road.

    Danny (Queens, NY): I'm surprised to see Brandon Nimmo not make the top 10. Yes he's certainly raw, but he put together a great second half, and considering where he came from, he obviously had his detractors. Now he's widely considered the Mets' top position prospect. Could you elaborate on your ranking of him? Thanks.

Aaron Fitt: I like Nimmo, and he obviously just missed the top 10, coming in at No. 11. He has upside, but he comes with a lot of risk. I got some reports that his defense in center field was very raw, to put it mildly, and his run times were disappointing. If he winds up having to move to a corner (and plenty of evaluators think he will), he loses some value. The guys in front of him on this list also have nice tools, but less risk.

    Sammy (DC): Did any of Aberdeen's group get consideration? Thoughts on Torsten Boss?

Aaron Fitt: Kevin Gausman didn't qualify, of course, or he would have been right at or near the top of this list. Of those who did qualify, Boss was the closest to making the Top 20. He's got some wiry strength and athleticism, with some pull power and some speed — a pretty nice tool set across the board. But he's also got more risk than a lot of college guys — he needs to improve significantly against lefthanded pitching, and his range and instincts at third base is questionable. I think he might end up back in center field, where he played some at Michigan State. Roderick Bernadina is also interesting — he's got some bat speed, a decent arm and a chance to play center, but his strike-zone awareness has a long way to go.

    Grant (NYC): What's the word on Brian Johnson's injury? Very scary to read about it. Where would he have placed on the list had he qualified?

Aaron Fitt: Yeah, Johnson's had some rotten luck over the last couple of years (I was at the SEC tournament when Mike Zunino's foot slipped on a throw down to second, causing him to hit Johnson in the head and knock him out). He came back strong from that, and the Red Sox hope he can come back from getting hit in the face by a line drive this year — he broke seven bones in his face. The biggest hurdle will be the mental part of the recovery, regaining his confidence and fearlessness. Before he got hurt, Johnson impressed in his brief NY-P stint with his composure, professionalism, smooth mechanics and quality three-pitch mix. He certainly would have made this list had he qualified; I think he'll be a very quick mover through the minors, because he really knows how to pitch.

    Xavier (San Jose, CA): Very excited about Addison Russell's career so far. Where would he have placed?

Aaron Fitt: Russell would have been in the top 3, and probably No. 1 — this guy is the real deal. He's got the whole package: range, arm strength, quickness, actions on defense, in addition to some power potential and above-average speed. He's got a chance to be very special.

    Tom (Westwood,CA): Being a UCLA Bruin fan I was very impressed with Tyler Heineman this season. I though the could really catch and throw and was very happy to see he led the league in hitting. What are your thoughts on Tyler? Seems like he fits exactly what Jeff Luhnow looks for in a player.

Aaron Fitt: In our final Draft Tracker this spring, each member of the BA draft team had to choose one personal "pick to click" to write up, and I chose Heineman from my Southern California region. I believe in this guy, and he certainly validated my faith in his debut — I hated leaving him off the Top 20, but this was just a strong prospect crop. That isn't to say Heineman didn't get some support from scouts I spoke with, however — people think he really has a chance. He'll never have power, but he's a switch-hitter with a feel for putting the barrel on the ball. He has solid catch-and-throw skills, great leadership and work ethic. He probably profiles as a backup catcher in the big leagues with a chance to start — not a star, but somebody who will be a useful big leaguer. I feel pretty confident in that.

    PT (IBC): How close was Gabriel Ynoa? I thought his age and projection would have put him ahead of Robles who's 22 and looks pretty maxed out physically. Was there that much of a difference in stuff?

Aaron Fitt: Scouts and managers I spoke with all preferred Robles to Ynoa, but Ynoa garnered some consideration for this list as well. He showed a solid-average fastball in the 89-92 range, feel for an average changeup and very good control — this guy is a strike-thrower, like most of those Brooklyn pitchers. The problem is his slider is below-average, and he lacks the big velocity that Robles showed. He profiles as a middle reliever at this stage.

    Elliot (Youngstown OH): Have the Indians managed to whiff on another 1st round pick? Tyler Naquin's offensive stats were remarkably underwhelming. Do we have a proud successor to Trevor Crowe and Beau Mills in the making?

Aaron Fitt: I would strongly advise against writing off a first-round pick based on 36 games in the NY-P, at the end of a long season that began in February for him. Not all players adjust to pro ball at the same clip, but I think you'll see a strong year from Naquin in 2013 — I think he is a line-drive machine with one of the best arms in the minor leagues (though it didn't play that way in his debut, perhaps because of fatigue or lack of opportunity to showcase it). I'm not saying Naquin is a future All-Star necessarily, but he has a chance to be, and I'm certainly not forming any negative judgments based on a short pro debut. If anything, I think his debut was encouraging because he showed he has a real chance to play center field, which was a question mark coming out of Texas A&M because he had played exclusively in right.

    Greg (London, ON): Hi - do scouts see righty Jeff Ames as a starter down the road or does he look to end up in the bullpen?

Aaron Fitt: Scouts I spoke with believe he has a real chance to start, but it's not a lock — he needs to become more consistent with his offspeed stuff and command. But the fact that he pitches aggressively with his fastball is very encouraging, as is the fact that he sustains his fastball velocity deep into his starts.

    Elliot (Youngstown OH): Luis DeJesus was the only Scrapper pitcher who achieved much, but his low K/IP rate suggests he has a very low ceiling. Is there perhaps more there than meets the eye?

Aaron Fitt: Sure, another Mahoning Valley question: De Jesus is a pitchability righty in the Josh Tomlin mold, but without Tomlin's great changeup. He'll work in that 89-90 range, maybe bump 91, and throw strike after strike to both sides of the plate. He lacks a swing-and-miss secondary pitch, but he commands his breaking ball and changeup well. Not a high-upside guy — somebody who will have to prove himself at every level. But he works hard, and he has a good feel for pitching, so he's got a chance.

    Ben (Portland): How serious of an injury did Barret Barnes have? Is he a future low floor 4th outfielder or something much more? Thanks.

Aaron Fitt: Not serious — he was on the verge of resuming baseball activities in instructional league. Clearly, I think he's more than a fourth outfielder or I wouldn't have ranked him in the top 10. I think he has big-time bat speed and power potential, and good speed that really plays on the basepaths. I'm very intrigued by his power/speed package, and I like that he has always taken a lot of walks. Maybe it's not the prettiest swing in the world, but I'll take a guy with power, speed and patience. I give him at least a chance to be an everyday center fielder with 20-20 potential; he'll have value even if he has to move to left.

    Alex (NYC): What order do you rank the other members of the Brooklyn rotation who didn't make this list? Were any of them close to the top 20?

Aaron Fitt: That was an awfully good short-season rotation. In addition to Mateo and Robles, Luis Cessa, Gabriel Ynoa and Rainy Lara all are prospects, and I would rank them in that order. They mostly all had fastball pitchability and feel for changeups. Cessa showed some real arm strength, running his fastball up to 95 to go along with an average changeup and a fringy curve. Only the lack of a better breaking ball kept him off this list. Lara was more in that 89-92 range like Ynoa, but with some sink and command. His secondary stuff was below-average or fringy, however.

    Warren (New London): There's a group of four guys with big on-base percentages who missed the list: Andrew Aplin, Tyler Heineman, Taylor Dugas, and Tyler Gaffney. Did observers like any of them to continue this at higher levels?

Aaron Fitt: Aplin, like Heineman, is a player I've always liked in college, who had a strong debut and almost forced his way onto this list. Scouts still see Aplin as a fourth outfielder, but I could see him being slightly better than that because he can really track the ball down in center field — his average speed plays up because his instincts are outstanding. He's a smart baserunner and a selective, patient spray hitter who stays in the middle of the field well. He showed some pop to the gaps this summer, but he won't be a home run hitter, so he'll have to really hit for average to have a shot at being an everyday guy. I can't shake the feeling that he's got a chance to do so. I like him best of that group of college outfielders.

    Ben (Leland Grove): What did evaluators have to say about Michael Ynoa?

Aaron Fitt: Nobody was particularly impressed with Ynoa, who stood out most for his lack of competitiveness and energy on the mound (that's never a good sign). He still has arm strength — he ran his fastball up to 95 mph, though his comfort zone was more 90-91 mph, and it is pretty straight. He also struggles to command his fastball and his breaking ball, which sometimes has late action and tight rotation, but other times simply does not. And his changeup is very underdeveloped — he can't even throw it for strikes, let alone get hitters out with it. It is fair to say Ynoa did nothing this summer to restore any of his fading prospect status.

    Bernie (Warwick, RI): Any Yankees come close ? Rutckyj ? Dugas ? Butler ?

Aaron Fitt: Not a great prospect crop at Staten Island this year, after a very strong group of Yankees prospects last year in this league. Nobody from Staten Island came real close to making this list, but the top prospect was probably Peter O'Brien, who really struggled to hit for average but at least showed his big-time power potential. Opposing coaches said they had success against O'Brien by tying him up with fastballs inside, and scouts questioned his breaking ball recognition and impugned his long swing. His defense is nothing special, but if he can stay behind the plate he'll have some value, because his power is real. Saxon Butler and Matt Snyder are like O'Brien — older, physically maxed out college guys with some pop, but they don't play a premium position like O'Brien does. The most interesting Staten Island pitcher was Corey Black, an undersized righty who probably profiles as a reliever — but with big arm strength. At his best, he was 92-96 with an 83-85 mph slider that has a chance to be plus. He has an adequate changeup as well, and he'll mix in a curveball as a change of pace, but it is the worst of his four pitches.

    Bobby (Chesterfield, MO): The Cardinals drafted three 3B in the first two rounds (Piscotty, Wisdom and Kelly). Which has the best chance of being a good big leaguer and which has the best chance at sticking at third? Thanks!

Aaron Fitt: As I mentioned earlier, I'm bullish on Wisdom, who I think will definitely stay at third. He's got instincts, actions, range and arm strength — the full package at the hot corner. Piscotty, I think, is more of a left fielder, but I think he's got a chance to hit enough to play every day out there anyway. Sounds like Kelly has a chance to be steady at third, but probably not a standout. I think Wisdom can be a standout defender there.

    Robby (Cape Cod): Deven Marrero seems to be regarded as a defense first shortstop. What exactly is his upside/ floor at the plate? Is he going to hit at a Marco Scutaro level? Or is bat completely inferior to his glove like Jose Iglesias?

Aaron Fitt: Scutaro is a career .275 hitter with a 94 OPS+, hit 11-12 HR a year at his peak — I see that as a reasonable baseline for Marrero. I'm not completely sold on his bat, but I do think he clearly has more offensive upside than Iglesias. If you like Marrero (and the Red Sox clearly do), you probably see him as a peak value Scutaro (an OPS+ around 110) with strong defensive skills at short.

    PT (IBC): What can you tell us about the Nats Estarlin Martinez? Was he close to making the list?

Aaron Fitt: Martinez had been spinning his wheels a bit for the last couple of years, but he took advantage of his opportunity after some injuries forced him into an everyday role this spring. He's strong and has some righthanded power potential, but his swing gets out of whack when he tries to put a charge into the ball, and he'll get very pull-happy. But he made progress this year at going middle-away more often. He's an average runner who plays an aggressive left field, and he actually has plus arm strength but is still learning how to use it (he doesn't have a lot of feel for distances or accuracy). He's just a young player with tools, but one evaluator described him as something of a bull in a China shop at this stage.

    Mike (WV): Can you tell us a bit about Adrian Sampson. The Pirates 5th round pick pitched well over 44.2 innings and he's not terribly old as he only turns 21 this coming week. Is he a legitimate prospect?

Aaron Fitt: I like Sampson — he was in that group of 5-10 guys who were in contention for the final spot on this list. He showed a quality three-pitch mix, at his best working in the low 90s and peaking at 94 with his fastball. His slider has a chance to be average to plus, and his changeup developed quite a bit this summer, giving him a chance for three average or better offerings. Some evaluators were more impressed with his stuff than others, but everyone had good things to say about his mound demeanor — he's a bulldog, and he knows how to change speeds and locations. Very interesting guy.

    Mike (West Virginia): Can you talk a bit about Tyler Gaffney. How did he manage to get hit an absurd 20 times in 151 plate appearances. Add that to great plate discipline, and Gaffney had an outlandish OBP of .483. Is he a legitimate prospect or just a college draftee who's old for his league?

Aaron Fitt: Gaffney is one of those hard-nosed guys who has never been afraid to "wear it." He walked about as much as he struck out in each of his last two seasons in college, so he has a history of working counts, even when he's not hitting for average. And I think he has more upside than you'd expect from an average 24th-round pick out of college — remember, this guy played running back at Stanford. He's got strength and real athleticism, and now that he's focused on baseball full-time, he could take off. He played mostly left field this summer in deference to Barrett Barnes, but he's got a chance to play some center as well; he can run, and he has some strength in his swing, though he also has some stiffness that probably will prevent him from being an impact player down the road.

    Byron (Harvard Park): Does Brandon Nimmo still profile as a centerfielder? Also, I thought he was supposed to have more speed. Are his 1-6 sb this season a result of lack of aggression, bad speed, lack of confidence in base running, or little opportunity?

Aaron Fitt: The Mets still think he can play center, but observers outside the organization expressed plenty of doubt this year. He's still young, and the answer to that question is still TBD. His lack of speed this summer was rather bewildering — this guy was a plus runner coming out of high school, but he consistently showed below-average to fringy speed this summer, and he needs to learn how to read pitchers and pick his spots on the basepaths.

    John (Parsippany, NJ): BA had Vermont's Chris Bostick as the sleeper pick in the organization coming into the year - what the reports on him now?

Aaron Fitt: Bostick is still very much on the radar — he was probably the closest of any Vermont prospect to making this list (though I still really believe in Daniel Robertson as well — he just had a poor performance in the NY-P). Bostick played shortstop in high school, and the A's are trying to make him into a second baseman in pro ball. He's got a chance to do it with continued hard work, but right now his actions have some stiffness and he needs work on his agility around the bag and his defensive positioning. But he's an above-average runner, and he could probably play center field if he winds up having to move out of the infield. He's mostly a contact hitter right now, but he has some surprising leverage and bat speed, and he could be a gap-to-gap hitter with occasional home run power down the road.

    Snoopy (Doghouse): Been attending NYPENN since 1993, and I was wondering, best venue in the league? Does anyone miss Pittsfield?

Aaron Fitt: I can't speak for anybody else, but I miss Pittsfield — I grew up going to games at Wahconah Park, so maybe it's just the nostalgia talking...

    Jim (New York): Matt Duran was a 4th round pick and really struggled this year. Is he a legitimate prospect? How do his tools grade out?

Aaron Fitt: I think he's got a lot to prove. He's a bad-bodied right/right guy, and his range, hands and arm all fit better at first than third. He does have raw power, but it's going to have to carry him.

    Norm (Connecticut): Hi Aaron, Did Mookie Betts impress any scouts?

Aaron Fitt: Yeah, interesting little sleeper for the Red Sox. He's an undersized second baseman with a short swing, and he does a good job controlling the strike zone and using the whole field. He's an above-average runner with a chance to be a solid defensive second baseman. He's stronger than you think — should grow into solid gap power, but it's a table-setter profile. Great two-strike approach, tough out.

    Jason (Houston): Were there any other Astros prospects that got consideration for the list(Brady Rodgers and Andrew Aplin)?

Aaron Fitt: I already addressed Apiln, but Rodgers and Aaron West got consideration as well. West showed good arm strength (working low 90s and bumping 95) and arm-side life, and a hard three-quarters breaking ball with some late action. He's also got some feel for a change, but he's an older guy and scouts see him as a reliever. Rodgers is a consummate strike-thrower, but with less stuff: he's more 87-91 with good feel for three average secondary pitches. He's very aggressive and has above-average command, so I think he's got a chance to be a back-end starter, but it's not a real high ceiling.

    J (Detroit): Does Danry Vazquez succeed at West Mi next year? What's his upside? Did Montreal Robinson show enough to be considered a prospect?

Aaron Fitt: I think Vasquez is ready for low Class A, yes. He's got a chance to be a quality everyday corner outfielder with an average to plus bat and average power. I'm glad you brought up Robertson, one of my favorite sleepers in the NY-P this year. He's got serious arm strength — he ran his fastball up to 97 mph and sat around 94, and it has heavy sink and arm-side run at times. He worked primarily off his fastball, but it's got a chance to be a plus-plus fastball if he can command it better. He's working on his slider and changeup, and both have a long way to go, but every once in a while he'll flash a good slider in the low to mid 80s, so it's in there. He's a reliever all the way, but if it clicks he could be very good.

    Steve (St. Louis): Could you give us an update on Alex Mejia's status? Is he expected to be ready for next season?

Aaron Fitt: Apparently he tore his ACL after hitting the bag awkwardly — that injury typically takes some time to recover from, but I suspect you'll see him sometime next year.

    DH (Pittsburgh): Can you compare ceilings and likelihood of reaching those ceilings for the top 2 arms of the list, Guerrieri and Heredia?

Aaron Fitt: I think Heredia has a little more upside, actually, but I think Guerrieri is a little safer, while also having a significant upside (think: No. 2 starter). You can really dream on Heredia — for him to have that kind of size and stuff at his age, what will he be like at 21? He's got a chance to be a true No. 1 if it all comes together. But he doesn't have Guerrieri's current command and feel for pitching. Don't get me wrong, Heredia has plenty of feel for a guy who just turned 18, but Guerrieri's feel is special.

    Michael (Baltimore): What are the thoughts on Edgar de La Rosa of the Tigers?

Aaron Fitt: I think this will be my last question of the day. Like Robertson, de la Rosa has a big arm — he also reached 97, though he sits 92-93 and his fastball doesn't have the kind of heavy life that Robertson's does; it flattens out up in the zone. But his slider is more advanced — he'll flash an average slider with power and three-quarter break, though more often it is below-average, as is his changeup. His secondary stuff and command needs to come, but he's got at least a chance to be a starter down the road, though the bullpen is a more likely destination.

Aaron Fitt: OK folks, that's all I've got time for. Thanks for another great batch of questions — enjoyed chatting with you, as always!