League Top 20 Prospects

2012 South Atlantic League Top 20 Prospects Chat With Bill Ballew

Bill Ballew: Welcome everyone! Let's see your burning questions regarding the South Atlantic League....

    @Jaypers413 (IL): Would you say Foltynewicz is ready for Lancaster? Your opinion of his secondary stuff this past season?

Bill Ballew: I thought he was ready midway through this past season, to be honest. The Astros, however, wanted to make sure he had a solid foundation. He ran out of steam a little bit late, which is understandable given the workload. His secondary stuff was much better this year than it was in 2011 but the entire package is going to continue to need some polish. He's definitely headed in the right direction, though.

    Lisa (San Francisco, CA): Between Crick and Blackburn, who are you higher on in terms of pitches and ceiling?

Bill Ballew: Both pitchers had great seasons at Augusta and both have great makeup. Based on overall talent as well as their ceiling, I like Crick as many as any pitcher in the league this year. I felt after he quit overthrowing early in the season that he was on par with Jose Fernandez. Crick reminds me a lot of a young Matt Cain, which is about as good as it gets.

    Ben (Leland Grove): During the limited amount of time he got to play, what did evaluators have to say about Josh Bell?

Bill Ballew: I absolutely love Josh Bell. He's a great kid and an outstanding five-tool player. I saw him several times in the first month of the season before he got hurt and I thought I was watching the best prospect among position players in the league. Several scouts I spoke with thought along those same lines. He's still a little raw, but once he gets some experience under his belt, he has a chance to be a star.

    Ike (NY): Rumor has it Blake Swihart is impressing quite a bit in instructs. Do you believe he will be repeating the Sally League?

Bill Ballew: I don't think he will, based in large part on the progress he made over the course of the season at Greenville. His manager, Carlos Febles, raved about Blake's improvements in all areas of the game. He really started to show a feel for the ups and downs the game presents at the professional level and made steady strides with his work behind the plate. His bat will play at higher levels, so I believe he's ready for Salem and the Carolina League in 2013.

    Rafe (Dallas, TX): Between Montero, Tapia and Fulmer, who has the most impressive arsenal and the most polish, in your opinion?

Bill Ballew: Good question. Fulmer probably has the most polish of the three right now, and Tapia may have the best pure stuff. I feel all three of those guys are a little underrated in the big picture. In fact, I believe Savannah had much more talent than a lot of people gave them credit for.

    Dick (Jersey): Whose toolbox is bigger between Trevor Story and David Dahl?

Bill Ballew: Having seen Story play many times this year and Dahl not at all, I'm not the best source for this question. Having said that, Story is a stud. He's much better than advertised at shortstop and has a well-above-average approach at the plate who will hit for power and average at higher levels.

    Sam (Chicago): Did the Nats buy themselves a proverbial lemon in Matt Purke? Can he return to form?

Bill Ballew: I loved Matt Purke when he was a freshman at TCU but the fact is he hasn't been the same guy since the Horned Frogs made the run to the College World Series. He was unimpressive once again in 2012, and he received virtually no love from the scouts I talked to. Being lefthanded, he'll get plenty of opportunities to prove if he's capable of succeeding in pro ball, but right now he's little more than a big question mark.

    Ben (Leland Grove): Is Henry Owens likely to remain as a SP in the near future? Was he close to this list?

Bill Ballew: He was very close to this list and actually was one of those guys who bounced on and off as the scouting reports were weighed and different people were contacted. Right now I still see him as a starting pitcher. Many major league relievers were starters in the minors and Owens might wind up in that category.

    Brian (Iowa City, IA): I'm shocked Luis Sardinas is not in the top 20. What did scouts say about him?

Bill Ballew: Going into the process of accumulating the information and interviews I expected Sardinas to make the list as well. I believe some observers were a little concerned that he had a better first half than his second-half performance, but there were several things that came into play, including a few minor injuries. He's definitely a prospect, much like a handful of other players with Hickory that didn't make the list.

    Ryan (Pittsburgh): Between Hanson and Polanco, who had the bigger breakout season overall, according to the experts?

Bill Ballew: Probably Hanson. Both of those guys received love from just about every manager in the league that I spoke with as well as from most scouts. Hanson has so much ability up the middle, even if he moves over to second base down the road, while Polanco showed so much athleticism, especially for his size. Both of those guys appear to have very high ceilings.

    Carter (Atlanta): Why did Alex Wood not make the list? He had a fantastic half year and statistically was dominating.

Bill Ballew: He was another guy who was on and off the list. If my opinion played a heavier role in determining these guys, Wood would be on it. I think scouts are a little concerned about the funky delivery he has, and some considered him to be a college guy dominating less-experienced hitters. I believe both of those evaluations are overrated. He can be filthy when he's in rhythm, and the Braves raved about the adjustments he made after signing as a second-round draft pick.

    @Jaypers413 (IL): Before the season began, there was talk of Alex Meyer becoming an eventual reliever. Has his season convinced scouts otherwise?

Bill Ballew: I think so, at least for now. He did a much better job of repeating his mechanics in his delivery, which in turn helped him command his pitches with more consistency. He has great size and an improving repertoire, which should allow him to remain in the rotation for the foreseeable future.

    Rick (San Diego): What were the scouts saying about Will Swanner. Very surprised he was not in the top 20. I know his bat is ahead of his defense but prior to a late season injury he had to have been in the discussion for player of the year in the SAL. BA also had him as the 2nd team all minor league catcher and he does not make this list

Bill Ballew: Swanner is a guy who received evaluations that were all over the board. He was not the same player after getting hurt in early August and looked lost at the plate upon his return. Nevertheless, his bat will play at higher levels. His defense is not only behind his catching but I don't see him staying back there for the long haul. He works hard but the improvement is not overwhelming. Look for him to move to one of the four corners in the near future.

    Austin (Amherst MA): Why Story ahead of Polanco? Seems like there is a decent chance that he might have to move off SS while Polanco seems likes a sure bet in CF. Polanco outproduced him all year and seems to have potential 5 tool upside. Story's ceiling higher?

Bill Ballew: I wouldn't move Story off shortstop just yet. Yes, Tulo is a mainstay at the position in Colorado, but he might be the guy who moves to third when a younger Story is ready to contribute at the major league level. Polanco has everything you want to see in a center fielder, but he might wind up in right if he adds any significant weight at higher levels. Story's approach at the plate is much better right now, which is probably the biggest reason for the slightly higher ranking.

    Brett (Tampa): How close are Tyler Austin, Gary Sanchez and Mason williams? It seems each prospect list has them ranked differently? Are they pretty much interchangable?

Bill Ballew: I think certain evaluators like certain players better than others based on a few things they notice at particular times. Austin is the least-heralded of the three, but he's the guy I like best because of his all-out approach to the game. Sanchez is the best hitter of the three but there is some concern about where his defensive ability will play. Williams has a world of natural ability but I have concerns about his makeup and the way he plays the game at times. That's just my opinion, but those same thoughts were repeated to me on many occasions.

    Craig (Miami, FL): Bill, Brent Keys had a great year but is considered a prospect or was he just old for the league ? Thank you

Bill Ballew: Brent did have a great year and he was close to making the list. His age definitely played a factor in his not making the list but I believe he will overcome that stigma if he puts up a similar campaign next season.

    Al (Wisconsin): How far did Bichette Jr. fall after his struggles this season?

Bill Ballew: He fell somewhat, but he's still a young guy trying to discover exactly what type of player he is and is going to be. He's a little overshadowed by the likes of Austin, Sanchez, Williams, et al, and he would be considered more of a premier prospect if he were in another organization. That said, I think he's making the proper adjustments and learning to be more of a contact hitter than a guy who could put up big power numbers.

    Patrick (Lake Forest, CA): Any Braves prospects worth noting?

Bill Ballew: Alex Wood was the player closest to making the list. I'm also high on Kyle Kubitza. He made some adjustments as the year went on and could be on the verge of putting together a solid season next year in the Carolina League. Robby Hefflinger is a sleeper. He has a great approach to the game and seemed to discover where his abilities fit best on the field as the 2012 season went on. The 2013 campaign will go a long way in determining Hefflinger's ceiling.

    Mick (Chicago): What does Cecchini lack to play his high school position shortstop? I thought it was quickness/speed but after reading his scouting report it would appear not.

Bill Ballew: I believe the knee injury he suffered earlier in his career really prevented him from continuing at short. He has a very strong arm and above-average quickness at third base. With a little more experience at the hot corner, I believe Cecchini will be a standout defensive player and an above-average offensive player.

    Alex (NYC): It seems like Aderlin Rodriguez (Savannah) took a very positive step forward in his development this year by increasing his avg (.274 - .223), his walk rate (8.2% - 5.2%), his slg (.497 - .376) and lowering his error total. Plus he was one of the youngest players in the league. Did Aderlin get any consideration for this list? How about Maron or Taijeron?

Bill Ballew: Yes, all of the players you mentioned were strong contenders for the list. I thought Rodriguez had a very impressive season and I really liked what I saw from Taijeron. As I mentioned earlier, Savannah had upwards of 10 true prospects who played for the Sand Gnats at some point this season. Rodriguez was the best position player of the group. Be patient, Mets fans, I believe the tide is slowly turning for more success in the not-too-distant future.

    Pierre (Ottawa, Ontario): Do you think Mike Foltyniewicz has the potential to be a starter in the major leagues?

Bill Ballew: He does if he continues to develop his secondary pitches. Right now he's a little fringy in that area. At the same time, he was much more of a pitcher this year after being primarily a thrower in the league in 2011.

    Norm (Connecticut): Thanks for the chat, Bill. Do Mason Williams tools play down because of his attitude? Or put another way, would he have ranked higher if he had a better makeup?

Bill Ballew: Yes and yes. I don't want to label him as a bad guy because I don't know Mason personally. At the same time, there are some concerns based on the way he carries himself and performs on the field. Of course, my opinion means nothing; those situations are for Williams and the Yankees to work on.

    carlos (philly): Maikel Franco had 1 of the best second halves in milb as a 19 year old. Is he 1 of the elite 3b prospects in milb?

Bill Ballew: He has the potential to be that good, yes. According to several scouts, there were times this year when they could literally see the light come on for Franco. He has a deep tool kit and a high ceiling that should allow him to make adjustments as well as improvements as he continues to advance to higher levels.

    Dean (LA): Clayton Blackburn and Tyler Anderson both had big seasons but missed your top 20. Will either be a MLB starter?

Bill Ballew: I believe they both can be. Anderson was outstanding, and like Blackburn, he bounced on and off the lower half of the list as everything was being accumulated. Anderson is not overpowering and will need to continue to stay ahead of hitters with his pitchability at higher levels. Of the two, I believe Blackburn has the better chance of remaining a starter but at this point both will continue along those lines in the near future.

    Rafa (Los Angeles): Alen Hanson cracked the Mid-season Top 50 while Polanco did not. Does Polanco crack the Top 50 now and where would you rank him if so?

Bill Ballew: I don't have much input into BA's Top 50 but I believe Polanco is in that range. He's probably in the lower half but could continue to make major strides along the list if he continues to do what he did this year at higher levels.

    Vern (Corpus Christi): Edwin Escobar finished very strong for Augusta, what do you see for his future?

Bill Ballew: You can't take anything away from the dominance Escobar showed this year. He turned 20 early in the season and was unhittable for much of the campaign. Relievers in the lower minors tend to get overlooked on lists like this one, and I believe Escobar is definitely a pitcher to keep an eye on in the near future.

    Rafa (Los Angeles): Jorge Alfaro missed significant time with minor injuries. Where would he rank? 21-25? What were the scouts saying he needs to improve besides his approach?

Bill Ballew: Alfaro was another casualty of a deep and talented league. In years past, he could have made this list. You hit the nail on the head regarding his approach at the plate. He's definitely a major league prospect and I believe he and a handful of other Crawdads will be toiling in the big leagues down the road.

    jack (lexington, ky): Where would nick tropeano have been on the list had he been in Lexington all season?

Bill Ballew: Probably so. He pitched very well with Lexington before receiving a promotion and looks to be on the fast track to Houston. He's yet another guy who fell victim to a deep and talented league in 2012.

    Dave (Atlanta): Brandon Drury and Carlos Perez were major disappointments for Rome. Which of the two do you think is more likely to regain prospect status next year?

Bill Ballew: Fortunately for both players, they're relatively young, which means they will get more opportunity. Drury played first and third base and didn't seem to get in a rhythm either defensively or offensively during the season. He didn't show an ability to make adjustments to what pitchers were doing to him, which he will have to do when he likely repeats at Rome in 2013. Perez has been an enigma since he was tabbed as the top prospect in the Appalachian League a couple of years ago. He has not had any success at Rome in a couple of opportunities. The Braves put him in the bullpen upon sending him back to Danville this summer. Due to his limited repertoire, particularly in terms of throwing all of his pitches for strikes, Perez's best chance appears to be as a reliever.

    Grant (NYC): Is Fernandez ready for Double-A?

Bill Ballew: I believe he is. He was a man among boys in the South Atlantic League and scouts seemed to like what they saw of him in the Florida State League. He looks to be on the fast track to the big leagues.

Bill Ballew: Thanks for all of the great questions. I apologize for not getting to all of them but that would take all night. Anyway, thanks for reading and I look forward to chatting again in the near future. Enjoy the postseason!