League Top 20 Prospects

2012 Florida State League Top 20 Prospects Chat With J.J. Cooper

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Moderator: J.J. Cooper will take your Florida State League questions beginning at 2:30 p.m. ET.

    Frank (Chicago): Where would Javier Baez have placed on this list, were he eligible? Are you as high on him as your colleague Jim Callis?

J.J. Cooper: Hi Frank. I don't know if I'm as high on Baez as Jim is, but I'm a big fan. He's a special hitter and he's better defensively than was expected. If I had to guess, he would have been in the top four, but it's hard to give a certain answer on that, as I wasn't asking a whole lot of people about him, since I knew he would qualify. One manager described him as having a Dante Bichette-esque swing where he had a big swing, but in a controlled manner with good balance.

    Eric (Palm Beach): What did evaluators have to say about Michael Wacha during his limited amount of time in the FSL?

J.J. Cooper: Wacha threw eight innings, so not a whole lot of people saw him. But those that did were very impressed. Very good velo, but then, as they pointed out, it was pretty easy to air it out when you're working two innings.

    Carlos (Los Angeles): How many of these 20 are you confident will make BA's top 100?

J.J. Cooper: I feel pretty confident you'll see the Top 11 on the Top 100, and think that it wouldn't be outlandish to see 13 or 14 of these guys on the Top 100.

    Ernie (Miami, FL): Hi J.J., Did JT Realmuto get any consideration for the list and what did Miami's acquisition of Rob Brantly do for his future ?

J.J. Cooper: Realmuto was part of the list of 21-30 guys who were strongly considered for the list. I like him a lot and think he has bigger tools than Brantly, although obviously he also isn't as likely to reach his ceiling as the pretty polished Brantly. Realmuto is an excellent athlete behind the plate with good pop times (1.85 pretty consistently). He wore down at the plate this year, but that can be explained in part by the Florida humidity and the fact that he caught a lot more this year and DH'd less.

    Tim (Pittsburgh, PA): Did you get any favorable reviews on Levi Michael? Do you think he can stick at SS or is it only a matter of time until he makes a full-time move to 2B?

J.J. Cooper: Not really as far as favorable reviews. One scout said he had trouble giving him 50s on much of anything. I couldn't find anyone who said they saw a plus tool of any sort. As one manager put it "nothing stands out at all." The Twins have to hope that he's still recovering from some significant injury problems in 2011, but the Michael the FSL saw in 2012 didn't look like a first-round pick.

    Sholom (Smith town, New York): Would the Mets consider moving Wilmer Flores to catcher?

J.J. Cooper: I don't know if they would as I have heard nothing from the Mets organization suggesting they may look at such a move, but there is some logic to the idea. Flores has a solid arm and good hands but very little speed/range. It might be a little late to make that move now, but I've always wondered if Flores' tools' package might fit best at catcher.

    @Jaypers413 (IL): Between Mikie Mahtook and Derek Dietrich, which one came closer to making this list? What did evaluators have to say about them?

J.J. Cooper: Dietrich came closer. Pretty much everyone think's he'll hit some. Pretty much everyone also believes he won't be a shortstop for much longer. The guys who liked him think he will be an offensive second baseman. For Mahtook, guys liked his overall game and his lack of significant holes, but they also didn't think there were many plus tools with him either. He projects as a useful role player more than an impact player.

    Nate (Bradenton, FL): How close was FSL Player of the Year Alex Dickerson to making it into the top 20?

J.J. Cooper: Not that close. He has a good approach and knows how to hit, but managers and scouts saw a not particularly fast bat and a bad body. They thought he was a pretty maxed-out guy who will struggle against tougher competition.

    Andrew (Chicago): How close was Alcantara to making the list? What does he need to improve to become a legit SS prospect next year in double A?

J.J. Cooper: Very close. I'd say he was No. 21 or No. 22. Alcantara's bat was probably the best of all the many intriguing shortstops in the FSL this year. He has a very good arm, which allows him to make some plays defensively as well, although there were more questions about his defense than his bat.

    Jake (Palatine, IL): Hi J.J., thanks for the chat! Surprised Mark Montgomery didn't make the list. Is it safe to say then that Montgomery ranks behind Rondon?

J.J. Cooper: I'd say so. He was another of those 21-30 guys—it was a very deep league this year. You could find guys who like Montgomery better, but most said they'd rather have the guy with a 100 mph fastball that moves. The ones who like him the best point to him having the best secondary stuff of the FSL relievers (which includes Rondon and Tony Zych as the top trio for scouts). Others thought he was less consistent than Rondon as far as his stuff. At his best, he looked like a potential closer, but at other times, his velo would dip and his command wavered and he looked like a guy who was a middle reliever. There was a really good debate between managers and scouts as to how well Montgomery's slider will play at upper levels. Some say that since it has a splitter-type action, it will be a strikeout pitch. Others think that since he has trouble throwing it for strikes, it will be a pitch that hitters will lay off in the big leagues.

    Justin (Nashville): The three best prospects for Daytona appear to be Matt Szczur, Ronald Torreyes, and Arismendy Alcantara. Did any of these three come close to cracking the Top 20? How would you rank all three as prospects?

J.J. Cooper: If I was ranking how close it would be Alcantara, Szczur then Torreyes. I've already talked about Alcantara. As far as Torreyes, guys still like him, but when you are a really short 2B, you have to put up numbers to answer concerns about your ceiling. This year for the first time, Torreyes struggled to put up those numbers. Don't give up on him by any stretch, but he's more likely to be a role player type than an impact everyday guy. With Szczur, I had one scout say "at some point, we've got to stop giving him a pass for being young in baseball experience." The concerns were that Szczur's swing doesn't allow the ball to carry much—he needs to learn how to backspin the ball more if he's going to be more than a gap-to-gap guy. His tools are impressive and he would have been in the 25-to-30 range.

    Scoop (Phoenix): I'm getting ready to watch some of MLB's top prospects in the AZ Fall League, including Cody Asche. Any reason he was left off the Top 20 FSL prospects?

J.J. Cooper: I really wish this league could have gone 40 deep, because there are a whole lot of guys I think will be big leagues I wish I could have written up. Asche is another one of those guys. Guys who had concerns think he's a line-drive hitter who may not have enough power for the position, and while he's shown significant improvement, he's still rough at times at 3B. His footwork at times needed work and he rushed things, although he showed improvement as the year progressed. He's a very good athlete with a good feel for hitting, which makes up for a lot of rough edges.

    Ben (Philadelphia): Did Austin Wright just miss the back end of this list? How about Cody Asche?

J.J. Cooper: Just answered about Asche, but Wright was the third best LHP in the Clearwater rotation which doesn't mean that he's not a solid prospect. He was 90-94 from the left side with a hard breaking ball. His changeup is more of an idea than a useful pitch yet. In part because of that, some see him as more of a power lefty out of the pen than a starter long-term.

    Tom (San Francisco, CA): J.J., did Sean Nolin garner any mentions? Seems like he could be a sleeper in the Jays system. Thanks.

J.J. Cooper: Yes he did. Sorry to sound repetitive, but the number of prospects in this league was pretty insane this year. Nolin was 90-92 (although some had him up to 94) with a solid breaking ball and changeup and a feel for pitching. He also has some projection left to him. I expect to see him pitch in the big leagues at some point as a starter.

    Dan (Idaho Falls): Was a little surprised that Rafael Montero (NYM) wasn't included in the top-20 - what kept him off the list? Much thanks!

J.J. Cooper: Depth of the league really is the only thing. Some see him as a reliever because of his size, but the stuff is very strong. Usually he was 91-93 with a solid slider and developing changeup. He has a maturity that goes beyond his still young age and he understands that the long-term goal of pitching in the big leagues is more important than the stats from any one outing in HiA, so he'll work on all three pitches even on a night where he doesn't have the feel for his changeup or slider.

    Rex (Doghouse): Hey JJ, what up? I keep asking 'round about Todd Glaesmann, but can't get anything. What did you hear/see about him? Thx.

J.J. Cooper: He was a tough guy to get a read on in the FSL, partly because he just barely qualified for the list—a lot of guys never saw him. Of the ones who did, he generated mixed opinions. He's solid defensively with a good arm. I know he showed plenty of power in his limited time in Charlotte, but there were some who were skeptical if he'll have average power and there is some swing and miss there, but the tools are generally pretty good. I like him, but as I keep saying, on this list, there are a lot of guys who got left off because of the league's depth.

    James Arnott (Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada): Your feeling on Jake Marisnick? Big league regular or the second coming of Travis Snider?

J.J. Cooper: More the first than the latter. There are legitimate concerns about Marisnick's hit tool and his tendency to chase pitches out of the zone, but he doesn't really compare to Snider. Marisnick compares more to fellow Blue Jay Anthony Gose—his 4 other tools will get him to the big leagues, but it's the development of the hit tool that will determine if he's a backup/2nd division guy or a potential star.

    Ben (Leland Grove): Stacking this list against last year's, which one would you prefer?

J.J. Cooper: This one. Trying to figure out who to leave off was really tough. There were a number of first-round picks who didn't make the Top 20. And at the top of the list, the No. 4 guy, Christian Yelich, is one of the safest bet prospects in the minors. It's hard to find many who don't think he'll at least be a solid big leaguer—and that's the guy who ranked fourth on this list.

    Michael Stern (Rochester NY): Can you help me out on Taillon? I'm a little confused on where he is as a prospect - and your scouting report was also a little confusing as well. You say his "stuff" could stand alone - but then admit he has a developing breaking ball, below average change-up, and is busy tweaking his grip and arm angles. He seems more like just a hard thrower who has never matched any big numbers with his so called potential. Is he a big time ace prospect with # 1 stuff, or a little over-hyped? Thanks for the chat.

J.J. Cooper: He's not tweaking his arm angles. He junked a curveball that used a different arm angle. His fastball still comes from the same arm angle as it always has, as does his changeup. Now his breaking ball comes from that angle to. The developing breaking ball shows signs of being a plus pitch. As far as tweaking grips, pitchers do that all the time. I think you're forgetting somewhat that minor league baseball is about development, not posting great stats in high Class A. Taillon's fastball is one of the best in the minors—that by itself puts him near the top of the prospect class, because very few pitchers can generate the velocity he does, especially from a relatively free and easy delivery. He also has shown a feel for pitching, an ability to repeat his delivery and a receptiveness to coaching and making improvements. All of that means that he does have a chance to be a front-line starter, even if there are still rough edges when he's 20—probably seven or so years away from his peak.

    Michael Stern (Rochester NY): Do you see Arcia starting 2013 in Rochester? And what is his ETA in Minnesota? Also - Do you see him as more than a potential everyday regular? Does he have the bat to become a possible all star caliber hitter? Thanks for the chat!

J.J. Cooper: I think he definitely projects as an everyday regular, but I'd expect to see him start next year in Double-A. No reason to rush him, as a start in Double-A next year would still get him to Minnesota by 2014.

    Mike (Michigan): Should I have any hope that Dixon Machado can ever gain enough strength to compete for a regular gig as a SS? Or is he a utility guy at best?

J.J. Cooper: Guys love his glove. No one I could find liked the bat. Seems more like a utility guy.

    Ty (Dallas): In retrospect, would you consider Jed Bradley to be the same type of player as Eric Arnett?

J.J. Cooper: No. Just because two guys are disappointing first-round picks for the same organization doesn't mean that there are a lot of similarities. Arnett was a pop-up guy who broke out as a junior at Indiana after really being nothing special in his first two years at IU (he posted a 5.00+ ERA in each of his first two seasons at IU). Bradley had a better track record in a tougher conference at Georgia Tech (second-team All-ACC as a sophomore and junior). That said, yes, like Arnett, Bradley's stuff wasn't nearly as good in his pro debut than it was in college. He wouldn't have made a Top 40 FSL Prospects list. If you were scouting off of what he showed in 2012, he was a guy with fringy stuff (86-88 mph a lot of nights) with control problems and no real plus secondary pitch. The Brewers have to hope that some injury issues like a groin problem sapped his stuff and it will come back, but the guy managers and scouts saw in the FSL didn't look like much of a prospect.

    Andrew (NJ): Can you explain why Romero has such control problems? Is it more nibbling (ala Bauer) or more mechanical (Neighborgall!)?

J.J. Cooper: He overthrows a lot of times right now, and he doesn't have a good feel yet for repeating his delivery. It's more mechanical than nibbling, but the scouts and managers I talked to generally thought he'd figure those issues out. They just thought he has a lot of innings ahead of him to mature. The Rays have a pretty good track record of getting those kind of things straightened out.

    Keith (Manchester, CT): Thanks J.J. How likely is it that Gerrit Cole starts next April in the Pirates rotation as opposed to Triple A? Does he really need another half-season in the minors?

J.J. Cooper: I think he starts in Triple-A. He only made one regular season start there last year and one awful (eight runs in 2+ innings) playoff start. Unless he blows everyone away in spring training, that's further evidence that he needs a little more refinement. The Pirates don't need to rush him.

    Jack (GA): Thanks for the chat! I live in Georgia, but I love my Rays. Tell me, what did people think about Todd Glaesmann? Did any Rays outside of Romero come close to making the list? Thanks!

J.J. Cooper: Glaesmann, Mahtook and Dietrich were the other guys who got mentions. See the answers above for more on all three.

    Justin (Nashville): Where would Christian Villenueva ranked if he had been eligible? He was ranked 9th in the Carolina League, although it seems like the FSL Top 20 is deeper.

J.J. Cooper: I'm just going off of past Villanueva knowledge, but somewhere probably around where Ozuna ended up. I didn't ask anyone about him because so few people got to see him in his 4 weeks in the league.

    steve (new york): How close was Ramon Flores to making this list? If he was healthy would Mason Williams qualified to be on the list as well?

J.J. Cooper: Flores was in that 25-35 range. The man knows how to hit. He's a solid average runner who can play all three outfield spots in a pinch, although he's more a corner guy who might be limited to left field everyday because of his average arm. The rest of Flores' tools are all average at best, but his hitting ability gives him a solid chance to have a long big league career. As far as Williams, if he had been healthy, he would have ranked right with Tyler Austin. He doesn't always look pretty in the box, but he more often than not barrels up the ball.

    Norm (Connecticut): Any thoughts on how Carlos Martinez compared to the wealth of pitching in the FSL?

J.J. Cooper: Special arm. Would have been No. 4 among starting pitching prospects on this list, largely because of his size compared to the top three.

    Alex (NYC): Where they any other St Lucie players that got consideration for this list? On the hitting side there are a few players that intrigue me but I am either worried by their higher ages (vaughn, muno, harris) or they have tools and didn't have a great year (pullo). On the pitching side any consideration to Goeddel, Mazzoni, Montero, Pill or Kolarek?

J.J. Cooper: Vaughn has plenty of power, but there's a lot of swing and miss with it and the rest of his tools are not as impressive. There were some concerns that it's more of a strength swing than power provided by bat speed. Puello still has plenty of tools, but he does not recognize breaking stuff, which means that the league has a pretty clear idea of how to get him out. Injuries have slowed his development. Pull doesn't have great stuff (88-90 mph fb), but knows how to locate to both sides of the plate, up and down, can change speeds and can sink it. It's nothing that gets scouts really excited, but a feel for pitching like he has will keep him climbing the ladder. Montero was the closest to making the list, as mentioned in a previous answer. Jack Leathersich got some attention thanks to his 91-94 mph fb, and the fact that his fastball is hard to pick up coming out of his hand. His secondary stuff isn't nearly as developed yet. At least one manager liked Chase Huchingson's funky delivery and deception. Shortstop Wilfred Tovar has a chance as he's got a great arm and is solid defensively and he showed significant improvements at the plate. If you saw Adrian Rosario on a good night, you saw 93-96 mph stuff with an OK slider and change. On other nights the velo wasn't that good and the secondary stuff was below average. Taylor Whitenton is another reliever with at least a chance—fastball up to 93 to go with a good slider and solid changeup. Pretty much those are the St. Lucie guys who stood out.

    Justin (Nashville): Did Hayden Simpson show any signs of recovering his stuff in Daytona?

J.J. Cooper: Not enough to where he came close to making this list.

    Norm (Connecticut): Did James Ramsey give scouts any reason for optimism?

J.J. Cooper: Some reasons, but also some concerns. He has to improve his balance at the plate as he currently drifts in his stance, but that's thought to be correctable. He is way too much of a front-foot hitter right now, but he does figure out a way to square up the ball. He may be able to stick in CF, which is important because he doesn't really profile as well as a corner OF. Everyone loved his work ethic and intensity.

    Justin (Nashville): Any pitchers at Daytona that are mildly interesting? It seems like the Austin Kirk, Matt Loosen, Frank Del Valle, Robert Whitenack, Kyler Burke, A.J. Morris, etc. collection of pitchers consist of back end rotation or middle relief prospects. Will any of these guys be in the Cubs Top 30 this year?

J.J. Cooper: I didn't have one manager or scout from another club bring up any Daytona pitcher. That doesn't mean none of them will make the Top 30 for the Cubs, but none came close to making the FSL Top 20.

    Carlos (Philly): Did Futures Game participent RHP Lisalverto Bonilla(Phillies) get any love?

J.J. Cooper: No. But not because of any fault of his. He threw 13 innings, so he didn't come close to qualifying.

    Michael (Tampa): I noticed you already answered a few questions about the Rays, but I hope you can slip this one in. When you mentioned role player for Mahtook, does that mean an average/above average starter, or more of a backup type? Also, stock up or stock down? Me and a buddy were having a debate over how to interpret your previous response. Thanks!!!

J.J. Cooper: Role player means solid backup, in Mahtook's case a No. 4 outfielder. Second division starter means a guy who may be a regular, but usually is one you're looking to upgrade. As far as stock up/stock down, I'd say stock unchanged for Mahtook.

    Warren Jeffrey (Sarasota): Were any of the Palm Beach players close enough to be considered?

J.J. Cooper: Thank you for this question as it gives me an opening to talk about an interesting, very raw sleeper. Starlin Rodriguez has plenty of tools. He's a plus runner who doesn't get good jumps yet. He makes highlight caliber plays at second base thanks to soft hands, good range and a strong arm, but he'll let balls go through his legs. While he has a strong arm, he drops his elbow too much which means his throwing accuracy suffers. He has bat speed and 15 HR potential, and does a decent job of recognizing breaking balls, but generally he currently swings way too hard. And I mean WAY too hard. One manager described them as donkey hacks and wondered if he was a back injury waiting to happen because of the torque in his swing. Four different observers said they saw him fall down because he swung so hard. And with two strikes, he has the same massive swing as he does at 2-0. Beyond Starlin Rodriguez, Mike O'Neill is a fascinating leadoff prospect with average at best tools, but an amazing ability to put the bat on the ball—easily the best strikeout-walk ratio in the minors. Anthony Ferrara has No. 5 starter potential with an 88-91 fb if he can improve his command. Seth Maness throws plenty of great sinkers which may make him a solid reliever. Ronny Gil can pick it defensively, but there are plenty of concerns about his bat.

    Justin (Nashville): J.J., just wanted to say thanks for the chat! And thanks for answering plenty of Cubs questions!

J.J. Cooper: Thanks. And this is a great question to end on as I have to run. Thanks for all the great questions. Matt Eddy will stop by tomorrow to talk about the Eastern League so come back for another chat tomorrow, and additional chats every day this week, only for BA subscribers.