League Top 20 Prospects

2012 Southern League Top 20 Prospects Chat With Teddy Cahill

Teddy Cahill: Welcome to the Southern League chat. Lots of pitchers, lots of shortstops. Let's get to your questions.

    Harry (NJ): If you compared this list of 20 against last year's, which one would you prefer?

Teddy Cahill: This seems like a good place to start. Last year's list was led by Rays LHP Matt Moore, who was one of the Big Three prospects entering this season along with Bryce Harper and Mike Trout. This year's list, however, seems better. Though none are as good as Moore, the four pitchers at the top really make the difference. Combine them with the shortstops behind them and I think it stands out.

    @Jaypers413 (IL): What did scouts have to say about Bauer's command during his time in the SL?

Teddy Cahill: Diamondbacks RHP Trevor Bauer spent the first two months of the season in Mobile before moving up and barely qualified for this list. His command wasn't as much of an issue in Double-A as it would become in Triple-A and, especially, Arizona. But it wasn't exceptional in Mobile either. I'm not sure how much his command issues are anything physical as much as they are mental. Bauer has often talked about believing in good walks and is unconcerned by high pitch counts. For him to take the next step, he probably needs to get used to the idea of pitching with a pitch count and properly managing it.

    Cathy (Vermont): In the tools issue, Hunter Morris was rated as the best hitting prospect and best fielding first baseman in the league. What kept him out of the top 20 prospects and what is his big league projection?

Teddy Cahill: This (or a version of this) seems to be a fairly common question. Brewers 1B Hunter Morris did receive some support for this list. He had his best season in the Minor Leagues, hitting .303/.357/.567 with 28 home runs for Huntsville. The trouble with first base prospects is if they ever don't hit, their value is minimal. Morris was one of the last cuts from the list, but at his age (he turned 24 last week) and given his position, his ceiling isn't as high as the guys who did make the list.

    Matt (Philly): Was there any consideration for Chatanooga right hander Ethan Martin, his numbers were nearly identical to Webster's (BB, K's, ERA, IP) and they are the same age?

Teddy Cahill: If this list were 10 players longer, Phillies RHP Ethan Martin probably makes it. While he might be statistically similar to his former teammate in Chattanooga, Martin is a year older and his stuff isn't as good as RHP Allen Webster. Martin is viewed more as a work-horse starter while Webster has higher upside. Not a knock on Martin at all, the feeling in the league was he has really improved since last season.

    Ferd (NYC): With a lack of a true SS at the major league level, can you envision Lee making the big club next year with a good spring ala Dee Gordon? Who's upside do you prefer, Lee's or Gordon's?

Teddy Cahill: SS Hak-Ju Lee would be the best defensive option and bring some stability to the Rays infield, but he still needs seasoning at the plate. I would guess that BA staffers should get plenty of chances to watch him in Durham next year. As for Lee vs. Dee Gordon, I'll take Lee.

    Lisa (San Francisco, CA): Would you consider Bethancourt to be the best defensive catcher in the minors at present? If not him, who?

Teddy Cahill: I think it is fair to call Braves C Christian Bethancourt the best defensive catcher right now. His arm draws rave reviews and his pop times are excellent. If he can just pair that with a little more offense the Braves will have quite the prospect.

    Ty (GA): If you had to guess, is Thornburg's future a starter or a reliever?

Teddy Cahill: Brewers RHP Tyler Thornburg will be answering questions about starting or relieving until he proves himself in the Majors. His size and motion says it won't be easy, but I think his stuff will play in the rotation.

    Andrew C (Chicago): How close was Jae-Hoon Ha to making the list, is his defense good enough for CF or is he a tweener? Does he have 15-20 HR potential?

Teddy Cahill: Cubs OF Jae-Hoon Ha has been on my radar ever since his fast start in the FSL last year. That said, he wasn't much of a factor for this list. Some opposing managers thought he had the ability to play center in the big leagues, which he'll need to do to be a regular. Otherwise, his bat will likely make him no better than a fourth outfielder.

    Dave (Atlanta): Any support for other Braves pitchers—Zeke Spruill, Cory Rasmus, JR Graham, David Hale?

Teddy Cahill: RHP J.R. Graham would have had a shot at making the list if he qualified. He came up just a few innings short, however. Graham gets a lot of groundballs (his 2.24 GB/FB rate is loud) and he did rank on the Carolina League Top 20. Definitely a name to watch. From the rest of that group, Spruill might be the most interesting, but he wasn't all that close to making it.

    Mike (Tampa FL): What was the word on Derek Dietrich and Mikie Mahtook? Did either come close to this list?

Teddy Cahill: Rays OF Mikie Mahtook was on an early iteration of the list, but ultimately fell off. SS Derek Dietrich barely qualified and wasn't a factor.

    Craig (Phoenix, AZ): Teddy, I know Chris Owings was young for the league and he seems to struggle the first time around a new league so do you see him starting back in AA with a call up to AAA if he hits well then maybe staring in Arizona in 2014 ?

Teddy Cahill: That seems like a likely course (if things go well) for the Diamondbacks SS. He turned 21 in August, so starting next season in Double-A will still make him one of the younger players in the league. He's got work to do with the bat still, but defensively he is solid. The Diamondbacks sending him to the AFL tells you how highly the team thinks of him.

    Jerry (Saratoga Springs, NY): Where would Mike Zunino rank on this list if he had been eligible? His stock has to be way up after his pro debut this year, right?

Teddy Cahill: Zunino certainly had an impressive start to his pro career. Thanks to the new CBA he was able to reach Double-A just a couple months after his college career at Florida ended. If he had played longer at Double-A, he probably would have slotted in right behind the four pitchers. It would have made for an interesting decision between him and Hamilton.

    Todd (Stone Mountain, GA): Hi Teddy, Evan Gattis had an interesting year, did he come close to making the list and do you see his future more as a utility guy able to catch and play a little 1B and OF ? Thanks

Teddy Cahill: Braves LF Evan Gattis is an interesting case. After taking a circular path to pro baseball, he's already 26 and learning a new position. He has hit at every stop, but after suffering a wrist injury in May, he did not come back well. I am not very bullish on his chances to be a productive big leaguer, but there are those in the Braves organization that like him as a prospect. Whatever the case, they need to find out exactly what they have soon.

    Peter O. (Coeur d'Alene, ID): With Cosart the better all around player at SS, and Phillips at 2B for the Reds, does Gregorius have the versatility to assume a utility role in 2013?

Teddy Cahill: While Reds SS Didi Gregorius probably does have the ability to play a utility role in 2013, I'd be surprised if he were utilized that way. Gregorius hasn't played much in Triple-A and still could improve at the plate. I'd expect him to open the year in Louisville to allow him to continue his development.

    Carlos (Chicago): Did any of the Birmingham Barons come close to making this list?

Teddy Cahill: As a White Sox affiliate, Birmingham didn't have much in the prospect department this season. OF Jared Mitchell is an interesting case, but that strikeout rate is really detrimental. From a pitching stand point, I like RHP Andre Rienzo, but he was probably further from making the list than Mitchell.

    Kelly (St. Cloud, MN): What did the experts have to say about Ryan LaMarre? Would they consider him a 5-tool prospect?

Teddy Cahill: Reds OF Ryan LaMarre struggled with strikeouts this year, whiffing 119 times in 558 plate appearances. That's not deadly, especially when paired with his 60 walks, but it's something he'll need to improve on. He's not a five-tool prospect, though few are.

    Andrew C (Chicago): I am not surprised Logan Watkins didn't make the list, but I would like to get what scouts and managers are saying about him. He seems to have improved this past year and even developed some power towards the end of the year. Does his defense translate to major league quality? What about his developing power?

Teddy Cahill: Cubs UTL Logan Watkins had a good season at the plate, hitting .281 with nine home runs, but he still doesn't have a home defensively. He primarily played second base in Tennessee, but also spent time at short and in the outfield. I don't think what he did this season definitively answered the questions that have dogged him as a prospect.

    James Arnott (Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada): Where does Nick Franklin fit in Seattle's plans? It looks like Ackley and Seager have him blocked.

Teddy Cahill: This is an interesting question. I'm sure Seattle hopes Franklin can just prove he can stay at shortstop, which would solve the log jam. That, however, is no sure thing. I expect them to give him every opportunity to play short because, as you pointed out, there's not a lot of room in the Mariners infield right now.

    Jimmy Arnott (Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada): Does Tyler Skaggs stay in the big leagues next year or is it back to the minors for more seasoning?

Teddy Cahill: I think he's got a chance to stick in the rotation, but I would guess he heads back to Reno to start the season. Between Skaggs and Bauer, someone should break camp with the Diamondbacks. Which one gets that shot may be determined in Spring Training.

    Alex Colome (Durham, NC): Why didn't I make an appearance on your list, Teddy? What did your sources tell you about me this year?

Teddy Cahill: Rays RHP Alex Colome fit into the 21-25 range. He was close and remains an interesting prospect. Obviously, this was a pitching rich league this year.

    David (Brushton, NY): What is your comparison of Zach Lee vs. Chris Reed? Who do you see as being the best prospect and why??

Teddy Cahill: The Dodgers 2010 and 2011 first rounders both reached Chattanooga late in the season. Lee is younger than Reed and I think is a bit more physical. Both are big — 6-4 — and throw hard. I think Lee's secondary offerings are better and his feel for pitching at such a young age is impressive. Reed didn't have enough innings to qualify for this list, but probably would have made it in the 16-20 range had he qualified.

    DJ (Alva, FL): What are your thoughts on Bobby Borchering? Still a legit prospect?

Teddy Cahill: I think Borchering's top prospect days might be over. Borchering got dealt to the Astros, after spending part of the season in Mobile. He's not a third baseman at this point and his bat was not the same after leaving the Cal League this year. If he's going to be a left fielder or first baseman, he's going to have to hit more. The good news for Borchering is he doesn't turn 22 for two more weeks, so he still has a chance to make the improvements he needs to.

    RichW (NJ): How many of the Top 20 do you see making BA's Top 100?

Teddy Cahill: Everyone on the list but Andrelton Simmons is eligible for next year's Top 100. I think it's fair to say that if you make a Top 20 list in Double-A and have prospect eligibility remaining you will at least be in the discussion for the Top 100. I would guess somewhere between 12 and 15 of this list makes the Top 100, though it's worth noting I'm not a part of the group that picks the Top 100.

    Jason (New York): Thanks for taking questions, Teddy. Here's mine: Given Hultzen's impressive performance in Double-A, were any coaches, execs or scouts surprised about the command/control issues he showed promotion to Triple-A? Any reason or explanation given?

Teddy Cahill: This seems like a good place to end today. Most people in the Southern League were as at a loss for Hultzen's struggles in Triple-A as anyone. One theory is that his cross-fire delivery finally caught up with him, but to me that isn't very satisfying. I'd encourage you to come back next Monday, when the PCL Top 20 goes live, and see what scouts that saw him in Triple-A had to say.

Teddy Cahill: Thanks for the questions today. I hope you enjoyed it, I know I did. The Top 20s roll on tomorrow with the Texas League.