2017 Southern League Top 20 Prospects Chat
Dave (Grayson, ga): Where would Touki Toussaint have ranked had he pitched enough innings to qualify? Do you think he starts next year in Mississippi or gets pushed to Gwinnett?
Matt Eddy: Mississippi RHP Touki Toussaint probably would have been in consideration for a spot in the 11-20 based on his plus fastball and plus breaking ball. His control and command still need work, but he has weapons to reach the majors, possibly as a reliever. I think more time in the Southern League is warranted.
Frank (Indianapolis): Where would Eloy have ranked on this list? Do you believe he'll see the bigs next season?
Matt Eddy: Birmingham OF Eloy Jimenez would have ranked No. 2 based on his huge offensive upside. I think the second half of next year is a reasonable ETA for Jimenez in the majors.
Danny (Richmond, VA): Thanks for the rankings. What do you see as a likely ceiling for Nick Gordon? And does he stay at SS long-term?
Matt Eddy: Solid-average regular or possibly first-division regular at 2B for Chattanooga's Nick Gordon. He does many things well -- slashing gap hitter with some gap power, strong baserunner, sure-handed defender -- but has no attribute scouts feel comfortable grading as plus. Gordon should be fine as a table-setting type of player who contributes across the board. If he improves his throwing accuracy, that could be as a SS, which the Twins are starved to add to the big league team.
Josh (Chicago): What do you see as Kopech's biggest hurdle to becoming a frontline MLB starter? Turning the changeup into an at least solid offering? Command issues?
Matt Eddy: Having a dependable changeup will help Birmingham RHP Michael Kopech surprise LHB the second or third time through the order, but his fastball and slider are potent enough to play if he has a 45 change and 50 control. He needs to keep the body/delivery discipline gains he showed in the second half. If he does, he's poised to be another Noah Syndergaard type of starter.
Roger (Greenville, SC): I know they weren't quite in the league long enough, but did you get reports on Alex Jackson and Touki Toussaint? Especially curious about Jackson's defensive progress and his chances of sticking at C.
Matt Eddy: Stay tuned for our Florida State League ranking and chat tomorrow.
Roger (Greenville, SC): Given the liveliness and command, would it be too much of a stretch to call Soroka's fastball plus?
Matt Eddy: Mississippi RHP Mike Soroka throws a plus fastball. If I didn't write that, I meant to. Soroka is probably the player who impressed me most in the league compared to my perception of him prior to this exercise. He works with at least an above-average fastball and slider and at least above-average command. Then factor in his poise, durability, other pitches and success at such a young age, and you could be looking at a No. 2 or 3 starter.
Grant (Nashville, TN): Was Aristides Aquino close to making the list?
Matt Eddy: No, Pensacola OF Aristides Aquino improved as the season wore on, but wasn't particularly close to the top 20. He can punish a fastball and has impact raw power, but pitchers entice him to expand his zone too often with breaking balls. Check back in a year on his pitch recognition.
J.P. (Springfield, IL): Was Brian Anderson considered for your list, and is he likely to stick at 3B, in your estimation?
Matt Eddy: Yes, Jacksonville 3B Brian Anderson was considered for this list and was a late cut from the 20. He has above-average raw power that is beginning to show up in games and can handle the defensive demands at 3B. The biggest factors against Anderson were his age (24) and questionable hit tool, but he has major league regular potential based on his power and glove.
WC (Atlanta): Are you concerned about Soroka's arm slot and whether he'll have issues with lefties with his current arsenal as he moves further up the ladder?
Matt Eddy: I asked about this given Soroka's initial struggles vs. LHB as a pro and his profile as a member of the sinker/slider family of pitchers. One scout said he's not concerned because Soroka can back-foot LHB with his slider in addition to changing eye levels with his curveball and showing feel for an average-ish changeup that runs away from the barrel of LHBs.
Roger (Greenville, SC): How do you weigh performance vs projection for this list? Equally?
Matt Eddy: Performance context is the last layer in the ranking process for me. I like to gather as much "on-the-ground" information about tools as possible from managers, scouts and front office execs before studying the numbers too closely. Anybody can build a model to rank players based on season performance, age and biographical inputs. We consider those points, but access to industry sources is what we at BA strive to bring readers.
RaysFan (Outer Space): Entering 2017, the 2 huge knocks on Justin Williams were his approach (~3%BB over 2015-16) and lack of game power (21 total HR in 286g from 2014-16) despite plus raw. This year, he hit for more power (14HR in 96g; 11 over his final 50g) *and* started walking (9%BB on the year; 12% over the last 50g). Did scouts see real improvements from him in those areas, or is this mostly a mirage? What does the updated report look like? Thanks!
Matt Eddy: I expected initially to rank Montgomery OF Justin Williams a good deal higher, but evaluators I spoke to about early drafts of the ranking consistently said that Williams was ranked too high. He has an interesting bat in terms of hitting for AVG, making contact and, as you note, now adding walks -- but his detractors just aren't convinced he will produce enough power to be an everyday RF. The beautiful thing is, one side will proven wrong in the not-too-distant future.
Roger (Greenville, SC): When grading a fastball, do you use peak, average, or bottom velocity?
Matt Eddy: Average velocity, though for young pitchers, peak velocity can be telling about where a pitcher's fastball might sit once his body matures.
David F (Miami): Which White Sox pitchers were considered for the list?
Matt Eddy: Only Kopech. If we went to 50 places, I bet LHPs Jace Fry (now a RP in the majors) and Jordan Guerrero would sneak in.
AngelsFan (South Korea): Will Matt Thaiss get better in hitting? He plays 1B and I think he should show more offensive abilities to play there in the big leagues...
Matt Eddy: With first basemen like Yonder Alonso, Logan Morrison and Justin Smoak hitting 100 percent more home runs in the majors this year than they ever did in a season before, I would hesitate to write off any young hitter with pedigree. Thaiss has outstanding plate discipline and has time to learn to turn on the ball and when to take a shot at a HR. It could take time, though. One scout I spoke with was convinced that Thaiss had to fix a hitch in his swing to access his power.
Harry (Chicago, IL): Were any of the Smokies close to making it?
Matt Eddy: The three Tennessee players closest to making the cut were 3B Jason Vosler, 2B David Bote and RP Dillon Maples. Vosler shows good power but his swing is over-rotational and he has to commit early. Bote turns a good double play and takes a grinding offensive approach but doesn't have a plus offensive attribute. Maples you've seen throwing 97 mph in the big leagues with a killer breaking ball, but a reliever has to have zero questions about his upside to rank on a list like this. I think Bote has a chance to be a sleeper because of his infield versatility and 45 or 50 bat.
Rich (Solvay, NY): Hi Matt, Fantasy question...Please rank the top three pitchers long term from the group. Thanks.
Matt Eddy: Probably Kopech and Gohara first to chase the strikeouts, then Soroka third for his durability and low ERA, low WHIP potential.
Warren (New London): Would Nick Gordon be substantially higher on this list if not for his poor second half? Would he be substantially higher if people were more sure he could stay at shortstop?
Matt Eddy: Probably, and yes. The question of future position affects Gordon's ranking, but coming up with a quality defensive 2B who can bat in the top half of a lineup is an asset, too.
Jason (Robinson): Kolby Allard's rating seems surprisingly low given his age and performance. Is it due to fb velocity ?
Matt Eddy: Opinion on Mississippi LHP Kolby Allard varied. One scout saw him as a No. 5 starter because he walks a fine line with a fastball that could be graded as fringe-average (88 mph) on his worst days. Others credited Allard for his advanced secondary pitches and willingness to work his fastball to both sides of the plate. I gave him bonus points for his youth and for proving his durability. Plus, he has a high floor as a three-pitch lefty.
Tony (Los Angeles): Mauricio Dubon's prospect profile is intriguing to me. He spent much of the year in Biloxi - what did evaluators see as his major league future?
Matt Eddy: Biloxi SS/2B Mauricio Dubon was another late cut from the ranking. Most evaluators saw him as future utility infielder or possibly multi-position starter. He may not have plus hit or power grades, but he can slash the ball to the gaps and handle the bat in hit-and-run or bunting situations. Also, he's an excellent baserunner. But Dubon should be perfect for an NL roster based on his versatility and complementary offensive abilities.
Greg (Milwaukee, WI): Austin Riley seemed to get much better as he went from low single A to double AA. What happened?
Matt Eddy: Mississippi 3B Austin Riley improved markedly in the second half of 2016, too, when he hit 15 of his 20 homers at Low-A Rome after July 1. I don't know if I would hang my hat on that performance trend, but SL evaluators gushed about Riley's power potential and defense at third base, where his work ethic and coachability give him a chance to surpass expectations.
Justin (Tucson): "Superstar Potential" on Acuna and seeing his season compared to guys like Arod, Sheffield and Trout makes me question just how good this kid can be. I've read Justin Upton comps but is Upton considered a superstar? Time will tell but what major leaguers have the same skill set as Acuna?
Matt Eddy: For your perusal: The two most interesting comps I received on Mississippi OF Ronald Acuna were Andruw Jones (perhaps that's too easy, but even non-Braves people cited Jones) and also Cesar Cedeno. It's worth firing up Baseball-Reference to look at what Cedeno did early in his major league career.
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Matt Eddy: Great questions everybody. Check back tomorrow for more Top 20 Prospects fun. The Florida State League is next.