Frank (Indianapolis, IN): How many of these guys are likely to make the BA 100?
J.J. Cooper: Hey everyone. This is a very good question to begin with because there have been some past years where the answer would have been zero or one. This year I’d say you’re looking at three or four Top 100 Prospects. I don’t think Jake Rogers will be a Top 100, but I do think Beau Burrows will make the Top 100. I’d be stunned if the top 3 (Perez, Faedo and Manning) don’t make the Top 100.
a.j. (dallas): In a couple of months last year this became my favorite system. Am I wrong to think by mid-year 2018 after the #1 pick signs (say Brady Singer) that this is the #1 system in baseball. With the Braves losing the IFA's and some expected graduations from the Yankees I think it will between the Tigers and Padres.
J.J. Cooper: No. I don’t see it. This is a significantly improved farm system. But that’s gone from bad to pretty good. It has further work to do, especially in acquiring/developing hitters. The depth of this system doesn’t compare to that of the top farm systems in baseball. This is a very good solid top four, a decent next 10 and then a still relatively thin rest of the system. Compare this system to say the Braves or the Yankees like you did and even with graduations, they aren’t catching them in the next year. The Braves will pick not all that far behind the Tigers in the draft, so that won’t make a massive difference. The depth of arms in the Yankees system is much deeper than Detroit’s and the bats are better too. And you left out someone like the Padres, which has massive depth and won’t graduate much in the next year.
Erik (Maine): Keep seeing Franklin Perez brought up as a potential late season call-up in 2018. What are your thoughts? And what type of pitcher do you see Perez becoming?
J.J. Cooper: I could see it. He made it to Double-A last year and is very polished for his age. Faedo/Manning have higher upside than Perez, but Perez’s combination of feel/craftiness and stuff is pretty impressive.
Stan (Grosse Pointe): Is Alex Faedo the next Verlander?
J.J. Cooper: I’ll say no. First because if I say no on “is (INSERT_CURRENT PROSPECT) the next (INSERT_GREAT_HOF_CALIBER_PLAYER) you are almost always going to be right. But second because Faedo as good as he is is more likely to be a very solid mid-rotation starter than the front-of-the-rotation ace that Verlander is. Verlander was/is a beast. Faedo is a really good pitching prospect, but there are only two to four pitching prospects in the minors right now I’d project as having potential to be a Verlander-type. Faedo isn’t one of them.
Warren (Texas): Technically not a Tiger right now(I have no doubt he will be offered back though), is there hope for Anthony Gose as a pitcher? Thanks for the chat!
J.J. Cooper: If you are a lefty that can throw 100, yes, you have a chance. And in Gose’s case, he has the added value of being able to fill-in as a pinch-runner and even a center fielder on days he can’t pitch. Hope to be a star? Probably not. Hope to be a contributing big leaguer? Absolutely.
J.P. (Springfield, IL): Thanks for chatting, JJ. Was Kyle Funkhouser considered for the top 10, or was his shortened season too much to overcome? What's his projection for you?
J.J. Cooper: He was considered, but there’s enough if’s there to keep him just outside the Top 10. If he can show he’s healthy. If he can show more consistent control. If he can show more consistent stuff. Funkhouser at his best shows all the signs of being a big league pitcher, now he’s just got to start reducing all the if’s that are still in his scouting report.
Marty Funkhouser (Toronto): I’m surprised that my nephew Kyle, the funkhouser family jewel, didn’t make the top 10. Does another good year restore his blue chip status?
J.J. Cooper: If Funkhouser is healthy in 2018 and his stuff is what it was for much of 2017, I’d expect to see him on this Top 10 next year.
Peyton (Grand Rapids, MI): SS/3B Daniel Pinero has always had a unique profile dating back to the University of Virginia (6'5" shortstop, good glove, good bat control). In his full-season debut at West Michigan, he struggled in the first half (.235 BA, 0 HR) before the light bulb seemingly came on in the second (.331 BA, 4 HR, .411 OBP). With this unusual profile, do evaluators see a future major leaguer? If so, what is his ceiling?
J.J. Cooper: He’s got a shot at a utility infielder because as you said there is some defensive value there (although probably not enough to be an everyday shortstop), but I’m skeptical at this point. He lacks power at this point and his season is less impressive than it looks at first glance when you consider he was a 23-year-old in the Midwest League–he’ll likely head to high Class A this year and he’ll play almost the entire season as a 24-year-old. There’s some potential there, but he needs to keep improving pretty quickly.
Warren (Texas): Hmmm no Top 10 slot for a almost MLB-ready player who is the best hitter for average in the system according to BA and is solid defensively? Explain please? Thanks for the chat!
J.J. Cooper: Gerber is the best hitter for average in the system, but that’s a weakness of the season. And he’s solid defensively, but that means he can play center if needed and is good in the corners. Gerber is most likely a fourth outfielder at the big league level. There’s a chance he exceeds those expectations, but he’s more solid than a star.
Warren (Texas): What are the strengths and weaknesses of the system? Thanks for the chat!
J.J. Cooper: The strength of the system is the pitching. That’s pretty clear. There are a number of potential starters now in full season ball, some back-of-the-rotation types and as always, a large number of potential relievers. The weakness is the lack of middle-of-the-order bats. Those are hard to produce, obviously, but once you get past Christin Stewart, who has some significant warts of his own, you very quickly run out of guys who project as potential impact bats at the big league level. Detroit has infielders who could get to the majors thanks to their gloves and decent hit tools, but this system lacks hitters who project to hit for average and power.
Karl of Delaware (Georgetown, Delaware): So Manning could have gone to college to play basketball, and his dad was in the NBA - could he possibly be like the Oriole's Connaughton and after a season in rookie ball bolt for the NBA?
J.J. Cooper: No. Very, very different situations. The Orioles drafted Connaughton after the junior year of college and signed him knowing he was headed back for his senior season with Notre Dame. He was a good enough player to be a second-round pick in the NBA draft and has stuck for three seasons in the NBA. That was a risk teams take when they draft a player who is a better basketball player than baseball player who is at the tail end of the college career. Manning was a good high school player who had a chance to play college basketball, but he was not seen as a one-and-done to the NBA type player. So in his case, he signed a baseball contract that saw him give up playing NCAA basketball. If his career completely derailed it could again be an option, but he’s a better baseball player than basketball player and he’d be starting from the ground floor if he ever decided to go back to hoops.
Jon (Ankeny, IA): What should we be watching for with Brady Singer for 1-1 status that Faedo and Puk didn’t do to stay in that mix?
J.J. Cooper: Great question as there has been a “Florida flu” of sorts that has seen Gators pitchers who could go 1-1 slide in their junior seasons. I think the situations of Puk and Faedo were pretty different. Puk was legitimately Florida’s third or fourth best starter during his junior season, so he slid because teams were taking potential more than current production (which was still solid). Faedo just picked a bad time to hit a speed bump. I think he should have gone much higher than he did, which is to the Tigers’ benefit. Singer just needs to go out and show 1-1 stuff on a relatively consistent basis. That could get him to the Tigers, or he could slide to four or five even if he does that–the top of the draft can be a fickle place, but he will be very well paid in six months if he is just consistent.
Karl of Delaware (Georgetown, Delaware): Most of the position player to pitcher guys go from behind home plate to the mound it seems. Are there examples of other 3rd basemen who shift from 3rd to being pitcher like Franklin Perez?
J.J. Cooper: Not a lot come to mind immediately, but a lot of shortstops do (Brett Saberhagen and Trevor Hoffman are two examples that come to mind), and third baseman are often shortstops who have outgrown the position, so I don’t think it’s all that unusual.
Bobby (Big D): What's the good word on Sammy Mac? (i.e, Sam McMillan) Is he as seasoned behind the dish as he is alongside it?
J.J. Cooper: He’s not bad back there, but his bat proved to be more advanced than the glove, which is largely because his bat proved to be very advanced. He’ll have to show more power as he advances because pitchers will pitch in the zone if he can’t punish them for mistakes, but he was WAY more advanced than the pitchers he faced in the GCL.
a.j. (dallas): Can Gerber play a solid CF until Hill or Cameron show they are ready or defensively is he more of a spot CF/4th OF type?
J.J. Cooper: More of a fourth outfielder type. He and Rule 5 pick Victor Reyes are somewhat similar in that way.
Tyler (Miami): Rough pro debut for Reynaldo Rivera. Are you optimistic about his future? Is he strictly a RF?
J.J. Cooper: Yes, that was a puzzlingly bad debut. Scouts who saw him in junior college this spring liked the bat, loved the power and thought he had some defensive value. Scouts who saw him in pro ball thought he was very overmatched at the plate, leading to significant questions as to whether he can ever get to any of his still impressive raw power.
Warren (Texas): How close was Jose Azocar to making the Top 10? How does his prospect profile look at this point? Thanks for the chat!
J.J. Cooper: Not close. Not close at all. He’s got impressive tools, but if you’re an outfielder with little power, you better hit. Azocar hit .220/.246/.292. Ozzie Smith-level defensive shortstops have to hit better than that. He was a 21-year-old in the FSL (so age appropriate). He walked 14 times and struck out 122 while producing less than 20 XBH in 119 games. Last season was a big setback for Azocar and he’s going to have a lot of work to do to show he can hit enough to reclaim his prospect status.
Mark (Detroit): Where do you stand on Derek Hill? He can obviously play the heck out of CF....and finally put up some offense at W MI in 2017. Is there hope there still in terms of being a solid regular if he hits in A+?
J.J. Cooper: If you’re grading Hill’s 2017 I’d say his report card would read incomplete. He did hit in West Michigan, but that was over a little more than a month of games. I wouldn’t penalize him for not hitting in Lakeland (only 9 games), but I also wouldn’t say one good month in West Michigan counts for a whole lot either. He has to stay healthy. 2018 is going to be huge for him as he has to stay healthy and hit in high Class A.
Eric (Livonia Mi.): Since both Daz Cameron and Derek Hill are center fields will they place them both on Lakeland or split them up this season?
J.J. Cooper: I think the Tigers will need to let them share time in center in Lakeland with one sliding to a corner or DH every night. I don’t think either of them is ready for Double-A yet and it would be foolish to send Cameron back to low Class A for a third time or to send Hill back there for a fourth time.
Ben (California): Thanks for the chat as always. 2017 Draftees Reynaldo Rivera and Sam McMillan both look interesting. What do you think we can expect from them this year? Were either close to the top 10?
J.J. Cooper: McMillan didn’t miss it by much at all. I had him in the top 10 for a good bit of the process. Rivera didn’t come close to the top 10. You don’t want to go overboard on what a player does in his first half of a season in pro ball, but bat-only guys who hit .187 with a .541 OPS and more than a strikeout a game are going to be viewed with some skepticism until they start hitting.
Johnny (Detroit MI): Hey J.J., what do you make of Joey Morgan? thx
J.J. Cooper: He’s got a lot to prove and the opportunity in 2018 to prove it. McMillan has leap-frogged him as the best catching prospect in the draft class. He’s got some defensive skills, so he has the building blocks to be a big league catcher, but there are questions about his bat.
Warren (Texas): Who are the sleepers in the system that are not getting much press, but still could be a MLB factor at some point? Thanks for the chat!
J.J. Cooper: Wladmir Pinto barely pitched in 2017, but when he did, his stuff was absolutely electric. Keep an eye on him.
Dave (Mpls): Is there a current MLB catcher who is a good comparison for Jake Rogers? Yadi Molina?
J.J. Cooper: That’s steep. Rogers could be an everyday catcher, but as a 21-year-old Molina was playing in the big leagues. Rogers was hitting .261 at Tulane at the same age.
J.J. Cooper: Thanks everyone for the questions. Wish I could pull a Glaser, but I have other items I have to get done before heading to the ABCA convention.