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2018 Southern League Top 20 Prospects Chat

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Keston Hiura (Photo by Bill Mitchell)

Mark (St Louis): 

    Please to see Genesis Cabrera make the list, what do you think his upside is. Rotation piece and a nice lefty or a reliever? Thanks


Matt Eddy: If I had to put money it, I would side with impact reliever, a la Felipe Vazquez. Cabrera has the traits I like to see in a future big league reliever. Dominant stuff, shaky control, starter's pedigree.

Tim (Albany): 

    What is the upside of Zack Short?


Matt Eddy: Tennessee SS Zack Short ranks as the best defensive SS in the SL and had one of the strongest infield arms. He also clubbed 17 HR and drew 82 walks. I expected those attributes to play better with managers and scouts, but they uniformly expressed skepticism that Short's straight uphill swing plane would play against better pitchers. Still, he has attributes that could make him a utility type of infielder.

Dave (Grayson, ga): 

    Obligatory question of where would Pache and Riley have ranked if eligible


Matt Eddy: This Mississippi duo would have ranked favorably. 3B Austin Riley would have challenged for a spot up near No. 2 or 3. He looks like a run-producing big league corner bat with a strong work ethic that increases his probability of success immensely. Pache is tougher to peg because he came up late and didn't do much offensively. On talent he's top 10, but in the context of the SL his year, I don't have a great answer.

Classy Freddie Blassie (St. Louis): 

    The Reds only had one player make the list this season. Was there any talk about a guy like Jose Siri or Shed Long making the latter half of the Top 20?


Matt Eddy: Pensacola CF Jose Siri received consideration for the SL top 20. His combination of power, speed and defense in center field are intriguing. However, his poor plate discipline (24 BB, 91 SO in 66 G), poor on-base skills (.294 OBP) and troubling lack of effort could hold him back from reaching his ceiling.

DH (PA): 

    Who do you prefer, Touki or Bryse Wilson? Are they both starters?


Matt Eddy: Put me down for Bryse Wilson. The more I heard about him, the more I liked him. I wouldn't be surprised if we look back in 10 years and regard him as the best pitcher from the SL this season. He has a huge fastball, true fastball command, a thick, durable starter's build, and he began to learn to put hitters away with his breaking stuff as the season progressed. I get kind of an early-career Chad Billingsley vibe from him as a shorter RH stater with huge stuff. And yes, I think both Wilson and Toussaint are starters, the latter only after improving his control and third pitch this season.

Ryan (Detroit): 

    How far is the gap between Eloy at #1 and Keston at #2?


Matt Eddy: The gap is sizable, but that's only fair when the No. 1 prospect is Eloy Jimenez, one of the premier young hitters in the game. Even with his defensive limitations, Eloy would get a 70 overall grade from me for his offensive impact potential. Hiura is probably more like a 60 or a 55 if you're a skeptic of his power. Having seen Hiura take BP at the Futures Game and hit the ball out to all fields, I am not a skeptic on his power production. His swing with the major league ball is going to equal 20 HR.

Conor 4real (Never Stopping): 

    How can Brewers fans expect stat lines to change (or not) for guys like Hiura, Ray, Brown and others who will be playing some games in San Antonio in 2019?


Matt Eddy: The old ballpark at San Antonio is a notorious hitter's graveyard from its Texas League days . . . However, Triple-A is introducing the major league ball in 2019. So the answer is (shrug emoji). It will be much easier on the psyches of Brewers pitching prospects, that much is certain. Colorado Springs was such a miserable place to pitch, and I feel for Jorge Lopez, Brandon Woodruff and even Peralta and Burnes this year, though they didn't seem as bothered by it.

Jose (Louisville): 

    Is Hiura a case where we shouldn't scout the stat line? His actual numbers weren't that impressive: a groundball heavy approach, not many walks, and more strikeouts than you'd hope given the mediocre power (.143 ISO).


Matt Eddy: Yes. Hiura's track record at UC Riverside and his professional hitting approach will lead to enhanced power production when he moves to more neutral or even hitter-friendly conditions, such as Miller Park. He's going to be at Triple-A in Year Three of his pro career and probably in the majors by next July.

Navin (Pasadena, CA): 

    Were any Cubs close to the top 20? I’d imagine Zack Short, Trent Giambrone and Keegan Thompson were the best regarded Smokies last year.


Matt Eddy: Short was the clubhouse leader. The other Smokies to receive notice were 3B Jason Vosler (who was repeating the league) and 23-year-old Cuban OF Eddy Martinez. Martinez did not produce results, obviously, but managers liked his bat speed, body and hitting actions.

Alan (St. Petersburg): 

    Are you buying Nate Lowe's improvement this year? It kind of came out of nowhere. Is he a big-league regular, a platoon guy or less than that?


Matt Eddy: I entered this process as a skeptic but came away a believer. SL managers uniformly saw Lowe as a future big league hitter. He has a big body that could get sloppy, but his hitter's hands and all-fields power should secure him a role of some sort in the majors, possibly as an occasional starter or big bench bat.

DH (PA): 

    How would you stack up the Eastern and Southern leagues?


Matt Eddy: The EL has more blue-chip talent in Vlad Jr., Bichette and Rodgers. Plus, I'm a big believer in Ke'Bryan Hayes as a future breakout prospect. However, I think the SL had more depth, especially when one factors the EL had 12 teams compared with 10 for the SL.

Carl (Kentucky): 

    Why is there a Northern Division in the Southern League?


Matt Eddy: And why do people park in a driveway and drive on a parkway?

DH (PA): 

    Can Rengifo be the 2B for the Angels at some point next year? Is he an every day guy?


Matt Eddy: The sense from talent evaluators is that Mobile SS Luis Rengifo's most likely big league role is starting 2B or utility infielder. I think he's going to surprise some people. He is solidly built and has such a good batting eye that to me future power development is not out of the question. Plus, with 2B being a position of need in Anaheim, I think Rengifo could get a look at the position later in 2019.

Bob (Minn): 

    Who is the real Brent Rooker? Is there something about his approach that would lead to him either being scalding hot or ice cold?


Matt Eddy: I think a couple factors are in play here. Firstly, Rooker has been pushed aggressively by the Twins. He is the only position player to spend all of 2017 at Double-A, to my knowledge. That's only fair. He was roughly a year older than the other premium bats from his draft class. And second, the Southern League is a punishing assignment for any player, let alone one embarking on his first five-month pro season. The oppressive humidity and constant threat of rain are factors, as are the league's five-game series format which can tend to key opponents into their opponents' weaknesses much quicker. Every source I contacted expressed optimism that Rooker would get to his power frequently in the majors -- the only questions are what kind of AVG will he produce and how many runs will he give back defensively?

Cathy (VT): 

    What are current opinions on Lucas Erceg? Is he still Milwaukee's third baseman of the future?


Matt Eddy: Opinions are mixed, to say the least. Biloxi 3B Lucas Erceg is a standout defender with a strong arm, but his offensive output has not been convincing enough at a position that requires offense. He swings at too many bad pitches and just doesn't have competitive at-bats at a high enough rate. That could change, obviously, and most orgs would want a LH hitter with plus defensive ability at 3B.

Matt Eddy: Thanks for stopping by to chat. The Texas League is up next. That league has the most star power of all the Double-A leagues.

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