2019 Sally League Top 20 Prospects Chat (10/3/19)
We released our new Sally League rankings today, which is anchored by notable names from the Mariners and Orioles organization.
J.J. Cooper: Hey everyone. Thanks for coming out.
Danny V (Hartford):
- Hi JJ. Thanks for the chat. Any support for Lexington righty Jon Heasley?
J.J. Cooper: I know I say this every year, but cracking the Sally League Top 20 is very hard. It's a massive league, so there are always way more prospects than 20 spots. He would have been the next Legends pitcher behind Bubic if the list expanded further than 20--Carlos Hernandez would have been right with him but Hernandez finished a few innings short of qualifying. There's a lot to like with Heasley. He's got a mid-90s fastball and a changeup that has made strides as a pro. Expect to see him prominently on the Royals Top 30 come Prospect Handbook time.
- Thank you for taking my question, did Bryan Bello get any votes? Thank you.
J.J. Cooper: It's tough to crack the Top 20 with a 5.43 ERA as performance does play at least a small role in these rankings, this isn't the PCL, but I do like Bello a lot. He's way better than those numbers would seem to indicate. He nibbled too much and when he missed, he too often missed in the heart of the plate, but those are young pitcher problems. The stuff is very good (mid-90s FB, hard slider and developing changeup) and his issues seem very correctable.
Karl of Delaware (Georgetown, Delaware):
- Since Delmarva had the most wins of any baseball team I figured they would have more than just Greyson Rodriquez on this list - what about Adam Hall, Grey Fenter, and maybe Drew Rom?
J.J. Cooper: The general viewpoint was that Delmarva had a lot of good players, but not a lot of outstanding prospects. The description I was given by one manager was they did an excellent job of putting the ball in play and an great job of making the play on defense. Hall was the closest of the guys who didn't crack the Top 20 to making it as a middle infielder with solid defense and on-base skills.
- Any other Augusta Greenjackets close to making the top 20?
J.J. Cooper: Sean Hjelle didn't get enough innings to qualify but he would have been a solid Top 20 candidate. I love his feel for setting up hitters and the stuff is very solid as well. Most massive pitchers like him have zero clue how to control their bodies at his age, but he is really athletic. Blake Rivera was not nearly as consistent as Seth Corry, but his fastball/curveball combo is really impressive when he's locked in. Jesus Tona is interesting as a converted catcher who has the changeup of a guy who has been pitching for years. Kai-Wei Teng has good life on his fastball.
Poochie D (Springfield):
- Tell me what you know about a pair of young Ranger righthanders who missed the list, Yerry Rodriguez and Ronnie Henriquez.
J.J. Cooper: There were at least 8 Rangers prospects who were in top 20 consideration. Rodriguez and Henriquez both did not miss by much. Henriquez generates excellent stuff from a very small package. There are some concerns about whether he can maintain his stuff consistently over the next decade to remain as a starter, but it's starter's stuff. It's easier to project Rodriguez as a starter because he is bigger with similar stuff. Rodriguez needs to smooth out some of the rougher aspects of his delivery, but there are three pitches (fastball-curve-change) to work with and he is showing steady improvement.
- I know different lists serve different purposes, but it's very odd to see BA's #71 prospect Hans Crouse at #17 in his league. I'm trying to wrap my head around that. Is it just that closer observers just really do not think he has much of a chance to start?
J.J. Cooper: This is one of the tough aspects of this. With these league lists, i try to reflect the reporting I do for the list. It wasn't unanimous by any stretch, but the scouts I talked to who saw Hickory had Winn over Crouse by the end of the year, although you could argue either way. Winn is a safer bet--he made big strides over the season and he shows advanced feel and looks like a long-term starter. Crouse has a much higher celing. If you believe in Crouse reaching his ceiling, you are looking at a front-of-rotation starter with plus stuff. But Crouse's delivery is very high energy, he's had some injury issues (just had bone chips removed) and he's got more power reliever risk.
- Besides Dubin, did any other of the many hard-throwing Woodpecker pitchers get consideration for the Carolina League list? Thinking in particular of Jojanse Torres, Luis Garcia, Yohan Ramirez, Austin Hansen, Enoli Paredes and Brett Conine all of whom touch 95 or above on the heater and who posted K rates of 30% or higher in the league.
J.J. Cooper: I have had a lot of fun trying to figure out who stands out the most between Torres, Garcia and Durbin. All 3 had their moments, although all 3 still have a lot of work ahead of them. Durbin is skinnier than skinny, but remarkably, this is him having filled out some. Torres has the best pure arm, although his secondaries are more inconsistent. Garcia may be the best of the trio long term.
- Did Mark Vientos come close to making the Top 20 list and how do you and other talent evaluators see him developing, especially offensively.
J.J. Cooper: He would have ranked in the 30-40 range. I think the concern with Vientos is that he likely ends of at first base or a corner outfield spot and he's seen as power over hit. If it all clicks, he's an everyday guy, but if he proves to be a below-average hitter with average power instead of fringe-average with above-average power, he doesn't really fit on an MLB roster.
- Any Blueclaws players impress the scouts this year?
J.J. Cooper: Rafael Marchan is an impressive young catcher. Still has a lot of development ahead, but he was viewed pretty universally around the league as one of the best backstops in the Sally League.
Dave (Grayson, Ga):
- Any Braves pitchers draw notice? Do most see Viktor Vodnik as a starter or reliever?
J.J. Cooper: Vodnik was the best of the group. You still have to say it's more likely he's a reliever than starter at this point, but I can't help but think about how Tucker Davidson had a similar path when he was pitching for Rome. Sometime a chance to start can give a pitcher a chance to prove everyone (including me) wrong. Luis Mora has a massive arm--you give anyone who can get to 100 mph pretty easily like he can a chance to turn into something. Dilmer Mejia knows how to pitch, but he's a little lefty who will have to prove it each step up the ladder.
- Where will Kelenic and JRod start 2020 on the Top 100 list?
J.J. Cooper: High. Very high. ANd they will likely finish 2020 even higher.
Dave (Grayson, ga):
- Any opinions on the Braves’ Brice Ball and Kasey Kalich in their brief time in the league?
J.J. Cooper: I didn't ask anyone about Kalich and I didn't see him at Rome (not enough innings). I did write him up for the draft--big arm and he had a lot of early success. I did see Ball when I saw Rome late in the season. He is a MASSIVE human being for one. The strength is obvious as is the raw power--the only player on the team late in the season who could compete with him as far as raw power was Michael Harris. And so far he's turned that into productive power. Expect to see him do well on next week's Appy League Top 20 list.
Oscar Meyer (In a bun):
- Jonathan Ornelas generates buzz from those who watch him that is greater than his rather pedestrian numbers. If he a legitimate prospect, and do you think he ends up playing second base or center field long-term?
J.J. Cooper: He was one of those 8 Hickory prospects who was considered for the Top 20. Scouts really like him and do see plenty of potential.
Jim (Kansas City):
- I know the pitchers got all the love in Lexington but did any offensive players impress and look like they will become prospects in the future?
J.J. Cooper: The best were Michael Giglioti and Jeison Guzman. Guzman has made some nice strides. Nick Eaton has plenty of potential defensively, but he has to hit better. Freddy Fermin is a solid defensive catcher.
- Shea Langeliers?
J.J. Cooper: Not far off the list. Very solid defensively. Didn't always look as comfortable at the plate, but the tools are there to figure it out.
Warren (New London):
- What do you make of Luis Garcia after a difficult season at Lakewood? Among Garcia, Jonathan Guzman, Bryson Stott, and Kendall Simmons, who plays shortstop at Clearwater next year and who plays it at Lakewood?
J.J. Cooper: It was a pretty poor season, but I think he earns a do-over for next year when you consider how young he was compared to the rest of the league. I think Stott may start next year in Lakewood, but he's in Clearwater before long. I would expect we'll see at least two of those guys (if not 3) in Lakewood to begin the year because the Phillies (like most teams) don't mind moving middle infielders around.
Mike C. (Lynchburg, Va.):
- Is there anything or any aspect of his game that we need to worry about Kelenic not living up to the hype? Thanks!
J.J. Cooper: It's very possible for him to not meet expectations (which are huge) but it's hard for me to see him not being a useful big leaguer. His floor is pretty high.
- Hey JJ - thanks so much for taking the time. Love these chats. Two questions - do you folks love the chats as much as we do? :-) Secondly, Spencer Howard - didn't make any of the top 20's for the leagues he played in, buy seemed to have one heck of a year. Just too spread out across each of the leagues? Thanks again!
J.J. Cooper: Thank you Steve. I do enjoy them--can't speak for everyone, but I do--it's probably part of the reason I am on Twitter way too much. I like talking baseball 24/7. Howard is one of the best prospects who did not qualify for any league. Josh Norris is working on a list/reports of guys who didn't qualify anywhere. Howard will be on that list.
Warren (New London):
- Malvin Matos had a strong second half for Lakewood but was old for the SAL. Any chance he could still develop?
J.J. Cooper: As you said, he was old for the league. Matos will be Rule 5 eligible this December and I expect he will be unprotected and unpicked. There's a chance, but it's an uphill climb.
- Thank you for taking my question. What was the general opinion on Brandon Howlett?
J.J. Cooper: Alex asked about Howlett and Aybar. Aybar's stuff isn't all that far behind Brayan Bello. Aybar's fastball and slider have big league potential. Howlett has work to do defneisvely at third, but he does have legit power even if it wasn't apparent from his stats this season. He was young for the league and athletic. There is upside there.
J.J. Cooper: Hey everyone. Thanks for all the questions. Time to return to working on our soon to be published Braves book.....Josh Norris will be here talking Northwest League tomorrow and then we'll return to the Midwest League next Monday.