Appalachian League Top 20 Prospects Chat

Hudson Belinsky: Howdy! The Appy League was really deep this year, and I’m ready to unload the notebook. Here we go!

Steve (Orlando,Fl): Rays Jesus Sanchez not enough ABs to qualify?
Hudson Belinsky: Correct. To qualify, position players need one at-bat per team game, and pitchers need 1/3 of an inning per team game. So if a team played 66 games, their position players need 66 at-bats and pitchers need 22 innings.

dave (grayson, ga): With reports of his 99 mph velocity, I was curious to see how Braves RHP Luis Mora would do this season. Does he have anything besides the velo>
Hudson Belinsky: Yes, he does have more than a fastball. There was a split-camp on him this summer. He’s kind of a late bloomer and his track record is shaky, but he shows a hard mid-80s slider that flashes above-average or better, but also flashed well below-average for some evaluators I spoke to. He’s also shown a pretty good changeup. There’s a lot to cook with here, but it’s raw. He’d certainly have been in the 21-30 group.

Dan (Maryland): Miguelangel Sierra looked very overmatched in the NYPL and the power dried up significantly. Is the power a fluky product of the Appy league? Or does have it in him to hit 20-25 over a full season?
Hudson Belinsky: He’s a young kid who hadn’t shown power before. In fact, if you go back and look at his scouting report in the BA Prospect Handbook last year, we noted his lack of power. So he’s a young kid and getting stronger, and hitting home runs is a pretty cool feeling. So he started selling out for power, and balls can carry out in certain parks in the Appy League. I wouldn’t expect a home run output quite that high, but this season was a step in the right direction. If a player is swinging uphill and looking to loft the ball, their bat is likely to be in the strike zone for less time, and they’ll be prone to swinging and missing more often. Sierra is still young and improving his timing.

dave (grayson, ga): I was surprised to see Cumberland make the list after a terrible debut and with so many questions about his defense. The write-up wasn't particularly inspiring either. Does anyone outside of the Braves organization think he's a catcher long term?
Hudson Belinsky: He’s been playing since February and he’s a catcher. That’s an extremely long season. He requires some projection behind the plate, and there’s an uncomfortable amount of uncertainty to his profile, which dings his prospect status. But we can’t get too reactionary to a pro debut and forget how potent his offense was as an amateur. It isn’t a great debut, but we can’t ignore the complete track record.

Dave (DC): Thanks for the chat, always really enjoy these top 20s. Where would Anderson have wound up if he qualified?
Hudson Belinsky: He would be #1 for me. I love Ian Anderson. He has the potential for three plus (or better) pitches and command them all. His makeup is great. I’m excited to see how he develops.

Jeff (Johnson City, Tenn): Any other Cardinals prospects receive consideration for the top 20? Given his draft position a year ago, Bryce Denton seemed a shoe-in after more than holding his own outside the complex leagues. He even finished better than he started.
Hudson Belinsky: I considered Denton. He had some doubters about his defense, but he had a strong season as a young player. His tools aren’t explosive, but he’s definitely still a prospect; I just thought there were 20 guys better than him.

William (Pensacola, FL): In your opinion, could Vladimir Guerrero Jr have handled a full season assignment ?
Hudson Belinsky: Maybe he could have, but it was also a huge leap for him to go straight to Bluefield. No reason to rush. Nothing wrong with letting him build some confidence in a low-pressure and warm weather environment.

Dave (Brooklyn): Hey, Hudson! Thanks for taking the time to Chat! Ricardo Cespedes made BA's 4/1/14 Baseball For The Ages 16 year old list, and the Mets' Depth Chart in the always excellent BA Prospect Handbook 2016. Did he progress in his first full season? What does he need to work on to become a Top 30 prospect?
Hudson Belinsky: Great question, Dave! Cespedes is a prospect. He’s a good runner, but not a burner, and scouts told me they anticipated him landing in a corner outfield spot, where there would be a lot of pressure on his bat for him to profile. He can hit, but there were varying opinions on how much. Bat-dependent profiles at very low levels are a risky demographic. He might end up hitting enough to profile.

Brent (St. Louis): What is the upside of Jordan Hicks? Could you compare him to a current MLB Player?
Hudson Belinsky: He looks like Chris Archer in the face.

Dustin (Houston): Where would Forrest Whitley have ranked in your list had he made enough appearances in the league to qualify?
Hudson Belinsky: I’d put him in between Allard and Hicks.

Mike (Valpo): Wilkerman Garcia was so highly-regarded before the season, especially within the Yankees' organization. So how does a couple poor months, at such a young age stil, completely drop him off this list? There's NO WAY he can't somehow fit into this list! I don't get it...was everyone so wrong about him, and now giving up on him???
Hudson Belinsky: Thank you for your opinion, Mike. I thought about ranking Wilkerman Garcia, but multiple scouts told me they didn’t believe he would end up playing shortstop and that they saw a move to second base in his future. Second base has become an offensively demanding position, and Wilkerman requires significant projection and so it’s a high-risk profile. Let’s compare him to Blankenhorn, who ranked 18th; Blankenhorn has a much higher offensive ceiling and performed better both in the Appy League and in a full season league. Players who are as young as Wilkerman was have such a wide range of possibility, and so we can dream on their projections; in my lists, I might be a little bit more risk-averse than other prognosticators, even if we both agree on their profiles.

Don (Nj): Hi Hudson, how do rate dermis Garcia?
Hudson Belinsky: He has upside because of his power potential. Not a guy you want to throw a fastball to, and pitchers in this league realized that. If it bends, Dermis Garcia struggles with it right now. If he figures that out, his plus-plus raw power could play, but that’s a huge if. The righthanded power is valuable, it’s just very far from playing in games. He’s also got work to improve his defense and remain at third base. He’s a prospect, but has a long way to go to learn how to use his tools.

Brad (GA): Hudson! Hypothetically of course, if there was a Braves late-round draft guy in the Appy League who didn't make the list and was a really good one, who would it be?
Hudson Belinsky: 27th round pick Corbin Clouse, a lefthander out of Davenport University in Michigan, has a chance to move quickly through the Braves’ system. His fastball ranged from 90-95 and the grades I got on his breaking ball from scouts ranged from 55 to 60. He’s a steal. The result of the Braves drafting deeply and recognizing the talent of their area scouts.

dave (grayson, ga): Did Drew Harrington, Jeremy Walker, Jhon Martinez or any other Braves pitchers impress?
Hudson Belinsky: I’ll give some reports on these three here. NOTE: The Martinez report is based SOLELY on my own evaluation and not information I got from a scout or professional evaluator. | Jhon Martinez: Up and back, bow and arrow type of arm action with a half arm circle. Easy out front. Inconsistent with his drive off his back ankle and falls off early at times. Showed flashes with four pitches. FB was mostly 88-90, touched 91 early. Heavily pronated two-seam release; 84-87 with late life, ground ball offering. CB 70-75; breaks in line with his 3/4 arm slot, mostly above-average spin but flattened at times. Changeup used sparingly at 79-80 with arm-side run. Stuff flattened and command diminished in the 5th inning. Could be effective FB/CB reliever. | Jeremy Walker: I actually took a long look at him for the top 20. When I saw him in college in early May, his fastball was up to 94 and it sat 89-93. He was an early hand breaker and he had a tendency to rush his front side and his kinetic chain was disconnecting. I thought he’d add a little more velocity if he could create more hip-shoulder separation and made himself more athletic. But he also lacked an average offspeed pitch that day; he’d short-arm his slider and sometimes snap it off with early length; at its best it looked like a potentially functional second offering but not a bat-misser for the highest level. His curveball was extremely soft out of his hand, too. So we had a player with a fastball, a lean, lanky frame. When I saw him in mid-July, he was pretty much the same thing, except he was out of the bullpen. Then I saw him in late August and he was A LOT better. His lower half was much more athletic, and he was keeping things connected; he had more of a hip swing out into foot strike, and he was more online and had a way more stable landing. He was snapping off a hard curveball at 78-80 that looked like a potential above-average pitch, and he was even showing a changeup too. I checked with some scouts, and some had seen him up to 95. These are new developments and track record is important to me, so I didn’t run him past some of those players with better history, but I wouldn’t be surprised if he jumps up rankings in the next year or so. | Drew Harrington: He’s a competitor. Stocky lefthander with a compact arm action and ability to command the baseball. At least average command. Not going to blow anyone away with velocity but knows how to pitch. Has has an average slider. His changeup remains a work in progress. There’s a lot to like. He could be a #5 starter, but I see him more as an effective 6th or 7th inning reliever.

Manny (Massachusetts): Were there any other Yankees that came close and who do you think might have a big impact for the Yankees next season in this league?
Hudson Belinsky: There were A LOT of Yankees that came close. As Josh Norris wrote here (, that team had a lot of high profile players, but they also had a lot of players who were just kind of interesting. Oswaldo Cabrera may be one of the more exciting players there, though he was in the league later on and I wasn’t able to get as many opinions on him as a result. He is extremely young and has loose wrists and a chance to hit for contact and play up the middle. Leonardo Molina has a chance to be a good defensive OF and he has the power to impact the baseball. Nick Nelson has a fastball that can reach 96 (and could improve a tick or so) and he flashes plus spin with his curveball. He has shotgun command right now; he sort of hops down the mound and fails to really gather himself over the rubber, and he can yank his fastball as a result. Rafael Lara is an intriguing sleeper with a fastball that can reach 95, and he generates plus spin on his curveball often; kind of a late bloomer and more of a lottery ticket but a good find by their scouts. Isiah Gilliam is a switch-hitter with bat speed and some power; he doesn’t profile super well because of his defense, but his bat could carry him. Donny Sands is a quick-twitch catcher with some projection. The Yankees youth movement extends deeply beyond Gary Sanchize.

Keith H (Syracuse NY): Any chance Isranel Wilson hits? He was suspended at the end of the season. Have the Braves soured on him?
Hudson Belinsky: Isranel Wilson is a skinny and quick-twitch athlete. He needs more Ovaltine to get stronger and impact the ball with more consistent authority, but he has pure tools you can’t walk away from. He’s a lefty hitter whose hands work in the box and he’s a plus-or-better runner who plays good defense and shows plus arm strength. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to find out what drove that suspension. With a kid so young, I err on the side of empathy before dinging their makeup. Young people make mistakes and it’s up to each of us how we choose to learn from them. Wilson has exciting raw tools; hopefully the reason for his suspension isn’t too serious and he can learn from this experience as matures.

Jonathan (Syracuse, NY): I asked Ben Badler a few weeks back how he felt about Jesus Sanchez vs. Estevan Florial (two really exciting guys he had been intrigued by during the previous winter). He said he slightly preferred Sanchez at this point. Then again, he's been focusing on the GCL! Would you tend to lean the other way, based on Florial's high placement on this list?
Hudson Belinsky: #ImWithBen

John (CT): Aside from Szapucki, did any Mets prospects earn consideration for the top 20?
Hudson Belinsky: Yes. Other players I considered for the top 20: Jordan Humphreys, Ricardo Cespedes, Jose Medina (the RF). Other guys who are interesting from that Kingsport team: Max Wotell (who was traded), Jake Simon, Walter Rasquin, Adrian Almeida, Chris Viall, Sixto Torres.

Roger (Greenville, SC): Re: Isranel Wilson and his suspension... Would you read anything into him being left off the instructional league roster?
Hudson Belinsky:

Zachary (Columbus): You had zero Pirates farmhands on your list - anyone who almost made the cut?
Hudson Belinsky: Their best prospect was Adrian Valerio. Smooth hands, above-average range, and above-average arm strength. His defensive profile is okay. He’s also not a great runner and he’s far behind offensively, so he doesn’t profile very well as a utlity/bench player. John Pomeroy is an intriguing lottery ticket with big size and arm strength. There were a couple guys there who know how to pitch but don’t have overwhelming stuff that could be station-to-station minor leaguers and prove us wrong.

Das (Hawaii): What do the Rays have in Peter Bayer?
Hudson Belinsky: He’s intriguing. Deceptive righthander. He was originally at Richmond, then trained at Driveline with Kyle Boddy and transferred to Cal Poly Pomona. Kyle has written about him on Driveline’s blog:

Barry (Atlanta): Jarrett Hellinger: prospect or suspect ?
Hudson Belinsky: Nothing explosive, but projectable lefthander with a decent arsenal. Not every scout I talked to considered him a prospect, but some did. Throws it over, competes, throws strikes, good body.

Michael (Brazil): Is Bryce Denton a solid prospect?
Hudson Belinsky: He is not a liquid and not a gas.

JIm (Baltimore, MD): Any other Burlington players of note, who were close to the Top 20?
Hudson Belinsky: There are some prospects there. Lower impact type guys that didn’t make sense in the top 20 when I lined the league up, but are worth following. Kort Peterson, Gabriel Cancel, Geoff Bramblett, Walker Sheller, Cristian Castillo and Andre Davis.

Leo (Atlanta): What are your thoughts on Braves 1B Ramon Osuna? Seems to have had an outstanding JUCO career and got off to a great start to his pro career before slumping a bit. The overall body of work for the season was still impressive.
Hudson Belinsky: There’s some hit there, but it’s a really tough profile and he’ll have to prove himself up the ladder. He was not a guy that scouts brought up on their own volition; he was a guy I had to ask people about specifically, and I sometimes got the “why are you asking me about this guy” tone in response. Not a zero, but not the guy that jumps out at scouts.

Proswagonist (Liberl): Do you have any reports on Patrick Sandoval and Cristian Javier?
Hudson Belinsky: Patrick Sandoval: Curveball is the first thing scouts brought up with him. Mid-70s with really late bite. FB 88-90, tickles a 92 here and there. Changeup projects as an average weapon. Still a young lefty learning how to pitch. | Christian Javier: Righthander who really knows how to pitch. No plus pitches on the card, but really understands how to get hitters out. It isn’t sexy but he might end up being better than his stuff indicates. Fastball can touch 93, but typically works at 88-90. He’ll get around his curveball at times, but he’ll flash average spin with it and can use it as a chase pitch right now. He throws a slider that shows very late break and gets a lot of poor swings. Changeup progression will be key for him; it’s not a zero but it’s not a huge part of his arsenal right now. He’s an incredible value for what he is; the Astros signed him for $10,000 and he is a prospect. … No one has asked me about the Greeneville Astros, so I’ll note some of their prospects here. Jonathan Arauz is a solid, sum-of-his parts type; nothing explosive, but he has a chance to play the middle infield and he held his own as an 17-year-old away from the complex—that’s pretty special… Jorge Alcala has a mid-90s fastball and a slider that earned a plus grade from one scout I talked to, but he didn’t qualify. He may be the next young international Astro to take off… Jorge Guzman has reached 100 mph with his fastball and shows very occasional flashes with a slider… Bryan De La Cruz has power and arm strength and fits the classic RF profile… the Astros continue to do work.

Hudson Belinsky: That’s all for me today, folks. I really, genuinely appreciate your questions and critiques and thank you for being such passionate fans of the game! As always, I’m available to answer smaller questions on twitter (@hudsonbelinsky) or if you want to email me you can do so at Happy Tuesday!

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