BA Insider Chat: Ben Badler Talks Top 100, MLB Season, International Previews & More
Between the return of Major League Baseball, our new Top 100 prospects update and the unveiling of our July international preview issue, there's plenty to talk about at Baseball America.
So for the first time, we're holding an exclusive chat with Baseball America subscribers -- affectionately known as BA Insiders -- to break it all down.
Not a BA Insider? You can sign up here.
Ben Badler: Hey everyone. Thanks for joining us today to talk baseball. Let's get started.
- How close was Orelvis Martinez to making this list? Is he someone that could shoot up the rankings similar to Luciano?
Ben Badler: Martinez has been right on the bubble of our Top 100 conversations going back to our preseason list. I know internally we have some people who like him in the back of the 100 range. Luciano, Martinez and Noelvi Marte were all in that 2018 signing class. Luciano separated himself from that pack, but I could see Martinez and Marte shooting up into the top 50 range within the next year.
Ben Badler: One other thing I should note is that, in a normal year, we would typically have a bunch of players who were in the preseason Top 100 graduating from prospect eligibility, so it's harder for a player to crack our Top 100 now compared to this time in a usual season.
- Do you like the extra inning rule? We could have all outfielders sit down before each pitch starting in 12th inning. Pitchers throw with off arm in 15th etc. Thanks for input.
Ben Badler: No. In the minor leagues, it's a different story, but if it's for a game where the outcome matters, I hate it. When you see it in person, it's immediately evident how artificial it makes the game feel. That said, I'm open to it if it's just for 2020 pandemic season only and gone for the playoffs. But I would hate to see that rule implemented at the major league level beyond this year.
- Hello Ben, from the Giants 2019 signing class, which players have improved their stock in the last 18 months?
Ben Badler: Adrian Sugastey. Catcher from Panama who projects to stick behind the plate with a plus or potentially better arm and a good track record of hitting that he's only built on since signing.
Mike (St Catharines):
- Martin has to sign with the Jays right? They can go close to $7m, but i always worry with Boras involved
Ben Badler: I think every first-round pick signs, unless there's a medical issue involved.
Cal (San Luis Obispo):
- How close was Mick Abel to making the top 100? How does he compare to former top hs arms such as Gore and Liberatore?
Ben Badler: Very close. Going back to the point I made about Martinez, I think in a regular year with normal graduation churn, Abel is probably in the Top 100. High school RHPs are such a risky group and you're layering even more risk on it now without him even pitching before the draft, but his report checks nearly every box you can ask for from a high school RHP.
Mike (San Francisco, CA):
- Where would you rank the Giants international scouting department? In terms Lansing big time talent and finding hidden gems. Thank you Ben!
Ben Badler: If you look at the lower levels of the system, I think their last few signing classes stack up among the strongest in the game. Marco Luciano alone is enough to make for a great 2018 signing class, but they got Luis Matos, Jairo Pomares, Rayner Santana and Victor Bericoto. Then you go back to the previous years and they signed Luis Toribio (who I love) while under the $300K limit and Alexander Canario also in their top 10, that's a pretty strong collection of talent at the short-season levels.
Ben Badler: And I thought they had one of the deeper, more balanced classes last year as well.
- With no MiLB season, do you guys expect the top 100 list to remain static, other than players graduating out of the list? If not, how will you guys be adjusting the list?
Ben Badler: I do think there will be some movement. Some of that will be injury related. In other cases, even though we might not get official box scores and stats to work off, there are going to be prospects playing on taxi squads and probably some type of AFL-ish or mega-instructs where prospects will play. Plus I suspect there will be some type of prospect development games happening in the Dominican Republic before the year ends (teams usually hold Dominican instructs anyway between September through early December), so there are going to be things like they we will need to stay on top off. Teasing out the signal from the noise is going to be a challenge, but I think we are going to be able to gather a lot of valuable new information on players by the end of the calendar year.
Rick (Stafford, VA):
- Are you concerned about Austin Hendrick's swing & miss issues & his struggles in USA 18U tourney & what's his ceiling?
Ben Badler: I do see that and some accompanying pitch recognition questions as a risk factor with Hendrick, and it's why I'm a little lower on him relative to the rest of the staff at BA. But obviously the bat speed is freakish and it's 70 raw power now with a chance for more at 19 years old, so he can still be a dangerous hitter if he shows he can keep the strikeout rate to a manageable level.
- Thank you for taking my question, are we going to see the DSL play this year? what about in the Winter?
Ben Badler: They haven't announced anything officially, but there's basically no way they play this summer. All the team academies are either totally shut down or open but with only Venezuelan players living there. Obviously everything I say today comes with the caveat that we just don't know what the timeline will be with the virus, but the DSL is the one league I could see where they just delay the season until, say, October, if it's safer to play then. Or if not official games, at least there's a chance for it to be an even more game-oriented version of the usual Dominican instructs. Or even just going heavy on intra-squad games would be another possibility.
Ben Badler: Obviously, that's a lot of conjecture on my part. But I know teams will try to do everything they can do get those players in some type of game environment, if safety permits.
Kyle H. (Norfolk, VA (ODU)):
- Ben, thanks for the chat and all of your work. Concerning the HS oufielders that were selected in the 1st Round of the recent MLB Draft (Hassell, Veen, Hendrick, Crow-Armstrong), which player do you think will reach the MLB first? Which player do you think will have the most productive career, assuming they stay with the MLB team that drafted them?
Ben Badler: Veen is the consensus top player in that group. Hassell is the most polished pure hitter and is in an organization that isn't shy about pushing its prospects. But I wouldn't be surprised if it's Pete Crow-Armstrong. I loved that pick for the Mets, especially where they got him. Excellent mix of athleticism, tools and polish for his age. Everyone raves about his defense, but I really liked what I saw him from as a hitter too with his ability to manipulate the barrel.
- Where would Cristian Hernandez and Carols Colmenarez have gone in the draft this year had they been eligible?
Ben Badler: They're first-round talents. Where exactly is hard to say given the unusual circumstances this year. But either of those players vs. Ed Howard, the top high school shortstop in the country who went went 16th overall to the Cubs, I think is a reasonable debate.
- I like the bold ranking on Nick Gonzales at #69 making him #2 in the Pirates farm system until Keller graduates. I was curious why you have him ranked there & if you could elaborate on the ranking compared to Oniel and Hayes?
Ben Badler: Strong belief in Gonzales' bat. It's a compact, efficient swing with very few holes in the strike zone, so it's a high contact rate with a good approach and he showed the ability to hit and hit for power at the Cape, in addition to his lengthy track record of raking everywhere else. Cruz has monster raw power but a lot more risk for everything to click. Hayes I'm probably lower on relative to the rest of our staff, but I have more belief in Gonzales' offensive impact than I do with Hayes.
Max (Prairie Village, KS):
- Is there a team or teams you think will be disproportionately affected by a cancelled minor league season?
Ben Badler: When you shrink the season this much, luck becomes a much greater factor in the W-L outcomes than usual, so it hurts the most skilled teams and helps the least talented teams possibly be able to sneak their way into the playoffs with a hot stretch. I'm not predicting an Orioles title, but the teams projected to be .500 or a little below can gain a lot just from variance.
- Pretty high praise in the article yesterday about IFA SS Christian Hernandez! Do you foresee any chance the Cubs don’t still sign him? Also can you give me a little more on 2 other potential Cub IFA guys Daniel Ferreira and Carlos Cabrera? Thanks for the chat!!!!
Ben Badler: Hernandez is pretty special. I remember going to the field where he trains in the DR back in 2017 because I was there to see some 2018 and 2019 players in that program. That was the first time I saw him play and he already had such an advanced swing for his age. Really nice kid too who a lot of players around him look up.
Ben Badler: It's been a while since I saw Ferreira, but I really liked his swing. Looked a little like Khris Davis' as far as swing mechanics with good path through the hitting zone and he performed well when I saw him.
Rick (Stafford, VA):
- Considering he has been slowly recovering from TJ surgery & hasn't pitched in awhile, how much does the likely canceled MILB season affect Hunter Greene's prospect status? is he still Reds #1 prospect?
Ben Badler: We have Hendrick (84) slightly ahead of Greene (86) on our updated Top 100 as the new Reds No. 1 prospect. I would say Greene's stock is up slightly from earlier, now that we've seen him come back and throwing 100 mph again. I think we generally assume that a pitcher's stuff will return after TJ, but that doesn't always happen and there can be setbacks, so seeing him check off that box if a promising sign in the right direction.
- Thank you for the chat. With the shortened season, do you expect most of the top prospects that we initially thought would make their MLB debuts this year to have to wait until 2021 now?
Ben Badler: For the guys who are right on the cusp—Luis Robert, Jo Adell, Nate Pearson—or have some big league time already like Gavin Lux, I don't think too much changes for them. But for the guys who might have started a normal April in Double-A and forced their way to the big leagues, I think that's going to be less common, and the A-ball to MLB fast-track guys we see pop up every year probably won't happen barring an emergency situation.
Skeptical (Staten Island, NY):
- Are these 16-year old International players being tested for PEDs before they Sign? Or, are their trainers pumping them full of Steroids before they Sign, and then taking them off of Steroids after they sign? What kind of controls are in place to prevent teams from getting swindled?
Ben Badler: Yes. Teams have the ability to test players on a pre-contract basis. Agreements are typically contingent on a player passing a drug test, so if a player tests positive for steroids, usually the player doesn't end up signing with that club or signs for a lower amount.
Ben Badler: More concerning for me is protecting the health and safety of those players, because it's typically not a player going out on his own and choosing to use steroids.
- I really liked JJ Cooper's column about high school vs. college development. Do you suppose MLB will always keep a robust enough minor league system so that teams still draft and develop raw high school talent? I'd hate to lose players who can't afford college.
Ben Badler: I do, but I think MLB owners are looking to offload a lot of the costs associated with player development on to the world of college baseball to reduce their collective expenses. We'll still see MLB teams plucking off the top high school players (and even in a five-round draft, we saw some players with relatively rawer skills get picked), but I would rather see more freedom and more competition among teams to sign those players before they go to college. But freedom and competition doesn't align with cost containment for owners.
- Ben, any word on if Cespedes will reschedule his showcase and who are some likely teams for him with pool space available?
Ben Badler: I'll check on this. Because technically he's a free agent and he was going to have a showcase in the United States, but there's still a ban on international scouting, though not on domestic scouting. Although since a team can't sign an international player right now anyway until MLB gives the green light again, I suspect he will wait until things open up again to have that showcase.
Ben Badler: But I would expect him to sign in the current period that ends in October. Teams not being able to trade for more pool space is brutal.
Ben Badler: I wish MLB would change that no trading bonus pool space rule they just threw in there in March, because it just hurts kids in exchange for what probably amounts to a modest cost containment measure.
Justin (Tucson, AZ):
- Read that Spencer Torkelson is the best offensive prospect of the past 20 years, since Mark Texiera. Are people forgetting the hype that was on Bryce Harper or is the upside of Torkelson truly better than Harper’s?
Ben Badler: I don't know the full context of the comment to address it, but we had Kris Bryant debut at No. 8 on our Top 100 after he was drafted, largely based on the strength of what he does at the plate.
- Hi Ben i am a fan of your work, any other Latin American prospect connected to the Red Sox beside the 5 you listed in your report before?
Ben Badler: Thank you. Those are the big five names I have for them. They should have around $1 million or so left in their pool after them, I would expect at least a couple more six-figure types and spreading around the rest. We'll keep all our team previews updated as we hear more and the signing date gets closer.
- Chances Crochet ends up a starter?
Ben Badler: Flip a coin. Because of how he was used in college, we've never seen him throw more than 65 innings or make more than six starts in a season, so we don't have much track record fo gauge his durability, then this year he did have some shoulder soreness as well. I'm not saying he can't start, and the upside is obvious given the electricity of his pure stuff from the left side, but it is a lot of risk for me that high in the draft.
Keith (Syracuse NY):
- If you started with a pool of $5,348,100 subtract a million and split it in half you should get $2,174,050. Or if you start with $5,348,100 and divide it in half first and then subtract a million you would have a pool of $1,674,050. Either amount is more then the pool amount listed for the Braves at $1,572,000. How was that amount determined?
Ben Badler: I'm not 100 percent, but it may be that MLB calculates it based on what would have been each team's original base pool amount prior to any team's reductions. When a team loses $1 million from its pool, that money doesn't disappear from the aggregate pools, but instead gets redistributed among the other 29 clubs. So the teams that have a $5,348,100 pool would have had a slightly lower base amount prior to the reductions in pool space from the Angels, Phillies, Yankees and Braves that were redistributed to them.
Gavin (Durham, NC):
- What do you think the chances are MLB gets through a full season and post-season without a shutdown this year?
Ben Badler: I don't think I can speak with any authority on how the virus will progress. But I do think MLB will be aggressive and be willing to cut corners at the expense of health/safety to push a postseason through and realize that revenue.
- I realize it becomes a math problem with 12 people moving on and (most) everyone dropping... but no Brennen Davis feels like a glaring omission especially compared with other prospect ranks. What about his game or potential keeps him outside of a BA 100 (i.e. what do you NOT see that everyone else seems to see)? Is it the lack of 2019 ABs due to the 2 HBPs on bunts? Is it a concern that the swing will leave too many holes? Is it concern of the speed going away leaving him as a 20 HR, 10 SB kind of corner OF prospect?
Ben Badler: His status isn't changed—we had him in the back of our preseason Top 100—it's more the lack of our usual prospect graduation churn than anything else after we added the 2020 draft picks. He should be one of the fist ones back on it once the season starts.
Kyle Weatherly (Florence, South Carolina):
- Why was there such a big gap (23 spots) between Martin & Lacy? Most experts I heard viewed them as being very close.
Ben Badler: I think it was mostly the BA staff as a whole being very, very high on Austin Martin. We have a group of LHPs in Brailyn Marquez (40), Daniel Lynch (42) and Matthew Liberatore (45) that Lacy fits well with, and I'd have a hard time putting him over Tarik Skubal (36) right now.
- What's the scouting report on Yhoswar Garcia's bat? I feel like I've only heard about his speed/athleticism in CF.
Ben Badler: I wish I could tell with you more certitude. He just signed in March before the shutdown and was declared ineligible to sign for a while last year, so he couldn't go to the Phillies academy before that and he couldn't play in Tricky League or Dominican instructs. So we (and, frankly, the Phillies) just don't have the same level of information on that aspect of his game that we do for the other top 2019 signings. He did hit well playing in the parallel league in a small sample in Venezuela, but he's one we really need to see more from this season to get a better gauge of his pure hitting ability.
Ben Badler: And obviously that season itself is very much up in the air.
- There's talk that clubs would have their top 10 prospects on their taxi squad- do you think this would include Jasson Dominguez?
Ben Badler: I haven't asked the Yankees specifically about Dominguez, but it would not surprise me. I've been saying for a while that I think teams will use the taxi squads as a hybrid between keeping players sharp for the 2020 MLB season and a vehicle to continue the development of their top prospects even if they're at the lower levels. If I'm the Royals, I want Bobby Witt Jr. getting reps, even it's against Triple-A guys who he might struggle against. If I'm the Yankees, I'd do the same with my best prospect.
- As a Cubs fan, the Christian Hernandez piece yesterday was very exciting. How would he compare Hernandez’ prospect profile at 16 to Gleyber Torres and Eloy Jimenez when they signed?
Ben Badler: He's that same caliber of prospect. Very different body type than Gleyber, who is more of a thick lower half guy, and the shape of their skill sets is different, but the overall value at signing time is similar.
Ben Badler: Now where we rank Hernandez in pro ball as soon as he signs will probably be higher than where we had Gleyber and Eloy because Hernandez benefits from the greater track record of success we've seen in pro ball from international prospects who ranked as top five prospects in their class.
- Why is Groshans still so high on the list despite his lack of stats and performance from his injury?
Ben Badler: Outstanding scouting reports since he signed, both on pure hitting ability and power, with SS or 3B still to be determined but the offensive impact to be a plus regular at either spot.
- Hey Ben, Any chance Torkelson and Workman back the Tigers 60 man squad?
Ben Badler: Yes, especially Tork. I think most if not every team is going to want their priority prospects there for development purposes.
- Do you think the new top 100 is a little too heavy on the 2020 MLB draft class? What separates a Robert Hassell from last year’s international guys such as the Luis Rodriguez/Eric Pena/Maximo Acosta/Robert Puason group?
Ben Badler: Track record. Erick Peña could end up bring pretty similar to Zac Veen, you could make a case for Maximo Acosta or Luis Rodriguez over Robert Hassell, but we have a pretty extensive track record of hitting for someone like Hassell that we just don't have yet for the 2019 international signings, for the most part.
Ben Badler: I do think it's close though, and that Rodriguez/Peña/Acosta group in particular is one I thought could have quickly jumped into the Top 100 this summer if we had a normal Arizona League season.
- Who were the top 5 guys at the PG National this past week?
Ben Badler: I saw some but not all of the event, so I'll defer to Carlos to paint a fuller picture of what happened. Maddux Bruns was a big standout for me though. I saw him last summer and I liked him as a lefty with a sharp curveball and good pitchability throwing mid-to-upper 80s. Now he's out pumping 96 to pair with that swing-and-miss curveball? That's a big arrow up.
Jerry (Bellingham, WA):
- The Mariners seemed to have changed their approach to the international market. After consistently signing a top talent most years, the last two classes they have not given out any big bonuses. Instead, it seems like they gave out multiple six figure bonuses instead of giving out 2mil+ to any single player. I was wondering if that might reflect a new strategy, or just noise. And if it is a new approach, do you think that its wise?
Ben Badler: I think 2019 was more about the context of changing international directors when they did and the speed of the market. The top players are often committing to a club a year or two in advance, so they had to operate within some practical limitations with the 2019 class. That's going to change this year with Starlin Aguilar and Gabriel Gonzalez and I think that will be the same beyond.
- Has there been a change in philosophy within the Giants international amateur scouting department since Zaidi took over? After the wildly successful 2018 J2 period with 3 Big signings it seems like we are not in play for any of the top ranked prospects and are pursuing mid tier talent at volume. Is this intentional?
Ben Badler: A lot of times a new GM/president likes to bring in his own department heads, but it seems like he's mostly just left the international department alone to do their thing. Understandable here.
Ben Badler: I don't know that the Giants had a philosophical change, more just how the class shaped up for them. I'd also keep in mind that a lot of these players are committing at 14 now. There are a handful of kids who really stand out at that age, but I don't think teams are exactly projecting with a ton of precision at that age. We have Hedbert Perez as a top 10 signing in the 2019 class, and he signed for less than $1 million.
Seifert Dyrhaug (Oslo, Norway):
- Can someone unravel the drama going on with Cuban player Oscar Luis Colas? Is he free to Sign or still Property of his Japanese team?
Ben Badler: Latest I heard was he's still under contract in NPB and trying to get out of it.
Ben Badler: I've got to get back to work on some projects we have in the works coming up. Thanks for all the questions today.