Ben Badler: I’m fighting a cold this week, so if I say anything too loopy in here today, let me just preemptively say that I was hacked.
Cal Guy (Cal): Hi Ben, How do V. Robles and R. Acuna compare and do you see them developing into top of the order or middle of the order types of hitters?
Ben Badler: Acuna does a lot of things well. Robles does a lot of things that are incredible.
Cal Guy (Cal): Hi Ben, If you had to choose between Giolito or Espinoza for you team, who would it be?
Ben Badler: Lucas Giolito.
Scot (Oregon): What do you know about the Jose Miguel Fernandez showcase? Any idea when he might sign? Any favorites to land him?
Ben Badler: I spoke with scouts who were at both of them, including one yesterday where Lazaro Armenteros also showcased at the Padres academy and Padres GM AJ Preller was in attendance. Nothing too exciting to report; he just looks like the player we’ve always described. He hits in games, puts the bat to the ball at a high rate, doesn’t expand the strike zone, uses the whole field with mostly line drives and not too much power. Doesn’t run well and makes the routine plays but his range is below-average. He’s sort of the anti-showcase player; when you see Yoenis Cespedes in one of these workouts, he’s going to show you his raw power, his speed and his rocket arm, or with Jose Abreu and Yasmany Tomas, you might fall in love with the raw power when you see him take BP in one of these workouts. But Fernandez doesn’t stand out for any of his raw tools—you’re banking on the hitting ability and plate discipline—so a traditional showcase environment, even if it is him facing live pitching, isn’t likely to produce anything exceptionally eye-catching.
Proswagonist (Liberl): The two best HS bats in last year's draft, Rodgers and Tucker, haven't disappointed. Where do you think these two finish the year, and how much power do you project for them at maturity?
Ben Badler: Could both be plus hit, plus power guys with 20-25 HRs. Where they finish the season isn’t that important. A lot of first-year players out of high school spend the whole year in Low-A, but I could see a late-season bump for each one.
Bob Paine (Goodyear AZ): Ben, a large number of Cubans prospects have been off the island for a long time but as yet have not been cleared by MLB. Any idea why this is taking so long?
Ben Badler: I do not. But it is a good question, and I have not heard a reasonable explanation for this either.
greg b (nyc): If you had to chose between SS Jorge Mateo or Ahmed Rosario, who would you chose and why
Ben Badler: For now, Mateo. More explosive athlete, better offensive track record. But Rosario is the better defender, and if he keeps up this offensive pace, he could lap him by the end of the season.
Matt H. (Houston): Alex Bregman has been on a somewhat unexpected tear in the AA Texas League. Has his performance there led you to re-evaluate his ceiling?
Ben Badler: I’ve always been high on Bregman. The game power he has shown thus far has been more than I would have expected at this point, but more than anything, he’s just reinforced the confidence I had in him before. He has a tremendous swing; short, simple, on plane through the hitting zone forever, and his approach is outstanding too. He’s the real deal.
Tyler (Green Bay): Better MLB career, Orlando Arcia or Dansby Swanson?
Ben Badler: Orlando Arcia.
Steve (Chicago): What are the chances Benintendi sees Boston this year?
Ben Badler: If the Red Sox are in contention by August and they have a need for him in the outfield, he should be up.
Josh (Ohio): Considering the Reds' recent struggles with their bullpen and rotation alike, do you believe it would be ideal for them to call up Amir Garrett soon or give him more time to develop?
Ben Badler: They have Cody Reed and Robert Stephenson next in line ahead of him anyway, but Garrett is already on the 40-man roster, so I could see him up as a September callup if he’s in Triple-A by August and is still dominating hitters there.
Dave (NJ): Has anything changed with Francis Martes this year? Was the pat month or so just rust or is his tools noticeably worse this year? He had a good start last night.
Ben Badler: He hasn’t been throwing enough strikes and he hasn’t been able to command those strikes within the zone. You can have great stuff, but you can’t strike out anyone when the count is 2-0 or 3-1, and hitters have all the leverage in their favor when you’re falling behind that often. I do think that’s something he can and will turn around though.
Adam (Atlanta): Do you have a big league comp for Abrahan Gutierrez? I read Mike Piazza once, but that seems a tad far fetched.
Ben Badler: Gutierrez is a 16-year-old who is not comparable to Hall of Famer Mike Piazza.
Karl (Laredo): How long will it take Alex Reyes to get his stuff back and demonstrate why he is one of the top arms in the minors?
Ben Badler: Stuff is still the same. He’s been pitching in extended spring training on a normal schedule, just hasn’t been able to compete in official games. Other than possibly slowing his ETA, the suspension shouldn’t have any impact on his status.
Ben (Miamisburg, OH): Who are some of the more exciting guys we should keep a watch on this summer that will be coming stateside from the DSL and the now defunct VSL?
Ben Badler: Anyone from the DSL/VSL Top 20, and some of the other players name checked within that story. That list is always full of breakout candidates.
Steve (Chicago): What the the chances Tim Anderson is starting at SS for the White Sox before August 1?
Ben Badler: I think he has to produce more at the plate in Triple-A first. I recognize the obvious athleticism at a premium position, but that free-swinging approach still gives me pause.
Jay (Kansas): What are your thoughts on the Braves rebuild? They have received a lot of criticism, but as a fan I'm excited for the future
Ben Badler: Just like any team’s transactions, it’s been a mixed bag. They’ve made some brilliant moves—the Dansby Swanson trade was one of the best trades in recent memory—but some of their other trades they either sold low or didn’t get enough back, and they’ve done some flat-out puzzling things like signing Nick Markakis. They’re going to get back to contention at some point because of how good their farm system is now and how much better it will be after a huge upcoming international haul and at least 2-3 more years of high draft picks coming, but you’re going to see some more rough times at the MLB level before they’re ready to contend.
Chris (Twinstown): Our hapless Twins need help. Is there something to Nick Gordon's breakout thus far? Did Dee share some of his stuff? Thanks!
Ben Badler: I don’t know if it’s so much a breakout as it is a continuation of what he’s done over the last 11 months. Gordon was brutal the first two months of the 2015 season, but he keep in mind the context of him being a Florida kid getting thrown into the cold-weather months of the Midwest League. Since then, he took and he’s lived up to the pre-draft scouting reports.
Deeds (Chicago): The leap forward of the Phillies' top arms has been impressive, but has Mark Appel changed at all? Has all hope been lost?
Ben Badler: Depends what your expectations are from him. Are you counting on him being a top of the rotation type of starter? Then you’re going to be disappointed. But he’s still showing the potential to develop into a back-end starter of a quality reliever.
Greg (NY): How would you rate Max Fried's start to the season? The stuff seems to be great but the results much less so.
Ben Badler: With guys coming back from Tommy John surgery, command sometimes takes a little longer to come back, and not only did Fried miss the entire 2015 season, he barely pitched in 2014 either. So I’m inclined to cut him some slack as he makes his way back and see what he does in the second half of the season. But at the same time, that’s one of the reasons I wasn’t quite as high on him as others; banking on a guy who’s been out for two years and has a track record of shaky command is just a big risk to take on.
Greg (Portland): Who reaches the MLB first Swanson or Benintendi? Who do you prefer long term if Swanson moves to 2B
Ben Badler: Benintendi, unless the Braves decide to burn service time on Swanson this year, which would be a mistake. And Benintendi on talent overall, regardless of Swanson’s position. I’m a big believer in Swanson, but I just love Benintendi’s bat. He does everything you want to see in a good hitter; calm, balanced, fluid swing, great hand-eye coordination, patient approach, high contact frequency, consistently drives the ball with authority and the track record going back to college is impeccable.
Steve (PA): Is Espinoza the top ranked pitching prospect to begin next season?
Ben Badler: I don’t think Alex Reyes will lose his rookie eligibility this year. My money’s on him.
brian (Orlando): When guys sign on July 2, why don't they start immediately in the DSL or GCL this season? Why does it always seem like they wait until the following season to begin at those levels? Could an advanced international prospects handle diving right into it?
Ben Badler: The 16-year-old players who become eligible to sign on July 2 are signing contracts for the following season, so they are signing 2017 contracts. They can play in the Tricky League (an unofficial leagues where teams get their recent July 2 players together to play games instead of sit around), participate in US and Dominican instructs and any winter programs the team has, but they can’t play in games. But if a 17 or 18-year-old player signs on July 2, once their contract gets approved, they’re old enough to play in the DSL right away. Strictly on talent, I’m sure most of the top 16-year-old kids teams sign could jump into the DSL right away if they were given the opportunity, but there is an acclimation period too where teams like to get their players accustomed to the daily professional routine, both on and off the field. Essentially, all the basics and little things at the ground level that we take for granted and never see from far away but are important for player development to help build the foundation for these players.
Jeff (Kent): If Albert Abreu harnesses his control, can he be a future front line starter? Or is he closer to a mid rotation upside?
Ben Badler: Between the delivery and the repertoire, it’s a starter profile all the way for me. He has a plus fastball and three secondary pitches that can miss bats. You’re right, he does have to get the ball in the strike zone more, but there is a front-end starter ceiling in there.
Nils (NY): Have you heard any reports this year on Jorge Alfaro's defense at C? Do you think he will be able to stick there long term or is the jury still out?
Ben Badler: He’s only played 16 games behind the plate this year, so not much new to take away yet from this season. He’s crazy athletic for a catcher and his pure arm strength is outstanding, but at some point he can’t keep running back to the backstop this often, especially now that he’s nearly 23. The blocking and receiving have to make progress.
JT (Miami): Thanks for answering our questions. As a braves fan, should I be worried with the inconsistencies of the pitchers acquired via trade the past two offseasons? Newcomb, Touissant and Fried have tremendous upside, but seem to be their own worst enemy with their lack of control. Then you have Allard drafted last year who's yet to throw a pitch this season...
Ben Badler: For better or worse, that’s been their approach: Collect a bunch of high-risk, high-reward arms and hope they can develop their weak points to have some of them break through and reach those ceilings, even if most of them won’t work out. That’s why I prefer an approach like the Cubs where you’re building the farm through premium hitters who have high upside and less risk, but with the Braves, they at least have a high volume of those risky pitching prospects to give them more opportunities to hit on those players, even if a lot of them don’t ever break through.
Ben (Miamisburg, OH): Have the Reds been linked to any July 2 guys other than Alfredo Rodriguez? Word is they are going to go well over budget, but I'd like to see more than one high profile signing considering they cut about $50 million from payroll in the rebuild this year.
Ben Badler: As of right now, Rodriguez is the main one. The Reds are starting from a large bonus pool, so even if the Reds pay Rodriguez a premium for waiting until July 2 to sign and give him $7 million, which is what I expect will happen, it’s still conceivable at this point that they could trade for enough additional pool space to avoid any penalties.
Ben (Portland): Any prospects you are down on compared to your peers?
Ben Badler: Tim Anderson (approach worries me). Jorge Lopez (stuff has looked flat to me). Kyle Zimmer (tantalizing stuff, can’t trust ability to stay healthy).
Isaac (San Antonio): What do you think of Jorge Ona?
Ben Badler: Liked the swing, bat speed, power and arm strength when I saw him in the 18U tournament in Mexico, although when I saw him before he left Cuba, he had changed some things with his hitting mechanics, and some of the reports from scouts who didn’t see him in Mexico and only saw him in the DR haven’t been as optimistic. My full report is in our Top 20 Cuban players list from last year, but he’s definitely one of the better young Cuban players out there right now.
GPT (San Jose, CA): What is the international perspective on the rumored intl draft? What do the intl scouts think about it? Would they prefer it so that they can focus on scouting players rather than navigating the intl signing process yearly? Also they can get longer looks at players instead of having to come to agreements with 14-15 year olds.
Ben Badler: The majority of scouts I have spoken with are opposed to an international draft. Right now as a scout, you have the ability to go out and sign (or agree to sign) an international player 365 days a year. The ability to discover a player nobody else knows about or to beat someone else to the punch on a player holds a lot of appeal to a lot of scouts, especially old-school types. If you like a player, assuming you have the support from your ownership, you can go out and sign him. In a draft, you have to wait your turn and hope the player you want is still on the board when your pick comes. There are some scouts who would prefer a draft, mostly from teams that haven’t historically spent much money in the international arena, and there definitely is a growing uneasiness among scouts about trying to lock in players earlier and earlier, even though those same scouts are doing it themselves. On the whole, I think if you keep international free agency instead of going to a draft, gave every team the same bonus pool (say, $7 million each instead of the current tiered system) but teams weren’t allowed to exceed their bonus pools, I think most clubs would be happier.
Ben Badler: Thanks for all the questions. I’ll be back here again next week for the regular 2 pm ET chat.