Jay (Queens, NY): Where would Kaprielian have ranked here? And speaking of NYY pitchers, how close was Ian Clarkin?
John Manuel: Truly impossible to know on Kaprielian, because part of the evaluation comes from pitching every five days with regularity. But on the pure stuff he showed in the first three starts before he got hurt, had he been able to maintain that over, say, 10 starts and then earned a promotion to Double-A, as seems likely, he definitely would have been the first pitcher ranked. His stuff is as good or better than Reid-Foley, he has better command, he is significantly better than Reid-Foley for me. But he’d have to stay healthy, and scouts I talked to have their doubts about that considering Kap’s delivery. We’ll see if it gets cleaned up when he comes back. Clarkin really didn’t have much of a shot, our reports are that he pitched with less stuff and fringe-average stuff, without a true plus.
Kyle (Dallas, TX): What were evaluators' opinions of Mike Gerber?
John Manuel: Fairly mixed and not too dissimilar than I thought. He plays some CF but isn’t probably good enough for center field; he’s playable in right field, a solid-average defender. There was more swing-and-miss to his game than I might have expected, and he can hit a little. Most of the evaluators I talked to that liked him described him as fringe-average to average across the board at best. He’s a different way of getting to a similar end of Tyler Collins, to put it in Tigers context.
J.P. (Springfield, IL): Thanks for chatting, John. How high are you on Blake Trahan, and what are his chances to stick at short?
John Manuel: The scouts I talked to are fairly tepid on Trahan as an everyday player. Usually when I talk about Trahan and hear that, I throw out a Nick Punto comp, and that almost always draws a response of, “That’s good, that works.” Honestly I think that’s his upside; more in the bat this year than last year’s short, unimpressive FSL run, but less likely to be a regular due to the lack of impact in the bat.
Paul (Pittsburgh): Hey can you tell us about Yeudy Garcia and if he was considered for your list, thanks
John Manuel: Was considered and has a Top 20-caliber arm, sitting with a 91-95 mph fastball and reaching 94-96 at times. But no secondary pitch stood out for anyone I talked to; he’s 23; and he struggled with lefthanded hitters (.734 OPS). Those items dropped him out of top 20 consideration.
Grant (NYC): Surprised not to see Jack Flaherty here, what gives? And was Derian Gonzalez considered?
John Manuel: I like Flaherty as much, if not more, as anyone at BA. But I’m waiting for him to take a step forward and keep asking, and it hasn’t happened, not according to our sources. He’s young, but the guys I talked to projecting a 70 changeup out of high school, well, that’s still projection. It’s not a now plus pitch according to folks I have spoken with. The best report I got on him lauded his fastball’s late life and low-90s velocity but also knocked him for lack of fastball command, and I have two reports in front of me with average-ish secondary stuff. So I like him but he didn’t quite make the cut. Derian Gonzalez pitched just 24 innings and didn’t qualify. Matt Pearce and his extreme command got the next-most consideration from folks I talked to on the Palm Beach pitching staff.
Gerry (Toronto): I am wondering where Richard Urena is among all your shortstops. If he didn't qualify in the FSL will he qualify in the eastern league or has he fallen through the top 20 qualification cracks?
John Manuel: He was in the 21-25 range of guys I left out, and I probably could have put him as high as No. 18. He certainly performed better than Dunedin teammate Conner Greene, but I went for upside on Greene. I like Urena; I don’t see him as a future all-star but can see him as a potential regular at shortstop. The scouts I talked to that saw him didn’t go plus on any tool, and he seemed more likely to move to 2B or even 3B than any of high higher-ranked peers due to average range and a 55 arm, rather than a true plus. But he can hit some, he makes contact, has some juice … might be a 2nd division regular shortstop but again, if he winds up better than Adams, or Nido, that wouldn’t shock me. He was a tough one to leave out.
John (St Paul): Did Tyler Jay not qualify? Seems like a glaring omission....
John Manuel: No, he qualified … but no one’s sure if he’s a starter or reliever going forward. His injury late in the year gives me pause that he can handle the starter’s workload; I’m confident Gonsalves can. I see Chance Adams, a college reliever last year, pitches off his fastball more and handled the workload, with his stuff crisp to the very end. Jay’s lefthanded and probably more athletic than Adams; I see the argument for both. But the durability piece is pretty huge to be a starter, and for me, I’ll take a No. 3 starter upside over a lefty potential closer. The LHPs in big league bullpens who are more than matchup guys … Britton, Chapman, Andrew Miller … I don’t see him at that elite level. Maybe I’m selling the slider short. He was in that 18-25 range as I mentioned last question with Urena. I was pretty confident in the first 17 guys being Top 20 guys, but after that I was less sure.
Rob (Alaska): I'd love to hear more about the comp between Torres and Javier Baez. That one confuses the heck out of me. Thanks for the chat.
John Manuel: He does some things like Baez; he doesn’t have that level of bat speed, but his swing reminded scouts and managers of Baez’s swing due to the leg kick and swing path. But of course the defining characteristic of Baez is his bat speed and aggression. Torres has less bat speed and more controlled aggression. To me the other similarity is he can play shortstop but might wind up a better defender at 3B. To me, Baez can play SS, but he looks like a Gold Glover at third. I got similar reports on Torres; he can play SS, even got 60 grades on him at short. But I had one scout opine he thought Torres would hit for enough power as he matured to be a 6 power 3B with potential Gold Glove ability at third.
Jeff (Wildwood,NJ): LHP Elneiry Garcia get any consideration for the list?
John Manuel: Clearwater had a lot of guys who would have ranked if I went 30-60 deep; Garcia is one of them. He’s small-framed, that’s an issue going forward, how durable will he be? He might be 170 pounds wet. But he’s got a quick arm, an average fastball that plays up, changeup is still his 3rd pitch … sounds like a lefty reliever to me.
Buck farmer (Iowa): Was Tyler Mahle in consideration? Thoughts on his future?
John Manuel: He was, a 20-30 type of guy. I got good reports on Mahle as well, and he threw the league’s lone nine-inning no-hitter this year. He has a feel for using four pitches; I haven’t found a scout yet to throw a plus grade on any of the four, that’s what kept him off the list and makes him more of a fourth starter, but I think he’s a starter, and I like his trajectory. I hope I’m selling him short, because I like him.
Hansford (Mansfield, Tx): Was tyler jay eligible for this list? If so, how did he go from being number 43 on the midseason top 100 to not being a top 20 FSL prospect?
John Manuel: Quick answer, to reiterate, is he got hurt and showed, at least to me, that him being a starter is a very open question. In fact, I think it’s unlikely.
Chris (SF): I am surprised (maybe even shocked) to see Castiilo ahead of Honeywell. Were people high on Castiilo, down on Honeywell, or a little of both?
John Manuel: It says more about Castillo. Honeywell has a great fastball; Castillo throws harder consistently and throws a ton of fastball strikes. One spot of difference in a ranking is fairly insignificant in a grand scheme of things; their reports basically come down to the inconsistency of Honeywell’s secondary stuff according to our FSL reports, while Castillo has a consistently above-average secondary pitch in his changeup. They don’t check IDs on the mound, so the age difference didn’t matter as much to me considering they are pitchers.
Juan peguero (Dom rep): Quien tiene más potencial de ser estrella gleyber torres o eloy jimenez? ??
John Manuel: Google Translate says, Yo prefiero Torres porque es un shortstop.
Eddy (New York City): Was Wuilmer Becerra close? I was surprised to see Nido on the list ahead of him. I thought Becerra, even though he was injured this year, had the prospect pedigree and a very nice batting average early on. And, if you have time, were any other Mets considered? Thanks.
John Manuel: Becerra was considered despite his inability to control the strike zone. He’s interesting, but when I had scouts and managers telling me they thought Nido was a potential big league regular at catcher, I found out he was ahead of Becerra on their pref lists, so I put Nido ahead. He’s a bit of a late bloomer but that happens with catchers.
Billy (Boston): Seems like an awfully low ranking for Christin Stewart -- how bad can his defense be in left field? By OPS he didn't just lead the FSL he virtually lapped the field. By wRC+ his 174 is eye-popping. I know there's little defensive value there, but a bat like that seems special. What am I missing?
John Manuel: It was reportedly that bad, across the board. The comparable players we came up with talking about 20-30 grade defenders were guys like Jack Cust or Ben Grieve or Pedro Alvarez, guys who have value but don’t have value for long; he’s one of those ‘old player skills’ players Bill James talked about. He definitely lapped the field offensively, and he does have track record. He did play in a cozy home park but slugged on the road too, so I do have some faith in the bat. But the defensive reports really were bottom of the scale bad.
Matt (Madison): Could we see Woodruff in MIL next year? Can he be a solid MOR starter if the control gains remain intact?
John Manuel: Next year seems aggressive, but it’s that kind of arm, and he really took off this year. Don’t forget, the guy was a fifth-round pick out of high school. He’s always had big-time talent; kudos to the Brewers for bringing it out of him.
Larry (Milwaukee): What happened to Kodi Medeiros? Is he a lost cause?
John Manuel: Not lost but certainly struggled. He had a groin injury and wasn’t able to get his delivery in sync most of the year. I wouldn’t give up hope yet, but that was a non-consensus pick to take him that high at No. 12 overall, and so far, that hasn’t worked out. That whole Brewers ’14 draft class with Kodi & Jacob Gatewood & Monte Harrison … they swung for the fences that year. I remember liking the attempt but it carried a lot of risk, and it seems like risk is winning over reward.
Dave (Mpls): What is Fernando Romero's likely future role? I was expecting him to be even higher on the list!
John Manuel: He’s pretty high for a guy who’s never pitched 100 IP in a year. His stuff is electric, and in terms of just upside, he would belong higher, but there’s still plenty of risk with a 6-foot righty who hasn’t shown he can handle a starter’s workload over a full season.
Dave (DC): Where is Rosario for you among future NL east shortstops - behind Swanson and Crawford? Significantly?
John Manuel: I might take Rosario over Crawford; I may be alone in that but I was fairly alarmed by Crawford’s season this year. Rosario vs. Swanson, I haven’t asked a scout that one head-to-head, would be interesting to hear what I got. I give an edge to Swanson but it’s slight. I’d take Trea Turner, if he goes back to SS, over all of them.
James (Cincinnati): Was Jimmy Herget a candidate for the Top 20 list? Heard he has great stuff, albeit from an unconventional way of doing it
John Manuel: He’s interesting, definitely will be in the Reds Top 30, and yes, he’s funky but has good stuff to go with it. He varies his arm angle and release point but still throws strikes that way, which makes him quite rare, with a fastball up to 95. I heard good stuff about Herget but hope that there were 20 future starters and regulars to rank ahead of the relievers in a Class A league. And there were.
Michael (Miami): Chances Luis Castillo is the Marlins best RHP prospect? Is he a starter or bullpen arm to you?
John Manuel: I’m not doing our Marlins list, that’s in the capable hands of Vince Lara-Cinisomo, but other than Braxton Garrett, I can’t think of another better Marlins prospect off the top of my head. I think he’s going to start or else I wouldn’t have jacked him up this list.
Timothy (Bronx): I like Mark Payton because he is my height at 5'7! He seems to hit and hit and hit, does he have a chance to carve out a major league role?
John Manuel: Payton didn’t play enough to qualify here. I saw Payton in college, then saw him again this year in the Triple-A championship game. He’s maybe 5-foot-8, he can hit, he swings at strikes … I can see him being a fifth outfielder type, an up and down guy. He’s not Adam Eaton, but I suspect he’ll wear an MLB uniform at some point.
Brandon (Connecticut): Will Jorge Mateo stick at shortstop? Or do you believe the Yankees have too much shortstop depth and that he should get shifted elsewhere? Last I saw, Yankees had him giving center field a shot in instructs.
John Manuel: Most scouts I talked to thought if he wasn’t going to play shortstop that he should just move to center field, where his speed will play very well. He’s an electric athlete who could be an impact defensive player in CF. I’m not sure he has the skills to be as good at second base as he can be in center, so I do see CF as his future home.
Dave (Appleton, WI): Is Corey Ray good enough defensively to stick in Centerfield or will he eventually have to slide over to a corner outfield spot?
John Manuel: Reports on Ray defensively were solid. He’s clearly got the speed for center. I think it will be a matter of reps and aptitude. He just didn’t get a ton of chances to play center field in college. I don’t think he’s ever going to be Jarrod Dyson out there but he should be able to become an average defender in center.
Scott (Delaware): You noted Clearwater had the best overall full season record, and a roster full of solid prospects, yet only Scott Kingery made your list. Can you name the "solid prospects", and tell me who came close to your top 20 ?
John Manuel: Carlos Tocci was next, and the team was strong up the middle with him in center, Malquin Canelo playing a solid shortstop (though scouts were mixed on his bat and mostly not fans of his hitting ability), Kingery at second and another late-blooming catcher, Chance Numata. Also mentioned were Thomas Eshelman, Tyler Viza and one of the league’s best relievers, Victor Arano.
JD (AZ): Hi John, thanks for the chat. Wondering what kept Richard Urena off this list?
John Manuel: I went through the Urena reasons before, but want to respond once more because there is a high volume of Urena questions. Comparing Urena to just other Blue Jays prospects … He’s not a better prospect than Anthony Alford from this league. As I wrote in the report Alford’s tools and performance bounced back in robust fashion from his early injuries; he’s more of an impact bat at a premium position in center field. I’m working on the Blue Jays’ top 10 & top 30 right now, and I can tell you Urena is, at best, going to rank No. 3 among the Jays’ position players, behind Alford and Vladimir Guerrero Jr. Both Alford and especially Vlad have more impact potential than Urena does, especially true if Urena is not a shortstop.
John Manuel: Gotta run but thank you for the questions. Correspondent and former BA staffer Lacy Lusk will be here tomorrow to chat Carolina League. Enjoy!