Teddy Cahill: Welcome to our final league Top 20 chat of the year. Hopefully you’ve enjoyed our rankings of all the minor leagues this year. They’re really the start of prospect season at Baseball America. There was a strong crop of prospects in the International League, so there should be plenty to talk about. Let’s get to it.
Johnny (Syracuse): Obviously this is a very deep league. How big of a difference is there between those top 4 (Turner, Buxton, Sanchez, Crawford)? Would all four of those guys have been number one in the PCL? Also, obviously he is still a great talent, but has your opinion of Buxton changed in the past couple of years?
Teddy Cahill: We’ll start at the top, where, wow, those four guys are really good. And you can even extend to five, where you have Tyler Glasnow, the top-ranked pitcher. I don’t think there is a ton of separation here. It’s very hard to go wrong with any of the top four. They all play a premium defensive position, and play it well. There may a some room between the top three and Crawford, just because those three have all played a lot in the big leagues already. I, personally, would take those three guys over Alex Reyes, the No. 1 prospect in the PCL. To me, there’s a strong case for Crawford and Glasnow over Reyes as well. But I’m not sure that others in the office would agree with me. That will be debated all winter, I’m sure.
Greg (Ohio): So should Turner be 1st overall pick in a 2014 redraft?
Teddy Cahill: It’s a little early to be redrafting the 2014 draft. We’re only talking about two full seasons having transpired since the draft originally took place. But, at this point, it’s fair to say that Turner has been the best player in that class. We’ll see what Kyle Schwarber looks like next year when he’s back playing, and I’d like to give high school players like Nick Gordon and Touki Toussaint time to work their way through the minors before officially anointing Turner, however.
Rick (SC): It is evident that the Braves' strongest prospect talents are mostly at the lower levels, but were any others at AAA given consideration?
Teddy Cahill: Ozzie Albies is the lone Brave to make the list. Dansby Swanson skipped the level and, as Rick notes, the Braves have stockpiled talent in the lower levels. But there were a few more who got some consideration. Aaron Blair was in the mix. Lucas Sims just barely qualified for the list, but pitched poorly with Gwinnett. And Rio Ruiz remains somewhat interesting as a prospect. Blair had the best case for inclusion.
Mike (Minnesota): Has Buxton seen his last days in AAA? Do you see him as a breakout candidate next year for the Twins and become a player they can build around in the future? What is a realistic stat line in your opinion for him next year?
Teddy Cahill: I would have to figure Buxton is done with the minor leagues. He’s shown that he can succeed in Triple-A and he played well after his final call up to Minnesota. I think at this point he just has to do it in the big leagues. Although, with a new front office regime coming to Minnesota, it’s harder to predict how they will handle everything. But I’m not sure he’s a true breakout candidate because it wouldn’t be a surprise if it happened. He certainly could have a big year next season. And, yes, I think he remains a key building block. He’s still really good and will play all of next season as a 23-year old.
Ryan (Louisville): How big is the separation between a guy like Glasnow and Berrios or Garrett?
Teddy Cahill: For me, there is a clear separation between Glasnow and Blake Snell, the top two pitchers on the rankings, and Jameson Taillon. Then I see another clear cut between Taillon and that group of pitchers that includes Mike Clevinger, Jose Berrios and Amir Garrett. Glasnow and Snell have the potential to be front of the rotation guys. Taillon was a reliable member of the Pirates’ rotation in the second half. Clevinger, Berrios and Garrett have the ability to become solid starters, but there are more questions and they don’t have the upside that Glasnow and Snell have.
dave (erie pa.): Morimando, merritt, plutko, clevinger, anyone have more than 5th starter potential? Also, is drew stubbs in a good year fair comp for zimmer?
Teddy Cahill: Clevinger certainly does. He has really good stuff, he just needs to find a way to command it a bit better. If he does that, he’s more of a middle-of-the-rotation type. If he doesn’t, he probably ends up in the bullpen. I’ll take Plutko as the next best, but he doesn’t have big upside. He’s long been one of my favorite prospects because he just has a really good understanding of pitching and knows how to get outs. Shawn Morimando and Ryan Merritt are both interesting, but neither has overpowering stuff, limiting their ceiling.
Darryl Reese (Fairfax County, VA): What do you think about the two Nats prospect pitchers Austin Voth and AJ Cole? Will they be trade bait or have a impact on the club next season.
Teddy Cahill: Washington has a crowded rotation already, and Lucas Giolito and Reynaldo Lopez are pushing into that mix. That makes it tough for Cole and Voth to break through. It’s almost impossible to say they’ll make an impact next season considering the Nats can run out a rotation of Strasburg, Scherzer, Ross, Roark and Gio Gonzalez (if they pick up his option), with Giolito and Lopez in reserve. But that doesn’t mean that Cole and Voth have to be trade bait. The Nationals know all too well how fast starting pitching depth can evaporate. But Mike Rizzo is very good at making deals happen, so you never know who might get moved.
Jimmy Jim (Jimmers, JM): How close was Casey Gillaspie and what kind of feedback did you get on him? Thanks!
Teddy Cahill: Honestly, I didn’t expect to be ranking Gillaspie when I started working on the list. But the feedback was solid. He played well after getting promoted to Durham, showing power and a feel to hit. That’s kind of always been his deal, but as a first baseman, that’s what he’s got to do. I think he’s put himself in a position to get to Tampa some time next season.
Willy (North Carolina): Blair, Jenkins, Gant - do you see any of these 3 locking down meaningful roles, either in the rotation or bullpen for Atlanta in '17?
Teddy Cahill: Outside of Julio Teheran starting on Opening Day and Jim Johnson being the closer, I’d have to think the Braves have pretty much every role on the pitching staff up for grabs. So, yeah, any of those guys could find a way to make the team. I’d guess Blair gets a spot in the rotation and Gant goes to the pen. I’m not really sure what to make of Tyrell Jenkins at this point. But they’ll all be given an opportunity.
Buff (Colorado): How close were pitcher of the year Jake Thompson and Robert Stephenson?
Teddy Cahill: Stephenson was the last player cut. There were versions of this list with him on it. Thompson was in the mix at the back and will be a starter in the big leagues, but we don’t see him being overly impactful, pushing him behind some of these other pitchers at the back end of the list.
j (Philly): Did you consider putting Andrew Knapp on the list?
Jim (McMaster): How close was Jorge Polanco to making the list? What did scouts have to say on him?
Teddy Cahill: Taking this and the question above together because the answer is pretty similar. Knapp and Polanco were both in the mix as capable defenders at premium positions. Neither has a particularly high ceiling, but players in the middle of the diamond are valuable.
Dave (Houston): Alen Hanson - prospect or suspect?
Teddy Cahill: Yes? There are intriguing tools there for sure. I think you’re looking at a speedy utility player. That’s a valuable piece and I think the Pirates can figure out a way to use him well. But I don’t think his future is as an everyday middle infielder, as it was once believed to be.
Jeb (IC): What are your thoughts on Glasnow and Taillon? Taillon seems like a Josh Beckett, and Glasnow could be anywhere from a power reliever to frontline starter.
Teddy Cahill: I’m a big fan of them both. I’m fascinated by the way Taillon changed once he was encouraged to throw his two-seamer more often, and I’ve been on the Glasnow bandwagon for quite some time. I think those two will be mainstays in the Pirates rotation for the next several years.
Dave (Akron, OH): Hi Ted! Thanks for the chat. How close were Adam Plutko, Yandy Diaz and Erik Gonzales to making the list? Thanks!
Teddy Cahill: As I previously mentioned, Adam Plutko is a favorite of mine. But he was never really in the mix because his ceiling just isn’t as high as some of these other pitchers. Diaz and Gonzalez were thrown around a little more seriously. I think Gonzalez was closer because he’s a solid defender at shortstop, but Diaz is an intriguing player. His biggest downside is his below-average power, but his hittability is there and the Indians have done a good job of adding defensive versatility to his game. Both could be pretty valuable pieces for Cleveland in the near future.
Sam (Washington DC): Is Austin Voth a future back-end SP or a RP? Does he have a future for the Nats, or for someone else?
Teddy Cahill: I’ve done the Nats ranking for a few years now and have always liked Voth while I’ve been putting that together. I think betting against him as a starter wouldn’t be wise. It’s difficult to see him as a starter in Washington given the competition, but I would have said the same thing about Tanner Roark a couple years ago. So you never know. But if they did move him to the bullpen, I think he would have success there. He’s savvy and his stuff would probably play up a tick in short stints.
John (Pittsburgh): What is Austin Meadows ceiling? Could he be as good as McCutchen?
Justin (Iowa): What should the Pirates do with McCutchen once Meadows is ready?
Teddy Cahill: Answering this and the question above together (y’all couldn’t see it, but they were back-to-back in the queue). Austin Meadows has a chance to be really, really good. Before this year, Andrew McCutchen has been one of the best players in baseball for several seasons, so I’m not going to drop that on Meadows. But I am a believer in Meadows, and have been since he was a high school player in Georgia. What you do with McCutchen when Meadows is ready (which could be as soon as next year) is complicated because he’s a franchise player who is entering his 30s. The Pirates have a full outfield and no DH spot, so something has to give somewhere. But they don’t need to do anything in the immediate term. Meadows still has work to do and the jump to the big leagues is a big one.
Teddy Cahill: I’m so glad that you stopped in. And I had some things to say. But that’ll be it for today. Again, I hope you all enjoyed our league top 20s the last couple weeks. The fall is a busy time at Baseball America, so enjoy reading all the great stuff we have going on between the AFL, Mike Trout winning Player of the Year and recruiting rankings (hard to believe I went this long without plugging those). And thanks for your questions today.