J.J. Cooper MLB Prospects Chat (5/18/21)
- Is the GCL/AZL dead? What are players in extended spring doing?
J.J. Cooper: Hey everyone. Thanks for coming out. No the GCL/AZL are very much alive. Our Josh Norris recently wrote about that very subject here: https://www.baseballamerica.com/stories/whats-the-status-of-complex-leagues-in-arizona-florida-and-the-dominican-republic/ The GCL/AZL are slated to begin on June 28. In extended they are all playing/sim games/working out as they normally do. In fact we recently saw a number of Yankees reporters check out Jasson Dominguez at extended.
James (Fayetteville, GA):
- Hello JJ, I have been very intrigued by Zac Veen’s start to his professional career. I don’t see his 4 XBH and 0 HR as a huge cause for concern just yet but I am more so puzzled by his 10 SB in just 11 games. Are either of these surprises to those in the industry who saw him as a huge power, not much speed type of player?
J.J. Cooper: I don't think it changes the dynamic much, as smart baserunners can steal bases against Class A pitchers (and even Double-A pitchers) who aren't yet working on holding runners/being quick to the plate. Add in catchers who are still working on their throwing accuracy (and more focused on framing pitches) and it's open season for clever basestealers. Joey Votto stole 24 bases in 31 tries in AA in 2006, that's a stat that has long stuck with me. I think he's still more likely to be a middle-of-the-order hitter than a top-of-the-order speedster.
- Michael Harris has impressed and been a hot stock of recent but also has quite the log jam of Braves outfielders in front of him. How do you think his future will play out in terms of positioning? Cant see him moving Pache out of CF or Acuna out of RF, LF the only option barring a trade?
J.J. Cooper: That would be a wonderful problem for Atlanta, to have three players capable of playing CF playing in the same OF (Drew Waters is also a corner OF who can play CF on a team with lesser defenders than Pache/Acuna). This is a long-term issue more than short-term, as Pache has yet to stamp his hold on CF (he will, but hasn't yet) and Harris is still likely to be a couple of years away.
- Hi JJ. How are you? I just want to thank you and Baseball America for all you do. Your stories and content have really gotten me through a lot over the past year. Life has been tough for everyone, but all the quality work you all have done has been a very welcome distraction. Thank you!
J.J. Cooper: Thank you Charles, but more importantly thank you to everyone who has read and especially subscribed to us over the past year. Last March was a pretty frightening time if you're an all-baseball publication/Website. In the blink of an eye everything we covered just stopped. I don't want to be overly dramatic, as we're a Website and there were a lot of people who died/lost loved ones/lost jobs in the past year. But we did worry at that point when would everything we cover start back up. Would readers/subscribers simply say "I'll come back once baseball returns"? We didn't know the answers to that at the time. All we knew was there were still a lot of things to cover (MiLB-MLB reorg for one), a lot of questions we wanted to answer (we have a thousand baseball questions bouncing around our heads at all times and are fortunate to have a lot of smart people in baseball who will talk to us). And so we just kept doing what we do and hoping people would stick around. And you all did. Our traffic may have dipped (of course), but our subscribers didn't go anywhere. We were able to keep our entire editorial staff throughout the pandemic thanks to you all. We were able to keep publishing our magazine every month (after a one-month gap to figure out what to do since our scheduled MiLB preview was all of a sudden not applicable) and putting out our biggest draft preview maybe ever. So while your thanks if much appreciated, more importantly thank you Charles. Thank all of you. We're not a big company, but we made it through the last year-plus because of you all, our loyal subscribers/readers/friends. And now we have games going on again at all the levels we cover. Which means we now have 2,000 questions/stories bouncing around in our heads.
- What's your ETA for the Wander Franco callup?
J.J. Cooper: I still think we're a little ways away, but a lot of that will depend on the Rays MLB situation. Who is he going to replace? Coming into the year I would have said Joey Wendle at third, but Wendle's hitting and Brandon Lowe and Wily Adames aren't. I don't think Franco comes up unless he's going to be playing regularly, and I don't think the Rays are at that point yet. Midseason? (Now there will be an injury or something and he'll get called up tomorrow and I'll look clueless. It's OK).
- At what point do you start to worry about recent college bats who are struggling? Specifically I’m talking about Swaggerty, Rutchman, Martin ,Bleday Torkleson and and Bishop! Thanks
J.J. Cooper: I think there are some separate categories there. Rutschman isn't struggling. Don't focus on batting average. If a hitter has a .444 OBP and a .513 SLG with more walks than strikeouts, a .231 batting average is the part that's out of place, not the rest of the stats. I think we also have to give some pro debut grace to Martin and Tork. Yes, they have started very slowly, but it's a first pro season and in Martin's case, he's beginning his pro career in AA (a very aggressive assignment). Swaggerty hasn't been awful so far (again batting avg is less important than OBP/SLG), but what he's doing is also right in line with what he did pre-pandemic. I think he can be better than this, but we haven't seen many signs he's going to be a massively better hitter than this. I worry a little about Bleday's impact (maybe I'm wrong). I don't think we can make any proclamations about Bishop's season when Hunter Bishop played 3 games and then went on the IL.
- Nick Allen is suddenly hitting at AA. Some fundamental change for an A's fan to get excited about or just a small sample statistical oddity? thanks.
J.J. Cooper: Allen's current batting average on balls in play is .516. Pretty much no one finishes the season with a BABIP in the minors above .430-.440. So even if every other aspect of his game has improved, regression to the mean there would likely mean he's back to hitting .290 rather than his current .360. If he returns to a more normal BABIP, that batting average is going to really dip. His BB-rate is up (good), but he's also striking out at a much higher rate than ever before. So count me skeptical right now. I still really like the glove, and if he can keep up any part of this, it helps his path to the majors.
- As always, thanks for the chat. Love the Evan Carter story. Is his approach as good as all the walks suggest? Am I wrong to be excited about his potential?
J.J. Cooper: I have seen him one game in person, seen a few other games on MiLB.tv and talked to a couple of guys about him. I like his approach and he should continue to draw walks, but he also has shown plenty of swing and miss in the zone so far. Here's where it gets tough just two weeks into the season. Six of his games were against Kannapolis. Kannapolis has looked really bad so far (5.92 ERA, 1-11 record). Carter had a great week against a bad Kannapolis staff (.389/.517/.389). The next week against a better Carolina staff, he was .083/.318/.083. Yes, you should absolutely be excited about his potential. There are a lot of very clear tools he has right now. He's athletic. He runs well. He has an understanding of the strike zone. We heard good things last fall and in spring training this year. It's just that 12 games in, we're nowhere near getting a complete picture on any of these players.
- Some pitchers are off to hot starts. Lyon Richardson, Alec Marsh, Jake Eder, Roansy Contreras all seem to have some considerable upside. Do you see any of these guys hopping into the top 100 picture anytime soon? Which guys do you like most? Thanks!
J.J. Cooper: Contreras is closest to the Top 100 to me. He's been in complete control so far with solid stuff.
Dan (Wilmington, NC):
- Have you seen Hunter Greene this year? The velo of course gets the attention, but any sense for how his command/movement/secondaries have looked so far? I realize it's a crazy SSS, so I'm way more interested in the looks than his stats. Thanks!
J.J. Cooper: That's what I wrote about yesterday here: https://www.baseballamerica.com/stories/hot-sheet-baseballs-20-hottest-prospects-from-the-past-week-51721/ We HAVE to talk about the velocity because it's the most amazing top-end velocity you may ever see. Right now, Hunter Greene is already one of the hardest throwing starting pitchers of all-time. I don't think there's any dispute on that (as someone who has a soft spot for Steve Dalkwoski). But it's his improved slider that he can throw for strikes that has me more excited from his first three starts.
- Bowie’s Patrick Dorrian has a 255 wRC+ in 45 PAs with 5 HRs and 3 SBs. He’s old for the level but do the O’s have something here?
J.J. Cooper: Dorrian's a fascinating story. He was a Braves' draftee in 2014 who signed, than realized he didn't think he was ready for pro ball so he walked away. He's an example of a player who benefitted from the rules that now allows players (with restrictions) to return to JUCO/D-II after signing a pro contract. He had a productive career at D-II Lynn (Fla.) College. He's old for the level and this performance is a clear notch above where he's been before. When a player has a hot start like this, especially when old for the level, if I say that it's a fluke, I'm usually going to be right (Coming off back-to-back year where he failed to top .260, Ryan McKenna had a 2.5 month stretch for the O's Frederick club where he hit .377 in 2018, since then he's never hit above .240). But every now and then, this is the first glimmer of a real improvement. I don't have any great insight to tell you that Dorrian's first two weeks are that kind of breakthrough, but I will be keeping an eye on him.
rockLobster (Pacific Ocean):
- Jose Siri. Prospect or suspect? He is having a massive start to the season, but also clearly hasn't fixed all of his problems. Is he having a breakout or a fluky hot stretch?
J.J. Cooper: See the previous answer. Siri has always been an intriguing blend of tools and some clear issues in his game (namely with strikeouts and pitch selection). He's been waived twice since the start of 2020, designated for assignment and outrighted. Right now I'm going with fluky, but he's about to turn 27, so if you tell me this is his prime and he's getting ready to have the best season of his career, I'm not a complete skeptic.
J.J. Cooper: I'm sorry. I'm leaving dozens of questions in the queue but we also have a magazine going to press tomorrow. Thanks again everyone for reading and subscribing.