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J.J. Cooper Top MLB Prospects Chat (6/18/19)

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Ty France (Photo courtesy of El Paso)

Andy J (Los Angeles): 

    I’m starting to be very very happy with the Puig trade. What are Gray and Downs’ ceilings? Gray is starting to look awfully good.


J.J. Cooper: Hey everyone. Thanks for coming out. I'm in South Bend for the Midwest League ASG so I am going to have to keep this to a productive 30 minutes. I'll try to get to a ton of questions in that time. Gray was viewed as an extremely high upside prospect because he was so new to pitching. His athleticism has helped him make a very nice adjustment to a much heavier pitching workload and his stuff has gotten better and better. He's one of the prospects who has done a lot to help himself this year.

Ben H. (Columbus, Ohio): 

    When will the newly drafted players be added to the top 100 prospect list (if any?) Any insight on where Rutchman and Vaughn might land on the list? How many of the newly-drafted players are being seriously considered? Thanks! Ben H.


J.J. Cooper: We plan to add them in our July update. Normally 12-15 Top 100 prospects crack the 100 by the end of the season. I would expect more like 7-10 making it in the first update, and you will not have to scan very far down the Top 100 to find Rutschman.

Doug (Centennial): 

    How would you rank Drew Waters ,Christian Pache and Dylan Carlson in terms of future upside?


J.J. Cooper: Pache has the highest upside. Carlson has the safest floor as he's a more well-rounded hitter. Waters could equal Pache as a better hitter, but one with less defensive value.

Warren (New London): 

    The new Hot Sheet gushes over Cristian Pache's center field defense, consistent with what we've heard before. Can you explain why they used him so often in right field, and even twice in left field, in April and especially in May? I can understand giving Drew Waters a few games in CF, but why would they move Pache for Connor Lien and Ray-Patrick Didder?


J.J. Cooper: Plenty of value to letting a guy play everywhere in the outfield because the reads are different in the corners. If there is an injury in the big leagues where they may need Pache to play in a corner, giving him experience playing there in AA is a good thing. He is excellent in CF, but the way things work if Acuna is in CF and they needed Pache for a week, they wouldn't necessarily move Acuna for those few days.

Nathan (Indiana): 

    Who are your favorites (not named Wander Franco) playing in the Midwest League All Star game tonight?


J.J. Cooper: Several things stood out yesterday. One-Brice Turang has gotten physically bigger/stronger than the last time I saw him in person. Two. Nico Hulsizer looks like a gem of an 18th round pick. Three. Alek Thomas generates very impressive power from a smaller frame. Four. That was just a HR derby/autograph session. Whole lot more to see with an actual game tonight.

Justin (Tucson, AZ): 

    I’ve read reviews on Deivi Garcia stating that he’s a 3-4 starter. But the consistent K/9 and insanely low FIP and xFIP he’s put up over his career are astonishing. Will he be a top 10 SP prospect for you mid season and have a #2 ceiling?


J.J. Cooper: No. The numbers are great. The stuff/control does not match it as well. That's why we consistently have him a little closer to the back of the 100.

Ray (KC): 

    Oneil Cruz doesn't seem to be showing much thus far. Is his prospect shine fading?


J.J. Cooper: He's just been hurt a lot this year. He's not fading as much as not playing because of injuries which means in many cases out of sight, out of mind.

Preston (Korea): 

    What does Kyle Tucker need to work on to take that next step in order to have success in the majors?


J.J. Cooper: Play for a team that isn't so loaded. Alvarez leap-frogged him this year to fill the DH hole, so barring injury it may be 2020 before there's a clear everyday opening in Houston. He's also one of the best trade chips available if the Astros did decide they are willing to deal from cost-controlled surplus.

Norm C (Connecticut): 

    How unusual is it to have a #1 still in Low A ball?


J.J. Cooper: Reasonably unusual. Was the case with Andruw Jones in 1995 going into 1996 season and Bryce Harper in 2011. Off the top of my head I'm struggling to come up with an obvious guy since then that has done it.

Bob (Texas): 

    If the Braves offered you either Kolby Allard or Tucker Davidson to complete a trade which would you take?


J.J. Cooper: Davidson. When we do our midseason rankings that will be reflected in them.

a AAA baseball (the Bleachers): 

    Are we maybe giving a little too much credit to the baseballs at the AAA level? I get that offensive numbers are up across the board, but in the prospect hot sheet for Sheldon Neuse, BA said, "It's difficult to tell if anything has truly improved given the context of Las Vegas and the introduction of the major league ball to Triple-A." Meanwhile, the guy's strike-out rate has dropped from 32% to 22% and his walk rate is up from 5.9% to 11.5%, both of which seem like clear indications of improvement, regardless of the baseball


J.J. Cooper: I don't think it's possible to give too much credit to the baseballs in Triple-A. The difference right now between AA baseball and AAA baseball is like the difference between 1968 MLB baseball and 1995 MLB baseball. Give credit to Neuse for improving, but the reality of it is that hitting is buoyed by confidence/positive reinforcement and Las Vegas/the West side of the PCL is the best boost of confidence any hitter could get. The walk rate bump is also likely in part based on the fact that pitchers know that any mistake gets absolutely punished. The walk rate in Triple-A baseball has gone from 3.2 BB/9 to 3.7 BB/9 this year for a reason.

izzy (VA): 

    How come players seem to steal so much more in the minors. Is this just because pitchers/catchers just don't work on holding them on as much?


J.J. Cooper: Because they are developmental leagues while the games in the big leagues count. For one, SBs are down in the majors because teams have become very cautious about only stealing if it is clearly going to be beneficial analytically--a lot of the SBs in the past were completely wiped out as far as benefits by caught stealings. Also, teams are more reluctant to have their best players get worn out by the pounding/injury risks that stolen bases create.

joe (Coffeyville, Ks): 

    Which Midwest prospect are you most looking forward to watching?


J.J. Cooper: Wander Franco. It's been nearly three months since I saw Franco hit. That's too long!

Jarren Duran (Portland): 

    Am I going to move up in the top 100 in the July rankings or should I just be happy to be on the list?


J.J. Cooper: I would expect Duran will keep moving up. The man can really hit. Sorry everyone for a slightly shorter than normal Tuesday chat, but I have 2 phone interviews to do before heading out to the ballpark. Follow along at @jjcoop36 on Twitter/@jjcooperBA on Instagram tonight for coverage from the MWL all-star game while @kyleAglaser will be at the California League All-Star Game. We'll have plenty of coverage at www.baseballamerica.com later tonight/tomorrow. Also we have the college crew in Omaha providing all the CWS coverage you need for the rest of this week and next as well.

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