Prospect Hot Sheet Chat (Aug. 5)

Philip (San Diego): Alex Faedo- Top college pitcher for 2017 MLB draft?
J.J. Cooper: In the mix. Obviously we don’t know yet who will end up as the No. 1 college pitching prospect in the ’17 draft. 2 years ago we could have been talking about Michael Matuella. Last year Alec Hansen was in that mix nine months out. So a lot can happen from now til next June but Faedo, Tanner Houck, Tristan Beck, J.B. Bukauskas, Alex Lange and Kyle Wright are all guys who have shots at being the top or one of the top arms in next year’s draft. What Faedo has going for him is a pretty impressive track record at a top school in a tough conference.

FC (New York): Do you consider Alford or Urena to be the better prospect at this point?
J.J. Cooper: Still going to go with Alford. I know it’s been a pretty disappointing year for Alford, but he did have some significant injuries that explain that to some extent, most notably a concussion. He’s hit pretty well since July 1 and the tools are still impressive.

Mark (DC): There seems to be a huge difference between different people on Phil Bickford. Baseball America has him rated highly while others are unimpressed. What is your opinion on Bickford?
J.J. Cooper: All I can do is explain how we have him evaluated. We think he has a good shot to be a middle-of-the-rotation starting pitcher–a No. 3 or a No. 4. Some may say that’s awfully bullish, some may say that seems less than what they expected as an answer from us. Generally Bickford’s fastball generates more swings and misses than you would expect for a fastball of his velocity. It has good movement and his delivery makes it hard for hitters to pick it up. Bickford’s stuff has backed up a little recently, which probably has something to do with this being his first full pro season. But his fastball/slider combination is why he’s been drafted in the first round twice. There is a chance that he ends up as a two-pitch reliever, but his ability to pitch off his fastball is impressive, which is why we like him.

Anthony (Washington DC): Francisco Mejia's streak is crazy. He's always been known as a defensive catcher, though. Are you ready to say he's the complete package? With Gary Sanchez now in the MLB is he the top MiLB catcher?
J.J. Cooper: He’s in the top tier. I would probably still put Jorge Alfaro ahead of him because Alfaro has louder tools and is closer to the big leagues, but beyond that, he’s our next best catcher in the minors. His streak is crazy. I do think people are under-estimating just how special this is. I’m an MILB records geek. I’m proudly an MILB record geek. What he has done so far is already very unique and impressive. An argument could be made that a hit streak is less important than a lot of other records because a hitter could go 1-for-5 every day and have a hit streak despite a .200 batting average. Yeah, that’s true. And it is true that Ted Williams outhit Joe DiMaggio in 1941 during Dimaggio’s 56-game hit streak. But there’s something that is very impressive about getting a hit every day, especially when you’re a catcher like Mejia that gets very few infield hits. The best way I can explain it is this. Since Jackie Robinson integrated baseball in 1946 (since he played in the minors the year before he arrived in Brooklyn), only one player has had a hit streak longer than Mejia. If you go back 70 years from 1946 to 1876, you’re talking about the birth of professional baseball. B-Ref only goes back to 1877. We’re now 70 years removed from 1946. So in the 70 years since baseball was integrated, Mejia has the second longest hit streak. That’s amazing.

Kent (Tri-Town): Do you guys have a bias against certain players for some reason? Example: Franchy Cordero! Having his best season in AA, (at 21!) and is the ONLY MILB player with a quadruple-double (double-digits in 2B, 3B, HR, SB!) And nary a mention of his name at all. Very disappointing!
J.J. Cooper: I wouldn’t call it a bias, but the stats you cite are a pretty odd mix. There’s not really anything magical about a quadruple double and it’s not something that normally gets cited. Cordero’s steals aren’t really all that valuable because he gets thrown out a lot and his power is solid but not spectacular .But Cordero has made strides this year as he’s gotten more and more comfortable in the outfield. In the long run, his high strikeout rates and low walk rates are a little troubling, but he is a guy I look forward to asking a lot about as we work on our League Top 20s coming up.

Bronson (San diego): Why isn't Michael Gettys getting more love? Yes his strike outs are high but they're trending downward. I feel like Clint Frazier and Gettys are extremely similar.
J.J. Cooper: I’m sorry, but I don’t really see the similarities. They are both high school outfielders from Georgia (one year apart in the draft), but they are pretty different in their overall games. Both are interesting prospects but in different ways. Gettys is a much faster runner and a better defender while Frazier has a better hit tool and more productive power. As you noted, strikeouts have been a problem for Gettys as a pro, especially as Gettys doesn’t really get to the raw power he’ll show in BP. Gettys has had a higher strikeout rate than Frazier throughout his career, even though Gettys has been on a slower track through the minors than Frazier. And Frazier has always shown more productive power than Gettys. Gettys strength and ability to run will by him plenty of time to try to add refinement, but he’s a much riskier bet to be a regular than Frazier in my opinion.

Scott (CT): A player that has intrigued me this year, albeit in the Pioneer League, is Meibrys Viloria. Guy has just hit, and hit, and hit. However, last year, he had (and I could be wrong), no extra base hits at all! Just looking for an opinion on this kid. Has he figured something out, or is he a product of the league? Thanks for the chat!
J.J. Cooper: I’ve been a Viloria fan since seeing him in Rookie-level Burlington in 2014. If that doesn’t make me the conductor on the Viloria hype train I’m at least shoveling coal into the furnace. I’m working up a feature for next week on him. He’s a really impressive hitter and a very high-energy catcher with the work ethic to go with the tools. That league is a great place to hit, but .450 is .450. No one hits .450 and he’s hitting .450. Worth paying attention to.

Bob (Mississippi): Is Reyes the real deal? Is his upside compared to say, Jose Fernandez?
J.J. Cooper: It’s hard to compare many to Jose Fernandez because he was a combination of stuff and precociousness. As a 20-year-old, Fernandez was putting together a Cy Young-caliber season in the National League. As a 21-year-old, Reyes has a 5.31 ERA and 4.5 walks/9 in Triple-A. But Reyes has a chance to be a potentially dominant starter in the long term if he can take the steps forward with his control that some but not all young pitchers do as they settle into their mid-20s. His fastball/changeup/curveball combo is electric, but he’s not ready yet to be a big league starter. There is still work to do. Now I do think he could help the Cardinals as a reliever at some point later this year.

Gary (Utica): Now that the Yankees have thrown in the towel for this season, when can we expect the Tyler Austin era to begin? Can he have an immediate impact, a la Greg Bird?
J.J. Cooper: I don’t know how to word this that doesn’t come across snarky and snark isn’t my thing, but I don’t expect there’s going to be a Tyler Austin era. He has a very good shot at being a big leaguer, which is an accomplishment, but I think he’s more likely to be a guy who battles for regular ABs rather than one who a team sticks in the lineup and just hands 500 ABs.

Jason (Austin): How high could we see Jiménez jump on next year's top 100 prospects list? It seems that he has to be the favorite for the Midwest league MVP. How many 19 year old son can say that besides Trout?
J.J. Cooper: High. Very high. Here’s a quick list of 18 and 19-year-old Midwest League MVPs since 2000. Adrian Gonzalez, 2001; Prince Fielder 2002 (actually he was 18); Mike Trout, 2010; Rymer Liriano, 2011 (turned 20 halfway through the year); Miguel Sano, 2012; Byron Buxton 2013. It’s a pretty impressive list.

Tim (St. Louis): What type of prospect is Jordan Hicks? I keep hearing his name as a fast rising prospect.
J.J. Cooper: He’s a long ways away and needs a lot of refinement but Hicks has a great fastball and is figuring out how to use it. Expect to see him on the Apply League Top 20.

Steve (Jenkintown): What the heck is a Sixto Sanchez? Obviously terrific numbers in the GCL but not a crazy K rate. Just a young kid with control who fools a lot of young hitters?
J.J. Cooper: Not at all. He’s got mega-stuff to go with his control. One of the best young prospects in the Phillies system. A name to remember.

GD (north): With Alford bouncing back to his 2015 form, it looks like the first 1/2 struggles were largely injury related. Does that make him still the Jays #1 prospect, or has SFR passed him by?
J.J. Cooper: This year it will be a very good debate. At this moment I’d probably say Sean Reid-Foley but thankfully we have another 3-4 months to decide.

Jake (Georgia): Hi JJ, thanks for the chat. Can you please explain the difference between control and command ?
J.J. Cooper: Control is throwing strikes. It’s something that can arguably be graded by the stats–teams differ on their philosophies on this but for many teams 3.0 BB/9 in majors = 50 control. With grades going up and down from there. If the catcher sets up for a pitch at the high and outside corner of the zone and the pitcher misses to low and inside but still a strike, the pitcher is still demonstrating control. Control is throwing strikes instead of balls. Command cannot be quantified without a new level of trackman/etc that as of yet has not been developed to my knowledge. Command is hitting your target. If a catcher sets up low and away and the pitch ends up high and inside but a strike, that’s not demonstrating command. Control can be governed partly by mindset. A pitcher may decide that he’ll throw the ball over the middle of the plate rather than give up walks. Or another pitcher (like Tom Glavine) may pitch off of the plate in a 3-ball count preferring to stay with his approach rather than “give-in.” It’s why you could argue that Glavine’s command was actually a grade or two better than his control. Here’s a pay story I wrote a few years ago that explains it all in extreme detail.

Colt Holt (Indiana): Not exactly relevant to this week, how should we think about Aristides Aquino current demolition of the FSL over the last two months? What kind of upside does he have and should we expect to see him in the running for the year end top 100?
J.J. Cooper: He has the highest upside of any Reds’ outfielder with the exception of the newly signed Taylor Trammel. If Aquino hits, he is a prototypical right fielder with power, a strong arm and enough defense. Lately he’s really been hitting. Scouts I’ve talked to are impressed with his tools, his frame and his improvement, but there still is some skepticism over whether this is a hot streak that may dissipate with his next promotion or whether this is a sign of a significant jump in his skills. Aquino has moved slowly so far–it took him five years of pro ball to reach the full season leagues, which also carries some skepticism with it. He’s not likely to crack the Top 100, but he has done a lot to help his stock.

Zach (Chicago): Where would Dilson Hererra rank on the Reds top prospects if he still had prospect status? Would he make the Top 100?
J.J. Cooper: I’ll answer this in more detail for an Ask BA which should go live on Monday, but I think he still has a chance to be an everyday regular second baseman. I think he’d just miss the Top 100 but he is a nearly ready big league second baseman. Good bit of value to that.

Brett (New Jersey): When do you think is a realistic point next season for Francis Martes of Houston to be up with the big club?
J.J. Cooper: A lot is to be determined by how he progresses and by what the Astros’ need. He’s not nearly as ready as someone like Joe Musgrove. But when it all clicks for him, he can be really special. Lance McCullers went from flailing in the California League to succeeding in the big leagues in the span of 10 minor league starts. Martes is further along than McCullers was when he was struggling in Lancaster and he has similar stuff, but the Astros also have more options for the rotation now then they did when McCullers came up. Mid-next year is my best guess, but I think he could help in a bullpen role later this season if needed.

Craig (RGV, TX): Can Corey Ray, Brett Phillips and Lewis Brinson all play in the same OF in the majors? They all seem to have a similar profile -- speedy, good defense, good eye, need to work on contact & power.
J.J. Cooper: Yes they can. I wouldn’t really put Ray in that same grouping with Phillips and Brinson because in Ray’s case, the debate was whether he could play center field well enough to stick there. It was never his regular position at Louisville. I know he’s playing center now, but with Brinson and Phillips ahead of him, both of whom project as better defenders, I expect he’ll end up in a corner. The one who may have trouble in this arrangement is Phillips. Brinson should get to Milwaukee before Phillips and he’s a better defender, which may force Phillips to eventually slide to right field. To do that, Phillips bat will have to be better than it’s been this year. These things usually work out. I remember a similar situation that happened in Miami as they had Marcell Ozuna, Christian Yelich and Jake Marisnick all developing at the same time. Marisnick ended up being traded, Yelich ended up sliding over to left field and Ozuna, who was a right fielder in the minors, ended up as the everyday center fielder. That’s not really how I predicted that to shake out, but the problem solved itself, as it often does. If the Brewers end up having three center field caliber defenders manning left, center and right they will be thrilled.

John (San Diego, CA): How worried are scouts about Javier Guerra harsh regression in Lake Elsinore? Is this something he can rebound from or is he already a bust?
J.J. Cooper: He’s not someone to give up on yet, as his defensive ability at shortstop hasn’t disappeared, but it’s “flush this season and start over” bad. There are no bright spots offensively. He recently had three games in Lancaster, where a pop up can leave the park when the wind is right. The two teams combined for 66 hits in three games. He went 0-for-14.

Chad (ATL): When you see a a pitcher with great stuff but terrible control, what do you look for to determine wether or not you believe he can over come the control issues? Specifically how it relates to Sean Newcomb.
J.J. Cooper: Newcomb is a weird case. I’ve asked a lot of scouts about this question and generally it comes down to deliveries. Is there something in the delivery that indicates why a pitcher won’t be able to improve his ability to throw strikes. Is there a lot of effort (which may be tough to maintain through a start). Is there a head-whack? Does the pitcher open up too early consistently? Does the arm lag? Is he inconsistent in direction to the plate? There are a lot of issues that can lead to control problems, some of which are more fixable than others. To take an extreme example, if you have Mitch Williams’ delivery (, you’re going to be wild. It’s who you are. Newcomb throws with one of the lowest-effort deliveries you will ever see, which is why you find scouts who believe the control will come. So far, it hasn’t.

Steve (Chicago): Alec Hansen's early results have been good. I have heard that he is working on a curve? Has his stock risen any? Seems like he was a good get for the White Sox in the 2nd round.
J.J. Cooper: He’s had a curveball for a while. He may have tweaked it, but when he was at Oklahoma on his best night’s his curve earned 70 grades. Hansen has front-of-the-rotation stuff in a very high risk package. He’s missed time due to injuries, and he’s been too wild to start at times in his college career. But so far, so good. He’s throwing strikes and dominating the Pioneer League like you would hope to see. It’s a great get considering where he was picked. If it all comes together, Hansen could end up as one of the best pitchers in this draft class–the stuff is that good. It’s just a matter of him staying healthy and throwing strikes, two things that have been challenging for him in the past.

John E (Danbury, CT): Since the Red Sox decided to fold on Anderson Espinoza, do they have any ace caliber prospects in their system. Or is that now Jason Groome and a bunch of back of the rotation guys?
J.J. Cooper: Groome is high risk, but that’s a potential ace. Michael Kopech is the other pitcher in the system who could end up as a front-of-the-rotation starter.

Cameron (NY): Thanks for the chat, JJ. Who are you most looking forward to seeing in the Arizona Fall League this year?
J.J. Cooper: I’m going to have to wait til the rosters come out to see who is headed to Arizona.

Bruce (Portland, OR): Any consideration this week of Franklin Baretto and/or Raul Alcantara for the hot sheet?
J.J. Cooper: Alcantara had a very good case. Didn’t miss by much. Great 3 starts since he got promoted. Barreto was good but not great this week, but he did lead our July All-Prospect Team.

J.J. Cooper: Thanks everyone for coming out. There’s a lot of good questions I couldn’t get to in an hour and a half.

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