Subscriber Chat: Endy Rodriguez's Ceiling, Jasson Dominguez's Steps Forward And More
Joey C (St. Petersburg, Fla.):
- I know it's way too early for this, but which sub-.500 MLB team now do you expect to turn into a playoff contender in 2023.
J.J. Cooper: It is really, really early to try to look ahead to 2023, but we'll try anyway. Using the parameters that I can only pick from teams that are under .500 as of Sept. 23, I will throw out the Twins and Red Sox as teams that could bounce back next year. In the case of the Twins, it's the thought that the injury issues that have plagued them this year cannot be nearly as dire next season. There is the question of who plays shortstop if Carlos Correa opts out of his contract, but the starting rotation should be solid and the bullpen can hardly be worse than it was for much of this year. In the case of the Red Sox, I think the losing and being passed by so many teams in the AL East will lead to some more significant spending this offseason. We'll have to see if that supposition is correct, but that's the hazards of trying to predict 2023 in Sept. 2022.
- With the new pickoff rules how long before we see someone challenge 100 SB in a year? Bonus: who do you think has the best shot?
J.J. Cooper: I think it will be quite a while before we see any major leaguer steal 100 again. The new rules will increase stolen bases in the majors, I don't think that is in question. But the majors are increasing from a very low level. It is possible that no one will steal 40 bases in the majors this year. You have to go back to Jose Reyes in 2007 for the last time anyone topped 70 steals. No one has topped 80 steals since Rickey Henderson in 1988. So while you may see someone top 50 again next year and maybe threaten 60, the fear of creating outs on the basepaths will continue to be a drag on most teams' desire to have a basestealer run wild. So my prediction is this. I don't think any current pro will ever steal 100 bases in a season in the majors. I think the game would have to change where home runs are much more difficult to hit for the game to see another 100 steal player.
- The 2022 White Sox were extremely disappointing and their farm system is pretty weak. What do they need to do to turn things around in 2023?
J.J. Cooper: The farm system is getting better, but that is starting from a 'worst in baseball" level. The White Sox largely graduated their best prospects over a relatively short period of time in 2020 and 2021, which left the minors almost bereft of talent last year. The draft, some international signings and positive developments have helped the farm system restock a little bit. Colson Montgomery looks like an excellent first round pick and Oscar Colas was a nice addition as well. But to have better success in 2023 I think will come less from the farm system and more from getting additional free agent/trade help for the big league club. The AL Central remains a weak division where 90 wins goes a lot farther than it does in pretty much any other division in baseball. Getting better production and health out of some of the team's existing stars is probably more important next year than getting help from the minors.
RH (La Vergne, TN):
- Do you think the plan that was floated to move the start of the college baseball season back a month and push the CWS to the new draft weekend has any legs? February games are just so unpleasant in so many parts of the country.
J.J. Cooper: February games are not just unpleasant but impossible in some parts of the country. At the same time, one of the benefits mentioned about moving the draft back was the fact that it eliminated a long-term complaint of college coaches who did not like how the draft took place during the biggest part of the college baseball season. There are competing priorities at play here. If the college season was moved back, it would help Northern/cold weather teams who have to spend way too much time on the road in the first month and a half of the season. If it was moved back, it would harm summer wood bat leagues, which have grown in numbers over the past 20 years. It would also make the sport effectively the first NCAA sport to take place during the summer. Yes, the CWS goes beyond spring semester right now, but pushing the entire season back would mean that instead of a few teams, pretty much everyone would play into June. From an academic standpoint, there could be a few issues with that as well, as some academic disciplines require summer co-op or internships.
J.J. Cooper: Keep the questions coming. I'm taking a break to go on a bike ride with my daughter (it is the weekend after all) but I will answer some more this afternoon.
CT (Los Angeles, CA):
- Any chance of BA creating a transfer portal platform?
J.J. Cooper: Potentially. Can't promise more than that yet.
- Over the years, who are some heralded prospects you are most disappointed to have seen “fail?” For me, it’s Cubs LHP Carl Hamilton, Chicago-area kid who couldn’t overcome arm injuries In his early 20s. BA did a lot to get me excited about Carl in the mid 1980s.
J.J. Cooper: There are different levels of struggles/failure. Long before I came to Baseball America, I was a baseball fan in the 1980s, and I loved those Topps draft pick cards of the late 1980s. Willie Ansley was a player who I became a fan of when I got his baseball card, and then tracked as he didn't pan out. But as a Baseball America employee, I started to have a hopefully more informed viewpoint, but I've definitely missed on guys. I thought Royals LHP Mike Montgomery was going to be an ace. He had a lengthy MLB career, but never at the level I expected. Three injury-plagued prospects I will always wonder about are Brien Taylor, Ryan Anderson and Chris Snelling. All three saw injuries derail what could have been fascinating careers.
- BA snuck Endy Rodriguez into the very back of the Top 100, but the way he’s hit in AA/AAA and the Best Defensive Catcher nod in his A ball league list seems to suggest he maybe deserves to be quite a bit higher. What’s the ceiling of this seemingly underrated breakout prospect?
J.J. Cooper: This is only the beginning. We last did a full update of the Top 100 at the very start of August. Since then, all Top 100 adjustments have been of the simple graduation/addition variety. We're not re-ranking players, we're just adding Top 100 Prospects as other players leave prospect status. I can safely say that when we do our offseason Pirates prospect rankings (which will be before too long) and our Top 100, Rodriguez will move up.
- With the balancing of schedules, are 4 teams from the AL east going to make the playoffs for foreseeable future?
J.J. Cooper: It will make their tasks easier. Assuming the Red Sox spend money as expected this offseason, it's hard to pick an AL East team without a plausible path to the playoffs in 2023 (obviously they can't all actually go to the playoffs). It's hard for me to see that many AL Central or AL West teams that have as plausible a path as the 4th best team in the AL East.
- We saw some prospects take huge jumps this year like Jackson Chourio. Who are some of your candidates to make that kind of jump next year?
J.J. Cooper: Bradley, I don't know how possible it is to predict what Chourio did this year and what Elly De La Cruz did the year before (from way further off the Top 100), you can like the potential, but watching a player turn into a potential star is truly special. We have been spoiled by those two breakouts in the past two years, but breakouts like that don't happen every year. But if you're looking for someone who is not on a lot of radars right now but could break out in 2023. How about Braves RHP Blake Burkhalter. He has two excellent pitches thanks to his fastball and power cutter/slider. The Braves have shown they can develop pitchers with those characteristics and he already had some college success at Auburn.
- Bobby Miller hasn’t pitched in a couple weeks. Is there an injury or did LA shut him down? I thought he might be in line for a call up.
J.J. Cooper: He did just pitch on Sept. 21, but that was his first outing since Sept. 1. From what I understand, Miller was already bumping up to roughly the innings limit the Dodgers wanted to keep him to this year. Miller only threw 56 innings in 2021 and the pandemic meant he threw even fewer in 2020.
- Miguel Bleis had an exciting report as the FCL #1 prospect. What’s his ceiling? Is he a candidate for the Top 100?
J.J. Cooper: Definite candidate. Great season. Great prospect. He will rank high on our offseason Red Sox rankings and will be in Top 100 consideration.
Logan Field (Mi):
- What are your thoughts on Colt Keith and Ty Madden? Future top 100 prospects??
J.J. Cooper: If Keith had been healthy all year, he would have had a shot of making it this year. I could see Madden making it next year as well. As we wrote early in the season, (https://www.baseballamerica.com/stories/arm-slot-tweak-has-ty-madden-rolling/) his new arm slot helps his fastball play better. Madden had a very solid season and an excellent finish at Double-A Erie. I wouldn't be surprised at all to see both of them crack the Top 100 next year.
- Cristian Hernandez's season has seemed underwhelming, but not disastrous (and he has dropped out of top 100s everywhere as a result). Do people who have gotten live looks still see the potential of a top tier player with necessary adjustments, or are things just not coming along the way it was hoped?
J.J. Cooper: Kyle Glaser may add some further depth to this answer as we keep this chat rolling through the early part of the upcoming week, but I will say that it was not the season of a player who should currently be in the Top 100. However, the general impressions from evaluators were that his stats weren't as impressive as his potential. The pieces are there for him to be an impactful shortstop or third baseman, but he needs to tighten up his swing and pitch selection. He's quite young and a lot will depend on further physical maturation, which just takes time.
- What are your thoughts on Scott Harris? Can he turn the Tigers around?? Thanks!!
J.J. Cooper: I think this is a good spot for Harris and a potentially astute hire by the Tigers. The reality is that Detroit's rebuild fell flat in 2022. Well, flatter than flat because the team simply cannot score runs and several key pitchers went down with injuries. The bad news is the Tigers have gotten dismal production from almost every spot on the field. The good news is that it's nearly impossible for any team to be this bad offensively two years in a row. Harris and the Tigers staff will have to figure out how to turn Spencer Torkelson around after a very disappointing 2022, but Riley Greene looks like he should give the team one cornerstone to build around in center and Kerry Carpenter gives the team a power-hitting corner outfielder. Even lower-cost additions could match or better the production Detroit got from much of the infield and outfield. Detroit has little other than Javier Baez, Eduardo Rodriguez and the pre-arbitration players under contract for 2024 and beyond, so next year gives Harris a chance to figure out what he's got in Detroit, make some moves to help the punchless offense and also start prepping for 2024. The pitching staff looks pretty promising. By 2024 Casey Mize, Tarik Skubal, Matt Manning, Beau Briske, Rodriguez, Garrett Hill, Wilmer Flores and Ty Madden should give the team plenty of pitching options. There's something here, but it never came together in 2022. I don't think the Tigers situation is hopless, especially in a pretty weak AL Central.
- Has Jasson Dominguez arrived?
J.J. Cooper: I would say arrival is defined as contributing to a big league club. He's obviously not there yet, but he has taken nice steps forward this year in his path to getting to that point. He's shown a little more athleticism this year. He's making better swing decisions and he's done so while hitting for more productive power. It's hard to live up to the expectations that were thrust upon him when he was 15/16 years-old, and it's hard to find scouts who see him as a franchise-altering star, but it's not hard at all to find evaluators who see him as a solid future regular.
Jason (Niagara Falls):
- How sure are we that Gabriel Moreno can get to 50 power? I fully acknowledge that he’s young, catchers generally develop slower, he has strong exit velos and contact ability, but a guy like Yandy Diaz has never put it all together. I guess I just expected him to pop a few more dingers in Buffalo
J.J. Cooper: Sure? Can't say I'm sure, but at the same time, the underlying foundation is there. Everything you said is true. I'd much rather have a 22-year-old catcher with excellent hitting ability and power than one with power and no idea how to hit. Moreno's skillset right now is kind of Yandy Diaz like. He hits the ball hard, but rarely in the air. Even if he doesn't figure out how to lift the ball more often, he'll be a useful big league catcher, but if he does, he has the tools to be a well above-average regular.
Michael (Bay Area):
- It was a brutal year for many of the Giants’ top prospects, aside from Harrison and Luciano. Matos, Pomares, Ramos, Bednar, Mikulski, Bishop, Bailey all had varying degrees of bad years. Do you think the Giants have a player development issue? Brown, McCray, and Schmitt are great stories, but all those struggles are concerning.
Josh Norris: I don't think you can pinpoint one issue that joins together all the struggling SFG prospects you mentioned. - Matos has had issues with his approach, which the org knew was a possibility this season even as he was succeeding last year. - Mikulski and Bender have each shown up to pro ball with different, lesser versions of the stuff they showed as amateurs. I saw it for myself on my first day of Spring Training, and scouts have backed that up all year long. - Bishop and Bailey each had questions surrounding their offensive abilities coming out of the draft. Those issues are manifesting themselves as pros. That's a long way of saying that, no, I don't believe the Giants have a PD issue, but sometimes players don't succeed as early, quickly or linearly as teams would like.
- Liover Peguero’s production dipped this year. Is he still someone who projects as a quality starter at SS if Cruz has to move?
Josh Norris: Scouts still like Peguero for sure, especially as someone who can handle shortstop defensively. The pandemic still messes with my perspective on time when it comes to players' ages, but Peguero is still just 21 years old (and won't turn 22 until New Year's Eve). Those same scouts do believe Peguero will hit, possibly with enough power for 15-20 home runs annually.
Daron (Madison, WI):
- Jeferson Quero and Edgar Quero were teenage catchers with breakout seasons. Do both project to remain catchers going forward, and which one is closer to becoming a top 100 prospect?
Josh Norris: I'll speak to Jeferson Quero, who absolutely has a shot to remain at catcher in the long run. Evaluators project him as a plus defender and rave about his leadership abilities and intangibles in terms of handling his staffs. There was a little bit of tweaking to be done to his throwing mechanics, but he's made progress in that regard too. He might not be an otherworldly hitter, but he'll hit enough to fit in toward the middle of the pack of catcher offense.
- What are your thoughts on Case Williams of the Rockies? Made it up to Double-A this year and looked pretty good at times.
Geoff Pontes: Yes, the organization like Williams a bit. They did reacquire him so no shock there. He added a few ticks onto his fastball this year and took a step forward with his command. The fastball is in the 45/50 range but he lands it consistently and sets up his slider, curveball and changeup trio. The curveball has really good depth with decent velocity and it generates whiffs. Has the look of a backend starter ceiling.
Kyle (St. Louis):
- What is the time line for a CBA agreement between the new MiLB PA and MLB, and is there a chance for a work stoppage before a CBA between the two is agreed upon?
J.J. Cooper: I believe the goal is before next season. I don't have a ton of reporting to back this up, from I struggle to see a big leverage benefit from a work stoppage. If the players were the ones who pushed the work stoppage, they would lose paychecks and the people who would lose games/revenue would not be the MLB owners (the other party in the negotiation). If the owners pushed the work stoppage, it would be hard for them to avoid being portrayed as the big bad billionaires who shut out MiLB players who are getting very modest paychecks while also harming local baseball, hots dogs and fireworks.
Daron (Madison, WI):
- Brewers outfield prospects Garrett Mitchell and Sal Frelick appear to have somewhat similar offensive and defensive profiles. What are some of the key differences between the two players that you expect to differentiate them while they vie for time in Milwaukee’s future outfield?
Geoff Pontes: Hi Daron, good question. Mitchell and Frelick are tooled up outfielders, but in different ways with very different body types. Frelick is the better hitter, he has plus bat-to-ball skills and can do a little of everything at the plate, with the speed and instincts to make an impact as a baserunner. Mitchell is the superior defender and is a no doubt centerfielder. There's some questions around Mitchell's ability to hit, he's never shown the sort of impact or power many projected when he was drafted. I think Frelick will be a good leadoff guy for a lot of years, Mitchell will need to show more at the plate to prove he's an everyday player.
- Thoughts on Orelvis Martinez?
Geoff Pontes: Hi Nolan, I saw a lot of Orelvis this year and spoke with opposing scouts and front office folks about him. There was a lot of optimism coming into the year after his spring training. He really showed a maturity at the plate while with the big league club and it looked like he had turned a corner and was ready to cement himself as a top 50 prospect. Unfortunately, he didn't show that same approach in Double-A and it often looked like he was just hunting for home runs. He hit 30, but he hit .203 and had a sub-.300 OBP. He was young, as this was his age 20 season, he has easy power and it's a good swing. He's just prone to over-aggression and jumping all over the first pitch he sees. It's really just approach as the contact quality is there and he looks the part.
- Any guess on Tink Hence's development timeline? More of a slow, steady, one level a year development or might the Cards gradually accelerate it now that he has a few more innings under his belt?
Geoff Pontes: Hi Roger - I think it will depend, it wouldn't shock me to see the Cardinals take the reins off a little. How they handled Hence was intentional, they're doing something similar with Alec Willis currently. I'd anticipate he sees a majority of his season at High-A Peoria next season, but an early return to Palm Beach to make a few starts as the Midwestern temperatures rise a little also wouldn't shock me.
- BA recently wrote that “PDLs are guaranteed through 2030 as long as the teams meet the facility requirements laid out in the agreement.” However, the Eugene Emeralds already have a “SaveOurEms” campaign to get a new stadium built. Is this—and other requests for ballpark improvement or new stadiums—an idle threat? Or are there legitimate concerns that certain MiLB teams might lose their affiliations before 2030 due to an inability or unwillingness to meet facility requirements? If it is a concern, how soon could this happen? And which teams might be at risk of losing their PDL?
J.J. Cooper: Great question, but one that takes more than a chat answer to fully spell out. I am working on this for a story for later this week.
Isaac (South Dakota):
- As a Twins fan, it was really tough seeing Jordan Balazovic and Austin Martin have such abysmal seasons. Both are now outside the top 10 in both BA and MLB Pipeline's system rankings. What could be the next step for them to regain some prospect shine and how does this season change their future outlook?
Kyle Glaser: Forgive the simplistic answer, but they're just going to have to get better. Martin doesn't impact the ball in any way and hasn't for a few years now. You can't project him to be a meaningful major league player until he does. Balazovic didn't arrive in great shape this year and his velocity took a step back as a result. His stuff already wasn't overly exceptional and didn't really have much leeway for it to regress as it did. Getting back into prime physical shape and getting his velocity back is step 1.
- Kyren Paris looked pretty great statistically the last few months of the season. Has he done enough to regain his prospect status from previous years? He fell quite a bit early on.
Kyle Glaser: It was certainly encouraging. Paris has struggled with injuries and his swing got way, way too big early this season at High-A. When he's healthy and his swing is right, as it was when he came back from the IL in August, he's a dangerous player who lines the ball hard to all fields and can change games with his speed. The talent is there, it's just a matter of health and knowing who he is in his approach.
- Who are some breakout DSL players that will make noise next year?
Kyle Glaser: I would encourage you to check out our minor league classification All-Stars, including the Rookie-level team featuring the top performers in the DSL this year. https://www.baseballamerica.com/stories/2022-minor-league-season-full-award-coverage/
- Do you think Tanner Bibee projects as a SP2/3 or more as a 4/5 innings eater?
Kyle Glaser: Bibee previously projected to be a No. 5 pitchability type of starter, but with the way his stuff ticked up this year, he has a chance to move into that No. 3/4 range. The Guardians did a nice job with pitcher development here, once again.
Jason (Niagara Falls):
- Heat Check: Grant McCray I’m pretty sure Geoff single-handedly stoked the fire with this guy (because he’s Geoff Pontes and that’s what he’s capable of doing), as I don’t think anyone else was on McCray. I can’t remember when Geoff’s article on him dropped, but McCray carried strong production right up until his promotion to A+. His numbers slipped a bit with that promotion, but there’s still encouraging signs when you look a little closer at his numbers. After all that, my question is, how do we view him heading into 2023? Is he top 200 material? Is he a sleeper to make his way onto the top 100? Or is he just a guy, and not a dude? Thanks, again! Appreciate all that the staff has done this season!!
Kyle Glaser: That was actually me who highlighted McCray in spring training and wrote the feature on him. You can find the spring training review that first raised the flag on him here (https://www.baseballamerica.com/stories/20-prospects-impressing-mlb-scouts-in-spring-training/) and my feature on him from May here. (https://www.baseballamerica.com/stories/giants-outfielder-grant-mccray-aims-to-make-his-own-name/). As for McCray's future, he's an excellent defensive center fielder who closes a lot of ground quickly with his speed. He keeps moving in the right direction offensively and should hit for enough average and power to be an everyday center fielder. A very good player, although he the bat probably isn't quite enough to be an All-Star level one.
Andy McCue (Riverside, CA):
- Are you planning a team-by-team review of the 2022 draft and when will we see it?
Kyle Glaser: We will be doing our annual draft report cards, yes. They will be released in mid-November as usual.
- What is going on with Trevor Bauer? He appealed his 2 year suspension and everything has been quiet. Are we expecting the result of the appeal sometime soon? If he is reinstated do the Dodgers waive him? Then what?
Kyle Glaser: The appeal process is still ongoing and is expected to last until November. I think it's prudent to wait to see the results of the appeal rather than speculate on what might happen based on a decision that hasn't been made yet.
- Curious on the status of a couple formerly notable prospects on the exempt list. Are Kristian Robinson and Bayron Lora done in baseball?
Kyle Glaser: I can't speak to Lora, but Robinson has not been able to get a visa that will allow him to play due to his ongoing legal issues. The Diamondbacks internally are not counting on anything from him - he has a lot of other issues he needs to figure out before we can even talk about baseball.
- Which of the Brewers young outfielders currently in AAA or recently promoted to the Brewers in the case of Garrett Mitchell do you think will be ready to contribute at the big league level at the start of 2023? Will they need to go outside the organization for outfield help?
Kyle Glaser: Esteury Ruiz got his first taste of the majors this year and is in line to make a larger contribution to the Brewers next season. Sal Frelick can really hit and has a chance to force his way into the lineup. That said, the Brewers could certainly use a big bat (or three) in their lineup, and it wouldn't be wise to shy away from acquiring one in deference to either player (or any of their Triple-A OF prospects).
Michael (Rochester NY):
- What are we hearing on Dru Jones injury? Will he be ready to go by Spring and what level do you see him starting at?
Kyle Glaser: Jones is recovering from surgery. No official timetable has been provided, but it was similar to Jordan Lawlar's surgery and Lawlar was ready to go by Opening Day on a similar timeline. I would expect Jones to start in either extended or Low-A Visalia depending on exactly when he gets back and how quickly he gets back to full strength.
- Do you see Brice Turang being with the Brewers at the start of 2023 and, if so, at what position?
Kyle Glaser: Turang has a chance. I think realistically he ends up playing a multi-position utility role.
- Hi Geoff, Thank you for bringing the chats back. Over the years, the chats have been incredibly useful in identifying under-the-radar prospects before anyone else did. Following the pandemic and MLB's reorganization of minor league baseball, BA commented that the quality of baseball in High A and Low A had suffered significantly. The feeling seemed to be that last year High A was more like Low A in 2019, and Low A had become more like the baseball played in the old Summer Leagues. Do you think the quality of play in High A and Low A in 2022 returned to its pre-pandemic and MILB reorganization levels? Thanks
Kyle Glaser: It has not. The quality of play in Low-A remains exceptionally poor, largely because it features lots of pitchers who otherwise would have been in the advanced rookie leagues or short season before reorganization. The pitching in particular is problematically bad at the level, to the point even front office officials concede you can't get a true assessment on anyone's actual hitting ability because they're rarely - if ever - facing anyone with credible stuff and/or control.
- Who do you consider to be the prospects who stumbled this year to be the most likely to regain their standing?
Kyle Glaser: I'm going to go under the radar here and pick Angels SS Arol Vera. The numbers were bad, there's no way around it, but when you watched him the talent and instincts were clear for all to see. He has to get stronger, much stronger, and this prediction will fall flat if he doesn't, but given his age and physical projection still remaining, I'm willing to bet it will and we'll see an accompanying tick up in performance as a result.
- Pepiot and Grove have been up; Miller and Stone have not. Which of these guys are most likely to contribute next year, and in what roles?
Kyle Glaser: The fact that Pepiot has been able to get his feet wet makes him the most likely to play the largest role for the Dodgers next year. Pitchers take longer to adjust and that initial experience sets him up nicely for next season.
Benny Funk (Loxahatchee FL):
- I noticed that Blaze Jordan became more of a complete hitter in 2022, rather than just a power bat with a steep development curve regarding the rest of his offensive tools. The home run total was lower than expected, but he cut the K rate down noticeably, hit nearly .300, drew walks, and the homers he did hit showed off his plus power with exit velo and distance. Yet, as he evolves as a more complete hitter as a 19 year old in Hi-A, he's slipping in Boston's organizational rankings. Why no love for Blaze?
Kyle Glaser: Jordan had a really good season. In terms of why that isn't necessarily reflected in the rankings, evaluators question his ability to handle righthanded spin and have concerns he might end up a platoon first baseman rather than an everyday player. He's going to move to first base, there's not really any question about that, so that puts a lot of pressure on his bat. That all said, he deserves credit for putting together a strong first full season across both Low-A and High-A as a 19 year old. I'm intrigued to see what adjustments he makes heading into next year.
- Is Bryan Ramos someone who might contend for a top-100 list this offseason? Seems like somebody who's stayed under the radar despite consistently performing at a young age while showing enough glove to stay on the infield.
Kyle Glaser: Ramos performed well at High-A, but he takes enormous, aggressive hacks and doesn't really have an approach or plan at the plate, which makes it difficult to project him to have success in the upper levels. He's also not very good at third base - he has arm strength but plays out of control. Ramos does have some things to like, namely his bat speed and power, but unless he's able to calm everything down on both sides of the ball, he doesn't project to be more than an up-down backup corner infielder, which obviously doesn't cross the threshold for a Top 100 prospect.
Ken (Lakewood CA):
- Welcome back to Chatville. I have really missed the chats and I'm so glad to see you got the issue fixed - meaning more chats sharing what you guys know. Thank you!
J.J. Cooper: Sorry for the delay, but we are glad to be back.