Frank (Chicago): Is J.D. Davis a regular at 3B, or just a utility guy? Is a switch to 1B in his future?
J.J. Cooper: Hey everyone. Davis is a good person to start this chat with. He has significant power and a great arm, but there’s legitimate concern over whether he can play third base well enough to be there everyday at the big league level. His footwork is an issue. If Davis slides to first base, it’s hard to see him as an everyday guy because his hit tool is fringy enough to make it hard at times to get to his power. I see him heading to Triple-A to keep trying to make it as a third baseman. His arm is good enough that a move to the mound (not likely, yet) is still an option if he can’t make it at third base. He’d be the perfect candidate to be a 25th man who provides a power bat off the bench and works out of the pen, but that’s a role that’s not really been invented yet and it would work much better in the NL than for an AL team.
Dave (Milwaukee): Your thoughts on Ryan Cordell's move to the Brewers' system? Will he see more playing time in CF now?
J.J. Cooper: Athletic bat who is a nice sleeper prospect who has really turned into something more than that as he can hit. But your second question hits on an issue for Cordell as a Brewer. Milwaukee has Lewis Brinson, Brett Phillips and Corey Ray at HiA and above which gives Cordell a reason to keep working on his versatility–he’s played third base in the past (poorly) and can play all three outfield spots. I see him for now being more of a versatile outfielder than as the Brewers’ CF of 2018 and beyond, but he hits enough to have a big league role.
RadarRudy (behind home plate): I know he only threw 50 or so innings, but were there any Josh Staumont evaluations? Thanks, J.J.
J.J. Cooper: He didn’t miss the Top 20 by much. He was one of the most fascinating arms in the league as he got better and better. Staumont has a great arm, with easy high 90s velocity but it’s always come with significant control troubles as well. He tamed those as the season progressed and by the playoffs he was dominating with plus stuff. You can’t say the control troubles are gone just because he had a great August/September, but it’s a very, very positive sign. Staumont is at least the best righthanded relief prospect in the Royals system but he’s been good enough as a starter to not rule out the chance he can stick as a starter.
Grant (NYC): Could you tell us about Connor Sadzeck, and if his control issues can be rectified enough to project him as a future mid-SP? Thx
J.J. Cooper: Reliever is more likely. As the control troubles and the delivery aren’t what you normally see from a starting pitcher. But he did make strides in 2016. Sadzeck throws really hard and his secondary offerings are improving and his control did improve in 2016. When you talk about a pitcher who can touch 100 mph and whose second best pitch is a slider, you’re more likely to see a future reliever.
a.j. (las vegas): What do the dodgers do with all these OF's? Puig, Ethier and A. Gonzalez are under contract until after 2018. Pederson, Van Slyke, and Thompson are under team control past that. It doesn't leave a lot of room for Toles, Bellinger and Verdugo.
J.J. Cooper: You’re right. Clearly it’s a logjam. Considering the Puig drama this year, it wouldn’t be shocking to see the Dodgers trade him and Ethier isn’t really a big factor going forward I would imagine. Bellinger’s versatility gives him an ability to play in the corners and be a backup first baseman to Gonzalez, so that helps. I think Toles has an advantage over Verdugo because he’s a little tooslier across the board and more importantly he’s already reached the big leagues. When it comes to breaking logjams, getting their first helps. The Dodgers have the ammo between their outfield surplus and their pitching depth to make several moves this upcoming offseason and in 2017. With a team that is trying to win now, next year and beyond, some people will likely be moving.
Brad (San Antonio): The missions had a dismal season last season outside from Franchy Cordero and Dinelson Lamet. Who can they look forward to seeing this season?
J.J. Cooper: Those were the highlights. Yeah it was a pretty dismal year for the Missions. I assume you are asking about 2017. Luis Urias will be one of the top guys to keep an eye on and Josh Naylor could be there at some point next year.
Max (Prairie Village, KS): Can Matthew Strahm cut it as a starter or do you see him as a late inning reliever in the big leagues?
J.J. Cooper: His success as a late-inning reliever will make it harder for him to get back to starting–major league managers don’t want to give back to the minors players who can help them win big league games. But there’s nothing in Strahm’s approach and arsenal that limits him to relieving. A Danny Duffy-like progression (reliever who slides back to starting) is a long-term possibility. I still project him as a starter long term.
Rob (Houston): Does Ramon Laureano have everyday regular upside or is he more of a 4th OF type?
J.J. Cooper: More of a fourth outfielder, but that’s an impressive climb to relevance for a 16th-round JUCO find. Laureano can hit, but he’s also capable defensively so he can be a legit fourth outfielder–you can’t really these days if you can’t handle center field.
Johnny (Jupiter, FL): Luke Voit just continues to hit. He had a huge season this year in Springfield. I understand he is old for the league and not a high draft pick or anything, but does he have a shot at the big leagues? What could he become? That is back to back big seasons for him.
J.J. Cooper: Count me as still skeptical. He’ll be 26 before the 2017 season begins and while it was a great year he’s a right-right first baseman with less than profile power. I wouldn’t be shocked to see him get some MLB at-bats. I would be surprised to see him end up as a major league regular.
Ty (Modesto, California): Do you see a Travis Fryman like ceiling for Matt Chapman?
J.J. Cooper: A better Matt Dominguez, maybe a little less than Fryman (more power, less hit than Fryman). I do worry about the swing and miss, but Chapman has plus power and he’s a truly exceptional third baseman defensively.
Dave (Oakland): Is there any pitching help for the A's coming out of Midland?
J.J. Cooper: Gossett, Corey Walter, Bobby Wahl, Raul Alcantara and Trey Cochran-Gil all impressed in some way. Most are more relievers than starters.
J.P. (Springfield, IL): Between Cody Bellinger and Dominic Smith, whom do you prefer when comparing them tool-for-tool?
J.J. Cooper: Bellinger pretty much across the board. He’s more athletic. He runs better. He’s better defensively (although Smith is good defensively too). Better hit, similar power.
Jay (Boston, MA): Where was Ronald Guzman on your list, JJ? He had an improved '16 season, I'm sure you agree. Could he see time in the bigs next year as either a DH or 1B?
J.J. Cooper: He was improved. The concerns are how well Guzman can handle velocity. He’s long-limbed and still has trouble connecting with quality fastballs. But don’t throw him a weak off-speed pitch as he’ll kill it.
Hansford (Mansfield, Tx): Did Yairo Munoz come up in your conversations? Can he still be an everyday shortstop?
J.J. Cooper: I think he’s better as an everyday second baseman who can slide over to shortstop in a pinch and handle third base as well.
John (Raleigh): Anything on Jacob Scavuzzo?
J.J. Cooper: He’s transformed his body. He’s much thicker than he was when he signed which is a good thing as he’s starting to get to some power but he’s also slowing down (as you would expect). Sleeper prospect. Unlikely to be an everyday regular but has a chance to be an up-and-down big leaguer or a little better.
Dan (KC MO): Where would Mondesi have ranked? Also, did O'Hearn merit any consideration? Thanks
J.J. Cooper: He would have ranked in the top 10. His time at Northwest Arkansas was the closest Mondesi has come to dominating in the past three years. He used his plus-plus speed to dominate games (17 steals in 29 games). He showed power and better plate discipline than he did after he was bumped up to Triple-A and the majors. Mondesi is still not a finished product, and the speed at which he’s climbed the ladder has kept him from dominating at any level, instead he’s had to rely on his very impressive tools to keep his head above water. The tools are great. The skills are still largely in need of refinement. As far as O’Hearn, he didn’t crack the Top 20 but he did impress. He has legit power, although there are concerns that it’s more because of leverage than bat speed.
Joe (Joetown, PA): Did Garrett Stubbs get any consideration for this top 20? I know it is a deep league, but he is pretty interesting.
J.J. Cooper: He’s very interesting. Scouts are skeptical whether a catcher who is that small can be an everyday catcher but he’s a plus defender with some hitting ability. He’s listed as 5-foot-10, 175 but that might be stretching it. It’s hard to imagine him not ending up as at least a big league backup.
Saint (NE MPLS): What do you ultimately see for Chase DeJong and when can we expect him?
J.J. Cooper: DeJong can really pitch. He’s got four pitches and he knows how to manipulate the baseball. He can run it, cut it, sink it. He tries to avoid ever throwing a straight fastball, which is wise because his fastball is not enough to blow hitters away. DeJong has a small margin for error, but he fits a back-end starter profile thanks to his feel and control/command.
nb (philly): Seems like Brinson had a lot more success in AAA than AA. I know it's all a small sample size, and he had the advantage of playing in AAA in high altitude, but did he start making some of the adjustments that he wasn't making in AA? Thanks!
J.J. Cooper: You hit on one aspect, which was a much, much better hitter’s environment. I don’t think people truly realize just how much the Texas League has turned into a pitcher’s league. The batting champ hit .297. The league averages were .249/.316/.378. But the other aspect is that Brinson had some injury problems that he had to work through that helped him get off to a slow start. He’s not as bad as he looked in the first half of the year in AA and he’s also probably not as good as he looked at his best in AAA, but he’s a very solid prospect.
Pletchner (KC): Not surprised that Corey Toups and Ryan O'Hearn aren't on the list - O'Hearn struggled some after being promoted, and Toups is a 2B with limited tools (despite having a very good minors hitting record) - but were either in the discussion? O'Hearn seems like he'll go as far as his power and ability to make contact take him, while Toups reminds me a lot of Whit Merrifield with a better bat and less position versatility.
J.J. Cooper: We’ve talked about O’Harn before but you are right to ask about Toups. As I work on my Royals Top 30 (which has started) I’ve got him slotted to make the 30. He’s a second baseman who can hit a little. That’s not a great profile as you either start or you don’t make a roster with that approach–he can’t be a utility infielder and AL teams don’t carry backup 2B/3B types really anymore. But he hits enough to end up with a Merrifield/Giavotella type career. Fringe big leaguer, long-time AAA guy.
Lewis Brinson (Colorado): Why so low on me?
J.J. Cooper: There is some league context involved, so Brinson ranking where he did despite a .711 OPS (.237/.280/.431) is pretty bullish.
J.J. Cooper: Thanks everyone for coming out. We’re not done yet with the Top 20s. Triple-A to come tomorrow and indy ball prospects after that.