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AZL and GCL Chat with Allan Simpson

Moderator: Allan Simpson will begin taking your questions at 2 p.m. ET. Please limit your questions to players from the Gulf Coast and Arizona Leagues.

 Q:  Rich Unwin from Australia asks:
Allan, I see that Scott Mitchinson was named as the 20th best prospect. Where do you see his future going? Do you think he will follow in the footstep of another Aussie pitcher Travis Blackley and be moved quickly through the system? Thanks Rich

Allan Simpson: It's pretty amazing that the Arizona and Gulf Coast leagues don't attract fans during the season, but we've already got nearly 200 questions on the board as we get ready to answer questions for an hour or so, so let's get started--with a question from Australia. Mitchinson had a pretty amazing season, considering he walked only one in 62 innings, while striking out 60. He was obviously one of the better pitchers in the Gulf Coast League, but he doesn't have the ceiling that some of the other pitchers in the league had--even as he added six mph to his fastball over the course of extended spring training and the season. He was successful because he worked low in the zone and worked ahead in the count.

 Q:  James from Long Island asks:
How good is Gaby Hernandez.Does he have over powering stuff to try to help out with loss of Kazmir in the Mets Organzation.I know its early for him but what is his potential does he have 1 or 2 starter stuff.

Allan Simpson: James, I can tell you're stinging still over the departure of Kazmir from the organization. Hernandez' stuff isn't as electric as Kazmir's, but he had the best power arm in the GCL's Eastern Division, with a fastball in the 92-95 mph range. He has command of three pitches and is pretty polished for a high school kid, which I'm sure is why the Mets gave him a shot at the New York-Penn League to finish the season. He pitched really well in the GCL, with a league best 1.09 ERA, with his only slip up coming in the playoffs, when he was knocked around pretty good by the Red Sox. I'd say he projects as a No. 3 starter type, possibly a 2.

 Q:  Stephen from New Jersey asks:
Which pitcher from the Gulf Coast top 20 has the best pure stuff? Where would Bailey and Hughes had they been included, have ranked?

Allan Simpson: I'd say the best stuff among players in the top 20 belonged to Yankes RHP Christian Garcia. His fastball was 94-95 mph and managers said his breaking ball, a nasty hammer curve, already is major league average. Having been a catcher most of his high school career, he's just learning how to pitch so lacks experience at this point. Bailey and Hughes might have been 1-2 had they pitched the required 19 innings. Bailey worked only 12 innings in six starts (he was on a strict pitch count), but flashed a 97 mph fastball and a big breaking ball. Hughes is extremely smooth for a high school talent, with easy 94-95 mph heat.

 Q:  Daniel Williams from Massachusetts asks:
How could the Padres take Matt Bush #1 overall??? A defensive HS SS with a suspect bat over potential front end of the rotation SPs in Jered Weaver and Jeff Niemann. Really don't get this one.

Allan Simpson: You're not the first one to ask this question, especially after Bush got himself into trouble on the eve of the Arizona League season and then didn't overly distinguish himself by hitting only .181. Basically, he was a compromise choice, as the Padres were determined to adhere to the wishes of the commissioner's office and not overpay for the No. 1 pick. When they couldn't get a handle on the bonus demands of Jered Weaver, Stephen Drew or Jeff Niemann, the three players they targeted, they settled for Bush, a local product. Bush was good in the field, showing off a big arm and range, but he was slowed by a hamstring problem.

 Q:  Ben from Milwaukee asks:
Should Brewer fans be concerned about Rogers high WHIP and Era or is it due to "working on things"? Will Gallardo abd Rogers start next year in Charleston? Will Hernan crack the Brewers top ten prospects?

Allan Simpson: Rogers didn't dominate Arizona League hitters like he did high school hitters in Maine during the spring, but he showed flashes of pretty good stuff. The Brewers weren't unhappy with his performance. He got his fastball up to 96-97 at times and showed a good 12-6 breaking ball, but generally he got worn down by the oppressive Arizona heat. Gallardo is a little more polished at this point, and I would expect both will start the 05 season at Charleston, the Brewers new low A affiliate. Iribarren had a breakout season, both in the Arizona League and the Midwest League. He's a good little player who swings the ball well and is solid in all phases of his game. I can see him being on the fast track in the Brewers system, probably starting next year in high A and moving quickly to Double-A.

 Q:  Paul from Bandon OR asks:
The Tigers didn't have a great year but pitchers Dallas Trahern and Lucas French certainly deserve some praise. How close were they to making the Top 20?

Allan Simpson: No Tigers pitchers cracked the GCL top 20, but four--French, Trahern, Jay Sborz and Jair Jurrjens--all got pretty decent support. Jurrjens and Trahern got the most. Jurrjens, from Curacao, had a 91-92 mph fastball and good command of three pitches, but wasn't overpowering. Trahern, who unexpectedly signed as a 34th-round draft pick in June after Ray Hayward was fired as Oklahoma's pitching coach, is a really polished high kid with good stuff. Sborz has the best arm of the four with a fastball in the 92-94 range, but his command and mechanics are a ways off. French's fastball is only 88-89 now but has a chance to improve significantly.

 Q:  Fabian from minoryankeeblog.blogspot.com asks:
Vechionacci had some of the best plate discipline numbers (BB:K) amongst the hitters in the GCL top 20. While he might not be the best prospect now, do you think that will enable him to transition to full-season ball any better? Also, did any other Yankee GCL hurlers get mentions, as their pitching staff seemed to be dominant all year.

Allan Simpson: Vechionacci just turned 18 on August 7, and he already has a pretty mature swing with a chance for 20-home run power when he fills out his frame. He made huge strides at the plate from 2003, when he was more of a free swinger. He's only going to get better and could move all the way to high A Tampa in 2005. The two obvious Yankees pitching prospects were Philip Hughes and Christian Garcia, but LHP Toni Lara and RHP Maximo Nelson earned pretty good support as well.

 Q:  Mike from Boston asks:
Homer Bailer went 7th in this summer's draft, but now he doesn't even make the Top 20 in the GCL prospect list. Ouch. What sort of caution flags did he raise in his first stint in professional baseball, what does he need to improve and is he in danger of not even making the Reds' top 10 prospect this winter?

Allan Simpson: No red flags here. Bailey pitched only 12 innings--seven short of the minimum standard we use for the GCL (essentially, we require starting pitchers to be seen in at least one inning for every three games their team plays, so opposing managers can have a fair opportunity to see them pitch).The Reds were being ultra cautoius with him. Bailey actually made six starts but was on a strict 30-35 pitch count initially and 45 later. He mostly worked on the side, watched and learned and started every fifth day after signing midway through the season. He's got two power pitches and his fastball gets on hitters extremely quickly. His stuff will be electric once he puts it all together.

 Q:  Kelly Uganski from Muskegon asks:
I was surprised that Jay Sborz of the Tigers did not rank on your list. Why did he not rank, and what where the remarks about him?

Allan Simpson: We addressed Sborz, the Tigers second-round pick in 2003, in an earlier question, but we'll take a more detailed look at him. He's got a great arm with huge upside. His fastball has been clocked from 92-94. But he's a max-effort pitcher with shaky mechanics and he simply lacks command at this point. The key to whole development is commanding his fastball and developing a better, more consistent breaking ball.

 Q:  Eric from Kansas City asks:
The Royals had a lot of infielders in your Top 20. Will Falu, Johnson and Vega join fellow teenager and first rounder Billy Butler to form a star-studded infield in the Midwest league next season? Also does Miguel Vega have enough athleticism to move to RF and display his plus-arm?

Allan Simpson: Falu and Johnson formed the best double-play combination in the Arizona League and could work their way up the Royals system together, beginning next year at Class A Burlington. Johnson is a very selective hitter already, while Falu plays the little man's game extremely well. Vega, however, was moved from third base to first during the Arizona League season, and the plans are for Butler to be moved from third to first as well in instructional league. Both have exceptional power, and the only way to get both their bats in the lineup would be to move Vega back to third or move him to the outfield, where his arm wouldn't be wasted.

 Q:  Alan Smodic from Pittsburgh, PA asks:
Most of the attention is on Neil Walker, but how would you rate Steve Lerud as a prospect and could he develop into a major league player?

Allan Simpson: Lerud, Pittsburgh's third-rounder in 2003, shared the catching job with Walker this season. But Walker is viewed as the better all-around prospect. Both can hit. The ball jumps off Lerud's bat and he's got big power, but he cannot run at all and his defensive skills are just average even as he made a lot of improvements this summer. Walker is more athletic and really could play almost any position with his speed.

 Q:  Klive from auburn asks:
Which Matt looks more promising so far, Bush or Tuiasasopo?

Allan Simpson: Tuiasosopo made a much stronger first impression, particularly with the bat. He's got a chance to be a big hitter with 30-homer potential. Bush doesn't have that kind of offensive potential, but is a much superior defender at this point with Gold Glove potential.

 Q:  Greg from Tucson asks:
From what I read Miguel Vega looks like a strictly an offensive player, is there a quicker bat in the AZL?

Allan Simpson: Vega is mainly an offensive player and he will go as far as his bat will take him. He had the best power in the Arizona League, but he needs to make better contact and learn to be more patient at the plate. He tries to pull everything and struggles recognizing breaking balls. He looks more comfortable at first this year than he did at third a year ago, but an above-average arm would be wasted at first.

 Q:  Mike from Boston asks:
So you say Homer Bailey might have been up for the #1 slot in the GCL had he pitched more innings, yet did his spotty performance in the limited amount of work he got raise any red flags? The pitchers who made the GCL list had fairly dominant seasons while Bailey posted a 4.38 ERA with uninspiring peripheral numbers. Do you chalk all that up to too small a sample size or was Bailey doing something that could stand some correction?

Allan Simpson: A couple of things to explain Bailey's performance. He was knocked around pretty good by the Red Sox in his first outing, which killed his ERA, but was solid every time out after that. Also, I wouldn't put a lot of stock in complex-league stats, especially where a small sample size is concerned. This guy has a chance to be pretty good.

 Q:  Blake from Madison, WI asks:
How high of a ceiling does Eric Cordier, your 12th ranked prospect and 2nd round pick of the Royals have? His control and command was described as being erratic. Is he still being looked at as the same type of pitcher that he was thought of in June before the draft?

Allan Simpson: Cordier walked 21 in 35 innings, so his performance was erratic. But he pitched really well in his final outing. He demonstrated a pretty good feel for three pitches, including a fastball that topped at 92. It's always a tougher adjustment for Northern kids in their first season and he'll be fine once he gets the ball around the plate more consistently.

 Q:  Blake from Madison, WI asks:
Thanks for doing the chat, I always love to read what the experts on baseball think. At this point can we consider Matt Bush the number 1 pick in this June's draft a bust, or was his sub .200 average just evidence of how difficult it is to adapt from high school baseball in California to rookie league level ball?

Allan Simpson: It's way to early to write Bush off, but he's got a lot to prove still. He clearly got off on the wrong foot and his season was further hampered by a hamstring problem that impacted his speed and range. The biggest things he needs to do are show he can swing the bat and prove he can be a solid citizen. He's got a bit of a loop in his swing and tried to swing the bat too hard.

 Q:  Ben Delbanco from New York, NY asks:
What can you tell us about Phil Hughes? I know he only threw a couple of innings--is his arm going to be ok? And is there any sort of consensus on what kind of stuff he has?

Allan Simpson: To me, Hughes is the Yankees' best first-round pick since Derek Jeter in 1992. He has power stuff and overmatched Gulf Coast League hitters in limited action. His fastball is an easy 94-95 and seems like it gains speed because he throws it on such a downhill plane. He throws three pitches for strikes, though didn't use his changeup in a game. He was compared to Roger Clemens at the same age--same body type, ball comes out of his hand the same way.

 Q:  Eric from Los Angeles asks:
OK, I know offensive statistics are not everything, but you have to explain how you can make Tuiassasopo your #1 prospect in the Arizona league, but leave Giants' prospect John Bowker completely off your list. Neither player played many games in Arizona (Tuiassaspo 20 games, Bowker 10), but Bowker outpaced your #1 guy in every meaningful category (.512.580.860 for Bowker [avgobpslg] vs. .412.528.721). Furthermore, when they both went to the NW League, Bowker continued to outperform Tuiassasopo by an even wider gap (.323.390.520 over 31 games for Bowker vs .248.336.386 for Tui over 29 games). Unless Bowker is completely incompetent as a fielder, doesn't he belong somewhere on that top 10? How do you make that decision?

Allan Simpson: Tuiasosopo played enough (56 plate appearances, or one per team game) to qualify for the list, Bowker didn't. Tui also is 18 years old, Bowker is 21. Both players moved to the Northwest League and had enough at-bats to qualify, and Tui made that list as well while Bowker did not crack the top 20 there either. Tui has a much higher upside, and that is the basis for the rankings. The sense I got on Bowker is he can swing the bat and has 15-homer potential, but he's just an adequate outfielder with a left fielder's arm.

 Q:  steve prohaska from new york asks:
can you tell us something about flores and gomez from the mets system they haven't gotten alot of press

Allan Simpson: The complex leagues draw a minimum of fan support, and exposure from the press is almost the same--especially for Latin American players, who haven't gotten exposure from the draft. The time will come for these players, and people in their own organizations certainly know who they are. Word travels fast. Gomez has a chance to have five-tool potential while Flores may already be the best defensive catcher in the Mets system.

 Q:  Dan Salazar from Phoenix asks:
Being a top draft pick, does that mean your automatically on the prospect list? Matt Bush (1st Rnd) sounds like a prospect hitting .181 in 72 at-bats...Mark Rogers (1st Rnd) 0-3 4.73....Josh Johnson 3rd Rnd. .213....Erik Cordier 2-4 5.19 2nd Rnd....etc...etc....etc....thats just the AZL....Im just wondering how some of these kids make these lists and have garbage seasons....thank goodness for your stat service so we can read between the lines....

Allan Simpson: We're not judging players on the basis of their current seasons, but rather their long-range worth. That's why players are in the minor leagues--to get better. Some players are as good now as they're going to get, others have barely scratched the surface of their ability. We're trying to establish which players will not only reach the big leagues, but even excel at that level. The Arizona and Gulf Coast leagues represent the lowest levels of professional baseball and it's the trickiest in terms of projecting a player's worth when players like Bush and Rogers struggle as they did. But both are legitimate prospects--and the operative word here is prospect. It will be a more worthwhile exercise to check back in a couple of years and see the progress some of these players have made.

 Q:  Ben from Washington DC asks:
Thanks for these chats. The Expos had two HS draft picks playing in the GCL...what were the thoughts on Ian Desmond (SS) and Collin Balester (RHP)? Did they not impress enough people to be included in the top twenty?

Allan Simpson: I sense you're asking these questions as a future fan of the transplanted Expos. Both got good support, especially Desmond, who flashed all the tools and could be an everyday big league shortstop. He needs to get stronger to hit but has fluid actions in the field. The tall, thin Balester wasn't in top shape after signing late, but showed good command of a 92-93 mph fastball. His curveball has a sharp bite and showed a lot of improvement late in the season.

 Q:  Hojo4Life from Upstate, New York asks:
Can you give me your thoughts on two young players the Mets had on their team? Nick Evans and Mike Carp, they both showed some decent power in their debuts.

Allan Simpson: Neither player cracked the GCL top 30, but both are interesting prospects. Carp's bat was as good as any player in the Eastern Division, while Evans' power was near the top of the list. Managers compared Carp's approach at the plate to Darin Erstad and Mark Grace. He has a clean swing path, simple set-up at the plate and a quiet approach. Evans has a lot more leverage in his swing and was compared to Pat Burrell or maybe more appropriately at this point to Brandon Wood, the Angels' first-round pick in 2003 from a rival Arizona high school. Carp is pretty much limited to first base, while Evans, a third baseman now, may be better suited for first or left field.

 Q:  Heath Hunt from Lakeland, FL asks:
Did former Ohio State QB recruit Joe Bauserman get any consderation from the managers as a possible Top 20 prospect in the GCL?

Allan Simpson: He sure did. In fact, he barely missed making the list. He pitched well. At 6-2, 220, he's obviously a power pitcher and he worked mostly at 91-92 while touching 94. He's also got a good feel for his breaking pitch. He's got a bulldog approach to pitching and throws strikes, though one manager described him as effectively wild.

 Q:  Zack from Ft Worth asks:
The Rangers didnt seem to have a stand out player in the Arizona League this summer, but I was wondering your thoughts on KC Herren and Eric Hurley? Herren has yet to show any power, can it come around? Hurley has an arm, but how are his other pitches? Thanks!

Allan Simpson: The Rangers had an older club in the AZL, and the emphasis was obviously on youth in our top 20. Two exceptions were Hurley, who didn't pitch enough innings to qualify for the list but had a 92-93 fastball and quality slider; and Herren, who didn't hit a home run but projects power because he has the majkings of a big league body with a good line drive swing. His power will come as he gets stronger and learns to loft balls.

 Q:  Jim from Milwaukee asks:
Mr. Simpson, I was surprised the Brewers selected Rogers over Bailey. Was this a wise choice in your opinion and does Rogers have the potential to be a #1 starter?

Allan Simpson: There was little to choose from between these pitchers, but most clubs liked Bailey slightly more. The Brewers took Rogers because they knew they could sign him quickly--and did for $2.2 million. Bailey was more of a tougher sign, though he eventually signed with the Reds for $2.3 million.

 Q:  Chris from St Paul, Mn asks:
I was wondering if you could tell me your thoughts on 2 players from the Twins GCL team, Kyle Waldrop and Juan Portes, and how they project out in the future? Thanks!

Allan Simpson: The Twins had a solid draft, and Waldrop (the third of three first-rounders) and Portes (15th-round) were very good picks. Waldrop has good if not great stuff but is very advanced for a high school pick. Portes may have had the best bat speed of any player in the GCL, and tied for the league home run lead. There's some question whether he can play third base or may need to move to the outfield, but his bat should play anywhere.

 Q:  JON from bronx asks:
what can you tell me about the yankees yosvany almario-cabrera(346.AVG OBP.413 SLG.519)?

Allan Simpson: Almario-Cabrera is listed at age 24, and there are some who believe he might be a couple of years older. He's a Cuban refugee who spent the 2003 season in the short-lived Canadian Baseball League, and was re-certified to play junior college baseball in Florida this spring. He can hit, no question, but doesn't have a position.

 Q:  Alan from Fairfax, VA asks:
I'm interested in Yankees prospect Jonathan Poterson. He was touted as powerful catcher, yet he played left field all season and struggled. What is your assessment of him?

Allan Simpson: We'll make this the day's final question. It says a lot about the power of prospects rankings that we got more than 400 questions today for two leagues that don't even draw fans. Poterson, a Yankees supplemental first-round pick, narrowly missed making the top 20, even though he hit just .202 with 60 strikeouts in 198 ABs after signing out of an Arizona high school. He has outstanding power from both sides--when he hits it. He really struggled early but straightened out his hitting mechanics considerably by season's end. He's very aggressive at the plate and needs to learn to stop chasing breaking balls out of the zone and drive hanging pitches better. He's a decent athlete with made a fairly seamless transition from catcher to left field, but he's a 30 runner with 40 speed (on the 20-80 scouting scale. Clearly, his bat is his big tool. Stay tuned for Tuesday's chat on the Appalachian League.

 Q:  Robert Goldberg from Lyndhurst, NJ asks:
Why didn't Rusty Begnaud crack the top 20 in the AZL? Based on his numbers, he should be there - put up a 7510 KBB ratio in 65 IP.

Allan Simpson: Begnaud was a 23-year-old, college-developed player in a league dominated by 18- and 19-year-olds. The feeling is he's not going to get a lot better than he already is.

Moderator: We thank Allan for his time and we're frankly shocked and the tremendous number of questions about two leagues that don't even draw fans. Will Kimmey will be here tomorrow at 2:30 to discuss the Appy League Top 20.

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