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Appalachian League Chat with Will Kimmey

Moderator: Will Kimmey will begin taking your questions at 2:30 p.m. ET -- please limit your questions to Appy League players and teams.

 Q:  John Wilson from St. Catharines, Ontario asks:
Hi Will, What other prospects do the Jays have at Pulaski? Any with high celing? Thanks

Will Kimmey: First, welcome everyone to the Appy chat. It should be fun. I'm a bit early, but I doubt anyone will complain about that.

Will Kimmey: Rodriguez was the dominant guy there, the main one you could see who had the combination of tools, youth and performance--three main factors in the order you look for them in a Rookie league. Chi Hung Cheng, I checked his age off The Sports Network's site while looking up his day-by-day stats. It said he was 24 when in fact he actually just turned 19 during the course of this season. That actually caused some confusion in the league as some managers even thought he was older and didn't give him a hard look. That said, his fastball was pushing 90 and he showed breaking ball command, both solid for a player of his age. The rest of the team featured a large group of college juniors and seniors who showed good discipline & power or command skills--things the Blue Jays tend to go after in drafts and free agent signings. When players that tend to have more of those than specific physical gifts, it's harder to pick which out of the pack can continue to produce at higher levels. Some always will, but also realize that without some of the physical gifts, these players likely aren't going to be the star quality players that populate these kind of lists. Rodriguez shows that, but it's hard to find others who do. Just for shiggles, two guys I'll tab as sleepers are Josh Lex, who has some bat if he can prove himself as a catcher, and David Hicks, who's a solid defensive 1B and shows good power potential.

 Q:  William Greene from Grand Rapids Minnesota asks:
Deacon Burns started out hot and cooled off. Why is he for real rather than just an older player in a young league? What can you tell us about Frank Mata. He was used as a reliever but made your rankings. Isn't it a bit unusual in rookie ball for a really good arm to be used out of the bullpen? And finally how did the Elizabethton team fail to make the playoffs with almost a third of the league's top prospects - not to mention Glen Perkins who I assume didn't play long enough to qualify or he would have been on the list too.

Will Kimmey: Wow, a three-parter. Someone else as verbose as me. Here goes: 1) He's for real because of bat speed, power potential and athletic ability. He's a guy who doesn't really have a position, though. Also, by that part of the list, the talent was beginning to thin out so the 20 spot was one that could have gone to many different players. I picked Burns because of his success and potential to keep improving. For me, guys from smaller colleges or those who didn't concentrate solely on baseball have more room for improvement than similarly aged players from larger schools, who are normally closer to a finished product. 2) It is a bit unusual, but if you look at his stuff, it projects to work in the majors--at the very least as a power reliever. That's a valuable piece, and in my judgement while his ceiling of a RP isn't as high as someone who's a SP, his chance to reach that ceiling is far greater. The Twins realized early on that Mata might not end up as a starter because his velocity drops considerably and his repertoire isn't varied enough to work through a lineup twice, so in putting him in the bullpen now, it could actually help his development rather than if they'd tried to stick the proverbial square peg in a round hole and he'd struggled tremendously and then was switched to the pen. 3) The minors are about development, not winning. Winning sometimes is a nice side effect of having talent, but not always the result. Elizabethton was only one game back, so it's not like a talented club completely fell flat. And, Perkins did not qualify. You need at least 13 IP for every team game and Perkins had just 12.

 Q:  dwright_2004 from Levittown,NY asks:
What do you think of Kingsports' Seth Pietsch? He had solid numbers all around to go with an ability to be selective at the plate--is he the best of the Mets Appy league prospects? Thanks

Will Kimmey: Managers liked his power, but his age of 23 didn't win many fans. You'd get a more accurate assessment of what he did in a higher level league, and his 2 walks against 22 K's there--even in a small sample size--don't exactly scream pretty selective. His Appy OBP was .371, but that's with 22 walks and 37 K's, nearly 1:2, which ain't pretty either. The Mets tended to have their fair share of older guys in this league, as well. Those guys tend to produce numbers-wise, but going off stats isn't very instructive the lower you go in the minors because there are more young kids adjusting to their bodies, skills and surroundings that struggle while older guys tend to do have a better handle on those factors.

 Q:  Kelly Uganski from Muskegon asks:
It appears to your rankings the last 3 to 5 years the Twins organization is beating out other teams at the draft, weather it is top talent or later round selections. Why is this happening? Who should be given the credit for this?

Will Kimmey: It's called good scouting. Those kudos should be sent to scouting director Mike Radcliff and his staff for consistently identifying premier talent. Even though the team has a small budget, it's always digging up studs. Look back through some of Minnesota's past drafts at the unsigned high school guys and you'll see players who emerged as stars during college. That's scouting.

 Q:  John Althouse from Greenville, SC asks:
Elizabethton had a talented club this year. My question is about a couple guys that didn't make the Top 20: Dave Winfree and Johnny Woodard. Both struggled last year in the GCL and Winfree even struggled his senior year of HS before that, but they played quite well in '04. Do they project to be Big Leaguers at this point?

Will Kimmey: A few managers did single of Woodard's power potential and liked how well he played around the bag at first despite his stature. Knowing that only 10 percent of players signed make the majors and that this is an entry level, it's hard to project either as a starting major leaguer now, but you can see how well power plays, so that leaves the door open.

 Q:  Dan Johnson from STL asks:
Tony Granadillo and Juan Lucena put up some nice numbers for the cardinals this year playing their first seasons in the U.S. Is Granadillo really a switch hitter like he's listed and what kind of cieling does he have? Lucena led the league in hitting, but didn't show much ability to draw a walk. Does he have the skills to stay at ss?

Will Kimmey: Granadillo and Lucena both earned mentions, but Granadillo did hit 10 homers in the league, but remember it's 320 down the line at Johnson City's yard. Managers don't see his power playing at 3B as he moves up the ladder, as evidenced by no homers at New Jersey. Lucena's a fringy guy. He's decent defensively and puts a lot of balls in play but is very weak physically.

 Q:  Chris from St paul, MN asks:
How do you feel Trevor Plouffe, the Twins 1st round pick performed in the Appy League? I think he had a 20 game hitting streak and seemed to do alright, is he a boom or bust type prospect? Also, Was Johnny Woodard near your top 20 Appy prospects?

Will Kimmey: I don't see a lot of bust because Plouffe showed all the defensive attributes you'd want to see in a major league SS. He can do that now. His bat will determine if he's more an Adam Everett kind of guy who pushes for average offensive contributions or if he can be more a two-hole guy with a good average and some gap power. Managers leaned toward the latter. Just commented on Woodard, but did leave out that one of the knocks on him was his long swing.

 Q:  James from Iowa asks:
Twins 1st round Compensation pick, SP- Matt Fox struggled quite a bit, with a ERA over 5.00, he also gave up 6 homers in limited innings. I was a bit surprised by this , seeing as he owned college hitters. Do you expect him to rebound next year and do much better? Thanks

Will Kimmey: Yeah, that's the quote that ran with his scouting report. Fox threw a ton of college innings and seemed tired in the Appy League, causing him to miss some starts and not be quite as sharp. Rest should take care of him. At his best, Fox can locate a low-90s fastball and hard slider as he sees fit. That's how he generated those UCF strikeout numbers: 125 of them, tied for 17th in the NCAA.

 Q:  Robert from Athens, Tx. asks:
Can Mitch Einertson play 2nd? Will he hit for power in the majors?

Will Kimmey: He hasn't played second as a pro, that's why the Astros are trying him there in instructs. They did list him as a 2B when they drafted him--if you check back to our draft database, so it's obvious they had that in mind. Still, I think the power he showed might make it OK for him to fit at an outfield corner. Some of that pop was surprising, and why they originally wanted that switch to happen. Now it seems more of a bonus, to get that kind of pop from second is quite rare, so if he can't play 2B adequately, his power stroke still fits fine in the OF. The only troubling thing about Einertson's debut was that he struck out more than 70 times. You can live with that if he gets on base and hits jacks--they call it Adam Dunn or Jason Giambi. I'm not compairing him to those guys because both are bigger but just saying the K's are less troubling if you hit 30 jacks.

 Q:  Mike from Chicago asks:
Does Francisco Hernandez project as a strting catcher in the majors? If so do you think he will be an offensive force as well as good defensively?

Will Kimmey: Certainly. He's a guy whose biggest shortcomings now should evaporate as he becomes more experienced. He's a fine hitter for his age and shows some pop for his small stature. He's not going to get a ton bigger, but he should still be a solid offensive player, especially at catcher. Maybe Padres C Ramon Hernandez is a decent comparison here.

 Q:  Nathaniel P-K from Lancaster, PA asks:
His age probably hurt him, but did the Braves' Mark Jurich warrant any consideration? He took a little while to adjust to wood bats, but the 2nd part of his season was tremendous...

Will Kimmey: Being a college senior here was the reason, but managers did like his power. Sixteen homers is loud, but then realize Jurich will be 25 before he begins his next season.

 Q:  Tom from Philadelphia, PA asks:
What are you thoughts on PJ Hiser, even though he was hurt near the end of the season he still put up some impressive numbers?

Will Kimmey: You're looking at a case similar to that of Jurich; Hiser was also a college senior draft. On numbers alone, you like what you see. Until that number is birthdate, when you don't get overly excited about a 23-year-old here.

 Q:  T.C. from Memphis, TN asks:
What are your impressions of C Brandon Yarbrough, who hit for a pretty solid average for Johnson City this year?

Will Kimmey: Managers were split on his defensive future. Some saw a guy who might even increase his offensive output if he could relax while playing first base or left field. Other said he had the physical skills to man the position, but just needed the experience and opportunity to work with better pitchers to help him out. They made the point that in lower levels, catching is difficult to evaluate because pitchers are less skilled--more prone to struggle with command, with hurts a backstop's receiving, game calling and his ability to gun down runners. Everyone agreed his sweet lefthanded swing was laudable.

 Q:  Lloyd from Seattle, WA asks:
Who would be a good major league comparison for White Sox lefty Gio Gonzalez?

Will Kimmey: Comparisons are often hard and unfair because of expectations and the fact that few players are exactly alike. With that caution, I sort of think Astros-era Mike Hampton here. A sub-6-footer with good command, the ability to work off his fastball and throw his breaking ball for strikes.

 Q:  Russ from NY asks:
Reid Brignac was the best player for the D'Rays in Princeton, but are there any other players that could have made the list from the team?

Will Kimmey: Princeton manager Jamie Nelson really liked Christian Lopez, a 20-year-old C with very strong defensive skills. Jaria delaRosa, the 19-year-old SS who preceeded Brignac also impressed with his ability to stick the bat on the ball and defensive skills.

 Q:  Ben from Germantown, Maryland asks:
Does the Brave's J.C. Holt seem to possess the batting and running skills to be a MLB leadoff hitter, and do you believe that he will play an above-average defensive 2B, or would his MLB position be back in the outfield?

Will Kimmey: You hit it right on the head. He played some 2B I believe during high school, so the move wasn't quite the shot in the dark it might have looked like. One league manager didn't even realize Holt was a conversion guy. He should be as good defensively as Marcus Giles, which is average, but not the same kind of hitter.

 Q:  John from Atlanta asks:
Did any other Danville players get consideration for the list? Mark Jurich, Brandon Jones, Matt Harrison, Chris Vines, Kevin Villa?

Will Kimmey: Danville lead the league in batting, so there were a ton of hitters considered there. I talked about Jurich already, Jones and catcher Cole Armstrong, both 21, each showed some batting skills and could be interchangable at 20 with Deacon Burns if you were so inclined. Armstrong didn't really catcher much, however, and wasn't particularly impressive when he did, so his beating out Hernandez as the league's all-star catcher is kind of funny and probably happened because he had a higher batting average than Hernandez when the ballots were sent it. Hernandez passed him late in the year. As for the pitchers, all showed some inklings of future success either in their strikeout-walk ratio or ERA. None really rose above other players in the league enough to hop high on the list however.

 Q:  Elliot Legow from Youngstown OH asks:
Chuck Lofgen hardly got a chance to play for Burlington, but did he show anything on the mound that impressed the managers?

Will Kimmey: Due to my math misfortunes, Lofgren actually was No. 15 on this list when I first completed it. My sister is the family math major, so maybe I needed her help to figure out that Lofgren was about an inning shy of qualifying. He's got a strong arm and low-90s fastball that he needs to use more. He needs to hone his secondary stuff. The Tribe let him hit every five days until he had a collision at the plate while running the bases. That ended his DH days.

 Q:  Will Young from Washington, DC asks:
The Twins have been very cautious with Alexander Smit in the two years that he has spent in their organization. Next year, he will probably finally pitch for an entire season. How quickly do you see him progressing through their organization?

Will Kimmey: He's still young and relatively inexperienced, plus he's quite tall. Those kind of pitchers, especially lefties, often progress very slowly until seemingly out of nowhere something clicks athletically and they put it all together. I'll put Smit in that boat. He'll throw harded and gain location as he gets stronger and more used to pitching often. There's a ceiling of about a No. 2 here. Remember, he's still 18 so he could be three more years before Minnesota is a reasonable destination for him.

 Q:  GC from International Falls, Minn. asks:
Does it mean anything that Kyle Waldrop is the #3 prospect in the Appy League but #4 in the lower level GC league? Also where would Glen Perkins come in on this list?

Will Kimmey: Not especially. It depends on the depth of the league and how you stack up different players. For me, Waldrop could have ranked really anywhere from 3 to 6. He was my first pitcher, and it's always hard to rate pitchers against hitters in any kind of list because they do such different things. Perkins would have been around 10-11 if he had qualified.

 Q:  Justin A from Houston, TX asks:
Besides the 3 Greeneville players on the top 20, any other prospects(Barthmeier, Davis, etc.)from that team?

Will Kimmey: Levi Romero worked his fastball into the mid-90s and Wladimir Sutil also showed great SS actions, though he must get stronger and show he can hit enough to play everyday.

Will Kimmey: Quick correction on Pulaski's Chi-hung Cheng: I check his age off The Sports Network's site while looking up his day-by-day stats. It said he was 24 when in fact he did turn 19 during the course of this season. That actually caused some confusion in the league as some managers even thought he was older and didn't give him a hard look. That said, his fastball was pushing 90 and he showed breaking ball command, both solid for a player of his age.

 Q:  Elliot Legow from Youngstown OH asks:
Will, This isn't a prospect question but one Indians' minor league fans have kicked around occasionally: Would the Indians be better off with a complex team for their lowest rookie league team instead of Burlington, where our 18-19 year olds from high school and Latin America compete against other teams' 21 year olds out of college? Isn't the Appy League which mixes the two levels of first year clubs like having a combo Low AHigh A league or a league that's half AA and half AAA?

Will Kimmey: That's a philosophy question, and every team sort of has its own development style. it's hard to argue with the Indians setup as they've sent guys like Manny Ramirez and Richie Sexson through Burlington in the past and now have one of the better systems in the minors. Maybe they enjoy their players getting to start in a little bit more advanced league than the GCL while also experiencing real minor league travel; there's not much of that in the complex leagues.

 Q:  Randar from Chicago, IL asks:
Will, does Bristol's Javier Castillo make this list on defense alone? He was tentative at the plate and while he takes a good share of walks, he seems to have no grasp of the inner half of the plate. As your capsule also indicated, he has a tough time with breaking pitches. Is his ranking based on his slick-fielding despite just average numbers at the plate at age 21, or his bat more projectible in the eyes of Appy managers andor scouts than I'm giving him credit for?

Will Kimmey: His defense was key, but there's projetion given his size and strength for enough power to possibly handle a move to third base. His plate discipline and potential to display power and make adjustments lead to him having a chance to be an average hitter with solid power. Really on this list, the big cut off happened near the 15 or 16 mark. The last four slots can be really interchangable, but you can't have a 10-way tie for the last several spots.

 Q:  Tom from Minny asks:
Hey Will, what have you heard on Indians 6th round pick Cody Bunkelman ? I know he is a raw product from the North but he flashed mid 90's heat as an amateur and I did read the Indians Scouting Director say Bunkelman reminded him a little of Roy Oswalt when he scouted him as draft prospect a few years back, is Cody a potential closer in the making ? Thanks

Will Kimmey: Bunkleman worked in the 90-92 range and hit some 95s. He also was able to throw a tight slider at times. So there's potential there, but he's still very green and needs a lot of work on his mechanics. He's gradually learning a changeup, but if that doesn't take, the bullpen would be a nice place for a power arm.

 Q:  Greg from Knoxville, TN asks:
What do you see in Kyle Waldrop's near future since maturity seems to be one of his strong points?

Will Kimmey: He's the top-ranked pitcher here for that point as well as his feel for pitching. Those are two things that high school pitchers often take a little time to develop to complement the raw power stuff that normally gets preps drafted high. The profile could remind you of Zack Greinke in a small way. Basically, I really like that combo on someone so young who still has a 6-foot-5 frame to fill out.

 Q:  Sean from Atlanta asks:
What kind of a hitter do you project Reid Brignac, Tampa Bay's recent 2nd Round pick, to be in the future? He had an unbelievable start in the App. League and seemed to finish off as well in the SAL. And how is he defensively because I keep hearing that he may move to 3B eventually?Thanks.

Will Kimmey: There are about five Reid Brignac questions here, so this one will be for all of you. Managers compared his abilities at SS to Plouffe's after saying Ploufe could play SS in the majors right now. Brignac is clearly not the second coming of Cal Ripken, but he could look much like his physically as he fills out. When Ripken came up, that body type was more typcial at 3B, but we've seen some SS have success in the majors with the same build. So common sense says the Rays leave Brignac at SS until he proves he can't play it, or when he reaches the major league level and BJ Upton is playing there. He looks to have the kind of power that will play at 3B and is a bonus for SS. So simply moving him off short now, just because of Upton's presence would be silly because there are no certainties that Upton won't get injured or that they won't find a trade in which Brignac's value as a SS makes it hard for them not to do the deal.

 Q:  Galen from Cedar Rapids asks:
Will, What was the scouting report on Steven Duguay? He had an impressive 70/11 strikeout to walk ratio in 56 13 innings.

Will Kimmey: He's got an average fastball near 90 mph and an average to above breaking ball. He's very good at changing speeds and locating.

 Q:  Tony from Cleveland asks:
Will, if Juan Valdes's bat continues to progress as well it might what type of prospect are we talking about here ? Is he potential dynamic leadoff hitter in the making ? Certainly his walk rate is encouraging for a Latin kid would you agree ? Thanks

Will Kimmey: If he can figure out things with the bat, you've got a great percentage basestealer with the ability to win a gold glove in center. He's a great athlete, but really needs to hone his offensive game. The guess is he might end up a Juan Pierre type guy, or maybe more Joey Gathright with better defensive skills.

 Q:  Coach A from Victoria,Texas asks:
It seems like Troy Patton could turn out to be a staeal for the Astros. Wasnt he forecast to go in the top 3 rounds? What is his ceiling?

Will Kimmey: The Stros lost their first-round pick for signing Andy Pettitte, so were able to use some of that money that would have gone toward that pick on Patton, who could have gone as high as the second round if his committment to Texas wasn't so strong. He's a lot like Gio Gonzalez, good location, strong stuff, an advanced feel. Maybe a No. 2 or more likely No. 3 starter long-term.

Will Kimmey: That's all I've got time for today. Thanks for all the questions and sorry I couldn't answer them all.

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