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NYP League Chat With Aaron Fitt

Moderator: Aaron will begin taking your questions at 2 p.m. ET. Please limit your questions to New York-Penn League players and teams.

 Q:  Marin from Seattle asks:
Oneonta Tigers reliever Collin Mahoney lit up the radar guns this past spring at Clemson, possessing perhaps the strongest arm in the nation. Did he recieve any support among league managers for this list?

Aaron Fitt: First of all, welcome everyone to the NY-P chat. We already have a number of questions, so I'm going to go ahead and get started a few minutes early.

Aaron Fitt: Mahoney is a converted catcher who can really rev it up there - he hit 100 on the gun this spring. But he's only been pitching for a year and he's very raw. For a college guy, he's still a longterm project.

 Q:  Randy from NYC asks:
I was surprised to see that Dante Brinkley didn't make the Top 20, despite strong numbers across the board. Is that a function of his age? What are the projections for him, and could he move up the Mets' system quickly from this point forward?

Aaron Fitt: Brinkley did have a terrific year, and league managers liked him as a player. He handles the bat well, uses all fields, plays hard and plays solid defense. But he's not a real big guy, only 5-10, 180 pounds, and he projects best as a fourth or fifth outfielder in the big leagues. Still, it's worth noting that a couple managers think he'll develop some power - one even said that his swing reminds him of Miguel Tejada. Brinkley has an outside shot of becoming an overachieving starting outfielder in the majors.

 Q:  Tom McCullough from York PA asks:
I have two pitching questions. First, did the Lowell Spinners have a pitching policy that produced these bizarre stats: Andrew Dobies 14 starts and 27 innings pitched and Thomas Hottovy 14 starts and 30 innings pitched. Other Lowell Spinners pitchers showed the usual ratio of lots of starts and lots of innings pitched, so it does not look like an across-the-board practice of an 8-pitcher Lowell Spinners starting staff with Dobies and Hottovy pitching in the leadoff spot. Second, Luis Ramirez at Aberdeeen and Evan MacLane at Brooklyn put up outstanding numbers but did not make the top twenty. Ramirez may be old to be pitching in short season A ball but MacLane does not appear to be old or short. Each also pitched low A in 2004, so the question is: were they supposed to be pitching low A in 2004 instead of dominating short season A hitters?

Aaron Fitt: To your first question, Dobies and Hottovy logged quite a few innings this spring for Virginia and Wichita State, respectively, so the Red Sox were very careful not to overwork them at Lowell. They would generally each start every five days, but they'd only go about two innings per start - a way to get them some work on a regular schedule without putting their arms in jeopardy. It's a common practice with the Theo Epstein Red Sox.

Aaron Fitt: To your second question, you nailed half of it: "were they supposed to be pitching low A in 2004 instead of dominating short season A hitters?" Ramirez is 22 and spent the last two years in the GCL – he should be farther along than he is. Ramirez is essentially just a fastball pitcher with a raw curveball that needs to be tightened up to become an average pitch. MacLane will be 22 in November, but he pitched well in the Sally League early this year and would still be there except the Mets like to make sure their Brooklyn club is competitive. Maclane can locate very well - the proverbial "guy who knows how to pitch" - but he doesn't throw quite hard enough to make this list. He tops out at about 89, although he complements it with a good changeup, and his control is outstanding.

 Q:  Chen Feng from Toronto, Ontario asks:
Hi Aaron. How did the Jay’s first round picks, Zack Jackson and David Purcey do at Auburn? Thanks.

Aaron Fitt: Couple of Blue Jays questions here, let's start with this one. Jackson and Purcey got a late start because they went through a throwing program for a month after signing, so managers didn't get to see a lot of them. But both of them are big, strong lefthanders who throw strikes and change speeds. Jackson struggled a bit in limited action this season, posting a 5.40 ERA in 15 innings, but it's nothing to worry about. Purcey's debut was more impressive - he struck out 13 and walked just one in 12 innings.

 Q:  Gerry from Toronto asks:
I was surpried Adam Lind from Auburn did not make your list, is there no love for the sweet swinging lefty?

Aaron Fitt: Lind is an interesting case. He was one of the guys who was just off the top 20. There's no doubt he can hit - he went .308-7-50 for Auburn - but he's below average defensively and he's not a terrific athlete. He played a lot of first base at South Alabama, but the Blue Jays moved him to left field, where he's still got a long way to go. He does have a nice swing, though, and rarely misses his pitch at the plate. He should develop some more power eventually.

 Q:  Bill from New York City asks:
Aaron, What do you think of Staten Island Eric Abreu,Tim Battle and Este Harris.

Aaron Fitt: Harris and battle are both high school guys from the Yankees' 2003 draft, and both are still just 19. They're both very raw, but Staten Island manager Tommy John is quite high on both of them. They're both very athletic, and Battle can flat-out fly. Harris has extremely fast hands, and when he hits the ball he hits it hard. But making consistent contact has been the problem for these two. They are still young and still need to learn how to hit (Battle's BB-K ratio this year was 14-74, and Harris' was 18-65).

 Q:  Bill H from Jacksonville asks:
Who makes his MLB debut first from the NYP league?

Aaron Fitt: Tommy Hottovy or Jason Vargas were the most polished pitchers in the league this year, and one of them will probably be first to the majors. Ben Zobrist could be the first position player to the majors.

 Q:  Will Clark from New York asks:
Jason Jaramillo obviously didn't light it up offensively at Batavia, but there was a lot of buzz about his selection in Philadelphia. How far is he from Philly and what is his offensive ceiling?

Aaron Fitt: Jaramillo's stats were not very impressive, but he's a switch hitter who swings the bat well from both sides and shows promise as a receiver.

 Q:  Tim from Pittsburgh asks:
The Pirates seemed to over draft ss Brian Bixler in the 2nd round this past draft. Reports are that he is a speedy contact hitting...nothing more. Are the reports accurate and does his talent translate to the major league game? Will he be a shortstop in the future, or will he need to change positions. Thanks.

Aaron Fitt: I think it's too early to get down on Bixler. Sure, he is a speedy contact hitter right now, but he has excellent instincts for the game and absorbs instruction very well, according to his manager. He's got a lot to learn offensively and defensively, but he's got the potential to be a gap-to-gap, line-to-line hitter with occasional pop.

 Q:  Nate from Denver, CO asks:
Why was Jon Barratt only 20th on this list? Was it due purely to his size? I have read that he had possibly the quickest arm in the entire '03 draft, and that his stuff was comparable to another LHP devil rays draftee, Andrew Miller(now at UNC)... Did his size hurt his status on this list that much? If there were other reasons, what were they?

Aaron Fitt: His size is the primary reason he was not higher. Not only are there longterm questions about Barratt's durabilty, but he suffered some arm fatigue issues this season. He does have one of the best curveballs in the league, and his fastball velocity is impressive for someone of his physical stature.

 Q:  Kevin from Springfield, MA asks:
Does the fact that the NYPL was an extreme pitchers league diminish some of the pitching performances?

Aaron Fitt: That depends which pitching performances you're talking about. A guy like Ronnie Martinez, who posts a terrific 11-2 record and an ERA less than two but doesn't put up great K per nine innings numbers, you have to wonder if he can continue his success at the next level. But pitchers like Anibal Sanchez and Jesse Hoover just dominated the league, posting low ERAs and terrific strikeout numbers, which are very important at the lower levels of the minors.

 Q:  tim from clovis ca asks:
what do you know about scrappers ss brian finegan you take out the first 3 weeks and the numbers are pretty good

Aaron Fitt: Let's take a couple questions about the league-champion Scrappers. Finegan is a scrappy shortstop who makes plays defensively and can hit a little, but he'll be 23 in December and doesn't seem to have a lot of upside. He's a nice player, but probably an organizational player.

 Q:  Phil from Boston, MA asks:
I saw Mahoning Valley catcher Wyatt Toregas on the Cape last year and was very impressed with his defensive skills. A low round draft choice out of VA Tech, he then produced with the bat in his introduction to pro ball. Is he highly regarded?

Aaron Fitt: Toregas does have solid defensive skills, and he hit much better for Mahoning Valley than he did for Virginia Tech this spring. A number of managers liked him as a receiver, where he has soft hands, good setup and approach. He projects as a major league backup catcher, although he could develop 10-15 home run potential.

 Q:  brooks from tampa asks:
tampa minor league sytems seems to producing some good talent is there any in hudson valley that we could be talking about in the near future.

Aaron Fitt: There are a number of decent Renegades position player prospects. Third baseman Pat Cottrell is one of the better ones - he's not a real big guy, and could eventually move to second base, but he plays hard, he's very aggressive, and he hits the ball to all fields with occasional power. Outfielder Fernando Perez was one of the fastest players in the league this year. He can track down balls in the outfield and he's an excellent base runner who stole 24 bases in 28 attempts. He has no power, and he needs to develop better strike zone judgment. Also, catcher John Jaso is a good receiver with very good plate discipline.

 Q:  Mike Marino from Stamford, CT asks:
Hey Aaron, as a Mets fan, its nice to see some good news coming out of minor leauges again with Concepcion getting the #1 ranking in the leauge. However, do you see him as the type of player that will progress quickly? I ask because it appears he'll be playing in LowMid-A Hagerstown next season as a 21-year old, which seems a little old.

Aaron Fitt: There is no doubt that Concepcion is a blue-chip prospect, but he probably won't move all that quickly - he still has some holes to work out in his swing. As for his age, a couple managers questioned whether he is really 20, but if he is then he's right on track.

 Q:  Nate from Denver, CO asks:
Whats the ceiling of Anibal Sanchez? Any idea as to when he might possibly reach the majors?

Aaron Fitt: Sanchez has a high ceiling - he dazzled this year with his mid-90s fastball with excellent movement, and he has a good feel for his secondary pitches. He needs time to polish them, however, and probably won't reach the big leagues before teammates Hottovy, Andrew Dobies and maybe R.J. Swindle do. When he gets there, though, he projects as a front-to-middle of the rotation starter.

 Q:  Earl from Atlanta asks:
Its interesting that Jamestown had 2 of your top 4, yet such a terrible league record. How do Vargas & Tankersley project for the Marlins?

Aaron Fitt: At this level, league records often have little to do with the quality of prospects on the roster, particularly when it comes to pitching. The best pitching staffs in the league - from a prospects perspective - probably belonged to last-place Staten Island, last-place Lowell, and Jamestown, which finished 15 games under .500. Vargas and Tankersley look like they could be the real deal. It will be very interesting to see what they do once they get a full season under their belts. Tankersley might have slightly more upside than Vargas, but Vargas is more of a sure thing. They both could pitch in the big leagues, perhaps both as starters.

 Q:  Ben from DC asks:
Thanks for these chats. How about the Expos...did they have anyone mentioned in the NYP Rankings. It looks like they have two young OF's who have some potential...Edgardo Baez ('03 - 4th) and Marvin Lowrance ('04 - 7th). Did those two guys merit strong consideration? Anyone else get some attention? Thank you.

Aaron Fitt: Baez has some serious tools, but he's very raw. He's got good power potential but he needs to make more consistent contact. Lowrance is an aggressive hitter with a finish that reminds the Expos of Mo Vaughn. He is not a good defensive player right now, but he's still 20 years old. On the pitching side, Greg Bunn has an outstanding curveball that could take him places, and Ben Cox throws a mid-to-high 90s fastball with good movement - he could be a sleeper if he can find command.

 Q:  Rebecca Ruck from Berkeley, CA asks:
Did SI Yankee pitcher, Jason Jones, who was promoted mid-season to Battle Creek get consideration for this top-20 list?

Aaron Fitt: Jones was not far out of the top 20. He is a big, physical righthander who knows how to pitch with his breaking ball and has good sink on his 88-91 mph fastball.

 Q:  Steve-O from Ohio asks:
What's the word on Argenis Reyes from Mahoning Valley? What kind of upside does he have?

Aaron Fitt: Opposing managers thought Reyes was a real pain as a leadoff hitter, which is a good thing for him. He has plus speed and a knack for getting on base. He'll never be a power hitter, but he could become a decent gap hitter. Defensively, he has handled the move to center field very well, and his arm is strong enough and his range good enough to keep him there.

 Q:  Tony from Cleveland asks:
If Justin Hoyman had logged enough innings where would he have landed on the list ? Does Hoyman profile similar to Indians starter Jake Westbrook who is experiencing great success in the big leagues with his sinker-slider-change combo ?

Moderator: Just a couple more questions, and then we'll have to wrap it up.

Aaron Fitt: Hoyman certainly would have merited strong consideration for this list if he had pitched enough innings.

 Q:  Jon from Peoria asks:
Did Bo Flowers or Josh Rainwater come close to making the list? Flowers seems to be raw but a guy with a high ceiling because of his age and athleticism.

Aaron Fitt: Rainwater's numbers were ugly, but he throws a good fastball in the mid-90s and is a smart pitcher. He's a little overweight, but he's just 19, so if he can trim down a bit, refine his secondary pitches, and throw more strikes, he could have a future. Flowers was one of the more athletic players in the NY-P, but he's nearly 21 now, he's in his third professional season, and he still hasn't quite put it together. Some managers wondered if he ever will.

 Q:  Blake Jones from Springfield, MO asks:
What was wrong with Mike Ferris this year? At one point he was projected to be the Royal's first round pick, then was considered a steal for the Card's in the 2nd round, but he couldn't hit this year.

Aaron Fitt: I think this will have to be the last question. Sorry I couldn't get to all of your questions - remember there are 14 teams in the NY-P, which is a lot of ground to cover.

Aaron Fitt: Ferris is still a legitimate prospect, with power to all fields, but he did not hit this year. He got into a slump early and had trouble recovering - he needs to hit early next year, and he should be okay. He showed decent athleticism at first base, and his bat will probably come around.

Aaron Fitt: Thanks for your outstanding questions, everyone. I've enjoyed reading them.

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