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California League Chat with Kevin Goldstein

Moderator: Kevin will begin taking your questions at 3 p.m. ET -- please limit your questions to California League teams and players.

 Q:  Zack from Ft Worth asks:
Did Rangers and Stockton's outfielder Vincent Sinisi get any consideration for being in the top 20? Playing in only 62 games he hit .310, 7 homers, and 40 rbi. If he would have played the full season do you believe he might be in the top 20?

Kevin Goldstein: Welcome everyone as BA chat-o-rama continues. It's finally fall here in Chicago, so I wish I was in California. I have a long list of old skool California punk mp3s lined up and blaring, so lets get going. Sinisi is one of those (and I'm sure we'll talk about many of them) who ended up just on the fringes of the 20. The injury didn't effect his ranking too much, but it didn't help. On opening day 2005, he'll be 23, and he'll only have 77 pro games under his belt. Defensively he's an adequate left fielder, so his bat is going to carry him, and the power that everyone projects for him still hasn't manifested itself in games.

 Q:  Bobby B from New York, asks:
Kevin Thanks for the time. What can you tell me about the feedback on Jarred Ball and Phil Avlas? They both appeared to have consistent years for a top team.

Kevin Goldstein: C'mon Bobby, you know I was going to get to your email! Ball is generally seen as solid but unspectacular, and would have made the list if it was 30 long. He does many things well, but doesn't have that one tool that makes you say wow. Observers weren't convinced he could play CF everyday either, which really hurts his projection. Avlas is a very good defensive catcher who came around with the bat this year, improving his status from org guy to someone on the depth chart.

 Q:  Nate from Denver, CO asks:
Hi Kevin, thanks for taking my question. How soon will Fred Lewis be in SF? Who would you compare him too?

Kevin Goldstein: If Lewis build upon the strides he made this year in AA next year, he could get a look in late '05. Defensively, he's ready right now, and with developing power, in a perfect world, he could become Lofton-esque.

 Q:  Phil from Philadelphia asks:
Besides Felix Hernandez, what other Inland Empire players got some support? Jesus Guzman? Bobby Livingston? Any one else?

Kevin Goldstein: Livingston just missed to cut. His stuff in underwhelming, but he has great command and just knows how to pitch. The other player who got the most attention was Jon Nelson, an intriguing power/speed combination who is a little behind the curve because of a 2-year mormon mission.

 Q:  Chris Wallace from Philly asks:
Thanks for the chat Kevin. With Aybar and Brandon Wood both ranking in their respective league's top 5 and Callaspo posting solid numbers at AA how do you see the shortstop position shaking out in Anaheim in a couple of years?

Kevin Goldstein: I think it's a nice problem to have, no? Also don't forget that Sean Rodriguez was the Pioneer League MVP. Aybar is just outstanding defensively, so I don't see them moving him. Callaspo proved to be a very good 2B in the past when he was teamed with Aybar in last couple of years, so a return there is certainly a possibility. I'm sure Anaheim would rather have too many shortstops than not enough.

 Q:  Dave from Fresno asks:
I know that he is old for the Cal League, and I know that he is slow footed. These facts keep Brian Stavisky from being a top prospect. But the numbers he put up seem to indicate a break through for Stavisky, who has a great power hitters body. I saw him play about 20 games this year, and I noticed that he began to use his hips much more in the second half when his power numbers finally took off? What do scouts think about Stavisky's year? Is he now considered a legitimate prospect?

Kevin Goldstein: Stavisky won league MVP honors, hitting .343-19-83, but scouts saw a 24 year old guy with poor defensive skills who's swing mechanics lack fluidity or balance. He's a fringe prospect because it just takes SO much bat to make it to the big leagues as a first-baseman/left fielder.

 Q:  Luke from St. Paul, MN asks:
How close were Enrique Cruz and Travis Hinton to making the top twenty list. Cruz was the hottest hitter in the league in the second half and had good power numbers for a shortstop. Hinton, although old for the league, had good power numbers.

Kevin Goldstein: Cruz has a big second half, but who you take into account that ballpark, he just wasn't as impressive. Hinton would rank higher than Cruz on a deeper list, but like Stavisky, he's limited defensively, will be 24 in November and has some big holes in his swing.

 Q:  Chris Irwin from Palo Alto, CA asks:
I remember watching Carlos Quentin many times at Sunken Diamond. It seemed to me that he had serious trouble hitting breaking balls and that was the reason he got hit so much. Has he improved, or was I simply imagining things? Have other minor leaguers with abnormally high HBP totals been successful? Won't it take it's toll?

Kevin Goldstein: The concerns about the HBP aren't necessarily him getting hurt (but obviously, that's there), but more of WHY he gets hit. He starts out already on the top of the plate, and his swing brings nearly his entire body into the zone. Some are concerned about how this effects his ability to hit inside pitches.

 Q:  Dave from Fresno asks:
Brad Sullivan obviously had a hugely disappointing year. I hear rumors that the A's were not letting him throw his slider out of fear for his arm? Is this true? If he begins to use the slider again in Double A will he get back on track towards the majors? It was really sad to see him pitch this year, he looked lost most of the time.

Kevin Goldstein: Sullivan was one of the league's disappointments, definitely. It seems like he still hasn't recovered from his junior year at Houston. His velocity is still well below the 91-93 he showed in college, and he seems to have lost the sink on it as well, while his slider also lost bite. He hand a handful of good outings in the second half, and maybe he can build on that.

 Q:  chris from irvine, ca asks:
Where would Mike Napoli rank on a top 50 prospect list. He put up some nice numbers this year.

Kevin Goldstein: Napoli put up some HUGE numbers this year (.282-29-118), but he also struck out 166 times and few believe he'll be about to stay at catcher down the road. Very reminiscent of Pirates longhair Craig Wilson.

 Q:  Jonathan from Baton Rouge asks:
Who are the A's other top prospects who either just missed the Cal. league list or didn't qualify?

Kevin Goldstein: Outfielder Nelson Cruz would have been No. 21 on the rankings. Tons of tools, and he really started to develop more of an all-around game this year, including a very good second-half at AA. Scouts and managers preferred Jason Perry over Stavisky (who we discussed early), but he has the same negatives. Andre Ethier is another toolsy outfielder who can hit .300 but does little else offensively.

 Q:  Tiffythetitan from Oakland, CA asks:
Was there any buzz about other Giants prospects besides Cain, Lewis and Schierholtz?

Kevin Goldstein: Billy Sadler is an interesting sleeper as a power reliever with control problems, and I had one scout rave about first baseman Travis Ishikawa and outfielder (maybe) Eddy Martinez-Estevee, both of whom did not have enough at-bats to qualify.

 Q:  Radar O'Riley from Iowa asks:
It appears Chad Orvella is going to get stiffed on every top 20 list, despite rising through 3 levels, because he didn't log alot of innings at any one. Where would he rank in the Cal League if he had spent a whole season there?

Kevin Goldstein: He only pitched 17 innings, so like you say, he didn't quality. He just rocketed through the devil rays system, but it's hard to evaluate relievers, or get too excited about them. He certainly would have made the top 20, but in the 15-20 range.

 Q:  Earl from Sacramento, CA asks:
What about Andre Ethier? Why do you guys hold it against the A's that they draft only college players? When you draft 45 players you can't put them all in Double A. They maybe older, but judge the talent not the age.

Kevin Goldstein: I touched on Ethier earlier. We have to judge players in a league context, and just because they can't put all of their players in Double-A doesn't mean we should evaluate them against players 2-5 years younger as equals. It's important to take age into league context and when a 24 year old experience college player like Perry or Stavisky rakes in the Cal League, it's not a big deal. It's also important to note that we're not just ranking these players in a black hole. These rankings are based on hours of discussions with managers and scouts, we're just trying to be a mirror.

 Q:  Wes from Seattle asks:
What do you think Felix Hernandez's chances are of making the 25 man roster for Seattle next year?

Kevin Goldstein: There's two questions here, really. Stuff/ability-wise, I think he'd be ready to get major league hitters out next year. The second question is why would a rebuilding Mariners team bring him up and start his service clock so quickly. Do you really want him being a free agent at 25? See Rodriguez, Alex.

 Q:  Jan from Belgium asks:
There were no pitchers from Lake Elsinore and Modesto on the list. Who has the highest ceiling on each pitching staff?

Kevin Goldstein: Righty David Pauley would be the highest ranked pitcher for Lake Elsinore, he has fringy stuff but an excellent feel for pitching. Sullivan is still probably the best prospect at the Modesto staff, will reliever Shawn Kown being of some interest.

 Q:  Greg from Chatsworth asks:
Why is Paul McNaulty not in the top 20? His .404 OBP and .521 SLG seem fairly good? Does his age have anything to do with it?

Kevin Goldstein: Another guy just on the outside looking in. He made great strides in power and plate discipline this year to turn himself into a prospect.

 Q:  Brian Daniels from Atlanta, Georgia asks:
Hey Kevin, how is life? Wanted to ask you a question about Erick Aybar. Is he really that good or just his brother?

Kevin Goldstein: Life is good. Aybar drew several comparisions to Rafael Furcal, but in the end, I think he might be more similar to Edgar Rentaria -- a guy who can hit .290-300 with 10-15 HR, a good number of steals and plus defense.

 Q:  Michael from Colorado asks:
Ubaldo Jiminez appeared to be the California league sensation before he was hurt. Based on potential where does he rank on this list. Obviously missing most of the year hurt. What is his ceiling? Is it higher than Jeff Francis?

Kevin Goldstein: He certainly was one of the top pitchers in all of baseball in April. His fastball is overpowering, but his offspeed offerings lag behind. That and his violent delivery profile him as a power closer in the end.

 Q:  Ken from Williamsburg, VA asks:
Where do you see Omar Quintanilla next season? I'm assuming he'll start in Midland, but how quickly could he move up to Sacramento? Also, do you see him being the starting second baseman for Oakland in 2006?

Kevin Goldstein: That sounds right as far as timetable and position to me. Despite not being a big on-base guy, he should fit in well with the A's system, as he was one of the top fundamental players in the league.

 Q:  Heath Hunt from Fort Meade, FL asks:
Thanks for the chats. They really give us something to look forward to during the perpetual cleanup from hurricane after hurricane. Has Wes Littleton lost his prospect status after a mediocre year?

Kevin Goldstein: Hope you're dry. Littleton has certianly slipped a little, but he's still a prospect. Mechanically he was out of whack all year, and he lost a little velocity, and a lot of movement on his fastball. The bigger concern is with his low three-quarters delivery. Pitchers like that are always a concern, because one worries about trouble vs. lefthanded hitter, who hit well over .300 off Littleton this year.

 Q:  Justin from Capitol Hill asks:
After reading "The Last Best League" I became pretty intrigued with Jamie D'Antonia's potential as a big league slugger. He's got tape measure power, but do you think his swing is too long to be a bigtime major league hitter or will he become more of a Dean Palmer type long term?

Kevin Goldstein: D'Antona has more pure power than Jackson and Quentin, but you nailed it, the long swing (as some trouble with breaking balls) is a concern. His defense could be an issue as well -- he has good actions at 3rd, but is a little slow there. That and his shoulder problems this season all point to a move to first base.

 Q:  Joey from Dallas asks:
What did the scout mean about Joquian Arias? "when you see him in batting practice you drool, but once the game starts he disapoints?" Give me a break he is only 19! Sounds like this scout might be jealous that Arias is not in his organization!

Kevin Goldstein: Context context context! Arias ranks as the #2 shortstop, and #15 overall prospect in the Cal League, I bet most organizations would love to have him -- that's anything but an insult. That said, here's what I mean. Arias shows good power to all fields in batting practice, but has just 32 extra-base hits all year. He shows wonderful fielding tools in practice, but in games, he can get sloppy and made 40 errors. His performance just didn't seem to match his obvious tools.

 Q:  Adam J. Morris from Houston, Texas asks:
John Hudgins, only a long man in the majors? Putting him all the way down at #18 on the list? Come on, I know he doesn't have overpowering stuff, and you guys criticized the Rangers for taking him too soon in the 2003 draft, but don't you think you might be underestimating him?

Kevin Goldstein: I might be, but he still just doesn't have overpowering stuff. What he does have is two plus offspeed pitches, which will allow you to dominate A ball. If he made it as a #3 or 4 starter just on command, instincts and guile, it wouldn't shock me.

 Q:  Scott from Pensacola, FL asks:
What do you consider Manny Parra's ceiling to be? What is his ETA in Milwaukee? What does he throw??

Kevin Goldstein: His ETA is really going to depend on his health, but he should start '05 at Double-A. Parra has good command of four pitches -- a low 90s fastball, another version of it that he substracts from that is more of a splitter, as well as a curve and changeup. He could move quickly if he can stay on the mound.

 Q:  brooks from tampa,fl asks:
gabriel martinez get any consideration. he seems like a tweener prospect, hit alot of doubles and had a high average but didnt drive in many runs or hit many HR's. whats your thoughts on him

Kevin Goldstein: Gabby definitely got consideration, and would probably make the top 30. He smacks the ball all over the field, and has versatility in the field. There's real value there.

 Q:  mike from holiday asks:
dukes had trouble in low A and then tore up high A, then is put at the 6 prospect. what gives with this kid i know he has alot of tools but will he ever make it or is his attitude going to get in his way.

Kevin Goldstein: Was it risky to put him at 6? Maybe. But it also might have been risky to not rank him even HIGHER. He's a special athelete who has already begun to translate his raw tools into production, and he has excellent instincts. Combine that with an improve outlook when he arrived at Bakersfield, and I'm comfortable with the ranking.

 Q:  James Barklage from Denver, CO asks:
While Jeff Salazar struggled after moving up to Double A Tulsa, Jeff Baker continued to play well. Rumor has it that the Rockies may move Baker to the outfield once he reaches the majors. Of the two, who is likely to have the greater value, Salazar or Baker? Thanks in advance.

Kevin Goldstein: The talk is that the Rockies will move Baker to rightfield in order to accomodate the skyrocketing Ian Stewart. Baker is a surprisingly good athlete for his size and has a good arm, so I can see it working out. He just needs to stay healthy.

 Q:  Bruce Pokarney from Salem, OR asks:
Was there any consideration of Modesto catcher John Suomi on the top 20 list? His bat seemed pretty strong for most of the season but I don't know much about his catching skills or whether he calls a good game. What can you tell me about him?

Kevin Goldstein: Excellent sleeper who I failed to mention when discussing Modesto earlier. He's a decent catcher, but not plus there. A position switch might be in order (he played about 20 games at third base this year), as the A's drafted to premium catchers in June -- Landon Power and Kurt Suzuki.

 Q:  Tiffythetitan from Oakland, CA asks:
Obviously, Eddy Martinez-Esteve didn't play enough in any of the leagues to qualify for their Top 20 but I'm curious...you said (maybe) outfielder when you referenced him...if he's not an outfielder, what is he? And what is exactly wrong with his outfield play that suggests a position change may be in order?

Kevin Goldstein: To quote John C. Manuel from our draft preview -- "a well-below-average defender who appears indifferent about getting better." That seemed to be the consensus still.

 Q:  Jim Kennedy from Bourne, Ma asks:
How far has Matt Cain risen in the last year, from where he stood last year. The #2 prospect ranking kind of sticks out for a guy who didnt put up mind boggling numbers this year.....what gives?

Kevin Goldstein: He was 19 years old in the Cal League, had a 1.86 ERA in 13 starts with an 8917 KBB ratio in 72.2 innings. That's not mind-boggling? Tough customer there in Cape Cod Country.

 Q:  Jim from Connecticut asks:
What is the difference between Hernandez and Cain that elevates Felix to #1?

Kevin Goldstein: The obvious one is age. Hernandez is nearly 18 months younger than Cain, and Cain was one of the youngest pitchers in the league. There there is stuff. As good as Cain is, Hernandez throws harder, has a better curveball, and a more advanced changeup. In addition, Hernandez barely even threw his slider this year, which is reportedly as good as the other pitches. He is a special, once-in-a-generation type talent.

 Q:  FRANCHISE management from madison, wi asks:
thanks for taking my question: has any one raised the question about felix hernandez's age being legit?

Kevin Goldstein: Lots of Felix questions here in the second half. It's important to note the country of origin. Don't just automatically assume that every Latin American player might have an birthdateidentity issue. Hernandez is Venezuelan, which has a much better record-keeping system and stricter visa requirements than the Dominican Republic. The Mariners insist his age is correct, and to my knowledge, there has never been a Venezuelan player to be "age-gated."

 Q:  Jon from Peoria asks:
Were Anthony Webster or Juan Senreiso close to making the list? Senreiso in particular seems to be raw but a guy who has a fairly high ceiling.

Kevin Goldstein: Both were definitely considered. They are comparable toolsy outfielders where are still very raw. Webster makes better conract, while Senreiso has more pure power.

 Q:  Greg from Phoenix asks:
Alright, I understand John Danks is good....I know he made the midwest top 20...but the cali top 20 too? what qualifies him for this league (1-4 5.24)? Come on now....

Kevin Goldstein: What qualified him is above-average velocity for a lefty and an outstanding breaking pitch. That and enough innings.

Moderator: Thanks for all the great questions today. Chris Kline will be here tomorrow to talk about the Carolina League. Chris spent some time this year with the Lynchburg team, I wonder where he'll rank himself?

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