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Southern League Chat with Will Lingo

Moderator: Mr. Lingo will begin taking your questions at 2 p.m. ET. Please limit your questions to Southern League players and teams.

 Q:  Jim S from Milwaukee asks:
Rickie Weeks seemed to struggle in AA yet his prospect status remains high. Is AA that great of a challenge for a 2-time NCAA batting champ with a college career average near .475.? Do you see him starting 2005 in AA or did he show enough to deserve a promotion to AAA? Thanks.

Will Lingo: Thanks to everyone for stopping by. We'll try to answer a few prospect questions while you're listening to or watching the playoffs get under way.

Will Lingo: Jim in Milwaukee gets us started today, wondering if he should give up hope on Rickie Weeks. Based on the scouts and managers I talked to, you certainly should not. I think people were at a loss in some ways to explain why he didn't put up better numbers--adjusting to the grind of pro ball, wood bats, etc.--but all of them liked the way he played and his tools. They also said he showed improvement as the season went on. I think he'll start next season at Triple-A.

 Q:  Tom McCullough from York PA asks:
Will: Thanks for the chats. Brad Baker was a hot prospect as a starting pitcher in the Boston organization. Now he has put up dominating numbers as the closer at Mobile Bay in the San Diego organization. Even as a minor league relief pitcher, is he back on the major league pitcher prospects list?

Will Lingo: He's an interesting guy to watch and was in the mix for the top 20. The bullpen seems to suit him and you saw it in the numbers this year. His changeup is outstanding and even earned a Trevor Hoffman comparison. And one manager said it's more effective when he comes out of the bullpen because hitters only get one look at it. His velocity was also at 90-92 and he showed command of both pitches, so I think he's back on the prospect map.

 Q:  Rutgers fan from NJ asks:
What happened to Bobby Brownlie, who was once talked about as the #1 overall pick?

Moderator: Sorry about that computer glitch, folks. We're back and ready to go again.

Will Lingo: My Bobby Brownlie answer apparently injured our computer system. No one I talked to was very impressed with Brownlie. His velocity was in the 87-90 mph range, though no one was quite sure why. At least one scout said he sees Brownlie as no more than a bullpen arm at this point.

 Q:  Charlie Murphy from LA asks:
Whither Jason Stokes? I can see him as high as #13 and I definitely can't see much of a case for putting him behind Brad Nelson unless Stokes is worthless in the field.

Will Lingo: A lot of questions about Jason Stokes, and to be honest, going into the information-gathering process I would have expected him to be on the list. And he's not far off. But he's a year older than Nelson and I think Nelson is a little bit better hitter overall. Stokes' swing is long and there was concern from some people about his ability to catch up to the best fastballs. There are also concerns about his work ethic and his wrist injury, which has flared up at least three times in two years. Neither one of those guys is any great shakes defensively (assuming Nelson would eventually end up at his better position of first), but Nelson will be a little bit better.

Will Lingo: By the way, I wish I could come up with a good Charlie Murphy joke that wasn't profane, but I can't. But at least RIck James now has a lasting place in 21st century pop culture.

 Q:  Ted from Wilmington asks:
Thanks for taking the time to do the chat. I'm curious as to why the Southern League player of the year (Richard Lewis) was omitted from the list. Jim Hendry seems to think of high of him. Quoted after the Nomar deal, he thought Brendan Harris was expendable because of the emergence of Lewis. What are your reservations about him? Thanks.

Will Lingo: As I'm sure you've heard time and time again through these chats, it's tough to make our league top 20 lists. Much harder than even making an organization top 30. So Lewis was definitely in the running, and while he showed a lot of improvement through the season and was definitely a tough out, he doesn't have one tool that blows you away. I would say he's solid in most ways but not overwhelming in any way, and when you look at the other second basemen in the league this year, you can't squeeze him into the top 20.

 Q:  Bill Patrick from STL asks:
What potential does Anthony Reyes have? Is he a good #2 starter or a closer?

Will Lingo: I think at this point he'll get every chance to prove himself as a starter. In spite of previous health problems, he made every start for Tennessee with no problems, though his pitch counts were closely watched. People have also been impressed by his work habits. No one in the league boosted his stock more this season than Reyes.

 Q:  Randy from FutureSox.com asks:
How much did Brian Anderson's injuries slow him down this year and affect his rankings? He was hurting for most of the last month to month and a half of the season. And if you can play CF at Hoover Met, you can play CF anywhere, in my opinion!

Will Lingo: His injuries did slow him down quite a bit in the last part of the season, but he still impressed the people who saw him. I still think he'll end up in an outfield corner, but there were enough managers who think he can stay in center that I think you'll see him stay there for now.

 Q:  Laujra Sims from st louis asks:
Do you think John Nelson and Skip Schumacker with Tennesse are ML prospects

Will Lingo: I think most people see Schumaker as a fourth outfielder if he reaches the big leagues, but he could be a useful role player because of his defense. The most interesting comment I heard on Nelson was from a scout who thinks the Cardinals should try him on the mound because he has such a strong arm.

 Q:  Andy from Charlottesville, VA asks:
How do you think Prince Fielder and Jason Stokes stack up against each other in all aspects of the game (hitting, defense, pure power, etc.)? Thanks!

Will Lingo: In just about any aspect, I think you'd have to put Prince ahead. Maybe on raw power you could give the nod to Stokes, but Fielder is so much better as a hitter overall that he has much more usable power.

 Q:  Andy from Charlottesville, VA asks:
Compare the two speedsters (formerly) of the Southern League: Joey Gathright vs. Freddy Guzman, in terms of hitting, basestealing, pure speed, and defense. Who do you think projects as a better future leadoff hitter?

Will Lingo: Andy is on a roll. Gathright didn't qualify for the list. He had 126 at-bats and just 11 walks (against 30 strikeouts), so he didn't have the 140 plate appearances needed to qualify. He just had one HBP and no sacrifices either, so I'll save you the trip to the player finder. Gathright is probably the fastest player in the minors, so he gets the nod there, but on every other count I would give the advantage to Guzman. One scout said Guzman could be the ideal leadoff hitter and will be an above-average major leaguer.

 Q:  Tom from Manhattan asks:
It was a disappointing year for Josh Barfield. Is he still the future at 2B?

Will Lingo: Yes. Much like Weeks, most people were impressed with Barfield this season even though he didn't put up great numbers. His RBI numbers in spite of his average show what a run producer he could be. He needs to take more walks and strike out less but should have a bounce-back year in 2005.

 Q:  Josh Sutton from Kansas City asks:
I was disappointed in James Loney this season. I know he was injured, but it seems like he never puts a real strong season together. What is his ETA in LA and do you think he will make a significant impact when gets there?

Will Lingo: As I wrote up with Loney's report for the league, he needs to have a productive, injury-free season, but no one is down on him yet. Some people like him better than Fielder because he's a better defender and they think he'll be a better hitter overall. I can see him repeating Double-A next year, but he could also get to Los Angeles if he gets hot. Remember what a hot commodity he was during spring training this year. And yes, we do think he'll have a significant impact when he gets there.

 Q:  Eric from Cambridge, Ontario asks:
Playoff baseball and a BA chat, it doesn't get much better. How does Josh Willingham profile behind the plate? Does he have what it takes to be a starting catcher in the big leagues?

Will Lingo: You got that right, Eric. We're feeling a nice chill in the air today in North Carolina, so we know it's fall. I'm sure you've got the same in Ontario as well, though you should also have hockey training camp to enjoy. But that's a whole other chat.

Will Lingo: I really like Willingham's bat, but he is not good behind the plate. I think the consensus is that he could be a backup catcher at best. Problem is, he's not great anywhere else, either. But some people liked his offensive approach as much as anyone in the league. I think the Marlins should try him at first or trade him.

 Q:  Matthias P-K from Franklin and Marshall College asks:
What is the ETA for Kyle Davies in the bigs? He seemed to handle AA, so is he just behind Meyer and Capellan in the pecking order?

Will Lingo: Love those Diplomats! Davies made a huge leap forward this season, so let's hold off on putting him in the Atlanta rotation just yet. It's just his third full season out of high school, so I think another year in the minors is more than reasonable. Of course anything is possible once you make it to this point in an organization, but don't count on Davies until 2006.

 Q:  Gerardo from Los Angeles asks:
God forbid it happens, but if Beltre leaves the Dodgers this offseason, can J. Guzman step in and take over at 3b in 05?

Will Lingo: You could give it a shot, but I would feel much better if you gave Guzman at least another half-season in the minors, and preferably a full season, especially because he has spent almost all of his time at shortstop.

 Q:  mark from oldsmar asks:
Are reyes and thompson possible future aces for the cardinals or just back end of the rotation pitchers.

Will Lingo: Reyes has at least middle of the rotation stuff and could be a No. 2 guy in a perfect world. Thompson is more of a back of the rotation starter.

 Q:  Similin' Joe Fission from Springfield asks:
Did Tim Stauffer come close to making the list? He certainly didn't dominate in terms of strikeouts, but teams found it pretty hard to hit him.

Will Lingo: He was certainly in the discussion but was not one of the final cuts for the 20. You give a pretty good account of his time in the Southern League, and I think most people regarded his stuff as fringy, though he could show better stuff if his shoulder stays healthy and he gets stronger.

 Q:  Jason from Charlotte asks:
In Jose Capellan's limited appearances in Atlanta his breaking ball and changeup haven't been effective at all. Do you think he can control those pitches with more time?

Will Lingo: Because Capellan dominated in the minors so much with his fastball, he'll still have to prove he can be effective with the other two. His command and control will always be below-average just because that's not his game. His spike curveball is a potential out pitch, and scouts expect his changeup to get better as well. People who aren't sure about the third pitch and his command see him ending up in the bullpen, but I think he'll remain a starter.

 Q:  Eric from Madison asks:
It seemed like the batting averages of all the big names at Huntsville (Weeks, Fielder, Nelson, Gwynn) were drastically below their career averages, was there any reason for this, bad coaching or just a big adjustment from A ball?

Will Lingo: In most cases I would say adjusting to Double-A was the major reason, and scouts and managers remain high on all those guys. I got a lot of positive comments on Gwynn, though it was more for his defense than his offense. People would like to see him get stronger.

 Q:  Sang from from Chicago asks:
What kind of pitcher can we expect Renyel Pinto become? Judging from his 2004 season is he going to be strikeout artist or was his season a aberration? What kind of pitches does he throw?

Will Lingo: Scouts in particular really liked Pinto because of a lively fastball that he threw at 92-94 mph with great movement. He needs to improve his control, but scouts didn't worry about that because his stuff moves so well. He also throws a curveball and changeup. I don't expect his 2004 season to be an aberration.

 Q:  Richard from British Columbia asks:
What did scouts and SL managers have to say about Willy Aybar?

Will Lingo: Sorry the computer glitch slowed us down, but it's already time to move to the lightning round...

Will Lingo: They liked him a lot, but they liked Bergolla a little bit better, so he got the nod for the list.

 Q:  Will from Atlanta asks:
Dan Meyer was ranked fairly low in the top 20, but was statistically dominant. Does his ranking reflect a depth of prospects in the league this year or limits to his ceiling?

Will Lingo: A little of both.

 Q:  James Barklage from Denver, CO asks:
Do you consider the development of pitchers like Anthony Reyes and Brad Thompson to be signs that the Cardinal's organization may be strengthening again or are they Anomalies, i.e. Pujols, Drew, etc. Thanks in advance.

Will Lingo: Those are good signs, but the Cardinals need more to get their system into the upper echelons.

 Q:  Eddy from Lachine, Quebec asks:
Will, thanks for taking the time to do these informative chats. Gun to your head: Ian Stewart or Marte? Real baseball aside, who will be more valuable in fantasy leagues (i.e., to the extent Marte might be "better", will the Coors factor make Stewart's stats superior)?

Will Lingo: I would probably take Stewart. Fantasy-wise, Marte is more valuable for now unless you're playing in a deep league with big rosters. Which, if you're reading this chat, you probably are. So long term I would take Stewart.

 Q:  Mike from Boston asks:
We're spending a lot of time in this chat talking about good players who aren't on the list. Was the Southern League particularly deep in talent this season?

Will Lingo: I would say it was solid but not overwhelming. Again, it's just a 10-team league, but you figure most Double-A teams will have at least two or three players worth talking about in any given season, and good teams will have more.

 Q:  Robert Goldberg from Lyndhurst, NJ asks:
Does Jermaine Van Buren have the stuff to be a useful major league reliever, or is he another in the long line of minor league closers who can't get it done in the big leagues?

Will Lingo: He's a guy to keep an eye on if you're a Cubs fan, but people weren't that impressed in spite of his numbers. He's a max effort guy with a good slider who threw hard early but lost velocity late. And yes, he is the guy who was a Rockies second-round pick in 1998.

 Q:  dave from california asks:
can you explain the reasons for ranking marte ahead of guzman? because your scouting reports seem to favor guzman.

Will Lingo: It was a close call, but Marte's defense at third and more polished game give him the nod.

 Q:  Adam from Columbus, Ohio asks:
If Chad Billingsley had thrown another handful of innings, where might me have ranked and was their any input from managers on his possible ceiling?

Will Lingo: Because I knew he didn't qualify for the list I didn't ask managers about Billingsley, but he definitely would have been one of the top pitching prospects in the league, if not the top guy, had he qualified.

 Q:  Carlos from The South asks:
Who will make a bigger impact upon arrival in the majors: Josh Barfield or Rickie Weeks? Can Barfield hang with Khalil defensively, to form one of the best young middle-infield tandems in baseball?

Will Lingo: I would go with Weeks, and I would expect him to be better defensively as well.

Will Lingo: Sorry to duck out with so many questions on the board, but another great issue of BA beckons and we've got to get it out the door. Thanks again for stopping by and tune in tomorrow for the Eastern League.

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