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International League Chat with Chris Kline

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

 Q:  Jim S. from Milwaukee asks:
Thanks for taking my question. Jorge Cantu seemed to handle his month plus in the bigs pretty well. Do you think he is there to stay next year and what kind of a career do you see for him? Can he be able to handle 2B defensively?

Chris Kline: Thanks for joining us for today's IL chat. There are already a bunch of questions, so let's get at it. Cantu really did hold his own at Tropicana, and has the versatility to play second, third or short. It depends on what the Rays' plan is long term, and I see him as perhaps more of a role player to start and then working his way into a starting role. And yes, he has the range and mobility to play second, though I like him better at 3B.

 Q:  Galen from Cedar Rapids asks:
When Jason Bartlett was called up to the big club it seemed the coaches were disappointed with his footwork at shorstop. Did any International League managers mention anything about a possible position shift for Bartlett? And what kind of hitter does he project to be? Thanks, Galen

Chris Kline: Galen, Bartlett doesn't really have one standout tool for a middle of the diamond player, but he has enough arm and moves well enough laterally to play short. A few scouts indicated that the move to 2B wouldn't be out of the question, but for now, he's not going anywhere. He won't hit for much power, but he is a guy who takes each AB personally and doesn't waste any, which is why he's been around .300 every year in the minors. I'll predict .290-10-60.

 Q:  Bobby Davis from Scranton, PA asks:
Chris, What is your reasoning for putting Kelly Shoppach on the list?? Please tell me you didn't get hit by any baseballs while taking BP for Nashville!!! He had a horrible year both offensively and his defense was below average. I know it wasn't his .233 BA or 22 HR in a small McCoy Stadium that got him on the list.

Chris Kline: Shoppach didn't have the year everyone expected, but is still one of the better catching prospects in the minors and got enough support from managers and scouts to warrant putting him on this list. His defense was solidaverage and his catch and throw skills are among the best in this league. He just needs to close up some holes in his swing, cut down on K's and hit for more average. I don't think he's close to replacing Varitek in Boston, but I do think he's closer to being ready for the jump.

 Q:  Heath Hunt from Ft. Meade, FL asks:
What were the reasons that Guillermo Quiroz slipped dramatically in his caught stealing rate? Was the injury affecting him, the quality of baserunners improving, or possibly a staff ineffective at holding runners? In other words, will he remain at catcher or is he just another minor leaguer with not enough defensive polish to remain behind the dish?

Chris Kline: All of the above reasons you mentioned, Heath. But Quiroz would have easily been the starting catcher for the World at this year's Futures Game had he not been hurt. I can't see him moving anywhere. He's one of the top two or three catching prospects out there and while there is a lot of pop in his bat, his defense has been very good as well.

 Q:  Keith Hess from Berwick, PA asks:
Can you tell me why there are no Phillies on the list???? What about Dan Giese or Chase Utley. They had great seasons for the Red Barons this past year.

Chris Kline: Giese and Utley both had solid seasons, but Giese's K numbers were unimpressive (54 in 83 IP) for a 27-year-old reliever. Utley had almost twice as many ABs in the big leagues (267) as he did in the IL (123) and did not garner the support.

 Q:  Mike Marinaro from Tampa, FL asks:
Hi Chris: Kubel went 0-6 last night and left 5 on base. Maybe they should have given him more at bats before throwing him into the playoff pound. Regarding B.J. Upton and Morneau. Upton is a better athlete, and his frame is similar to a young, right-handed Barry Bonds. However Morneau has been astounding over the past two years, at every level, and his success in the big leagues right out of the blocks has been better than anyone could have anticipated. He was on pace to hit 41 bombs this season over 600 at bats. Do you really think B.J. has a chacne to be a better hitter than Morneau? I can see Morneau as being a 45-50 HR slugger with a .300+ batting average within 2 years.

Chris Kline: Interesting question, Mike. Morneau is obviously the greater power threat and I agree with the power numbers you're predicting, but B.J. is the more well-rounded hitter, who's going to hit for high average as well. Morneau struggled with offspeed stuff when he was called up to the big leagues last year, but made an immediate impression this season when he finally coaxed the Twins into taking ABs away from Jose Offerman. I don't know about Morneau hitting over .300 for the length of his career, and B.J. is the safer bet to do that now--if he finds a position.

 Q:  Eric from Madison asks:
Why isn't Corey Hart on the list, where is he ranked? Do you Corey Hart andor Dave Krynzel making the Brewers roster next spring?

Chris Kline: Hart is in the 20-30 range and both players should be in the mix for making the big league roster next season. I'd take Krynzel, simply because he can do more things; better speed, more of a catalyst in the lineup and better defensively.

 Q:  Ron Day from Chatham, Ontario asks:
I see Steve Finley as a good comp for Grady Sizemore. Perhaps Grady can hit for a higher average than Finley, but may not quite reach Finley's home run production. Is that fair?

Chris Kline: Relatively fair, though I think Sizemore's power will be there as it showed flashes of in 2003, when he a career-high 13. The players are similar, but I think Sizemore is going to be the better player overall. Once he learns the little nuances of the big leagues, he has all the ability and the makeup to be an all-star caliber player for a long time.

 Q:  Crazy Dave Rogers from Buffalo, NY asks:
Where would Fernando Cabrera be on the list?? Does he have a better ceiling then Cruceta??????

Chris Kline: The best reliever in the league was Rochester's Jesse Crain, who probably tolied longer in Triple-A than he needed to. But Cabrera was a close second behind Crain. In terms of stuff, Cabrera dials it up to 96 mph, and has a splitter, slider and change. Personally, I like Cabrera better than Cruceta, for the ability to locate the fastball alone. Cruceta tends to elevate too much, especially early in games, while Cabrera blossomed in the closer role this year. Look for both to have an impact on the Cleveland staff next season.

 Q:  Max from Ottawa, Canada asks:
Of Kubel, Reed, and Rios, who has the best chance of making an immediate and meaningful impact in 2005? Who has the highest long-term upside? And who's going to be the dud of the group?

Chris Kline: Most meaningful impact next season: Reed. I'm not going to say any one of these players is going to be a dud, but if I had to rank them in terms of impact, I'd go Reed, Kubel, Rios.

 Q:  Ron from South Bend, IN asks:
Thanks for doing this chat. I was wondering if Dustin Moseley was anywhere close to the top 20 in IL?

Chris Kline: No. Moseley was solid in Double-A, but got hit hard at Louisville, allowing 78 hits in 72 innings and only striking out 48. He's in the Fall League now getting more work in for a return to Triple-A in 2005.

 Q:  The Warehouseman from Columbus, OH asks:
Where would Andy Phillips and Dioner Navarro rank on this list?

Chris Kline: Aside from Cano, Phillips was perhaps the next best player on that club. Scouts were down on Navarro because of his weight and his lack of agility behind the plate, particularly late in the year. Phillips would have been in the 20-30 range and frankly, Navarro was unimpressive during his stint at Columbus.

 Q:  John Gibson from Belle Glade, FL asks:
Question about John Maine. What are the odds that he can develop into a 15 game winner in Baltimore? What is his ceiling based on the kind stuff he has?

Chris Kline: I like those odds. The one thing about Maine has always been his ability to not only move up a level and hold his own, but move up a level and be successful, sometimes dominate--like he did in the Carolina League in 2003 and like he did in Double-A this year. And don't discount Maine's numbers with Ottawa. He started off slowly, but by the end of the season, he was again tasting success. He might need one more year in Triple-A, perhaps just half a season before he makes his Camden Yards debut.

 Q:  Jim Goulart from www.brewerfan.net asks:
Hi Chris. Thanks for taking our questions. How much more seasoning will RF Corey Hart need before reaching Milwaukee to stay? Did he rank just outside your Top 20? What's your projected major league arrival date for SS J.J. Hardy, coming off shoulder surgery this past spring? Opening Day, May 1st, All-Star Break?

Chris Kline: Already touched on Hart, so I'll stick with Hardy. The Brewers had envisioned him getting big league at-bats this season before the injury ended his year. It depends on how he comes back from the shoulder problem, and we won't get a real feel for that until spring training, unfortunately. I'd say May 1st would be a safe bet, but that will all be based on performance.

 Q:  Timmy from Ontario asks:
Hello, Are Gabe Gross and Eric Crozier prospects or suspects? Thanks

Chris Kline: Gross really needs to start showing the power soon. As for Crozier, personally I'm a big fan since I spent most of 2002 with him in high Class A. He was never going to get a shot with the Indians, so it was good to see him get a new opportunity. He's a guy who is solidaverage at first and can play some corner outfield for you. He's a solid lefthanded bat, but tends to get a little long with his swing. I think Gross is the better prospect, while Crozier could be a solid role player if given the opportunity.

 Q:  Mike Quick from Norfolk, VA asks:
Jeff Keppinger played briefly in Norfolk after coming over in the Benson trade. Do you see him battling out Jose Reyes or Matsui for the starting job in 2005?

Chris Kline: Now that would be really cool, but never as cool as your name (I'm a HUGE Eagles fan). Keppinger is more of a role player, but has given the Mets another option. I don't see him as an everyday guy, but all he's done wherever he's been is hit. But those jobs are Reyes and Matsui's to lose.

 Q:  Jake from Bartlett, IL asks:
Chris, hi! Love the chat. Dan Meyer had a solid year at two different levels. I expected Meyer to be rated higher in the International League, and most certainly ahead of Ben Hendrickson. Is Meyer's ranking based on a limited ceiling or some other factors? Does Meyer profile as a big league starter or is he destined to end up as a lefthanded reliever? Thanks for taking the time to answer my question.

Chris Kline: Jake, Hendrickson garnered more support mostly because he threw more innings and was widely seen as the best pitcher in the league. While he doesn't have anything overpowering, he exhibits great command of four pitches. Meyer, on the other hand, also has good command with a plus slider. I don't think Meyer has a limited ceiling at all, and is certainly the top arm in the Braves' system . . . I'm even putting him ahead of Capellan in terms of being a starter right now. I think he's a legit No. 2 or No. 3.

 Q:  Michael from New York asks:
Where is Victor Diaz? He could stand to improve his K-zone judgment and his Defense but he was young for AAA and can flat out hit. He demonstrated a lot of potential as a solid power hitter. Was he even in consideration for the top 20?

Chris Kline: My guess is he's returned home to Chicago after getting his first taste of the big leagues in September. Seriously, though, Diaz has shown very limited strike-zone management skills, and while the power is there, there are a lot of holes in his overall game. If he manages his weight, he could blossom into a solid corner outfielder. He was originally ranked near the bottom of the 20, but was left off in place of Cruceta and Bush.

 Q:  Dustin from Cleveland asks:
Hi and thanks for taking my question. You said that Brandon Phillips and Jhonny Peralta had gotten too many mlb at-bats to get mentioned here. I was just wondering where they wouldve ended up on this list and what kind of numbers you see them putting up in the bigs.

Chris Kline: A LOT of questions regarding the Bisons' doubleplay tandem, so I'll try to address them here. If they were eligible, both are pretty much top 10 guys. Phillips was sometimes brutal defensively, with 28 errors splitting time between short and second. Still the Tribe has to be more than encouraged with his turnaround from a dismal season last year. Peralta still projects more as a 3B to some scouts, but can play either spot on the left side of the diamond. The biggest change that led to his success this year has really been four years in the making. When he was in Kinston in 2001 and again in Akron the next year, his batting stance changed every AB and he had no consistency whatsoever. Once he finally was able to relax . . . and don't discount the rigors of learning to live in the States as part of this, since he knew no English at all and is just natuarally a shy person . . . he settled into one stance and had a career year. He's the Indians answer at ss if Vizquel bolts.

 Q:  adam from tampa asks:
joey gathright kinda seems like the odd man out here in tampa, but i like what he brings to the front of the lineup. do you see him getting a chance next year to start all year. how good do you think he can be?

Chris Kline: Lots of Joey Gathright questions too, so . . . I actually heard rumors about the Rays dealing one of their current outfielders for premium pitching . . . but that was before they stole Scott Kazmir away from the Mets. The D-Rays love Gathright and think he projects into a leadoff hitter of years gone by. Think Vince Coleman. Coleman was a better hitter and baserunner than Gathright is at this point, and while he is still learning to read pitchers and get better jumps, his speed has been enough to swipe bags and disrupt the defense on a regular basis already. He's only going to get better . . . it's just a question of whether or not he'll hit enough and how long it will be until he fully comprehends what a leadoff hitter's job is.

 Q:  Graham from Tampa, Florida asks:
B.J. Upton? Please.

Chris Kline: I realize Devil Ray fans have to be told to be patient year in and year out with little hope for success, but don't be jaded with the legit talent you have coming through the system. Especially Upton.

 Q:  Brian from Brooklyn asks:
Would David Wright have been in the top 3 if he were around long enough?

Chris Kline: Wright would have easily been in the top three. He was just too good in an organization that had an awful year. I hate to cut this short, but we just wrapped up our latest issue and it's time for our weekly meeting to discuss our major league player of the year, among other things. Normally I like chatting for around four hours, but in-office duty calls. Thanks for taking the time to send questions and if I didn't answer your question in particular, you can always email me directly at chriskline@baseballamerica.com and I will do my best to get back to you promptly. Thanks again and i apologize for not answering everyone. OUT. Kline

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