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Marlins Chat with John Manuel
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Moderator: John Manuel with begin taking your questions at 12 p.m. ET

Moderator: OK, thanks for coming to this holiday chat, I'm pinch-hitting for Mike Berardino today and ready to take your Marlins questions.

 Q:  Browning Nagle from Louisville, KY asks:
What are your thoughts on Taylor Tankersly? What kind of ceiling does he have and who would you compare him to?

John Manuel: Browning keeps popping up in the chats. Wouldn't you be a better backup for the Jets than Quincy Carter? Anyway, I like Tankersley. I'm not a big fan of big league comparisons, though. He's a physicaly, aggressive lefthander who could either start or relieve. His mentality seems to play better in the pen, but the Marlins (and most other clubs) think he has the stuff to give it a go as a starter. Both he and Jason Vargas should start next year at Greensboro and if they pitch well in the Sally League, you should see them move to Jupiter quickly.

 Q:  Brian Daniels from Kennesaw, Georgia asks:
Merry Christmas, I have a pretty "out there question".Adam Bonner was selected last year in the Minor League Rule 5 Draft from the Devil Dogs. He was a good power prospect with them. What is his status with the Marlins? Also Jai Miller a good prospect or a suspect right now?

John Manuel: I don't think Bonner is much of a factor after hitting .200 at Jupiter and .233 in Greensboro. As for Miller, he's a suspect for now, though he'll make the top 30. He's got tools and good makeup, but he also "openly pined," in Mike's words, for football and basketball at times. If those kinds of guys don't see success in baseball, they often opt out and go back to other sports. So the Marlins will send Miller back to Greensboro to see if his bat speed and raw power produce the kind of success that will have him thihnking baseball all the time.

 Q:  Frank Poncherello from Los Angeles, CA asks:
Do you think that Hermida will develop that 30+ homer power that everyone hopes he can? Who would you compare him to?

John Manuel: Scouts we talked to were encouraged by Hermida's power in the AFL, where he hit seven homers and ranked third in the league in that category. He's had some nagging injuries, but that's been the only thing holding him back, really, in his career. He's going to have a Jason Kubel-type year next year; Hermida hit .297-.377-.441 in the FSL at age 20, while in '93, Kubel hit .298-.400-.361 at age 21 there. I look for Hermida to have a breakout power year in the Southern League next year.

 Q:  Brian Daniels from Kennesaw Georgia asks:
I froze my butt off to see Trever Hutchinson pitch. I saw him throw a no-hitter verses the Huntsville Stars. Is that indicitive of his stuff? or just a cold, windy day that the bats for the Stars didn't warm up?

John Manuel: I'm sorry to hear about that about the cold for you . . . Hutchinson's stuff, by all accounts, is solid average. He really knows how to pitch; he's kind of the opposite of his brother. He junked his splitter, once his out pitch, when he was in college and has adjusted to throwing his slider and change for strikes to go with his average fastball. Chalk up the no-no to chance and the cold; Trevor Hutchinson is more of a K-thrower and No. 4 starter type than a guy who could throw a no-no at any time.

 Q:  John M. Perkins from Macon, GA asks:
Where would Adrian Gonzalez have fit on the Marlins list.

John Manuel: Gonzalez vs. Jason Stokes was a debate in the Marlins organization for a couple of years, and obviously the Marlins picked Stokes. Gonzalez was finally healthy this year and had a modest season in Triple-A, especially in terms of power, while Stokes did more of the same in Double-A: big power, lots of K's. Gonzalez would probably slot in right behind Stokes but ahead of Willingham, who is four years older.

 Q:  Dave from Atlanta, Georgia asks:
Hermida was the more highly acclaimed OF prospect in his draft ahead of the Braves Francouer, but Jeff has been the OF on the fast track while Hermida has slowly moved through the ranks, despite Florida being a notorious "fast track" type team. How long until Hermida reaches the bigs? And How does he stack up with the other top RF's in baseball: Delmon Young,Francouer,etc??

John Manuel: ATL representing for Hermida . . . Francoeur hasn't been moved much more aggressively than Hermida if you think about it; he has 76 at-bats in Double-A, otherwise they've been on the same track, HIgh A this year and finishing up in the AFL. Hermida's bat is clearly better than Francoeur's, and I like Francoeur. Hermida makes more consistent contact, has more patience and is showing the same kind of game power. Francoeur has more raw power, but if Hermida's patience means his raw power will translate more into game power against better pitching. I'd put Hermida right up there in the group behind Young, who is the top OF in the minor leagues, ahead of the likes of Shin-Soo Choo and Ryan Sweeney.

 Q:  Mike Welch from Jupiter, FL asks:
Hi John: I'm very excited about two prospects on the Marlins: Olsen and Willingham. Which major-leaguer do you liken each of them to and when can we expect to see them with the big-league club? Thanks!

John Manuel: Those are two guys to be excited about. Willingham's comp from the Marlins seems to be Craig Wilson, a guy who can mash from the right side but doesn't have a true position. If Willingham could catch, he would have gotten the chance in the big leagues in '04, because the Marlins were hurting at that spot before acquiring LoDuca. His bat will have to carry him. Olsen is another story; his stuff is as good as any lefty in the minors at times. He's not as consistent with his fastball and slider command as he needs to be, but that's what A-ball is for. He profiles as a future ace. In Hermida and Olsen, the Marlins have two elite prospects, two guys who could rank in the Top 25 when we do our Top 100 in the spring. If it comes together at Double-A Carolina for Olsen, he could reach Miami in late 2005.

 Q:  Doug from Springfield MA asks:
Jason Stokes: Marlins' 1B in 2005? And what sort of career might we expect from him, if his wrist doesn't bother him?

John Manuel: I don't see that happening; the guy struck out three times as often as he walked in 2004 in Double-A. He just needs to be more selective at the plate and realize he has enough power to hit balls out the other way. Conine is signed through 2005; if Stokes has a healthy, productive year in Triple-A, the job could be his the next year.

 Q:  K. Kringle from Up north, busy packing asks:
Allison coming to spring training?

John Manuel: But not too busy for a BA chat . . . maybe Buddy the Elf is helping out. As for Allison, I wouldn't count on anything from him as a Marlins fan. It's a wasted pick, unfortunately for the Marlins and for Jeff Allison.

 Q:  Brian from New York asks:
Do the Fish have any young arms that are ready to be placed in the bullpen? One of their most glaring weaknesses last year was middle relief, and now that Mota is closing, who will bridge the gap to get to him?

John Manuel: They do have minor league options if the big league free agents don't work out for them. Randy Messenger got his act together last year, and his power stuff (71 K's in 70 IP at Double-A) would play well in a setup role. He's also strong and durable. It wouldn't surprise me if former Miami Hurricanes closer Mike Neu and his plus changeup worked his way into a setup role as well. Further away, Chris Resop has a plus-plus fastball (he's hit 98 mph) and the makings of a good power curve; he could be a factor by 2006. Logan Kensing also has the stuff and the durable arm to relieve and could be broken in that way after his rough September as a starter; Kensing's sinker would work well in a setup role, and he relieved a lot as a freshman at Texas A&M.

 Q:  john from orlando asks:
DO you see Robert Andion taking over the Marlins shortstop position in the summer of 2006 or the beginning of the 2007 season? Also, what is his ceiling?

John Manuel: That seems ambitious, and Josh Wilson will be given a chance to be the shortstop before Andino will. Andino's ceiling is higher; hence he ranks higher on the Top 30. Wilson's not far behind, though, has a much more polished bat and is sufficient defensively to handle the job. He also allows the Marlins to be patient with Andino, who made progress with the bat and was probably the No. 1 or 2 SS in the SAL, right with Ching-Lung Hu and ahead of Robert Valido and Hickory's Javier Guzman.

 Q:  Joshua Heines from Trenton, NJ asks:
How good can Jeremy Hermida be? Out of the top NL super OF prospects where does he rank compared to Jeff Francouer, Lastings Milledge, Ambioriz Concepcion, Felix Pie?

John Manuel: I'd take Milledge first out of all those OF prospects; the only minor league outfielder I like better than Milledge is Delmon Young. It depends on the day on the HermidaFrancouer question, and as I've said before, I like Hermida's bat better right now, but Francoeur is more athletic and has more raw power. Pie would be fourth. Concepcion doesn't belong in this discussion.

 Q:  Kevin from Edinboro, PA asks:
Do you think recent Rule 5 pickup Luke Hagerty has any shot of sticking on the big league roster? Is he someone who would land in the top 10 or is he in the 11-20 range? Happy Holidays.

John Manuel: Hagerty has a shot for several reasons: 1) he's an LHP; 2) he's got a breaking ball he can throw for strikes; 3) he can be DL'd and sent on rehab assignments as he continues his recovery from Tommy John surgery. Look how the Red Sox kept Len DiNardo for his blister; Hagerty should be easier to keep. He's a 20-30 guy for me, though, until he figures out how to throw strikes consistently again.

 Q:  Jonathan from Baton Rouge asks:
Where is Ryan Jorgensen on the Top 30 list? Is he projected to be an everyday catcher?

John Manuel: Not really on either count. Jorgy's still the best defensive C in the organization, but his bat remains behind. If you don't hit at Alburquerque, chances are you won't hit. He's a big league backup catch-and-throw guy.

 Q:  Paul from Las Vegas, Nevada asks:
Why Trevor Hutchinson over Logan Kensing? Kensing is three years younger than Hutchinson and only one level behind him?

John Manuel: It's a tough call. Hutchinson's injury was the reason Kensing was in the big leagues in September; that would have been Trevor had he been healthy, so the Marlins consider him more ready for prime time than Kensing. Also, Kensing is almost a one-pitch guy right now, as his slider really wasn't a weapon in the major leagues; it flattened out on him quite a bit. I'd guess Kensing ends up in the bullpen; then it's a matter of No. 4 starter vs. middle reliever, and if that's the argument, I'd take the No. 4 starter.

 Q:  Angel from New Mexico asks:
How close where Chris Resop, Josh Johnson, Logan Kensing form making the top 10 list? Also what type of potential does each one have?

John Manuel: All in the 11-20 range, with Johnson at the front. He figures to be part, with Kensing, of a loaded Double-A Carolina rotation in 2005, joining Olsen, Bazardo and Dutch sleeper Henricus Vandenhurk, a tall, athletic 19-year-old. He really had good success for a converted catcher from Europe who was in his second pro season . . . that's a lot of obstacles. Resop has big league closer potential and could really move quickly; his command and secondary stuff is quite good for such a recent convert to pitching (though to be fair he did pitch a lot in high school).

 Q:  Eric from Miami, Florida asks:
How is the rehab of Allen Baxter, and Lincoln Holdzkom going? Doing any of them still have potential they once had?

John Manuel: Sounds like things are going as well as can be expected for all of them. The Marlins hold out the most hope for Baxter, whose stuff belied his stats in the NY-P this year as he came back from TJ and tried to find his feel for pitching again. Holdzkom is just rehabbing right now; he will start the year in extended spring.

 Q:  Joshua Heines from Trenton, NJ asks:
What MLB player does Scott Olsen compare favorably too? And compared to other pitching prospects where does he rank among Felix Hernandez, Scott Kazmir, Adam Miller, Chad Billingsley, Mike Hinckley, Edwin Jackson, Gavin Floyd, Cole Hamels and Matt Cain?

John Manuel: Olsen's an elite power big league lefty potentially, like a young Al Leiter. That's an elite group, but I'd take Olsen over Floyd and Hamels in that group (not to pick on the Phillies). Olsen vs. Hinckley is very tough; Olsen's stuff and ceiling is clearly higher. It just seems like Hinckley is quite polished and, if he stays healthy, a good bet to be a very good third starter. I'd give Olsen a slight edge, though. He's in the top 10 pitching prospects in the game.

 Q:  Bill from Tampa, Florida asks:
How close was Josh Johnson from making the top 10? What type of potential does he have?

John Manuel: Very close, potential innings-eating No. 3 starter, and the Marlins think he has Carl Pavano's upside. He needs to maintain his stuff over the course of the season but really just needs innings. He also was tough to leave out of the Top 10, it really was more a question of Johnson vs. Hutchinson, rather than Kensing vs. Hutchinson.

 Q:  Cory from Toronto asks:
A .280 average with a .450 OBP is pretty ridiculous. Is there going to be an opportunity for Josh Willingham to play with Stokes at first and LoDuca at C ??

John Manuel: It is ridiculous; Willingham can really hit. He isn't very good defensively at first either, and he's just not good enough to catch in the big leagues. Defense is still the primary consideration at the position in the majors; it's probably the only position left where it matters more than the bat, and Willingham's not good enough there to be a regular C. The 1B option is intriguing one, but Stokes' upside is higher, and the Marlins have more money invested in him.

 Q:  Henry from Virginia asks:
Which SS would you say has more potential Fulton or Andino?

John Manuel: Well, Fulton moved to 3B in instructional league, so I'll say Andino. Fulton has big potential, though, much more with the bat than Andino, particularly in terms of his power. Andino's defense and ability to make contact more consistently, though, give him the prospect edge.

 Q:  Tom from Naples, Fl asks:
John: Happy Holidays!. What reliever(s) in the Marlins minor league system might have the best opportunity to reach the major leagues?

John Manuel: You figured it out! Glad to see it. Messenger, as I mentioned, has the opportunity and the experience in Double-A. Chris Resop, however, has a better upside for me--better stuff, better breaking ball, better leverage to the plate, better command. Long-term, I like Resop as the reliever in the system with the best upside, unless Ronald Belizario is moved to the bullpen full-time.

 Q:  David from South Carolina asks:
What happen to my boy David Marchbanks was he hurt last season? Is he okay now? Do you see him as someone you could crack the Marlins rotation one day?

John Manuel: I'm a Marchbanks fan from the college-coverage days; picked him as an All-American over John Hudgins prior to the 2003 CWS (ouch!). If he regains his feel for pitching, he's a back-of-the-rotation lefty, but he had "the Thing" last year, just lost his ability to throw strikes, and had to go home to South Carolina to rediscover his ability to throw the ball over the plate. He's deceptive and has a good changeup, so if he can come back from his bout of wildness, the Marlins will give him every opportunity.

 Q:  Frank Burns from Tuscaloosa, Ala. asks:
How has Eric Reed returned from the wrist injury that caused him to miss most of last season? He was only on the taxi squad in the Fall League, but can we expect him to bounce back to the way he hit early in 2004? He was turning on some inside fastballs and hit the first couple homers of his pro career--is there anything to expect from him as a Lenny Dykstra-type leadoff hitter?

John Manuel: Time for some lightning round . . .

John Manuel: Reed's just not built like Dykstra; he's more like a faster, stronger Juan Pierre, but he needs to hit like Pierre and stay healthy like Pierre to replace Pierre.

 Q:  Charles from from Atlanta asks:
Kevin Cave and Mike Flannery took big steps backwards this season do the Marlins still have plans for them? Also Messenger has always been very hittable why did he have so much success last season?

John Manuel: Messenger was more aggressive in the strike zone out of the bullpen, held nothing back and got better results. I think he just got tired in the AFL. He has better stuff and is more aggressive in the zone than Cave or Flannery, who are still around but obviously have been passed.

 Q:  Steve from NJ asks:
John, What's the timetable for Bazardo ?

John Manuel: Sounds like the Marlins are trying hard to contain their excitement for him and will try to take him one level at a time, with Double-A in '05 and Triple-A and the big leagues in '06.

 Q:  Kyle from Middletown asks:
Who is the systems most patient hitter? Thanks.

John Manuel: Clearly Willingham.OF Angel Molina and Hermida also will take a walk, but that's not a strong-suit of the organization.

 Q:  Kyle from Middletown asks:
Are there any 'moneyball' players in the system? Thanks and Merry Christmas.

John Manuel: Willingham for one; Mike Neu's another, relies on his changeup and throwing strikes rather than big velo.

 Q:  Chris from Miami, Florida asks:
I think two sleepers to watchout for this year are Kurt Koehler and Stuart Alexander. Do you feel the same way?

John Manuel: They are interesting, both Calif. draft-and-follows. Both also rely more on fastball command right now, throw in the 88-92 mph range and have to develop their secondary stuff more. But fastball command is a good way to start; Alexander is ahead of Koehler in that regard.

 Q:  Jorge from San Diego asks:
What where the Marlins thinking when they traded Travis Chick for Ismael Valdez? Would he have made their top 10 list?

John Manuel: They needed big league rotation help (like promoting Kensing), and Chick's stuff and command both improved with the Padres. He's a good prospect, and that's a trade that may look pretty rough in two years if Chick progresses. But he's an A-ball pitcher traded for a big leaguer who almost helped the Marlins make the playoffs; it's a risk the Marlins felt they had to take.

 Q:  Brian Daniels from Kennesaw, Georgia asks:
Seriously, do you think the Fish can bury Hagerty on a rehab assignment all year (Like Lenny's "blister problem"). Also, do you think Dinardo will be in the Major's next year?

John Manuel: Hagerty's TJ is a bigger deal than a blister; he can be sent to the minors to rehab legitimately. Plus, he has a better breaking ball than DiNardo and more velocity. His chances of making it are pretty good. DiNardo was re-signed to a minor league deal and will be in the minors for the Sox next year.

 Q:  Steve from Jamestown asks:
What are your thoughts on Brad Davis? Was he listed in the top 30?

John Manuel: Davis is toward the back of the 30; he has impressed the Marlins with his athletic ability and leadership.

 Q:  William from Jupiter asks:
What type of pithces does Adam Bostick throw? Although he lead the sally league in K's I heard he has fringe stuff? is this true?

John Manuel: Bostick has fringy velocity but he has a solid curveball that he can throw for strikes, and he commands the fastball OK. That combination helped him have all the K's against SAL hitters who struggle with stuff that spins. Everyone I've talked to about him says lefty specialist if he gets to the big leagues.

 Q:  Eric from Miami asks:
Rick Vanden Hurk, Stu Alexander, and Kurt Koehler are my sleepers picks for this upcoming season. What type of pitches does each one throw? Also is Allen Baxter finally ready to pitch again full time?

John Manuel: We've discussed all these guys a lot, but I thought Vandenhurk needed more props. He's got a nice sinker, good command for a guy his size, tops out at 94 and has a pretty solid curveball. He could be pretty impressive down the line, he's in the Top 30 while Alexander and Koehler are not. Baxter still has the system's best curve but has to learn to throw strikes again, and that's a pretty fundamental part of pitching. He'll be back with a full-season club in '05.

 Q:  Patrick from Connecticut asks:
What are the marlins plans for Joe Dillon?

John Manuel: He's got a shot to be a reserve at 1b, 3b (that's in an emergency) and lf, which is why he's in Mexico. You have to respect the year he had, the power he's shown and the fact the Marlins put him on the 40-man roster. We have a feature on Joe that will be on the web very soon, so you can read more about him there.

 Q:  John from Georgia asks:
What should the Marlins be looking for in this upcoming draft with all the draft picks they have? Should they go college or high school?

John Manuel: Last question . . . the Marlins do not shy away from high school players, but they took two college lefties this year, so they're flexible, as clubs probably need to be. The organization doesn't have one need that cries out; maybe some more polished bats, if they are available from the college ranks, but polished bats fly off the draft board. So scouting director Stan Meek has a nice track record as a scout; trust him.

Moderator: That's it for the Marlins' chat. BA shuts down for a few days, but we'll be back with the Mets Top 10 and chat (with J.J. Cooper) on Tuesday. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to everyone.

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