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Prospect Chat with John Manuel

Moderator: John Manuel will begin taking your questions at 3 p.m. ET

 Q:  John from Minneapolis asks:
Mr. Manuel, are there any other Twins prospects that might work their way into next years Top 100 after Liriano?

John Manuel: Thanks everyone for coming. Let's jump right in with the iTunes Shuffle; a little old-school Urban Dance Squad "Man on the Corner" kicks us off.

John Manuel: The Twins are still pretty loaded. Matt Moses is having a bounce-back year in the FSL and is opening some eyes again with his bat. Glen Perkins is struggling a bit at Double-A, but it wouldn't surprise me if he finished big, he's struggling a bit with control right now. And the wild card is Jason Kubel . . it will be interesting to see when he comes back and how he performs in forums such as the Arizona Fall League or winter ball.

 Q:  Travis from Minnesota asks:
John, Kevin Slowey has averaged about 2 K's per inning since signing with the Twins and moving to the pen. Is his future in relief, and if so, how fast can he reach the majors?

John Manuel: Welcome back to Twins talk . . . Slowey just threw a lot at Winthrop. He was their horse and they rode him pretty hard (223 IP the last two seasons). He's a starter, but the Twins are trying to monitor and lessen his workload in the bullpen. He's got a chance to be pretty good (future No. 3 starter or so), three average pitches, well-above-average command and smarts to know how to use his stuff.

 Q:  jd mcnugent from chicago asks:
how do cardinals prospects jeremy lambert and mark mccormick compare to higher ups anthony reyes and adam wainwright? also, can you gaze into your crystal ball and tell me what the future holds for former top prospect blake hawksworth?

John Manuel: I'm guessing you meant Chris Lambert, not Jeremy. Reyes sounds like he's still the Cardinals' top guy, the guy they'd least like to trade among their minor leaguers. Wainwright has had a nice year, bouncing back to have some value, but his stuff always has seemed back-of-the-rotation caliber to me, and that's where I see him. Lambert and McCormick have a lot bigger stuff than Wainwright. Lambert's quick rise to Double-A has been a surprise but also something of a necessity for a prospects-starved system. His athletic ability is helping him have better command this year, but the progress of his breaking ball and nascent changeup ultimately will decide whether he starts or ends up in the pen; personally, I can see him as a nice reliever. McCormick has the nastiest stuff of the group but I still question the makeup. Hawksworth just came off the DL at high Class A Palm Beach. I'm not going out on a limb, but I predict more injuries. Nothing against him, but the guy has had a hard time staying healthy, and that kind of history is hard to change.

 Q:  Andrew Thurmond from Athens, GA asks:
With Chuck James being so dominant in all levels he's been in, how high can he climb up the prospect ladder?

John Manuel: Hard to say; it's almost like he has switched bodies with Jake Stevens, whose year has been rough to say the least. James is 23, so that's what tempers my enthusiasm for him a bit. Every other 23-year-old in that organization is in the big leagues right now, it seems. Seroiusly, James is older than half of the Braves' rookies this year. His success this year is undeniable, though, so he could be a Top 100 guy, unless he loses his rookie eligibility this year.

 Q:  Sean S from Fort Myers, FL asks:
Lots of talent in the GCL this year. Can you list off the top 5 or so talents in the league?

John Manuel: Wow, the GCL top 5 in July . . . after less than a month. I can tell you five guys making an early impression. Braves shortstop Elvis Andrus comes quickly to mind, he's 16 (17 in August) and the organization is abuzz about his tools. They like their shortstops, but I think they like him best among their shortstops right now. Another SS to watch is Audy Ciriaco with the Tigers, who has some power to go with his athleticism; he's another international signee, Feb. 2005 out of the Dominican Republic. Andrew McCutchen's in the GCL, he'd be up there, and I'd also suggest Jordan Schafer (Braves), C.J. Henry (Yankees) and Chris Volstad (Marlins).

 Q:  SteveJack from MI asks:
Tiger fans are being bombarded with daily updates on Zumaya and Verlander, but are there any other prospects that will likely be called up this year?

John Manuel: Called up this year: maybe Curtis Granderson if they need OF help, though his K rate is a concern, but you've seen most of what the Tigers have with Verlander, Giarratano and you mentioned Zumaya, who was really impressive Sunday in the Futures Game. One name to watch down the line is Randor Beird, a big Dominican righty who has muscled his way to Double-A this year after pitching in the GCL last year.

 Q:  Undertakers from Los Altos asks:
Has his 4 starts in AA given Edwin Jackson fans hope again? It sounds like his troubles are all in his head, not his arm.

John Manuel: It's not his arm, he still has big stuff. I've asked about Edwin to several scouts and they all say the stuff is there, the confidence and the knowledge of how to use his stuff is not. The savvy is not surprising in a way, considering his relative pitching inexperience--this guy was the No. 3 starter on his high school team and was a DH-P in the GCL. But in Double-A in 2003, Jackson showed some pitchability. He wasn't Greg Maddux, but he wasn't just a thrower. Now, we hear that's what he is, a thrower. The Dodgers have rushed a lot of guys the last few years, and for all their talent they haven't had a lot of minor leaguers contribute in the majors significantly. Perhaps Jackson will be a cautionary tale for the rest of their system.

 Q:  B from NYC, NY asks:
Is seeing Lastings Milledge at Shea by September realistic and perhaps being the opening day RF in 2006?

John Manuel: I don't think that's realistic, frankly. He hasn't hit for much power in the minors, and he'd be a disappointment (and a detriment to the big league roster) as a non-power-hitting RF in the majors in 2006. He's an impact talent, but he needs time to grow into that.

 Q:  Chuck D from Toledo, OH asks:
Hi, John. If Justin Upton would have signed, where would he be ranked? #3 behind only Delmon & Felix?

John Manuel: I didn't count Upton because he's not under contract to a team. We generally wait until a player actually signs to rank them as professionals. That said, Justin would have ranked in my top 10, but I don't mind waiting to see how a guy will react to being a pro before completely jumping on a bandwagon. I might have put him at 15, just ahead of Milledge, a similar player though Milledge is smaller.

 Q:  Bob from Winthrop asks:
Hi John. Thank you for the chat. With the continued progress of Pedoria, Moss and a slew of pitchers, would the sox system rank in the upper half of all farm systems in the majors?

John Manuel: Bob, good point, the sox have had a very good year as an organization in the minors. Their best prospects have had good seasons. It's hard to say that it would be a top-half organization withouth looking at the rest of the organizations, but off the top of my head, I'd say yes because the Sox have some impact talent and some depth at the upper levels of the organization.

 Q:  Jack from Richmond County asks:
Both Woods and Butler are having better seasons than Stewart in the same league, why aren't they considered better prospects?

John Manuel: You could have named a lot of other hitters there too, such as Daric Barton and Eddy Martinez-Esteve and Howie Kendrick . . . and many others. Stewart had a terrible start. Everyone I've talked to says his swing is back, the rust is gone and the ball is coming off his bat again with authority. He's controlling the strike zone; he's a solid defender at third base who might hit 30 homers a year in the big leagues. Brandon Wood was a much harder call than Billy Butler, who's at a launching pad and doesn't have a position. Butler's a very nice prospect but to me he's not quite in this discussion. Wood's a closer call, but I had scouts telling me Stewart was the best hitter in the minors last year. I just haven't heard the same about Wood, even this year. He's having an amazing year but I gave Stewart the benefit of the doubt because he's shown such progress from his strikeout-filled start.

 Q:  Ron Gardenhire from Little Canada asks:
Is Travis Bowyer ready to contribute to the Minnesota bullpen?

John Manuel: Bowyer's command always has been the issue, and it was an issue in the Futures Game. If he's not throwing strikes, even when he's throwing 98, he can't help. I was disappointed with him Sunday but it was one inning. I still think he has a future as a power setup man if he can post a 3-1 K-BB ratio in the majors.

 Q:  Danny from NYC asks:
Thank you for answering are questions... Do you see the Mets rushing Yusmiero Petit to the Majors this year? Also what do you think of the Mets Farm, very top heavy with pitching

John Manuel: What Omar Minaya will do with Petit seems to depend on whether or not the Mets think they are in it. A September callup seems reasonable if Petit has a nice last six weeks of the season. As for the entire system, it's still a bottom-half organization in my mind, and that's why the Mets are spending so much in Latin America--they know they need the talent. There's just not a lot of talent at the top of the system, but then again, the Mets have graduated impact bats like Jose Reyes and David Wright of late. Philip Humber's latest setback--he's going back to St. Lucie to have his arm looked at--isn't a good sign.

 Q:  daric barton from oakland asks:
are the cardinals going to regret trading me away?

John Manuel: Not if Mark Mulder helps them win the World Series in the next year or two. Otherwise, though, they will, because Barton is about as good a hitter as there is in the minors. He's the other hitter scouts mentioned last year along with Stewart; I think I phrased it wrong in a previous answer, he and Stewart had the nicest swings scouts said they saw in the minors. Barton has performed much better this year, but at the same time, Stewart can play a very good third base, and Barton's learning to play first. That's a big difference, and the reason I rank Stewart ahead of Barton, but wow, Barton can rake.

 Q:  James from Milwaukee asks:
Will the Brewers ever give Cruz or Hart a shot at the bigs this season? Also, will Mark Rogers ever find his groove?

John Manuel: I would expect both Cruz and Hart to be in Milwaukee at least in September, and Rogers is doing fine. Wow, that's quick to give up on a guy, especially one who hit 100 mph earlier this year and who has 69 K's in 58 IP. Remember, Rogers is from Maine; he never faced hitters like he's seeing in the SAL. If he had come out and dominated, he would rank right near the top of this list. He's going to take a while, but the Brewers have one method of finding ace starting pitchers--the draft--and he was a good risk to take.

 Q:  Undertakers from Los Altos, CA asks:
How about some more love for Jeremy Sowers. He is looking very impressive in AA. Any chance we see him with the Indians in September?

John Manuel: Jeremy needs to give up his love for Journey first . . . but seriously, Jeremy Sowers was a consideration for the 25 and can make a case. I like Sowers and have had this ongoing debate that if the Padres needed a plan B last year with the draft (and of course it turned out they did), Sowers was the safest bet in the draft, a pitchability lefty with average stuff. It sounds like that's still what he is, I just question how high his ceiling is, he's a No. 3 at best, and there's a 10 percent chance or so that he's Tom Glavine.

 Q:  Brian from Scarsdale, NY asks:
John, Where is Phil Hughes on your list? He dominated the SAL just as much as Gaby Hernandez, Troy Patton, and Gio Gonzalez but wasn't included on your watch list.

John Manuel: Brian, I'm glad you pointed this out, because Hughes is just an omission who was supposed to be on the Watch list, because for me, he's not far off the top 25, probably in that 30-60 range. He's got significant upside and a chance for three pitches. He's had some injuries, but nothing serious, never cut on, and that's a factor in his favor. A high school guy with stuff and a knack for throwing quality strikes is a nice find, so yes, Hughes would be on that watch list, and we'll make that change.

 Q:  Tyson Anderson from Red Deer, Alberta asks:
Hi, I was wondering why Chip Cannon of the Jays doesn't get more exposure? He seems to be having a great year and you hear very little about him. Also with Roy Halladay's injury could Rosario get a call to the majors? Thanks

John Manuel: I wrote about Chip when he was at the Citadel (ranked him in a Coastal Plain League Top 10, believe he was No. 3), and I'm happy to see him having a big year. His coach, Fred Jordan, compared him to Dallas McPherson but said McPherson had a better swing and more power. Cannon's got power and patience, but he's also a below-average runner, and defender who's a little old for his leagues (he was a senior draft). Cannon's got a chance to be a big leaguer, but he's not in this discussion. Rosario hasn't pitched since June 16, and he had a 5+ ERA in June when he did pitch, so I'd say no.

 Q:  mike from NY asks:
how long do you think it will take Felix to completely recover from his shoulder problems and will this have any influence on how long it takes for the Mariners to bring him up

John Manuel: I believe we just had this in Daily Dish, about how Felix Hernandez is coming back in the bullpen and struck out four in two perfect innings last night. He'll be up this September as long as his arm is fine, but everything we've heard describes his arm soreness as minor. The Mariners are being cautious with him, with good reason. Jim Callis was telling me he's had scouts call Felix the best pitching prospect they've ever scouted, and one scout I talked to in Detroit said he's seen Felix's slider this year and it was as dirty as advertised.

 Q:  mr. abe froman from chicago asks:
rick ankiel has been doing fairly well in single A. when will the cards promote him and does he actually have a chance of being a big league outfielder someday?

John Manuel: You know, maybe he does. His career isn't ordinary and it really can't be measured against what's happened in the past. He's trying to do something that just hasn't been done since what, modern sports medicine? He has some tools and some bat speed, and he's athletic. I wouldn't put money on it but I'm rooting for him.

John Manuel: On a separate note, Carlos Bohorquez (Cincinnati Reds), Alexandre Santos (Oakland Athletics) and former big leaguer Matt Whiteside (Blue Jays) have been suspended 15 days for violating MLB's performance-enhancing drugs policy.

 Q:  Russ from NY asks:
Omar Quintanilla is most likely going to be a September call-up since he was traded to the Rockies. Hiw much better can he be than a pretty worthless Aaron Miles?

John Manuel: I'm a Q fan, the guy has great hand-eye coordination, a knack for getting the barrel on the ball and savvy with the glove. He's just a ballplayer. I'm basically quoting Wayne Graham there, but I believe in Quintanilla and love him as a throw-in in a very odd trade. The A's have made a great run here and Kennedy and Witasick could help them continue that, but I was surprised they gave up Quintanilla. One thing to remember, though--they know their players better than we do. He's not hitting for great power this year, and my guess is that's why the A's deemed him expendable.

 Q:  Chris Irwin, from San Francisco, CA asks:
Billingsley over Cain? They have quite similar numbers, but Cain is younger, in AAA, and in a hitter's league. On other Giants notes, can you comment on San Jose's Jesus Reina and Nate Schierholtz? Thanks for taking these questions, they are the best part of BA.

John Manuel: Thanks Chris. Billingsley and Stewart are probably the two players I went out on a limb the most for. I am on record as being a big Matt Cain fan but I couldn't ignore the torrent of scouts praising Billingsley anymore. The secondary numbers tell a different story, Cain's command has gone backward just a tad this year (not that I'm off the bandwagon), while Billingsley has made excellent progress, throwing quality strikes and really shoring up the biggest weakness he had. He's got power (up to 95 consistently), two breaking balls that at times are plus pitches (the slider's made real progress), a solid changeup and he's learning to pitch. His upside is scary, and it's why I think he's the best pitching prospect in the minor leagues not named Felix.

 Q:  Manny from Tampa asks:
Do you see any real prospects on the Tampa Yankees squad this year besides Hughes and Jones?

John Manuel: I've got a nine-month-old to get home to see, so it's on to the lightning round . . .

John Manuel: I like Tyler Clippard and Abel Gomez better than Jones on that roster and hear Clippard has really improved this year. Steven White's on the way back there too and I'm a White fan, he can be a solid middle-of-the-rotation guy.

 Q:  Mike Marinaro from Tampa, FL asks:
John, Hello and thanks for taking the time to chat today. Last season I questioned whether Daric barton was the best hitter in the minors. You replied that Casey Kotchman was. You had the numbers to prove it. I think we can both agree that Delmon Young takes that title today, a mere six months later. My question is regarding Casey Kotchman, who I am on the same page with you regarding his abilities. What has happened to Casey this year?

John Manuel: Mike, long question, short answer--Young is the best hitter in the minors in a lot of ways, it would seem. Kotchman's an enigma to scouts, who all say his bat looked slow in the early going . . . whether that was the cold weather or just that he doesn't have the bat speed to be an elite hitter (which I'd never heard before) is hard to say. Slugging less than .400 in the PCL is hard to do. I'm thinking he'll bounce back, but maybe he's a Mark Grace-type instead of a George Sisler, batting-champion and Gold Glover type of guy.

 Q:  Ben from DC asks:
It seems the Nats are doing well in the minors as well. I just saw Ian Desmond play really well in Potomac. Zimmerman, Desmond, Balester, Everts, Hinckley, Bray...it seems the system is starting to be re-stocked under Dana Brown. Any thoughts?

John Manuel: Just talking to a scout about that today . . . you have to give it up to Dana Brown because the Nats system is having a nice year. Kory Casto's emerging as a real bat. Same with Frank Diaz. The real mover, it seems, is Balester, who's fastball is in the 91-95 mph range with good life. I'd like to see more K's, but it sounds like he knows how to pitch deep into games and is sacrificing K's for groundball outs, a savvy move for a 19-year-old. That's a long answer for the lightning round.

 Q:  jeff from kansas asks:
Rank delmon as a prospect with others that have come along in the last 10 years???

John Manuel: The difference is position scarcity--there are a lot of slugging OFs to come along in the last 10 years. I mean, Nomar Garciaparra was a rookie in '97, Jeter in '96, and these guys played SS and hit like they have hit. That's why we thought B.J. Upton would be in that class. Delmon's as good a hitter as has come through since I came to BA in '96, up there with Vlad Guerrero, Albert Pujols (a guy no one thought would be this good) . . . it sounds like he's that kind of hitter, .300, 40 homers, that's hard to find.

 Q:  Eric from New Jersey asks:
Will J. Brent Cox help the Yankees this season?

John Manuel: Not for me, he's no Huston Street or Chad Cordero. He's quite good, good sense of humor FWIW, and very competitive, but he's not in that elite class.

 Q:  Brian from Scarsdale asks:
Eric Duncan put up an OPS of 965 in the month of June. Do you think he has finally gotten comfortable in Trenton?

John Manuel: Yes, it does, that's very encouraging for Eric, but he's slipped again in July (9-for-41, just two XBH), and the 82 K's in 320 or so ABs, that's a concern. He's being pushed, though, don't go writing him off, I don't want to leave the impression t hat I have.

 Q:  Chris from Huntsville, AL asks:
What's your take on what position Stephen Drew will end up playing for the D-backs and an ETA on him for the Majors?

John Manuel: Sounds like sooner than later; he's made a very impressive debut. His majors ETA seems to be about this time next year, he might be that good.

 Q:  Brian from Seatle asks:
If you were starting a team today, who would be your first pick, Young or Hernandez? Why?

John Manuel: I'd like to say Felix due to the position scarcity argument, but I think Young's the better prospect because it seems there's very little chance of him not hitting at an above-average clip in the big leagues. So my answer is Delmon.

 Q:  Mike from Anaheim asks:
Hi John! Which players currently in the minors are most likely to have an impact on the pennant race this season? Is there anybody with potential K-Rod impact?

John Manuel: I wouldn't be shocked if Jeremy Hermida came up and helped the Marlins down the stretch; they need another bat with Lowell and Conine struggling so much. I can't believe I'm writing this, but I'd rather see Dustin Pedroia at the plate in Fenway than Mark Bellhorn right now. The Diamondbacks are in 2nd place, and I could see either Conor Jackson or Carlos Quentin making an impact if the opportunity arises. Minnesota's stable of arms at Rochester (Liriano, Bowyer, even Boof) could produce one or two guys who help this year as well.

 Q:  Paul from Bandon, OR asks:
If Verlander stays at #8 this off-season, he replaces Juan Enacnacion (#15, 1998) as the highest-ranked Tiger. We love that you have Zumaya in the top 25 but Granderson on the decline list?! Yes the K rate is up but he went from AA to AAA and has a 870 OPS! He also seems to continue to handle CF duties quite well.

John Manuel: He's kind of selling out to hit for power, and the result is a lot of K's. I don't believe in his power spike, that's why he made the decline list. It pains me to do so, I'm a Granderson fan, but that was my reason.

 Q:  Phil Geiersbach from LaGrange, IL asks:
Chris Lambert seems to be off to a decent start to his pro career, and it's been without much hype. Will he take the next step and become an elite prospect?

John Manuel: He was in the Futures Game; does that not count as hype?

 Q:  Josh from New York asks:
What can you tell me about Staten Island Yankees pitcher Joshua Schmidt? He was a 15th round pick and had the 2nd best K9 in the nation this year at the University of the Pacific and currently has 19 in 11.2 IP against only 3 hits and 2 BB. Does he have the stuff to be a major league closer or is he feeding on players adjusting to wood bats?

John Manuel: More the latter to my knowledge, he is a college senior, but that entire staff at Staten Island (.196 opponents avg.) has been very impressive, he and Garrett Peterson in the bullpen have been outstanding.

 Q:  Jay from Madison asks:
A few o's questions for you. Is Hayden Penn more than a middle of the rotation starter? Is Walter Young a big leaguer? Is Markakis looking better than bigbie?

John Manuel: Penn's a front-line guy if he handles the way he's been used, the O's really had no other option to go to. I am not in Big Walter's corner, and Nick Markakis is going to be better than Bigbie.

 Q:  andy from Florence, KY asks:
What are your thought on A's left-hand pitcher dallas braden?

John Manuel: Big, big year, jump in velocity and he's a screwball pitcher, so that's a tough pitch for hitters because they don't see it often. He sounds pretty legit, nice job by the A's player development people for improving him in one short year.

 Q:  Chuck Richter from Mission Viejo, CA asks:
Excuse me if I am a little disturbed but why in the name of... is Howie Kendrick left off this top 25 list? Stephen Drew is a nice talent and worthy of a spot in the top 25 but he's shown a small sample size of his talent in the California League while Kendrick has a career minor leauge average of .355 coming into this season! Nick Markakis on the list ahead of him? Let me get this straight, Kendrick is hitting .383, with a .421 OBP, 12 hr's, 13 sb's, 23 doubles, 6 triples, leads the minors in total bases despite missing about a month of the season with a bad oblique not to mention his minor league leading multi-hit games. I respect your scouting and writing abilities at BA but I think you missed the mark on this one! I'd have Kendrick ahead of teammate Brandon Wood. Respectfully,

John Manuel: Chuck, Howie was on the short list but just missed. Stephen Drew's tools are elite; Howie Kendrick's are good. Sorry, we still consider tools to be the biggest determining factor in ranking prospects, especially guys in A-ball. Markakis vs. Kendrick, let's grade them out. I could see Kendrick getting the edge in the hit tool, though Markakis is still an above-average hitter. Maybe Kendrick's a 7 or 8, though, he's a .360+ hitter in the minors, which is amazing. But does he have any other tool that grades out better than Markakis? I don't think so. Kendick is in the 26-35 or so range for me, but I'll take the guys who perform and have better tools.

Moderator: Well, there are more than 300 questions left, and I'm really sorry to have to do this, but we're going to have to call an end to the chat. Thanks for all the great questions. Hope everyone enjoys the weekend.

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