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Appy League Chat with Matt Eddy

 Q:  Steve from NJ asks:
Matt, Do you think Eric Campbell will be Chipper Jones successor with Marte making the permanent switch to LF ?

Matt Eddy: Hi Steve. Appy League managers liked what they saw from Campbell in the field, noting he could make plays to his left and to his right and that his arm was average, but he has a build similar to Martes. At 6-foot, 195 lbs., Campbell may be addressing the same questions about a position switch Marte is right now. Marte is listed at 6-foot-1, 180 lbs.

 Q:  Ryan from Versailles, K.Y. asks:
Where did E. Morlan from Elizabethton figure in this list?

Matt Eddy: Morlan would have ranked No. 6 had he pitched just one-third of an inning more. He dominated Appy League hitters with two potentially plus pitches: a 92-94 sinking fastball and a true, tight slider. The latter was a strikeout pitch. Hes a big guy, who doesnt let anything bother him on the mound, and his future may be in relief unless he makes big strides with his change.

 Q:  Jon from Peoria asks:
Hi Matt! Do you think Alexander Smit's long-term future is in the bullpen or as a starter?

Matt Eddy: Tough to tell. Smit really struggled as a starter in the MWL because he struggled to locate his curve. Its something he worked on after his demotion to the Appy League and hes headed to instructional league to put in more work. If I had to choose starter or reliever now, Id go with reliever because he excelled at setting hitters up the first time hed see them out of the pen (he led the Appy League in Ks), but without a consistent second pitch, it might be tough for him to get guys the second or third time.

 Q:  Richard Smiley from Chicago, IL asks:
Matt -- Thanks for the excellent write-up and for doing the chat. Did Bristol's Chris Carter come close to making the list and what is your evaluation of him?

Matt Eddy: I had Carter ranked in the 30-35 range because he had trouble in his debut with defense at third. Hes just 18, though, and one manager I spoke with really liked his swing and thought his power was projectible. He even liked him a bit more than Cunningham. In the end, Carters going to have a tougher road to the bigs if hes moved from third to first base.

 Q:  George from New Jersey asks:
What type of player is Snyder?The kid drafted by the orioles in the first round.I just keep forgetting his first name.Is it true that he's not a good defensive catcher and that he has a weak throwing arm?I've heard that he has great power and that he's a very polished hitter.

Matt Eddy: Its true that Brandon Snyder is not a polished defensive catcher because he made the transition from shortstop just this spring. No one I spoke with regarded him as more than average behind the plate, but he did show the aptitude to stick at catcher. That is, he worked well with his pitchers, who were sometimes a few years older than him, and really took charge of the game. His arm rates as average, but he moves well for a big guy. What you heard about his offensive game is accurate. Snyder hits for power to all fields and has an advanced knowledge of the strike zone.

 Q:  JimBeau from Redwood City, CA asks:
As noted in your online story, most teams send 2nd year+ players to the Appy with most first year players going to the complex leagues (although a lot of the top 20 are from the '05 draft). Cleveland doesn't have a complex team, so pretty much all of their first year players, especially from HS, go to the Appy and play against more seasoned competition. Would any of Burlington's players made the lists for the complex leagues? Who from Burlington might we look forward to possibly stepping it up in the next few years?

Matt Eddy: The guy to watch from Burlington is Nick Weglarz, the Indians third-round pick out of Ontario. He was overmatched by Appy League pitchers in his debut, but thats understandable seeing he played the season at age 17. Hes got the build at 6-foot-3, 215 lbs., to be a run-producing corner outfielder or first baseman, but hes got a long way to go refine his swing. Michael Finocchi, rhp, is another one to watch. Hes 20 and throws his fastball 92-94 mph and also has a hard slider. His change needs work.

 Q:  Dan from New York asks:
Do you think that Ryan Royster might develop some of the secondary skills to round out his game some more to avoid being a high-power, low-average hitter as he moves up the chain? Also, does he look like he will stick in the outfield, or is his defense at the level where he may have to convert to 1B in the future?

Matt Eddy: Royster definitely needs to refine his pitch recognition, but his power is undeniable. He repeated the Appy League, so I would have liked to see a little more improvement than he showed. At the same time, he was the final cut from the top 20 because he does have tremendous bat speed and parlayed it into 11 home runs this season, which ranked him third in the league. One manager was impressed by his ability to stay back on breaking stuff. Hes one to watch for next season. Oh, and his defense is below-average in left, so a full-time move to first base is probably in his future.

 Q:  Dirk from Ontario asks:
Hello, Are ther any sleeper prospects in Pulaski? What is the long tearm future of Heliezer Aguilar and Reidier Gonzalez? Thanks

Matt Eddy: Indeed there are. Wesley Stone, an 11th rounder this year and the only high school bat the Jays targeted, held his own despite being the youngest batter in their system. Hes got a compact swing and uses the whole field. Around the bag, hes an average defender with an average arm. Reidier Gonzalez has good stuff, touching 94 mph with his fastball and mixing in a curve and a change. Hes a hard worker, and profiles as a reliever. Shortstop Jesus Gonzalez, 21, made strides with the bat. The converted third baseman has work to do defensively, but the Jays thought highly enough of him to promote him to Auburn for the playoffs. And Jacob Butler can hit. He would have gotten more attention had Campbell not been in the same league. Butler finished runner-up in HR, RBI, slugging and extra-base hitsall to Campbell. Of course, he was a bit older at 22.

 Q:  Steve from Omaha asks:
What are your thoughts about the players on Bluefield? The Orioles system has been missing quality prospects for a while but it seems like these past few drafts have been solid. How good of prospects do you think Snyder and Erbe are and what kind of upside do you think they have? Thanks

Matt Eddy: League managers were impressed by Bluefields top prospects, Snyder and Erbe. I addressed Snyder a few questions back, and Erbe was hands-down the most electric arm in the league this summer. Like most young pitchers, his secondary stuff needs work, but the guy struck out more than half the batters he faced. He touched 97 mph at his peak, but pitched at 91-94 a later in the season. His slider could develop into a plus offering, and I think refinement of his changeup will determine whether he remains a starter or moves to the pen.

 Q:  Chris from California asks:
How can someone come across your list of the Top 40 or 50 in each league? Is there such a list?

Matt Eddy: You'd have to ask each writer individually. I took my list out to 40 places, but we publish just the top 20.

 Q:  Andrew Thurmond from Athens, GA asks:
Jon Mark Owings didn't make the cut; what are his chances of developing his game and what are his biggest holes? Could he ever become a top 20 prospect for the Braves, considering their usually deep farm crop?

Matt Eddy: Owings was another late cut. He was hampered by hamstring problems early in the year and missed the list primarily for his lack of plate appearances. Hes got a chance to be a very good player. Owings is a hard worker, and his power is real at age 20. As for the Braves top 20, Id probably expect him to rank in the 21-30 range, if he makes it.

 Q:  Jaime from Chicago, IL asks:
Did Sox lefty reliever Alex Woodson (Bristol) receive any consideration for the top 20?

Matt Eddy: He didn't, but teammate Logan Williamson did. His ERA was unsightly, but he posted a strong K rate as a starter, and one pitching coach really like his arm action. Also, seventh-rounder Daniel Cortes made strides during the season -- even if the overall numbers dont reflect it. Just 18, Cortes is a sinker-slider guy whos developing his change.

 Q:  Brock from Springfield, MO asks:
Colby Rasmus seems like just the kind of prospect the struggling Cardinals' system needs. Someone who is young and athletic and can hopefully one day step in for Jim Edmonds in center.

Matt Eddy: We're getting a lot of Cardinals questions. Rasmus had a nice season with Johnson City, making good use of his speed, and toward the end of the year, his power. He's also got a clearly-defined area for improvement: pitch recognition. Rasmus whiffed more than you'd like to see from a top prospect, but it's something he should overcome with experience. Hes got the range and arm for center, but I wouldnt expect Rasmus to be ready for the bigs until at least late 2008.

 Q:  Tom from Memphis asks:
The JC Cardinals had a lot of youth in their rotation and most of them struggled, but they were pitching in a very good hitters park and against a lot of college players. Besides Herron do Wilson, Garceau, or Leech have much upside?

Matt Eddy: Most definitely. Id rank them like this: Wilson, Garceau, Leach. Wilson experienced some of the growing pains Herron did with fastball command and getting ahead of hitters. Hes 88-92 mph with his fastball and has an advanced feel for his change for a guy just out of high school. Garceau is the real sleeper of the bunch. A 20th-round pick, Garceau had perhaps the best breaking ball of the Johnson City four. He throws his fastball in the 87-91 mph range, and if you look past his 7.66 ERA, you can see he posted a strong strikeout rate in his debut: 42 in 47 innings.

 Q:  thomas from NY asks:
What kind of prospect is Paris Austin of the Mets? Any other names of note in Kingsport?

Matt Eddy: First baseman Nick Evans showed tremendous power early in the season (.734 slugging) was quickly promoted to Brooklyn. Hes a righty limited to first base, so hell have to fight for every promotion. The Mets are very high on switch-hitting shortstop Jose Coronado, 19, who handled a promotion to the South Atlantic League at the tail-end of the season. Hes very good with the glove, but needs to get stronger with the bat. His plate discipline is quite good for a young player. And RHP German Marte threw 88-90 mph coming out of the pen with a potentially plus 12-to-6 curve.

 Q:  Brad Cauff from Nashville, TN asks:
What are your thoughts on Eli Iorg. In the future where do you see him playing, INF or OF? Any weaknesses you noticed in him? It seems like he is a free swinger, but gets on base and can be a base stealing threat

Matt Eddy: Iorg is a premium athlete who acclimated himself well to the league. We can't get a full read on him yet because he was older than much of his competition, but he projects to hit for average and power and he's a right fielder all the way. Above-average range, nice arm. Next year will be the test.

 Q:  Robert Goldberg from Lyndhurst, NJ asks:
With the Braves' sudden glut of young catchers (McCann, Saltalamacchia), is it possible that the Braves may be moving Max Ramirez to yet another position?

Matt Eddy: I'd guess the Braves will let Ramirez work through his problems behind the plate in the Sally League next year. He needs experience more than anything. Working with the top young pitchers in the Braves system should help his development, too.

 Q:  Warren from Ann Arbor , Mi. asks:
Jones struggled to make contact and to maximize his speed in games. Its way too soon to give up on him, and Id say hes definitely a top 30 prospect for the Cardinals, maybe even top 20.

Matt Eddy: Jones struggled to make contact and to maximize his speed in games. He's just 18, though, and Its way too soon to give up on him. Id say hes definitely a top 30 prospect for the Cardinals, maybe even top 20.

 Q:  Ryan from Houston,TX asks:
Hello, do you think Koby Clemens is a legit mlb prospect at 3B with his bat and glove, or do you think he'll end up switching positions down the road?

Matt Eddy: Clemens's power and plate discipline are real. Pithcers at higher levels may be able to better exploit his long swing, but I would not be surprised to see him adjust. He showed as much in the Appy League. Defensively, he's not as smooth as you'd like -- but he does throw well -- and he may have to shift to left field or first base. That move would be several years down the road, though.

 Q:  Mark McKinney from US North asks:
(Where's Andrew) Lopez (of Princeton)?

Matt Eddy: Lopez may have fallen through the cracks. His name just didn't come up. He had a limited number of plate appearances and didn't blow anybody away with his tools when he played. He did have a nice season, though, and I may grow to regret his omission.

 Q:  Tom from Seattle asks:
Which is the real Aaron Cunningham: The guy who hit .315 with a .838 OPS in Bristol, or the guy who hit .115 and .322 OPS in two weeks at Kannapolis? What can we expect from him?

Matt Eddy: I think Cunningham will hit, though not everyone I spoke with shares that opinion. Its important to note that his OBP with Bristol was buoyed by a league-leading 14 HBPs. The best-case scenario for Cunningham is as a right fielder with average tools across the board.

 Q:  Vic from Toronto asks:
Hi Matt, Did any other Blue Jay prospect come close to making the top 20? Can you give us you assesment of Jesse Litsch? Thanx

Matt Eddy: Yeah, let's talk Litsch. He impressed me with his fiery mound demeanor and for his rapid-fire attack on hitters. He throws strikes and makes them adjust to his game. His stuff doesnt hurt, either: a fastball that reaches 92 mph and a high-80s slider that could become a plus pitch. Butler, an 8th-rounder can really hit, though his age was a big strike against him making the top 20. I had him in the 26-30 range. He might have played in Auburn had the Jays not drafted two corner outfielders ahead of him (Brian Pettway, Ryan Patterson).

 Q:  Mike from St. Louis asks:
What's your opinion on Donovan Solano, Cardinals SS? His numbers weren't spectacular, but he is quite young.

Matt Eddy: Solano is a hot topic among chatters. He had a very nice debut and showed a lot by adapting quickly to the New York-Penn League. I can tell you managers thought very highly of him and that his actions at short were smooth and that his strike zone judgment (even in the NYP) was a strong suit. He was promoted before I had a chance to see Johnson City, unfortunately.

 Q:  Ian from London, UK asks:
Thanks for the chat. Who was in the mix for 21-30?

Matt Eddy: Among those already mentioned, I liked: Owings, Evans, Royster, Solano, Butler, Josh Wilson, Coronado, Reidier Gonzalez and Williamson. Wilfirdo Perez of Bluefield is another contender. Hes small in stature and a bit older at 21, but he came right at hitters but some wondered if more advanced hitters would swing at his stuff in the dirt. He finished third in the league in Ks with a 89-91 mph fastball, very good curve and developing change. He changes speeds well.

 Q:  Mark K from Kimball, MN asks:
I realise Elizabethan closer Tim Lahey will not be topping any prospect list...but can you tell me what to expect from him in the future? Do you see him with enough talent to at least make the bigs in middle relief?

Matt Eddy: I wont go out on a limb and predict Lahey will make the majors, but his control was incredible for someone who had converted from catcher. Hes a big guy (6-foot-4, 240 lbs.) who gets good downward angle on his fastball and alos throws a slider.

 Q:  TribeFan from Akron, OH asks:
What's the scoop on Drennen? Isn't he a little small to be a power-hitting corner outfielder? And why did the Tribe go for Crowe in the first round? Doesn't make any sense. Oh well, at least we're making the playoffs where it counts.

Matt Eddy: Your concern is legitimate. The Indians tried Drennen in center and he seemed to take to it well, showing average range and arm strength. Theyre eager to get him to instructional league to work on his swing, and they expect him to start fresh in the Sally League next year. The Indians still project Drennen as a plus hitter and a hitter for power. One thing about Drennen is he hit about .250 when putting the ball in play, ridiculously low by league standards (about .315).

 Q:  Phillip from Portland, OR asks:
Can you talk about the Braves Cuevas? Any reason he didn't rank a bit higher?

Matt Eddy: My reservations about Cuevas were related to age and command. At 21, he was just a few month younger than most college-drafted players. And his command really wavered down the stretch, even deserting him at times. He'll need to show consistency with his command to succeed in full-season leagues.

 Q:  Marty Pevey from Syracuse, NY asks:
Any idea how the potential changes in structure of the minor leagues will affect the Appy League? I've read that it'll likely become a co-op league, with different teams in each location. If this happens, is this the end of the Appalachian League as we know it? And do you feel fine? Thanks, Marty

Matt Eddy: I sure hope it's not the end of the Appy League as we know it. I had a fun time putting this list together. The proposed minor league shakeup could still hit a stumbling block...

 Q:  Tom from San Francisco, CA asks:
Going out on a limb here: anything in the way of props for Manny Rodriguez? A potential sweet-swinging bat? Did he flash plus-leather (so to speak)? Thanks.

Matt Eddy: All right. Last three questions. Rodriguez made a strong showing with his extra-base power and ended up hitting .300, but for me you've got to do a better job than 12 walks and 69 strikeouts if you're limited to first base. He's a big guy, though, and maybe he'll refine his batting eye.

 Q:  Jake Larsen from Waukegan, IL asks:
What is your impression of Matt Walker? Does he have the stuff to skyrocket through the Rays system or will he eventually hit a road-block when he faces AA or AAA hitters?

Matt Eddy: I like Walker quite a bit. His fastball-curve combo should get him to the high minors, but getting to the majors may entail an adjustment period. Something to watch: Opposing batters hit almost .380 when putting the ball in play against him, which certainly contributed to his 5.31 ERA. Maybe his luck will even out next year.

 Q:  Jake Larsen from Waukegan, IL asks:
John Matulia was another in a long line of draft-day steals for the Devil Rays. Snatching him away from the Gators grasp was amazing news, but when he took the Appy by storm many Rays want gah-gah over "Tools". Do you expect "Tools" on the road to superstardom in an already crowded Rays OF or will he be another Pridie?

Matt Eddy: Way too early to tell. Managers who had recently seen him, though, were quick to recall Matuilia's name. He works very hard on his game, doing what it takes to get on base, though his running game needs improvement. He was caught in his final eight stolen base attempts in the Appy League.

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