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Northwest League Chat with Will Kimmey

Moderator: Will Kimmey will begin taking your Northwest League questions at 10 a.m. ET, Friday. Feel free to submit your question now and Will will see it when he arrives.

 Q:  Skip from Illinios asks:
Who do u think has a better chance of being a great player, Taylor Teagarden or John Mayberry Jr.

Will Kimmey: Good morning everyone. I know it's probably a bit before many Northwest League fans have had their coffee, but we've got a good amount a questions in the bank overnight, so this should still be fun.

Will Kimmey: Mayberry I'd say has a better chance of being a great player, despite his struggles thus far. His power could turn into 25-30 homers at the major league level, and possibly more. His speed could also lend to 10 steals or more provided he doesn't totally bulk up and maintains his slender fluidity. Teagarden, however, has a better chance of reaching the majors and becoming a very, very solid player for a long time with a slimmer to chance to become one of the game's best 20 players or so but a strong chance to be an important piece on a good team. He's more like buying a CD from a bank--a return you're sure to get a solid return on and won't lose anything with--while Mayberry would be more like dumping that same money into the stock market--there's a chance it could dramatically rise, but an almost equal risk that you'd lose money on the investment. To continue the analogy, because the Rangers drafted each, you could look at that as a way of diversifying their investments. The just better hope college players are FDIC insured.

 Q:  Matt D from Seattle asks:
Can you tell us a little more about Luis Valbuena? Had a solid strikeoutwalk ratio and a good amount of homers & rbi's but mediocre rate stats. How does his bat project, and will he be able to stay in the middle infield? Thanks

Will Kimmey: I think Everett manager Pedro Grifol's Ray Durham (young version, not the current always injured one the Giants have) comparison could be a good one. That is a solid defensive player who makes the routine plays but doesn't do a lot of spectacular stuff while being an above-average offensive player because of the ability to rack up base hits and take bags when on base. That homer total is a bit inflated because of Everett's dimensions, but Valbuena could have average to above pop for the normal second baseman, again like Durham where he might challenge for 20 homers one year but settle in around 8 or 12 most years.

 Q:  Tibor from the big island asks:
What do you think is Jeff Clements ETA in seattle given his recent performance, does this put him on the fast track?

Will Kimmey: I'd say Clements' defense could rate how fast he moves, but then again that depends on how important that skill ultimately is for the Mariners. There's no question Clement is an extremely advanced hitter and all the pitching around him teams did last year at USC only helped him maintain his patience and discipline at the plate. He could likely hold his own at the plate in the Mariners sometime next year. If Ryan Zimmerman's already doing so for the Nats, there's no reason Clement could not. Clement's defense, by all accounts, has improved in the last year, and that's been a giant hole for the M's in recent years. Most likely some time in early 2007 might make the most sense for his M's career to begin.

 Q:  Alex from Vancouver asks:
Did Carter from Eugene or Madsen from Vancouver not impress? These two guys dominated the league and were never mentioned

Will Kimmey: Neither really impressed from a stuff standpoint, no. Both are veteran college players who spent four years honing their craft. Apply that kind of command in a league where hitters are making their first adjustments to wood bats and sometimes are four years younger than them and it makes sense to see why they found so much success. It's hard to see either in the majors as anything better than a No. 5 starter, and you're more likely looking at guys who'd be swingmen or middle relievers. That said, Madsen's absolute dominance did earn him some consideration for the tail end here, partially because his overall success can't be completely dismissed and partly because the league was pretty thin this year. But a sinker-slider pitcher who often works in the mid 80s will have to prove himself at every level to make the majors and just doesn't profile that well.

 Q:  nick from canada asks:
No jays prospects?..i think there starting to produce so ggod talent

Will Kimmey: There aren't any Jays affiliates in this league. That makes it pretty hard for one of their players to crack the 20. The Blue Jays are affiliated with Auburn of the New York-Penn League.

 Q:  Robyn Drever from Salinas, CA asks:
Was Will Thompson overlooked due to his season ending injury? Wasn't he leading the league in batting average when he was hurt?

Will Kimmey: No, Thompson certainly was discussed. He batted .380 before injuring his ankle. Managers loved how he stayed inside the ball and didn't try to do too much with it, but ultimately he misses out because for a first baseman who's about to turn 23 in six weeks, you want to see more power than two homers, and this is playing in a park that encourages extra-base hits because of its dimensions. Thompson's Mark Grace in the best scenario, and still is an interesting sleeper, but he'll really need to get on the fast track to make the majors in a reasonable amount of time.

 Q:  Rox Fan in NY from Purplerow.com asks:
A bunch of us at the above Rockies blog consider Zach Simons to be in the mold of Aaron Cook. He has great stuff but lacks the high amount of Ks. Now, he did have a heavy workload during college, so was his low amount of Ks a result of being tired or will he just not strike out a high number of guys?

Will Kimmey: Blog, blog, blog, blog. That's a heck of a funny sounding word, huh? That Cook comparison might be very fair. I remember seeing him fire 96s and such at Double-A Carolina a few years back and out-duel Mark Prior in a game, but he still struggled to rack up the K's, as you say. I'm going to wait before deciding on Simons, though. He worked really hard this year in junior college, and a scout I talked too said he never saw him below 90 mph. He rarely got that high this summer, so I'd like to see how he fares next season with the benefit of a full rest to regain his stuff. He's got the build, the power slider to become a power type pitcher for sure. But I guess Cookie did too. That 40-some K's in 80-some innings was a tad troubling.

 Q:  Tom from VT asks:
Daniel Carte and Chris Frey both struggled for Tri-City. I'm definitely going to write them off, but I would have expected they'd perform better (even in a pitcher's park).

Will Kimmey: Wow, Tom, quick judgment. I didn't expect a ton from Frey, who was more a speedy defensive guy who more often than not had his offensive success with the short game and on the basepaths in college rather than being a guy who really scared opponents at the plate. But Carte's struggles were a bit of a surprise. He hit a ton of his college home runs to right-center field, showing excellent power the opposite way, including blasting an oppo job over a scoreboard against Luke Hochevar. But Carte really got pull conscious in the NWL. Some managers couldn't remember him going to the right side all summer, and that's really troubling. Carte's got the work ethic and requisite skills to come back from this, but it's going to take dedication to change this poor approach.

 Q:  Russ from NY asks:
Fastest to the Majors: Lindsay or Veal?

Will Kimmey: I'll take Lindsay. He's a bit more consistent already, he dominated more and the Rockies have a greater need for starters than do the Cubs organizationally. But I'd take Veal as a major leaguer simply because Coors keeps chewing up and spitting out arms like nobody's business. My point here is don't add Lindsay to the roster of your super-deep fantasy league, if that's part of the rationale behind this question.

 Q:  Casey from Guilderland, NY asks:
Hi Will, Thanks for the chat. I am real excited to see Dan Griffin at #7 on your list - can you tell us a little more about him? Where do you see him starting next season, and is he for real, or was he just handling younger competition when he should have been in the Sally League? Granted, he is VERY young for a guy out of college (not even 21 yet). He was one of my buddies in High School, and we're all rooting for him back here in Guilderland. Thanks!

Will Kimmey: Guilderland, reminds me of the guilder, the form of currency in the Netherlands before the euro came to pass. Great name. Oh, you asked a question? I'd say Griffin was right where he needed to be this summer. He's a college draft, sure, but Niagara isn't quite the same as pitching in the Big 12 or SEC or Pac 10, plus being up North, Griffin's gotten less experience than the Sun Belters as well. That he led the NCAA in K's per nine this year was encouraging, but not as encouraging as the fact that he basically kept mowing guys down at a similar rate in the NWL. His power fastball and hard curveball make that possible. Low Class A seems realistic for 2006, because the Giants don't need to rush him now with what's in the chute ahead of him. Plus the org showed much patience with Matt Cain this year, letting him work at Triple-A nearly all season when they could have recalled him much earlier. For me, that's a good plan because it hurts to rush a young arm into struggles at the major league level.

 Q:  Patrick from Milwaukee, WI asks:
Of all of the rookie leagues, which offered the most impressive collection of talent, and how would you rank them?

Will Kimmey: The NWL, like the NY-P, is not technically a rookie league, but a short-season one. But I'll lump them in for the sake of your question because I'm such a wonderful person. Stack them up like this, from best to worst: GCL, Appy, AZL, NY-P, Pioneer, NWL. Also, let's note the NWL has the fewest teams of any of these leagues, so it is harder for it to accumulate the total talent count that a 14- or 12-team league owns, but still it was a thin year with lots of top players either playing a level down or above it this summer.

 Q:  tiffythetitan from Oakland, CA asks:
Why did Pablo Sandoval move from catcher to 3b? I don't recall the Giants having any other catchers with his ability (hitting at least) in the organization and Mike Matheny should hopefully be long gone by the time Sandoval is ready for the majors.

Will Kimmey: It was a better fit for his skills. And after a year at third, there's certainly a consensus that he's better there than behind the plate. The move could also help unlock his offensive skills quicker, though that's more my inference than a stated fact. As for being short at catcher, look at the organization and third base is about as thin, so that part of he equation won't be a big deal. The Giants also moved another catcher, Todd Jennings, to the infield this year as well.

 Q:  Mike McBride from Spokane, WA asks:
How close was Rangers 2004 2nd rounder Karl Herren to making the NWL top 20?

Will Kimmey: Not really all that close. Few were bowled over by his overall tools (he's kind of an average-across-the-board guy), and he was basically an average player in the league. Still, you've got a guy who was a suprisingly high pick out of a Washington (state) high school last year, so there's still time for him to improve. So he's not written off, but not a lot of people wrote him on, to twist that cliche around.

 Q:  Joseph Rentz from Ridgecrest California asks:
Will Stephen Kahn become the pitcher every one think he can be ?

Will Kimmey: Depends on who those people are and what their expectations entail. If they think Kahn can be a solid late reliever, I'd say yes. His fastball has plenty of heat and his breaking ball can also be a plus pitch. He tended to be either really good or not good at all this summer, a boom or bust type. He didn't allow a hit in nine of his appearances, but when he got hit managers felt he didn't handle it well and could be very hittable. Riding momentum like that isn't exactly what you'd want out of a reliever in the late innings, but as a guy who was a starter in college, perhaps that's a mentality that can be learned.

 Q:  Navin from Los Angeles asks:
Were there any other Hawks close to making the list, such as Darin Downs or Jesus Yepez?

Will Kimmey: Downs, a lefthander with an upper-80s fastball and solid curveball, came the closest in his second year in the league. That combination tends to lend to more chances for southpaws than other arms.

 Q:  J from Seattle asks:
Thanks for doing the chat, Will. How do you think this year's Everett team compared with last year's squad, talent wise? How about as far back as the 2002 team? Valbuena's performance seemed pretty similar to that Ismael Castro, though hopefully, his knees will stay healthier.

Will Kimmey: Valbuena compared favorably to the solid crop of middle infielders from last year, with Asdrubal Cabrera the guy then. There wasn't a Matt Tuiasosopo there this year and certainly not a Felix Hernandez from a few years back, but a guy I really liked was Michael Saunders. He kept rising up my list every time I looked at it because of his upside and relative youth age and experience wise. He really came on over the second half. Edgar Guaramato is a big time arm, a converted outfielder, whom I also like. The M's often seem to stock this club with some interesting Latin signees that find success in their debut. That's a good thing, too, because the club hasn't had the benefit of a lot of early picks lately, and missed on Mayberry a few years ago when he failed to sign in the first round.

 Q:  jeff sullivan from belchertown MA asks:
Who has the most power in the league? I would say John Mayberry, but who do you think?

Will Kimmey: That's probably fair. Managers said his batting practice shows were unmatched. In the games, Lizahio Baez could absolutely launch baseballs, though he's not a real prospect-type profile because he lacks a position.

 Q:  Dave from New York asks:
What's your take on the Giants placing four players on this list without a first, second or third round pick this past draft?

Will Kimmey: Three things: 1) Good drafting to nab Copeland and Griffin in rounds 4 and 5. 2) Thin league in talent. 3) Mooney and Sandoval weren't 05 drafts, so that's of no consequence.

 Q:  Matt from Laguna Niguel, CA asks:
The Giants seem to have a lot of lower level prospects with tremendous upside. They've got 7 of the top 40 in the ASL and NWL. Aren't there some other names from the Giants that just missed being put on these lists also?

Will Kimmey: Sure, Dave McKae enjoed a very good year. I mentioned Thompson earlier. Joey Dyche can really rake. He batted .500 in 202 at-bats at Lewis-Clark State this spring but seemed a little run down by the time he reached Salem. Manager Steve Decker really liked Wayne Foltin out of the pen, with a lively, swing and miss fastball and a power slider.

 Q:  evan from Cincinnati (OH) asks:
I was a bit suprised to see Mark Reed playing caboose in a league where coming up with 20 prospects must have been a bit of a stretch. How comparable is his bat to older brother Jeremy's and do you think Mark can stick behind the plate? Is his ranking based more on performance (decidedly mediocre) or on a perceived lack of tools?

Will Kimmey: Maybe that's a track record ranking. He's a solid defender and a lefthanded hitter, two traits that will get most catchers a long look. Reed did struggle at the plate during his second summer as a pro and has to learn to go the other way more. That his brother Jeremy always hit, props him up some but also gives reason to believe that he will eventually hit enough.

 Q:  Pete from nyc asks:
Why a 7 a.m. chat for people on the west coast about the Northwest Leage?

Will Kimmey: Unfortunately it's a scheduling thing, kind of like making the Red Sox play all those late west coast starts in the first round of last year's playoffs. That's why we opened the questions up last night, so there'd be more access to everyone. Or you can just blame it on East Coast Bias if you'd like.

 Q:  Bryan from Boise,ID asks:
If Mark Pawelek had qualified for the list would he have been the top prospect in the NWL?

Will Kimmey: Probably, but he pitched just three more innings in this league than did Mark Prior, who would have rated ahead of him.

 Q:  Plastic Bohemia from Osaka, Japan asks:
How did Jeff Flaig look? Is he done as a middle infielder? Is there still any chance of him reaching his early pre-draft projections?

Will Kimmey: He looked like first base would be the best place for him. His overly pull conscious approach didn't leave many observers predicting a ton of success for him power or average wise as he moves up the system.

 Q:  Bryan from Chicago asks:
Does David Gregg have much of a big league future or is he an all speed, can't hit type of guy -- AKA Dwaine Bacon?

Moderator: Gregg was one of the few hitters who bunted for hits in the SEC, a college league all about the long ball. Gregg's defense in center and great speed are nice assets, but in the current state of baseball, you better hit to play. His early offensive success suprised me some, but he ultimately regressed to about his appropriate average.

 Q:  Brad from Portland, Maine asks:
Who impresses you more Ben Copeland or Mike Mooney, why?

Will Kimmey: Their raw athleticism stands out the most. Mooney's got more power while Copeland could play more of a speedy game with flashes of power.

 Q:  Dug from Portland, OR asks:
I know that Travis Buck and Jeff Clement only played a combined 13 games in this league but where would they have graded out in this list?

Will Kimmey: Clement would have battled for the top spot while Buck would have sat before or after Copeland.

 Q:  Brian Chase from Everett WA asks:
I don't get it. Some of your guys have holes in their swings a mile wide, and some throw hard but are straight as a string with no command, then you leave off guys like Rohrbaugh, Gilmore and Prettyman. I think both BA and the scouts make a lot of mistakes... any thoughts?

Will Kimmey: This will be the last one, and it's a question more about the process of this list, so it's a fitting summation. Putting together prospect lists at the lowest levels often presents the most difficult jorb of any league because the age groups and experience levels vary wildly. Also, players are still adjusting to all that goes into professional ball, including playing everyday, the traveling, and even finding a new culture for foreign players and coping with culture shock for domestic ones adjusting to parts of the country they've never seen. These off the field factors can strongly color on the field performance. So stats aren't quite as important at these levels, while players are finding their way and making changes their ne organizations have suggested. Dominant years for very young players will stand out more positively, while giant struggles for much advanced players tend to hurt. In general, big tools are favored because they can lend to star potential. Polished command pitchers like Jeff Gilmore, Robert Rohrbaugh, Mike Madsen, Trey Shields, Brent Carter often show well at these levels, but their stuff won't lead to as large an impact if they make the majors as a guy with even one dominant tool. It's the nature of the game. And by that nature, these lower-level lists are often very boom or bust, hit or miss. Check the five years ago future for evidence in that regard.

Will Kimmey: Thanks for taking the time to ask questions and read the chat. These things get going big time next week when the full-season leagues begin.

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