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Midwest League Chat with Jim Callis

Moderator: Jim Callis will begin taking your Midwest League questions at 2 p.m. ET

Moderator: Hi all. Jim had an unexpected delay -- but should be here by 2:30

 Q:  Jaypers from Springfield, IL asks:
Carlos Gonzales: estimated ETA at the Show?

Jim Callis: Sorry about the time confusion, but I'm here now. As for Gonzales, the top prospect in the league, he needs another 2-3 years in the minors before he's ready.

 Q:  Miss Understood from NYC asks:
Sean Rodriguez vs Trevor Plouffe. Seems to me you ranked the wrong guy #12. SR is as young, has similar power, but has a better eye, better stick and better speed. What am I missing?

Jim Callis: I like Rodriguez, but he has much less of a chance to stay at second base, he's a year older and it was his second stint in the MWL. Rodriguez projects more as a valuable utility guy than as a big league regular. He got some consideration but ultimately missed the Top 20. I'll throw this out now and hopefully not repeat myself too many times. Even in a so-so year for the MWL, it's tough to make the Top 20 in a 14-team league.

 Q:  Francois from Montreal, CAN asks:
Did Sebastien Boucher receive consideration for the top 20?

Jim Callis: Boucher, an outfielder in the Mariners system, runs very well and got mentioned a couple of times. But he wasn't very close to making the Top 20.

 Q:  Jeff Clement from Montana asks:
Where would I have been ranked if I qualified? And Wilken Ramirez #20? Being one of the youngest players in the league, with his promise, it seems he should have been ranked much higher.

Jim Callis: Had Clement qualified, he would have been No. 2 on the list. Ramirez has a lot of upside, but he's also very, very raw and has no real position right now, hence his No. 20 ranking.

 Q:  Jon from Peoria asks:
Good afternoon! How did two of the youngest pitchers fare among the league managers--Chi-Hung Chen and Jair Jurrjens?

Jim Callis: Just to clarify, we talk to the managers but we also talk to scouts too, and it's not a straight poll. We consider all the comments and determine the rankings ourselves. There weren't a lot of good lefties in the league. Cheng was one of the more interesting ones, with a plus curveball and good life on his fastball. Jurrjens had one of the better arms on the West Michigan staff but was more OK than outstanding.

 Q:  john from miami asks:
Just wondering what tier that Carlos Gonzales would fall within the top 100. Is he considered an elite prospect or still a work in progress?

Jim Callis: Very exciting tools but hasn't proven himself above low Class A, so he'd fit on the back half of the Top 100 for me. If he does this again next year, I'll be happy to slap the "elite" tag on him.

 Q:  Jon from Lexington, KY asks:
Where does Grant Johnson factor into the prospect rankings in the Midwest League? I know his stats aren't exactly eye popping, but where does he rank with the rest of the Cubs pitching prospects?

Jim Callis: He was in the discussion. Johnson took a while to get back on the mound because of shoulder and hamstring issues, and he looked rusty most of the times. His plus fastball-slider combination was rarely on display. He'd be at the top of the second tier of Cubs pitching prospects.

 Q:  jimmy from texas asks:
What does the future look like for Javier Herrera? Will he stay in CF and where does he profile best in the batting order?

Jim Callis: Herrera can stay in center but needs to polish his routes and jumps. The natural athletic ability is definitely there. He should have the bat to hit in the middle of a lineup.

 Q:  Joe from Newport News, VA asks:
Should the Cubs have started Eric Patterson at Daytona this season? Since they started him at Peoria, should they have promoted him in-season? If so, when?

Jim Callis: I'm all for letting a guy get off to a good start and Patterson didn't play last summer, so I could see assigning him to the MWL to start his pro career. But he proved he could dominate the league by midseason, and should have moved on at that point. Some managers thought he could have handled Double-A.

 Q:  Jimmy from Chesapeake, VA asks:
Thanks for doing the chat. I was pleased to see three A's prospects in the top 6. When do you think we may see any of these players (Herrera, Pennington, Buck) playing for Oakland? Are they the top three prospects for the A's organization?

Jim Callis: They're not the best three, because Daric Barton immediately springs to mind. Pennington should get to Oakland first. Though he definitely can play shortstop, the A's have a greater need at second base and it honestly wouldn't surprise me if Pennington is filling that role by the end of 2007. Buck has more of a 2008 ETA, and how much power he develops will determine if he's a regular or a reserve. Herrera, who has the highest ceiling, should get there sometime in late 2008.

 Q:  James from Guthrie OK asks:
Hello Jim, How close was Yordany Ramirez from making the list? I have been told by a few different people who saw Ft. Wayne Play that Ramirez was the teams best Prospect and not Matt Bush, your thoughts on both Players Thanks.

Jim Callis: Ramirez had the best all-around tools of any player on Fort Wayne, but he's very raw and didn't get much support for the Top 20. Given my choice, I'd take Bush over Ramirez.

 Q:  Joe from STL asks:
What kept Nick Stavinoha off this list, and don't say his age bc that didn't seem to matter with Eli Iorg being 22 in the appy? You said Jeff Clement would have made the list and Stavinoha out hit him. .344.398.564 with as many walks as strikeouts is pretty impressive for your pro debut, especially in a full season league.

Jim Callis: Sigh. I like statistics as much of the next guy, and I like Stavinoha as a prospect. But come on, Joe. One guy is a catcher and one guy is an outfielder. It's not the same. And I would like a little more than a two-month sample size before determining that Stavinoha is a better hitter than Clement.

 Q:  Francine Bauer from Tucson, AZ asks:
Shappi was awesome in the MWL, but ordinary in the Cal League. Did he make an impression at all in the MWL?

Jim Callis: Not as a Top 20 guy, but everyone respected his ability to throw strikes. Shappi's stuff is pretty ordinary.

 Q:  Al from Port Chester, NY asks:
It seems that although Ryan Harvey was given a very respectable #7 overall ranking in the league, it sounds as though you aren't too optimistic about his chances to hit at higher levels. If you had to make a predicition, would you say he: A) never reaches the Majors B) will reach the Majors but won't be an impact player C) will be an impact player in the Majors? Thanks for taking my question!

Jim Callis: Harvey was a tough guy to rank. He has the tools to become the best player in the league, but every scout I talked to brought up a different flaw in his swing or approach. I'll take B. I think he'll reach the majors and be a regular, but can't bank on him being a star.

 Q:  joe from long island asks:
big tiger fan,, jeff frazier whats your thoughts on him.tx

Jim Callis: Frazier just missed the list, the curse of doing a Top 20 for a 14-team league. Good athlete, intriguing bat, very aggressive (overly so) at the plate. He's one of the best position players in the Tigers system.

 Q:  Randy from Aurora Ill asks:
Hey Jim. I couldn't help but notice there weren't any lhp on this list. I'm surprised that that aselton guy from beloit didn't make the list, the league era leader. How close was Ford, wins leader, and that lefty from lansing who had a ton of punchouts, to making the list?

Jim Callis: The lefties were underwhelming this year. The best prospect among them was Aselton's teammate Jose Mijares, who has a low-90s fastball that hits 94 and a plus breaking ball. Aselton's stuff was up and down, some liked it and some thought it was ordinary, so that's why he missed. I discussed Chi-Hung Cheng of Lansing earlier. Ryan Ford of Kane County was 23 and doesn't miss many bats. No one was overly impressed with him.

 Q:  Jaypers from Springfield, IL asks:
How close were John Jaso, Jim Fasano and Drew Toussaint to making your list?

Jim Callis: Jaso was very close. He was one of the guys I agonized over leaving off, including Jeff Frazier and Beloit righty Kevin Slowey. Jaso has a promising bat, though some scouts thought he was more of a mistake hitter. A shoulder injury kept him from catching much. If scouts had been a little more sold on the bat or his catching ability, he would have made it (and would have made the Top 20 in a smaller league). Toussaint has great physical tools but is very, very raw. Fasano had little support.

 Q:  Jim from Milwaukee asks:
Jim. I see Bailey is rated number 2 in the Midwest League. I am still confused and disappointed that the Brewers selected Mark Rogers instead of Bailey. Can you compare the two at this point regarding their current performance and future potential? Thanks.

Jim Callis: I would have taken Bailey at the time and I'd still prefer Bailey, but there's not a huge difference between the two. A lot of teams would have gladly popped Rogers at No. 5 in the 2004 draft. Similar overpowering fastballs, but Bailey grades out better now in terms of curveball, command and delivery.

 Q:  Darrell from Steinbach,Manitoba asks:
Big Twins fan here.Glad to see so many Twins prospects in the top 20.Deacon Burns who isn't on the list is a player I have my eye on.Always seems to come up with a big hit.A word or two on his potential if you please.

Jim Callis: Very good athlete with some all-around ability. Not a top prospect, but a guy worth keeping your eye on. It's easy to loose some track of Burns in the Twins system because the system is so deep.

 Q:  Dane Dainard from Etobicoke asks:
Winfree greatly outproduced Plouffe on the Beloit team. Explain what went in to ranking Plouffe higher on the list. Thx.

Jim Callis: Two things: Despite the difference in production, Winfree isn't a sure thing at the plate and he's also older than Plouffe. And two, and this is a significant difference in value: Plouffe can play shortstop.

 Q:  John Tole from STL asks:
Is Nick Stavinaho of the Quad Cities a prospect. Thanks.

Jim Callis: Just to clarify my earlier comments, most certainly. In every draft, there are a few guys who slide to the middle rounds because they're not great athletes and don't do much else besides put up numbers at the plate. And they keep putting up those numbers, and one day they're in the majors. Stavinoha could be one of those guys from the 2005 draft. But keep in mind that he played at LSU and was 23 this summer, so you can't read too much into his numbers.

 Q:  Greg Tabeek from Florida asks:
Just need to ask a question about why you guys continue to bash Sean Gallagher. Your paper goes out of its way to harp on this kid. Yes you guys did have him mentioned a couple of times on the Hot Prospect sheet but only cause he was pitching lights out. Lets get the facts straight 19yr old 12th rd was supposed to start season in extended but due to injuries gets shot a Low A. Pitches lights out 1st half and starts MWL All-star game. Gets selected for midseason and Post Season All-star teams. Led MWL in wins and was top ten in every other stat. Promoted to Daytona Beach and pitches lights out. For this kid to do what he did in his 1st season as a 19yr old, nobody expected this. As for projectibility thats a bunch of crap. I saw a pitcher listed in your Top 20 MWL Prospects who you guys are infatuated with who had a not so good season and continued when promoted and had to skip starts. Seans heart and determination to succeed are all that he needs. Oh by the way Oneri Flieta(cubs player director) called sean yesterday to congratulate him on being selected Cubs Minor league Pitcher of the Year.

Jim Callis: No one is bashing Gallagher, Greg. He had a very good year, especially considering his age and draft status. But we're not ranking who achieved or overachieved the most. We're ranking who the best long-term major leaguers will be. Making the Top 20 in a 14-team league at age 19, wow, I'd look at that as a pretty nice compliment. The reason Gallagher didn't rank higher is that scouts aren't convinced his stuff is any better than average. His fastball is fringe average, and while some guys liked his curveball, others said it was an average and loopy pitch that overmatched MWL hitters because he could locate it.

 Q:  Jeff Brown from Chicago, Illinois asks:
What is the upside of Reds SS prospect, Adam Rosales, who spilt the year between Billings and Dayton?

Jim Callis: Rosales has some arm strength and he's a gamer, but he's probably not close to as good a hitter as his MWL numbers would indicate. Like Stavinoha, you have to consider him a prospect, but he was 22 and he's not really a slugger.

 Q:  Matt from VA asks:
Plouffe ranked ahead of Tui and Brignac? Was his second half performance the deciding factor? Or his defensive skills? His ranking just seems out of place when you compare the offensive production of the three shortstops.

Jim Callis: Plouffe's second half did help. While he doesn't have the same raw power Brignac and Tuiasosopo have, he also has fewer holes in his swing. And while Plouffe will stay at shortstop, it's unlikely the other two guys will.

 Q:  Scoop Jackson from Chicago asks:
So just how bad was Matt Bush this year? Be honest. Worst No. 1 pick ever?

Jim Callis: Bush was pretty bad at the plate. The consensus was that if you view him in the light of being the No. 1 overall pick, he can't live up to that. Just look at him as a player, and he can do some things. He can become a Gold Glove shortstop, though he'll probably never bat in the upper half of a big league order. We've gone through the saga that led to Bush being the No. 1 overall pick, and while the Padres blew it, other teams would have considered him in the top 10 picks.

 Q:  John Althouse from Greenville, SC asks:
Beloit is very well-represented on the top 20 list (5 being the most of any MWL team). However, I was wondering if there were other players that were highly thought of but couldn't quite make a top 20 in a 15-team league... particularly RHP Kevin Slowey, but also RHP Eduardo Morlan. They aren't top 20 material, but I also am curious what league observers thought of OFers Deacon Burns and Jeremy Pickrel. The latter intrigues me given what I've heard about his tools.

Jim Callis: John, Beloit was just loaded. Loaded. Slowey just missed, mainly because I had 14 teams of players to consider. He has solid stuff and loads of polish, and he carved up MWL hitters. A lot of guys liked Morlan, too, another promising young arm from Minnesota's 2004 draft. You didn't mention him, but some guys even liked Kyle Waldrop best on that Beloit staff. I just discussed Burns. As for Pickrel, he does have some power and he's not one-dimensional. Beloit, as well as the Twins system, had a lot of talent.

 Q:  Christy from Peoria asks:
How would you compare this year's class with some of the great crops in the MWL of previous years?

Jim Callis: The Midwest League was very, very average by its standards this year. I've been doing our MWL Top 20 since 2000, and this was probably the least impressive class as a whole in those six years.

 Q:  Kevin from San Diego asks:
Was McCormick from Quad Cities mentioned in there anywhere?

Jim Callis: Mark McCormick, a suppplemental first-round pick of the Cardinals, didn't pitch enough to qualify. Reports on him were mixed and mirrored the reports on him at Baylor. Great velocity, less impressive breaking ball and command. I'm not the biggest McCormick fan around.

 Q:  Nate from Denver, CO asks:
In an earlier BA edition I thought managers rated Swarzak as the best pitching prospect in his league. So why does he fall behind Hurley? Any comparisons?

Jim Callis: Two different lists at two different times of the year. Swarzak was rated the MWL's best pitching prospect at midseason by managers for our annual Best Tools list. But the Top 20 ratings covered the full season, also included scouts in the conversation and are more subjective. Hurley just has a little better stuff than Swarzak, no knock on Swarzak.

 Q:  Keith from Nebraska asks:
Who would you rather have at this point, Ryan Harvey or Chris Lubanski?

Jim Callis: Ryan Harvey. He has more upside and I don't think he's significantly more risky than Lubanski, who went right ahead of him in the 2003 draft.

 Q:  Brian from Keyport NJ asks:
There was a ton of expectation for Matt Tuiasossopo before the season began, has his stock gone down after his first complete season? He is still very young at 19, but has his stock gone down in the overall picture?

Jim Callis: Maybe a little, but no one is giving up on him. He's definitely not a shortstop, but he's an impressive athlete who should hit for power once he gets away from using an inside-out swing.

 Q:  Garrett Ball from East Lansing asks:
Thanks for the chat. Two LugnutsJays questions. First, what happened to Yuber Rodriguez? Second, any love for Curtis Thigpen despite his midseason promotion to New Hampshire?

Jim Callis: Rodriguez is very toolsy but just had an awful year. He wasn't disciplined and pitchers just took advantage of him. Thigpen did get some mention and his catching skills were better than what I thought they might be. He might be a very good supersub capable of playing almost anywhere, maybe even a regular catcher in the majors.

Moderator: That's it for today. We'll be back tomorrow with John Manuel discussing the South Atlantic League.

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