Minor League Player Of The Year Chat

Moderator: Baseball America editors will answer your questions about our Minor League Player of the Year beginning at 2:30 p.m. ET.

    Ben (Leland Grove): How strong a case did Dom Brown bring to the table?

J.J. Cooper: Very strong. He was one of the finalists. If you are interested in how the voting came down, I'd recommend listening to the podcast as well, where we went into some detail on how the voting worked out. Brown was the pick for a couple of BA staffers, but the consensus was for Hellickson.

    JAYPERS (IL): I realize his second half was light years ahead of his first, but did Matt Moore get any votes at all?

J.J. Cooper: You pretty much answered your own question. As impressive as Moore's second half was, it's the Player of the Year, not the second half. It's really hard to consider a guy who went 1-7, 6.08 in the first half of the season, no matter how good the second half is. We considered him, but when we made the first cut to get down to a final 10 or so, he didn't make the list.

    Ben (Leland Grove): Had Montero's second half been as impressive as his first, would he have usurpsed Helly for the title?

J.J. Cooper: Yeah probably, but if we're playing with this hypothetical, the "only second-half counts" Matt Moore would have run away with the award.

    Justin (KC): Did Moustakas' lost April factor in at all?

J.J. Cooper: Not really. And I know we got some questions asking whether the fact that we chose the POY before the season ended really worked against Moustakas, who finished with a home run flourish. So let's explain why Moustakas didn't win it. When we talked about Moustakas, it got really hard to not notice his massive home-road split in the Texas League. In case you haven't seen it, Moustakas hit .437/.485/.894 at home and .222/.318/.398 on the road. Even with his excellent finish to the season in Omaha, it's fair to say that Moustakas' case for winning the award comes down in large part to what he did in Northwest Arkansas. A .293/.314/.564 line in Triple-A is nice, but not enough to win the award itself. When we were doing the voting, enough of us couldn't get over that massive home-road discrepancy when he was playing at a park that proved to be the Coors Field of the Texas League. It doesn't eliminate what Moustakas did in Double-A, but if you're comparing that to say his Royals' teammates Wil Myers and Eric Hosmer, it was enough to make us go in a different direction. We ended up having Myers as one of our final three, with Moustakas and Hosmer in the group that was among the final 10.

    greg (la): Is it just stats, or do take age and league into account. Trout was 18 in both low and high A. Hellickson was a major leaguer forced to play in AAA. What if Albert pujols played in Louisville? Would he win the award?

J.J. Cooper: We absolutely take age into account, which is one of the main reasons Trout and Myers were among our top 10. But what about Hellickson's status makes him ineligible for the award? He was a 23-year-old in his first full season in Triple-A. The fact that he's polished is an asset for him, not a reason to disqualify him. Age and league explains why John Lindsey's excellent season didn't get him close to the top 10, but in Hellickson's case, he was completely age appropriate for his league and had an outstanding season.

    Juice (Philly): How many people were considered?

J.J. Cooper: We put together a list of about 20-30 candidates, then whittled that down to 10 in one meeting for everyone to think about. In doing so, we ended up adding a couple of more players we had initially left off the top 10 back into the discussion. We then had a staff meeting where we talked over the top 10 (13). In doing so, we came to a consensus on who our final three were (Hellickson, Brown and Wil Myers) and then voted. There was a pretty clear deliniation between Hellickson and the other two.

    JAYPERS (IL): If Bryce Harper's season at CSN had actually taken place in the minors this year, would he have won?

J.J. Cooper: Let's see Harper hit .443/.526/.987 with 31 home runs in 66 games. So yes, if anyone hit .443/.526/.987 with 62 home runs in a full minor league season, they'd win the award by consensus acclimation. We wouldn't have had to hold a meeting.

    Robert (California): How close was Trout to winning?

J.J. Cooper: He wasn't one of our final three, but I think it's safe to say that there were multiple staffers who expected him to win it in mid-July. Trout's high Class A numbers were very solid, but they didn't equal the spectacular nature of his numbers in the Midwest League, especially when you look at the different hitting environments. He was in our Top 10 and if we're picking our Top 100 Prospects, he's going to be right near the top. But when were picking our Player of the Year he would have needed a stronger second half.

    Ben (Leland Grove): I'm assuming it was a very close race this year. Was it the closest in Baseball America's history?

J.J. Cooper: It's hard to say for sure, as none of use here stretches back to when Mike Marshall or Ron Kittle was winning the award. But I can say it was clearly one of the best crops of candidates we've had in a long while. In many years, we are choosing between a solid prospect with a great season and a great prospect with a very solid season. Rarely do you see such a massive number of excellent prospects have outstanding seasons. I don't want to speak for the whole staff, but the general feeling seemed to be that there were six to eight candidates who if they had won it, we would have felt good about. Brandon Belt didn't make our final three, but if we had picked him, it would have been a completely defensible choice, the same with Hosmer, Moustakas, Trout and several other players.

    Jeremy (Florida): The pace that Mike Stanton was at, and even looking at how many HRs he has hit in the majors, would he have had a good chance if he had stayed down in the minors all year?

J.J. Cooper: Definitely. He's hit 38 HRs between the minors and majors. If there was a first half of the season award, he would have probably edged out Mike Trout for that award, with Moore and Montero fighting for the second-half crown.

    JAYPERS (IL): Hear that, BA staffers? That's the sound of the collective groan from Royals fans across the country who subscribe to BA. Who was closest to winning between Moose, Hosmer and Myers?

J.J. Cooper: I know I've answered the Moustakas part, but I did want to point out how many Royals were considered. In addition to Moustakas, Hosmer and Myers, John Lamb was in the running until he hit the wall in Double-A.

    Andrew (Durham): Surely you guys at BA know of the uselessness of the wins stat for pitchers. Nonetheless, you continue to perpetuate the myth and even use it in reference to Matt Moore. Why does BA continue to mention W-L record in this context when it most clearly has no value regarding player performance, let alone future predictive value?

J.J. Cooper: It's not a useless stat, as anyone who ever read Bill James would know. It just ranks dramatically lower on the list of usefulness than several other stats. We're not using it for predictive value here—this isn't our Top 100 Prospects list. We're not predicting Hellickson's stardom with this award, we're honoring him because he has had an excellent 2010. After all it's an award for the 2010 Minor League Player of the Year. When it comes to that, a win-loss record is at least worth mentioning. We didn't settle our award based on win-loss record, but Moore didn't get unlucky in compiling that record either. He had six starts in the first half where he allowed four or more earned runs. During the first half of the season he gave up two earned runs or less while making it into the sixth once. Also, you also seem to be misunderstanding my explanation for why Moore didn't win the award. He had a 6.08 ERA for the first half of the season. Opponents hit .274 against him during that first half. You can use any fielding independent stat you want, especially if you're looking at his future value, but here we're really focusing on what he did. And the reality is that in the second half of the season Moore was arguably the best pitcher in the minor leagues. In the first half, he wasn't all that good.

    Jason (Salem, OR): I think it's interesting to look back on the 28 P.O.Y. selections (since 1981) and evaluate their performance as big leaguers. What are your thoughts on the overall track records produced by your selections as minor league P.O.Y.?

J.J. Cooper: We're pretty proud of our list. There are ones we wish we could have over? Sure. But overall, the list is full of long-time big leaguers, a number of which have ended up being among the elite in the game.

    Matt (KC): Was the biggest knock on Myers that he was at lower levels? To me, it says a lot that he was even in the running.

J.J. Cooper: Considering his age, that really didn't hurt him too much, although if everything else is equal, production at Double-A or Triple-A trumps Class A numbers. In Myers' case I think what finally left him in the final three but not No. 1 was his solid but unspectacular power numbers and the fact that he's still learning behind the plate. If we were talking about Mauer-esque defense to go with that production, it probably would have been enough to make him our choice. But then again, finishing among the top finalists as a teenager isn't bad either.

    Stacy (Alabama): Jordan Lyles looked to be in the running for Minor League Player of the Year until July and his promotion to AAA. What do you think has been his biggest obstacle to continuing his success, besides his age?

John Manuel: Lyles is interesting, hard to believe he did everything he did at age 19. His biggest obstacle will just be having finer command, because he was pretty hittable at times this year, thanks to a fairly straight fastball. It's actually a similar complaint scouts have had for Jeremy Hellickson. From a prospect standpoint, Lyles did everything you could ask for this season except maybe finish strong in Triple-A, but he's a teenager, so pushing that aggressively seemed like too much anyway. As a prospect, I can see measuring him up next to Hellickson; they have some similarities, and Lyles is taller. Both have good changeups that can be excellent; Lyles' upside is probably the same, that of a No. 2 starter. Just in terms of how good their seasons were, to me it's not that close. I thought Hellickson's season was a good bit better than other pitchers we considered, a group that includes Michael Pineda, Julio Teheran, James Lamb and even Chris Archer. For me, Lyles wasn't a strong candidate.

    Greg (Atlanta): Brandon Beacy's numbers across three levels was superb. Was he at least in the final 20?

J.J. Cooper: Yeah. His name definitely was mentioned, but he was a reliever for the first half of the season. In the end he made 13 starts. As good as his numbers were, that does play a factor.

    Benny (NYC): Did Trout's somewhat slow start in the CAL erase him from the running?

John Manuel: Didn't help his case certainly, but he was a strong candidate, and Trout had a good finishing kick at Rancho as well with five multi-hit efforts in his last eight games. But the Cal League is an offensive league; he was slugging under .400 most of the time he was there, and while he's young, he's physical, very physical. For me, I needed to see a little more power in that environment from him in the Cal League. If he'd put up an .850 or .900 OPS in the Cal League to go with his MWL numbers, he probably would have had my vote. Very close race this year, though, and like J.J. said earlier, if this had been done in July, Trout or Dom Brown would have won it, they were the top 2 candidates, it seemed, at that time. Then they were both promoted; that happens a lot with our minor league POY award.

    Devin Mesoraco (Louisville, KY): Did I win any of your votes? Your thoughts on my 2010 as a whole?

J.J. Cooper: Mesoraco was in our final 10 and got some consideration for our final three when we were cutting down the list. I think Mesoraco's season ranks as the most surprising 2010 by any prospect. He was a former first-round pick, and the Reds had believed that a season like this was in there, but to see a player with 2+ minor league seasons go from never slugging above .400 to being among the minors' best hitters is extremely rare.

    Darren (Indianapolis): Did Freedie Freeman get a look at all? With his numbers at age 20 you had to look!

J.J. Cooper: Absolutely. He got a very good look. It was an extremely good season, we just thought some other seasons were a little better.

    Dan (Fairfield, CA): I's never too early to look ahead - right? Who's on your shortlist of 2011 POY front runners?

John Manuel: Mike Trout starts on that short list, and Bryce Harper is on there as well. I'd also throw Wil Myers and Eric Hosmer on that list; I don't think the Royals will push either of them to the majors next season, but I could be wrong. Myers' season was pretty sick this year in a very good way. From the pitching side, Shelby Miller might make the most sense as he got 100 or so innings this year and should be ready to break out with a full season next year. The next most logical candidate is probably Matt Moore, because of the Rays' deliberate style of developing pitchers.

    JAYPERS (IL): Where would Hellickson rank on your Top 100 list if it came out today?

John Manuel: He'd rank pretty high for me, somewhere in the Top 10, and he's the top pitcher for me as well, including all the 2010 draft guys. He's got a No. 2 starter's ceiling in the majors and appears quite close to fulfilling that. He may not be as sexy as other pitching prospects because they throw harder, but Hellickson sits 91-92 and I've seen plenty of 94s out of him myself. That velo, and the fact that his four-seamer's a little straight, are the only knocks on him.

    Dale (Houston): Did you guys break down the selection into a ranking? What does the top 5 look like?

John Manuel: We did actually vote on the top 12 guys but that voting frankly was inconclusive; too many good candidates. Two weeks later we met again and wound up whittling things down to three or four guys, the three guys J.J. mentioned�Hellickson, Brown and Myers�with some lingering discussions on one or two others, but honestly, I don't remember who else was there at that point. If you want the dozen, the other nine included, in no particular order, Hosmer, Moustakas, Lamb, Mesoraco, Belt, Arencibia, Pineda, Teheran and Jerry Sands.

    J.P. (Freedomcardboard.com): With no available vacancies in the rotation at present, who would you deem the "most expendable" in TB's starting five to make room for Hellboy? Or, is he likely to be trade bait?

John Manuel: To me, Wade Davis as a middle or short reliever, maybe even a closer if Soriano leaves as a free agent, is worth exploring.

    Todd (Chattanooga): Not saying Julio Teheran struggled late, but do you think this is typical since he hadn't logged this many innings in his professional career? Think he debuts in 2011? Bigger upside - Tommy Hanson or Julio Teheran? Thanks!

John Manuel: Tough one, because wow, I really like Hanson; I've talked to a couple of scouts who wonder if Terehan might lack the feel to remain a starter. Teheran has a better arm, but I still think I'd say Hanson because of his command. Teheran has to do it in Double-A for me to really gauge his strike-throwing ability. A-ball hitters swing at a lot of bad pitches. But it's amazing how much pitching the Braves seem to have in their system now; future rotation of Hanson, Teheran, Minor, Jurrjens and take your pick of Vizcaino or Cordier or Beachy or Medlen if he comes back from TJ or Delgado or . . . wow, that's a lot of pitching.

    Bryan (TN): How close was the race between Hellickson and Moustakas? And is it unusual to pick a Pitcher over a Hitter for POY?

John Manuel: I believe J.J. has answered the Moustakas part well; his home-road splits are insane. It is unusual, as just eight pitchers have won minor league POY, and one of those is now an outfielder, Rick Ankiel. Hellickson is the first since 2004 when Jeff Francis won in a wide-open year. That year would have been David Wright but he was called up so early by the Mets, and Francis had a really remarkable season, but I recall that being a very tough call for us. In retrospect, the correct answer that year should have been Ryan Howard.

    Eli (NY): Does Montero win the award next year? It took him awhile, but now he is dominating Triple A.

John Manuel: He could, but I didn't mention him in my list of candidates because he seems ready to help the Yankees in 2011. His righthanded power bat would fit in very well as a DH, if the Yankees have room. If he's hitting like that, I think they'll find a place for him as a backup or third catcher and DH option.

    Victor (San Diego): Brandon Beachy's a guy that was unbelievable this year, seemingly coming out of nowhere to win the ERA title across 3 levels. As noted by BA, a recent scout thought his stuff was almost as good as Tehran, was he given any consideration, and what do you expect from him moving forward? Thanks.

John Manuel: Back to Beachy . . . He wasn't one of the final 12 guys we considered, not really enough innings for me to consider as a Minor League POY. He really fits the No. 3 or No. 4 starter profile, but he was also so good out of the bullpen this year, and the Braves have so many starting pitchers, that Beachy might fit better in the pen. But his changeup, as Matt Eddy detailed over the weekend, has improved so much, and he trusts it now, so he's given himself more of a chance to stay in the rotation. Again, Atlanta's pitching depth, for me, is unmatched in the game right now.

    John Fresno (Murfreesboro, TN): Did Brandon Belt get any considertation for POY? If so, where did you rank him?

John Manuel: Belt did get a lot of consideration. For me, he had the best year of anyone in the minors this season. In the past, we've stayed away from guys who were good or OK prospects who had monster years, and we've been proven correct. Two instances that stick out in my mind in a good way were picking Delmon Young over Brandon Wood in 2005, mostly because Wood did most of his work in A-ball, and then Jeremy Reed in '03, when he had a monster year but we gave the award to Joe Mauer. As I mentioned, in 2004 I think we just didn't know what to do with Ryan Howard, when he hit 46 homers at Double-A and Triple-A. I wish I remember exactly why we didn't give it to Howard that year; I just know Francis had a monster year too, with a 196-29 K-BB ratio at Double-A and Triple-A. Francis has represented well, but obviously Howard is Howard.

    Michael (Raleigh, NC): Now that Hellickson has been announced as the POY, what does 2011 hold for him? Do you expect the Rays to make a move to open up a spot for him to start 2011 in the rotation, or will he back in Durham for a few months awaiting an injury on the MLB club?

John Manuel: JJ's story talks about how important Triple-A is to the Rays, as a finishing school. That said, Hellickson has pitched like a finished product in the majors; I see him earning a spot in Tampa next year.

    Dan (Florida): does the yankees farm system look better at the end of the season than it did in the beginning with the improvement of guys like Bentances and Brackman.

John Manuel: Yes, it does. Didn't have a finalist for this award but lots of good news on the farm for the Pinstripes this year, with those guys, Manny Banuelos having a strong finish, Brandon Laird's strong season, Slade Heathcott with a solid debut . . . Lots of good news in the Yankees system; I thought this was a strong year overall, mostly for pitchers, but also good stuff from hitters, didn't even mention Eduardo Nunez.

    Jon (Peoria): Even though Hellickson was still fairly young in Triple-A, did it hurt him any in the voting to be repeating that level after the success he had in Durham last year?

John Manuel: Not really, just as it didn't hurt Domonic Brown to repeat Double-A. Triple-A is a much more difficult level of play than, say, A-ball. His dominance at Triple-A set him apart from the other pitchers. Dom Brown's Double-A dominance separated him from, for instance, Mike Trout. All the hitters were quite bunched up, and Moustakas' year was very tough to assess because of the home-road splits. We had seven or eight really strong candidates, but Hellickson is a fine choice. I thought the same would have been true of Brown, Belt, Myers, Moustakas . . . but we had to pick one.

    Darren (Northbrook, IL): Freddie Freeman would seem a worthy candidate for the P.O.Y. honors. Extremely young for his league, huge production, improved throughout the year, nice pedigree, etc. How close was he to nabbing the award? Thanks. Darren

John Manuel: His finishing kick was significant; when we first whittled it down to 12, he wasn't in the discussion. When we had our second meeting, we discussed him and Jesus Montero, actually, for strong second halves in Triple-A. But Brown and especially Hellickson are similar high-grade prospects who dominated from start to finish in the high minors, so once we decided they were better candidates than Freeman and Montero, that was pretty much the end of that discussion. Freeman's season was very impressive, though. I think he's got more impact in the bat than perhaps we've given him credit for,; he's no Casey Kotchman, let's put it that way.

    Mick (Cali): What was the thought process in ranking Myers above Trout?

John Manuel: Both were promoted to high A, Myers went to a tougher hitting environment and has a tougher defensive position and got better as the year went on. As prospects, I'd take Trout, because the scouts I have talked to about Myers don't think he'll catch, and that means Trout has more defensive value as a CF. Their bats are similar; they may both be in my Top 10 list for our Top 100.

    ben (cincinnati): Where did Mesoraco fall in the POY considerations?

John Manuel: Close to Brandon Belt in the, "wow, what a year, is he for real?" discussion. Just a great season; not sure he's even the C on our Minor League All-Star team, though, with Myers in the mix.

    Andrew (Dirty D): First- no quesiton as to why Moore didn't win. He wasn't very good in the first half, no doubt. This is a methodology question. If wins rank "dramatically lower on the list of usefulness than several (all) other stats", why not use those stats first instead of premising everything on W-L. It's quite dubious to say that W-L record has much value compared to all of the other information that is out there. Perhaps Bill James says it's not "uesless;" it just happens to be less useful than just about all of the other stats out there.

John Manuel: I just re-read that question . . . I don't think we really discussed their wins at all in our meetings, except for me bringing it up with regard to John Lamb, just thinking it would be odd to have a guy with a .500 record. The rest of the staff responded, "That's OK, we trust our readers to know what stats matter." Then we went on with the meeting, and that was the last time wins actually were mentioned. I really think I was the only one who brought up wins at all, so that should answer the methodology question.

    Sean (St. Louis): Any reason NW Arkansas played as "Coors" this season while in 2008 and 2009 it was pretty much run neutral (for the Texas League) according to Dan Szymborski's minor league park factors?

John Manuel: Sean, that's a question we're trying to answer, but I don't know when we'll have that story. It's come up a lot this year, but I don't think we have an answer yet.

    Darren (Oakland): Who would you pick first, Sands or Belt? Are they similar players?

John Manuel: Now that's a tough one. My gut says Belt, but the reports we have received are more positive about Sands, who is a solid athlete as well and has more power. It's pretty much a push right now but I tend to believe a bit more in Belt and like the lefthanded part of the equation for him.

    Steve (KC): How insane is it that you looked at 4 guys from the Royals' system? Has that ever happened from one team before, so many legit candidates?

John Manuel: It's insane all right. I think I started the year with a podcast in which I wasn't too positive on that organization, and now it's hard to find an organization with better talent. I am hoping to see many of these studs down the street in Cary at the USA National Training Complex for the 2010 Pan Am qualifier squad, should be fun about a week or two from now.

    Brad (MO): Did Hellickson being major league ready at the start of the season have any effect on the voting? The other candidates needed minor league experience while Hellickson was only in triple-A because of Tampa's loaded rotation. His season reminds me of an advanced college pitcher dominating a ball for an entire season.

John Manuel: No, it did not have any effect on the voting. It may have some effect on his prospect status; it would be more impressive, I suppose, if he were 20 or 21, instead of 23. But he didn't dominate A-ball; he dominated men in Triple-A. People don't do that very often. Big difference from dominating A-ball.

    Scott (Chicago): It sounds like there's a distinction you're making between the qualities that make a player a strong candidate for POY and the qualities that make a player a strong prospect. What is the distinction, and who are some players who are better prospects than they were POY candidates?

John Manuel: Of course there's a distinction. The POY goes to the prospect, basically, who had the best season in the minors. Casey Kelly's still a hell of a prospect, but he had no shot at minor league POY going 3-5, 5.31. There are many more examples, just pulled him at random.

    Mudcatsfan (Raleigh): What is the ratio of performance / future potential / what level they did it at / position scarcity, for this award for you? I realize all factor in, but where do you draw lines, and do some parts weigh more heavily? Ex Montero destroyed AAA while catching, and at age 20, but only a half year, Trout destroyed A ball for a full year at 18/19, Jerry Sands destroyed A ball but at an advanced age, etc.

John Manuel: There's no ratio or formula, Mudcatsfan. Montero destroyed AAA, but not as much as Brown destroyed the upper minors, or as much as Hellickson did. Sands didn't just destroy low A, he also did damage at AA, but a lot of his damage nonetheless was done at low A. I just think context matters for all of this, and we try to put these players and their stats and their tools in the right context. This year, as we've said before, we had many worthy candidates. In a parallel universe right now, I'm doing a chat for Domonic Brown as our POY, and in another it's for Trout, and in another it's for Mike Stanton, because in that parallel world, he never got called up and hit 55 minor league jacks . . .

John Manuel: It's time for me to go pick up the kids, so I'm going to have to go. It was good doing a chat again, and we'll have another group chat later this week on summer college leagues with Jim Callis and Aaron Fitt and myself joining in. Also look for a podcast or two looking toward the 2011 draft with Nathan Rode and Conor Glassey throwing in their views on the HS players. In other words, the minor league season is ending but we have just started cranking on prospect season. Talk to you again soon, and congratulations to Jeremy Hellickson.