Minor League Chat With Chris Kline

 Q:  Scott from Henderson, NV asks:
Is it conceivable that the DRays could call Delmon Young up thereby foregoing his International League Suspension?

Chris Kline: Afternoon, everybody . . . Going a little old school today, jamming to some Black Crowes' Southern Harmony & Musical Companion from 1992 (?) . . . been wanting to re-visit this for a while. Let's get right to it.

Chris Kline: Scott, that was the initial question I received yesterday, but Rays' GM Andrew Friedman seems to agree with whatever the suspension ends up being in the IL, they'll honor that. And after seeing that "flip," by Delmon, he deserves whatever he gets. When you think of minor league suspensions in the past, regardless of the offense, you think '10 games.' But Delmon might fall victim of more time, simply because the league wants to send a message--not because of the offense, but because of the situation with minor league umpires. What is the severity of his offense? Is it worse than last season, when Esix Snead, then with Richmond, jumped David Bush (Syracuse) on the mound, beating him with his batting helmet? I guess that's something only IL president Randy Mobley can decide. But I think it'll be more than 10 games (which is what Snead ended up getting last season), simply based on the fact that replacement umpires were officiating the game and the league doesn't want to acknowledge that wasn't a factor in what Delmon did. It certainly was, but at the same time, he needs to learn to respect the game . . . and he'll have a long time to think about that, and those thoughts will come in Triple-A, not the big leagues.

 Q:  Steve from Topeka asks:
As a Royals fan dying for anything positive, Billy Butler has left off where he was last year, swinging a potent bat. What are the early reports on his fielding this year, now that he's in LF full-time?

Chris Kline: Steve, Don't die . . . just yet, anyway. There is some hope on the horizon. Not much, but some . . . Butler is swinging it, and there isn't anything showing up glaringly on defense so far--Butler has only two errors in 20 games. But he's clearly not ever going to be a great defender anywhere in the field. That said, everyone knows his bat is for real. Reports I've gotten on both sides have been the bat is the same as it ever was and his defense is improving from what it was in the Arizona Fall League; which again, isn't much, but it's something.

 Q:  Scott from Reisterstown, MD asks:
Why didn't Joe Ness and Brian Barton crack your top 30 prospects for the Indians?

Chris Kline: Ness has certainly been impressive this season, but there were too many guys ahead of him to crack the 30 for this season. Scouts weren't exactly sold on his breaking ball, but so far this season he's shown some good consistency with a hard, slurvy breaking ball. As for Barton, when I first saw him, I was sitting next to a scout and said, "Wow, Barton looks kind of like Dave Winfield." Not missing a beat, the scout said, "Yeah, from the neck up." Barton's been battling for a starting job repeating high Class A this year, but he'll work his way into that, probably by the end of May. With all the other outfielders in the system, he fell short of the Top 30.

 Q:  Trader J from Indy asks:
Cole Hamels looked great yesterday. How soon til he is in Philly? Assuming he is healthy, where would he fall in a prospect ranking?

Chris Kline: Hamels was awesome yesterday, mainly because of the great deception in his delivery and his ability to mix his pitches. Where would he rank? He's the Phils' No. 1 prospect and among the top lefthanders in the minors. I don't think it'll be very long until he's back in Philly--he threw 99 pitches yesterday, which means they're pushing him where they think he belongs.

 Q:  Mark from Jasonville, In asks:
I do not agree with what Delmon did, but I feel the Devil Ray's have created this bomb. This kid should have been given a shake last year for his performance on the field. There is not a good reason he shouldn't had already been called up this year. Does anyone else in the baseball world feel this way. Mark

Chris Kline: Mark, I disagree. You have to consider the Rays' position in all of this--payroll, starting his clock, etc., to understand the situation. Delmon knows the situation. Whether he agreed with it or not is another story, and it probably just fueled him more not to get up there. But to come out and rip the organization is brutal; and it's another sign of his immaturity. His performance on the field in Double-A was remarkable, which was the main reason he won our Player of the Year award. But look at the Triple-A numbers. He was a step behind where he was in Montgomery, so that adjustment, coupled with his lack of maturity and lack of respect for his teammates--both current and future--means he still belongs in Triple-A to me.

 Q:  Kevin C. from Glenshaw, PA asks:
Andrew McCutchen is adjusting well to low A Hickory in the SAL (.342.388.481) with 6 BB and only 9 K's (better strike zone management than Maybin, Tabata, etc.). Do you see the Pirates moving him to Lynchburg in June after the draft or sooner? There are few other prospects in Hickory to keep him bunched with, as Corley is struggling and Boone is still in Extended Spring Training.

Chris Kline: McCutchen has been impressive--and more impressive to me than the other two players you mentioned. I think the Pirates are likely to keep him in the South Atlantic League for the majority of the season though--reference Neil Walker's path last year to get a read. He could head to the Carolina League by midseason, but I'd be surprised. Most of the time you want to continue to build confidence in a player's first full season, particularly a high school draft like McCutchen.

 Q:  Russ from NY asks:
What are your thoughts on Corey Wimberly? He's been on a tear lately.

Chris Kline: Just missed this week's Prospect Hot Sheet!

 Q:  Nate from Harrisburg asks:
What are you guys hearing about Humberto Sanchez? He is tearing it up early in the Eastern League. Conditioning seems to be his only obstacle. Where do you see him in Detroit's plans?

Chris Kline: Big Nate, Sanchez is no doubt off to a good start and looked good at times during the Arizona Fall League last year. Like you said, it's about him having A) the endurance to pitch later into games and B) being more efficient with his pitches. He's a little like Boof Bonser (Twins) to me in those areas. I think the Tigers are more likely to let him continue his Double-A successes before moving him anywhere; probably to Triple-A by the end of the year.

 Q:  Phil Geyer from Frederick, MD asks:
What are your thoughts on Carlos Marmol? Also, is there any reason to be encouraged by Luis Montanez's performance, or is it too late for him?

Chris Kline: Phil, OK, let me get this straight. You live in Frederick and you're not obsessed with Nolan Reimold? I couldn't do it. Regarding Marmol, I say get excited. He's pitching and hitting in Double-A--and really mixing his aresnal well on the mound. As far as Montanez, what he's doing is interesting--but nothing more than interesting to me at this point.

 Q:  Dan from Fairfield, CA asks:
Alex Gordon doesn't seem to be terribly challenged by AA pitching. If he keeps swinging the hot stick, is Omaha a possibility by the Break?

Chris Kline: I think that depends solely on the KC brass and what happens in their front office. I think something's got to give in KC this year--and I know the current regime still believes in Teahan at third base. But you can't ignore Gordon and what he's doing in Wichita. I just hope they don't rush him up there.

 Q:  Joe from Orem, Utah asks:
Was there a reason for Delmon Young's power outage before his suspension? He only had 4 XBH and no homers, and he wasn't exactly lighting it up after his callup to Durham last year.

Chris Kline: To hear Delmon tell it the other day when John Manuel and I were down to see the Bulls, "I'm just trying to hit for average now . . . I'll start trying to hit home runs once we get to Charlotte." He didn't hit any there, and probably won't for a while now. Tough adjustments to Triple-A and learning the nuances of that level were what he was going through. His career path is going to be so intriguing from here on out . . . as if it wasn't before.

 Q:  Chris from NJ asks:
There's rumors that Philip Hughes will be promoted to Double-A Trenton over the weekend. What should we expect out of Hughes? And, if all goes well enough, is a possible promotion to Columbus out of the question before this season's out? Or, should be be looking for him to finish in Trenton and start 2007 at Triple-A? Thanks.

Chris Kline: Hughes' command has been awesome in the Florida State League this season with a 24-1 strikeout-walk ratio. What happens in Double-A? The Eastern League is a tough league, totally different animal. But I think he'll make the adjustments he needs to have success. And that success will determine the remainder of his path this season. You're saying Columbus, but I'm hearing rumors that he could be in the big leagues before the season's out . . . Ah, New York . . . be patient.

 Q:  Elliot Legow from Youngstown OH asks:
Hey Chris, good to chat with you. A trio of Indians to ask about, one on the way up, one perhaps on the way down the prospect ratings and one back on track. Is Chuck Lofgren a candidate to find his way into the Top 100 if he continues close to the start he is having? Might he be in Akron this summer at age 20? Brad Snyder repeating AA is showing the same high strikeout level and not a lot of hitting strengths. A slump or a concern? And Adam Miller has a WHIP of .75 in his delayed Akron delay. How's his velocity and his secondary pitches? May he be heading back to Top 10 Prospect status?

Chris Kline: I have to run in a few . . . gotta head out for a little afternoon fishing here in Eastern, NC . . . On Lofgren: I think he's a Top 100 guy once we re-visit that this season, yes. His stuff in his last start wasn't as great it was over his first few, but he still battled. That's key for him--learning to pitch without his best stuff, as it is with any young pitcher. Very high ceiling. On Snyder: He's showing a little higher than the same stirkeout rate, but last time I talked to Akron manager Tim Bogar, he was impressed with his ability to hit for power the other way within that two-strike approach. It takes time--the strikeouts are definitely a concern--but there are some positive signs there. On Miller: Velocity is what grades out as plus; he isn't lighting up guns with 100 mph like he did in the CL playoffs two years ago, but that's a good thing. To me, it means he's more of a complete pitcher--not just trying to go out an blow guys away every time. The secondary stuff has been good, though he still needs more consistency with the changeup.

 Q:  wayne from camarillo C.A. asks:
Is the A's Barton a future DH or firstbaseman?

Chris Kline: Going out on a limb: First base.

 Q:  Max from Louisiana asks:
Who will be the first in Baltimore? JJ Johnson or Adam Loewen? Thanks

Chris Kline: Liking the limb: Johnson.

 Q:  Matthew R from Chicago asks:
Where the heck is Mike Aubrey? Is he ever going to play again?

Chris Kline: Extended spring training. He'll be somewhere this year, probably joining Kinston as the DH.

 Q:  Taylor from Houston asks:
Can you give me your quick list of the top 5-10 prospects in the Texas League, and who do you see having the biggest impact in the majors?

Chris Kline: Wow. I'll go Brandon Wood, Alex Gordon, Ian Stewart, Troy Tulowitzki and Billy Butler.

 Q:  Josh from Wilmette, IL asks:
Which White Sox pitching prospect in AA (Broadway, Liotta, Malone, Rodriguez or Lumsden) has the most potential? How good of a staff does Birmingham have?

Chris Kline: As big a fan as I am of Liotta's, I'd go the Matt Meyers route and take Broadway. Birmingham has one of the best rotations in the minors.

 Q:  James Kennedy from Tampa, FL asks:
Hello Chris! Love the new web design! What is with the influx of catchers these days? Jeff Clement and (even more so), Jarrod Saltalamacchia look like they're headed to stardom, but i also like George Kottaras (5 HR's) on the Padres and Kurt Suzuki of the A's, who's making strides offensively. My question is how you think Kottaras and Suzuki compare to Clement and Salty. Could we see Kottaras this year. And finally, the mid-50s seems like BA missed the boat when projecting Mariners CF Adam Jones. Can you think of anyone else underrated that badly?

Chris Kline: To save time, I'll rank the ones you mentioned: Salty, Clement, Suzuki, Kottaras. Kottaras has shown some nice power--can't wait to see him next week in Zebulon--and Suzuki is doing it both ways, which is awesome. As far as Adam Jones, I have two words for you in the underrated department, Elijah Dukes. I just think he's a Top 20 guy and, to show my age, as well as my penchant for '80s alternative music . . . as Depeche Mode would say, "I hope he never lets me down again."

 Q:  James from Tampa, FL asks:
It seems like I'm hearing a lot of conflicting scouting reports about some of the bigger "toolsier" players like Matt Kemp and Nolan Reimold. For every good thing i hear, its counterracted with something bad.... Is the worry that theyll grow out of their athletic frames and turn in to 1bdh types???

Chris Kline: No scout here, but I really agree think both the guys you mentioned are too athletic not to stay in the OF.

 Q:  Craig from Amherst asks:
I recently read the Comp on Clement and Montero, and it said that Clement, Montero and Saltalamacchia are the three best prospects at catcher. Where would Russell Martin fit into the top catchers in the minors?

Chris Kline: Craig, Thanks for reading that. Martin is right there in the mix with those guys, and to me is ahead of Montero, especially defensively.

 Q:  James Kennedy from Tampon Bay, Florida asks:
Speaking of stretching the "Hot Sheet", 10 guys plus a couple of throw away blurbs doesnt do that column justice. And the fact that Liz was number one brings back bad memories of Chuck James and Sean Gallagher idominating the 1st half of last year, only to drift away. And I'm sorry, but whomever decided to put Anthony Lerew BEFORE Chuck James in the Top 100 has to have their head examined. I knew that smelled fishy from the start. Lerew cant throw it in the ocean ! Hehe ! james

Chris Kline: People love their Hot Sheet, and we love it too. One of the reasons we wanted to limit it to 20 total players was to make it tougher to get in. It's just a small snapshot, and we're hoping to get as much movement and change from week to week as possible. We added two new features as well--in the Not-So-Hot, which is one of my favorite features of the Sheet. Not because it's fun to see people fail, but rather, it gives you a good read of guys who have things to work on. The other new feature is the helium watch, since one of the best things about following prospects is finding the next one before anyone else. I can guarantee the Hot Sheet will be the best it's ever been this season.

 Q:  Jesse Alson-Milkman from Los Angeles, CA asks:
About Lastings Millege: It takes a special player to say "I'm going to work on my plate discipline" and then immediately have it go from a below average skill of theirs to a huge strength. The last person I saw have that happen to them was Alex Rodriguez. Now that Millege is one of the most patient prospects around, and is in the top ten in the IL in extra base hits as well, what can we Mets fans expect of him?

Chris Kline: One thing about Milledge is he's so quick to make adjustments to his game--no matter what it is. He's a special player with such good instincts. Pray every night that A) the Mets don't trade him and B) that Carlos Gomez starts hitting like crazy.

 Q:  Ender Rodriguez from Reading PA asks:
How soon before Gonzalez, Mathieson and Hamels are in Philly. The first two have been awesome here in Reading!

Chris Kline: I have to wrap, but wanted to end with Ender's question--only because I hail from Reading . . . no Philly bias here, though, unless you're talking about the Eagles (draft well tomorrow, Andy). Hamels will be the first to arrive, followed bu Gio (if he can remain healthy) followed by Matty. Mathieson's been hit hard this season early, but he'll be OK. Enjoy that ballpark, and tell Chuck Domino I said what's up.

Chris Kline: Thanks for the questions, everyone. I really appreciate the interest--wish I could stick around longer, but I have a boat with my name on it. Have a good weekend, CK.