Opening Day Chat

Moderator: To celebrate Opening Day for the minors and most major league teams, we'll answer your questions beginning at 12 p.m. ET. Ask us your prospect, team assignment, major league or any other baseball-related questions.

John Manuel: I'll get us started for Opening Day. Hope everybody's ready and headed to a minor league or major league game tonight!

    Robert (Orange County): Who do you believe is the better defensive CF: Trout or Bourjos?

John Manuel: Actually a tough call, but I think the fact the Angels left Bourjos in center and moved Trout to a corner during his initial promotion last summer indicates the Angels' belief. I'd take Bourjos as well, and not just because he's of Greek descent. Until they actually race, I'm not sure we know who's faster; Trout seems more explosive, which plays on the bases, while Bourjos' easy gliding running style seems to play better in the outfield. Bourjos' instincts and arm strength are also slight edges, so I'd give it to Panagiotis. (Yes, that's Greek for Peter.)

    craig (new york): Thanks for the chat! Here is my Reds question: Where is Juan Duran? I looked at all the rosters for the Reds farm teams and couldn't find him.

John Manuel: He did not make an Opening Day roster; a hamstring problem this spring has him back in extended spring training. Obviously he made some real progress last year offensively in terms of getting to his power; it's not easy to hit 16 homers and slug .463 in the Midwest League, and his raw power can be breathtaking. Otherwise, though, it sounds like Duran had some real issues last year. His defense, instincts and makeup are not those of a future major leaguer. He's got time to grow up but it would be better to start sooner than later. And of course it's not a good thing to strike out in one-third of your at-bats as he did. It wouldn't shock me if he went back to Dayton once his hammy is right.

    Robert (Orange County): Any information on Oakland 3B prospect Chad Lewis?

John Manuel: He is headed to low Class A for his full-season debut. Much was expected of Lewis as an amateur, and he hasn't lived up to it as a pro, with serious issues making contact. Pitch recognition, especially on breaking balls, has been the culprit so far. This will be an interesting year for him, because he has the size and athletic ability to profile well at third.

    APBA Kevin (Sacramento, ca): Who do you like better long term: Altuve, Kipnis, or Ackley

John Manuel: Sorry but Altuve belongs nowhere near that discussion. I'll give Ackley a slight edge over Kipnis, though that is close as well. Ackley's pure hitting ability is superior to Kipnis', and Ackley uses his hands so well in his swing. I like his power starting to emerge as well. Neither will win a Gold Glove but reports this spring on Ackley's defensive improvement appear to be more on the encouraging side. I'm still unconvinced that Altuve will be a first-division regular. I've talked to scouts on both side of the Altuve debate; even the guys that like him don't think he'll be a star, and both Ackley and Kipnis have future All-Star ability.

    Joe LeCates (Easton, MD): Mr. Manuel, thank you for the chat today. Not really an opening day question, but you're the GM of the Astros (my apologies): who are you eying at #1 right now?

John Manuel: Howdy Joe ... thanks for coming. My short list for No. 1 overall actually would be pretty long. From the college side, Mark Appel, Kyle Zimmer, Michael Wacha and Mike Zunino top my list of No. 1 overall candidates. But I think prep OF Bryan Buxton would be the guy I'm bearing down on the most. I think he has the highest ceiling in the draft class; we're starting to her that's the consensus view in the industry. Lucas Giolitto would be in that mix as well; I'd obviously monitor his health and a possible return closely. The other factor has to be signability; I would not want to spend my bonus allotment for that pick all in one place. I'd take the player I want who would sign for somewhere under the $7.2 million and spread some of that money around elsewhere. No one this year strikes me as a $7.2 million player frankly.

    APBA kevin (Sacramento, ca): What do you think about the chances of salvador Perez nd Michael Pineda achieving stardom?

John Manuel: Still a Pineda believer despite his up-and-down spring. Perez, I'd like to wait on the injury and see how he returns. I never thought of him as a future "star," but pre-injury, he profiled as a solid-average regular behind the plate, which is a significant value and difficult to find.

    Bill (Bozeman, MT): Happy Opening Day! It's snowing here, but there's sunshine in my heart. Who do you think is the first college position player drafted this June? Also, who are your eight picks for Omaha right now?

John Manuel: Howdy Bill, always good to hear from you. First college player picked ... I'm leaning toward our Midseason MOP, Mike Zunino. We got a Jason Varitek comp on him the other day that went down well; obviously he's not a switch-hitter but it tells you what scouts think of his intangibles as well as his tools. He's one of the surest bets in the draft, if not the surest bet. Eight for Omaha ... Florida, Stanford, Florida State, UCLA, North Carolina, Arkansas are six that I remain confident in, even after the Hogs' series sweep at the hands of LSU. I think this is not the year for Cinderella, so I'll go with LSU and Texas A&M as my other picks. Not sure I'm ready to put Kentucky on that list just yet, or Mississippi, or Arizona, which lost last night to Utah Valley. #ghostofKamMickolio

    Harry (Colorado): Whose roster will Tim Wheeler be on to start the season?

John Manuel: Looks like he's headed to Triple-A Colorado Springs. He's been all over the map as a prospect´┐Żspeed guy in college, some five-tool expectations unfulfilled in his first season, then trading strikeouts for power last year. Will the real Tim Wheeler stand up?

    Steve (Canada): Both Sam Dyson and John Stilson are on the Dunedin Blue Jays Roster. Stilson is scheduled to start tonight. Is there been any reports on how they are doing, performance and health wise.

John Manuel: It's a strong sign of the Jays' faith in both players, considering their injury histories. Stilson wound up not needing labrum surgery last year, just rehab. I'm sure the Jays will monitor his health very closely. I like him as a future bullpen guy; there have been plenty of good MLB closers with plus-plus changeups, and that could be Stilson down the line. His change is a difference-maker. I'm not as high on Dyson as his medical chart is more extensive; he's coming off Tommy John and had a shoulder issue at South Carolina. It's encouraging though that he's starting at Dunedin.

    Joe LeCates (Easton, MD): Pedro Alvarez: time to give up on him, or is this the year he breaks through a bit?

John Manuel: I wouldn't give up but I wouldn't vote for Pedro for my fantasy team either, especially for this season. J.J. just talked to a scout this week who was incredibly unimpressed with his body and his swing this spring. It's not encouraging. I don't think this will be his breakthrough season.

    Doug (Connecticut): Zero or Non-Zero chance Sano could slug his way to New Britain by year end? I know the Twins are being pretty conservative with him.

John Manuel: Zero chance. He'll be lucky to earn a promotion to Fort Myers. The Twins are parsimonious with their in-season promotions. If you're lucky, you'll see him in Connecticut next season; more likely you're looking at 2014. You finally get Aaron Hicks this year though! Enjoy.

    Bill (Bozeman, MT): Mike Montgomery hasn't been really effective for about a season-and-a-half...what gives?

John Manuel: That's the big question with him, Bill. I'd say the short answer is inconsistency with his breaking ball and the caliber of Triple-A competition, especially hitters, he faced last year. I am with J.J. Cooper in having faith in Montgomery's athleticism, mean streak and fastball and changeup, and think he'll figure it out.

    Tim (FLA): Are Jose Iglesias and Jose Vincio similar prospectsin terms of ability, ceiling, etc (obviously Iglesias is much much closer to the bigs)

John Manuel: Quite similar in terms of their profile as defense-first shortstops, but certainly not identical. Vinicio at present is not as polished defensively but that certainly makes sense. He probably has a bit higher offensive upside, but it's easy to say that because he hasn't failed yet. He runs better; that should be a part of his game that Iglesias will not have. Iglesias is the better defender and obviously four or so levels higher in the system.

    Bryan (MA): Why are the Sox going with Aceves over Melancon for the closer role? Could they be doing it to placate Aceves because he wasn't given a spot in the rotation?

John Manuel: You're asking me to crawl inside Bobby Valentine's mind. I would rather not do that.

    Brian (WA): Has Jack Z set the Mariners up to succeed in the near future and long future with his focus on player development and drafting? Without the emergence of Paxton and Walker, I don't think Mariners are able to trade for Montero.

John Manuel: I see that point on the trade, though I've never quite thought about it that way. I think they traded for Montero because they were looking for the rare power hitter who could thrive in that ballpark, a complement to Dustin Ackley for the long-term, and those are hard to find. They gave up talent to get talent. The Double-A Jackson roster has most of the talent in the Mariners' system. I think Zduriencik has done a solid rebuilding job, one not without missteps but one that for the most part has pointed Seattle in the right direction. The problem is, it's the third-best big league roster in the division, and while it's the second-best farm system, Texas is a talent colossus that is not getting any worse at any level. I don't see the Rangers falling back to the pack any time soon.

    APBA Kevin (Sacramento, ca): There is a lot of talk about Lawrie's hitting. How is his defense?

John Manuel: It's going to be good enough. He's plenty athletic. We had reports of his arm strength falling back some in 2010; it appears he worked on it and it's playable at third base. There's all that talk about his hitting for a good reason, though. He's about as fun a young hitter to watch as there is in the game.

    Roger (Washington DC): As a Giant's fan, I'm incredibly excited by the upside of the Augusta pitching rotation including Kyle Crick, Clayton Blackburn, Adalberto Mejia, and Chris Marlowe. How do you think that group stacks up among the best A ball prospect rotations?

John Manuel: It's a good one, especially formidable in the bang-for-the-buck department. Mejia jumping to full-season ball from the DSL will be fascinating to watch. That staff indicates a lot of trust from the Giants and the Ninja, Dick Tidrow, in pitching coach Mike Caldwell, who will handle that staff.

    Matt (NJ): Phillies assigned 2011 11th Round Pick Tyler Greene to full-season Lakewood to start the year. Is this overly agressive or is he ready to make that jump after on 60 or so ABs in rookie ball? What's his outlook?

John Manuel: Not a lot of other options in the lower levels for the Phillies. Still seems aggressive considering Greene's struggles last spring against high school competition, but he's an elite athlete who was more talented than an 11th-round pedigree would suggest.

    Pauly (Gainesville, GA): Jackson or Mobile - whose rotation impresses you more?

John Manuel: I keep going back and forth. Despite Skaggs and Bauer in Mobile, the trio of Walker, Hultzen and Paxton gives the slight edge to Jackson. They play May 17-21 in Jackson, then again Aug. 19-23. I'm guessing our only chance of those aces matchup up is in May ... get your tickets now!

John Manuel: OK, handing off the baton to J.J. Cooper. Thanks for the questions, keep 'em coming!

    Roger (Greenville, SC): Are there any offensive SS prospects who project to remain there and could also breakout this year? Perhaps Marco Hernandez?

J.J. Cooper: Hernandez has a chance to stick at SS, but it's not a guarantee, but yeah, he has a very intriguing mix of offensive potential and defensive tools. I'll throw out a guy at a higher level: Arizona's Chris Owings. He's had some troubles with his approach in the past, but the tools are very solid and he's showing signs this spring that he's starting to look a little more skeptically at pitches out of the zone.

    Joe LeCates (Easton, MD): Totally ridiculous question, but it's a day of fun. Just booked reservations to be in Durham/Cary for the Tournament of Stars in June, and the Glassey/Manuel Backyard BBQ Pit recommendation was on point, so where to eat next?

J.J. Cooper: Now that I'm handling the chat, I'll point out that the Que Shack is better to me than the admittedly excellent BBQ Pit. If you're a fan of Mexican food, try Chubby's in Durham as well.

    Josh (Lake Charles, LA): Jonathan Singleton gave goals for this season of hitting .325 and 25 HR. Which one is more likely?

J.J. Cooper: I'd say 25 home runs. Singleton can get on runs where he piles up hits, but considering his speed, he'll have to sting a lot of balls to hit .325. Going to the Texas League should help him top his career high of 14 home runs in a season.

    Greg (Fullerton, CA): Do the Dodgers have any impact bats in the minors? Anyone with starter potential, possibly even potentail future all star?

J.J. Cooper: You're right in asking because there aren't many. If it all breaks right, Alfredo Silverio could be a solid regular, but he also could just as easily end up as a fourth outfielder who fills that role because he can play all three outfield positions. Joc Pederson has athleticism to go with a grinder approach. If it all works for him he also could be a solid regular. Beyond that the Dodgers have a whole lot of position players who are a little too limited athletically to project as potential stars.

    Greg (Fullerton, CA): Can Brandon Crawford hit enough to hold down the SS job for th Giants?

J.J. Cooper: Long-term, I'm pretty skeptical.

    Bill (Bozeman, MT): When the Royals look back on the 2012 season, other than standings-related accomplishments what are the 2-3 things that would make it most successful for that organization?

J.J. Cooper: The main thing for the Royals is to figure out who they can count on for 2013 and beyond and who needs to be jettisoned to make way for someone else. Kansas City is going to need to make some trades and maybe a signing or two to fill in some holes if it's going to contend in 2013 and beyond, but right now, it's hard to say which positions will be the holes. Will it be 2B? or is it CF? And in the minors, which of the next wave of prospects are untouchables and which guys can be moved to fix some holes at the major league level.

    @Jaypers413 (IL): Why do you think the Orioles assigned Bundy to Delmarva? Are they just being cautious, or is there some other underlying reasoning?

J.J. Cooper: It's pretty normal for a first-round high school pitcher to go to low Class A to start out. In fact, a lot of those guys don't open the season in full season ball. Yes, Bundy is very advanced for his age, but dominating for 10 starts or more in Delmarva isn't going to slow down his development. Don't read anything negative into the assignment, as the reports from spring training are universally glowing.

    Josh (Lake Charles, LA): What kind of player do you see Buxton becoming? How does he compare to other ultra-toolsy players of recent drafts, like Starling or Trout?

J.J. Cooper: Have heard a couple of scouts lately say they may like Buxton a little more than Starling, but they are pretty similar tools-wise. Very few scouts had Trout at that same level coming out of high school, so it's hard to compare where Buxton is now to where Trout was at the time without applying some 20-20 hindsight.

    Roger (Greenville, SC): Thanks for the chat. The roster analysys has a "most loaded" team for each organization. How about an overall most loaded minor league affiliate? Top candidates?

J.J. Cooper: Why thanks for asking. We've done just such a ranking and just posted our Top 10.

    Mick (Cali): What kind of power do you see in the majors for Myers, Gose and Rendon?

J.J. Cooper: Ranking them as far as future in-game power (not raw) I'd saw Myers, Rendon, Gose. Myers puts on some shows in BP already, now he just needs to turn on more inside pitches during games.

    Doug (Connecticut): Hey John, thanks for the all day chat. I was surprised (as Nathan was) that Norris did not start in Lansing to form the (arguably) best rotation in the low minors. Do you see him ending up there at the end of the year as Justin and Noah did last year? And could you see Sanchez, Syndergaard and Nicolino ending the year in Dunedin?

J.J. Cooper: Pinch-hitting for John on this answer, but I'd expect to see him there eventually. Even with a very warm spring, teams are often reluctant to send young arms to the Midwest League in April.

    Petey Pablo (Carrboro): It's worth noting that the Q-Shack is closer to Texas style than NC style BBQ and that, if you do go, head the "the original" location, not the franchises. Otherwise, that and Chubby's are both real nice fast food. Oh, a question: I was a bit surprised that James Paxton is beginning the year in Jackson - was it because of struggles in ST or a desire to get him more AA innings. Thanks!

J.J. Cooper: I'm a Georgia native, so yeah, I prefer my bbq sauce to look red rather than clear—if you want the true N.C. bbq experience I would agree the Pit is more what you're looking for. As far as Paxton, that's where we projected him to go in the Prospect Handbook. It's a little chilly in Tacoma early in the season, might as well form a dream-team rotation instead.

    Bill (Bozeman, MT): Of the Latin American players in the organization younger than Cheslor Cuthbert, which Royals prospect has the highest upside? Which is the safest bet to make it to the majors?

J.J. Cooper: Elier Hernandez is my answer for both of those questions. He's a long ways away but he has lots of upside and a very mature approach that should make him less risky than many Latin American teenage prospects.

    jay johnson (new york): How are the cubs going to handle, Baez, Volgebach, Maples and Dunston and Conception, do you see them all going to Bosie or a few of them going to Low a from extended? They spent alot of money on these guys, so they have to have alot of expectations for these guys?

J.J. Cooper: I've got to expect that we're going to see a wave of those guys hitting Boise at some point in the first half of the season. It's hard to believe that almost the entire draft class would be placed on the "take it slow" track.

    Navin (Pasadena, CA): Speaking of Marco Hernandez, how surprised are you that it's he and not Javier Baez starting the season at Peoria?

J.J. Cooper: Quite surprised. I talked to Cubs officials a couple of weeks into spring training and didn't get the inkling that was coming.

    Roger (Greenville, SC): What are the chances that we see Bubba Starling, Brandon Nimmo, or Javier Baez make a late debut in low A rather than waiting for rookie ball?

J.J. Cooper: Quite good. Wouldn't be surprised to see all three of them make it to low Class A before June.

    Greg (Fullerton, CA): Can both Deckers- Cody and Jaff- become regulars in the pros for SD?

J.J. Cooper: Long odds on both of them making it. Still think Jaff has a chance to be a regular, but even with him he has to become more consistent. The average hasn't been nearly what you would expect, although his patience has made him somewhat of an OBP machine.

    Bill (Bozeman, MT): What would a good debut season from Bubba Starling look like?

J.J. Cooper: Plenty of highlights and plenty of 0-for-4s with 3 Ks. He's rawer than your average elite high school prospect, so there are going to be days he looks lost. But he's also more athletic than almost anyone in the game, so he'll likely figure out things pretty quickly and you'll see glimpses of why he could be great.

    Greg (Fullerton, CA): David Huff- anything more than a 4/5 starter for the Indians?

J.J. Cooper: That seems to peg him pretty well. I wouldn't expect more than that.

    Roger (Greenville, SC): What position will Eddie Rosario be playing in the regular season? It appears the rosters have switched him from infield to outfield in the 24 hours.

J.J. Cooper: Haven't heard anything of the Twins giving up on playing him at 2B. More likely a roster glitch than anything else, but can't say that with 100 percent certainty.

Moderator: Well everyone, it's time to wrap this up. Thanks for all the questions and enjoy the rest of Opening Day. Remember to check out our stats pages, which are significantly upgraded for 2012.