John Manuel Chat: March 30

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    Chuck (Wichita): What do you think of Aaron Crow making the Royals in the bullpen?

John Manuel: Hey folks, thanks for taking the time to chat. Jim Callis will be back next week but we want to reinstate the Wednesday chatting tradition. I like Crow in the bullpen. While he's thrown a lot of strikes and has good control, he may lack the command to start, thanks to that hook in his arm action with his wrist. He's got the velo and the plus slider to relieve and might wind up closing if Soria is ever dealt. I think it works for Crow and the Royals.

    Matt (Georgia): With the possability of graduation a few of the nine that were in the Top 100 who do think will be sitting their for the Royals to select with pick #5? Gray, Starling? Thus only adding to the absurdity of talent the organization will turn out in the coming years.

John Manuel: What separates the Royals is depth of stars, plus depth of talent to go with their stars. They aren't relying on one or two guys, and as JJ Cooper discusses in the features on our front today, the key is the Royals have a first wave, then a second wave with all their rookie ball guys. If they go young with the likes of Starling (who makes sense for them as a five-tooler, sort-of-local, high-upside, high-risk guy), he fits with the second wave. Gray could be a first-wave type, he also fits for me at 5 with his power arm. Both good suggestions.

    Nick (Connecticut): If the Yankees needed a starter from within for a long period of time this season who would you call up? What would be a reasonable expectation of his performance at the Major League level? Love the chats, thanks.

John Manuel: Well, Nova is getting the first crack. He was initially going to be in our Top 10, but he dropped to 13; info I had was that the org and scouts outside the org thought he fit better in the bullpen. He's had a good spring obviously and has the stuff to start, and has been in BA Handbooks since his season at Charleston, in low A. I'd say Noesi is next due to his fastball command; it's a back of the rotation profile but he's close to filling it. He'd be next, but Yanks are studying histories of others who have rushed through the minors to aid them in decision-making process regarding Banuelos. Clearly he impressed in spring training and could move quicker than the organization had anticipated. I think they want to take it slow with him, but they are preparing to move faster if need be.

    Brian (Toledo): The Indians Alex Lavisky has hit 5 homeruns this spring. Does he have 30 homerun potential?

John Manuel: I hadn't seen that, but all our reports pre- and post-draft had him with above-average raw power. I'd still adjust my expectations down from 30 for a catcher, those are exceedingly rare. I know they miss Lavisky at Ga. Tech, where he was penciled in to start this year if he'd made it to school.

    J.C. (Denver): When recruiting a high school player, how much stock do college coaches put in stats? It seems that on a number of occasions blue-chip prospects who maybe throw hard but walk a ton of hitters are recruited more than guys who simply get outs.

John Manuel: I would bet scouts disagree with that assessment; I always get to hear complaints about big-time arms such as Liberty's Blake Forslund who don't throw strikes and sit while thumbing LHPs or upper-80s RHPs get all the innings precisely because they throw strikes. Forslund has 11 BB in 12 IP, so he's taking a back seat now to guys who "simply get outs." Georgia coach Dave Perno said they were adopting that in recruiting as well this fall, but his program is one of the rare ones that can go head to head with pro ball for power arms and keep them.

    John (Ashburn, VA): John: What's the future hold for Brad Chalk and Daniel Moskos in the Pirates' system? Any expectation that we may see them in Pittsburgh anytime soon? Tks.

John Manuel: Brad Chalk? The waiver claim out of Clemson? Not sure you should expect him anywhere but Indianapolis. I wish him no ill will but he's not a big league regular, best hope is as a 25th guy, Jason Tyner type. Moskos, if he's not in Pittsburgh yet, it's hard to see him making an impact. He was a college reliever picked in 2007 and still hasn't arrived. Scouts were more enthused by him in 2010 than previously; I haven't seen him this spring but it's not like he's trying to break camp with the '98 Yankees here.

    Brian (Toledo): If Alex White continues to develop a third pitch, and remains a starter, who would you compare him to on the Major League level.

John Manuel: Ha, pretty huge ifs Brian. I can't think of many starters off the top of my head who use a splitter anymore, but if you can think of any, that would be your comp. I think White is pretty unique, and I've held for a while that he once had a plus slider, so his ability to spin it should still be there. But the slider remains below-average, so he might be better off focusing on commanding his two-seamer and four-seamer, using his split and just going with those pitches. He would have to have almost Schilling or Prior-like command to get away with it as a starterthat's the last 2-pitch starters I can think ofbut it's more likely for him to have premium command, it seems, than for his slider to come back.

    Greg (Ohio): Nats are going to be turrible again this year aern't they? Although I like Espinosa at @ 2nd this year.

John Manuel: Plus two for the proper spelling of "turrible." I can hear Barkley railing on the "Big Least" now ... It's not a roster burgeoning with championship talent, but it wouldn't surprise me if they finished in fourth place. The Mets don't look any better, but I see both teams as 90-loss clubs.

    Greg (Ohio): Alex Meyer (RHP) strikes me as a perfect Supp round pick for a club that wants to take an Andrew Brackman like flier on a guy who could become a #1 starter... Agree?

John Manuel: Maybe, Greg. I always refer to Meyer as "Bubba" because he used that nickname in HS, according to our old preps writer, Alan Matthews. For me, Bubba fits as a comp pick, an extra pick, because he's far from a sure thing. If he's as athletic as Brackman, I'd take that chance, but I don't think he is; he's just big. I think the problem is, he's probably not signing for slot as a supp pick, as he already has turned down $2 million out of high school. That's the complicating factor, and unlike Brackman, he doesn't have somewhat legitimate NBA aspirations (after all, Brackman played college hoops, Meyer has not).

    Ravi (Palo Alto): Following the Bonds Trial?

John Manuel: Only sporadically. I wonder if anyone else is?

    KyleS (Loudonville, NY): Thanks John for doing this, here's my question: In three years, do you see A's prospect Grant Green sticking at shortstop, or will Yordy Cabrera take over the role and how far is Cabrera? Projection on where he'll start this season?

John Manuel: Cabrera is less of a SS than Green. I see Green at 2b or 3b and Cabrera at 3b or perhaps RF. Yordy is already 20, so he's probably headed to low A this season, which is now in Burlington, Iowa. (I love that former Arkansas & Miami 1B Haas Pratt is now a coach in the A's system, hitting coach at Burlington)

    Ken (Lakewood CA): Thanks John. I'm seeing college pitchers throw 120-130+ pitches per game. What are your thoughts on this? I think it's too many pitches for kids that are looking ahead to possible major league careers and contracts. Do you think some college coaches ought to think more of these kids futures than winning games for their schools. Aren't they guilty of disregarding the futures of these pitchers for success now?

John Manuel: 1) Don't agree with a blanket approach to pitch counts; 120 pitches in college once a week seems different than once every five days in pro ball, but (2) I'd rather see fewer guys throwing 120-130 pitches than we generally see today. (3) The bottom line is coaches are PAID to win games now. Development is nice, but college baseball is not there necessarily for development. If a player is in college, he generally wants to win games too. That's not an excuse, that's just a fact. MLB isn't paying any of these college coaches, the colleges and the boosters are paying them, and they want wins and trips to Omaha. (4) Some pitchers' bodies are conditioned to throw a lot of pitches, like, say, Trevor Bauer. If you were worried about college pitch counts, you would never have drafted Tim Lincecum in '06; he was used a ton at Washington, often in midweek games in relief, and walked a ton of guys as well as recording a lot of K's. Much more to say I'm sure but that's a long-enough answer.

    Jeff Sullivan (Belchertown MA): First catcher taken Swihart or Susac?

John Manuel: Jeff also asked, First HS arm taken? Norris, Guerreuri, Bundy, or Bradley? I'll say Susac and Bradley, but Guerrieri might be the biggest riser of the spring, from supplemental first-round range to potential top 10. Still a LONG way to go, I don't think these things fluctuate from week to week like some would have you think.

    steve (san fran): rank these players 5 years from now? belt, hosmer, moustakas, harper, heyward, stanton & posey?

John Manuel: 1) Harper. 2) Stanton! 3) Heyward 4) Posey 5) Hosmer 6) Moustakas 7) Belt Pretty stout group. Still regret letting Ben Badler talk me out of ranking Stanton third in my personal top 50 in the '09 Handbook; had him 10, behind Wieters, Price, Feliz, Hanson, Heyward, Bumgarner, Travis Snider, Cam Maybin & Pedro Alvarez. List has held up well, still wish I had Stanton higher.

    Ryan D. (Moorpark, CA): From what I have read and watched, Angels CF Peter Bourjos has worked very hard on his ability to bunt for a basehit. This seems to be a dangerous weapon for speedy players, but at the same time I feel this practice is neglected by most. Why is this?

John Manuel: Chicks dig the longball ... Why is the mid-range jump shot a lost art in basketball? Just seems like when everyone was hitting opposite field homers in the late 90s, bunting for a base hit was not a skill that needed to be perfected.

    Steve (Leavenworth, KS): With all they hype about the Royals minor league system, some of them will still be busts. Which of these prospects do you see as having the biggest risk of being busts?

John Manuel: Royals with bust potential ... I'd rank Duffy first because he quit once before, with Dwyer a close second because I do have some thought that he'll wind up being a reliever. I know he's athletic but question his aptitude and ability to make adjustments. I suppose I should throw in Montgomery considering his temper got him tossed off his HS hoops team, but I'm not going to pick against a long toss guy ...

    Ryan D. (Moorpark, CA): Better prospect: Brandon Belt or Jerry Sands?

John Manuel: Belt, and it doesn't sound like it's too close. I like Sands more than most, but Belt is more athletic, more of a pure bat and lefthanded to boot.

    Miley Cyrus (Disney, CA): Would you rather have Ben Revere or Joe Benson in the Twins organization on your team? Why?

John Manuel: Benson's ceiling is considerably higher; he's almost as fast, much more power, better defender. But, Revere's hit tool is better, probably much better. He's the safer bet. But I think you win championships with Bensons more than with Reveres. In certain situations, Revere would fit better, but the Twins need Benson to come through and replace Cuddyer when his contract expires, which I believe is after this season.

    Jacob (Atlanta): Hey John, what do you think of Billy Bullock? Can he harness his command issues and be more than just a middle-innings guy in MLB? Thanks.

John Manuel: He could, but I see him as a 7th-8th inning guy more than as a future closer. He's always been a bit of a tease. Stuff is real, results pretty inconsistent, and the Twins have a lot of similar power arms, as I wrote in the trade analysis the other day. I thought Bullock was a high price to pay for Scott Diamond, but I like Diamond, and the Twins frankly needed Diamond more than they need Bullock. They had no other upper-level LHPs in the system, but D. Watts, Gutierrez give them other power arms in the pen to make up for loss of Bullock.

    Chris (Durham, NC): Am I correct in understanding that many talent evaluators would rank roughly 15-20 Royals prospects ahead of the #1 prospect for the Brewers? Obviously that says a lot about both systems, but which system does is say more about? Thanks.

John Manuel: I think that's fair. We had Salvador Perez at No. 17 for Kansas City. I love Mark Rogers personally, really rooting for him, but as a prospect, I'd guess the consensus is Perez > Rogers. That said, Milwaukee's big league team is much, much better than KC's team, right? It seems like fun to poke at Milwaukee's system, but (a) the Covey thing wasn't their fault, (b) they're all-in for this year, (c) they've graduated more talent the last five years than KC by a wide margin.

    Jeff Sullivan (Belchertown, MA): Manny Machado or Francisco Lindor?

John Manuel: Machado, though Lindor does seem to have some helium for this year's draft. Machado's bat projects to have more impact potential than Lindor's.

    Joel (KCK): I remember reading that Tyler Skaggs possibly had the higher upside than Matzek or Purke when the three of them were coming out of highschool a couple years ago. What is the ceiling for Skaggs? What kind of stuff does he have? Thanks!

John Manuel: I don't know if we said he had a higher ceiling, but a similar ceiling. More projection was involved with Skaggs, as he was the least physically developed of that trio, but he's off to a flying start. He's got a plus curveball, feel for pitching and a fastball that sits average and has above-average potential as he fills out physically. He's a great breakout candidate for 2011 considering he pitched just 98 IP last year.

    JoeRanda Lives (hamilton, NJ): Seems Royals moved Greinke at the best time. You see Royals moving any more young vets to get better prospects? Pirates should take LONGGG look at Royals to see how to make small market team competitive,

John Manuel: I'd take a longer look at Tampa or Minnesota, seeing as how they've won in the majors and remain contenders even after losing key pieces. The whole point of JJ's "Prospects to Pennants" package on the front of the site is, you've got a great farm system — what do you do with it? How do you win with those guys? Pirates have some building blocks in the lineup, but they are a long way off on the mound, which is where both Minnesota and Tampa excel.

    Rich (Philly): John, With the rise of Cole lately are the M's the biggest winner in the draft ( Get to take whoever Pitt Passes on)?

John Manuel: Not sure why it would be the rise of Cole "lately." Did you guys not watch him in Omaha last year? It was on national TV, you know. I saw him there and in the summer for Team USA; he was a monster then, pretty much the same guy now, and he, not Rendon, was a first-rounder out of HS. Also, he didn't last 7 IP in his last start. Not hating on Cole in any way, just saying, we had him 2 on the board coming into the year, and frankly I think he's still 2. You could even argue he's not the best pitcher on his own team; check Bauer's stats out, and his stuff is legit. I'd take Cole over Bauer, and I know that's the industry consensus, but it wouldn't shock me one bit if Bauer wound up having the better career. He's just too unconventional (and too small) to be the consensus guy. To get to your question, this is a good year to pick in the top 10-15, because you would feel good that you'd have a shot at a big-time talent. Now you just have to pay for him.

    JAYPERS (IL): Which college pitcher has surprised you the most this season (in a good way)?

John Manuel: Taylor Jungmann, who has been as good or better than anybody. I would say Hultzen next but Aaron Fitt kind of had me prepped for a monster Hultzen season. Mark Pope at Ga. Tech sticks out from a non-draft perspective, didn't see his dominance coming.

    Ben (Leland Grove): We promise not to hold this against you later, should you be totally and completely off the mark. Now, please pick your 2011 NL/AL ROY's for us. Thanks John.

John Manuel: Hold it however you want. I'm sticking with Hellickson in the AL and going with Freeman in the NL. Sorry to be boring. My gut-feel, more off-the-board picks of good rookie seasons would include Brandon Beachy in the NL — I hate that I wasn't bold enough in ranking Beachy, who has a good enough fastball, excellent secondary stuff and plenty of moxie. In the AL, give me Dustin Ackley. The guy just hits.

    Vic (San Diego): Did you hear anything about Billy Hamilton's brief look with the club or how he's looked in extended spring training? Is a Luis Castillo type (the good version) his ceiling?

John Manuel: I haven't talked to anyone on Hamilton this spring, unfortunately, but Luis Castillo might be his floor. He's going to give shortstop a look this year, and I don't know that you could determine that in a spring training look anyway. He's got arm strength; it was his low release point on throws, inconsistent release points, that prompted him to play 2B last year. If he can play short, he's got a chance to be that rare SS speedster leadoff type. If you must have a comp, maybe early-career Rafael Furcal, back when he didn't slug .400. I don't see Hamilton ever hitting for a lot of power.

    Frank (AL): Matt Moore K'd 10 in 4 IP during an intrasquad game (vs. Durham). When can fans expect to see him join their rotation?

John Manuel: Which fans, Durham? I'm hoping midseason. Matt Eddy was there for Moore's big outing, by the way, he was suitably impressed, believe he tweeted it @eddymk if you didn't see it.

    Chris (Allentown, PA): Flores, Owings, Lipka, Salcedo. What are the upside of these shortstop prospects and what posisions might they end up at?

John Manuel: Well, Salcedo didn't make our list for shortstops when we broke down prospects by position for our next Prospect Pulse, which goes to press tomorrow and should be online next week. Lipka was toward the back. we left Flores at SS on the list only because no one's sure where he winds up long-term, but we know it won't be SS because he lacks the fast-twitch athleticism and quickness for the position. Owings is no sure thing at short either, but I like him quite a bit as a Gordon Beckham type, and he has real power. He's going to have to be more selective to be the No. 2 guy on that list, but that's where I have him.

    jon (philly): who has a better chance to be a top 25 prospect next year, stetson allie or yorman rodriguez? thanks.

John Manuel: Allie.

    Charlie (Washington): What's the time table with Dodger fireballer Rubby De La Rosa? Do you think he'll eventually be a starter or reliever.

John Manuel: He's going to move quickly this year; bet he gets to Double-A by midseason. It's a special arm, and he has the repertoire to be a starter. There's effort in the delivery, but I hope he learns to throttle back a bit, not feel the need to throw 102 and learn to grind through a lineup. It's easier to say a guy with his kind of arm strength would go to the bullpen; I'm holding out hope he can start.

    Joseph (Bozeman, MT): Is there one player outside of your consensus top 25 prospects or so that you would not be surprised to see ranked in the top 5 next year?

John Manuel: I'll pick a hitter and pitcher and say Miguel Sano as the bat and Jarred Cosart as the arm.

    Tom (San Diego): Who are the top 5 future closers in the minors right now?

John Manuel: Another one for the position-by-position breakdown, but we had 5 in the Top 100, see if you can spot 'em. We go well beyond the top 100 for every position, though, I think we ranked like 190 guys. Fun exercise.

    Neufeldt (New Berlin, WI): How patient will the Dodgers be with Jerry Sands in the minors, given the pathetic ABs they'll be getting from Thames/Gibbons/Gwynn?

John Manuel: I don't think it works like that. If he hits, and they don't, they'll give him the chance. Not like they have a seven-figure bonus bonus at stake in Sands.

    Tom (Florida): Do you think it could be frusturating for guys like moose and Hosmer who have nothing else to prove in the minor leagues and the only reason they are not getting called up is to delay arbitation? If they were with a club like atl or chc they would be starting on opening day right?

John Manuel: Just think that goes back to makeup and controlling what you can control. Lots of teams hold guys back for service clock, I don't think this is too big of a factor.

    B. Cash (South Carolina): Seeing comments lately that J. Montero just doesn't have much projection left because he's already big-bodied and filled out. Do you agree? Despite the spring struggles you still see him as a top bat? Would you rather have Myers or Montero, for what it's worth?

John Manuel: Projection was not really a factor with Montero. His body has gotten better in recent years and he's improved his flexibility. Yankee official a couple of years ago gave me the usual spiel and lauded Montero for improving, but when I asked him for Montero's ceiling as a defender, asking him to be optimistic, he said "45." Ever since I've always used that as a guide. I do still see him as a top bat; he struggled out of the gate last year, was under a lot of pressure this spring, and he's still very young. I would take Montero over Myers, though that's a good discussion. Myers is a bit more conventional in his setup and approach.

    Grant (Wpg): Seems like Matt Purke is falling. Anyone else dropping quite a bit so far? Among risers, do you see Bundy and Hultzen pushing into the top 5?

John Manuel: He could drop, but he also could right his ship. He's had two bad starts in his career, and the documented issue this year was a blister. The guy was a first-rounder 2 years ago and pretty unhittable last year, when the bats were a lot more potent, and he had the same slingy delivery, same low arm slot. When he finds his release point again, he'll show the stuff he did in HS and last year when he was Freshman of the year. Still plenty of time, 2 months of time, before the draft. Same goes for George Springer as far as time to get back, but we never ranked Springer ahead of Cole or Purke due to his contact issues. Not sure about Bundy and Hultzen pushing top 5; it's been 5 weeks. But we're gathering info now for a midseason update coming in 2-3 weeks, so stay tuned.

    BL (Bozeman, MT): I thought your discussion about support for college baseball with Aaron to open the most recent college podcast was really terrific, and it makes me wonder: are there hotbeds of enthusiasm for the college game outside of the southeastern part of the country? Is there a feel that the NCAA's attempts in recent years to grow the game in northern tier states has paid any dividends?

John Manuel: Thanks Bill. I honestly don't sense any dividends yet in terms of fan interest, but let's wait and see when the weather warms up. That's when (a) Northern teams actually play home games and (b) basketball is over. St. John's and UConn getting off to bad starts doesn't help though. That's two clubs that could have been at-large teams from the Big East, and now it looks unlikely for that to happen, which means one of them might be at home (i.e., left out) for the postseason.

    Joseph (Bozeman, MT): Ok, John, I think Stanton ahead of Heyward deserves a follow-up. Would you offer your reasoning?

John Manuel: Just his power. He's fairly similar in many ways, but we're talking 80 power. Not taking anything from Heyward, but he doesn't have 80 power. Harper and Stanton do.

    Mike (NYC): What are your thoughts on Trayvon Robinson? Will he get any significant playing time on the big league club this year?

John Manuel: Like Trayvon, funny dude, I don't see him necessarily with significant playing time but he could fit that LF hole better than Sands. Kemp is a CF who hits like an LF (at his best), so Robinson could fit, plus reports seem to indicate Furcal has lost another step, so LA could use some speed. I was concerned by Robinson's late fade last year, his slugging dipped below .400, and I wonder if he's ready for a full big-league season, think he would be best served with more minors time, he was pretty raw out of HS. Great story, easy prospect to pull for.

    Steve (Minnesota): John - Aaron Hicks a riser or faller for you this year?

John Manuel: Riser! We'll have a feature on him in our next classification report from intern Teddy Cahill.

    Kick (LA): How about doin' a podcast with charlie sheen?

John Manuel: We'd talk UCLA baseball, sure.

    ballboy (the bench): when will this chat end? (I figured this was a comic way to get a question in today!) thanks!

John Manuel: Right about now ... thanks for all the questions, can't believe that was two hours! JJ and I will be podcasting tonight on his stories, should be posted tomorrow, you can send Q's to So long!