Prospects Chat With John Manuel

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John Manuel: First chat in a while. Be gentle. Look forward to talking draft signings, minors, majors, whatever.

    Jake Marisnick (Lansing): What am I still doing here?

John Manuel: Understandable question, considering Marisnick is 2nd in the MWL in hitting and won Best Batting Prospect in the MWL Best Tools survey. In our latest mag issue — which you'd have by now if you subscribe to the BA Digital Edition — you could read Alexis Brudnicki's take on that, as Marisnick probably isn't actually asking that question. He sounds like he's having a blast, breaking through, winning a lot and thriving in a lineup with other prospect OFs Michael Cruse and Marcus Knecht. No need to rush him, I'd just leave him now to see if he can keep contributing to a winning team down the stretch in games with a bit more meaning.

    @Jaypers413 (IL): The Angels made a pretty aggressive move by jumping Richards from AA Arkansas to Yankee stadium - agree/disagree?

John Manuel: Clearly it's aggressive, but I like the idea. Our timing was good because our latest issue also has a Richards feature by former staffer Kary Booher, and focused on Richards' improved efficiency, with a 100-pitch CG and a 105-pitch 8-inning outing. Judging by the Salt Lake rotation, Richards was the best in-house option for a big league club in a pennant race. Richards is yet another feather in former scouting director Eddie Bane's cap; his fingerprints are all over that big league club right now. (Bourjos, Walden, Trumbo, Chatwood, Conger ... of course Trout) Nobody's perfect, but the timing of Bane's firing last year made no sense, nor did the justification for it.

    Eric (NJ): Still no Montero in the Bronx as of yet - is he pretty much a lock to be a Sept. callup?

John Manuel: If not sooner. As many have noted, he's heated up in August and the Yankees could use the help at DH. Just not sure where the roster spot is right now. I'm still fascinated by whether or not the Yankees will ever have him catch in the majors ... even as a backup. But the dude can hit. Should be a spot for him in September at the latest.

    Sam (San Diego CA): Was last night's start Trevor Bauer's last one in Visalia? How likely is it he'll get the call next month?

John Manuel: My magic eight ball says "signs point to yes." I think Bauer could help the big league club this year if he gets his arm to where he wants it. It really wouldn't shock me if Bauer got a September callup and a start or two. I'm not sure, even with Bauer's arm and the way he knows his own body, if that's the best idea though. He was pitching games that mattered (to him anyway) back in February. That's a long, long season. He threw 137 IP for UCLA this spring, not sure what the D-backs believe his limit should be, but as we should know by now, he's atypical.

    Ben (Leland Grove): I've heard Bubba Starling will be offered "the richest bonus in franchise history". Is there any chance he turns it down? Also, are you concerned by Wil Myers' pedestrian numbers since coming back from his knee injury?

John Manuel: I would imagine that Starling will get north of $6 million, which is the Royals record (to Eric Hosmer). We're expecting Starling to sign, and really, I'll be surprised if more than one or two first-rounders fail to sign. I know Jim has said he expects all the first-rounders to sign, but the brinksmanship of the current system leads to two or three unsigned first-rounders every year now. Summer of '07 was our first signing deadline and everyone signed; since then, we've had at least 2 unsigned first-rounders every year. I'm expecting one or two this year but think Starling gets done. I'm a bit concerned on Myers more because the scouts we've talked to have been nonplussed by him this year, whereas last year they couldn't stop talking about the guy. But ... he's 20 in Double-A. He can take a two-month mulligan.

    Dave (Atlanta): The Tennessean reported that the Braves signed Navery Moore. Any idea of his bonus?

John Manuel: I did see that on Moore, but haven't confirmed his bonus yet. I don't expect anything earth-shattering but liked that pick for the Braves, who have a fairly strict budget and were pretty down the middle in their draft this year. Moore's a nice power arm with some upside that I think they needed for their draft class.

    jason (Denver): best long term success in the majors, leonys martin, trayvon Robinson, or jd martinez?

John Manuel: I like Martin out of that group, having talked to several scouts who really loved him and others who think he's a tweener offensively. He's the CF out of that group with the best plate discipline, but so far, he hasn't answered the questions about how much impact his bat will really have. I like Martinez next because I think he'll hit and hit for power—7 of his 11 hits so far are for extra bases. It wouldn't shock me if he wound up approximating Hunter Pence's offensive numbers other than SB, and he plays with similar energy. He doesn't run like Pence though and isn't as well-rounded of a player, but I think he's the best of the young position players the Astros have called up so far. I like Trayvon but remain skeptical about his power spike considering his contact issues.

    Greg (ky): Which of the 1st round highschool pitchers are least likely to sign? Please tell me its not Robert Stephenson!

John Manuel: I think it's actually Joe Ross. Not sure what's going on with the Padres and first-round HS pitchers, but they wound up losing Karsten Whitson last year and now have run into some difficulties with Ross. From what we've been told, Stephenson's going to get done, though what's happening two spots ahead of him with Ross is making it less of a fait accompli than it would be otherwise. Pretty confident the rest of them, like Beede and Fernandez, should get done.

    Bartholomew (Topeka, KS): Any word on whether Stilson is going to sign?

John Manuel: He is expected to sign and may already have agreed to terms but agents and clubs are being very, very hush-hush this year on these types of rumors. What a silly, counterproductive system MLB has come up with. The draft and MLB's attempts to limit bonuses are a great example of unintended consequences, year after year.

    Daniel (Fort Lauderdale): Next week I am heading to northwestern north carolina/east tennessee. I have time to go to one minor league game, which teams there are worth seeing?

John Manuel: Go to Hickory to see Jurickson Profar and the rest of the Crawdads. Hit the Windy City Grill while you're there. Several other 'Dads worth watching but he'd be first. Second choice would be Elizabethton in the Appy League to see Miguel Sano, Max Kepler, Eddie Rosario and the rest of the E-Town Twins. Their BP and infield was a real treat 2 weeks ago.

    Joe LeCates (NC): Pressing question of the day: first time there, what do I order at the Q Shack?

John Manuel: Brisket (I prefer the chopped plate) or the bbq chicken. Make sure to get the jack creamed spinach, I love that stuff. IF they have the baked potato casserole side, though, go for that. Went there yesterday. We're lucky to have so much great Q in Durham. Don't forget Bullock's or the Backyard BBQ Pit!

    Robbie (Thornhill, ON): What are your thoughts on Henderson Alvarez? Was his promotion to the Jays premature, and can you see him becoming a frontline starter?

John Manuel: Pretty excited to see him called up. I wouldn't consider it premature, because he was throwing a lot of strikes in the EL. Now throwing quality EL strikes and quality MLB strikes are quite different, but I think he was doing what he could to show he was ready. He throws hard, which is an obvious step to being a frontline guy. To me his slider is short for him to be a No. 1 or No. 2 starter, but if his slider is an average pitch and he locates his fastball, he can exceed my expectations.

    Brian (SF): Hi John. How long before Surkamp cracks the SF rotation and what's his ceiling. Thanks for the chat

John Manuel: Not sure there's a ton of opportunity there, but Surkamp seems to be their best in-house option if Vogelsong turns into a pumpkin and they give up on Zito. I think he'd fit very well in between all their power arms; his feel for pitch gets a lot of love in our EL Best Tools surveys, and I bet he winds up making that league's Top 20. He's a back-end rotation guy at best, because there aren't a lot of guys in the major leagues who do it his way, 86-88 mph fastball guy with fringy breaking balls and a good changeup. He's going to have a pretty slim margin for error, but I'm more of a believer now than I used to be.

    Tex (cactus corners tx): Suprised Astros didn't get for Jiwan James?

John Manuel: Well, there's still a PTBN in that deal, supposedly to come from Class A. James would seem to be in that pool, but the Phillies have plenty of athletes at the lower levels who could rank in the Astros' top 15 or so prospects. Disappointing to see how few guys have stepped forward for Houston this year—everyone who has pretty much is in Houston now, it seems. James is coming on strong, and our intern Kyle Dugan did a nice piece on him in the latest issue (here for subscribers:

    Jeff (North Carolina): Do the O's sign both Esposito and Bundy by Monday night?

John Manuel: Yes.

    Colin (Chicago): If Cubs are able to sign the likes of Maples, Dunston Jr, and Jacquez, as well as Vogelbach, Baez, and Gretzky, are all those guys immediately Top 20 prospects for them?

John Manuel: I'd say yes on Baez, Vogel-bomb and Maples and probably on Jacquez, who I really like though he's small. Not so much on the legacy kids.

    Ben (Miamisburg, OH): Reds Low A affiliate Dayton is filled with toolys flashy prospects (Billy Hamilton, Yorman Rodriguez, Juan Duran, Dan Corcino, Ronald Torreyes, etc...) but the most impressive player this year has been 21 year old 3B David Vidal. He has a .301/.362/.516 line on the year (16 HR/30 2B) and has played excellent defense at 3B. Does he have a legit chance to be the future at 3B for the Reds and what is his ceiling?

John Manuel: I heard good things on Vidal in last year's draft at Miami-Dade JC, especially on the bat, and I'm not surprised he's hit there. The defense has been better than expected, and 3b is a good spot for him because he's not a big guy. I see him as more of a role player, maybe a Ryan Roberts kind of guy, but he has a chance because he can hit. He has natural timing and excellent hand-eye coordination. The power has been the most pleasant surprise, if he keeps that up he could be a regular over there. Very nice season, good sleeper prospect.

    itto (PR): What's the upside of Abreu, aquired by the Cubs in the Kosuke Fukudome deal?

John Manuel: We had a feature on Abreu earlier this year by venerable K-Tribe beat writer David Hall, and Abreu has all kinds of upside. He's got plus raw power and bat speed to spare. But he's one of the minors' freer swingers (kind of strange how the Cubs keep accumulating such players) and has to identify spin better, and that's just not a skill that develops overnight. Good to see him off to a good start in Daytona, but he's new there; curious to see if he makes adjustments when pitchers realize they don't have to throw him strikes.

    Cape Cod Baseball League Fan (Cape Cod): After recently seeing a CCBL game I was surprised by a guy named Stephen Piscotty. Whats his ceiling?

John Manuel: You shouldn't be surprised, he was Stanford's best hitter this year and will be a real interesting guy for the 2012 draft. He's an RH bat who hasn't shown great power yet but has hit 3 or 4-hole for the Cardinal the last two years, is one of the best hitters in the Pac-10 and has the leverage in his swing to hit for power. But he has 7 HRs in two Stanford seasons, not exactly profile corner power. Our reports on his defense at third are also all over the place, and my one look at him in super-regionals here in Chapel Hill was pretty unimpressive. Ceiling is an everyday 3B if he figures out the defense; also could be another John Gall, a R-R guy who raked at Stanford for four years but was a 4-A player in the long run, sadly for me. I was always a John Gall fan.

    Robbie (Thornhill, ON): Best 3 farm systems in baseball?

John Manuel: I'm going with the T teams — Texas, Toronto and Tampa.

    Robbie (Thornhill): What are your thoughts on the progress of two of the Jays' supplemental first round picks from last year, Justin Nicolino and Noah Syndergaard? Frontline starter potential?

John Manuel: Feature on Nicolino is upcoming, but I was a fan of his in HS. Nathan Rode saw Syndergaard in the Appy League a week or two ago and came away impressed. I think saying "rotation potential" is a much better bet at this point, considering both are in short-season ball, and don't forget they're pitching in a Triple-A size ballpark. I wouldn't get too carried away with NWL numbers. But they are part of the system's overall pitching depth that puts it in the top 3, coupled with their upper-level hitters such as d'Arnaud and Gose and the Marisnick-led Lansing team.

    Zack (San Diego): Thanks for the chat. Curious as to who you think has true No.1 / Ace potential in the minor leagues (including 2011 draftees)?

John Manuel: Matt Moore and Julio Teheran; Shelby Miller and I suppose Carlos Martinez; Martin Perez and Jameson Taillon; then from the draft, Cole, Bauer and Bundy. I go back and forth on Hultzen, depending on which scout I talked to last, and will put him "in" for now. More fun being optimistic anyway.

    Nate (Washington): new Mariner Carter Capps: SP or RP ?

John Manuel: Reliever all the way.

    Joe (The Moon): Who is the early favorite to go #1 overall next June?

John Manuel: Mark Appel, rhp, Stanford, though I think Devin Marrero, ss, Arizona State will be in that mix very strongly. After the signing deadline next week, we plan on putting together our first real look at 2012, waiting for (a) summer college stuff to get done, (b) showcases like East Coast, Area Codes and the two HS all-star games this weekend to conclude, and (c) the deadline to pass to know who's back for 2012 draft.

    Mike (Chicago): Why are the Twins so slow to promote Joe Benson? What else does he have to prove at the double A level?

John Manuel: Honestly wish I had an answer for that. Is Jeff Bailey or Brian Dinkelman really holding him back? I know the Twins are patient, but that one is a puzzler. Rochester team is pretty bad, maybe they want to keep him away from that situation.

    John (Richmond, VA.): Any Nats news? I am reading rumors that the Purke talks are going well. I have also read, per Adam Kilgore of the Washington Post, that they haven't given up on Hawtin Buchanon. Thank you.

John Manuel: I think Purke will not sign, and I like Buchanan as a nice consolation prize.

    Dusty (cincy): Why am I keeping Yonder Alonso on the bench?

John Manuel: Because Alonso can't play defense anywhere other than 1B in a competent way. I'm not a huge Dusty Baker guy, but he probably knows better in this situation. They've tried Yonder elsewhere and he's just not mobile enough in LF or at 3b. Like him as a player but he's no Joey Votto, so I'm not sure how he gets on the field.

    Chris (KC): John, I've keep asking this question in chats but it always gets ignored. I'm hoping that since you haven't chatted in a while I can con you into answering! I thought the minor leagues used the DH exclusively, but then when Strasburg came up people were going on about how well he hit in the minors. So I'm wondering who does and doesn't use the DH. Is it by league, by team, by mutual agreement in certain games, or something else?

John Manuel: No DH in certain leagues, starting at Double-A, when NL affiliate plays NL affiliate; I know that happens in the Eastern and Southern leagues; for example, Chuck Lofgren hit a double yesterday in the EL.

    Matt (VA): Granted in went to college and knew him personally, but why does no one give Tyler Kuhn any recognition. He is around a career .320 hitter in MILB and has played in every level. I know he doesn't have legit power, but her certainly does get on base.

John Manuel: Kuhn hits lefthanded, and he's a good contact hitter. His other tools are shy of what scouts look for in big league regulars. I think he'll be a big leaguer, likely as a utility guy, could wind up as a LH-hitting version of Jeff Keppinger.

    Dan (DC): The stories keep circulating that Purke has passed his Nats checkup and has been observed by the Nats at all his workouts. Odds that he signs.

John Manuel: Answered before about Purke, but main thing here is, of course the Nats are at all his workouts; why wouldn't they be? And if you have any hope of signing a guy at the deadline who has had physical issues, you want to give the guy a physical. You can't exactly drop in at the deadline and do that at the last minute. What would make me optimistic about signing Purke, if I were a Nats fan, is Rizzo's track record. That guy is not afraid to spend on talent. Scouting director Kris Kline's track record ain't shabby either, he was area scout that signed John Lackey for the Angels back when Lackey was better known as a slugging 1B for Grayson County CC.

    John (Richmond, VA): Any buzz on Nat's CF prospect Michael Taylor? He's been getting talked up some by local writers. One quoted a scout comparing him to Adam Jones.

John Manuel: I saw that comp and think it's a bit much, but he is a toolsy OF. He's probably not a CF; he's playing about 80% on the corners in low A. But he is athletic and has power, as well as a solid arm (but not quite Jones' arm). I talked to a scout about him the other day, and the power is legit, Taylor's definitely in the Nats' top 15-20 prospects, maybe a bit higher (depending on who they sign).

    Kory (Columbus, OH): Braves rotation in three years (Hanson, Teheran, Minor, Beachy, Delgado/Vizcaino)?

John Manuel: Where's Jurrjens? He'll be in there too. You also have Beachy too low, what a great scouting & development story. ... both Vizcaino and Delgado (esp. Delgado) could be in the pen by then, Vizcaino better chance to start out, I'm not as high on Delgado as some. Hanson, Jurrjens, Teheran, Beachy, then maybe Vizcaino over Minor, whom I like but frankly isn't as good as Vizcaino. He could be a LHP mixed in, that gives him an edge. I like Minor, but Vizcaino is electric.

    Tom (Boston): What is your take on Phillies draftee Kenny Giles? How does a guy with that kind of heat slip so low in the draft?

John Manuel: Conor Glassey's writeup on him in our Draft Database answers your question well. Short version — he is really, really raw.

    Aaron (New York): Who has a better career, Ike Davis or Freddie Freeman

John Manuel: Freeman.

    SRB (WI): If/when Taylor Jungmann and Jed Bradley sign, who is your pick for the best prospect in the Brewers system: Jungmann, Bradley, Peralta, Thornburg?

John Manuel: Good question. Right now, I probably would say Thornburg. Like the Roy Oswalt comp Tom Haudricourt got on him, makes more sense than the Lincecum comps we got when he was an amateur.

    Dave (Atlanta): What do you make of Braves IF Joseph Terdoslavich? He has 46 2b and 16 HR while hitting .280/.337/.520. Is he just a college player doing well in A ball or a more legit prospect?

John Manuel: Can I say in between? More likley a good college masher, but his power's legit, could make him more than just a 4A guy, but that's my gut feel, more Scott Thorman than Freddie Freeman. Ranked him high in the Alaska League a few years back.

    Kevin (San Diego): I've read/heard differing opinions on this: Can the Pads sign all 4 remaining high draftees - Ross/Kelly/Austin/Hedges?

John Manuel: Signs point to no ... both catchers sound like tough signs (Austin & Hedges), some difficulty as noted earlier with Ross, think they'll get Kelly done. 50 percent would be fine, 3 out of 4 would be good. Don't bank on all 4.

    Ernie (Washington DC): John, When do you see Lombardazzi coming up and taking over 2B ?

John Manuel: He better do it before Anthony Rendon signs and gets comfy at 2B. I could see Lombardozzi as the 2012 2B placeholder. Nats' plan looks good — Morse 1b, Rendon 2b, Zim 3b, Espinosa moving to SS, Werth LF, Harper RF, Ramos C ... they need a CF, but otherwise, that plan looks solid for me for 2013, provided Werth isn't completely useless by then.

    Brian Daniels (IN a land far far away.. Alpharetta Ga): Two question, question.. Why doesn't Mark Trumbo get any love by B.A? Lots of power and fairly decent strike zone judgement. And is Dexter Fowler a true starter and potential star still? or has he missed his chance? Ok, three questions, sorry

John Manuel: Kind of silly to say Trumbo gets "no love." He was in the Top 10 this year. I saw the LA Times article, it made me chuckle. Ken Rosenthal wrote the same day of the concerns scouts have about Trumbo and they were all the reasons we never ranked him higher. "Fairly decent" is generous on his K-zone judgment by the way, and that was always one of the biggest concerns. I'm very happy for Trumbo though, he got the chance this year (which for whatever reason he didn't get in 2010) and he's making the most of it. The better question is why did we all think Brandon Wood would be better? That I cannot answer ... Not sure what's happened to Dexter Fowler, but I don't see star potential there with the bat, and I used to.

John Manuel: That's going to have to do it. Hope I filled in for Jim well. We'll record a podcast tomorrow previewing the signing deadline, hoping to replicate last year's 90-minute pod that was a ton of fun. Look for it Friday. Thanks for your time and interest.