Prospect Chat: Jan. 26

    Grant (NYC): Are there any players who graded "Safe" that appear in their respective team's #25-30 range?

J.J. Cooper: Hi Grant. I think John will be stopping by as well, but I'll get us started. No there are no safes in the 25-30 range, but then there are very, very few safe's throughout the book (four in total). To qualify as a safe, you already have to have demonstrated your ability in a significant stint in the big leagues and we feel very comfortable you will reach your projected BA Grade.

    John Vairo (Bronx, NY): In 2011's book, you gave each team's # 1 prospect scouting grades in 5 categories: for example, hitting, power, speed, arm, and defense for hitters. In 2012's book, you mention including a BA grade and Risk Factor for every one of the 900 prospects in the book. Will all 900 prospects also have the normal scouting grades for hitting, power, spped, arm, and defense as well?

J.J. Cooper: We continue to give 20-80 grades for each of the No. 1 prospects, and if you read the scouting reports, while we don't slap a 20-80 grade on every tool for every player, we do try to give a rough grade on each tool with very few exceptions—for space reasons we may not give you info on a first baseman's arm unless it's significantly above or below average. But as far as slapping an actual 20-80 grade for each tool on all 900 prospects, that would be a very daunting task. It's already quite labor-intensive to give them BA Grades and to make sure that the 20-80 grades for No. 1 prospects are consistent across the board. We can't do it for the other 870 players unless we're comfortable we can a) still get the book to you by late January and b) make them accurate grades. We're not there yet, and I can't promise we will be in the future.

    John Vairo (Bronx, NY): If I buy the Prospect Handbook in stores (Barnes&Noble) or on Amazon, can I still get the supplement and the free copy of the Top 100 prospects issue?

J.J. Cooper: No. To get the special offers you have to purchase the book from us. Which also will ensure you get it several weeks or a month before other places will have it available.

    Jim (Pawnee): Will the BA Grades be available to on-line only subscribers?

J.J. Cooper: Sorry Jim. It's a feature of the Handbook only.

    Ben (Leland Grove): Why do only four of BA's staffers get to publish their personal top 50 lists in the book?

John Manuel: One reason is not everyone wants to do a personal Top 50 or even a Top 100. It's not easily done well. Some years we just have the three of us who edit or contribute to all 30 organization top 30s. In December, when we're doing the top 50s, the rest of the staff hasn't had the opportunity to read or edit the whole book, or even all 30 Top 10s. Four's a nice number for the book's layout and I was glad J.J. Cooper jumped at the chance to add his Top 50. Everyone on the staff is encouraged to contribute when we crank out the Top 100, which is coming up in about 3 weeks.

    Dirk Hayhurst (Lurking out there in Cyberspace): Assuming I pitch this year, what song should I come to the mound this year? "Hit me with your best shot" by Pat Benatar? "Kiss" by Prince. Or "I am the Walrus" by the Beatles. Any of these could effect my prospect ranking.... Think deeply before answering.

John Manuel: I have had the walk-up music debate in my own head for many years. It would take guts to come out to a Smiths song but I've always enjoyed the opening riff from "What Difference Does It Make?" Since that jibes with your philosophy, if I can use that word, of not wrapping up your identity on being a baseball player, then I would use that. If you're pitching in Italy next spring, it might go over better than it might even here in Durham if you were to return to the Bulls.

    Luke (No. Va.): Will the Nationals list be updated for subscribers to include a full 30 names?

J.J. Cooper: No Luke. The Handbook is a separate product. We run Top 10s in the magazine and online and then put the full 30 (31 for people who buy the book from us) in the book.

    Kelly (St Cloud, MN): When does your top 100 list come out this year?

J.J. Cooper: We'll be posting the Top 100 Prospects and sending out that issue just a little less than a month from now. It will go online on Feb. 21.

    Keith (Manchester, CT): Thanks for the chat, guys. Hearing some amazing stuff about Elier Hernandez. What's his ceiling and what level does he start at in 2012?

J.J. Cooper: The ceiling is very high, as is the risk factor right now since he's yet to make it to the U.S. or have a pro at-bat. There's a chance he makes it to the Arizona League in 2012.

    Tom (Medfield, MA): Does the Top 100 issue come with the Handbook, or does that ship later?

J.J. Cooper: It ships later. The Handbook is finished now. We haven't even compiled the Top 100 Prospects list yet.

    Jessie's Girl (Not with Jessie's anymore): You guys talk to scouts, GMs, FO personnel etc. How much input the info you gather from does sources have in the book? or do you guys balance it from personal views on the player?

J.J. Cooper: The majority of the info you see in the book comes from scouts, managers and other personnel in the game. If we see a player that may help round out an opinion on a player, but we're not scouts ourselves, and even if we were, one look at a player for one game is not nearly as useful in an evaluation as talking to multiple people who have seen him multiple times through the year, and throughout a player's career. Speaking personally, I tried to talk to at least 7-8 different sources inside and outside an organization when compiling that team's Top 30. Add in different conversations during the season that weren't made specifically for the Top 30 but did touch on those players and add in notes from other BA writers' in-season conversations and we're conservatively talking about 20 or more sources for a Top 30.

    JimBeau (Left Coast): With your new grade/risk report report, I am going to assume that the Indians have a LOT of risk in their system, since so much of the talent is far, far, so far away. But do any of those far, far away prospects have tempting high grades?

John Manuel: They have eight "Extremes" in their system; I don't have the spreadsheet handy but that seems a bit high. That said, some of their "Extremes" are guys who have injury issues, such as Hector Rondon, or guys who have flashed talent but haven't performed consistently like Levon Washington and Trey Haley. They have a few guys like you're talking about in Elvis Araujo or Ronny Rodriguez; none of them earned more than a 50 Grade. Compare them in the same division with the Twins, not a great farm system itself. The Twins have six "Extremes," ranking from the German Max Kepler to hyper-raw Niko Goodrum to Alex Wimmers, who gets an extreme for his bout of Rick Ankiel disease.

    @Jaypers413 (IL): Which one of the 900 prospects made the biggest leap forward since last year's Handbook?

John Manuel: Well, last year Josh Collmenter went from 32nd team up to the big leagues; that's as big a leap (or miss) as I can find. Kelvin Herrera went from 30 to 7 in this year's Royals' list; Brian Dozier from 30 to 10 for the Twins, but that's only one way to look at it. I am thinking Rymer Liriano made as big a jump as any prospect, though he just went from NO. 18 to No. 2 this year for San Diego. He was on some personal Top 50s (45 on mine) and last year, I don't think we expected him to get into that kind of discussion. Speaking for me personally, I knew Herrera and Dozier (and Collmenter) last year, whereas Liriano was just a name. He's much more than that now.

    Jake (Chicago): If the Cubs sign Soler and Cespedes, would they be the Cubs top two prospects?

John Manuel: That's a good fantasy, I suppose. We still have Brett Jackson as their No. 1; I know Jim Callis has indicated on Ask BA that he'd slot Anthony Rizzo in at No. 3. Cespedes would jump to No. 1 for me, but I think Soler would rank behind Javier Baez. We know more about Baez, who has tools to stay on the infield and freakish bat speed. Soler has a high offensive ceiling�we have plenty of good reports on him�but he's older than Baez, has missed a year of development and will have a big adjustment to make to U.S. baseball. Baez is ahead on all fronts and has some of the same strengths.

    Karl of Delaware (Delmarva): Getting the Prospect Handbook from the mailman is always and exciting event! Here comes the baseball season! My question: Is there any relationship between the number of top 30 prospects a minor league team has on it, and the won-loss percentage of the team? The last few years when Lakewood and Hickory were loaded with prospect handbook guys they seemed to mop up the South Atlantic League. Coincidence or cause and effect?

John Manuel: Coincidence; I think win-loss in the minors doesn't necessarily correlate to talent. I do think extremes for an organization are telling; it's usually a sign of a good farm system if it's winning at all levels. It's often a sign of a bad system when it's losing in the epic fashion the Astros' system has in recent years. No. 30 in win-loss percentage 3 of the last 4 years, 29th the other year. That said, there are mitigating factors�some clubs have an extra rookie-level team and that can spread the talent out. I would guess the Mets might get a small bump in minor league winning percentage this year at the lower levels by eliminating their GCL team, so go ahead and print those Kingsport playoff tickets now!

    Josh Johnson (Minnesota): If (hypothetically), Joe Mauer switches positions, does Chris Herrmann have the potential to be an everyday player in the big leagues? Offensively? Defensively?

John Manuel: That's what the BA Grade tells you at a glance. He's a 45 Medium. We think he's a second-division regular, and he'd get a low risk factor if he were a cinch to be a catcher. But he's not, even though he's made progress defensively. His low ceiling stems from his lack of power as well; if he has to move to the outfield, he doesn't have the bat to be a regular. He's in need of experience defensively but his tools back there are solid.

    Dan (Baltimore): I like what you guys have written about Trevor Bauer. Everyone compares Bauer to Lincecum. How does he measure up to what Lincecum was at this point in his career? When do you think we see Bauer in the majors?

John Manuel: Bauer gets comped to Lincecum because he copied Lincecum in many ways, and because he's slight. I love Bauer despite his Duke basketball fandom, but he just doesn't have the same electric arm Lincecum had at the same stage. He has more pitches, better control and is younger, though. It's hard to expect someone to come out and win two Cy Youngs, but I'm a huge Bauer believer, and Lincecum's success is one reason why.

    Steve (Huntington Beach, CA): Nobody seems to have much info on Leonys Martin. Do you guys see him as a fourth outfielder type, or solid everyday regular?

John Manuel: Grrr ... I answered this but lost my answer. Steve, we had the first report on Martin in Sept. 2010; search the prospect blog for it. Second, he's No. 4 in the Rangers' list in the book, which came out pre-Yu Darvish. He's a 60 High, which tells you he has a high ceiling (everyday CF, leadoff man), but we judge him a high risk (short track record, mixed reports on his power and CF ability).

    Chad (Oklahoma City): How soon will the Handbook ship? I preordered and love to get an early start to my fantasy baseball league research, but cant do that without the handbook. The handbook is the bible of fantasy baseball leagues that have longterm keeper systems.

John Manuel: Pre-orders started shipping Monday, so there are thousands of Handbook fans who pre-ordered and either already have received their Handbooks or will receive them very shortly.

    John (Philly): This is a more general question. Over the last 7-10 years, have you noticed more conversations with baseball people (not just scouts) shift more toward production over projection? I understand that its a balance and blend, but has there been any real systematic shift in philosophies you've noticed in your interactions with front office/scouting types?

John Manuel: I'll make this my last question. I remember Alan Matthews, when he wrote for us and wasn't a scout yet, write in a chat that he didn't even check the Pioneer League stats before he starting writing up a prospect. That was one approach; it was a minority approach in 2005 and it's a minority approach now. So there has been a shift but I don't think it's been a sea change. What really has shifted is the amount of information; it easier to find stats for amateurs now, not to mention pros. It's easier to find more information on these players and TONS more video, especially as most every team now has its scouts shoot video of amateurs themselves. But no one is scouting just off performance or as you put it production.

John Manuel: Sorry I was in and out of the chat; too much going on! I'm handing it back off to J.J. but I want to add that I'm really excited about the addition of the Grades, and I hope our readers enjoy them.

    Mo (Clancey's Tavern): Carlos Martinez. Do you see him as a starter or in the bullpen?

J.J. Cooper: I think he has a solid chance to stay as a starter. No reason to think he's headed to the pen anytime soon.

    Richard (Virgin Islands): John-can you name a sleeper in the Mets system that is either flying under the radar or is under publicized? Thanks.

J.J. Cooper: Bradley Marquez, the two-sport star from Texas who the Mets signed this past year is pretty intriguing. You have to be worried about a player who is going to play two sports going forward, but if he decides to play baseball full-time, he could be interesting.

    Harry (Minnesota): Who is the biggest surprise as far as their change in ranking (up or down) this year?

J.J. Cooper: I think some people would be surprised that we had the Nationals ranked No. 1 in our org talent rankings in the Handbook. They've obviously dropped off significantly since making the Gio Gonzalez trade, but it's a very intriguing system.

    John Vairo (Bronx, NY): I'd like to write my own fantasy baseball book someday, but I'd like to gain experience with the production of another serious baseball book publication first. Do you have any openings for help for the 2013 Prospect Handbook?

J.J. Cooper: Thanks for the offer. I'm sorry to tell you that we do the vast majority of the book in-house. The teams we don't do are generally done by current Baseball America correspondents who cover that team.

    Joe LeCates (Easton, MD): Gentlemen, thank you for the chat today, and of course for all the hard work put into the handbook. Maybe more of a question for a Top 100 chat, but just for fun today, if we concede Harper as the top position prospect and Moore or Darvish as the top pitching prospect, who in your crystal ball supplants them next year?

J.J. Cooper: Interesting question. I think Jurickson Profar could make a bid for being the top position player. Dylan Bundy, Jameson Taillon and Taijuan Walker could all make a bid for being the top pitching prospect.

    Paul (Fall River, MA): Is Jose Campos a future No.1?

J.J. Cooper: We're very loathe to throw a No. 1 on a guy who has yet to pitch full-season ball, but he has the tools to be a front-end of the rotation guy. Ben Badler keeps repeating that he could be the key to the Yankees-Mariners deal in the long run.

    Trevor (NJ): Any chance that the Yankees get a short season league team in the Appy League?

J.J. Cooper: I guess there is always a chance, but I wouldn't give it much chance at all. They already have a GCL club and a NYP team.

    Joejay (Syracuse): Do you think Amir Garrett will ever commit to baseball? Kid's super projectable with a crazy high ceiling.

J.J. Cooper: There are a lot of questions over whether Garrett has NBA potential, so yeah, I think there is a very decent chance he ends up focusing on baseball. He's getting plenty of playing time at St. John's so he's not going to give up hoops anytime soon, but it's easier for a 6-6 pitcher to earn millions than a 6-6 basketball player.

J.J. Cooper: Sorry everyone, it's time to run. But thanks for the questions and we hope you all enjoy the Prospect Handbook.