John Manuel Chat: Aug. 15

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John Manuel: Looking forward to my first chat in a while. Hope I'm not too rusty. I'll slide the glasses down to the end of my nose and try to give you my best Callis impersonation ...

    Alexander (Ohio): Former Kent State slugger and 2008 BA Freshman AA Ben Klafczynski, after a very short stint with the Cubs, is now pitching for Lake Erie in the Frontier League. The plus/plus armed former RF has been working 92-94 touching 96 with developing secondary pitches, smooth delivery, effortless, and is currently riding a 14 inning streak of NO hits allowed.(0-42) Is this profile something an affiliate desires for Fall Instructional, maybe some winter ball to further the development? Thanks

John Manuel: Funny, we were just talking about Klafczynski in the office today. Klafczynski was a solid college hitter for four seasons with the Golden Flashes but was released in spring training by the Cubs; JJ Cooper will have the story in our next issue of how he latched on in indy ball as a pitcher after not pitching at all in four college seasons, and it's an interesting one. He apparently hit 94 with his first pitch in a workout, so the velocity should attract a pro club sooner than later.

    Ben (Miamisburg, OH): Which Reds top arm (Stephenson, Corcino, Cingrani, Traviesio) has the highest upside?

John Manuel: I'm partial to Travieso but haven't heard anything not to like about Robert Stephenson, he's got to top that list. Corcino gets props for being closest to the majors, and his ceiling is more in the 3/4 range for me. There's not a 7 on the scouting report and for some scouts it's all 50s. I would still take him over Cingrani, though I greatly respect what Tony has done this year and since he got into pro ball. He's a power LHP, those are hard to fine. I'd go Stephenson, Travieso, Corcino then Cingrani, but I could see you shuffling the last 3 in any order and defending it.

    Ben (Miamisburg, OH): Do you see Billy Hamilton as a future MLB SS or is a move to CF inevitable?

John Manuel: Most scouts seem to consider it inevitable, and circumstances in Cincinnati seem to warrant it as well. Drew Stubbs' tools are definitely superior to those of Zack Cozart, but Cozart is a steady defender at a premium spot; those are harder and harder to find. Hamilton's arm just remains too inconsistent in terms of arm strength, arm slot and accuracy for him to be an everyday SS right now. I like that the Reds are giving him every chance to play short though.

    Ben (Miamisburg, OH): After David Dahl, has 2012 49th overall pick Jesse Winker been the biggest surprise in the Pioneer League this year? 18 years old hitting .350 with a ton of walks?

John Manuel: I haven't gotten around to ranking the surprises, but no, Winker hitting is no surprise. That's why he got $1 million. No one questioned his hitting ability as an amateur; the big question this spring was his lack of home runs, and most scouts viewed him as a bat-first or even bat-only prospect. But everyone who saw the guy thought he would hit, and his summer travel ball coach (name's escaping me) gave me one of the most passionate speeches / tirades that I've ever heard about a player. Considering I enjoy going off on tirades and rants myself, it was impressive to hear such passion on the part of a player. We'll see what Winker does moving up the ranks, but him hitting in the Pioneer League was to be expected. He has natural hitting rhythm and timing as well as present strength.

    Tom (San Francisco, CA): John, the results from the Bluefield squad have been rather discouraging. Do you see any positives?

John Manuel: Certainly the numbers have been disappointing for a lot of hitters there, but I wouldn't go too crazy over it. Dwight Smith drove the ball some (4 HR) and didn't strike out much; I think he'll be fine. When Nathan Rode checked in on that team about a month ago he was surprised that some of the pitchers' velocity readings also were down, but he liked what he saw out of Smith and Christian Lopes. I know I thought Daniel Norris would be better than that, but I also recall some scouts really questioning his maturity out of high school, even when they didn't question the stuff.

    Keith (Manchester, CT): Thanks John. How impressive are Dan Vogelbach's numbers — .326/.391/.691 in 181 AB in Rookie Ball and Short Season — given that he turns 20 in December? How high do you see his ceiling?

John Manuel: Another guy who can flat-out hit, like Winker. Ceiling is definitely as a first-division starter at 1b, or as a Travis Hafner-ish DH. No one really questioned the hitting ability out of HS; some scouts even tried to throw a Prince Fielder comp on Vogelbach. One problem is all the value is in the bat, but that's a huge start to a pro career. The feel for hitting is what everyone underestimated about Prince Fielder back in 2002; his feel for hitting allowed him to get to his power. Vogelbach has some of that, but let's see him cut down on the K's next year when he goes to full-season ball before he gets Fielder comps as a pro.

    @Jaypers413 (IL): At the beginning of the season, the majority opinion was that Charleston had the most impressive starting lineup in terms of high-ceiling prospects. Obviously that has now changed, due to promotions and injuries. Which team would you bestow that honor upon today?

John Manuel: Not sure there's a roster that jumps out to me as being as deep as the RiverDogs were, but Tampa has a lot of those guys now — Gary Sanchez, the injured Mason Williams, Tyler Austin, plus Flores, Heathcott . . . still a talented lineup. Charleston isn't exactly bare either. Sleeper roster right now would be Corpus Christi with the Astros with Grossman, Springer, A. Wates, Singleton and J. Villar when he's healthy. Interesting collection of talent there. I'm sure there are others that I am leaving out; that's not a comprehensive list.

    Ben (Leland Grove): Gut instinct - does Bundy see the show this year?

John Manuel: Probably up to Buck Showalter. If at all possible, I think the Orioles would like to avoid it, but if they are still in it late in three weeks (very likely) and if Bundy looks fresh, I could see it. Steve Melewski of does a nice job following the O's system and was at Bundy's last start, and tweeted he didn't think Bundy was ready yet. I'll defer to Steve on that. Sounds like if Bundy could use his cutter, he'd be ready, but the O's don't want him using it. Again, the dude is flying through the minors without even being allowed to use his best pitch. Points out one way in which minor league stats are misleading without a heavy dose of context.

    Ben (Miamisburg, OH): Did the Reds find a steal in 2012 8th rd draft pick Seth Mejias-Brean? A plus athlete with a 1.053 OPS and his in game power is starting to match his raw power.

John Manuel: I like Seth, did a great job for Arizona defensively this spring, and the power is encouraging. That said, it's the Pioneer League, and you're supposed to hit for power there, especially as a college junior. At the very least, he'll be a good organizational solider, and I really like the defense at third for him.

    @Jaypers413 (IL): There's been talk recently of Anthony Rendon getting a cup of coffee next month. Do you believe this would be a wise move?

John Manuel: He's on the 40-man so it can't hurt, and it could actually help him from a development standpoint; he missed so much time this year, just being around for BP and infield in the major leagues is probably better in some ways that biding his time in instructs for the AFL. There's little chance he plays or contributes in Washington this September though; healthy, the Nats are overloaded in the IF anyway with Lombardozzi, Espinosa and Desmond coming back to go with Zimmerman and LaRoche and Morse at first. It's an impressive, athletic club that frankly doesn't need him, even if he's healthy. I'm just happy to see Rendon in Double-A and getting some ABs; bet he was promoted to meet the AFL deadline, so the Nats didn't have to burn a non-AA exemption on him.

    Warren (Nashville, TN): Thought's on Sonny Gray's first year at Midland?

John Manuel: 1) Double-A is hard. 2) Sonny likes What-a-Burger, at least according to his Twitter feed. 3) He's taking every turn and staying healthy, a huge plus, and keeping the ball in the ballpark. 4)The bullpen predictions for him may come true. I'm surprised by the low K rate. But our reports on him are solid, especially in the second half. Good to see the improvement as his innings workload piles up.

    Kelly (St. Louis): Does Mike Wacha have frontline potential to you?

John Manuel: If front-line is being a No. 3 starter then I'll say yes. At times as an amateur he was showing a 6/7 fastball and 6/7 change to go with an inconsistent breaking ball flashing plus, and the early reports on his velo in pro ball are encouraging. A lot of there there.

    Grant (Miami): Who would you consider to be Tampa's #1 overall prospect as of now - Lee, Guerrieri, Shaffer or someone else?

John Manuel: Guerrieri. I'm a big fan of the stuff, needs maturity but I really love the way the Rays develop pitchers by taking it slow. They have that luxury with their pitching depth at the big league level and they have a nice system for developing pitchers; credit Dick Bosman and Dewey Robinson and their crew of pitching coaches. They really have a nice system in place.

    Oscar Taveras (Springfield, MO): Do you believe I am ready to play in Busch Stadium this year?

John Manuel: Ready to hit there, sure. Not sure he's ready to defend there or if he's needed there, but he's on the short list for minor league player of the year. It's that kind of season.

    Felix (San Diego, CA): Lightening Round question: Tyson Ross or Joe Ross?

John Manuel: Joe for sure. Love looking at pictures of Tyson in comparison to pitchers who have real long strides; Tyson's is just so short. I am sure he's heard that a million times but it's still a teachable moment when you look at pics or videos of him in comparison to other pitchers.

    Bob (Toronto): How many ABs does a prospect need to have in the Majors to make him ineligible for a Top 100 prospect list the following year?

John Manuel: We just use rookie eligibility, 130+ ABs. We ignore service time, which led one year to ranking Michael Bourn as a prospect even though he'd spend the whole year in the majors as a pinch-runner and defensive replacement, after his 2007 season. That was weird.

    Greg (ohio): how much fun is putting together your Astros top 30 going to be? Can you remember a team that has stripped it down this far recently and come back to contention?

John Manuel: It should be more fun than the first one, let's put it that way. Last year's was fun and interesting in its own way, but certainly it's a deeper organization. Also some of the prospects who finally got a chance to catch their breath and not have to play over their heads have caught up, guys like Folty and DeShields, and that's encouraging for the organization. Heard some 97s on Folty early; plus big years by Nick Tropeano and Jose Cisnero. It's not just new talent; a lot of the "leftovers" and Bobby Heck draft picks were doing well too.

    Joe LeCates (Easton, MD): With Anthony Rendon now in Harrisburg my question is, for a guy that initially was supposed to possibly miss the rest of the season following his third significant ankle injury (albeit a different ankle) are the Nats being too aggressive with him right now?

John Manuel: Hi Joe! The deadline for getting guys to Double-A to be eligible for the AFL is today, so a lot of prospects got promoted to that level to beat that deadline. This way, the Nats didn't have to burn one of their three exemptions for A-ball players on him. From that standpoint, I don't think it's too aggressive, and as the most polished hitter out of last year's draft, he should be able to hold his own.

    Joe LeCates (Easton, MD): John, here is a soft-toss for an Under Armour Game plug, but in all seriousness is there anyone in particular you are looking forward to seeing this weekend?

John Manuel: Thanks Joe, looking forward to going to Chicago and heading to Greek Islands with Jim Callis for lunch on Friday (hope Jim reads the chat ...). I'm going through all my notes now from Conor Glassey, Nathan Rode and the rest of the BA crew that makes me look good. Matt McPhearson should be fun to watch just because he's so fast; those kinds of players always have a chance to impress in all-star setups. I need to see Austin Meadows since he's the top HS bat for the 2013 class right now and ask why he wants to wear those white shoes at Clemson ... Trey Ball and JP Crawford both look like guys to watch as well, and Jonathan Denney sounds like a power guy who could make Wrigley look small. Should be a blast.

    Alex (NYC): As a Pirates fan, I'm very excited by the year Luis Heredia is putting together in short season ball. For a kid who just turned 18, he has shown the ability to more than hold his own against predominantly older competition. Should I read anything into the lack of K's this season or is the ability to miss bats something that will come with age?

John Manuel: I wouldn't. The Pirates' goals for Luis Heredia this year probably do not including impressing us with his glittering K-per-9 rate. He sounds like the real deal with size, velocity, body control, a sound delivery ... he's just learning to pitch right now and focusing on the fastball. I'd start worrying more about production when he's in full-season ball.

    skinnyjh (Greenville, SC): The early signing date has given us lots more baseball from 2012 draft picks. What effects do you think this will have on low-A rosters next year and the overall quickness of guys moving up the ladder?

John Manuel: Should be beneficial for us as prospect watchers, and I think it helps some prospects, especially high school hitters who get a chance to go out and play and get their feet wet in rookie ball now without having to wait for instructs. Sometimes I wish the draft were just moved back to August so that everyone would start in instructs and the draft were at the end of the amateur season, but the draft is when it is. I don't see the date changing. And I'd rather have it this way, where the vast majority of players sign quickly and get some playing time, than the way it was the previous five seasons where most of the top players signed in August.

    Kelly (downtown cincy): Did you think Todd Frazier would be as good as he is?

John Manuel: We thought he'd be good, that's why he was the Reds' No. 1 prospect a couple of years ago. He stalled a bit in Triple-A and was moved around the diamond a ton by the Reds, but he should settle in as their everyday 3B once Scott Rolen is done, and he should be a first-division regular there. He's always had power; there were scouts who doubted he'd get to it because he bars his arm when he swings, but he has made it work for a long time. I saw him hit one of the longer homers I've ever seen in a game at Durham in the IL playoffs a couple of years back and always enjoyed talking with him. He seemed very aware of his strengths and weaknesses and willing to put in the work to improve. Easy guy to root for.

    Marty (Iowa): Hi John,thanks for getting me over the hump with the chat.With just a couple weeks left to the season is wil myers your frontrunner for Minor League P.O.Y.?? thanks,marty.

John Manuel: For me, the final five finalists would include Taveras, Myers, Profar, Billy Hamilton and probably Jose Fernandez. I'm not sure Bundy has pitched enough innings, and I suppose you could make it six by adding in Dan Straily. We're finalizing our choice very soon and have had many of these discussions, not an easy choice, but neither was last year when we chose Trout over Moore. Neither would have been a wrong answer, and it's good to see Moore having a great second half after struggling in the first half. He was electric last night.

    Navin (Pasadena, CA): What are your thoughts on the dismissal of Oneri Fleita?

John Manuel: Jim and Will Lingo will remember my rant about Oneri during the 2007 Prospect Handbook book tour. It was inevitable; he played at Creighton and was clearly part of Jim Hendry's posse in Chicago. Being in a baseball front office is like being in Congress in a way, there's a long voting record to go through and pick over and see hits and misses. Oneri has hits and misses too.I'm sure he has his fans, friends and allies in the industry; I just don't know any of them.

    Matt (Austintown,Oh): There has been talk recently of another legitimate pitching prospect emerging in the Mariner's farm system. Brandon Maurer, do you have any insight that you would like to share with us on this young man.

John Manuel: I had to get Conor Glassey to remind me about it, but I do recall arguing Mauerer down the Mariners' Top 30 last offseason. He's sort of a Conor #cheeseball I suppose. Good frame, good season, sounds like he's more of a back-of-the-rotation guy, our reports are a lot of average pitches across the board with flashes of plus stuff. Biggest thing for him this year has been staying healthy and taking every turn, something he's never done as a pro.

    Nick (Connecticut): Better lower Yankees pitching prospects from best to worst: Bryan Mitchell, Jordan Cote, Ty Hensley, Nik Turley and Zachary Nuding? Love the chats. Thanks!

John Manuel: Long been a Bryan Mitchell fan ... high risk but high reward, big stuff, big breaking curveball.

    Matt (Chicago): Jackie Bradley's production has dropped a fair amount moving to AA. Are you a believer in his hit tool? Will he develop any power to help him sustain his walk rates as he faces better pitching?

John Manuel: I do like his hit tool and the defense, not sure how much power he'll hit for. I'm sticking to my Mark Kotsay comp.

    MR K (Chicago): Do you think Trevor Story stays up the middle? Do you think he can handle a regular gig or do his splits indicate he's more of a bench/role player?

John Manuel: Yes, in fact our reports indicate he could stay at short not to mention up the middle. Tough to judge hitters in the Rox farm system, a lot of extreme hitting environments, but it's not unusual for any first-year player to be a lot more comfortable at home than on the road. I like him as a future regular.

    Joel (KCK): I realize that even if Jurickson Profar does gets called up, he probably won't see regular PT in Texas, but hypothetically, if he were to see regular time, would you see him as ready to make an immediate impact at the major league level?

John Manuel: I would not see him making a huge impact just because he's a teenager who likely would be a reserve or pinch-runner. It's hard to imagine him doing better at 19 than Bryce Harper this year or Mike Trout last year. That said, Profar has future superstar written all over him. You bring him up this year if you can hoping that helps him hit the ground running next year, as last year's experience seemed to help Trout this year. He didn't have to adjust to the speed of the game, as he'd already experienced it.

    Johnny Vegas (Fairfax, VA): As the BA Twins expert, what is your take on the state of Minnesota's minor league system? It seems to me that, while they are not a top 5 system, they seem to be in the 12-15 range. And have the ability to turn themselves into a top system next year if a few players break the right way.

John Manuel: It doesn't matter where the system ranks per se; they have to get some better MLB talent to Minnesota, specifically on the mound. It still seems like Aaron Hicks is the best power arm in the system, and obviously he's not a pitcher. I was a bit underwhelmed by Minnesota's draft this year, very college heavy, lots of relievers, for a system that is begging for some pitching development. No minor league pitchers with 100 SO yet, just not a ton of encouraging news on the bump in the system. It's a middle of the pack system but an organization having a real hard time developing pitching right now, a problem that's been going on for several years. It's not news.

    Bryan (San Jose, CA): Enjoyed the Gary Brown article by Matt Eddy. I was curious if the adjustments Brown has made have increased is profile at all. I know even last year many were worried his mechanics would hold him back in the bigs. And then his prospect status was sinking like a rock when he struggled to start this year. So what are the opinions of scouts now?

John Manuel: Going to have to be the last question ... Scouts want to see Brown keep it up, keep making adjustments, and right now he's slumping again in August (7-for-37), so consistency at the plate is the whole key for him. He's so aggressive, that works against him at the plate and at times on the bases, where he's got to be more efficient. He certainly salvaged what was looking like a lost season by making the adjustments with his hands in his swing, but doing it for a month and sticking with it long-term are two different things. He's never drawn a ton of walks; he's got to learn a little patience and consolidate some gains he's made at the plate with his swing to still be seen as a first-division regular.

John Manuel: Sorry everybody, lots of great questions, I've got to run and finish up some pages for the mag before getting on the plane to Chicago tomorrow. Take care.