Follow me on Twitter

Moderator: J.J. Cooper will chat about prospects and the Prospect Hot Sheet beginning at 3 p.m. ET.

    Erik (NYC): No Matt den Dekker, JJ? Really? He's had an absurd week.

J.J. Cooper: Hey everyone. Thanks for taking time out of your Friday afternoon to stop by. As far Erik's question, it's been a very good week for Den Dekker, and he was one of the last guys we dropped off. Den Dekker is one of a number of Mets having very good starts to the 2011 season. He definitely could have made the list, but it's hard to say his week was better than the guys we put on.

    @Jaypers413 (IL): I'm surprised Matzek didn't make the Not-So-Hot list this week. Are you concerned with his season thus far?

J.J. Cooper: There's some definite cause for concern, but it all comes down to him getting comfortable with a delivery and repeating it. The Rockies tweaked some things last year, so that explains part of it, but he has to get his control straightened out if he's going to have success. To get there, he needs to log plenty of innings, but then, if you're walking eight guys in an outing, it's hard to pile up innings.

    Nate (Washington): At what point do we start worrying about Ackley? With the exception of the AFL, the results just haven't yet been there.

J.J. Cooper: Personally, I'm worried more than maybe most. The following is my personal opinion, and I don't think represents a scouting or BA consensus. The move to second base may end up making a lot of sense for the Mariners, because if he can pull off the position defensively (and there are questions about that), the offensive demands are less than if he was playing first or center field. Ackley's swing leaves him in such good position to run to first that his home-to-first times maybe skew the perception of his speed. He's not really shown he's a speedster on the basepaths—which explains why he had 10 steals last year, not 30. Even if Ackely's hit tool ends up being above average, let's say he's a 60-hit, just not the 70-hit tool some project him to be, he'd be a 60 hitter with a tick below average power, above-average, but not game-changing speed and adequate defense. That's good, but maybe it's not as much of an impact player as some expect.

    Chris (Boston): Were you tempted to put Met OF prospect Kirk Nieuwenhuis in the team photo either of the past 2 weeks? Last week he hit .417/.440/.625 with 2 2B and a HR. This week he hit .250/.455/.667 with 4 2B, 2 HR, and 7 R. More generally, what do you think of Nieuwenhuis as a prospect? Thanks.

J.J. Cooper: I took a long look at him this week, but that .250 batting average helped keep him off. We care more about the OBP and SLG lines, but it still is something you at least look at. Nieuwenhuis is one of those guys who needs some breaks to avoid ending up as a fourth outfielder. If he falls into the right situation (and a lost Mets season or two may help on this) he could get 500 at-bats as a above-average corner outfielder who slides over to center to give the regular center fielder a day off. But his lack of plus power or the ability to hold down center fielder every day more likely makes him a very valuable fourth outfielder who can play either corner, center field in a pinch and is a handy lefty-hitting bat off the bench as well.

    Bill (Altoona): Ive read a lot of prospect reports over the years, and I was wondering why Matt hague never gets mentioned as one of the Pirates better prospects. He has never hit under .293 as a pro and has a exellent K:BB rate. From what ive heard he also plays a pretty good 1b. Is his power really that concerning (he did have 15 HR last year in AA) or is there a hole in his swing that just doesn't project well to the majors?

J.J. Cooper: Hague's a right-right first baseman, which is one of the toughest profiles if youre going to make it to the big leagues. You are right that he has a very good K:BB rate, and he did hit 15 home runs, but he also slugged .442 as a slow, defensively limited first baseman who turned 25 during the season (and he slugged .412 the year before). He's slugging under .400 early this season. It's not that he has a hole in his swing, it's just that to be a right-right first baseman in the majors, you have to be some plus tools. Hague's power ranks as average at best (maybe below), which is the most important tool as a first baseman.

    Roger (Greenville, SC): Are the preseason concerns about how Paul Goldschmidt would handle more advanced pitching still valid?

J.J. Cooper: You want to see him keep doing it over a full season, but he's definitely helped his stock with an outstanding April. The comments about right-right first baseman in the Hague answer apply here too, but if you follow up leading the minors in home runs by leading it again for a second year, you are demonstrating the kind of well above-average power teams look for in a righthanded hitting first baseman.

    Jeff (Idaho): I noticed Bryce Harper has stolen a few bases in his early minor league career. Is that just being aggressive on the base paths, or does he project to steal 15-20 at the major league level?

J.J. Cooper: As he gets older and even bigger, Harper will likely slow down and become an average runner, but with his aggressiveness and feel for the game, he could steal 10-15 a year early in his big league career. The Nationals are comfortable putting him in center field some this year because of his athleticism.

    Kyle (Philly): Your thoughts on Harper's altercation with the WV Power pitcher (sorry, his name escapes me)?

J.J. Cooper: It was with Tyler Waldron, the Pirates' 2010 fifth-round pick. Didn't seem like anything significant to me, nothing you don't see multiple times during the season in the minors. Apparently they exchanged some words, but nothing more. I know that Harper carries a knock in some circles for having bad makeup, but I must be talking to different people. His Nationals teammates got along well with him during spring training, which isn't easy when an 18-year-old kid is the most famous guy in camp. He's intense, but so have been a lot of the better players in baseball history.

    Keith (Manchester, CT): Thanks for the chat, J.J. What's the ceiling on Keyvius Sampson? Was he hyped coming into this year or did he just burst onto the scene?

J.J. Cooper: Definitely hyped before now. He's not coming out of nowhere. He's always had good velocity, and he was considered one of the better arms in the 2009 draft (although he slipped to the fourth round in part because of bonus demands). The biggest question with Sampson was whether he could stay healthy. He hasn't managed to do that in the past, but the early signs this year are good.

    Greg (New york): Hi thanks for the chat. Two way question, who has a higher ceiling Brett Jackson or Slade Heathcott? And if/when they make it to their respective big league teams who makes a bigger impact?

J.J. Cooper: Higher ceiling? Heathcott. More likely to get their sooner and more likely to reach his ceiling? Jackson. Hard to believe Jackson won't play in the big leagues for a good while, Heathcott has a good ways to go to prove the same, but then if he does, he has better athleticism.

    Steve J (Wisconsin): No Yasmani Grandal after his breakout week? How likely are the Reds to move him off the plate in order to get his bat to the big leagues sooner? And if they do that, what position is he likely to end up at?

J.J. Cooper: Grandal hit .222 with no extra base hits this week, so he wasn't really a candidate. As far as the position, he's a catcher. He was drafted as a catcher, and really there is no consideration of moving him off of the position. His value is tied up in being a solid catcher with solid offensive tools. If Mesoraco ends up claiming that job for good before he reaches the big leagues, he could be the No. 2 catcher in Cincy down the road or he could be traded, but I don't see a situation where the Reds move him off the position.

    Michael B (Detroit): Why doesn't Brett Jackson get more love? He gets ranked high enough on most lists, but all I ever read is that he doesn't have any one special tool. But all he has done is hit for average and some power along with steal bases. And this year he's got a nice K:BB ratio to boot!

J.J. Cooper: If you are a subscriber, I hope you saw Ben Badler's report on Jackson earlier this week. You summed it up pretty well, Jackson is a very safe bet to be a solid big leaguer. He should have enough power and plays well enough to be an OK big league center fielder, but it's the lack of any clear plus-plus tool that keeps anyone from going crazy over him. He should hit 15 home runs or so, he could steal 15 bases. He should be OK in center, not great. He's a very solid player, just not a spectacular one.

    Will T. (Cary, N.C.): Can Brandon Snyder be a starting first baseman in the majors?

J.J. Cooper: It doesn't seem like even the Orioles still think that—they talked about him being a versatile utilityman when he was in the big league camp in spring training.

    Matt (Whippleville, NY): Jeurys Familia has the stuff and the prototypical build, but does he have the ceiling of a number one?

J.J. Cooper: That's too steep for me. Familia has a good frame and a plus fastball, but there's a lot more to go from that to being a No. 1 starter. Part of being a No. 1 is having plus-plus command, Familia's a long ways from that. It also involves having a plus-plus secondary pitch—Familia's working on developing an average slider. There's a lot more chance he ends up as a bullpen arm than as a No. 1, and that's coming from someone who likes Familia.

    marty kohl (omaha,ne): Hi J.J. As you well know it`s all about the prospects.2 Questions-Do you know why wil myers hasn`t been in the naturals line-up the last 3 or 4 games??? 2nd question-Eric Hosmer vs Anthony Rizzo who has the better MLB Career?? Keep up the good work and thanks!!

J.J. Cooper: Myers has a bruised knee, according to former BA staffer Kary Booher. I'll take Hosmer, because he could have Rizzo's power combined with a 70 hit tool.

    KyleS (Loudonville, NY): We talk about the Royals a lot, but they have other prospects who are hidden behind the top 15 or so. How good can RHP Tyler Sample be? Still young enough to find himself? The blazing fast ball has to be the best in the system, no?

J.J. Cooper: Sample's good, but I wouldn't put his fastball better than fifth in the system. Just counting guys who had prospect eligibility at the start of the year: Mike Montgomery (especially because it comes from the left side), Kelvin Herrera, Yordano Ventura and Aaron Crow, then maybe Sample (although I'd probably put Jason Adam there instead). The question with Sample comes down, like a lot of young pitchers, to command/control. Sample has made some strides in Wilmington this year, but he's still walking as many as he strikes out. Until he starts throwing more strikes, there are plenty of reasons to worry.

    Jeff (Milwaukee): This week's prospect sheet is really full of lower level prospects. Question regarding 3B prospects. Who has the higher upside offensively, Brett Lawrie or Lonnie Chisenhall? I suspect at this point Chisenhall is the better defensive 3B prospect. Thanks for the chat!

J.J. Cooper: Chisenhall's better defensively, and he's got a sweeter swing, while Lawrie could end up with more power and more speed. I'd be happy to have either one.

    Bryan (San Francisco): Love the list. Any chance Erlin finishes the year in AA? Seems like last year he was too advanced for Low A, and this year might be the same in High A. Any thoughts on his ETA in Texas? Thanks!

J.J. Cooper: No way of knowing, but yeah, if he keeps doing what he's doing, a midseason bump up could make sense. He's a very advanced pitcher for the Carolina League.

    Mark (Sydney): Mr. Cooper, what's going on with former first round pick Matt Hobgood? Thanks.

J.J. Cooper: Hobgood is trying to work his way back from a shoulder injury. I wouldn't expect much out of him over the first half of this season. If he can start pitching competitively in June or so and stay healthy the rest of the year while showing pre-injury stuff, I bet the Orioles would be very happy.

    Roger (Greenville, SC): Where is Levon Washington? Wasn't he projected to begin the year in low A?

J.J. Cooper: He had a knee injury in spring training that set him back. Barring any setbacks he should be added to Lake County's roster before too long.

    DAvid Cooper (On a plane to New York): I'm joining the Jays after my callup from Vegas and I've struggled at AA for the past 2 years, but this year I am killin git in the PCL. Hitters league aside, do I have what it takes to play in the bigs long term at 1b ?

J.J. Cooper: Cooper had a good spring, and a great start in Las Vegas, but man, I have some concerns. Cooper had more than 900 at-bats in Double-A over the past two years where he was below average for a first baseman. Now he's had 81 good at-bats in Triple-A. It could be a breakthrough, but I'm going to stay skeptical. In the past he's had trouble with off-speed stuff, he'll get the final exam on how well he's made adjustments now that he's in the big leagues.

    AJ (Wisconsin): If Soria gets traded, do you think Crow or Jeffress will get a chance to close, or will it be someone else??

J.J. Cooper: If Soria gets traded (and that's a big if) I think Crow ends up as the closer.

J.J. Cooper: If Soria gets traded (and that's a big if) I think Crow ends up as the closer.

    Ben (Shreveport, LA): Ben, what's the scoop on Neil Ramirez? The whole story of him going basically from Low-A (one start in Hi-A) to AAA and doing what he has done is just mind blowing. What kind of stuff does he have? Potential frontline starter?

J.J. Cooper: Ramirez's stuff has never really been the question. He was a supplemental first-round pick out of high school because of his stuff, and it's still there—92-94 mph fastball and a feel for how to spin the ball. It's taken Ramirez a while to make some mechanical adjustments, but it seems like he's now processed and perfected those tweaks. There's no reason to think this improvement isn't for real.

    Tom (NY): Thank you for taking the question. Long term, is your feel that the Met's Famiglia stays as a starter, or is forced to move to the pen?

J.J. Cooper: I'm sticking with pen.

    Grant (wpg): No mention of Marisnick or Cooper? Must be the anti-Jays bias on display. (Joking - but I assume something like that makes up about 40% of your questions in the chat.)

J.J. Cooper: Answered one Cooper question already. To be honest, if Cooper's double-streak this week had come almost anywhere other than Las Vegas and Colorado Springs, he would have likely been on the list, but those are great places to hit. Marisnick had a very good week, but it's hard to say it's better than the guys we put on the list—.455/.556/.682, 1 2B, 2 3B, 4-for-6 on SB.

    Tom (NY): Thank you for taking the question. Long term, do you expect to see any of the Met's STL offensive trio (Puello, Marte and Flores) make it to the majors, and for that matter, make an impact?

J.J. Cooper: They all have a shot at the majors, but I'll pick Puello as the player with the best chance to make an impact.

    Chad (White Rock, BC): Fernando Martinez is off to a nice start. Any chance he ends up being the star he was predicted to be? He is still only 23, though it seems he has been around forever. Thanks.

J.J. Cooper: Not trying to bag on Martinez, but he's also already spent time on the DL this year, which is a continual problem for him, that's why he's only had 34 ABs this year. Martinez's chance to be a star are likely gone, but there was always some healthy skepticism when it came to his chances of being a star. He's a below-average runner now which limits him to a corner, more likely left field. With that being the case, he has to improve his below-average selectivity to ever be a regular.

    George (KC): Thoughts on Aaron Hicks? When does he start to get downgraded because the off-the-charts tools aren't leading to performance?

J.J. Cooper: Hicks seems to be a slow starter year after year, but you have to downgrade him at least a little bit. Hicks' 2010 was a very solid season, and with tools like he has, it could all click where he takes off and becomes a stud. But Hicks may be one of the rare cases of a guy who needs to be more aggressive. We really haven't seem him sting the ball like he's capable of yet. He's seems more comfortable going the other way and drawing walks. Some guys develop that skill, others never do.

    Jeff ((CA)): Who is the better pitching prospect for the Dodgers, Rubby De La Rosa or Zach Lee?

J.J. Cooper: Lee, but I think it's pretty close.

    Spencer (Baltimore): Who do you think is the long term answer at first base for the orioles, Joe Mahoney, Brandon Snyder or someone else?

J.J. Cooper: Someone else.

    Ed (San Diego): What do you think of Simon Castro's struggles in AAA? How does he project? Enough fastball to be #1 or #2?

J.J. Cooper: The fastball won't keep him from being a No. 1/2. But his command very well could.

    Devin (orlando): when is the next podcast?

J.J. Cooper: Great question. We've had two that we recorded lost to computer failures in the past two weeks. We have since fixed that computer (well actually, think Office Space and the copy machine). We've gotten a new podcast computer and now that it's seen what we did to the other computer, it's very cooperative. We hope to record a new one either late today after this chat or early next week.

    Brian (Illinois): What do you think of Will Middlebrooks long term outlook? He feels old to me in AA at 22 going to turn 23 this year. I know it was talked about in the article a little. I Just wanted to get your take on what you see him as in a couple of years. Thanks.

J.J. Cooper: Age-wise he's fine. If he keeps this up, he could be in Triple-A as a 23-year-old next year, that's not a problem at all. The Red Sox are still very high on him, and tools-wise, he's been a guy to keep an eye on for quite a while.

    Vic (San Diego): Mike Olt has been uber-impressive so far for High-A Myrtle Beach. Is this more an advanced college hitter and age relative to league thing, what are scouts saying?

J.J. Cooper: How about both. He's advanced for the league, but he's also showing a lot and impressing a lot of people.

    David (KC): Rey Navarro: .420/.461/.623 and not even in the team picture? Has he become a prospect or just a guy who is a little old for his league?

J.J. Cooper: He is repeating the league, but no, he's not too old for high A—he'll play the whole season at 21. Keep up anything close to what he's been doing and he'll be in the Royals Top 30 next year. The scouting report on Navarro was solid glove with questions about the bat. That hasn't been a problem so far.

    Tim Collins (Kansas City): How dare you...

J.J. Cooper: Actually this gives me an opportunity to fix an oversight. Forgot that Jeremy Jeffress was also prospect eligible at the start of the season—he'd be No. 1 or No. 2 on that list of the Royals' fastballs. Collins has the best fastball of a 5-foot-5 guy, but he himself believes his offspeed pitches are better than his fastball.

J.J. Cooper: Sorry guys, I have to wrap it up with a lot of good questions still in the queue. Thanks again for stopping by.