League Top 20 Prospects

Appalachian League Top 20 Prospects Chat

Moderator: Matt Eddy will chat about the Appalachian League prospects at 2 p.m. ET.

Moderator: Thanks for stopping by. One of the more interesting classes of Appy League prospects in some time. Let's get started.

 Q:  JAYPERS from IL asks:
At this point, would you award the Mets' top overall prospect to Flores over Martinez?

Matt Eddy: For me, it's still Fernando Martinez. Flores is an intriguing talent, but let's see how he performs in full-season ball, dealing with the grind of playing a full season.

Matt Eddy: Of course, the chief complaint against Martinez is that he hasn't gone injury-free for a whole season. You're going to have to wait for the Eastern League Top 20 to get the full dirt on Martinez, but after an uneven start this season, the 19-year-old batted .275/.359/.462 with 3 HR, 6 2B, 12 BB and 16 SO in 24 August games.

 Q:  Tim Leveque (j/k) from Encino, CA. asks:
What, no Deryk Hooker? Seriously though, what's missing from his repertoire to hold him back from a top of the rotation type projection, and/or inclusion in a top prospect list?

Matt Eddy: Hooker struck out 55 and walked 14 in 43 Appy League innings, but he got it done by spotting his fastball, and not with overwhelming stuff. Scouts saw him as a reliever at the higher levels.

Matt Eddy: He pitches at 89 and touches 92, and he commands the pitch to both sides, but he throws across his body, leading to questions about his delivery and arm action. All of Hooker's secondary offerings are below-average — his curveball is a lazy floater that he gets underneath most times, his slider is a sweeper that moves across only one plane, and he slows his arm down to throw his changeup.

Matt Eddy: Lots of Hooker questions, so just to be clear: His across-the-body delivery and lack of present secondary stuff mark him as a reliever prospect.

 Q:  Ben from Leland Grove asks:
With Beckham on the way up, should Brignac be nervous in the coming years, or do you see him as potential trade bait?

Matt Eddy: Interesting question, but thankfully for the Rays, it's one they won't have to address for two and a half or three years, when Beckham's minor league apprenticeship ends. By that time, the organization will have a better handle on Brignac's major league potential. More on Brignac when we get to the International League . . .

Matt Eddy: If both Beckham and Brignac develop as expected with the bat, then one of them could shift to another infield position. But that's the beauty of up-the-middle players — often they can slide down the defensive spectrum to less demanding positions.

 Q:  Shawn from Houston, TX asks:
Very confused why Garrett Johnson is not on this list. The improvement he made, and his upside warrant a spot.

Matt Eddy: Johnson, a 6-10 lefty taken by the White Sox from an Arizona high school in the 29th round in 2006, received some consideration as a relief prospect. His curveball took the biggest step forward in his repeat of the Appy League, showing more depth this season. Johnson pitches at 90-91 mph and he occasionally shows a good changeup, which fades away from righthanded batters.

Matt Eddy: He's got a lot of work to do, but after this season, there is hope for his future.

 Q:  Tom from Atlanta asks:
Thanks for the chat, a very interesting list. A couple of Braves questions - what did the managers (at least those that saw him) have to say about Teheran? Any idea where he might have ranked if he'd been eligible? And, David Francis was quite dominant this year, how was he viewed around the league?

Matt Eddy: Shoulder tendinitis took a big chunk out of Julio Teheran's debut season, but when healthy he showed an explosive 93-96 mph fastball, with the ability to touch the high 90s on occasion. He showed advanced control of his power curve and changeup, too, but his command in the zone was below-average. This would lead to him getting hit around (6.60 ERA) and to his getting down on himself. In that sense, poise is his biggest stumbling block right now — but hey, he's 17. Had he qualified, Teheran would probably have ranked No. 3, right ahead of Matt Moore, because of his incredible arm strength and plus athleticism.

Matt Eddy: As with Deryk Hooker, we're getting a lot of questions about RHP David Francis, who fanned 69 and walked 17 in 54 innings. The Braves' 12th-rounder this year out of Walters State (Tenn.) CC, Francis hails from the same Mississauga, Ontario, high school as Braves RHP Jamie Richmond. He got a late start this season as we waited for his work visa.

Matt Eddy: Francis sits at 90-91 mph, and touches 93-94, and gets high marks for his competitiveness and solid secondary pitches. His slider features some tilt, but it's his vulcan changeup, when thrown hard and with conviction, that functions as his out-pitch. Instead of a traditional change grip, Francis grips the ball more like a splitter, but more tightly.

 Q:  Swig from Boise, ID asks:
How good can Matt Moore be? I've heard Scott Kazmir comparisons. Is that type of a ceiling possible for this kid?

Matt Eddy: Moore's pitching style compares favorably with Kazmir's, in that both lefties feature power fastballs and hard breaking balls. Moore is more physical, at 6-2, 205, but each of Kazmir's pitches is at least a grade higher.

Matt Eddy: With his mid-90s heat and hard breaker, Moore has top-of-the-rotation potential, but he's so far away that you may want to hold off on the Kazmir comps for now. Remember, Kazmir carved up the New York-Penn League in his debut; he didn't need to repeat the Appy League, as Moore did.

 Q:  BL from Bozeman, MT asks:
Hi Matt, thanks for this series of chats. Anything interesting this summer at Burlington other than Herrera, Runion and Cruz?

Matt Eddy: Two other B-Royals to keep an eye on: RHP Jacob Rodriguez and CF Hilton Richardson. Rodriguez, a JC product from East Los Angeles, had the best present stuff on the Burlington staff — even though they used him exclusively as a piggyback starter. His lively 90-91 mph fastball and curveball already are solid-average to plus offerings, and he's just picking up a changeup. A 22nd-round pick in 2007 who signed in August, Rodriguez was handed a 50-game suspension in January for failing to take a drug test. Had he not missed that time, he might have spent significant time in full-season ball this year.

Matt Eddy: Richardson is a lefty-hitting, speedy center fielder — though at 6-3, 200 pounds, he doesn't look the part. The Royals are developing him as a top-of-the-order type of offensive player, as his power is below-average.

Matt Eddy: Burlington's middle infield combo of SS Yeldrys Molina and 2B Angel Franco are rangy and sure-handed, though they'll need more time to develop offensively.

 Q:  chris from maryland asks:
Where do u see Wilmer Flores starting the season at next year?

Matt Eddy: Expect him to follow the Fernando Martinez path, with an assignment to low Class A Savannah at age 17 to begin his first pro season.

 Q:  Hotshotschamnp from Minnesota asks:
Twins with only 1 player, in Morales on the list? This seems awfully low should have been at least 2 or 3 on that list. Jonathan Waltenbury flat out raked all year long and is not old for his age. He's better than at least 1/2 the guys on that list. How could you allow this glaring omission?

Matt Eddy: Waltenbury did hit well (.319/.382/.540), but to make it to the majors as a pure first baseman, you've got to absolutely rake. League observers just did not see that in Waltenbury's future. A third-year pro out of Ontario, he struggles to pull the ball and to hit lefthanded pitchers. Though he has impressive raw power (he's 6-4, 230), Waltenbury projects as more of a doubles hitter unless he finds a little more bat speed or quickens his load. He's a below-average runner and cumbersome first baseman.

 Q:  BaseballNumbers from Naperville IL asks:
After posting one of the best offensive season's in the VSL in 2007 as a 17yo, Jose Altuve makes his U.S. debut this year as an 18yo in the Appalachian League. By my count there were only six players in the league younger and of those only Flores posted a better OPS. I realize there's not a lot of power projection in his 5'5 frame, but it would seem that he should have slid into this list somewhere...what am I missing?

Matt Eddy: You're not missing anything. Altuve is 5-5, 148 pounds and can't handle shortstop. He's the type of scrappy player more commonly seen in Double-A or Triple-A, but not the majors.

 Q:  Joe LeCates from Easton, MD asks:
Maybe the most impressive number put up by Flores was only 28 strikeouts in 245 AB's at his age. I know it's the Appy, but how good is his plate discipline right now?

Matt Eddy: Flores' contact ability (coupled with impressive power) is what stood out to me, too. Plate discipline will have to be polished against more advanced pitchers, but Flores' pitch recognition is already quite good, as he he has has the hand-eye coordination and reflexes to put all types of pitches in play.

Matt Eddy: You can see by his month-by-month walk totals that Flores became more selective later in the season, and that the higher strikeout totals resulted from his working deeper counts. As word got around the league about his ability, Flores began to see a lot more offspeed pitches early in counts. But in a positive sign, he recognized the pattern and looked offspeed early in his at-bats.

 Q:  Joe LeCates from Easton, MD asks:
With Marte as another young, talented third baseman in the Mets system, do you see he or Flores starting to learn a corner OF spot, or do the Mets just wait for Flores to move himself off SS and deal with it then?

Matt Eddy: Flores will be developed as a shortstop, at least early in his career. He led all Appy League shortstops in every cumulative defensive category — total chances, putouts, assists, double plays, etc. And his fielding percentage was above the league average.

Matt Eddy: Flores and Jefry Marte (Dominican signee and a top GCL prospect) could conceivably play the left side of the infield for the Sand Gnats next season. What's interesting about Flores' development at short is that, according to the Mets, he played mostly third base and outfield in his native Venezuela, so that the organization had to instruct him in the finer points of shortstop play in extended spring — things like making plays in the hole and getting his feet behind him on throws.

 Q:  Landon from Pittsburgh asks:
I dont understand your logic on Beckham over Flores. Flores is a year younger. Just as athletic. More advanced, and has 35-40 HR potential and a plus hit tool. Explain why Beckham is ahead please.

Matt Eddy: One more Flores question . . . Beckham ranked ahead of Flores, just as the capsule says, because of his true up-the-middle profile. Because Beckham has major league actions and a strong arm, he'll have little trouble sticking at shortstop — and it's much more difficult for clubs to find strong hitters at short than it is at third base or on an outfield corner.

Matt Eddy: The jury is still out on Flores at shortstop, but the consensus was that he lacked the quickness to play short everyday at the higher levels. Players ranging from David Eckstein to Jed Lowrie have overcome this stigma to play SS in the big leagues, it should be noted. But in the case of the Mets, Jose Reyes will be just 28 in 2011, the most optimistic arrival time for Flores, so the SS question may be moot.

Matt Eddy: While true that Flores' offensive ceiling appears to be higher, Beckham is no slouch. He's got the bat speed, and he's mature enough and coachable enough to develop into a plus offensive player. He reminded one Appy League manager of B.J. Upton at a similar stage in his development.

 Q:  James from Rochester asks:
Matt, I noticed you did the Appy League list a couple of years ago and now you're back at it? What brought you back, and what makes the Appy League so cool?

Matt Eddy: Well James, the Appy League is cool because its truly a developmental league. You get to see elite talent in its most raw state. For example, through the years I've seen David Wright, Colby Rasmus, Travis Snider and now Tim Beckham before they were famous — though Beckham seemed to be quite well-known already by autograph seekers. Perhaps you've had a similar experience?

 Q:  Jason from Minneapolis, MN asks:
The E-Twins had some players who had good years, but were old for the level. Was that the main reason guys like Waltenbury, Soto and Bigley missed the list. Which of those three do you see having the most success at the higher levels?

Matt Eddy: Of those three Twins, I like Soto best. Despite his age (he's already 21), Soto has plus power potential and he's a flexible receiver with a strong throwing arm and a quick release. He split time behind the plate in Elizabethton with Danny Rams, a 2007 second-round pick, so his talents were not on full display. Soto is a quick-twitch athlete, though he may lack the hand-eye to hit more than .260 to .270. He's also a free swinger, so he'll need to work the count better as he advances.

Matt Eddy: One other E-Twin to monitor is LHP Dan Osterbrock, the league's pitcher of the year and the Twins' seventh-round pick this year out of Cincinnati. He commands his fastball to both sides of the plate at 87-88 mph, touching 90 occasionally, and his changeup can be devastating. Osterbrock's curveball is below-average, but he gets consistent spin on the pitch.

 Q:  John from Houston asks:
Jon Gilmore's walk totals have been questionably low but his stats otherwise so far have been impressive. How do you think he'll fare at the higher levels because of this?

Matt Eddy: Gilmore is geared for contact, inside-outing most inside pitches to right field. That's not to say he doesn't have home-run power — he does. Gilmore has impressive raw power to left and left-center, but to get the most out of that power, he'll have to continue turning on the inside pitch. This could make for an initial bumpy ride in A-ball, but he should get straightened out.

 Q:  Brandon from Nashville, TN asks:
5 SS in the Top 20 ... which ones stay at SS if they make it to the majors?

Matt Eddy: Beckham and Noriega are no-doubters. The rest — Flores, Vasquez, Silverio — are questionable.

 Q:  Brandon from Nashville, TN asks:
How much of the rankings are based on their performance this year and how much is based on future expectations? 50/50?

Matt Eddy: We do factor in performance, but it's raw ability and profile — both offensive and positional — that carry more weight. Does a player's swing and approach figure to translate into power? Does he have the athleticism and quickness to handle a middle-of-the-diamond position? These types of players — that is, those with power, speed and/or defensive ability — traditionally fare better as they move up.

 Q:  Ponny from SF asks:
Julio Teheran is a one of Braves' best pitching prospect. Would he have made the list if eligible? And how serious his injury is?

Matt Eddy: Teheran is slated to attend instructional league, so the tendintis is viewed as a minor setback.

 Q:  JH from Berkeley asks:
You mentioned Fuentes and Rivero in your writeup of Mario Martinez. Can you talk a little more about them? Were they close to making the cut?

Matt Eddy: RF Jose Rivero was a July 2 sign from 2006 who has a chance to hit for average and power in the future. A righthanded batter, he got off to a hot start in the Appy League, but tailed off. Rivero has plus baseball instincts and very strong tracking skills in the outfield, to go with a plus arm. He's not much of a runner. Rivero would have ranked somewhere in the 21-30 range.

Matt Eddy: C Juan Fuentes caught 19 games in the AZL in 2007, and that was the extent of his catching experience coming into the year. As such, his defensive tools are unrefined. He's a below-average receiver with an average arm and shaky footwork, but he's got great makeup and has shown some aptitude for blocking. Fuentes signed as a third baseman in 2004, so he's already 22. It's as an offensive player that he excelled — he has very good hands at the plate and he can drive the ball to all fields.

 Q:  Enrique Salas from Carabobo, Venezuela asks:
Thanks for the chat, How good can Luis Cruz be? And, Could you give us your evaluation of Kyle Greenwalt?

Matt Eddy: Cruz, the Astros' ninth-round pick out of Puerto Rico, received some consideration as a pitchability prospect. He's 5-9, 170 and sat at 88 mph, so he didn't overpower batters. Cruz's deceptive changeup was his go-to secondary offering, as it featured both sink and fade and he threw it to both sides of the plate. His curveball was strictly get-me-over in his debut, so he'll need to improve the rotation on the pitch.

 Q:  Fred from Georgia asks:
Hi Matt, could you give us a brief scouting report on Randall Delgado (I've heard Frank Wren is high on him) and Craig Kimbrel? I'm surprised Kimbrel wasn't higher...was it because he's a reliever. Dude was dominating.

Matt Eddy: Perhaps the most impressive thing about Delgado was that the Braves skipped him over the GCL. That says a lot, because the Braves are generally very conservative with their young arms. Delgado has a loose, live arm, a clean delivery and a projectable pitcher's frame. If his secondary stuff comes on, he could really dominate.

Matt Eddy: Kimbrel was very tough to evaluate in this league because of his status as a reliever. To dominate Appy Leaguers in short stints is, frankly, not that impressive. Kimbrel got extra credit, though, for extending his dominance up to High A. Purely in terms of being a safe bet, only Twins RHP Shooter Hunt (who chewed up the league but didn't have the innings to qualify) would rate higher than Kimbrel.

 Q:  SethSpeaks from Minnesota asks:
I'm happy that Angel Morales is on your list, but #8?? The kid is younger than most of the 2008 high school draft picks and he led the league in HR and Slugging percentage. Lots of strikeouts, but from what I hear, 5 tool potential. Not sure he isn't as high as #2...

Matt Eddy: No denying Morales had a fantastic year, and he's a legit center fielder despite average speed. The worry is that unless he refines his approach (he struck out in nearly 40 percent of his at-bats), he's going to struggle against more advanced competition — competition that can exploit his weaknesses.

 Q:  Andrew from York, PA asks:
Thanks for the chat, guys. I have a few questions about some of the Astros prospects on the list. Firstly, were you surprised to see Jay Austin struggle so much with Greeneville? And what can we expect from him going forward? Secondly, what do the scouts like about Federico Hernandez that put him on the list? I'm curious, because I haven't heard too much about him, even in Astros fan circles. Thanks again.

Matt Eddy: Everyone was surprised by Austin's struggles because he made such hard contact. He needs to shorten his swing and divert his attention from hitting home runs, but aside from that he projects to have three average or better tools: speed, hitting and center field defense.

Matt Eddy: Hernandez is a deep sleeper who has a tremendous aptitude for catching. He's got a chance if he hits for a decent average.

 Q:  willy from pitt asks:
Why did Niko Vasquez rank so low after tearing up the level and getting a promotion to Low A?

Matt Eddy: In most years, he's be a shoo-in for the Top 10. The depth of the league, especially in terms of premium Latin American talent, was the difference. Vasquez can hit, but opinions of his future defensive home and power potential drove him down the list.

 Q:  Bobby Joe from TN asks:
Any other Kingsport Mets besides Flores looking good?

Matt Eddy: The only other Kingsport Met to receive any kind of consideration was RHP John Holdzkom. But being a third-year pro and not having a refined secondary pitch kept him off. He gets plus sink on a 92-96 mph fastball and he throws a fringy slider that hints at average potential. But most times, Holdzkom struggles to repeat his release point for the pitch and his command suffers.

 Q:  Doug A. Milhoan from North Canton, OH asks:
I was surprised you chose Albert Suarez over his Princeton teammate Joseph Cruz. Thoughts on Cruz?

Matt Eddy: That's a fair question. It's easier to dream on Suarez because he's young, projectable and already shows advanced command. For his part, Cruz gets real good extension on his pitches, as he has long arms, and he throws his fastball up to 94 mph. He's a plus competitor who has a strong feel for his changeup, but his breaking ball needs refinement.

 Q:  Ben from Florida asks:
Please help me settle a dispute I have with some of my friends. In terms of offensive potential, not what position they play or they'll play in the future, who is the better prospect Michael Almanzar or Wilmer Flores? Basically who has the best bat.

Matt Eddy: John Manuel took a similar question on his ESPN chat today . . . but you're forgiven if you didn't know that chat was going down. Appy League vs. ESPN general chat . . . tough call.

Matt Eddy: Almanzar vs. Flores re: offensive upside is too close to call. Almanzar got more money; Flores hit better at a higher level. Let's call it a push.

 Q:  Jeff from Woking, England asks:
I'm a White Sox fan and even I struggle to see what Silverio did, other than receiving a $600K bonus, to wind up on this list.

Matt Eddy: The bonus buys him a grace period of one season. As unrefined as he was, he really wasn't ready for domestic short-season ball. Maybe time in instrux and extended spring will benefit him in 2009, when he'll probably repeat Rookie ball, either in the Appy or the Pioneer league.

 Q:  Steve from Orlando asks:
Does Matt Moore compare to Jake McGee at the same age?

Matt Eddy: Moore already has "more" advanced feel for his secondary stuff, particularly his breaking ball, than McGee did. McGee's fastball is a tick better, however.

 Q:  Mike from Tampa, FL asks:
Jim Callis mentioned that high schoolers often struggle in their pro debuts, and that Tim Beckham's low AVG is not a concern. Can you provide an example of outstanding offensive player(s) that had a tough time in their first year?

Matt Eddy: To cite an example of another first overall pick scuffling in his debut, look no further than Chipper Jones, who hit .229/.321/.271 in 44 games in the GCL in 1990.

 Q:  Andrew from new york asks:
Jordan Lyles...projection? #2 starter or what?

Matt Eddy: If he develops a reliable breaking ball, it sounds like No. 3 is Lyles' ceiling. If not, he cold be a strong reliever.

 Q:  Brandon from Nashville, TN asks:
There is usually no rush to promote players at this level yet, but which player do you see making the highest jump next season?

Matt Eddy: Aside from Kimbrel, who already has pitched in High A, Paul Clemens might be the next-best candidate because he's a junior college product. Herrera and Vasquez already have played in Low A, so they're dark horse contenders to begin in High A.

Moderator: Thanks for all the great questions.