League Top 20 Prospects

Appalachian League Top 20 Prospects Chat With Matt Eddy

Matt Eddy: Hello folks. Thanks for dropping by, especially on such short notice. Let's get started a few minutes early.

    Joe LeCates (Easton, MD): Hey, Matt - awesome work as always. Thoughts on Josmil Pinto at this point? Obviously there is zero value outside of the bat, but how good does that have a chance to be?

Matt Eddy: Let's begin with the first question in the queue. Joe, the big knock in Pinto was future defensive value. The league's postseason all-star DH, he spent most of his time there and not behind the plate. The righthanded-hitting Pinto has strength and bat speed — he cracked a league-leading 13 HR — and he handles the bat well. But then again the fourth-year pro spent all season playing at 20 years old. Pinto's not the type of player you want to write off completely, especially because he's a high-energy player, but he's going to have to hit his way up the ladder.

    Steve (Valdosta, GA): Did Scott Shuman get any consideration for the top 20? He had to be one of the best relievers in the league, having given up an earned run in only 1 of 22 appearances.

Matt Eddy: Yes, he did receive consideration. The Rays may have gotten a steal with Shuman, their 19th-round choice out of Auburn. He's got a chance to move quickly as a reliever with his two plus pitches. For a scouting report on Shuman (and four other Appy Leaguers who just missed), check out this blog from late in the season: http://www.baseballamerica.com/blog/prospects/?p=6312

    Dave (Pensacola, FL): Where would Danville's Christian Bethancourt and Adam Milligan have ranked if they had enough ABs to qualify for the list?

Matt Eddy: I had Bethancourt penciled in at No. 2 or 3. He was the type of player managers made a point to bring up, despite limited exposure in this league. Milligan, a sixth-rounder last year, played in just nine games and the 21-year-old was not mentioned.

    Austin Jamieson (Alabama): Where did Cory Rasmus rank as you did your ranking? I know he was coming back from an injury but he did throw a no hitter in the Appy league this year so how did his stuff rate with the leagues managers??

Matt Eddy: Lots of Cory Rasmus support here this afternoon. Yes, he did throw a seven-inning no-hitter on Aug. 11, walking only one, but the 21-year-old righthander showed a below-average fastball in the mid- to high-80s. This may be a byproduct of his recovery from shoulder surgery, but then that's another strike against him, so to speak. Rasmus does have a good feel for a changeup and a curve, though, and he showed a tendency to work backward. All this is not to say he won't succeed as he moves up. After all, I seem to have a history of underestimating the Rasmus family. I ranked his older brother Colby behind Brandon Snyder on our '05 list.

    KaneCoKeith (Chicago, IL): Was there any consideration given to the Twins Josmil Pinto or the Astros dimunitive Jose Altuve? They were both APY All-stars, both relatively young for the league and both posted impressive offensive numbers.

Matt Eddy: Altuve is a fascinating case. Listed at an incredible 5-foot-5, he hit for surprising power in the Appy this season (20 doubles) in his second go-round with Greeneville. He'll be a fun player to track because he's so unique, but nobody used the word prospect to describe him. Altuve has strong baseball instincts — in the field, in the batter's box, on the bases — but you just don't see a lot of players of his stature in the high minors, let alone the big leagues.

    Joe LeCates (Easton, MD): Matt, were there any glaring reasons why Stock was able to have such a great showing in the Appy this year after looking, quite frankly, pretty bad at the plate during stretches at SC?

Matt Eddy: This is a mystery to our college guys here, too. I don't have an answer for you. One might speculate that the difference in style of play might have benefited Stock. College pitchers tend to throw a lot more breaking balls because the metal bat-wielding hitters aren't as susceptible to the fastball in. On the other hand, pitchers in Rookie ball tend to rely on their fastballs because for many of them, it's the only pitch they can get over the plate consistently. It's a fastball league, and perhaps Stock is a quality fastball hitter.

    Park (Korea): Jiovanni Meier vs Hak Ju Lee

Matt Eddy: I posed this question to Conor Glassey, who covered Boise SS Hak Ju Lee in the Northwest League. He says that he comes down on the side of Mier for two reasons: He projects to have a bit more power once he matures and he's a slightly better defender. Be sure to stop by for Conor's chat next Wednesday.

    Joe LeCates (Easton, MD): Matt, I saw a report the other day identifying some similarities at the plate between Thompson and Mike Stanton. While that is intriguing to say the least, Thompson is obviously much more raw. That being said, how much of a project is he going to be in terms of learning to hit advanced pitching - what is a realistic expectation for his career path?

Matt Eddy: Trayce Thompson is that rare player who won over league managers despite not really hitting a lick. You can see the potential in his frame and with his bat speed and his grace in the outfield. But in reality, he could be facing another assignment with Bristol next year to iron out his pitch recognition.

    Chuck (Wichita): No Tyler Sample? He was dominant at the end of the season. What do you think of Greg Billo? He had some interesting numbers. Thanks.

Matt Eddy: Sample, a Royals' third-round pick in '08, was a late cut from the list. He's 6-foot-7 and physical, but he struggles to get full extension in his delivery, costing him life on his 88-91 mph fastball. Sample does throw the best curveball on the Burlington staff, but given how poorly the team played, that may not be saying a whole lot. But on the flip side, Sample showed tremendous poise (2.84 ERA in 9 starts for a last-place club) in working out of a lot of jams brought on by shoddy defense and lapses in control.

    Joe LeCates (Easton, MD): Matt, just for fun and to tie a couple years of the Appy together: you starting a team, who do you have at short: Mier or T. Beckham?

Matt Eddy: I don't feel like I have the proper perspective yet, but I'm leaning toward Mier on that one.

    Ben (Leland Grove): Which of the names on this list do you see rising through the minors the quickest, and why?

Matt Eddy: Have to give the nod to older players and relievers, so how about SS Mycal Jones (he'll be 23 next season) and LH reliever Santos Rodriguez (assuming his control gains are for real).

    DG (Texas): It appears at the lower level on the minors that "potential" wins out over "production" most of the time. Can you briefly explain the process BA uses to put together these Prospect Lists as you can't possibly see everyone play? Also, at what level does "production" actually start to be more important?

Matt Eddy: Particularly in Rookie ball, we don't zero in so much on a player's final production. For many of them, they're running low on energy by the time the season winds down in August. That's because they've been playing as amateurs (or in extended spring training) all spring, and many have dealt with the pressures of being scrutinized for the draft. Really, what we DO like to see at this level is spurts of production, because as the scouting adage goes, If a player shows you a tool even once, then he owns it. It's just a matter of repeating and becoming consistent with that skill or tool. At to when production begins to matter . . . I look to Double-A as the separator. It's the level where the quality of competition begins to become more uniform. You find fewer truly lousy teams chock full of undeveloped, inexperienced players (the average Double-A player is 24). And because of that consistency in competition, the numbers begin to take on added meaning.

    Wade (Nashville): The talk of Stock at 1B is a little surprising. If most teams didn't think he'd hit and would want him pitching, how could his bat possibly play with a move from C to 1B?

Matt Eddy: It's two separate issues. Most amateur scouts pegged Stock as a pitcher. Appy League observers went off his showing only in the league context, so they considered him only as a position player, and one not exceedingly skilled behind the plate.

    Brian Daniels (Dried out Georgia): Matt, I saw Tehran make his full season debut in Rome, and was concerned with his motion. It reminded me of Juan Cruz in the delivery. Looked really difficult to replicate, and he was tipping pitches. Did any managers mention that in their survey? thanks

Matt Eddy: Brian, We'll keep the Juan Cruz comp in mind. Teheran's motion was a concern, yes, especially in light of shoulder trouble in '08. But from what we gathered, he showed an ability to get past his unorthodox arm action and repeat his slot. To cite one example, the Rockies' Ubaldo Jimenez struggled for years to repeat his arm slot, never really getting over the control hump until he graduated to the big leagues. Not to say Teheran will be that good — just something to keep in mind.

    Jeff (England): Did Miguel Gonzalez get any consideration for this list? His numbers were very impressive especially for an 18 year old.

Matt Eddy: Formerly the domain of Puerto Rico, catchers from Venezuela now seem to be on the upsurge. (A Venezuelan vanguard?) Gonzalez, who signed in '08, is only one recent example. Others include the Yankees' Jesus Montero (a catcher for now), the Royals' Salvador Perez, the Blue Jays' Carlos Perez and two others who ranked in yesterday's AZL list. As to Gonzalez, he sowed an ability to drive the ball to all fields with average power potential. That's all you can ask for from an offensive standpoint. He's got a thick lower half already, so staying behind the plate will be his ticket to promotion.

    Mike (WashDC): Anthony Ferrarra looked great in games I saw. Is he a prospect?

Matt Eddy: A seventh-rounder out of high school last year, Ferrara would have ranked in the next 10 if we took our lists out that far. He's a lefty with a firm high-80s fastball with running action and a plus changeup. The change sinks and fades as it reaches the plate and, best of all, Ferrara disguises it well with a consistent arm action and slot.

    Fred (Ohio): What do scouts think of outfielder Brady Shoemaker. He certainly had a great start to his career.

Matt Eddy: Shoemaker has good hitter's hands and an idea of the strike zone, but as a righthanded-hitting left fielder who was old for the league, he's going to have to prove himself at every stop. For more on Shoemaker (and two Danville Braves who missed the cut), follow the link posted in Scott Shumaker question.

    Fred (Ohio): In your mind, who was the biggest disappointment in the league this year? Thanks!!

Matt Eddy: Perhaps it's only because I follow the Mariners for our organization top 30s, but I'd nominate Pulaski 1B Jharmidy DeJesus. He signed for $1 million as a 17-year-old back in '07, meaning that he's now roughly one year behind other premium Latin prospects from his class. This wouldn't be such an issue if he hadn't had such a lousy year.

    Dave (Pensacola, FL): Any support for the Twins' Dutch RHP Tom Stuifbergen? Why didn't he pitch in 2008?

Matt Eddy: Absolutely. Stuifbergen was the last cut from the 20. I'll quote from the capsule I wrote: "Stuifbergen missed the entire 2008 season after having surgery on his shoulder that June to clean up lingering soreness. He headed to Europe in early September this year to join the Dutch team in the World Cup tournament. In between, he toyed with Appalachian League batters, posting a 3.28 ERA (10th best in the league) over a league-leading 79 2/3 innings. Stuifbergen doesn't light up radar guns, nor does he feature a true out-pitch. But he works fast, changes speeds and commands all of his pitches. He walked just six batters in 13 starts. Stuifbergen's heavy two-seam fastball sits at 87-88 mph and features plus sink, which aided in his 2.45 groundout-to-airout ratio. He runs his four-seamer up to 91. Stuifbergen effortlessly throws strikes to both sides of the plate with his fastball and works ahead of batters. He also spins an average curveball and flashes an average changeup. A fiery competitor, Stuifbergen tends to be overly hard on himself."

    Jake (Chicago): I expected Cody Rogers to make this list, but Ty Morrison and Wilking Rodriguez surprised me a bit. Should we expect to see Wilking in a full-season lg or will he be put in the NY-Penn lg next year?

Matt Eddy: Rodriguez figures to take the Albert Suarez route: the VSL to Princeton to short-season Hudson Valley. This year Suarez had Tommy John surgery, so let's hope the script is altered a bit for Rodriguez.

    Paul (Chicago): I noticed Brady Shoemaker jumped from rookie to AAA...how often does this happen..will he be back down in High A or AA next year..numbers in AAA werent that good?

Matt Eddy: This happened with a few Rookie-ball players, especially if their club was a short-ish drive to the Triple-A affiliate. The reason: the World Cup teams ransacked Triple-A rosters for players to fill out their rosters.

    Mike (MO): Although Richard Lucas did not make the list, what kind of prospect do you see him as?

Matt Eddy: Lucas came close to making the list, and he might have gotten the benefit of the doubt had this showing come a year ago. A fourth-rounder from '07, he missed the majority of the '08 season while dealing with off-field issues. Lucas returned with a vengeance this season, showing off natural strength and righthanded bat speed by driving the ball to all fields. He knows the strike zone, too, and handled himself well after a promotion to the New York-Penn League. He's nothing special at third base, but Lucas has pop-up prospect potential.

    Mike (MO): Did any other Mets receive consideration for the top 20?

Matt Eddy: While we're talking about Kingsport's Richard Lucas, let's touch on two others from that squad. The Mets' fourth-rounder this year, Darrell Cecilliani hails from a small town in Washington, but he's made strides over the course of the past few years. He's a 70 runner who can handle center field and steal bases, but his bat has a ways to go. A lefthanded hitter, he takes a fairly direct route to the ball and has enough pop to drive the ball into the gaps. Cecilliani could develop into a 50-55 type hitter with strong plate discipline and a center-field profile. And secondly, 2B Alonzo Harris lacks pitch recognition skills and tends to swing too big, but he's a quick-twitch athlete who ripped 10 HR and stole 15 bases this season. His feet are quick enough to handle second, though he remains an inconsistent defender.

    Avery (Walnut Creek): Any love for Yowill Espinal? I know his average dipped a bit this year, but he's still pretty young and showed decent pop. Could he return into a legit prospect?

Matt Eddy: He has a chance, sure. Like a lot of players at this level, he has to tighten his strike zone and improve his consistency of execution on defense. But he can sting the ball to his pull side and turn in the occasional flashy play in the field. Espinal will play all next season at 19, so there would be no shame in him suiting up for the Royals' Pioneer League affiliate in Idaho Falls.

    PJ (Waukeegan, IL): Is Santos Rodriguez going to be a future Lefty force out of bullpen? Is he an inning guy or situational type?

Matt Eddy: In a perfect world, his changeup would be enough to let him stay in versus righthanded batters.

    Trayce Thompson (Bristol): Remember, Mike Stanton hit .161/.226/.268 in his first pro season.

Matt Eddy: This isn't a question, but it is an appropriate place to wrap things up. It's important at this level not to get to swept up in a player's performance, great or poor. For the young first-year players, especially, they have so much development left in front of them that what they do over the course of their first 60-70 pro games is insignificant in the grand scheme of things.

Matt Eddy: Another year, another batch of great Appalachian League questions. Check in Monday for the ranking and chat for the Pioneer League, the Appy's Rookie advanced sister circuit, hosted by yours truly.