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Baseball America Prospect Chat

J.J. Cooper:
Hey everyone. Thanks for coming out. I'm listening to podcasts while I chat using this odd set of old-school analog wired headphones. Guess I need to enjoy them while I can. Dave (Brooklyn): Jose Herrera, D'Backs' 25th ranked prospect in the always great BA Prospect Handbook 2016, shows on MiLB as a DH. Have the D'Backs given up on his catching skills and are now only developing his bat? Is he still a Top 30 prospect? J.J. Cooper: Herrera did catch a good bit in the final month of the season which is good because that's one of his bigger selling points as a prospect. He threw out 57 percent of basestealers this year in his limited action, showing off his solid arm. The D'backs system is thin giving Herrera a decent chance to crack the team's Top 30 again this winter. Tom Delong (Dan Diego): Josh Naylor, Dom Smith and Bobby Bradley all seem like similar players/skill sets. Who do you like more and why? J.J. Cooper: There are some similarities but also some dramatic differences. Smith is a hit first first baseman with developing power. Bradley's carrying tool is exceptional power while Naylor is trying to split the difference with power and average, although his approach at the plate is far less advanced than Smith's was at the same point in his career, even if Naylor's power comes into play much more than Smith's did when Smith was in LoA. Bradley's power is hard to ignore. He's just been named the Carolina League MVP after hitting 29 home runs, a year after he hit 27 home runs in the Midwest League. Bradley's strikeout problems are also noticeable. He's a high-risk, high-reward prospect who could be a regular all-star thanks to his immense power, but much like Joey Gallo, his contact struggles could keep him from ever reaching that potential. Smith is a much safer prospect, but one with less upside. He got to his power much more this year (14 home runs after hitting only 10 home runs in his first three pro seasons), but he's more of a line-drive hitter than one who cranks lots of home runs. He's a solid defender at first base and has a very good chance to have a pretty lengthy big league career, but he's less likely to post the kind of all-star type production that Bradley could at his best. I'd put Naylor third of this group for now. Greensboro is a great place for power hitters, but Naylor hit only nine home runs there before being traded to the Padres. He is too prone to chase breaking balls out of the zone right now, keeping him from tapping into his significant raw power. He's nimble for his size, but he'll have to stay on top of his conditioning to remain a solid first baseman. Dave (Kcmo): Hi jj, what do you think of the royals system as it moves forward? Where do you think they'll be ranked in a few years? Thanks for your great work! J.J. Cooper: It's taken a significant dip in talent, but a lot of that has to do with graduations and trades. If Mondesi graduates as expected from prospect status leaves Hunter Dozier as the sole likely Top 100 Prospect in the farm system. The Royals have traded away their first-round pick in 2014 (Brandon Finnegan) as well as their supplemental first-round pick (Sean Manaea) and second-round pick (Cody Reed) from 2013. That helped them win a World Series title, so the plan worked out, but it did leave the farm system thin. Dave (DC): Is Austin Riley a top 100 prospect after he recovered from a poor start to tear the cover off the ball in the second half (while significantly improving his BB:K ratio)? J.J. Cooper: I don't see him as a Top 100 Prospect yet. Obviously there is a lot of work we will do between now and next February so I reserve the right to change my opinion as I gather more info but Riley had a very good but not exceptional season in low Class A. Yes he got a lot better from July on, but in totality Riley still has lots of power, lots of strikeouts and faces concerns about how quick his bat is. William (Pensacola, FL): Say something nice about Eric Jagelio's 2016 season to give Reds hope going forward with him. J.J. Cooper: Ummmmm. Thinks.... Scratches head... Ponders.... He's getting to play in the playoffs. That's good news of a sort. The bad news? He slid from third base to first base in June and never played another game at third all year. He hit .152/.291/.182 in August, so he didn't exactly finish strong. Jagielo's 2015 knee injury seemed to carry over into 2016. He doesn't have a good base under him at the plate and is suffering because of it. The hope is he gets healthy and returns to form, but right now it's wiser to be skeptical than optimistic. Bob (Boston): Trey Ball fared a bit better in his return to High-A, improving his K rate but increasing his walk rate. Is there reason to be optimistic that he will at least be a 4-5 starter? J.J. Cooper: He got a little better, but at this point, projecting him as a future regular rotation member is optimistic. His peripherals didn't really improve in a repeat of high Class A. Ball is a lefthander who struggles to throw enough strikes who also lacks a plus pitch. If he wasn't a first-round pick, he'd be viewed much more skeptically. He's athletic and maybe he picks up a tick or two, but even if he does, he'll have to locate much better to succeed at higher levels. Adam (Austin): Chance Adams top 100 this offseason? J.J. Cooper: Decent shot in my mind. That was a great season. Led the minors in batting average against, had success in Double-A and has plenty of stuff. Great pick by the Yankees to take a very good college reliever and see he has the potential to be more than that as a pro. Tom (Cincinnati): What are your thoughts on two OF in Low A that both had injuries this year: Ronald Acuna and Trent Clark. J.J. Cooper: Big fans of both. Acuna had a chance to be one of the prospects who took a big step forward in 2016 but he had a thumb injury that cost him most of the season. Pencil him as a breakout prospect in 2017 instead. Clark was held back by Milwaukee in extended spring training to start the year and then missed nearly a month with a hamstring injury. Around that, his season was modest at best. I'm still a big Clark believer, but he needs to show more pop than he showed this year in the future. Avi (Pittsburgh): It seems like the Pirates have gotten pretty good at finding these raw high school arms and turning them into breakout prospects (Glasnow and Keller, as two examples). Do you see any potential candidates to make that leap in their low minors? Braeden Ogle and Gage Hinsz are the two names that come to mind, but I would love to hear your thoughts! J.J. Cooper: Hinsz is a good one to keep an eye on. He's not Keller, but he's a very promising young arm himself. Tom (Washington DC): Does Mitch Keller have #1 upside? J.J. Cooper: Yes. Not saying he'll reach that, but he has all the pieces you look for. Bruce (Ilinois): Hi JJ, thanks for the chat despite a disappointing senior year, how did Funkhouser drop to the 4th round ? do you have any idea why the Braves wouldn't have taken him to team with Harrington ? Boras effect ? J.J. Cooper: Asking price played a part in where he fell. He was a fourth-round pick but he ended up with early third-round money. He also had been very inconsistent for two seasons in a row. It wasn't as much a disappointing senior season as a disappointing senior season and final month and a half of his junior season. If you saw Funkhouser at the right time as a scout, you saw a pitcher with a plus fastball and breaking ball. More often he couldn't locate the fastball unless he geared down, struggled to throw strikes and didn't have a consistent breaking ball. Tom (Cincinnati): With De Leon and Urias on the MLB roster is it safe to assume one of Bellinger, Verdugo, or Alvarez takes the top spot? Are any of them in the same class as where Urias/De Leon were at the beginning of 2016? J.J. Cooper: I'm working on a piece for the site on how deep the Dodgers' bench of pitching prospects is. It's an impressive group. But I don't think you'll see a pitcher leading the Dodgers Top 30 this winter. Oren (Bethesda): Lets say you're scouting a high school kid who's not even touching 90 yet. What things do you look for as indicators that he has the upside to grow into more velocity and just a better pitcher overall? J.J. Cooper: What I'm going to pass along is what scouts have told me. First, what does his build look like? Is he already muscular or is he lean and skinny with room to fill out. A pitcher who can gain 20-30 pounds of good weight has a better shot at adding velocity than one whose body is already maxed out. Two, what is his delivery look like and how does his arm work. This can work two ways. A pitcher who throws reasonably hard with some clear mechanical flaws has a chance to add velo with some cleanup. On the other hand, a skinny pitcher who throws an easy 88 with little effort is much more likely to add velo than a physically developed pitcher who gets to 88 with max effort (head whack, recoil, etc.). There's a lot more things you can look for (how well does the pitcher use his legs? What's his throwing program?) But those are some of the highlights. Richard (Chicago): Casey Gillaspie and Josh Bell have a lot of similarities, but very different hype (at least through midseason). Given that Gillaspie is a better defender and has shown a bit more power, is it because of concern about Gillaspie's hit tool, projection on Bell's power, or something else? J.J. Cooper: Reports I have from scouts put both as below-average defenders at first base, but yes, the concern is that Gillaspie's hit tool in the long run will be a concern while there is also thought that Bell will get to more and more of his power potential. Good question though...especially as Gillaspie is a little younger than Bell. Barrett (IL): Better power grade...Harambe or Pete O'brien? J.J. Cooper: Harambe was a better catcher. RIP Harambe. MikeA (Maryland): Any idea what happened to Ashe Russell. Pitched two innings this year in June and then nothing. J.J. Cooper: Stuff was way down. Haven't heard of any injury that explains it but last report I heard had him throwing 86-88. David (New York, NY): Higher upside, Clint Frazier or Blake Rutherford? J.J. Cooper: Frazier because of his power potential. Rutherford has a better hit tool. Norm Chouinard (Connecticut): Hi JJ, Thanks for the chat. Who do you like best of these former top 100 guys or has the ship sailed on all of them as MLB regulars: Rymer Liriano, Mason Williams, Colin Moran, and Steven Moya. J.J. Cooper: Lot of ships off on the horizon here. Best of the group is probably Moya and Moran. If Moya can do again what he did for Detroit this year you have to be pretty happy. Low-OBP guy with power. For Moran the argument that he'll never hit for enough power to be a big league everyday third baseman seems to be coming true but his hit tool has also backed up from what he was in college. As John Manuel likes to say, if you're going to be Dave Magadan you have to walk a lot and control the strike zone. Moran walked three times more than he struck out in his final season of college baseball. This year he walked 47 times and struck out 124 times in Triple-A. Norm Chouinard (Connecticut): Thoughts on Garrett Whitley at this point? Seems to be playing mostly in the corners. Is that a concern? J.J. Cooper: I'm more concerned that he has needed a year and a half in short-season rookie ball and even then he didn't set the world on fire in the New York-Penn League. It is a good sign that he finished strong. JC (MD): Who has a better chance at being a consistent All-Star, Gleyber Torres or Jorge Mateo? J.J. Cooper: Torres. Better hit tool, more pop. Think both of them end up as big league regulars. Consistent all-star is a very, very lofty perch. Which middle infielders right now qualify to carry that moniker–Jose Altuve, Robinson Cano? The battle to be the best shortstop in the AL is going to be a very tough one for years to come with Correa and Lindor around. J.J. Cooper:

Lyon Richardson Shows Off Revamped Fastball

The 2018 second-rounder has experienced a jump in fastball velocity since the 2019 season.

Thanks everyone for coming out. Hope the rest of the week is a good one for everyone.

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