Al lives in the Northeast and covers prospects - both minor league and amateur. Ask him anything about your team's future.
Al Skorupa: Hey! Welcome everyone and thanks for chatting. Pretty excited for the season to start.
Paul (DC): As talk is that Yoan Moncada's future might very well rest at 3B, where would you rank him (I know, I know, there's still too little information about him, but I have to ask anyway) amongst the other current top prospects at the hot corner: Bryant, Seager, Gallo, Sano, Franco, Peterson, Devers, and Dozier?
Al Skorupa: As you say, it's a little early to make that call that Moncada is a 3B, but I do think off what I've seen it might be more likely than SS. So working from assumption Moncada ends up there (and throwing in Carlos Correa for added fun), I think I'd go 1) Bryant [role 7+]; 2) Carlos Correa [7+] 3) Moncada ; 4) Seager [6+]; 5) Gallo ; 6) Sano ; 7) Peterson [5+]; 8) Franco [5+]; 9) Devers [5+]; Dozier .
Ron (Texarkana): Where do you project Kyle Schwarber to bat, and how good can he really be, in terms of stat line?
Al Skorupa: I saw Schwarber a few times as an underclassman and then again as a rising junior and it was always clear the guy could really hit. Schwarber already does many things elite major hitters do with his stride, torque and hands. I think he's a middle of the order hitter all the way. If it was a different team I'd say he could hit in the 3rd spot, but that position has a few contenders on the future Cubs! Really, though, guys like Schwarber can hit in any spot in the order - and the farther down... more's the pity. I see him being capable of .280 with 25-30 home runs. Probably coming from a corner outfield spot.
Silverback38 (VA): Where is the "northeast" that you live in?
Al Skorupa: I see that apostrophes are an issue... noted.
I'm from the smallest state - Rhode Island. Originally from Cranston, which is the home of Frita Felcher in "Dumb & Dumber" as well as the basis for the city of Quahog in "Family Guy." We're only like... 75% as crazy as in the cartoons, though.
This lets me cover IL/AAA (Pawtucket), EL/AA (New Hamp, New Britain, Portland), NYPL/A (CT & Lowell) as well as lots of college ball throughout New England and in the summer I get Cape Cod League, NECBL, Futures summer wooden bat.
Brendan G (Bainbridge): Best reason to be optimistic about Maikel Franco this season?
Al Skorupa: Be optimistic because Franco is pretty damn good and hits the ball pretty damn hard. If I were running the Phillies Id have this guy pencilled in as the starting 3B for the next 5 years in my plans. He's going to hit plenty though his slash lines won't fit exactly in the boxes we think they should. I think he could spend more time in the minors and it won't hurt him, but I'd almost prefer to see him face big leaguers and let him see exactly what he needs to tighten up to succeed at the next level. As for his glove, I see him as a fringe average defender in the "bigger 3B with a strong arm who isn't particularly mobile but has a good first move" mold. Franco comes up short of a star, but between him and J.P. Crawford I'd consider the future left side of my infield set and worry about the rest of the ballclub.
Tip Toe Swing (Georgia): What does it mean when a batter has 'lverage' in his swing??
Al Skorupa: Scouts and coaches tend to use it for a number of things, but mostly its meant in terms of the existence (or perhaps just aesthetic appearance) of a natural upward/power swing path that includes a very firm front side. If we were to approach it as a true term of art I think we'd find it really primarily refers to the firm front side/leg, but - as with most elements of a swing - that wouldn't be enough to trigger scouts using the word by itself. For example, if a batter kept the pre-launch position of his hands high and tight that's not going to get evaluators to describe his swing as having leverage. Another element that seems to evoke the term is the hitter being a big, strong guy. In fact, I think many use it to even mean big and powerful enough while taking big cuts. Talking here about guys who don't need to always square the ball up to drive it. So, I think I would say the strong presence of the following elements: 1) firm front side to swing; 2) power swing plane or uppercut, etc; 3) big cuts/swings hard; and 4) natural strength/muscle.
John (North Pole CT): Odds Bundy makes the Birds rotation out of spring training?
Where do you think each team in the AL East will finish?
Al Skorupa: O's manager Buck Showalter has already told the media Bundy is headed to Double-A Bowie to start 2015. On the upside, he's ready to go with no restrictions. Bundy is still a special, special arm and I wouldn't be surprised to see him emerge (post hype) into one of the best arms in baseball over next couple years.
As for the A.L. East? I think the class of the division is the Jays and Red Sox. The heart of Toronto's order is fearsome. The Blue Jays have a slim margin for error and not a whole lot of depth. They're also relying on a lot of young guys to contribute in meaningful roles and that's a scary proposition since young players are very volatile by their very nature. All that said, Toronto probably has the highest talent level in the division. Really loved the addition of Donaldson. Boston has remade their roster and is going to score a lot of runs. They also have tremendous depth. Their pitching staff is pretty damn thin, though. They're a team that could finish anywhere from 1st or 4th very easily while they're trying to figure out some things going forward. The Orioles lost some important pieces, but will get a boost from the returns of Machado and Wieters. PECOTA hates the O's and has them finishing last, but projection systems really aren't build to value the things that make the Orioles good. The problem I have is I don't think the 2014 O's were a legitimate 96 win team. So, a whole lot would already have to go right for them to even get back to 2014's level. I don't see as much going right there. The Yankees are just in a transition and have a whole lot of spots with uncertainty in their lineup and pitching staff. I think all four of these teams will be in the race all year, though. Tampa Bay I see falling off quite a bit. They won 77 games last year and they haven't gotten better. They've also seen a great deal of turnover in the front office, manager and roster. They're not a bad team, though. They won't be in contention for 1:1 or anything. Give me: 1) TOR; 2) BOS; 3) BAL; 4) NYY; 5) TB. Reserve the right to change my predictions as we get closer, though! Not a whole lot separating top 4.
Ben (Minnesota): Strictly offensively who do you like better Sano or Gallo? What position do these guys end up long term?
Al Skorupa: Sano was a no-doubt 3B for me before the injury. I know much was made of his defensive shortcomings in the past. I never saw that from him and scouts thought I was silly to even bring it up. He's huge, but he moves shockingly well for that size. He also has/had elite arm strength. I saw him make some plays coming in on bunts in 2013 that were jaw droppers. He'll slow up as he gets older... big whoop. I think you can happily play him at 3rd until he's nearing 30 - especially if you can live with a 40/45 defender there eventually.
Gallo, I haven't seen enough of to be so certain with. Offensively, they're basically twins. I still worry about the utility of both hit tools, but guys who swing it like this sometimes rise above our expectations and no one notices or cares that they're 40 hitters because they're stars leading the league in home runs.
Al (Akron, OH): What is Josh Harrison ? Someone who legitimately broke out last year or an aberration likely to revert back to a 700 OPS ?
Al Skorupa: Well, I think we'll see a big dropoff from his 2014 - especially if your concern is fantasy numbers. Over the fence power just isn't his game and he's a not a big dude whose mistakes will still fly. His aggressive approach makes it hard to hit consistently, but his good hands and natural bat to ball skills allow him to compensate. I'm encouraged by his use of the opposite field, but there's a lot of things to worry about since so many things went right for him last season. He's a better player than we thought entering last year, but I don't know he fits particularly well going forward as a starter on a team with playoff aspirations.
Matt (Cambridge): I've been asking everyone on JaCoby Jones, but heard nothing. Seems to have plus power and run tools and the Pirates seem to think he can stick at SS. He is hitting for now, but has a bad approach. Does he have a big ceiling or just old for the level?
Al Skorupa: You've come to the right place, Matt. I'm a big Jones fan. He's a risky prospect, but his ceiling is very high. I saw a good amount of him a few summers back when he played on a star-studded Harwich team that set the Cape all time record for team homers. That squad also had Austin Wilson, Eric Jagielo, Phil Ervin, AJ Reed, Brian Ragira and Brett Austin. Fun times. Jones's batting practice group was ridiculous every game. Here's the thing - he's a fast twitch guy. Great athlete. Runs, throws, makes outstanding defensive plays, can hit the ball a mile in batting practice. Will he hit? His approach, pitch recognition and command of the strike zone have a ways to go. Ultimately, it's hard to predict him hitting enough to be more than a role 5 type average regular, but I still think that's possible. And after you (quickly) run out of guys you're confident will be role 5+ Jones offers as much upside as basically anyone.
Shawn (Cubicle): Thoughts on Trey Ball? Haven't heard too much about him. Is he moving slower because he was a 2-way guy in HS, or has he just not been that impressive?
Al Skorupa: The feeling I've got from people around the industry is that Ball has been a disappointment so far. I'm sure his late start to pitching is a factor, but it sounds like a) he's way more of a project than many anticipated; and b) scouts felt he doesn't have the ceiling that was previously advertised. He's far from a "bust" or anything like that, but evaluators didn't think this was a special arm (and one even told me flatly "I didn't like him at all."). Plus, Boston is looking at a long developmental curve here. All the same, tall, athletic pitchers have this knack for suddenly putting things together and making scouts look bad. Ball is tall, very athletic, left-handed, still very young and quite capable of making the necessary adjustments.
Francisco (Atlanta): do you see Conforto starting 2015 in Savannah or St Lucie ?
Al Skorupa: Probably heavily dependant on his spring. I'd imagine they'd like to push him - between taking Conforto and the other guys they scouted heavily last Spring it's pretty clear a fast moving college player was very appealing to them. Development wise, Conforto the player needs to be at a level that challenges him. One nice thing is that both full season A affiliates are warm weather... so April cold isn't a huge concern. Even if he starts at Savannah, there's little reason to think he's a level a year guy.
Shawn (Cubicle): Thanks for the chat, Al! Have you seen Rafael Devers in person? Do you think he can develop into one of best pure hitters in minors?
Al Skorupa: I have not seen Devers, but the reports I've gotten have been pretty impressive. I love seeing young guys with great hands like that, though. Great hands, bat speed and a feel for squaring up the ball usually end up translating to a top prospect. It's like when a young pitcher throws strikes and misses bats. Do those two things and you're pretty much on a fast track to the high minors.
Ron (Texarkana): Peraza, Amed Rosario, Reynaldo Lopez, Steven Matz.. all things being equal, which one player is not least likely kept in a dynasty league?
Al Skorupa: Some double negatives there... I think Matz is the present value/upper minors guy and he has the highest value. Lopez a huge helium arm and Rosario has a chance to be a real premium guy. Pereza is a decent real life player, but 2B prospects... meh. Speed first profile and a lot of questions at the plate. Is his profile (particularly in fantasy) a whole lot different than say... Micah Johnson?
Shawn (Cubicle): Do you think Baltimore struggles as an org to develop SPs? Out of the previous core of Tillman, Arrieta, Matusz, and Britton, only Tillman is still a SP for them (and Arrieta is thriving elsewhere). They also seemed to yo-yo Gausman around and all of a sudden his pinpoint control from the minors is gone, and E. Rodriguez has looked much better in Boston's farm than in Baltimore's (granted small sample)
Al Skorupa: Interesting. Hadn't really pegged them as having a particular issue here. I think a lot of the problem is and will always be that developing starting pitchers is really hard to do. For every team. There's going to be a huge attrition rate. We can do that freshman class in college thing: "Look around this prospect list to your left and right. Two of you won't make it as starters we know for a statistical fact!"
Case by case here: Tillman is solid. Arrieta is a success story they gave up on too early - and kind of hard to fault them since 1) there was some difference of opinions with their internal evaluations there; and 2) there was plenty of reason to think he'd fit better in the pen in the long term. Britton also gave us reasons to think the pen would be better. Matusz got every chance as a starter and failed. Gausman... not too worried about that guy. If they don't want him anymore 29 other teams will be happy to help them out. Bundy I still believe in strongly. Eduardo I still don't get. He wasn't great when I saw him in 2014. FB 89-92 with below average command (flashing better) and not missing a whole lot of bats. Secondaries very vanilla. Scouts I talked to who saw him early (I saw him early June) and then saw him after the trade were equally confused - though they couldn't stop raving about the arm they saw post trade.
Jim (Philly): How exciting of players are Jorge Mateo and Ahmed Rosario? What would be good signs to look or that they're adapting to full season ball?
Al Skorupa: Touched on this already, but I liked Rosario a lot. I think he's a SS all the way. Got him 4.04 to 1B. Very good athlete with quick twitch actions and good body control. Very quick hands - both in field and at plate. I actually preferred him to a number of guys in that system and really pushed for him in our internal discussions for the Mets list.
Haven't seen Mateo, but people had great things to say and I'm totally on board there as well. Both guys look like they could be above average everyday shortstops - though both clearly have big developmental curves left. Success from either in 2015 will show us they're the studs we think, but I'm not sure we can read much from failure. Both guys are immature physically and full season should be a challenge for them in that regard. Both young and will likely get fairly challenging assignments. Seems like the kind of guys I could go to a park, look at a bad slash line, see them go 0-3 and strike out twice... and I may still think they're good prospects.
dangor (New Jersey): I've seen Rob Kaminsky pitch in high school and have never been more impressed by a pitcher. With that said, he's not very tall and I wonder what scouts say about that? Any projection on how high he projects in the Cardinal orginazation?
Al Skorupa: I also saw Rob Kaminsky pitch in high school - and I'm totally with you. Just a total dream for a high school coach. Kaminsky did everything well. Put every pitch where he wanted and basically just toyed with dudes. There wasn't and isn't much if any projection there, sure. He is what he is for the most part. My thing is - who cares? If WHAT HE IS NOW is a deceptive lefty with 3 above average or better pitches and he's in the low 90's with command... well, that's a pretty good big league pitcher already! What do we want or need to project anything for?
Height didn't bother me much. He keeps the ball down and misses down. When he challenges a guy up his heater can miss bats there and he usually puts it up where it won't be punished or right on the hands. That will play.
Scouts around here loved him. I think the biggest concerns were that going to the wear and tear of a pro schedule he may take a step or two back in velo and/or stuff. Quite possible. Our prospect team guys who saw him weren't as enthusiastic about him as me and they've had more recent views, so it's certainly possible. I see him as a #3-4 starter, personally. Solid average type - and largely feel that way because he doesn't have a big margin for error. I like the pitcher a lot and like what he's about. Wouldn't be surprised at all to see him doubted until he reaches the big leagues and then have a successful career.
Alex (Anaheim): What kind of major league career do you project for Refsnyder?
Al Skorupa: I don't think he's a first division starter. I never did, going back to when he was (a somewhat underrated) amateur. The measure for 1st division starter scouts would often use is: "can you see him playing next to Derek Jeter in Yankee Stadium?" Well, that's no longer possible (because Jeter isn't there), but no... I still don't think he's a guy the Yankees would be happy with plugging in at 2B for 6 years. Refsnyder is a solid ballplayer, but he doesn't do anything particularly well. What tool or skill does he have that stands out at the big league level? You really have to do SOMETHING that stands out to be a big league starter on a team with playoff aspirations. Refsnyder is more a sum of his parts guy who does a few things pretty well but nothing at a real above average or plus level. Resfnyder is a below average defender at 2B. He doesn't hit for much power or over the fence power. Not a whole lot of speed. Bat speed not fantastic - and with his swing and leg kick I'm not sure he'll consistently hit good pitching (though I think his supporters would disagree with me on that). I see a guy who could start for a (2nd division) team and have a pretty decent career, but if he's the starting 2B on the Yankees what that really means is Brian Cashman will be spending a lot of time making phone calls looking for an upgrade. Even when guys like this start and do fairly well for a year or 2 or 3... it's the sort of situation where the front office meets each winter and thinks "how can we improve at 2B?" Refsnyder to his credit is now a definite big leaguer and done very well for himself so far.
Ben (New York): Did you get a chance to catch Jose Berrios in New Britain this past season?
Al Skorupa: I saw Berrios twice in 2014. Once in AA, once in AAA. Liked him considerably each time. Height and mechanics aren't ideal, but it doesn't seem to have any effect on him! Athletic, and he consistently locates a lively low to mid 90's FB low in the zone. Has a good feel for pitching... plays with depth and location. You can start to pick this guy apart, but bottom line is he fills the strike zone with three above average to plus pitches and misses bats. Guys who do that move fast and do well in the majors. I think he's a #3 starter
AA: FB 90-95 (96); CB 79-82; CH 81-85
AAA: FB 91-94 (95); CB 76-80; CH 83-84
Ben (New York): Outside of the New York-Penn league, are there any teams relatively close to NYC where a guy can get his upside fix?
Al Skorupa: Absolutely! If you're willing to drive 1-2 hours there's a lot to see. AAA has Scranton (NYY) & LeHigh Valley (PHI). AA you have Trenton (NYY), Reading (PHI) and New Britain (COL). If you like full season low minor take a drive down the shore in jersey to see Lakewood (PHI). Lot of nice parks and really not a bad drive in the summer. NYC area also has plenty of college ball to see in the Spring. College baseball is cheap and fun. Also all sorts of teams schedule all sorts of big teams and the nature of college baseball is prospects come from EVERYWHERE, so you can see big time future big leaguers for nothing at a park down the street.
jdc1989 (St. Louis): In a dynasty redraft league would you draft Carlos Rodon or Rusney Castillo? I have 3rd overall pick and the first two teams are taking Yoan Moncada, and the Yasmany Tomas.
Al Skorupa: I'm not a huge fantasy guy, but I do play one pretty serious league - that I will admit I haven't won in a while. Fantasy baseball is usually a nightmare for people who work in and around baseball since they never have time in the summer to pay a whole lot of attention - and whenever they DON'T win, the guy who does win brags "my buddy is a scout for (team X) and I just beat him in fantasy!" Fun stuff. I get out to a lot of games in the Spring and Summer so I don't often get to watch my fantasy guys a whole lot.
Anyway... in my experience in fantasy though, I feel like I can always find a decent outfielder easier than I can find an above average pitcher. This seems pretty much true regardless of format, size, etc... There's just a lot of useful outfielders even though you can start three. The very top guys are great and all (ie. Trout), but I'm a lot more confident I can find myself an outfielder even in a deep dynasty league than I can a pitcher like Rodon could be. This is still true even though position players and position player prospects are on average tremendously safer bets than pitchers and pitching prospects. Arms are just riskier... and harder to project, less stable skill sets - not just about higher rate of injury.
I actually got a live look at Rusney last fall and he's a pretty talented player. I'm also not the highest guy on our prospect staff on Rodon. He didn't wow me when I saw him live (I actually preferred Jeff Hoffman's raw stuff, pre-surgery). I worried about his back issues going back to high school, too. My biggest dings on him were his FB command (often misses spots and heater rises up arm side) and overuse of his SL/cut. I don't see Rodon as being a true #1 starter because of those issues, but he certainly looks like a very good big league starter and he's basically there right now. Full disclosure wise - plenty of people in baseball would say (and did in fact say) that I'm really nitpicking here and that Rodon is going to be a monster. He's a big, durable (hopefully), lefty with plus to double-plus velo and a true out pitch. Even the downside of Rodon is appealing enough for me to pass on Rusney. Boston's plethora of lineup options kind of bugs me for fantasy value, too. Could they mix and match 4-5 guys with Mookie, Victorino and Allen Craig stealing ABs from Rusney? I don't think they laid out $70 million to sit him, though. In either case, I don't think it's possible to overstate how much the White Sox absolutely adore Rodon. In many way he's as safe a top starting pitching prospect as you will ever find available in a dynasty draft/auction and he's also a great bet to pay dividends quickly.
Cliff (Louisville, KY): In KY it sounds like RHP Kyle Funkhouser and RHP Kyle Cody are battling as two of the top power righties in this years draft. Do they both go in the top 10?
Al Skorupa: Seen both a couple times. Cody is a beast. Just a big boy who throws mid 90's bowling balls. CH (82-84) ahead of the breaking ball (80-81), which can slurve out. I have some questions about Cody's pitchability and FB command, but hell... this will work. And he's a very safe pick so he'll keep rising even if we don't hear about it. I don't see him as a top 5 pick, but I think he's a top half of the first round guy.
Funkhouser I did not see last summer because he was with Team USA. Saw him a few times in 2013 and while I thought he was a big arm with nasty stuff I worried about his delivery and command. From what I've seen and what I've been told he's really smoothed himself out and added strength has made it all work better. I wouldn't have given him a top 10 pick grade last year, but I think it's very possible I'd give him one if I saw him this Spring. What hurts them both is that college arms are a strength of this year's first round. In another year they might have risen up more, but their value is depressed a bit.
chaneyhey (St. Louis): Who has a better 2015? Joc Pederson or Jose Soler?
Al Skorupa: Better 2015? Pederson. Better career? Mmm... probably Soler, but close.
If you mean for your fantasy team, it's hard to say who will get the opportunity.
Brent (Colorado): Where do you peg the bust rate for Javier Baez? Seems like broader sentiment is turning on him.
Al Skorupa: Broader sentiment doesn't really mean anything for the Cubs or Baez, thankfully! He's got potential to be a special player still. Sometimes guys need to reach the big leagues and see "Oh, that stupid habit of mine the coaches told me I wouldn't be able to get away with... crap, I can't actually get away with it. Now I need to make some adjustments." Guys largely stick with what works and are reluctant to change things until they see they can't succeed with the way they currently do stuff. Baez needs to tighten up his zone and be more selective. He also wouldn't be hurt by bringing his bat a bit more vertical before his hands launch. He does so many good things with his swing, but he does a couple things that make him fight himself. He's entering his age 22 season and there's really not a whole lot of guys I'd take before him or anything.
CyMature (fountain of youth): Toronto closer: Aaron Sanchez? Brett Cecil? You must have seen these guys in the Int, no?
Al Skorupa: Yes. Saw Sanchez at New Hampshire last year. He wasn't around AAA a long time. The guy is one of the biggest arms around the game. Mid 90's with ease. Tons of natural life and run. I was told he has those big Pedro Martinez fingers that create a natural rifling effect as he releases the ball. Even long tossing he would appear to be throwing 15 degree away from the catcher and the ball ran back that much. I think this is a big reason for his command issues. The other big problem is his short striding. I don't like it and it's not helping him repeat better at all. Two Plus or better pitches and the change has a ton of potential. Big, strong, athlete who can throw hard all day. He'd be a waste in the pen in many ways - it wouldn't hide his command deficiencies, for one. If you're having trouble locating that doesn't really improve if you suddenly ONLY pitch high leverage innings. In either case though, he doesn't need to improve his command to get big leaguers out. He can be effectively wild because the stuff is just so good. Our own Mark Anderson used a AJ Burnett comp I liked a lot. Burnett has basically been a thrower and not a pitcher his whole career and yet he's made a hell of a career of that. Sanchez could do the same and has the potential to evolve into a better type of pitcher (READ: NOT saying better career than Burnett neccesarily ).
EDIT: Rambled and Forgot Cecil. Cecil was the Closer for Maryland in College and he's more than capable. I also wouldn't sleep on Aaron Loup. He gets out LHs and RHs and is a pretty strong arm. Neither of those guys has a more impressive resume than Casey Janssen when he took over, no?
Scott (Baltimore ): How do you like Mookie Betts outlook from a Fantasy prospective this year?
Al Skorupa: I love the player, but there are too many options in the outfield right now. Would not be surprised to see Mookie start at AAA. Victorino trade would be ideal, because Mookie just might be Boston's highest WAR/best player in 2015 if he plays. Mookie and Francisco Lindor were the two highest grades I gave to position players in 2014. He'll hit for average with plenty of speed and power.
The Dude (Work): How approachable are scouts at minor league game? Obviously they are working, but if sitting next to one, can fan like myself generally strike up a conversation with one? What about the BP prospect team. I noticed on Twitter you were at a game I was at last year and I wanted to say Hi but figured that might have been creepy/annoying.
Al Skorupa: Scouts are all different. Some are friendly. Some like chatting with fans. Some hate it, but like to gab with other scouts all game. Some just want to do their job and not talk to anyone. I wouldn't tell you to try and talk to them, because you'll find me beaten to death by stopwatches and clipboards. The thing to remember is these guys are working. They are at work and they have 100 things to pay attention to. They are usually (at a pro game) here for a series and by the end of the year they're going to have to write up a full report and grade everyone on that team they're seeing. That's tough. And they do that every day, every series all summer long with lots of travel and hotels mixed in between. Some guys can handle it and like talking anyway, but if you're polite and have something relevant or interesting you want to talk about they probably will be interested. Best to grab them either before the game starts OR after the 6th (when they've basically already got the bulk of their work done, decided on lots of guys and are just waiting for relievers). Really, everybody is different and many guys won't say much until you've met them a few times, too.
I can't speak for the rest of the prospect team, but always feel free to say hi to me. I'm cool! Same thing, during many parts of the game I can get pretty busy, though.
Jim (Dallas): A lot of reports out there recently on TCU lefty Alex Young. Can he sneak into the first round come june?
Al Skorupa: I saw him twice last year. I liked Young. Southpaw with pretty good stuff. Very good breaking stuff. I thought that his stuff, mechanics, tempo and style of pitching was probably best suited to the pen. Not a strong conviction or anything - I could imagine seeing him this Spring and feeling differently very easily. Velo wise, he was 88-90, 89-90 for me and while that's perfectly fine in a CB artist LHP, I'd also worry there that moving to a pro schedule might see him take half a step back. Velo is very overrated in general, but he doesnt have a huge margin for error there. If I saw him this Spring and he was 90-92 with smoother mechanics I could definitely be sold on him - and that scenario is very possible. I just haven't see him since July.
Jobu (Cerrano's Locker): Thoughts on Clint Frazier? Everyone thought he was going to be a beast? What do you see his future as, and what do you see him doing this year?
Al Skorupa: I love the swing, man. He was a bigger developmental project than had been hoped. Whatever. I'd take him any day. I do think he ends up a corner outfielder, though. Really needs to improve on pitch recognition especially on breaking and soft. Plenty of time.
Chris (Phoenix): Do you think Jake Marisnick can hit enough to be better than a 4th OF or defense only CF in the long term?
Al Skorupa: Wasn't a huge Marisnick fan, but that goes back a couple years since last time I saw him. He looks the part. Runs, throws, fields, power in bp. I thought the swing was stiff and I didn't think he had much feel for squaring pitches up. I think he's closer to second division starter because I just didn't have a whole lot of faith in the bat.
Gravybill (Behind You!): Do you have any particular love for any of the following minor league pitchers?
Luis Ortiz, Spencer Adams, Nick Howard, Josh Hader, Keury Mella, Garrett Fulenchek
I know they are in various stages of development, but do any one of the above stand out? Any that you feel may not have much of a chance of success?
Al Skorupa: Ortiz and Spencer are two of my favorite helium arms that I think can explode to top prospects in 2015. I saw Howard on the Cape and he didn't thrill me, but he's gotten a lot better since the last time I saw him and people I trust who saw him last Spring had very good things to say. So I think you have those top three ordered right. Don't have much on Hader, Mella or Fulenchek.
Eric (Maine): Not so much a question: But I just found out Nomar and Mia Hamm have a 3 year old son. Now that is some strong bloodline that scouts will be chasing in 2025.
Al Skorupa: If he picks up any of his dad's between pitch routine that kid will be losing a lot of money in fines with the new Pace of Game rules!
Chris (Phoenix): BP loves them the Raimel Tapia. Where do you stand?
Al Skorupa: Hoping to get a look at him this Spring in Scottsdale and maybe later in the year now that the Rockies have an affiliate near me (New Britain). Don't have much to add beyond what the other BP guys have already said. From watching his swing, there's some stuff to clean up there with hands and length, but adding some man strength will help.
Bill Clinton (Las Vegas): If you had to choose between Steven Matz and Henry Owens for the next 12 years, who would you take?
Al Skorupa: Interesting. They actually have some similarities in that the CB came along last for both. I think I'd go Owens - thought it's very close. Owens has such natural deception and he has a double plus offering (Changeup). Matz is older and is a TJ survivor. I do really like Matz and his FB command is superior to Owens. That's something I value highly. I would go so far to say if I had skipped the last Owens start I saw this year I'd probably go Matz. Owens showed me some new tricks that day, though.
Chris (Phoenix): A friend of mine is all over Jomar Reyes. I honestly know very little about him. What can you add?
Al Skorupa: If teenagers who likely end up at 1B are your thing you'd really love him. He looks like he will hit for AVG and power as much as any teenager you'll see. Scouts were very impressed, but he's got a long path and probably some defensive limitations.
Jack (Minn): Did you get a chance to see Jorge Polanco last year in New Britain? Stats were not impressive, but wondering if you thought he had the tools to be an above average regular at either MI spot. Thanks.
Al Skorupa: I did not see him there, but I often cover Twins backfields in Spring and saw a him a few times the last few years. Didn't do a lot for me. Some bat speed, but not much power and best fit is 2B. Didn't see a carry tool... I think he may start for a couple years here and there, but best as a utility guy on a good team. Lot of Twins prospect I'd take before Polanco.
Oh No! (Upset): I didn't know the New Britian is now with the Rockies. I wanted to see Buxton and possibly Sano there or in Portland.
Al Skorupa: It's a bummer - and they're now in the Southern League, so zero chance to see. Colorado has a pretty darn good system, too, and those guys are almost all going to come through NB over next 2 years.
NightmareRec0n (Boston): In the put the contract aside, wouldn't you rather start Betts in the majors than Castillo? Wouldn't Castillo benefit for from time in AAA than Betts too given has only play 18 games stateside in pro ball?
Al Skorupa: $/years of control aside, I think they'd still prefer to get Mookie some more AAA time. He was rushed through the minors (Hell, I feel like I JUST saw him in Lowell/Low-A!). After Bogaerts struggled, they might be a little more cautious. Castillo is 27 years old, too.
Could they BOTH use some more AAA time? Sure. Wouldn't hurt.
They really are similar players, too. I prefer Mookie, but both 5'8-5'9 athletes with quick hands and wrists, great speed and surprising power.
myonkosk (Norfolk): Stephen Gonsalves...prospect or suspect? Why?
Al Skorupa: Our internal discussions were pretty interesting along those lines! I haven't seen him, so not a whole lot to add, but plenty of people seem to think he's turned a corner/figured something out.
Mitch (Mitchville): Rank the following prospects for a dynasty league: Josh Bell, Jose Peraza, Steven Matz, Henry Owens, Aaron Judge, Raimel Tapia, and Braden Shipley
Al Skorupa: Owens
Matz (The three arms are the safest tier and it's basically a pick'em depending on which weaknesses bother you the least)
Bell (now a 1B)
On Judge - saw quite a bit of him. I think his tools are so strong and what he does well he does WELL ENOUGH that it will overcome hit tool questions. I'm probably one of the low guys on Judge around here. Pretty funny to me, because two years ago I was arguing with people he was a big league regular where everyone questioned him. Big, stiff, long swing and he's just so big he doesn't really have great control of the bat head or barrel because he's too big to have that kind of fine motor control. Doesn't see breaking or soft well, but a selective hitter anyway. I feel like the problems I saw aren't big issues yet but will get exposed in Double-A. I still really like him and think he's a big league regular. He will also be a very fun player to watch. AVG may be a bigger issue than many anticipate, but it's not going to stop him from being a valuable MLB OF.
Drew (Topeke): Aaron Sanchez or Dellin Betances as a closer? Who has more dominating stuff in that role?
Al Skorupa: Betances. I whiffed on him, too. Never bought him as a starting pitcher, but thought late inning reliever with stuff over command profile. He was still a mess mechanically like... a year and a half ago! Big pitchers are the weirdest like that. Sometimes it's like a light switch with those guys. They figure something out or a coach says something and all of a sudden it clicks and their big, awkward delivery all of a sudden works. Give up on those types at your peril. These two have some of the better raw stuff in the game.
myonkosk (Virginia beach, VA): Forrest wall has a little mookie in him too doesn't he? At least offensively...
Al Skorupa: Interesting angle. As I said, I saw a good amount of Mookie's pro debut (basically, had one game with GCL club year before). Guess what? NO ONE thought he was this kind of player. I think he probably got turned in most as a utility guy. He looked awkward and uncomfortable at SS. Didn't have the range and his reads/jumps and instincts were off. His athleticism played down. Everything played down. They finally signed Deven Marrero and he moved Mookie over to 2B. From there on out Mookie got better and better. By the end of the summer he was raking and even hit a few bombs in batting practice. I STILL didn't see the real Mookie and was skeptical when people started raving about him the next year. Since Deven Marrero showed up at Lowell the guy has just been on a rocket trajectory upward. Keeps getting better and better and all his natural ability comes out to shine.
Wall now is basically ahead of where Mookie was then. Doesn't mean a whole lot since Mookie's development path is... rare. I tried to see Wall down in FL last March but he was hurt. Seen enough to think that guy is going to hit plenty, though.
Craig (Buford): Why does Danny Santana not get more recognition? He has always been a very talented hitter, even with some regression the sheer volume of plate appearances with his skill set could see him put up very similar numbers to what Jose Reyes did last year right?
Al Skorupa: Danny Santana teased for a few years and would show flashes of what he could do followed by very bad days in the field and at the plate. Very inconsistent player. Scouts definitely liked him more than prospect list makers all along. He may very well have been a guy who plays better on center stage under the big lights (big leagues). Hanley Ramirez was one of those.
I ask everyone (BP Chats): Since you mentioned Betances, Who are some guys you either wrote off and surprised you or were high on them only for them to disappoint? Do you keep any lessons from these guys on your mind when scouting?
Al Skorupa: Yes. Paul Goldschmidt and Freddie Freeman are two I just discounted for being 1B prospects and missed the boat there. I still believe in Mike Olt, but that's worrying me. Mookie (see above). I LOVED Allen Webster. Thought he was front of rotation arm. Still may be. Definitely needed a change of scenery.
I'm very much an organized person who likes to look back in the winter and see where I messed up. Giving a player the wrong role isn't always a fault of the evaluator though. Players are people. People change over time. Baseball skill sets change over time. YOUNG player are young people and young people change often and dramatically. It's a cliche, but this is an industry where 30% (.300 AVG) is the measure of an All Star. Probably true of prospects as well. Have to accept sometimes the right projection is unknowable. You CAN'T be right 100% of the time. I just like to figure out WHY I was wrong and what I can learn from it. With Betances - big guys take longer sometimes. They're on their own schedule. Have to remember what appealed to you about them in the first place. Thought I have to admit when I see a big guy who can't repeat his delivery I still want to smoke the guy in my report!
DanDaMan (Sea Cliff): Al- what are your 3 favorite parks to watch a game in the Northeast? Thanks
Al Skorupa: Fenway, of course. Baseball there is a different experience. Look it up. Manchester, NH/Fisher Cats is a great facility and experience. Cardines Field in Newport is crazy for high school. For college, Bryant University has a great field. Holy Cross. Yale. Never been to Wahconah Park in Pittsfield, MA, but that's supposed to be a fun place. Chatham on the Cape is a fairly poor experience for scouts, but fantastic fan experience. Orleans, too. Sure I'm forgetting some here!
Cal Guy (Cal): Hi Al, Of the top pitching prospects, Giolito, Syndergaard, Urias, and others, do you see any developing into a true ace, I mean, among the top half dozen or so starters in the game?
Al Skorupa: Giolito. Giolito all day long. Urias I haven't seen. Bundy has a shot. I don't think Syndergaard, Appel or Gray will quite get there, but all these guys will be good.
I've had a couple conversations about this, but I tend to wonder if the obvious ones are less likely to make that last jump from 2 starter to true Ace. It tends to be guys with a flaw who figured it out at some point. Pedro Martinez was not someone people thought would be an Ace. Justin Verlander was not someone people thought would be an Ace.
Hunter Harvey has one of the better chances, I think. Super impressed when I saw him. If he's healthy, of course. I covered Rodon above, and as much as I loved Hoffman I don't think he'll ever clean up the command enough to be a real Ace. Alex Meyer... now that guy has a shot. I've seen him 4, 5 times. Most times no chance. First couple times I actually thought reliever. But one time I saw him and he figured his delivery out and had it all going. Wouldn't bet on it, of course, but I'm a believer in Meyer. Another page to the "big guys figure it out a little late" book, too.
Brian (WI): Highest ceiling of pitchers spencer adams, marcus molina, fedde. same question about guys eons away...adrian rondon, mags sierra, mateo, lara
Al Skorupa: Give me Adams. I kind of lean towards fedde fitting better in relief, and I've encountered many who thought the same of Molina.
In this kind of discussion, it's hard to beat the shorstops. Rondon and Mateo very similar - for ceiling probably Rondon. Give me the power guy in Lara, because sierra's approach has such a long way to go.
Thanks for chatting with me! Hopefully do another one of these soon. With warmer weather and baseball outside, too.
Al Skorupa: Thanks!