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Chat: Bryan Smith

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Welcome to Baseball Prospectus' Monday January 28, 2008 1:00 PM ET chat session with Bryan Smith.


Bryan Smith covers college and minor-league baseball in his \"Wait \'Til Next Year\" column

Bryan Smith: Hey guys, sorry we're starting a few minutes late, it appears my Internet and the back-end of the site here seem to be working a bit slow. But we'll get going and I'll try to do what I can in two hours. For continuity's sake from other chats, I should congrats The Office on the SAG Award last night. And I'm also glad to be chatting in the midst of the rumored Erik Bedard trade, as well as excited college baseball is only three weeks away. Let's get going.

Conor Glassey (Woodinville, WA): Where would you rank Brian Matusz among other recent dominating college lefties like David Price and Andrew Miller?

Bryan Smith: Good question. I think Matusz, coming out of college, will be a better bet to reach his potential than either player. He has three polished pitches, his third a breaking ball that is really a better third pitch than Price or Miller's change. That said, he doesn't have the velocity of those two guys, and I don't think he has the potential. Because Miller has backed off a bit, I'll go Price-Matusz-Miller, but it's all pretty close.

tycobb (ga): who has the better year offensively in 08, Geovanny Soto or JR Towles

Bryan Smith: Good question. Offensively I think I give Soto a slight edge, because his success was a bit more sustained in these catcher's 2007 breakout seasons. Soto has been power at this point, and with the winds at Wrigley, could probably hit 20 home runs. However, Soto also is a bit more volatile in my mind -- if he returned to his pre-2007 form, that wouldn't shock me either.

tycobb (ga): how good can Ubaldo Jimenez be in 08?

Bryan Smith: Really good, because the arm strength is there and a good second half is going to leave him with the requisite amount of confidence. But for Ubaldo, everything is going to be about fastball command. In analyzing Franklin Morales, Kevin Goldstein talked about Morales realizing he's better 93-95 than 96-98, a lesson I'm not sure Ubaldo has yet grasped.

MarinerDan (San Francisco): If the deal goes through as rumored, how valuable is the package that the M's are giving up for Erik Bedard (Adam Jones, Chris Tillman, and Carlos Triunfel)? Biggest talent haul since the Colon trade?

Bryan Smith: It's a pretty huge trade, especially considering how high I am on Tillman and Triunfel. I think Jones for Bedard is a trade that is really interesting in a vacuum, the idea of ace pitcher against unrealized outfield phenom talent. But to add in a pitcher who I think might become a top 20 prospect next year, and a kid that really reached historic levels by hitting in High-A last year, this trade becomes lopsided quickly. Like Dave said at USSM, it's the wrong way to get to the right goal.

jaymoff (Salem, OR): How does slick fielding Oregon State Beaver Joey Wong project as a future professional baseball player? His glove can take him to the highest but what about his bat?

Bryan Smith: Proud of Salem, right Jay? Joey is a good college lead-off player that, you're right, does some great things in the field. But in the end, this is a guy that is listed at 5-10, 160, and I doubt he's really that. Because he won't slug for much with a wooden bat, he needs to start showing Rickey Henderson patience as well as fantastic patience. In the end, though, playing in the MLB is probably a reach for Wong.

Chad (St Paul): Who is the better bet to be an impact CF - Desmond Jennings or Cameron Maybin?

Bryan Smith: I think Maybin is the better bet because he's closer to the Major Leagues, and in terms of raw tools, he still grades out better than Jennings. I agree that the strikeouts and groundouts are concerning, but let's be real here, Maybin did all that and still hit .300/.400/.500 in the minors. Plus you move Maybin to the NL, and he's definitely the better bet.

Andrew (Chicago): Should Cards fans be excited about a potential OF of: Duncan, Rasmus, Ankiel w/ Barton in reserve?

Bryan Smith: Absolutely, all though that outfield is extremely concerning against left-handed pitching. I know you would then throw Barton in one of the slots, but still, 2 out of those three (Duncan, Rasmus, Ankiel) still give you two black holes against left-handed pitching. I think Rasmus and Ankiel will probably get better at that as they go, but for 2008, left-handed pitching should worry St. Louis fans. And it doesn't help that the Cubs have three good ones in their rotation.

basicslop (Albuquerque): Baseball America has Matusz slipping to the number 4 pick past the royals. Why wouldn't the Royals pick him with the third pick. Then again, why would I care about draft predictions in January?

Bryan Smith: Well, you really shouldn't, just as I said when I gave my top ten December prediction, and just like I think Jim Callis would say about his January mock 5. The point Jim and I are making is not to try and accurately predict exactly what players are going to go well -- though we'll both brag about doing that if we get it right -- but to show the players that teams in the top ten will be considering. Everything, EVERYTHING, in the top ten hinges on this spring.

BL (Bozeman): What affect do you see the later starting date and condensed mid-week schedules having during this college baseball season? Does it go beyond just increasing the importance of pitching depth?

Bryan Smith: Good question. First of all, I hope the more games in the mid-week schedule don't hurt players' grades, because baseball doesn't need any more negative rules put down on the sport. But in terms of baseball, I think it's really important that baseball put a universal blanket down for everyone to follow. It doesn't really change things for the north teams, except that when they start Feb. 22, the south teams won't have 11 or so games of experience. Pitching depth will be a big question, for sure, but most of all, I think weekday games will start to gain more legitimacy ... which is a good thing.

Tony (Brooklyn, NY): Would Austin Jackson be relatively anonymous in a system like Tampa Bay's, or would he be right there in their upper tier? Thanks!

Bryan Smith: Well, Tampa is a tough one to put him in, because on Tampa, there aren't a lot of players that wouldn't slip into the back-end of the top ten. However, I certainly don't think Jackson would be anonymous in the Tampa system, not with what he did in High-A, and most of all, not with his athleticism. We are talking about a D-1 caliber basketball talent that is playing and hitting with power in center field. Jennings results have to give him the edge, but tools-wise, they are pretty close.

gary carter's perm (the trash bin): Hi Bryan. Thanks for taking the time to chat. You're the GM of the MLB's newest expansion team. You are given the chance to select one of Buchholz, Chamberlain, Gallardo, Hughes, and Lincecum. Whom do you select, and do you see much between them as they develop?

Bryan Smith: Man, that's tough, and I certainly wish I had PECOTA's five-year forecast in front of me before I made it. You know what, I'm going to go against the grain and say Gallardo, because I think his stuff and command is so unique, plus there are no questions about his delivery or build or attitude or injury history. He might just be the safest bet of the five.

jromero (seattle): Forgive me for the obscure question, but big leaguers coming out of Miami(OH) are so rare that I have to ask. Would you please share any thoughts you have on Conor Graham? At last check, he was pitching in the Rockies' org. in Tri Cities, WA. Thanks!

Bryan Smith: If this was the most obscure question in the queue, I would be a lucky man. I like Connor Graham quite a bit, but I thought he was going to turn a corner his junior year and get some early round interest. I think as a Redhawk fan, you can't really be happy that he never became that guy. But in pro ball he certainly has the arm to succeed, with velocity approaching the mid 90s. He'll have to watch his fastball command and his build a bit going forward.

AnimeBollocks (NJ): Standard Johan Question : Let's say you're Bill Smith. Which package of NYM, NYY, and BOS' youth is the one you think plays out best in the long-term?

Bryan Smith: If I'm Bill Smith, I would have accepted the Mariners offer before the Bedard trade got done. Trust me, it's a much better bet for me to trade with Bill Bavasi than Epstein, Cashman or Minaya.

ripfan008 (Baltimore): Hi Bryan- Thanks for chatting. How much did Bill Rowell hurt his value last year and what is his (most likely) potential?

Bryan Smith: I seem to align more with Clay's translated numbers for Rowell than Kevin's opinion of him. I think Rowell is probably the third and maybe still the second-best prospect in that system. He had some injury problems really hurt a month of his numbers, and really, his numbers for a teenager in Low-A weren't bad. Add in the fact that defensive reviews actually came back as a positive, and while his value is certainly lower than it was a year ago, I'm not sure his ceiling changes.

BL (Bozeman): To me, one of the fun things about college baseball is that schools outside the power conferences compete at the highest level. Which of those schools (Wichita State, San Diego, etc.) do you see having the best chance of advancing to Omaha?

Bryan Smith: You hit that on the head, BL, that really is one of the best parts about college baseball. I would throw TCU and Oral Roberts and Louisiana-Lafayette into that mix, too, as well as a bunch more. But in terms of best chance to go to Omaha, I don't think you could go with anyone but San Diego there, given the strength of their pitching staff. If they can hit with Romanski and Sanchez and the rest of that lineup, you know they have the arms to play with anyone. Plus, give me that pitching staff in a short series in May, thank you very much.

John (Fairfax, VA): Is there a big difference in talent between Justin Smaok and Yonder Alonso? It seems like everyone has Smoak going ahead of Alonso in the draft, yet Alonso's approach seems to be better and his numbers are clearly better than Smoak's. What do you think?

Bryan Smith: His numbers are clearly better? Smoak hit .315/.434/.631 as a sophomore with a .931 OPS as a freshman. Obviously Yonder's .376/.519/.705 is better, but BABIP is a big part of that, and Smoak had a better freshman season. But to get to why Smoak is better, I think scouts are really looking at the pretty large difference we see in defensive value as well as power potential. With a wood bat, Smoak is still a 30-40 HR threat. The real Alonso question is whether he is 30-40 or closer to 20-30 with 40-50 doubles. That's why you go Smoak.

Tony (Brooklyn, NY): Will the Milledge trade go down as indefensible? Thanks!

Bryan Smith: I certainly will never understand trading a player with Milledge's potential, a player I know that PECOTA also likes, while his value is at the lowest point. It's a bad way to conduct business, so it's pretty indefensible before any baseball is even played.

dtimmeny (NYC): Hey Bryan, how do you rank the following crop of young stud outfielders as to their career peaks - Bruce, Justin Upton, Rasmus, Jones, Maybin?

Bryan Smith: Upton, Bruce, Jones, Rasmus, Maybin. Not a slight against anyone, I think they will all be pretty good.

charles (west hempstead, ny): After Brignac, who's the best SS prospect (who will actually stick at SS) in the minors?

Bryan Smith: Probably Jed Lowrie, if you are of the opinion that he can stick at shortstop. I believe it, and while he might not be best up the middle, he could work there. And while I know he's not really popular, you can't argue with Elvis Andrus' potential. Minor league coaches still love this guy, and if nothing else, I guarantee he stays at shortstop.

Kellen (Indiana): I (wasted?) an entire summer blogging about and analyzing the Hoosier baseball squad. Any reason for me to cover these guys again, or just more obscurity? Would love to see my boy Evan Crawford get some attention.

Bryan Smith: No, you should continue to cover them, Tracy Smith is doing some good things with that program. They have a good freshman left-hander coming in named Kyle Leiendecker, and I think their sophomore catcher Josh Phegley is going to have an All-Big Ten year after a really good summer. The problem for your boy Evan Crawford is that he's the second-best player named that in college baseball, behind Auburn's electric southpaw closer. Next year he might get some attention.

Alex (Des Moines): Among the White Sox "top" pitching prospects, who has the best chance to achieve big league success? Poreda, Broadway, or Egbert?

Bryan Smith: Poreda has to be the best answer there, because his stuff is light-years ahead of the other two. I don't have much faith in Broadway at all, because he just doesn't have a Major League fastball. I think Egbert has a lot of potential, but it's more as a 4.25 ERA back-end innings eater than anything else. But Poreda, he's got premier left-handed stuff, and while he's far away, he's certainly the best of the three.

Hugh (Jersey City, NJ): What can you tell me about Tony Thomas Jr? I've read that his bat is for real but he needs work defensively at 2B. Would it be premature to compare him to a Kendrick or Weeks?

Bryan Smith: Yeah, it would, because Thomas really only has 2007 as a positive body of work. You're right, he's not great defensively, so while that might make Weeks a natural comparison, he doesn't have Weeks natural power. I think strikeouts will continue to be a problem, but his walks and baserunning ability is a pretty good starter set.

dogtothedog (Toronto): Whats up with all of Toronto's first round picks having brudel pro debuts? is it something jays fans should be concerned with?

Bryan Smith: No, not at all. Ahrens was a bit in over his head, but it's not like he didn't belong in the first round. He has a good swing and he will be fine, but I think he showed the Blue Jays should not rush him. I'm not a huge Arencibia fan, but if you put him in Low-A this year, I guarantee you that he will hit. Cecil had a great pro debut so he's certainly on the right track, and Jackson is so raw that I think the Blue Jays will really take their time on him. Extended Spring Training should be a must for him.

Stephen (Louisville, KY): Where does Felix Pie fit with your list of outfield prospects above? It seems to be a wide spectrum when it comes to predicting his future.

Bryan Smith: I don't think it's fair to put Pie in comparison with those guys, but I do still believe in him. He's a very good defensive outfielder, and he's going to hit. He'll be frustratingly inconsistent, I'd bet, but that doesn't mean that he's not a better option than anyone else the Cubs have.

bubba (maine): kala kaaihue in double-a: did he experience normal growing pains at a new level, or was he simply exposed?

Bryan Smith: I think he was exposed. I think the swing is long and problematic, and those strikeout numbers are very damning. More Brad Eldred than Steven Pearce here, I'm afraid.

PSzucs (Toronto, Ontario): Rank the A's pitching propsects: Cahill, Gio, Anderson, DLS.

Bryan Smith: Gio, DLS, Cahill, Anderson. I like all four, but I really like Gio quite a bit because he has three polished pitches, and I like Cahill a bit more than Anderson because of the difference in stuff. Can't argue with any of these guys, really.

Tim (Portland, OR): So what do you think about Moustakas? Jim Callis has him as his #6 overall prospect in baseball, while Keith Law said Moose wasn't one of the ten best draft picks from 2007. What's going on there?

Bryan Smith: I'm certainly between those two extreme views. I think I'd have Moustakas as probably the fourth or fifth best player drafted from 2007, and I do think you could argue anywhere from 3 to about 8. But here's a guy athletic enough to be talked about up the middle, but still with enough power to break California high school records. Like KG I do worry about his height some, but the loft in his swing exists to hit for pretty good power, and he has the athleticism to be really good in RF if that's where the Royals 10-year plan puts him.

Al ((Port Chester, NY)): Who do you see becoming the better pro, Grant Green or Brandon Crawford?

Bryan Smith: Good question. I think Green is the better bet, as he is talked about really as one of the better players available in the 2009 draft. Crawford raised a lot of doubters when he struggled in the Cape -- people expected him to hit like Matt Wieters did the year before as the most talented player in the league. The strikeouts are beginning to become a big issue there, and while his arm and speed grade out better than Green, I think Green's offensive toolset is better enough to off-set that.

rawagman (Work): Bryan, thanks for answering. As a newer BO member, I especially enjoy the prospect element of the Prospectus setup. I have long speculated that MLB teams would be best served by focusing the scouting efforts on JuCo players or players who have done 2-3 years of college ball instead of 4th year seniors or high schoolers. Obviously, top-tier talent is in its own sphere, but I am referring to an "all else being equal" type of scenario. These guys would have passed through the majority of their injury nexus and gotten over many of the growing pains of that age group but would still have more ceiling than 4th year guys. Any comment on that thought?

Bryan Smith: Long question, but appreciated. I think there are a lot of people that agree with you, but be careful making assumptions about an injury nexus. I would hate to speak for Will Carroll, but I'm guessing he would tell you it's different for different guys. High school pitchers get drafted with less pitches under their belt than college guys -- that has to be an advantage for some, right? I think your viewpoint is certainly appreciated, and actually followed by a lot of teams, but I don't think wide-ranging assumptions are fair.

twayda (Chicago): How about Pedro Alvarez compared to Longoria and Gordon?

Bryan Smith: Gordon is certainly the better person to compare him to, because remember, Longoria was a shortstop in college his junior season. He's obviously a better third baseman than Gordon and Alvarez because of better athleticism. But Alvarez and Gordon match up pretty well, both have big-time power and showed good plate discipline in college. I like Alvarez' build a little more, and if he hits this season, I think he might be a bit ahead of Gordon. But I'm a big Vote for Pedro guy.

Henry (Arcadia, CA): Please rank these flamethrowers: Jordan Walden, Fautino De Los Santos, Jarrod Parker and Jeremy Jeffress. Which one is likliest to reach their ceiling? The least likely?

Bryan Smith: I like Parker the best out of that bunch, because he has such natural arm action and quite a good curveball. I'm going with him first. I think Fautino's season last year puts him an inch ahead of Walden, who has a better arm naturally. Jeffress comes in last, and I think he's least likely for now because of whatever has come up here in 2007.

Randy (Hollywood): So what are your favorite movies from 2007? Oscar season has me hooked this year.

Bryan Smith: Finally, a chance to get into pop culture a bit! I am a Juno fan this year, and I know it's a divisive movie, but I'm totally on board Diablo Cody's awesome script. Behind that, I go with: Into the Wild, Atonement, There Will Be Blood and Away From Her as my top five. I think Daniel Day-Lewis turned in a generational performance and he's also turned out to be a pretty fantastic human in the last month or so.

PSzucs (Toronto, Ontario): Kyle Blanks: All-star, decent starter, or pinch hitter?

Bryan Smith: Well, I think it's a bit premature to slot him into any of those roles at the moment. I think he's probably most likely to be a middle-of-the-road first basemen, but he's got All-Star potential and he's not the safest bet, either. Him in a more difficult environment is one of many subplots I'm looking forward to in this minor league season.

USDFan (San Diego): Bryan, looking at your talent list for college juniors, I missed the section on Pitchers. Did I miss something or do you follow the Mark Grace premise that pitchers have no athletic talent.

Bryan Smith: Don't worry, I'll be hitting on pitchers in my column tomorrow. It's a good year for pitching at the college level, with a lot of guys on the bubble between second half of the first round and third round.

James (Houston, TX): Can you compare Aaron Crowe (or his repetiore) to a current RH starting pitching prospect? He seems to be mentioned as the top college RH in this year's draft. Do you think he is?

Bryan Smith: I hesitate to compare Crow to anybody, because we've seen Crow really revolutionize himself in the last year. He's a guy that was pitching at around 90 mph last spring, and then threw a 98 mph fastball as one of his last pitches on the Cape. He's a guy that learned to succeed pitching at 90 with spotting his fastball and mixing in a good change, and now he's 98 and his change will be better as a result. The question will be the development of his breaking ball. I'm generally a bit worried about him because the velocity jump is so strange and his wrist curl in his delivery is different, but all he has to do is continue to show the same stuff and he'll be the first right-handed pitcher drafted from college, yes.

Ken (Albany): Please settle an argument for me. Based on their pure hitting abilty and nothing else, Travis Snider's ceiling is as good as Jay Bruce's. True or false? Thanks!

Bryan Smith: False. Snider's build leaves his power potential a little behind Bruce. Snider is really built like Matt Stairs, and while his potential is certainly higher than that, it's a frame that is limiting. Jay Bruce is the top guy in the minor leagues, though, and there really aren't many more that Snider's offensive ceiling comes behind.

Tim (Portland, OR): Am I wrong to be a little down on Wieters? It seems like he had a down third year at Ga Tech and a sort of mediocre debut. It seems like the love is a residue from his sophomore year and that season on the cape. Is he a better prospect than Clement or Conger right now? What is his ceiling?

Bryan Smith: I think you're right to look at the most recent examples of his body of work and throw up red flags, but really, it's hardly as if his junior season as a Yellow Jacket was bad, and he did more good things than bad things in Hawaii. The guy has all the best parts of Clement, and then is better where Jeff struggles, namely a better defender. I don't love Conger like the rest seem to, so yeah, I see Wieters as better than those two. But he's not the sure thing he was in August 2006 after that Cape performance, you're right about that.

BL (Bozeman): How well does plate discipline translate from college to professional ball?

Bryan Smith: I can't really tell you numerically right now, but I think it's probably something that translates pretty well. Walk numbers are representative of the ideal, which is whether a player will wait and take a pitch. If he did so in college, I think he'll continue to value that asset in the pros. However, remember that pitching is usually better in the pros, so there will be a lot more sliders that look like strikes and then break out of the zone, or a lot of cutters that run back onto the plate. It wouldn't be a perfect correlation, I think, but it wouldn't be completely useless.

Victor (Annandale, VA): Which Upton will have the better career, BJ or Justin?

Bryan Smith: I like Justin, I think he is a bit more talented. Justin is a better bet to one day hit 40 home runs, he's a better bet to succeed in center field. BJ might get to a .400 OBP first, but in the end, I think Justin will be better.

Jack (Miami): Is my former Cane Chris Perez the Cardinals closer in 2009?

Bryan Smith: I think so, his H/9 numbers have gotten pretty ridiculous, and he might just have the best slider in the minor leagues. Chris has done much better than I anticipated, and there is reason to think he'd be the Cardinals best closer option in 2008 if they weren't stubborn. 2009 he should be for sure.

Tom (Atlanta): How good is Christian Friedrich? I have seen some video and he does have a nasty curveball. Are the comparisons to Barry Zito fair, and how big of a concern are his walks?

Bryan Smith: I think Zito is sort of the natural comparison for a guy of Chris' caliber, with that nasty curveball and a solid-average fastball behind. Ted Lilly and Sean Marshall are the others I usually here in that category. But you're right, the key for Chris this year is going to be commanding his fastball and proving that it can be a weapon in the way that Lance Broadway's fastball has never been a weapon behind his curve. I hope to talk to Friedrich on the phone relatively soon, and when I do, you can bet I'll Unfilter it immediately.

JT (MKE): Lately, I have heard Doug Melvin tout Alcides Escobar as one of the better prospects in the brewers system??? Really???

Bryan Smith: That's really more indicative of the Brewers system being down right now than Escobar being good. Melvin might paint it positively, but I doubt he's hoping Escobar is his shortstop of the future.

Alton (San Diego, CA): What are your thoughts on Jemile Weeks? I know he doesn't have the power of his brother, as he's more of a top of the order hitter. How does his defense compare to Rickie's? Does he project to be a first rounder this June?

Bryan Smith: His defense is significantly better than Rickie's when he's healthy. He is a naturally quicker athlete, and he has softer hands up the middle as well. At the plate, the talk his freshman season when I covered him for Team USA was that he had the quickest wrists in college baseball. Really, everything in his game is about quickness. If his hamstrings are fine and he's healthy this year, and the quickness still shines through, then yes, he's a first rounder.

sam (dallas, tx): where do you see jordan danks getting drafted? he seems to be a bit of a disappointement since arriving at texas. do you think he will be better as a pro than he's shown as a collegian? if so, how much better?

Bryan Smith: I have to admit finding the idea of Danks being disappointing as a bit ridiculous. I know he was praised as a five-tool guy, so the power is implied, but how can you argue against too .900+ OPS seasons. How can you argue against his defense in center? Or his 26-for-26 baserunning? Or his fabulous plate discipline. Now I know the power isn't there, but really, is there a better lead-off profile in college baseball? Has there been recently? Can I continue to ask rhetorical questions the rest of the chat?

cjbuet (madison, wi): Does Longoria start the season at 3b and what kind of year would you expect him to have? What kind of hitter should he settle in as? Is a Braun type break out possible?

Bryan Smith: He certainly should start the season at third base, and he'll help the Devil Rays team defense so much if he does. He'll also hit, right away and consistently, and yes, a breakout to the point of winning Rookie of the Year is possible. I don't think a breakout matching Braun's SLG is very likely, though.

Tony (Brooklyn, NY): Do you see Tampa Bay competing for a wild card anytime soon? Is there best chance a Yankee implosion cause by Jeter defensive decline, Rivera/Posada age, and a changing in the guard in the OF to Tabata/Jackson? Thanks!

Bryan Smith: I do see them competing soon, but not in 2008 as much as 2009. I think this season really needs to be a set-up in terms of getting a good defense aligned and then figuring out which 12 of their 200 potential pitchers are going to be used in 2009-2012. I think there probably will be some vulnerability with the Yankees around 2010, and the Red Sox might worsen a bit if Manny leaves and Schilling retires. 2009 and 2010 are better bets than 2008, but Tampa will be competing.

collins (greenville nc): Bryan, how high are you on Alexi Casilla, after his underwhelming performance at Rochester and in MN this past year? Still SS/2B of the future?

Bryan Smith: I'm not very high on Casilla. His contact abilities are pretty fantastic, and he deserves praise for that, but his OBP is just not high enough to make up for the fact that a .400 SLG will always be difficult for him. My leadoff series I did in July really painted a picture that Casilla faces an uphill, uphill climb.

yoink (trapped): What is your reasoning for putting Jones ahead of Bruce?

Bryan Smith: I don't think I did, I think you read that wrong. If not, I typed it wrong. Jay Bruce is the best prospect in baseball. Adam Jones is good, but he's not as good as Jay Bruce. Now I'm sure I didn't type it wrong.

lol (orlando): What happened to Craig Hansen in Boston, will he have a legit role in the bullpn this season?

Bryan Smith: This is a great question: really, what happened to Craig Hansen. People on the Cape still talk about his time there, and his dominance. It really speaks to how well Luke Burnett pitched there last summer that people were referencing Hansen. But really, a guy with a 92-mph slider not being able to succeed? It seems insane. But, it speaks to the importance of fastball command in a pitcher's arsenal. It's like contact ability for hitters -- it really is the first tool that all other tools are built off.

Geoff (Chicago): Joe Blanton will be pitching for ________ on August 1, 2008

Bryan Smith: I'm still going to guess that Johan goes to the Red Sox and then Blanton ends up going to the Mets. Sometimes, the simplest solution is the easiest one.

Jacques (France): Half a year out of the draft, is it fair to say Ben Revere wasn't as much of a reach as originally presumed?

Bryan Smith: Good question, Jacque. I think there is a lot of danger in bashing a selection on draft day like we all originally did when the Twins took Revere. In the end, scouts and scouting directors are the smartest minds in baseball at analyzing high school talent, not you, not I. So I think when a scouting director worries that a player like Revere won't be available by his next pick and takes him, that we need to hold the scouting director accountable, but also recognize there is a reason for that pick. There is a reason Revere was taken by the Twins, a reason Kozma was taken by the Cardinals.

dtimmeny (NYC): Where would you rank the peak of Matt Kemp relative to the aforementioned outfielders?

Bryan Smith: Pretty highly, probably right behind Bruce and in front of Adam Jones. You could make a case for Bruce and Kemp on the same level. With Nate already mentioning PECOTA loving Kemp, you readers might just see a BP-Kemp lovefest for the next decade. Be prepared.

Kris (NJ): Kevin Goldstein has said that towards the end of the season, it looked like Jon Lester's stuff was coming back to pre-cancer form. Gammons mentioned that his changeup and curveball improved dramatically in the postseason. What did you see, and how do you think Jon Lester will perform this season? Do you think it's a good bet his command will improve? Do you still see him as having a high ceiling?

Bryan Smith: Oh, there is an absolutely undeniable difference between Lester in that gutsy first start against Cleveland and Lester in the playoffs. Against the Indians in the regular season, his stuff was not back, particularly his curveball I thought. I think he will be much better this season, and I'm just so glad his ceiling will be unaffected by the bump in the road he had to deal with.

rgmoore68 (L.A.): I've noticed that almost all of the recent Dodger prospects (Martin, Loney, Kemp, Billingsley, Broxton) have either met expectations or even slightly exceeded them. Does this suggest that they are doing a better job of grooming and developing talent than some other organizations? Does organiztional development strength play into the way you evaluate talent?

Bryan Smith: It suggests that Logan White is one of the brightest minds in baseball, and really, someone that already should be a General Manager. White did such a good job -- he converted Martin, chose Loney to hit not pitch, found Kemp and Billingsley -- he's probably the scouting director with the best resume. And to think, a year ago, people were asking me: "isn't Logan White overrated because his guys haven't done anything yet?"

cjbuet (madison, wi): Does Franklin Morales have F. Liriano upside?

Bryan Smith: Does Francisco Liriano still have Francisco Liriano upside? No, I'm not sure Morales will have the season Liriano did before injury -- his slider isn't as good as Liriano's was. But then again, I'm not so sure Liriano will ever have that season again.

Chris Anderson (The Nest): Jay Bruce or the Cloverfield Monster?

Bryan Smith: A good last question, I think. You know, Chris, I think it's pretty sad that everyone in the U.S. have seen the Cloverfield monster (haven't they, by now?) and very few have seen Jay Bruce so far. I think once Bruce gets the following Abrams' Cloverfield has, it will become quite obvious: The Boss reigns supreme over Godzilla Jr.

Bryan Smith: Guys, I hate to end a chat after just 2 hours, but I do need to run. I'm hoping for another chat closer or right after the college season begins. Take care!

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