Bryan Smith covers college and minor-league baseball for Baseball Prospectus.
Bryan Smith: All right, let's start this. I'm very excited to be here with the college baseball season winding down and the minor league baseball season revving up. Those questions will get a big edge over Major League questions today. Also, pop culture questions tend to rise to the top of my queue. With t-minus one month until the draft, let's chat.
Mike (Jax, FL): True or False: The winner of the ACC tourney will get the number one overall seed (assuming its UNC, Miami or FSU).
Bryan Smith: Well, an ACC team is going to be the national number one seed, but I don't think that means it's the winner of the ACC tourney. What happens, I wonder, if Florida State wins the ACC tourney, after Miami beats North Carolina in the semi-final? Surely, Miami would have to still garner the national number one. If Miami sweeps UNC the weekend preceding the tourney and the Heels win in Jacksonville, I still think it's Miami. The Hurricanes are in the drivers seat in almost any scenario -- unless UNC beats them on the weekend and they lose in the ACC tourney.
Mike (Utica): What do you think of Jeremy Hellickson's excellent start this year?
Bryan Smith: As fantastically shocking as the numbers are, it surprises me very little that Jeremy has been able to succeed in six starts. He's, in a sense, the pitcher's version of Travis Snider -- it's possible to be so polished that normal development patterns just don't fit. I would like Tampa to consider moving Hellickson up very soon, because it's clear he's just too polished for this level. Yes, if you leave him he'll regress to the FSL mean a bit, but why not challenge him rather than to simply let him regress. Hellickson has worked so hard the last few years on his strength (which has resulted in a velocity uptick), in his endurance and on his breaking ball, and they are paying dividends. Simply, it's time to move him up, and it was probably time before his first start.
Parker Posey (Filmlore): Bryan, is it true that the Rays are actually considering my namesake to go #1 overall? What has impressed so many about him this year and what is a good 'upside' comparison"? thanks.
Bryan Smith: That's the hottest and most popular rumor it seems, and yes, I think they are absolutely considering it. Posey was just outside of getting a first round grade out of high school, and the reports have been true. He plays a premium position, has a 70 arm behind the plate and has late 90s Jason Kendall potential with the bat. The Rays simply have to weigh that likelihood against Pedro Alvarez' chance at hitting 40 home runs, and Beckham's chance at becoming Brian Roberts. I don't think they go Posey in the end, and I don't think they should -- but I certainly know they are thinking about it.
Pop (Culture): What have you thought about the Office episodes post-strike? I thought Michael and Darrell were hilarious last week. Also, do you watch 30 Rock? Some major plot changes seem to be on the horizon.
Bryan Smith: I do watch 30 Rock; it's probably my second favorite show behind The Office. Though Top Chef is close, and I'm still angry at whoever made KG defend the show in his last chat. Getting back to our NBC comedies, as a big Office fan, I've been disappointed that I think 30 Rock has been better almost every week since the return. The biggest exception was "Night Out", which is top five all-time in my favorite Office episodes. That was brilliant. 30 Rock is really putting itself in danger with such a major change -- it reminds me of what "Weeds" tried, with feigned results. I approach this week's Office anxiously, and this week's 30 Rock cautiously.
Izzy Kates (DC): Tanner Scheppers: top ten picks in the draft talent?
Bryan Smith: First of all, let me say how disappointing Scheppers usage was this weekend. On Friday, Scheppers came into the game against New Mexico in relief, and dominated with two strikeouts and 10 pitches to close out the game for Fresno. Then he came back on Sunday and pitched 6.2 innings with 6 walks and 137 pitches. With the Bulldogs up 5-2 entering the seventh, why did Scheppers go back out? Anyway, the answer to your question is yes, Scheppers is good enough for the top ten. His fastball command needs work, but he has the pitcher's body and some great breaking stuff. He's absolutely electric, and does it with three pitches as well as anyone south of Matusz.
Dan (KC): How would you assess the talent available in this draft against the talent from the past few?
Bryan Smith: Obviously it's strong in some areas and weak in some others. I think the first tier of players is deeper than most years, but the top of the draft is a little weaker. I like the depth in the college ranks, but I think the prep class is down a bit. You've heard about the college class -- heavy on sluggers, a little weaker on athletes. College pitchers are sort of an odd breed this year ... a lot of good arms, a lot of flaws in every pitcher.
Mike (Atlanta): Jason Heyward is an amazing hitter. How much longer does he have to bash low A pitching until he goes to Myrtle Beach. Is he the best Braves prospect since Chipper?
Bryan Smith: Peripherally, you'd think that I'd say the same thing about Heyward than I did about Hellickson ... move him up already! But, it doesn't hold particularly true. Heyward is exceptionally talented, and for someone at 18, he's superbly polished. But that's not to say I don't want to see him develop some skills a bit more before I move him up. Let's see a few more walks, let's see him handle change-ups from RHPs better. And you know what? I wouldn't really mind a scenario that completely bypasses Myrtle Beach. If Jason dominates Rome like he could, but the Braves let him do it over a full season, why not just send him to Mississippi next season?
Marco (Palm Springs): Bryan, What are your thoughts on USC heading into next year? Do you think Robert Stock and Grant Green are both top 10 picks next year?
Bryan Smith: Yeah, after this weekend it's time to think about next year. Well, you have to figure Milone will be gone, as he's been the lone bright spot in an awful pitching staff. The question will be whether they get Ryan Cook to come back for his senior season, as Cook, Kevin Couture and Brad Boxberger wouldn't be the worst weekend rotation in the world. On offense, it'd be nice to get Vasquez or Buss back, because there will be a lot of turnover there with the graduation of some of those seniors. As far as Green and Stock go, I think Green goes in the top ten for sure. I floated him out as a 1-1 candidate, but now you're really just shooting for 1-2 with Strasburg taking the reins. I think Stock is more of a back-end first guy, with a Posey-type junior season allowing a move into the top ten.
Gentile Gael (Baja Oklahoma): What's the word on Tyler Ladendorf?
Bryan Smith: With Colby Shreve injured, I think Ladendorf might be the first JuCo player taken, a smooth shortstop with a good bat. Of course, Lonnie Chisenhall is doing well, too, but he comes with some make-up problems. If Ladendorf slips in the draft and opts not to sign, he'll be one of the nation's best transfers, suiting up at Oklahoma next season. I don't think that's going to happen, though, as I see Ladendorf going in the second round.
Dewey (NYC): Are you a Jose T Guy or a F-Mart Guy and why???
Bryan Smith: Are there still Jose Tabata guys out there?
Shane (Denver): Bryan, Readers need you to tell the other BP guys to stay as long on chats as you do! You rock! What can you tell us about Darin Holcomb (3B - Asheville)? He is mashing in the SAL right now, is he one that we should be excited about?
Bryan Smith: Thanks, Shane. But re Holcomb, I wouldn't get too excited quite yet. He's 22 and playing in Asheville, a notorious hitter's stadium. While he has been good on the road, too, Holcomb didn't show power like this at Gonzaga. I mean, 6 home runs -- which is where he's at now -- matches his junior season total. Look at Asheville's performance the last few years, and you'll always find guys with inflated stats that get a little too much play: Mayora, Gaetti, etc.
georgeforeman03 (Raleigh): After a .500 record in 2007 and the loss of Matt LaPorta, has Florida surprised you with their performance this year? What does their post-season picture look like?
Bryan Smith: They've more than surprised me, I'm shocked at the job Kevin O'Sullivan has done in his first season with the Gators. I had heard all the talk regarding O'Sullvan's ability to work with a pitching staff, but the difference he has made in one season in Gainesville is absolutely huge. Plus, they are aided by some good roster construction, like an infield made up of all ex-shortstops. The emergence of Josh Adams as a top freshman has been huge, if only to give Cole Figueroa some protection in that lineup.
Paul (Pitt): Bryan, Draft day slowly approaches. Money and signability aside who are your top 5 picks? Money being a factor, who do you think the top 5 will be?
Bryan Smith: If I was guiding a war room, I would have to say that my top 5 would be Pedro, Matusz, Tim Beckham, Aaron Crow and, um, I guess Gordon Beckham. I think the top five goes something like T. Beckham, Pedro, Crow, Matusz, Hosmer. Certainly not as big of a difference as we've seen in the past. And by the way, if I continued down my personal rankings, Ethan Martin would be top ten. Love that guy.
Carson (Macon GA): Bryan, I read Tommy Hanson's added a couple ticks to his fastball, but what's your take on his dominance so far this year? Does he have the stuff to develop into a 1-2 type?
Bryan Smith: Haven't heard that Hanson has added some ticks -- during his good start in the 2007 season, he was 93-95 very often, and I haven't heard better than that this season. Anyway, since early 2007 I have liked Hanson quite a bit, his build and scouting report sounded like Adam Wainwright to me since day one. The flyball tendencies do scare me a little bit, to be honest -- it's not like he won't allow a home run all season with flyballs going in the air that often. But while he doesn't have ace potential, he has Wainwright potential, I do believe.
Ryan (NY): How would you rank the Stockton trio of Anderson, Cahill, and De Los Santos - and has your ranking of those 3 changed since the season began?
Bryan Smith: I'll say this: Trevor Cahill has done everything to earn consideration as one of the minor leagues better pitching prospects. He might very well be a top ten overall guy next year. Some credit for his draft goes to Billy Beane, if I recall correctly. Didn't Beane personally cross-check Cahill three times, or am I thinking of another guy. Anyway, he's at the top, and I think the next two are tied for the moment. De Los Santos gets more than a month before falling to the bottom, but I believe a little more in what Anderson is selling than I did six weeks ago.
Steve M (Terre Haute): Were you one of the seven million of us to see Iron Man this weekend? It was awesome! If not, what have you seen lately?
Bryan Smith: I didn't see "Iron Man" this weekend, but I have plans to later in the week, and I'm already excited. When the critics and my friends agree a movie is fantastic ... well, I usually hate it. But here's to hoping this one bucks the trend. And kudos to Robert Downey Jr. for a Josh Hamilton-like return from drug problems. The last movie I saw in theatres was "Forgetting Sarah Marshall", which was, probably worth the matinee price but nothing special. The Apatow brand is certainly making chick flicks more accessible to males, though, I'll say that.
BL (Bozeman, MT): The SEC: 1) massive mediocrity, 2) a fantastic league with sensational parity, or 3) an eight-bid league without a chance of doing much damage at all in Omaha?
Bryan Smith: Good question, one I've debated to myself a few times. I don't really think any of those answers really summarize it up, but I think 3 is probably best. This conference should get quite a few bids, and I do think it deserves it -- I think of LSU as more than a mediocre team, same with Ole Miss (obviously). I do think Georgia has a chance to do some things in Omaha, and I wouldn't even count out the Rebels or Florida. But yeah, 3 is probably closest to my viewpoint.
Billy Butler (KC, MO): should the Royals draft Justin Smoak and let me be a full time DH? We could really use a strong bat and Smoak has been hitting the cover off the baseball lately.
Bryan Smith: Smoak has been on fire lately, that's certainly true. But why would Smoak ever DH? He's a Gold Glove type at first base, and I think whoever drafts him will be excited about his abilities with the glove. I don't really, though, think Smoak is a good fit for this team. I think Beckham and Matusz would lead off my draft board if I was Ladnier, though I still have a sneaking suspicion they get Crow.
matthewshea (UMaine Grad): Bryan,
will we ever see a return to glory for Umaine in the NCAA's, or is it too difficult for any Northeast team to really put together a good program anymore?
Bryan Smith: The first regional game I ever saw was Maine in the UNC regional just a couple years back, so I'm certainly rooting for them. I always thought Curt Smith had a little Deivi Cruz in him, and it's a shame Kevin McAvoy never got back to that freshman year level. But no, it's not impossible for a Northeast team to get back to prominence -- heck, Rutgers was pretty good last year, and St. John's looks good this season. I think it takes some good roster construction and great instruction, but it's possible, yeah.
ddknowles77 (Eugene, OR): You compared Tim Beckham to Brian Roberts--could you elaborate? Brian Roberts at SS...Brian Roberts with more power...or simply Brian Roberts?
Bryan Smith: I meant to say Brian Roberts and Brandon Phillips, because those are the types of do-everything players I see as Beckham's potential. Yes, Beckham gets more points because he's a true shortstop, and a truer shortstop than Phillips ever was. If he has more power than Roberts, I don't think he'll have more power than Phillips. He probably won't be as patient as Roberts, though. Some sort of hybrid of those two players is Beckham's ceiling, for me. And that's a pretty good ceiling for a SS, by the way.
lemppi (Ankeny, IA): Bryan, thanks for the chat. Do the Detroit Tigers have any hope of Josh Fields being available at #21? Conversely, is Zach Putnam worthy of being selected at #21? Thanks....
Bryan Smith: I think it's going to be a weird draft for Tigers Scouting Director David Chadd, as I'm not quite sure there will be a top three talent to fall to him this year. Therefore, we're going to see some real evaluation techniques from the Tigers scouting brass this June. To answer your specific questions, I think there's a slim but possible chance Fields is there at 21. I'm not sure he slips past the Brewers, though, and teams before that will be interested if he's asking for a lower bonus as a senior. If not, and you want a reliever, Andrew Cashner is there. I think I like Putnam better, though, and I do think he's pretty good value at 21 as a hometown pick. The reports I've received on his splitter have been very good, and his start against Ohio State this week was nothing short of groundball brilliance.
TheFont9 (Boston): Speaking of LaPorta...he's obliterating Double A pitching. How are reports of his fielding? Is he going to force his way into a crowded Brewers outfield?
Bryan Smith: LaPorta has been fantastic in Double-A, especially coming off an absolutely monster week in which he carried Huntsville. Anyway, the reports I've heard of his fielding come from KG, and they sound cautiously optimistic. He doesn't get into the Brewers outfield this season, though, because as we talked about, he's an atypical fit with the current roster. Let the kid have 800 AB in the minors, I say, and really come up with a thorough plan before pushing forward.
ddknowles77 (Eugene, OR): I heard a fellow fan who has watched Matusz a few times compare him to Cole Hamels. What do you think?
Bryan Smith: I don't love that comparison, but I understand where he's coming from. Like Hamels, Matusz is a lefty with three pitches, and Matusz gets good change up reviews. However, Hamels is a guy with a 75 change up, where his curveball was always a 55 or so in the minors. Matusz has always sounded like he's a 60 across the board, and I think as a result, you'll see more consistency from him than Hamels. He won't be better, no, but he will be more consistent.
Jacque Gamahouche (Byto): Will Reese Havens be drafted as a SS, 2B, or 3B? About where does he currently rank?
About where does Conor Gillaspie currently rank?
Bryan Smith: Last year it surely would have been as a third baseman, but I'm not so sure anymore. Look, if Todd Frazier can get drafted as a shortstop and not get moved right away, I think you'll see Havens follow the same treatment. I think he and Beckham end up at second, though, to be honest. Gillaspie is a tick below Havens for me -- I love the plate discipline, but a little less athletic and a lot less powerful. If he works at second base he's interesting in an Antonelli fashion, however.
Gray (Chicago): Where does James Simmons stand in the pecking order of A's pitching prospects?
Bryan Smith: He stands as the first in line of reaching the Major Leagues. Since they are all on the same team, I think ranking them is sort of a strange thing to do. Simmons probably has a realistic chance of pitching with the A's as early as August, especially if Smith/Eveland regress and/or Blanton gets traded. He just looks too consistently good for the Texas League right now. He'll be up first, and if he pitches well, Simmons won't have to worry when the A's have an in-flux of those great High-A arms, I'll say that.
Mike (Jax, FL): Do you like Aaron Hicks as an Outfielder or a Pitcher?
Bryan Smith: In another world, I'd have the time to do another two-way article this year, like I did last season, and Hicks would certainly be in it. I think you first have to give Hicks the chance to be an outfielder, to let those five tools develop, because there's a very special ceiling there. If it doesn't work, he can always revert to a Madrigal-like path. Ethan Martin, on the other hand, sounds like a pitcher to me, given that he's been at 96 consistently this spring. The reports of his dominance over Hosmer were very telling, I thought.
Lonestar (Deep in the heart of Texas): What do you think about Eric Thames -- putting up fantastic numbers in arguably the toughest hitting environment (park factor-wise) in college baseball.
Bryan Smith: I've written some about Thames, so first I would have you consult that. But yes, his turnaround this season has been fantastic -- the tools that he's always had are certainly on display. I love the patience he brings, and he runs very well. I'm not sure he doesn't end up as something of a tweener, because I haven't heard outfield defense reviews and I don't think he's a power guy with wood. He should go in the supplemental first or second, and his conversion to wood is one I watch with interest.
Frank (Atlanta): What is your view of Gregor Blanco? I never really heard about him as a prospect despite good minor league numbers but he has really jumped on the scene this year with the Braves.
Bryan Smith: I mean, Blanco is what he is. It doesn't surprise me that in a sample size, he can come up to the Major Leagues and draw some walks and find some holes. With good pitch selection, runs like this shouldn't be that surprising. But as he regresses some, and with a .433 BABIP he'll be regressing for sure, you're going to see a guy with next-to-no power that hits singles and draws walks. You have to hit a lot of singles to be valuable like that, but there's worse bench guys out there.
Tim (Omaha): Bryan, we are awaiting the college world series. I'm really liking USD and Miami right now. Both have solid pitching, but can USD's bats match up with Miami? I haven't seen this Vic Sanchez guy, but have heard he is a future top 5, what are your thoughts on him?
Bryan Smith: It doesn't seem like any bats can match up against Miami's pitching staff lately, as Jim Morris' club has really caught their stride. As far as keeping up with Miami's bats, I'm not sure anyone outside of Florida State and Arizona State can do that. As for Sanchez, glad you brought him up, because he's going to be a good one. Sanchez hit last season before college ball started in the Northwoods League, and he's been hitting since. He doesn't work very well at any one position -- he was recruited as a catcher, but that didn't work -- but his bat works anywhere. He's a better version of Brett Wallace, and he's third on a lot of boards looking towards the 2010 draft.
jlarsen (DRays Bay): What Rays prospect(pitching and hitting), other than Hellickson, has impressed you the most thus far?
Bryan Smith: Well, Jake, you have to remember that I'm really weird, so I'm probably not going to give the typical answer here. I think I am most impressed with a pair of low-A arms, Justin Garcia and Brian Flores. The latter always had the arm at ASU, and I thought he was an ambitious choice. He has been very good so far this season, and I bit more controlled than I expected. He could be a good one, so I've been impressed by him.
Neftali Feliz (Kevin's Apartment): Bryan, have you spoken to Kevin about his man-crush on me? I think he is my biggest supporter. Do you think I have the ability to become an ace? Kevin didn't mention a comparison, do you have one?
Bryan Smith: Have to deal with this. You shouldn't THINK he's your biggest supporter, Neftali, you should KNOW. Kevin has been all over Feliz for some time, and after reading his last report of him, I can't wait to see him as well. If the change up is that good -- I mean, his slider wasn't even on when Kevin saw him -- than Feliz jumps up prospect rankings fast. I don't really have a comparison, no, but I do think he has some outside ace qualities.
Tim (DC): Bryan, could it really still feel like the College World Series if it was not in Omaha?
Bryan Smith: Absolutely not. I was worried about this one, a bit, but thank God they worked it out and Omaha will continue to be the home of the CWS. What I love about it is that Omaha is so Middle America, it's the perfect place for a college championship. Not New Orleans or Miami, which should be Super Bowl destinations rather than the home of BCS games. If college sports are about an equal chance for every school to become a champion, Middle America seems the perfect place to have championships decided. And Omaha has way, way, WAY too much history for the CWS to belong anywhere else.
Tobias (Madison, WI): Bryan, I had a chance to see Phillipe Aumont pitch the other night. I've gone to quite a few Rattlers games over the years and I think he may be one of the best I've seen. He doesn't just have great stuff, he really pitches, works the plate, etc. What are your thoughts? Also, what about Donald Hume is he a guy that performed at San Diego St.? He's put up great numbers thus far.
Bryan Smith: Thanks for passing this along, Tobias. Aumont was labeled as one of "My Guys" in an article I wrote last June, along with Jake Arrieta and Yasmani Grandal and Brandon Hicks and a few others. I saw Aumont at the East Coast Showcase and thought, wow, this guy could be something. I love that angle at which he pitches at, generating natural tilt. He's great. As far as Hume, he's got a nice four-pitch mix, and could be a solid back-end guy. That was a great pick.
Taylor (Toronto): Justin Jackson seems to be doing quite well for such a young player, what kind of potential does he have?
Bryan Smith: Contrary to Aumont, Jackson was not one of My Guys, but definitely won of Kevin Goldstein's guys. He liked him better than Kozma from the start. Jackson looks to be everything you would want in a leadoff guy -- patience, moderate power. I'm not sure he isn't a 2B in the end, but that doesn't matter at this point, because he's a great bet to be something.
Taylor (Toronto): Justin Jackson seems to be doing quite well for such a young player, what kind of potential does he have?
Bryan Smith: Contrary to Aumont, Jackson was not one of My Guys, but definitely won of Kevin Goldstein's guys. He liked him better than Kozma from the start. Jackson looks to be everything you would want in a leadoff guy -- patience, moderate power. I'm not sure he isn't a 2B in the end, but that doesn't matter at this point, because he's a great bet to be something.
fewgoodcards (st. louis): Who are some possibilities for the Cardinals at 13? Obviously they like college pitchers and would probably love a guy like Shooter Hunt or Tanner Scheppers, but they both could be gone. Zach Putnam seems like a guy that fits their sinkerball mentality perfectly, but is he too big of a reach at 13? Also what's the status on local boy Tim Melville?
Bryan Smith: You're right, Putnam matches team philosophy perfect, but he's just not great value in that spot. Sometimes they ignore value to get the guy they want -- okay, they do that a lot -- but I think they'll like someone that's on the board, too. I think Friedrich jumps back into the mix after a great start that I'll detail on Thursday, and I do think Melville will get some consideration. There's also a decent chance Hunt or Scheppers slips enough to get to them. But man, why are you asking me? You've been killing it in analyzing the possibilities over at Future Redbirds.
MarinerDan (San Francisco): Matt Tuiasosopo: Future star or 4-A tweener?
Bryan Smith: Wait, what? When did we even start to think Tui was good enough to be a 4-A guy? I would think that before that happens the guy has to, you know, start hitting Triple-A pitching. I've never liked Tui much at all -- he's an awkward fit defensively, and he just doesn't hit for any power. He's a Double-A lifer, to me.
Steve (San Diego): Bryan, we often hear of USD's pitching. In your column today you talk about pitching depth, which is certainly a strenght, but perhaps you can give readers some thoughts on their bats. Is Sanchez a top 5 pick in 2010?
Bryan Smith: Internet slowing down a bit, so I apologize if these begin to come in a bit slow. Okay, let's talk Toreros offense. Sanchez has top 5 pick potential, but that has the makings of a great draft, and his lack of athleticism will push him back a bit. But he's the best hitter in that class, from a pure slugger perspective. This San Diego offense is sort of a weird one, because it doesn't have a ton of power, and it doesn't have a ton of patience. They get their share of doubles and singles, and they feed of each other a lot. It's a deep lineup that probably could be shut down by someone great, but mediocre pitchers will have a hard time getting 1-9.
jlarsen (DRays Bay): How good is "Strat-o-matic"? Is he the best pitcher in college now already?
Bryan Smith: I think Jake meant to write "Stras-o-matic", talking about Steven Strasburg. Yes, he's very certainly the best pitcher in college baseball right now, and it's not really as close as people would like to believe. If he was in this draft, your Rays would be drafting him, without question. I hope Mr. Gwynn watches his pitch counts here a bit as the Aztecs season comes to an end, but yeah, he's the best college pitcher since Jered Weaver.
mattymatty (Philly, PA): I've been hearing a lot recently about how more teams will spend over slot money in this year's draft. Do you think that will happen this season moreso than it has in the past few drafts? Also, does this mean a more top heavy distribution of talent in the draft (as opposed to the teams spending over slot being in the bottom of the draft)?
Bryan Smith: I hear the same thing, and yes, it will absolutely happen more that in previous drafts, and it will happen more in the first round. I think this year you're going to see a top ten that really mirrors teams draft boards, without bonus demands really getting involved. There might be an odd duck or two, but that's my guess. As far as the bottom of the draft, I think you'll see a similar number of players convinced out of college.
Or (Dallas): Is there any chance-the faintest glimmer- that Pedro Alvarez lasts until pick #11?
Bryan Smith: No, there really is not. Now Pedro hasn't been great since coming back, but he's taking his walks and the power is slowly coming back. Your best hope was for him to stretch himself and look awful post-injury, and yet still demand $6-8 million. I think he could probably get away with $6 million right now and still go in the top ten. People have been all over Pedro for a long time, and there are a lot of scouting directors who would not hesitate at the chance to grab him.
BL (Bozeman, MT): With nearly two-third of the season gone, what's your opinion of the compacted schedule? Do you see any teams with advantages or disadvantages in May because of how they built their non-league slate?
Bryan Smith: Well, the compacted schedule was sort of inherently flawed in my mind from the beginning. How exactly did a Feb 22 start date help Michigan? If the season had opened three weekends earlier, they might have won a couple more weekends and had a better chance at regionals. It's not as if they were able to play outdoors in Ann Arbor any sooner. However, I do like what this has done to philosophy, and how coaches are being forced to use pitching staffs. One subplot of that I'd point to is USD coach Rich Hill's usage of Kyle Blair and Sammy Solis -- almost mixing and matching them versus different opponents. Of course, four legit starting pitchers gives you options like that.
Taylor (Toronto): What player could you see falling in the draft? Do any of the top 10 talents make it into the bottom 10 of the round?
Bryan Smith: First of all, no, I don't think a top ten talent makes it to 21. I don't think this is the year for David Chadd to be handed a five-star player, as I previously mentioned. But I do think there's a chance you see some top ten guys fall to maybe 12-15. One name -- and let me say that this comes from no inside knowledge but a guess -- is possibly Aaron Crow. Rumors on his bonus demands are quite high, and he's not been good for a month here. Now could Crow fall past Chicago or Washington? Yeah, probably not.
MarinerDan (San Francisco): Has the slow start of Carlos Triunfel changed your view of him as a prospect?
Bryan Smith: No, not really. What's drawn me to Triunfel always has been his fabulous ability to make contact consistently, and that has not changed even after a bad month. He seems to have a decent enough plate approach, though I would like to see more walks. He's young enough where I'm not really worried, but I am wary of the fact that he's not making enough hard contact.
Mark (Livonia): What will happen to Alabama down the stretch? Anyone on the team of interest in the draft?
Bryan Smith: Winning in Arkansas this weekend was huge for the Tide, but they still seem to be outside looking in at the NCAA Tournament. I think they need to win one of the next two weekends -- home against Florida or at Georgia to get into the tournament, and that's a tall order. It's close, though, and the Arkansas-Alabama debate is a nasty one this season. As far as draft guys, there isn't a great one. But Miers Quigley was such a guy when he came to campus, that I think he still ends up the first guy drafted on the team even after a rocky career.
Tim (DC): Bryan, is Daniel Bard's future in the bullpen? Would really like to see the Sox try one more time to try him as a starter.
Bryan Smith: Well, there seems to be some fragility with Bard -- as good as he's been this season, let's remember how off track he got last season. I think the key for this season is to let him get comfortable in his own boots, to let him build back some confidence. Also, I'm not sure I'd try him as a starter. This team is loaded with starting pitchers, and I think Bard at 99 mph out of the bullpen is a pretty good asset.
jlarsen (DRays Bay): What the outlook on Howie Long's other son, the HUGE baseball player(as opposed to the huge football player?) If he's picked in the 1st 3 rounds, do you think he'd sign? Also, would the Rays picking him with the 1st pick in Round 2 be plausible or a "reach"/"overdraft"?
Bryan Smith: His name is Jake Long, and yes, he's Howie's son and Chris' brother. He is indeed huge, pitching somewhere between 260-280 pounds. Someone once told me he was the most imposing pitcher they had ever seen on the mound, just from a visual perspective. His stuff is good, but yeah, he's going to take some money because the football thing is there. I think that's plausible, certainly, and I don't think any lefty with his body and his velocity is a reach in round 2. I also don't think the Rays will do it given the price it might take and the price 1-1 will command.
BL (Bozeman, MT): Any chance of Alvarez slipping to KC at 3? If so, do you go there? How about the Beckhams?
Bryan Smith: Yeah, I think that's certainly possible. If the Rays do indeed surprise with Posey, you know the Royals will have either Alvarez or Beckham to choose from. And I think you go there, for sure. Tim Beckham is the player in the draft that best fits the Royals, I'll tell you that. But Alvarez is my top player in the drat still, and I always support taking the player that's on your board.
Jonathan (Baton Rouge): Bryan: Love the college focus. If LSU takes care of their business the next two weekends, do you think they'll get to host a regional in Alex Box's final year?
Bryan Smith: Thanks, Jonathan. Much appreciated. Left on the docket for the Tigers is Mississippi State and Auburn, so they better take care of business. The only way they can really go the next two weekends is down, because those two are bottom feeders in this conference. I do think Georgia and Florida are going to host, and then you get into a debate between Vanderbilt, South Carolina and LSU. Vanderbilt is in the drivers seat, I think, but they also face a tough schedule the last two weeks. It's possible, which is remarkable for Manieri's crew.
Bill (New Mexico): You say, "but that has the makings of a great draft." Digging into the past 10 years of drafting, it looks to me as though in a "great" draft year, about 3/4 of the first rounders eventually make it to the Show for at least a cup of coffee, while in a "bad" one, half or less do. What's your over/under number on how many will make it from this class?
Bryan Smith: Well, in a sense, I would say that's an obtuse way of looking at it. I would go back to Rany's series on the draft to differentiate between a "great" and "bad" draft. I think a good draft should have the first round reflected somewhat on future All-Star teams, while acknowledging that busts happen. I'm not sure it's useful for me to guess that 20-22 guys eventually make the Majors. I do think this class, especially the top 20, is going to make an impact on Major League rosters, and an impact that exceeds a cup of coffee.
Pat (Tufts): How good is Gordon Beckham and where will he go?
Bryan Smith: Beckham is very good, but his numbers have almost hyperbolized him a bit. He's the Player of the Year, without question -- the Bulldogs don't function without him. I think he's going to go in the top 7, certainly, and I think the Orioles at 4 would have to really consider him. Heck, even the Pirates are going to give him a long lock, that's for sure. But I'm not as sold as everyone else on his abilities at shortstop, and his BB/K won't be this good in the pros. He's earned a top ten choice, though, and his potential is immense.
Tommy (Yale): Ryan Lavarnway from Yale- what do you think?
Bryan Smith: The catching class this year is sort of an odd duck -- you have Posey and Skipworth at the beginning, and then you wait. Then you get this weird group of guys like Paramore and Federowicz who don't really look like full-time Major League guys. I actually would put Lavarnway before those guys, because at least you have some power projection to build from. Hell, maybe he's Todd Pratt, I don't know. While he's no great shakes, he's a round 2-4 guy.
big baby (nj): What do you think a successful first/supplemental/2nd round would look like for the Mets and their decimated farm system. They have a good amount of early picks, and there has been talks about Minaya "overslotting" (buzzword of the year). However, with all of the top 10 talent likely staying in the top 10, it doesn't seem like they'll be able to use any financial muscle. So what would a good draft look like for the Mets?
Bryan Smith: I gave the Mets hell last year for going reliever-heavy, and I'm sure I'll joke if they go Fields or Cashner in the first, though those would represent solid value. The Mets need to really hit with their 3 picks in the top 33. I would love if they went with a guy like Chris Friedrich, a guy like Aaron Hicks, and a guy like Zach Putnam. One pipe dream with two solid players would be really good. They don't need to worry about "over-slotting", they need to get the guy on their board. If that's paying a couple million for Gerrit Cole, so be it. If it's spending slot on Josh Fields or Friedrich, fine.
mattymatty (Philly, PA): Not to overload you with Red Sox questions, but, have you seen/heard anything about George Kotteras this season? He's hitting .267/.384/.519 with 6 homers in ~100 at-bats for Pawtucket. Any chance this is anything other than a blip?
Bryan Smith: I think Kottaras can succeed under the right set of circumstances. But he's going to always be exploited to a degree, because he just does not have good hitting mechanics. Could he be a back-up and use his patience and ability to hit RHPs to be decent? Yeah, maybe. There is just not a lot of value in Kottaras any way you slice it, though.
Mike (Philly): ASU's Ike Davis: Chris Duncan 2.0?
Bryan Smith: I know where you're coming from, but I think you have to give Davis some credit for clearly being more athletic than Duncan, and he has that arm from the outfield that Duncan doesn't. Offensively, I could see that being a decent comp, without knowing Davis' specific LHP/RHP splits.
oira61 (San Francisco): Bryan: James Simmons is ahead of Gio Gonzalez? Based on your comment about de los Santos, does this mean the A's got next to nothing for Swisher?
Bryan Smith: Uh oh, I feel like what I wrote got contorted a bit. I certainly didn't mean to imply ... that. My comment about de los Santos was that he shouldn't be clumped below Brett Anderson because of a bad month. Simmons and Gio are probably on equal timetables to help the Majors. I know KG saw and heard great reports concerning Gio in Spring Training, so I'm not closing any doors. I think they got good value for Swisher, it's just going to take some time.
Pat (Long Island): UNC transfer and now Marshall star Nate Lape- what do you think?
Bryan Smith: Good sleeper, Pat. I'm going to do some research on Lape and report back to you, for sure. He's a big guy, 6-5, with 29 XBH in 175 AB for Marshall. It's telling that he's a Mike Fox recruit. Not so good are the 42 K we're seeing. I'm guessing we're talking about a bit of a long swing. I'll try and get that in a Weekend Notes soon.
John (Fl): Is Adam Dunn a good comparison for Pedro Alvarez? A lot of strikeouts, walks, low average and 40 homerun potential? He he still the best pick if he moves to Right Field?
Bryan Smith: We're talking about a whole different body. Alvarez is listed at 6-2, but I've stood next to him, and I am taller than him. I think he's probably 6-1 or even a half-inch shorter. Alvarez is good because he uses his legs so well. He uses his legs as well as anyone in college baseball in awhile. Because he's bottom heavy, he's sort of a weird fit in the outfield. I do think he could be an excellent first baseman, and I don't think we need to assume a low avg, because he'll bring a good LD rate.
Steve (Maryland): What do you see in the crystal ball for Mat Gamels?
Bryan Smith: I have no idea, but it's going to be very interesting. He's clearly made improvements at third base this season; part of it, I think, is that his head if just a little more in the game at all times. We have to remember he's not a huge power guy, this is a gap hitter that struggles at third base. There's a place for that, but it's not as high as people make it out to be.
Chris (NY): Where is Matt Tosoni from St.John's looking to go?
Bryan Smith: I think Tosoni is probably looking between the 8 and 15 rounds. He's a LHP with fabulous numbers this season, but 23 K in 43.1 IP doesn't get you very far. The command is obviously fantastic, and the body is actually pretty good, but the velocity and stuff leave something to be desired.
Jacob Boysen (NYC): Should we fire up the Swarzak hype machine?
Bryan Smith: He's one of those weird guys for me to evaluate, for a couple different reasons. I saw him once at the end of one of his brilliant streaks, and he pitched awful -- bad velocity, bad control. It's a hard start to erase from the memory banks. And second, I'm not a big fan of people with his type of arsenal, that sort of curveball, flyball pitchers seem to have less room for error. With 20 hits in his last three starts, spanning 14 innings, I don't think it's time to rev up any hype machine yet, but I will concede he's better than I've always made him out to be, and that's a big concession from me.
BL (Bozeman, MT): How do you evaluate Dallas Baptist? Is that a team capable of playing its way in?
Bryan Smith: It hasn't been a great couple weeks for a pretty good team, but the RPI is still good enough that they are going to get in. The problem with this team is that they are painfully inconsistent. You're talking about arms in Black and Meaker that should have much better numbers than that. The offense is actually the strength, as they are very deep. Could be a regional spoiler, and I do think they'll get in.
Mike (Jax, FL): Thanks for the long chat Bryan. If Matusz is available at 4, do you think the O's might pass him because of the lack of positional prospects in their system (especially when compared to their pitching prospects)?
Bryan Smith: I think it would come down to who else was available. I can't really guess at whether Matusz or Gordon Beckham is higher on their board. I think the O's do like lefties quite a bit, and it's hard to find a more polished one. However, Beckham and Alvarez would be pretty intriguing for the reason you mention. I think the only way they pass up Matusz -- assuming T. Beckham and Alvarez are off the board -- would be if they value Gordon Beckham more.
Joey (Miami): Bryan, Moustakas continues to struggle, I know he is young, but I was expecting more from him. From what I've read he's really pulling his head off the ball. Do you think it is just going to be a slow development with him, one level a year?
Bryan Smith: I think we were all expecting more from him. This may have been a case where the best option would have been to send him to the Pioneer League, to have a few more months of instruction. But that's hindsight at work, clearly. I'm sure some mechanical things have come up, but the Royals will handle him with every amount of care we can imagine. But yeah, hard to imagine more than one level a year for now.
BL (Bozeman, MT): Wow, Oregon State picked a bad time to lose four straight in the Palouse. Will the Beavers get the chance to defend?
Bryan Smith: OSU was the next team out in my 6 subplot column today, just because I thought USC and CofC might have legitimately cost themselves a chance at the tournament. Oregon State, meanwhile, ended any hope of a darkhorse backdoor chance at a regional and now sit as a likely 3-seed, maybe 2-seed. The rest of the year doesn't do much for them, so the only way to go is down towards a 3-seed.
Darin (Houston, TX): How about Corpus Christi's rotation so far? Do any of those kids ( James, Norris, Bogusevic, Douglass) have a future in Minute Maid Park?
Bryan Smith: Oh, Darin, you know who you're asking this to, right? This is the guy that had Bud Norris as a preseason breakout prospect this winter, and Brian Bogusevic as a breakout prospect the year before that. I'm a believer, dude. I really like Bud Norris, I think he was a great pick and his handling grades out as an A+. Bogusevic is sort of a different beast, and he's just never turned that corner for me. I think Norris is the only one who has a good start at Minute Maid, but I won't turn away the idea of a relief career for Bogu or a long relief career for James.
abernethyj (Chapel Hill, NC): How do you see Jeff Clement doing in Seattle this season after his hot start in AAA?
Bryan Smith: I just hope he sees some at-bats, given the mess of a lineup Seattle sometimes trots out. Also, as a participant in Normandin's fantasy league with Clement on my team, I pray he gets to that fifth game at catcher fast. But seriously, I think he could have a decent, not great season if he gets 300-400 ABs at DH. .270/.350/.450, or something like that.
Steve (Arizona): Is Illinois' Kyle Hudson the next Nate McClouth?
Bryan Smith: A lot of questions like this in the queue, comparing lesser known players to some good Major Leaguers. Let's be careful with that. Hudson, for example, has 12 XBH, and just 1 HR in 147 AB with aluminum. That's not really acceptable, not matter how good his AVG and patience and baserunning is. To be McLouth, he's going to have to perform at a level much higher than right now. That said, there's fifth outfield potential here, sure.
greg (toronto): What is going on with Travis Snider? I know that he's young for AA, but he was striking out alot when he was in Dunedin too? Is this just a factor of missing most of spring training because of an injury?
Bryan Smith: That's probably part of it, and he just needs time to sort of adjust and make New Hampshire home. I'm certainly not worried about him, and I commend the Blue Jays for sending him to Double-A. This is a guy that has never really struggled at the plate, so we'll learn a lot about him in the coming weeks. Here's to betting he bounces back.
uptick (st. louis): Is there any chance that Casey Weathers or Chris Perez will be saving games this year for the Rockies and Cardinals, respectively?
Bryan Smith: Well, if there are injuries at the back end of those bullpens, then yes, it could happen. However, I think the Cardinals would give their job to McClellan right now, and they should. He looks fantastic. Weathers might have the better chance, but I wouldn't start looking for him in your fantasy leagues. It's a long shot.
Matt (Tempe): Bryan, Read your column in SI earlier this year. Wondering what your thoughts on Nick Tepesch were for the year? What do you like/not like about him moving forward?
Bryan Smith: Tepesch has been a life saver in the Tigers pen this season, much like Gibson was in the pen as a freshman. Clearly, Tim Jamieson has a pattern he likes to follow. Tepesch has shown more present stuff as a freshman than even Gibson did. He will get lost a bit in a ridiculous 2010 class, but he's a good arm.
Lance (Cleveland OH): What is going on with Chuck Lofgren? I feel like he is seriously regressing?
Bryan Smith: Things are certainly starting to look ugly for Lofgren. What has amazed me has been his regression in terms of fastball command. What was once a strength has become a pretty bad weakness. I'm not closing any doors, because with his athleticism, I think he has the ability to solve problems better. And hey, we always have that Ankiel route in the back pocket, right?
Sully (King City, TX): Bryan, Does Rick Hague have all-america honors on the horizon? Prediction - is he going to lead the Owls next year to a national ranking?
Bryan Smith: Hague has been absolutely amazing as a freshman for Rice. Man, who do you go with as freshman SS of the year, him or Dietrich. I go the Yellow Jacket because of his important to that lineup, but it's neck and neck, and a historic pair right there. Rice should be very good next season with Hague and Diego Seastrunk (who has helped his stock a lot this spring) and Ryan Berry on the squad. But they'll always be good, so that's no surprise.
Jon (NY): Did the Mets make a mistake in trading Deolis Guerra in the Santana deal and not Pelfrey (whom I'm sure the Twins would've taken instead)?
Bryan Smith: No, I don't think that's fair. We have to look at this trade from a winter perspective, when the door on Pelfrey was really starting to close. Guerra has some fabulous potential, and given his youth, his projection is better than Pelrey's. That said, could you have convinced the Mets for Pelfrey over Mulvey? Without an understanding of the negotiation it's impossible to guess, and I'd also bet the Twins wanted a surer bet like Mulvey rather than three wild cards in Gomez, Guerra and Pelfrey.
ray (oakland): how legit is the stockton trio of Doolittle/Carter/SUlentic?? Sulentic is having a bounce back season and one of the youngest players in cal league at 20 yrs old, does he jump bacck into top prospect territory?
Bryan Smith: I'm not ready to anoint Sulentic as a top 100 prospect again, because he's had some low lows in his short career. But he certainly looks more at home in California, which is true for most of this roster. Carter is the same player he's always been, and Doolittle looks like a very astute draft pick. It's too bad he has to split some time at first, though, because Ports fans are missing out on a truly gifted defensive player.
Joe (Maine): Was that really a UMaine question? Holy cow... I grew up watching the Black Bears go toe-to-toe with Miami and Clemson, and miss out on a CWS championship game appearance thanks to Barry Bonds' Arizona State.
Do you think the removal of true regionals was a good thing for college baseball? An Omaha trip used to be guaranteed for a northeast school, now it's a pipe dream.
Bryan Smith: It changed college baseball for good, and I think if you talk to people at Maine, people at St. John's, people at Ohio State, they wouldn't speak up for it. But personally, I want my Omaha to be the best eight teams in the country. I think it's not a true championship if we don't have that. However, I do support the NCAA when they try to get regionals around the country -- I'm pretty sure Michigan gets a regional, and there's some real question if they deserve it.
big baby (nj): What do you make of Kennedy's struggles in the major leagues? Do you think he was rushed? Were you surprised? Is he having legitimate control problems, or is he forced to nibble because his stuff gets hit when it's over the plate?
Bryan Smith: Well, if you had to pick a Major League rookie that was going to really take some bumps and bruises, wouldn't you have picked Kennedy? His stuff just isn't as good as other guys, so he was going to need time to get acclimated. The Yankees are all about winning, so they don't have time to let Kennedy learn, so here's to hoping he remembers his experience in the Majors while tweaking somethings in Scranton.
Jonathan (FLA): Ryan Tucker has been nearly unhittable this year with his mid-high 90s heater. Most scouts project him as a closer for the Marlins due to a lack of secondary offerings, but do you think he can succeed in the rotation?
Bryan Smith: I'm a long-term believer in Tucker -- I can't remember when he was a breakout prospect of mine, but he absolutely once was. The fastball has been fantastic this year, and I've actually heard about consistency in the breaking ball category. I know he uses a splitter and a slider, so if he can make both of those a plus, there's no reason to relegate him to the bullpen yet.
Pat (Long Island): How influential are GM's in the draft process? Also, how does one become a director of the draft within an organization?
Bryan Smith: That's a team to team thing. If the GM was a former scouting director, I think they are going to want to have some influence. However, with the Dodgers, I think Ned Colletti lets his assistant Logan White really handle things for him. Jim Bowden, too, with Mike Rizzo as his right-hand man. The scouting director is usually someone that cross-checked for awhile, and cross-checked in an organization that drafted very well. Jack Z in Milwaukee has seen a couple of his crosscheckers become scouting directors now.
Hank (Colorado): Are "busted prospects" the next Moneyball-type steals? Brandon Phillips, Josh Hamilton, etc.
Bryan Smith: Ha, good question. If anything, I think these guys teach organizations that it's never a good thing to quit on a guy with fantastic talent. Now the Rays had no choice with Hamilton, who was truly just a prescient pick by the Reds. But with Phillips, I think the Indians quit on him a little early. It was easy to do given that he was running his mouth, but I think you wait it out.
dills (Chicago): How likely is it that Tim Beckham ends up drafted by a NL team?
Bryan Smith: NL-only fantasy player, eh? There's not a very good chance. Two of the top three teams are in the AL, and he doesn't make it past Kansas City. Maybe 35, 40%?
mike (stockton): with the hype, of that stockton staff, what do you think about 2nd tier guys like Italiano/Mazzaro/Leon/Banwart etc? would it be fair to say, A's might have the best group of pithcing prospects other than Tampa Bay?
Bryan Smith: It's a pretty astounding group of pitchers, and in terms of raw depth, it surpasses the Rays. Tampa gets credit for Davis and McGee and Hellickson, but the A's have so many guys with the bounce backs of Italiano and Mazzaro. The latter doesn't surprise me much, as he wasn't bad last season, he just needed a better park and better defense or his prolific sinker.
Courtney (Bowie): Hi Bryan, tell the BP guys, they need to do long chats like you do! We the readers appreciate the time. I want to see Matt play this year, do you think he's in Bowie by July or is it better they just let him play the full year at Frederick? Have any of you guys seen him play yet? Thoughts?
Bryan Smith: Thanks, Courtney. I do think you are going to see Wieters up to Bowie this season, there certainly is no reason the Orioles should let a talent like that remain in High-A. There's a pretty good chance he makes it to you by June, actually. I haven't seen him play, yet, but I've heard a lot of good things from a lot of different people.
Pete (Miami): Jaime Garcia repeated AA this year and absolutely dominated. I think he is on his way to Memphis. Is there a chance this groundball machine debuts with the Major League Redbirds later this season?
Bryan Smith: Oh, absolutely. Well, I shouldn't be too quick, since Mulder and Carpenter have the first chance, but there's a 100% chance Garcia pitches in September for the Cardinals. Garcia has looked magnificent this year, and yeah, he's going to Memphis. It's great to see a guy like Garcia make adjustments like he did.
Ramon (Roxbury Latin): How is Jack McGeary looking?
Bryan Smith: No word, but I will say it's sort of disappointing given Stanford's resurgence this year that McGeary isn't on the roster. If you add McGeary to that inconsistent pitching staff, he completely makes up for the loss of Bleich. McGeary and Erik Davis would position Stanford as a true national championship contender. Too bad, but give credit to Dana Brown on that one.
Joe (Michigan): How come no one is talking about Nate Recknagel? He's a beast at the plate.
Bryan Smith: Is nobody? Yeah, you're probably right, and that's my mistake. Recknagel has hit in each of his three seasons at Michigan, and he hit at Oakland before that. He's not particularly athletic, but his body of work is so impressive that I think he'll make for a good choice. Plus, he should come cheap. Top 10 senior, for sure.
Bryan Smith: Well guys, I have to go, after 85 questions and a fantastic long lunch. You guys had me on my toes today, and for that I thank you. There's no question that we have the most astute, intelligent readers on the web. I'll debate that with Bissinger all day long.