John Sickels is the author of The Baseball Prospect Book 2004, which can be ordered through his web site. He is also the author of Bob Feller: Ace of the Greatest Generation.
John Sickels: OK, everyone. I'm here now. My computer died this morning and I had to get my laptop configured for broadband usage. It should be working now. I'll have to buy a new computer.
Bill Johnson (New Mexico): What's your take on Brad Thompson, the St. Louis farmhand with the 0.00 ERA and scoreless-innings record? If his reported stats are right, there's something spooky about him -- terrific K/BB ratio (>6!) yet an extraordinary number of HBP. Could he be succeeding just because people are scared to dig in against him?
John Sickels: I think Thompson is a legitimate prospect. His stuff is above average, and as he's shown so far this year, his command is exceptional. At some point he'll give up some runs, of course, but I think there's a decent chance he could end up pulling a Brandon Webb.
Mike (NH): Now that Mark Teahen has begun to demonstrate a little power, do you still see him as a Dave Magadan type? Or do you agree with Billy Beane that he is a budding Jason Giambi? (Or somewhere in between?)
John Sickels: Well, I don't think he's going to be Giambi. I just don't see him developing that kind of power. However, he could be Madagan with a bit more pop and a much better glove. I haven't seen him yet this year but hope to do so soon.
nkhare (Overland Park, KS): What are your thoughts on Colter Bean? I thought he could become Theo Epstein's Chad Bradford when taken in the Rule 5 Draft - he's put up sick numbers with a below-average fastball and a deceptive delivery much like like Bradford.
John Sickels: Bean has shown he can get Triple-A guys out, and definitely deserves a full shot in the Show. I think Bradford is a good comparison. Will he get the chance? Hard to tell at this point. He'll have to have good timing and have an impressive spring training with a patient team.
bob99star (Montreal): There is a lot of talk about young pitchers including Greinke and Blanton. What about Edwin Jackson? He was supposed to win a job out of spring training. Now, it seems noone is taliking about him. Which rookies do you think will have an impact this year?
John Sickels: Greinke will pitch on Saturday for the Royals. I saw him on Monday in Omaha, and I think he is ready. Blanton's command isn't quite as good as Greinke's, but he's nearly ready as well, and from what I'm told he should get a shot in June or July. Jackson probably has better raw stuff than either Greinke or Blanton, but he's had a lot of problems with his command this spring. He is still an excellent prospect, no one disputes that, but he needs Triple-A to put the finishing touches on.
danbrod11 (Flushing, NY): Should the Mets call up David Wright?
John Sickels: He's ripping up Double-A and is close to being ready, but why burn the service time? If I were the Mets I'd leave him there for the time being, call him up in August, let him get his feet wet, then probably give him the job next spring.
Mike (NH): Has Dennis Tankersley re-established himself as a prospect?
John Sickels: He's doing better this year. I'm told that several clubs have asked about him in trade, and if the Padres aren't comfortable giving him another shot, someone else will be willing. His mechanics got away from him last year and he lost confidence, but he's made progress getting the touch back this spring. I still think he has a bright future.
dbhollister48 (New york): Andrew Brown is the PTBNL in the Bradley trade. He was not in your book. What are your thoughts on him?
John Sickels: He wasn't in the 04 book, but I gave him a Grade B in the 03 book. He's got a great arm, very good fastball and curve, but has had problems staying healthy. He could be a steal for Cleveland if they can keep him away from the doctors.
igreen01 (Massachusetts): I enjoy your writing, John. Given the average recovery path from Tommy John surgery, what are the odds of Dustin McGowan reclaiming his status as a top prospect next year or in 2006? Thanks.
John Sickels: I'd give him 60/40 odds of a full recovery. The majority come back from TJ just fine nowadays, but some still have adjustment problems. It's better than 50/50 that he'll be OK, but it isn't a guarantee. I would hold him in a long-term league.
Stewart D (Arlington, MA): Fill us in on AA outfielder Jason Kubel and his 1.160 OPS, please.
Is he doomed to twiddle his thumbs in the minors with the surplus of outfielders ahead of him in the Minn. system?
John Sickels: Kubel can rake. He's always hit for average, has good plate discipline, and has added power to his game this year. He's second only to Justin Morneau among the Twins bevy of hitters. Problem is they can't find a place for Morneau, so Kubel will have to cool his heels for awhile longer. The Twins really need to find a way to turn their surplus hitting talent into something. My feeling is that they may end up regretting the Shannon Stewart contract.
Bill (Princeton): Who will reach the bigs first, Gross or Rios? What do you expect from each once they do get there?
John Sickels: Well, I'm not privy to any inside information about who will get the first shot at this point. I like both players. Rios is more athletic and has a higher ceiling, but Gross is less risky. I think both will end up having good careers, but the shape of those careers could be very different. Gross could be a Rusty Greer type. Rios could be anything from Juan Encarnacion to something close to Vlad Guerrero. NO, i'm not saying he'll be like Vlad, but that's the high point of his ceiling.
Pender Lee (Paris Lick, TX): Sean Marshall is mowin’ em down in Lansing? What’s his ceiling?
John Sickels: I really like Marshall, but at this point he is completely overmatching Midwest League hitters due to his excellent command. His first real test will be when he reaches Double-A, which could be later this year at this rate.
Sorry about the delayed answer, I got kicked off the internet again.
Benji Orthen (Breyers Tower, MA): What are scouts saying about Cinn. (for Red Sox) 3B Tony Blanco?
John Sickels: Same thing they always say. He's got great raw power, but he strikes out too much and is likely to be overmatched against advanced pitching since he can't control the strike zone.
Benji Orthen (Breyers Tower, MA): TB pitcher Chris Seddon is off to a hot start – is he for real?
John Sickels: Solid low 90s fastball, good slider, improving command. Looks like a solid Grade B prospect to me, maybe better with continued good pitching. If you want to invest in a Devil Ray.
Dave (Fresno): Is Brad Knox a potential ace. His numbers with Kane County are dominant, both in traditional and peripheral stats. Is he second in line behind Blanton as the A's next great pitching prospect?
John Sickels: I'm told that Oakland is very high on him. He's another one of their draft-and-follow guys. . .the Athletics work that process very well. Some people think he could follow in the footsteps of Joe Blanton and Rich Harden, but we'll have to see about that.
doog7642 (Eagan, MN): Would you speculate as to the eventual ceilings for Atlanta prospect Dan Meyer and Cleveland prospect Adam Miller?
John Sickels: Meyer is a power lefty, out of James Madison. Atlanta usually prefers to draft high school pitchers, but they liked his arm and pulled the trigger on him with a supplemental pick in 2002. His fastball/slider combo can be very overpowering. I'd see him as a number two starter down the road if he maintains his command. Miller for Cleveland could be a number one guy if he improves his changeup to go with his 93-95 MPH heater and hard slider. He also needs to show he can stay healthy. He's had some shoulder problems.
Jim Pollaro (Indianapolis): John, what is up with Jeremy Reed? It seems that he's in a huge slump right now, and his plate discipline is fading. Was last season an Erstad like fluke, or is he just having a real rough go currently?
John Sickels: Reed is down to .281 with disappointing power, but he's still drawing walks. I think he'll be OK. 2003 may have been a mild fluke, but only in the sense that a .290 hitter sometimes hits .350 due to random chance. He's a legitimately good hitter and should hit .290+ at the major league level.
John (Birmingham, AL): Could you compare two Canadian lefties for me? Adam Loewen and Jeff Francis....
John Sickels: Francis is ahead of Loewen at this point. His stuff may not be quite as good, but his command is better and he's very close to being ready for the Show. Loewen has slightly better stuff, but is less refined and has a greater risk of failure in the long run. Main problem for Francis of course will be the thin air in Colorado. On his own terms, he's a great prospect, but you always have to consider the context.
TGisriel (Baltimore): Daniel Cabrera seems to have come out of nowhere, and is now in the Orioles rotation. What are your thoughts on him, and were you surprised the O's brought him up rather than Maine?
John Sickels: Cabrera hasn't received a lot of attention, but he can pump his fastball into the mid 90s and has more pure physical talent than Maine. Cabrera's command has also been better than expected this year. I'm a little surprised that he got the call first, but Cabrera did have more pro experience than Maine does, although they were both born in May of 1981. This is another ceiling/control thing. Cabrera has the superior physical ceiling, but Maine is a better pure pitcher due to his command. Take your pick.
John Sickels: I'm sorry I can't answer more questions, and I apologize for the late start. My computer has finally given up the ghost, so I need to get a new one I imagine. I still have copies of my 2004 book available if anyone is interested. Thanks, and hopefully next time I can stay longer.