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Chat: Jason A. Churchill

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Welcome to Baseball Prospectus' Tuesday November 20, 2012 1:00 PM ET chat session with Jason A. Churchill.


Jason takes your prospect questions in his inaugural chat at BP.

Jason A. Churchill: Happy Tuesday baseball freaks! Thanks for joining me in my first chat here at Baseball Prospectus. Let's jump right in and get to every question before I pass out with excitement.

baseballjunkie (cali): Welcome to BP, Jason! Please rank the following for offensive potential in a dynasty league: Taveras, Castellanos, Baez, and Bogaerts.

Jason A. Churchill: Just the way you list them. Baez could end up the best player if he sticks at short, but the verdict is still out on that. Bogaerts will eventually move to 3B. If Castellanos was allowed to stay at third, he'd be No. 1 for me because he has a better hit tool than Tavares. Very good group here.

Alex (Anaheim): Is Bichette a future regular?

Jason A. Churchill: Has a chance, yes. Has really polished up the mechanics and approach. Good makeup, good work ethic. Has a ways to go, but is a legit prospect, albeit not one I'd describe as elite by any stretch.

temple (madison): What is your assessment of carlos sanchez? is he good enough to diplace gordon beckham this year?

Jason A. Churchill: Sanchez handles the bat well, makes contact, above-average runner, but lacks baseball instincts and has no power. Relies a lot on his feet and making contact... many of the hits he tallied in A+, AA, will be taken away in AAA and especially MLB. I think he's a reserve. Reminds me too much of Ramon Santiago. There's a chance I am light on him, but when the swing is bad and there's no pop, it's difficult to see past the bench.

Paul (DC): Christian Yelich had an excellent year in the A+ Florida League and then followed it up with a very unexciting, but not bad, season in the AFL. How much of an impact does a so-so 20 games in Phoenix have on Yelich's status as a prospect?

Jason A. Churchill: The results don't mean much, if anything, at all. Scouts want to see the mechanics, how he deals with a tough game or two, how he reacts to left-handed breaking balls and good RH changeups, things like that. Also, with Yelich, his defense in the outfield and what the chances are he can stick out there are critical aspects that scouts wanted to see in Arizona. I don't think the AFL changes anyone's mind about a prospect unless they haven't seen him for some time.

baseballjunkie (cali): As for pitching prospects, please rank the following for a dynasty league: Cole, Walker, Fernandez, and Bauer. Thanks!

Jason A. Churchill: Again, same order you listed them. If Cole can clean up some command delivery inconsistencies, he's an ace. Walker has big upside, but still just 20. Has some things to clean up in terms of arm action that appeared last summer. Fernandez has the big arm and is developing. Bauer's relationship with the Diamondbacks is concerning to me, so I have him last, despite the fact he'll contribute in 2013 and 2014 while Fernandez remains in the minors.

baseballjunkie (cali): And now for a college question... Is David Price a good comp for Carlos Rodon, or can you think of a better one?

Jason A. Churchill: Rodon not as polished. I need to see Rodon live and for more than a start or two comp him even remotely accurately, though I am not a fan of comps. They are generally misunderstood.

temple (madison): tulowitzki wants to stay at short, but do you see trevor story taking over at ss in 2014 if tulo gets injured again.

Jason A. Churchill: That's very plausible, generally speaking. It really depends on Tulowitzki. Story could hit .400 with 50 homers in AAA and cover the entire left side of the infield by his lonesome -- with his eyes closed -- and he's not pushing Tulowitzki off shortstop until Tulowitzki is comfortable with the change. 2014 might be on the early side. Of course, it might behoove the Rockies to consider trading Tulowitzki before other clubs lose faith in his defense and ability to stay healthy, which would also open up SS for Story, who is easily, for me, the top prospect in the Rockies' system.

allangustafson (San Diego ): I am longing to know what is going to happen the NL Central's CF positions. As I write today from the west coast, I feel confident about the NL West Center fielders, but there seems to be turmoil in the Midwest. Is Carlos Gomez going to be etched out by Josh Hamilton? Is Stubbs going to swiped away by the younger Hamiltion? Only McCutch is safe, but is he? How about moving that old man into the pastures of LF for that young fielding stud Marte? Can you enlighten me? One you takes turbulent path to Enlightenment

Jason A. Churchill: If Hamilton were to sign in Milwaukee -- which I'd bet against strongly -- my bet is he'd play a corner and the Brewers would either move Braun to first base and trade Corey Hart or trade Aoki.
Billy Hamilton is not ready for the big leagues at the plate and certainly not in center field, but it appears the Reds' top goal is to land a center fielder and leadoff hitter -- Bourn? Span? Victorino? As for Pittsburgh, McCutchen is a better centerfielder than Marte, so there is no change to be made there.

Paul (DC): Detroit lefty Drew Smyly had a pretty decent rookie season with a 1.268 WHIP and 94 Ks in 99 IPs. Does this 2010 2nd round draft pick project as a #3 or better starter?

Jason A. Churchill: I see Smyly as a 4, but he could be a solid one at that, which is a little more than I saw from him in 2011. The one shot he has, as do most young arms, to change their profile, is to command everything better. Cliff Lee is a great example. Was never a top prospect, never expected to be a 2 let alone a one who wins a Cy Young and challenges for five others.

As for Chen, I think he is what he is, for the most part, but we could see some small, incremental progressions in some areas, particular with runners on base. There is generally a transition period with Asian pitchers, especially since the ball is different.

Governator (Philly): Should Phillies fans be more thankful for Darin Ruf or Cody Asche? And will we ever get to be thankful for Tyson Gillies?

Jason A. Churchill: Ruf over Asche, but don't get too excited about either player. Gillies can really run and play some defense, but he's a fifth outfielder due to lack of plate discipline and power.

Paul (DC): Dan Straily was dynamite at AA and AAA this year. What, if anything, will limit his success moving forward in the majors.

Jason A. Churchill: When I saw Straily I saw a pitchability right-hander with slightly above-average secondary stuff based mostly on deception and total number of weapons than high pitch grades. He mixes his pitches well and throws strikes, and his fastball is a little better than the typical 92 mph heater because it holds its velocity more at the end of its path (as it crossed the plate) than the average fastball. I think Straily is a No. 3 at best, but he's ready to contribute now, and could turn into a poor-man's Dan Haren capable of 200 innings per year. Commanding the fastball and possibly ditching the curveball altogether and sticking with the slider-changeup combo may get him there.

Paul Reiger (Bay): Wondering how the Giants keep winning titles with such a mediocre farm system? The are never ranked very high and they never sign the big free agent guys. What gives?

Jason A. Churchill: The most precise answer is the draft. Their farm systems haven't ranked high because their top draft picks since 2006 -- Lincecum, Bumgarner, Posey -- haven't spent a lot of time in the minors. . John Barr has done a good job, especially considering he's not simply the domestic scouting director but the one who oversees the international front, too. Barr's first draft was 2008 (Posey, Crawford, Surkamp), but in '09 he drafted Zack Wheeler (traded for Carlos Beltran), Tommy Joseph (traded n the deal to land Hunter Pence) and Belt. Brian Wilson and Sergio Romo were also draftees. Romo a 28th rounder in 2005.

It also helps that Bruce Bochy runs a goldilocks clubhouse and they have leaders (Posey, Pence, Wilson) that don't allow things to crumble.

Paul (DC): Does Rob Brantly have both the bat and the necessary tools of ignorance to make it as an everyday major league catcher?

Jason A. Churchill: Brantly is an average defensive catcher with above-average plate skills and an advanced approach. He had that in college and has cleaned up some of the defensive weaknesses to get where he is in Miami. He's capable of starting 110-120 games a year and helping the Marlins immediately. For the record, I don't believe there are many catchers that should start more than 120 or so games behind the dish. Brantly's bat could warrant some time at DH in road interleague play.

Paul (DC): White Sox rookie lefty Jose Quintana pitched a decent 135 innings this year. But with a rate of only 5.3 k per 9, what is there to like about his stuff?

Jason A. Churchill: Quintana is the atypical left-hander, as he's a ground ball guy without a changeup to keep RHBs off his fastball. He throws a lot of breaking balls -- about half and half slider and curveballs -- and mixes 2-3 different fastballs; some sink and tail, hence the 47% ground ball rate. He's the perfect back-end guy for the White Sox, but when he struggles with command, his home park is going to bite him. So the answer to the questions is 'not a lot,' as he must rely on his defense, deception and changing location and speeds to have success.

michaelmcduffe (ottawa): Hi Jason. Will the Red Sox give Ryan Kalish a full-time job or does the organization view him, like Josh Reddick before him, as a major league player but not good enough for Boston?

Jason A. Churchill: : I think Kalish will get the chance to earn at-bats this year, even if the Sox re-sign Cody Ross and add a third outfielder to put on the other side of Ellsbury. He has to stay healthy first, but he can be a starting-caliber corner bat in any town, and I suspect he'll get that shot in 2013, since it's asking a lot to expect Cherington to land two outfielders this winter.

Paul (DC): Is Jesus Montero any real impediment to Mike Zunino becoming the Mariners every day catcher for the next 5 to 10 years?

Jason A. Churchill: Montero will hit enough, but his throwing mechanics and footwork lack. His feet aren't quick enough to dream he can be average or better. He'll be the DH or perhaps a first baseman at some point. Very little catching is in his future. Zunino is just a stud. Not Buster Posey, but he's not as far off as some scouts believed in June.

William (Pensacola, FL): Thoughts on Donald Lutz and what does the future hold for him ?

Jason A. Churchill: Lutz is a bit of a hacker; very aggressive early in counts, looking to hit the fastball. He has plus raw power, but the lack of approach holds him back. He's very strong, but a mistake hitter. Below-average defensively. I think he's an org guy.

ORWahoo (Tigard): Hi, Jason. Welcome to this chat thing here at BP. Do you see the Mariners going out of their way to get Nick Franklin into the lineup ASAP (by trading one of their infielders to put Franklin at SS or 2B) or do you see them taking an approach that at some point an opening will just work itself out? In a related question, do you see Franklin as a better option at SS than Brendan Ryan when offense is taken into consideration or does Ryan's glove make it more likely that we will be seeing a Ryan-Franklin middle of the infield?

Jason A. Churchill: Thanks! Franklin is a player the M's would like to find time for, and if they do it will be at shortstop in 2013. Ryan may cost a little too much via arbitration, so he could late-winter trade bait. If the M's can secure a veteran backup middle infielder that can push and mentor Franklin, that's probably what will happen. Best thing that happens to Franklin several times a year is people doubt him. So, in light of that, Franklin is terrible, can't hit and will probably have to move to left field. In terms of value, I think the cost more than pushes things in Franklin's favor.

Ashitaka1110 (Houston, TX): Depending on who you talk to, Jarred Cosart either has horrible mechanics, or much improved mechanics, either doesn't strike out enough batters or has matured enough to not try to strike everyone out and get grounders, and either looks like a future reliever, or has refined his game enough to start. Your take?

Jason A. Churchill: I think Cosart is most likely a setup man, but I hate giving up too early and would like to see him start for a year or two in the big leagues until he pitches his way out of the rotation for good. I don't like the mechanics -- neither the arm action, nor the finish, or lack thereof, and he doesn't repeat his delivery. But it's better than 2010 when I saw him live, there's no question. I think it's a cop out to call Cosart a reliever right now. Houston has the time to give him a long look as a starter, and the payoff is good enough to take the risk, which is limited to losses during the rebuild.

Tom (Seattle): Jason, even with Iwakuma's re-signing, it still feels like the M's still need to address the rotation. What are your thoughts on Jon Lester, and what kind of cost would be attached to trading for him?

Jason A. Churchill: I see Seattle lying in the weeds on rotation upgrades. If they need the cash, they can try and trade Vargas and the $8 mil or so he'll get in arbitration and toss that at another arm, but the focus has to be offense and that is where most of the assets have to be spent this winter. It won't be a perfect team, even if they get the bats they want the most, but they'll be well on their way. Unrelated note, Seattle just traded Trayvon Robinson to Baltimore for Robert Andino. World Series.

Ashitaka1110 (Houston, TX): Which single position does Houston still most lack both depth and top-shelf talent at in their farm system?

Jason A. Churchill: Starting pitching. Because of the attrition attached to pitching, you want your system littered with power arms, mix in some left-handers, perhaps even a few with top-of-the-rotation upside and high probability strike throwers with a chance to be Scott Baker or Jeremy Guthrie are nice to have, too. Starters are so expensive, you truly cannot have too many. The systems with the most top pitching prospects are generally the most underrated. The Blue Jays are proving why that is this winter. They dealt Alvarez and Nicolino and still have six or eight really strong SP prospects. Watch out for Roberto Osuna, by the way. Ridiculous arsenal and raw stuff with 45 command already and he's still a teenager. That's what Houston needs, and Luhnow and company are off to a good, solid start.

Tom (Seattle ): It's my hunch that it's only a matter of time until Giancarlo Stanton requests a trade. Given that EVERY team in MLB would jump in on this, who has either the most pieces or the best pieces to match up with the Marlins needs?

Jason A. Churchill: I think it might take a three-way deal for Miami to get true value, which is why I don't see anything happening anytime real soon, regardless of how unhappy he is with the organization. Also, Tom, on Jon Lester -- I think he's damaged goods. I wouldn't give up value for him right now.

Wes (Canada): Given the Royals acquisitions of Santana and Guthrie, do you think it is less likely that they would be willing to part with one of their bats, or would a TOR guy or high end prospect still push them to make a deal?

Jason A. Churchill: I think it may be more likely they trade a young hitter for a pitcher, but I do get the sense from talking to some front office people that Dayton Moore has little interest in dealing a key player from his 25-man for a prospect.

Kurt O. (booth to your right): Who is your favorite baseball announcer?

Jason A. Churchill: Love this question: Nationally, Dan Schulman, ESPN, without question. I listen to tons of minor league ball, though, and really enjoy Mike Curto, Pat Dillon, Doug Greenwald and Mike Saeger.

Wes (Canada): If you had to chose one M's prospect to make the jump from fringe guy to interesting a la Catricala in '11 and Romero in '12 who would it be.

Jason A. Churchill: You'll have to buy the Prospect Insider Handbook to find that out, Wes! Available in February.

Wes (Canada): John Farrell? Again? What, Cito Caston wasnt available?

Jason A. Churchill: I hear they asked permission to speak to Billy Martin and God said no.

Chone (Seattle(maybe)): Really M's? What does a brother have to do to get a pink slip these days?

Jason A. Churchill: If Figgins is around tomorrow, we have to believe one of two things is true; 1) they have a trade in the works to dump him and at least a fraction of his salary or, 2) He's to Eric Wedge as Bobby Ayala was to Lou Piniella.

D Moore (KC): I mean, if you have the opportunity to pay 18 Million for in '13 for Santana and Guthrie you have to do it dont you?

Jason A. Churchill: Apparently, you do. I was told my a GM and a special consultant this week that Moore is in over his head. We'll see.

Joe (Seattle): What are your thoughts on Danry Vasquez?

Jason A. Churchill: Toolsy, projectable, raw. Just have to dream on the kid, but there's physical skill there. Haven't seen him live.

Justin (Chicago): Will Mike Olt see playing time this year? Also, what do you expect out of him long term?

Jason A. Churchill: I see Olt either sharing time at 1B, DH, 3B with the Rangers, or playing everyday at 3B for someone else. I think he's a 55 player; 60 glove, 60 power, maybe a little more, average hit tool.

Justin (Chicago): I know they're big leaguers now, but do you still have high hopes for Dom Brown and Pedro Alverez?

Jason A. Churchill: Not fans of either; I have been baffled by Brown since I first saw him in the AFL in 2009. Scouts adored him, my colleagues loved him -- I saw a wide receiver, not a baseball player. Alvarez still hasn't learned to do much against left-handed pitching. I think he's an average regular at best, and he belongs at first base.

edwardarthur (Illinois): Assuming it was their choice, did the Marlins pick the right young Blue Jays pitcher?

Jason A. Churchill: It was not their choice, IMO, because Aaron Sanchez is their best young SP. Nicolino was probably 2nd or third. The Jays are loaded. LOADED. STILL.

Chopper (Indy): Welcome, Jason! A few Royals questions: 1. What do you expect from Moustakas this season, and what future (and timetable) do you expect for Bubba Starling?

Jason A. Churchill: I expect more power and a sub-.250/.320 avg/obp season from Moustakas with 40 defense. Might hit 25+ homers, though. I didn't think he had that in him. I think I missed on that. Starling is a ways away. I'd toss a Sept. 2015 or mid-2016 ETA on him. On draft day I would have said 14-15.

Wes (Canada): If you had a 2011 draft do over right now, do you think the order changes? Does Cole hold off Bundy, and do Hultzen or Bauer fall off after Rendon?

Jason A. Churchill: If signability was not an issue, I believe the draft would have gone Cole-Starling or Cole-Bundy. Rendon would have fallen regardless. The teams drafting top 5 didn't buy the power and didn't like the medicals. Redrafting, assuming signability is not an issue, Cole goes 1, Bundy 2. The Bucs weren't taking a high school pitcher again. I think Lindor might go 3.

Novler (B'ham): If you're the Mariners and you have the chance to get Wil Myers, who would you be willing to part with?

Jason A. Churchill: Any one player in the system not named Walker or Zunino -- Z can't be traded -- plus another piece or two. For Gordon, I'd move Walker.

Joe (Seattle): Do you see Stefan Romero pulling a Catricala next year? Odds on either pulling through for the Mariners?

Jason A. Churchill: He's a tougher kid with better makeup. Won't sink.

Levitron (Calgary): If you were Washington in 2010 draft and know what you now know, do you re-take Strasburg or is Trout your new guy? (Sidebar: I just drooled a little thinking of a OF with Trout and Harper for a decade)

Jason A. Churchill: The Nationals would never admit this, but I think they take Trout.

Wes (Canada): Pick a franchise C/SP duo for the next decade: Syndergaard/d'Arnaud or Walker/Zunino?

Jason A. Churchill: Walker/Zunino. Walker>Zyndergaard and Zunino slight edge over d'Arnaud.

Wes (Canada): Thoughts on the Andino for Trayvon Robinson trade?

Jason A. Churchill: Good deal for both teams. Depth move, but it works.

johnorpheus (st. louis): Rank this quartet of Card's pitching prospects: Miller, Rosenthal, Martinez, and Wacha. And which one has the highest upside?

Jason A. Churchill: In that order. I think Rosenthal might have the highest upside, slightly over Miller, but Millr has the present breaking ball to start 2013 in the rotation. Rosenthal needs time to develop the secondary stuff. The CH is a 35 right now. Not a big Wacha fan, lacks a useful breaking ball.

justiniodiddly (Chi): What are your feelings on Hector Santiago? He only made 4 starts, but in those 19 innings he struck out 26 hitters, and lefties who can miss bats like that and throw 93-94 don't grow on trees. Does he have enough secondary stuff to stick in the rotation?

Jason A. Churchill: The breaking stuff needs work, but the action on the pitch is sharp and late when he stays on top. It's about command and repeating the arm action. Solid mid-rotation arm with some upside. I don't see him getting to No. 2 status, but he can be a good 3.

Ryan (Boston): When will the M's call upon James Paxton? Do you see a potential number 3?

Jason A. Churchill: I think 2 ceiling, No. 3 likely end-result. Still has too many bouts with control problems, however.

Justin (Chicago): What have the reports been on Courtney Hawkins? I assume he's the best prospect the White Sox have, right?

Jason A. Churchill: Great athlete, speed, strength, can throw, plus bat speed. I think he's their best prospect yes.

Ryan (Boston): Dynasty League: Zimmer or Gausman, Story or Russell?

Jason A. Churchill: Gausman, Russell. Can't really lose with any combo. Zimmer and Story may be safer bets to be something in MLB, Russell higher ceiling bat than Story.

Chris (Omaha): Can you please explain why you think Moustakas's defense will regress?

Jason A. Churchill: He's already below average in many areas. Wait for the three-year sample in UZR and then judge using the metrics. But he's not a well-conditioned human being. That isn't going to help him.

Ryan (Boston): Pick a franchise C/2 SP duo for the next decade: Sanchez/Syndergaard/d'Arnaud or Paxton/Walker/Zunino?

Jason A. Churchill: Still lean the M's trio, since all three are within a year of the majors. Sanchez>Paxton, though, IMO.

Paul (DC): A good historical comp for Andrelton Simmons would be ... ?

Jason A. Churchill: Dave Concepcion? I don't buy Simmons' bat to the level some do. But he's a really good defender.

Paul (DC): Is AJ Griffin in the A's starting rotation come April?

Jason A. Churchill: Let's see... Parker, Colon, Anderson, Milone, Straily, Griffin... I will say yes, especially since Colon cannot pitch the first 5 games of 2013.

Ryan (Boston): What is James Paxton's ETA and do you see a potential #3?

Jason A. Churchill: 2013... No. 3, yes. At times he'll look like a 1 or 2.

Justin (Chicago): Think Moustakas will ever be a top 3 third baseman?

Jason A. Churchill: No. That is asking a lot in a league with Beltre, Wright, Longoria, Cabrera (sorta), Zimmerman.

Randy (MA): What do you think of the two young bucs prospects: Hanson and Polanco, who do you think has a higher ceiling and probability to reach that ceiling?

Jason A. Churchill: I like Hanson for both. Polanco a much bigger risk and a similar ceiling considering glove, bat and power.

Ryan (Boston): Do you see anything that makes you believe Zach Lee can be a no. 2?

Jason A. Churchill: I'd bet on less than that right now, but there is still time for him to pull a Cliff Lee or Zack Greinke and flip the switch in the next few years. The Dodgers are betting on that, too, which is why they didn't 'sell low' on him over the summer and include him in one of their two big trades.

Mr. C Figgins (Unemployment Line): I swear I thought me and Ichiro would be the greatest 1-2 lineup punch in MLB history.

Jason A. Churchill: They were. For one day in May.


Thanks for all the questions! Feel feel to find me on Twitter @ProspectInsider, check out my work at ESPN Insider and ProspectInsider.com and if you have any additional inquiries, I'm at Churchill@ProspectInsider.com. Also, go snag yourself a BP subscription if you haven't already and gift one, too!

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