This week we have a special little treat, as John Sickels of www.minorleagueball.com joined us for the latest edition of “Ask the Expert”. He is one of the best in the business when it comes to prospects and really helps to give us an insight as to what we could expect from many of the prospects that could make an impact this season.
So, without further adieu, let’s get to it:
1) Which Rangers pitching prospect do you see having the best chance to produce in the major leagues this season, Neftali Feliz or Derek Holland? How about in the future?
John Sickels: Well I think Feliz has the higher ceiling, so in the future he is, in theory, capable of producing more. Granted with pitchers there are so many caveats that even with the best pitching prospect there is no firm guarantee. In terms of 2009, I think they both need a good additional dose of the high minors. Holland’s command is ahead of Feliz’s at this point, and that might give him an edge in terms of immediate production.
2) There are a few young catchers outside of Matt Wieters who seem to be on the verge of making the majors in 2009. Do you see either J.P. Arencibia or Angel Salome making an impact this season? Are there any other catchers who could?
John Sickels: Taylor Teagarden seems the best candidate, since he has a great glove to go along with the power in his bat. . .he’s not going to hit for average over the course of a full season, but he should provide some power. Arencibia has really improved defensively, and has tons of power, but his strike zone judgment is so awful right now that I think he really needs another year in the minors. Salome’s bat is special, but scouts still provide mixed reviews about his defense, praising his arm strength but criticizing his footwork and overall size. . .he’s very short for a catcher. But he’s a masher with the bat, no question.
3) Matt LaPorta has been considered a top prospect, but last season he certainly didn’t support that, partly thanks to injuries. Is he fully recovered and what are the chances he gets regular time for the Indians in 2009?
John Sickels: He’s looked good so far in camp but will likely begin the year in Triple-A. He had some troubles late in the season last year and some additional Triple-A seems like a good idea, if anything to give him more time in the outfield. It’s still unclear how he fits into their roster scheme going forward.
4) If any pitcher made a huge splash this winter, it was Tommy Hanson. What are your thoughts on him heading into 2009?
John Sickels: There is a ton of hype about Hanson right now and most of it is justified, but his command isn’t always perfect and I worry that expectations may be a bit too high. He might struggle initially. . .not everyone makes a quick adjustment. . .and I think fantasy owners should just remember that he IS a young pitcher, not a savior. If you get league-average numbers out of a rookie pitcher, you should be happy.
5) There are a slew of young outfielders who have tremendous potential like Dexter Fowler, Colby Rasmus and Andrew McCutchen. Who do you feel has the most upside potential?
John Sickels: I think Rasmus has the most overall potential since he has the most power to go with his other skills, but I really love Fowler’s speed, defense, and improved OBP skills. His work ethic and intelligence are also top-notch. McCutchen I think it going to have a long and productive career, but perhaps not be a star type player, more a solid player. Overall I would say that Rasmus has the broadest skill base and highest ceiling, but also some questions about his ability to stay healthy and, if certain rumors are to be believed, his motivation and make up as well.
6) Which pitching prospect do you think has the best chance of succeeding this season and why? Which do you think will ultimately fall short this season?
John Sickels: David Price has the best combination of stuff and command, I think the only thing that could derail him is a health problem. Michael Bowden should be good if he gets enough innings. Hanson should be good, if perhaps not quite the second coming of John Smoltz that people are currently expecting. I don’t want to say anyone is going to fall short at this point.
7) What prospect that no one is talking about do you feel could make a major impact this season?
John Sickels: Wade Davis in Tampa seems like a good candidate. Aaron Poreda and Jordan Zimmerman need more attention than they’ve received. People seem to have forgotten about Jose Tabata, but he revived after being traded to Pittsburgh and is still very young at age 20. Brett Cecil could help in the majors more quickly than people expect.