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Chat: Chris Mellen

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Welcome to Baseball Prospectus' Wednesday December 19, 2012 1:00 PM ET chat session with Chris Mellen.

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Ask Chris about scouting, prospects, and our prospect lists in his inaugural chat at BP.

Chris Mellen: Good afternoon! I'm excited to host my first chat here at BP. Lot of questions coming in so keep them coming and I'll answer as many as I can.

HolidayJesus (New York): Do you think in Spring Training the Red Sox will consider moving Xander Bogaerts to another position? He's on the verge of filling up like a Miguel Cabrera in size.

Chris Mellen: Bogaerts has been filling out over the course of the last year, but not quite at that rate. He's put on some good weight, especially in the lower body, but there is still some room on the frame and he moves well.

I see him continuing to play shortstop this season as developmentally there isn't really a need yet to move him off the position. I anticipate a move in the long-run and could see next off-season as when he transitions to either third base or the outfield.

danmshaw (UK): Has your life/work life changed much since adding BP to your work

Chris Mellen: My off-season has been a lot busier as typically I used to ramp down after Fall Instructs since a lot of my work is based on being out in the field. Its certainly been fun working with Jason Parks and the rest of the prospect team on the Top 10 lists. I expect 2013 to be busy with the expanded coverage, but my wife is already used to me being out of the house and babbling about prospects.

Alex (Anaheim): Who will be the better pro, Dante Bichette or Mason Williams?

Chris Mellen: I've had a chance to see both players and will go with Mason Williams. I like him a lot more. He made some strides from when I saw him in the New York-Penn League to this year in the Sally League. There was some physical progression and more drive behind the ball. Throw in his defensive profile and I see the potential for an average-to-better regular.

Billy (Ocean): How can you tell if a batter has a long swing? Do you just look at the swing, or is there another technique?

Chris Mellen: Good technical question, Billy. I look at the swing, but specifically how it starts and gets to the point of contact. That's really where you want to zone in on. Some swings are just long in nature because of the size of the player or what-have-you. The question is: is the player long to the point of contact? That's usually extending early with their arms, which causes the head of the bat to loop and also makes it tough to get good wood on balls on the inner third.

Jake (Indiana): Chris, what is Francisco Lindor's ceiling with his bat? A switch hitting SS that has a good chance to stick at SS doesn't come around very often. How excited should I be about this kid? Thanks for the chat!

Chris Mellen: I think you should be excited, Jake. Lindor's a very good prospect at a premium position. You're looking at a high contact hitting ceiling with the bat. A player that can hit balls hard on a line, plug gaps, and use the whole field. There's a lot of development to go and some gates to pass, but potentially a top-of-the-order type and strong defender.

Corey (Boston): How far away is Jackie Bradley Jr.? What does he most need to work on this season?

Chris Mellen: In the perfect scenario where he isn't rushed because of injury or need, I think he is about a year away. The defense is already major league caliber and can push to plus-plus in my opinion from what I have seen. The bat still needs the seasoning. He can tend to over-extend and also lack clean timing when he plants his foot. Bradley also at times neglects to cover the outer third and hit consistently to the opposite field. These are things I believe he is going to improve upon during his second full pro season, but he has some work to get the bat ready to face the challenge of big league arms.

Kai (SLO): Which player will develop into the better pitcher: Taijuan Walker or Gerrit Cole or Zack Wheeler?

Chris Mellen: Wheeler. I was impressed with what I saw from him this year. Electric, four pitch arsenal and the knowledge of how to use it. The other arms are very, very good, but I'm a Wheeler guy.

Alex (Boston): What is your background? How did you get into scouting?

Chris Mellen: Its funny. I'm a guy who played football in college and has an economics degree. Baseball's always been my love though and I gravitated towards the prospects as long as I can remember. I was lucky to join SoxProspects in the early stages, get out into the field, and have a couple of mentors I've met within the game really push me, along with share a lot of scouting knowledge through our relationships.

jlarsen (chicago): If Rays manage to "fix" Mike Montgomery, is it more of an indictment on how bad things are in KC's player development dept. or is it another success story on how good the Rays are at developing pitchers? Also, what is Montgomery's upside?

Chris Mellen: It would probably be more a change of scenery and getting a fresh start than anything else. Sometimes, things either just become stale or a new voice finds an opening. Montgomery's struggled with his delivery and release point quite a bit. Bad results have a tendency to snowball too. If he turns things around, I lean towards it working out as a later inning reliever.

David (Vegas): Are you a fan of Matt Davidson? How good can this kid be? He was relatively young playing in AA last year. Thanks!

Chris Mellen: My experience seeing him is very limited, but through some reports I think there is potential there as a major league regular. Davidson is a hitter with long arms and he likes to extend early as well. That makes him tough against pitches out and over the plate, but succeptible to ones on the inner third, especially hard stuff.

Probably not likely to maintain a high average and will strike out, but a player who can drive the ball with some power and maybe line up as a sixth place hitter. Serviceable defensively at third base. It is a thin position across baseball right now too.

Ben (Boston): What do you make of Brandon Workman? Is it reasonable to characterize him as an under-the-radar future No.4 SP, or do you think he's more likely destined for a 7th inning role?

Chris Mellen: I see Brandon Workman as a reliever. There is some effort and jerk in the delivery. He wears himself down given the energy he expends over the course of multiple innings and trips through a lineup. The cutter is a plus pitch, which should play up nicely for him in a relief role. I've had his fastball up to 95 mph and think it can work close to its peak in the shorter stints too. 7th inning reliever sounds right, with a chance to get a little more leverage out of him depending on how the stuff plays up and the command works in the shorter stints.

Target Town (St. Paul, MN): When you rate 70 - 80 power - Do you judge it solely by the distance of the HRs or do you judge it by the potential of the swing to hit HRs? Is it # of HRs or ability to hit monster shots?

Chris Mellen: Raw power is the ability to hit the ball far. Then, there is game power. If I project a guy out to 70 power, I'm thinking 35-ish home runs. If I say a guy has 70 raw, he can drive the ball a mile.

Steve G. (STL): What do you think of Hak-Ju Lee? Will he be Tampa's long-term solution at SS?

Chris Mellen: The reports on Lee's glove are strong. The defense is solid and can push as above-average at the major league level. He's a bit light with the bat for me, but think given the defense and the premium position, he can hit in the bottom of a lineup and hold down the position as a regular.

jlarsen (chicago): Before the Rays dealt for Myers and Leonard, the Rays were quite thin on power-hitting prospects. Do you see the Rays changing their approach somewhat in future drafts/IFAs by rounding out hitting prospects with an influx of power-hitting guys? Sure are loaded with "toolsy" guys, right now

Chris Mellen: Power is at premium across baseball right now. You see orgs paying a lot for it on the market and when you look down in the minors the big power bats are on the thin side.

The Rays had a lot of young, toolsy prospects when I saw them down at Instructs as you pointed out. I think it is the evolution of the game right now and they're looking at working with players to learn to hit with power, rather than changing any kind of philosophy on bringing talent in.

Diamond Dave (VA): Chris, you missed that Billy Ocean asked you a question. Get on the ball.

Chris Mellen: Get into my car?

Tom (Mainer): When people say Matt Barnes has the potential to be a number 2, what does that really mean? Who are some current major league pitchers that you consider to be number 2s?

Chris Mellen: That you're looking at a pitcher that can be above-average to well above-average at the major league level. I always saw Jon Lester prior to his rough 2012 season as a number 2. Barnes may end up a notch below that, or a number 3, but he's got potential for some seasons on that level.

AJ (Dallas): Thanks for the chat Chris. What can I expect from Hyun-Jin Ryu in his first year here. Does he have the stuff to become a no. 2 in the majors?

Chris Mellen: The transition to professional baseball is tough in the first year and then tack on coming to a new country, learning a new culture, and jumping right into the best competition. Ryu's got the stuff and experience so that should help. Its hard to gauge how the transition will go out of the gate, but I think he can have success as he adjusts.

Lewis (New Haven): Who where the best players you scouted at instructs this year?

Chris Mellen: Byron Buxton was at the top of the list. I really like what I saw out of him from a tools stand point. They're loud and the package is there. But, he's a ways away and will need a lot of seasoning.

Manuel Margot, Miguel Sano, Jose Berrios, and Bralin Jackson stood out as well.

Paul (DC): What are the odds Dan Hultzen corrects whatever ailed him in the second half last year at AAA?

Chris Mellen: The people I talk to who played the game up to the highest level say that the first full season as a professional and the first season in the big leagues are the two toughest seasons physically. Just about all of the players I see in their first full pro season wear down and typically hit some kind of physical wall in the second half. The whole grind of the pro season is new to them.

In Hultzen's case, some of that plays into his second half for sure. Hitting the wall and also pitching every fifth day for the first time. Throw in he's at the highest level of the minors and struggles are certainly not a surprise. So, this coming season is probably a better indication of where he is against the level of competition.

Kai (SLO): What is your comparison of Austin Romine vs Gary Sanchez. Could Romine win the big league starting spotin spring and keep it?

Chris Mellen: Romine has always been a backup type for me. Sanchez has impressed me with the bat, especially with his ability to drive the ball, but his defense is very rough and I'm not big on him as a catcher ultimately. Sanchez has the chance to make more of an impact, while Romine has the better chance to carve out a career as a backup on a roster.

The other Chris (VA): Chris, why couldn't you have waited two days when I was done with finals to do this? Are you as good at Corporations Law as you are with scouting?

Chris Mellen: It fit perfectly into my schedule. There will be more chats.

The Law is far from my specialty. That is why I surround myself with you lawyers.

Alan (Florida): Where would you rank Bogaerts in a Top 100?

Chris Mellen: Top 15. 12 or so.

Ashitaka1110 (Houston, TX): One area of pitching mechanics that seems to get a little attention but not a lot is the glove-side arm and what it does during the motion. What do you look for in that regard that you consider either good or bad, and why?

Chris Mellen: I look for pitchers to use it as a guide to keep the upper body under control, balanced, and the front shoulder closed. If that arm is pulling open as they deliver the ball to the plate, chances are they are opening early, as an example.

Matt (Boston, MA): Does Manuel Margot make the jump to full season ball in 2013? Also, is there anyone aside from him, Buttrey or Vincio that could realistically crash the top half of next year's top 10 list (major breakout potential, in other words)?

Chris Mellen: I'm expecting Margot to go to short-season Lowell this year. I obviously liked the tools a lot, but feel the pitch recognition and approach isn't really for full-season this year. We shall see, of course, and spring training will be another good look to see where he is.

I think those would be the candidates that are presently outside the radar so to speak.

Joe (Seattle): Where would you put Luiz Gohara in your Seattle rankings? I've heard good things about him, hoping he becomes another Felix!

Chris Mellen: There have been some good reports coming in on Gohara and he'll be in the discussion for a spot in the Top 10.

ttt (Manhattan): Thoughts on Arizona's Alfredo Marte? Sudden power surge in AA, do you think he could contribute in the majors int he next few years and what is his upside?

Chris Mellen: Marte's been around for a while. Did he put things together or was this a career season? Sometimes, those happen at the minor league level too. He's tough to peg right now.

Kai (SLO): Which pure hitting prospect blossoms into the better overall player: Wil Myers, Oscar Taveras, Nick Castellanos?

Chris Mellen: Oscar Taveras.

Megon (Boston): What is your impression of Blake Swihart? Do you think he will live up to the hype surrounding him?

Chris Mellen: I like what Swihart brings to the table. We ranked him number 5 in the system and I felt that was justified. Physically, Swihart has been coming along and filling out into his frame. The defense made some progress over the course of this season from when I saw him in spring training to Greenville to Instructs. He may end up at second base eventually, but the progress behind the plate is moving forward.

Swihart's raw with his pitch recognition and approach, but has a feel for hitting and I like his swing from the left-side of the plate. There's an ability to produce backspin, stay back on the ball, and use his hands. The key will be how those first two aspects are progressing when I focus in on him this year to see where the bat is trending.

Chris Mellen: Alright everyone. You guys made the first chat a great experience. Thanks for all of the questions! Until the next one and keep tuning into the Top 10s.


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