By Frankie Piliere & Kiley McDaniel
We promised a chat last week, you submitted questions, and now we have to face the music.
A big thanks to all the people who have linked to us and to the readers for coming by. The quick response to the site has been unexpected and also made us step up our game with the content. More new stuff will be coming this week.
A special thanks goes out to those who asked questions for the chat. And a big tisk-tisk to those of you who asked hard questions. Get with the program! Without further delay, the questions and the answers, after the jump…
(Clayton Kershaw photo credit: Jerry Hale, MLB.com)
1. Chase from Pleasanton, CA
Q: Hi guys. Love the site. Along with Chris Carter, Fautino De Los Santos and Lars Anderson, what are a few names to watch out for in the California League? Also, have you heard anything about recent International FA signee Arnold Leon of the Oakland Athletics?
A: (Kiley) There’s at least one player to watch on each team, so I’ll just go with the elite guys that are destination viewing for sick people, ahem, prospect watchers. High Desert (SEA) SS Carlos Triunfel, Modesto (COL) SS Hector Gomez, San Jose (SF) RHS Tim Alderson, Visalia (ARZ) OF Gerardo Parra, and 3 more guys from Stockton (OAK) to go with De Los Santos: LHS Brett Anderson, RHS Trevor Cahill, and RHR Henry Rodriguez
2. Brian from Alexandria, VA
Q: Great site guys. What are your feelings on the catching prospects in the 2008 draft? Who do you feel is the best prospect among Buster Posey, Kyle Skipworth, Petey Paramore and Adrian Nieto?
A: (Kiley) I’ve got Skipworth as the clear tops in this group. He’s a premium left-handed bat that can stick behind the plate; he’s got helium as high as the top 10. As for the other guys, I’d rank then Posey, Nieto, Paramore and they all have their strengths. It’s an a solid-average year for catchers.
A: (Frankie) I have to concur that Skipworth is clearly the top guy. I don’t know that when push comes to shove that he’ll go top 10 but he’s looking like a lock for the top 20. Posey should be getting much more ink than he has been. His Cape performance was extremely impressive; one of my favorite guys up there. Ultra short, compact stroke.
3. Grant from Odin, IL
Q: What do you guys think of P.J. Walters? Do you see him continuing his success despite his below-average velocity?
A: (Kiley) Talked to a scout specifically about him today and he’s got the report Cardinals’ fans have probably heard before. Big, athletic guy with high-maintenance mechanics that create some deception in the mid 80′s fastball, but the fringy slider and average change won’t play well at higher levels. That being said, one in a thousand guys like that settle in at the big league level, maybe he’s the one. And if there’s some hope with Walters, it’s that most of these types are fly-ball guys and 99% of them fail at the MLB level, and Walters is an above-average groundball guy, so he may be more unique than most soft-tossing righties.
4. Turner from Minneapolis, MN
Q: Who do you prefer, Smoak or Alonso?
A: (Kiley) I think if you’re taking a first baseman that high, take the bat you like better, because that’s their ticket. Alonso seems to get a slight nod with the bat thus far from the scouting community, but I like Smoak’s whole package better. So I guess I’m a hypocrite. But check back in two weeks and I probably like Alonso.
A: (Frankie) Give me Alonso. I have much more confidence that his swing has less holes than Smoak. Of course, we are nit picking and it’s a matter of opinion but Alonso I feel is a better pure bat than Smoak. I think I’m in the minority but I prefer Alonso.
5. Dan from Jericho, NY
Q: Who do you think has the best pitching and/or hitting mechanics in the major leagues, and possibly a quick reason why?
A: (Kiley) To me, mechanics are a self-fulfilling prophecy. Obviously, there right and wrong and certain things everyone likes, but if you pitched long enough and well enough to be in HOF consideration, you’re doing it the right way, even if you’re a one-in-a-million physical freak, excluding Randy Johnson because his mechanics are pretty rough. Maddux seems to have to low elbow so many in the internet swear by, and I like most of what Clemens does on the mound. As for hitters, Pujols is pretty good. There’s your boring answer.
6. Rat P from everywhere
Do hitters hit? It seems that mulitple “toolsheds” are consistently deemed prospects due to scouting and not by performance. I would think this could be proven one way or another. Any legit statistical proof would be light years ahead of “I like him. He can run, throw, and hit”. Thanks.
A: (Kiley) Rat P, your thinking is right up my alley. I have done a study that we’ll probably roll out here in a bit when the draft gets closer. Essentially, if you’re going to be good, we can tell pretty early on. Hitters hit.
7. Joel from (no location)
great site!! what do you guys think of Clayton Kershaw? the best pitcher in the NL west by 2010???
A: (Kiley) It may be too much to ask for Kershaw to be a rookie in 2009 and be better than Brandon Webb or Jake Peavy in 2010. I wouldn’t say it’s impossible, but I’d count more on 2012. But that still means I like him a lot.
A: (Frankie) If Jake Peavy is still rolling along, it is a lot to ask Kershaw to be that good. Sometimes people forget that not all good pitching prospects simply burst onto the scene like Dwight Gooden. Fans often have to learn patience the hard way. Clayton will probably have his struggles and be one of the better pitchers around by 2012 but there’s stiff competition for that top spot.
8. Dan from Albuquerque, N.M.
Q: Who would rank higher on your draft board and why: Kyle Skipworth or Buster Posey? Thanks.
A: (Kiley) Doubling back to the catcher question, I’ve already taken Skipworth, but Posey offers an intriguing package of athleticism, upside, and track record. The two of them are the top two catching prospects, maybe they’re Saltalamacchia and Kurt Suzuki?
A: (Frankie) I might once again be in the minority but I’d take Posey all the way. I just feel like he’s an extremely safe bet to hit as a pro for average and I couldn’t pass a catcher with that kind of offensive potential.
9. John from Scranton, PA.
Q: As a scout, at what point do you worry about the economics of signing a player (his probable demands vs your organization’s draft budget)? Do you file reports that say “He’s perfect but we can’t afford him” or do you let the higher-ups sort it all out?
A: (Kiley) You obviously have an idea of the situation, if your club pays for those types, if he’s a Boras client or a solid college commit, but your job is to sign the best players in your area, you want these guys, so you’ll push for them (if you think they’re good) until you know they can’t be signed or are asking too much. Signability information, except for extreme situations, doesn’t really materialize until late in the process anyway.
A: (Frankie) The job as a scout is to evaluate skills and makeup. Like Kiley said, scouts always have an idea in the back of their mind that “hey this guy wants a lot of money and my team might not want to hand that out.” And, yes, any type of information available on signability is key for a scout to get also.
10. John from Scranton, PA.
Q: The Yankees signed righty Chase Vacek out of the United League a few weeks ago, and the 24 year-old will start the season in the Sally League. Have you seen him pitch, and if you have, what do you think?
A: (Kiley) I haven’t seen him personally, but have heard some good things about his spring performance from Yankee officials. A related, interesting nugget: the Yankees signed 3 guys that were on the same indy league staff last season: Vacek, Stephen Artz (saw him last week), and former-Rangers farmhand Luke Massetti, all from San Angelo of the United League (league that produced Edwar Ramirez). Former Yankee player and current San Angelo manager Doc Edwards knows what he’s doing down there.
11. Chase from San Diego, CA
Q: Do you guys plan on doing mock drafts or a top-10/20/100 board?
A: (Kiley) Some of you guys are reading our minds. That’s the aim of the draft buzz, reports, all that good stuff, to culminate into a “top however many we feel comfortable doing” board, mock draft, the whole shebang.
A: (Frankie) Don’t get us too excited. I’ll just say, be here for our draft stuff. We’re going to try and provide some real unique stuff.
12. Matthew from Chicago, Illinois
Q: Did you see Johnny Cueto’s dominant big-league debut? If you could revise your March 25th scouting report of Cueto after seeing him this second time, how would it change?
A: (Kiley) I just saw the highlights (shakes fist at MLB.tv) and the two things I noticed were a more consistent and pronounced arm recoil that somehow no pitching coach has convinced him to stop (that he picked up since the end of last year), and what looked like the good slider I never saw the night I scouted him.
13. Dewon from (no location)
Is Brandon Erbe worth anything? He seems to have taken a rather large step backwards last year.
A: (Frankie) Good arm and he’s still very young. I’m a big proponent of letting your arms get as many chances to put it all together as possible. Don’t quit on him just yet.
14. Bryan from Winston-Salem, North Carolina
Q: My friend is in the Midwest league. His organization says that they are trying to avoid sending him to the California league because of it being such a hitters league. They also said that he would be the first one promoted to AA. Is this a common practice, and how much does the California league favor the hitters? Does it favor them more than the Pacific Coast League?
A: (Kiley) This is somewhat common, and you’d think the extreme environments in the minor leagues would get phased out for this reason. Whether it be geographical, climate, or hitting/pitching environment, a number of teams have affiliates they hate to send good players to. For an objective look, check out the FirstInning.com park and league factors. They don’t look that extreme, but a few subtle differences make for a disaster.
15. MB from Boston, MA
Q: Awesome guys. As a scout, do you want to see the numbers on guys before you watch them? For instance, let’s say a team has an advanced fielding metric for minor leaguers … as a scout for that team, would you rather see the numbers first or go in with no knowledge of the players’ performances statistically?
A: (Frankie) That’s an outstanding question. I personally like to have as much info on who I’m watching as possible. But, you always have to be careful of not letting that cloud your judgement in any way. But, I always keep all my info on a player, including statistics in mind. It’s nice to know your subject, so to speak.
A: (Kiley) For the sake of full disclosure, a number of baseball people think you should know nothing (or very little) and judge a guy based on his merits that you see. There’s obviously a case for both sides, I think it depends on who you’re watching.
16. Mike from Utica, NY
Q: Nice Site you have here. What do you think of Colby Rasmus, and do you think he could possibly end up being better than Bruce, Maybin, and Upton. Who do you see for his MLB comp?
A: (Frankie) I like Rasmus a lot, what a shocker, huh? I don’t think i could put him with Bruce and Upton though. Maybin, being a little more raw, it’s a tossup there. As for a comparison, I really would like to see more of him before making one. From a results standpoint, I could envision him as a .290 big league hitter with 30 HR pop. The K’s concern me a bit.
17. Jared from SoCal
Q: It was disappointing to hear about Harold Martinez’ struggles this spring. What HS players’ draft stock have been on the rise?
A: (Frankie) Well, Skipworth is rising but he was already high. Adrian Nieto, I’ve heard has really been rocketing up the boards for potential supplemental first round consideration.
18. Jeff from Long Beach
Q: Are there any college stats that are a good indicator of ability, or are they all a wash because of differing levels of competition?
A: (Kiley) There’s another topic we’ve been working on behind the scenes. We’ll touch more on this later, as the draft approaches, but I’ve had conversations with many people about trying to use college stats to help in the draft process. We agreed general ratios like contact rate and plate discipline for hitters, and groundball rate and command ratio for pitchers can be useful filters for helping. We’re just not sure about more in-depth stuff, other than adjustments for park, league, and schedule, would be beneficial.
19. Jeff from Long Beach
Q: Do you think Matt Cain is a good comparison for Gerrit Cole? They both have amazing FBs and electric arms. And Cole’s power slider and change could fast track him just like Cain was.
A: (Frankie) From a stuff standpoint it makes sense I think. I’m not sure if fast tracking would be the right track for Cole though. All the scout’s love his stuff but I think he is a bit rough around the edges. He’ll have some learning to do in the minors on how to pitch and not just blow everyone away. Kyle Drabek experienced a similar adjustment.
20. Jorge from LA
Q: Who goes from being a nice prospect this year to top 10 next year? (besides Lars Anderson or Travis Snider)?
A: (Kiley) There’s some obvious ones like Kershaw, Price, Snider, Wieters, McGee, Davis, Moustakas, Martinez, Porcello, Andrus, LaPorta, Schafer (not a huge Lars Anderson guy). And that might be the top 12 nest year, but I think the real skill is in picking the potential top 10 guys next year that aren’t top 25 guys this year. As for that list, I’d submit five guys: Jarrod Parker (just love this guy), Fautino De Los Santos (if he can survive the Cal League), Chris Tillman (has all the makings), Dexter Fowler (toolshed is healthy and ready for breakout), and Joe Savery (he’s never been a full-time pitcher = hidden upside and no Rice pitcher curse).
21. Dan from (no location)
Q: Do you guys have any info on Westfield HS (Ole Miss commits) twins Mike and Matt Snyder?
A: (Frankie) We’re going deep into amateur prospects already huh? I love it. I can’t sit here and say I am well educated on these players but I do have a little info. From what I know, Matt is a high upside, 6′ 5″ first baseman with some power potential. Mike, being his twin, kind of the same deal.
22. ej877 from (no location)
Q: Thank you, I have been waiting for a site like this for a while. What are your opinions on which players are likely to drop in this years draft (such as Porcello last season)?
A: (Kiley) As I mentioned in the Boras article the types of players that drop (other than those who do due to performance concerns) are high schoolers with tough college commitments and top-shelf college players. Boras clients Pedro Alvarez, Eric Hosmer, and Aaron Crow are all good enough that they probably won’t slip out of the top 10, but the 4th known Boras client , California prep RHP Gerrit Cole, has been less than impressive this year and appears to be the polarizing Boras client of the year.
23. Doug Gray from (no location)
Q: Drew Stubbs made some changes to his plate approach last season as the year progressed and over his final 250 PA hit .303/.394/.517 for Dayton. He had surgery this offseason to fix his turf toe and it also looks like he has moved out of the leadoff spot (where there are dramatic splits in his numbers in the leadoff spot -not so good- versus everywhere else in the lineup -quite good). There are some questions concerning how his bat will continue to play, but my question is, could his small adjustments at the plate and moving down in the lineup (which appears to have changed his approach a little bit) bump up his overall plate potential?
A: (Frankie) Tough call. I’ve never been a big Stubbs believer in terms of his bat. He’s got tools and athleticism but the bat has always been somewhat in question. I think a change in approach could serve him well yes. Maybe using his natural tools like his speed and injecting that into his offense could help him out.
24. Doug Gray from (no location)
Q: Side question that isn’t exactly about any specific player, but with the PitchF/X system being installed at all MLB stadiums, do you think it could be something that could trickle its way down to the minors for scouting purposes? Pitchers in the minor leagues are generally inconsistent with their stuff and a system like that would certainly lend a helping hand to knowing which pitches did what and then you could go back and look at the mechanics of that pitch and maybe see why it did what it did that could have been missed by someone.
A: (Frankie) Boy, I really hope so Doug. I know I’d love it. I think it could be enormously helpful if available for minor league players. I think we’re just scratching the surface of what this technology can tell us.
25. Travis G from (no location)
Q: How best should pitching prospects be eased into the majors? is the ‘30 inning rule’ right? what about beginning in the pen, then transitioning to starting (e.g. Billingsley & Joba)? how stressful are MiLB and college innings compared to ML innings? do you believe TINSTAAPP is correct?
A: (Kiley) Beginning in the pen and transitioning to the rotation is ideal to me. There are so many little things young pitchers can only learn at the MLB level and expecting them to be the rare one that’s able to immediately succeed as a starter is unfair, in addition to keeping the workload down. I think the 30 inning (or less) rule is a good general guide. There’s a lot of differences in difficulty of innings as you progress, so there will be some 15 inning and some 45 inning increasing I won’t cry foul about. TINSTAAPP is and always was an overstatement to prove a point about pitcher attrition that pretty much everyone already knows.
26. Axel from San Diego, CA
Q: Who has the best fastball, curve, slider, change, between the pitching prospects that are yet to throw in the majors?
A: (Frankie) TJ Surgery or not I don’t know if anyone matches Andrew Brackman’s 100 MPH heat. I personally got him 4 times at 100 so I’m going with him. Clayton Kershaw’s curveball is probably a slam dunk. I’ll go with Philippe Aumont’s slider and Rick Porcello’s changeup.
A: (Kiley) There’s all kinds of guys who could be the fastball guy (here’s two blogposts from BA’s Ben Badler on some names); straight velocity-wise, I’ll throw out Juan Morillo and his rumored 103 mph fastball. Kershaw is a safe pick for the curve, Aumont is a nice choice for slider, but David Price is an obvious one for slider that I’ll go with. Changeup is one that is tough to say with young players, but I saw Porcello consistently flash some 60′s at 19, so I’ll take him as well. I think me and Frankie could be on ESPN around 5:00 to 5:30 every weekday if we disagreed on everything and yelled.
27. Jamal G from (no location)
Q: What do you think the reason(s) are behind the hatred/ignorance of sabermetrics shown by most old-time sports journalists (radio and/or ink)?
A: (Kiley) It’s new, they’re old, they’re threatened. That’s the short version. The longer version is that they grew up with their gut and feel-based columns and sabermetrics is trying to steal that subjectivity from them. And it’s from the internet. To me, fair for both sides to feel like that.
28. Jamal G from (no location)
Q: I know this is on the level of asking the meaning of life, but can you give us anything solid on the Edwardo Salcedo signing or rather potential signing. Hell even a makeshift scouting report would suffice.
A: (Kiley) We’re here to show you the meaning of life! I’ve talked with some team sources with knowledge of the Salcedo situation, and they liken him to the standard toolsy island shortstop profile, Elvis Andrus, whoever you want to pick. So I could spell out the tools, but that’s the general idea—he’s 16, can hit and field and run and has a little polish. Of those that are willing to pay internationally, a couple teams like him into the low 7 figures range, a few think he’s a $2 million plus type guy, like there would be with any elite prospect that’s 16. Being that he’s a Boras guy and so incredibly hyped makes up for about 80% of the confusion so far, I’d say. Hadn’t heard age concerns until recent reports and those come on every big island prospect by jealous parties, so I wouldn’t put much stock in those.
29. baseballdelusions from (no location)
Q:What are your thoughts on Dr. Mike Marshall’s theories?
A: (Kiley) I appreciate his intentions and like a good deal of what he does, but think other parts are going a bit too far, and his attitude completely turns me off. Until he agrees to compromise some on his theories or demeanor, he’ll continue to be a non-factor in mainstream baseball, which is a shame.
A: (Frankie) I have to agree with Kiley. Sometimes ideas should be less forced on people and instead easing them in more.
30. dan from (no location)
Q: What do you think of Marcos Vechionacci’s struggles thus far in his career? He has such a nice swing yet hasn’t hit a lick in years.
A: (Frankie) I must say that I was on the Vechionacci bandwagon since day one and I won’t jump off easily. The main thing I see with him is a lack of consistently turning on a good fastball. He’s grown but I still think he could stand to put on some muscle.