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July 20, 2006 at 5:06 PM

Q & A with Kevin Goldtein

Kevin Goldstein of Baseball Prospectus was kind enough to answer several questions submiited by soxprospects.com members recently. Here's the Q&A:
What was your assessment of the Red Sox draft and what grade would you give them? Which of the tough signs do you think the Red Sox will sign (Belt, Anderson, LaPorta, Giardina)?
After Place it was a pretty pitching-heavy draft at the top – a lot of it will come down to what Bard signs for. Personally, I don't think he's going to get what he's asking for, nor does his talent warrant it. With those late picks, we're just going to have no idea about their signability until the Bard deal is done (or not done – highly unlikely), as that deal has a big impact on their budget. The one guy I really think is NOT going to sign is Anderson.
With Lester, Hansen, Delcarmen all graduating to the Big Leagues who are your top 10 Red Sox prospects in order?
All in good time. I'll be doing a top 10 for every team after the season. To just give you one now would be sloppy – to do them right it takes a TON of research and conversations.
While you said he is not a SS, can Jed Lowrie hit enough to be a legit top prospect?
Depends on what your definition of top prospect is. I think he can hit enough to be a good prospect, but not a bigtime one.
How bad was Bowden's command in high school? Could there have been misinformation? It doesn't seem likely that a first year player out of high school could have a 2.2 BB/9 if his control kept him out of the first round.
Bowden only walked nine hitters last year in high school. I'm not sure what you are basing that on, but there's a significant different between command and control. Plenty of guys can throw strikes, but not all of them can throw effective strikes. Big difference. I'm a huge Bowden fan, for what it's worth. Very good pitching prospect.
Your arrival at BP coincedentally occurred a couple weeks after the Jon Lester fiasco. Now I'm sure such a move was in the works before that came to be. My question is this: Does BP plan on using your anecdotal/observational information into their minor league PECOTA projections? Part B) Were there any conversations regarding Lester's placement and how to avoid obvious mistakes like that from happening again?
A. No. PECOTA is a purely statistical system, and to add that information would require a quantification of anecdotal information. Garbage in, garbage out.
B. I've had no conversations regarding what did or did not happen with Jon Lester. Our goal is to obviously continually be better at what we do, and I was brought in to give them somebody committed on the prospect beat. You will get a top 50 list (or more) next year, and as the first person at BP dedicated solely to this beat, it will come from me – and I can promise that the amount of time put into getting it right will border on ridiculous.
Despite how far prospect analysis has come, we still find ourselves starved for information on players from the Rookie leagues. Have you heard any tidbits on: Carlos Fernandez, Luis Sumoza, Felix Doubront, Chieh-Hsien Chiang, Reid Engel, Luis Exposito?
I'm guessing you guys have as much as I do on them concerning their tools and background. I'll have some folks down in Florida going to GCL games, but none of them have seen the Sox yet.
Where would you place Aaron Bates' ceiling? Can you think of a similar major leaguer?
I think he could become an average big league hitter – it's very hard to make it as a first baseman – you have to MASH to get there at that position. In a perfect world he's maybe an unathletic Austin Kearns? It's weird, because he's a 1B, but he's right-right.
The Sox FO is believe it or not, very secretive about the way they conduct their minor league business. But recently Theo Epstein has explained that they give each of their prospects a certain number of goals they must accomplish to advance to the next level. I'm sure this is similar to what other organizations do. Do you know if these goals are mostly only statistical (walk X times/ PA, take X pitches/PA) or non-statistical (hit the ball up the middle, keep the ball down in the zone)?
I don't know if they're any more secretive than any other org, but almost every team gives goals to prospects. They are non-statistical -- identifying areas of improvement. To give purely statistical goals would be silly. You tell a guy that he has to walk 50 times, and while his walk rate goes down, he's hitting .325 with power – you don't promote him?
How highly do you regard Clay Buchholz and Michael Bowden?
I like them both very much as solid starting pitcher prospects. Easy top 10 guys in the org for me. I like Bowden a little better.
I believe that the Sox should basically re-build Daniel Bard from the ground up. Whether intentional or unintentional, I'm extremely unimpressed with the job the UNC coaching staff did with his development. It seemed like he was able to survive on natural ability every game I watched. Rarely did I see a strategy in place to attack hitters. And his breaking and off-speed pitches were not impressive. Should the Sox start Bard in Greenville next year and basically re-build him as a pitcher, though obviously utilizing his natural abilities.
I don't know how to answer this question without being a jerk. Can I ask what qualifications the person who asked this has that makes him better and/or smarter than the coaching staff of an elite college program that just led their team to the finals of the college world series? I don't get this kind of thinking. I don't know what you mean by re-build, or how one goes about re-building. The big problem with Bard is arm slot, plain and simple. When it's high, he's good. When it drops, he loses velocity and a second plane on his slider. I'm quite sure the Red Sox know that, and I'm quite sure UNC knew that, and did everything they could to try to get it more consistent.
Daniel Bard, what's your take on his secondary pitches? Also, during the CWS, he was hitting 97 and 98 repeatedly with a ridiculously easy motion. Was the gun juiced, or does he really sit high 90's?
He may have been sitting there, as I'm sure he was pumped up, but the TV guns are almost always a little juiced. Bard definitely can fool you though, because like you say, it comes out of his hand very easy. I like his breaking stuff – again, when his arm angle is right.
We've been salivating over Bryce Cox after seeing him in Omaha. How soon do you think we can reasonably expect to see him in Boston?
I think Cox was a potential steal, but let's not get too far in front of ourselves yet. He's barely spent a week in Lowell. I would guess his perfect timetable, with no bumps in the road would get him there in early '08.

After graduating most of the top prospects to the big league roster, the upper minors are a bit bare right now. Still, there seems to be a decent crop in A ball and what seems to be an excellent influx of talent this year from the draft, 2005 DFE's, and international signings. Realistically, where do you see the Sox farm being rated this winter?
Above-average, but not elite. At first thought somewhere in the 9-15 range or so, but that's just a first-thought kind of response.
So far your Mark Wagner pick seems to be hitting. Luis Exposito is also off to a good start in Lowell . What's your take on Exposito, and what do you think of both players compared to each other?
I'd give Exposito the edge based on his youth and tools. Wagner is a better baseball player (if that makes sense).
Which would you prefer and/or rate more highly as a prospect and why? A) Non-toolsy, baseball rat guy producing at every (age appropriate or better) level up through to AAA? Let's call him Pustin Medroia.or B) Super-toolsy guy currently stuck in A ball who hasn't produced at any level since the DSL/VSL or rookie leagues and hasn't progressed either?Let's call him Moises Blanco Soto.
It depends on tools and what scouts tell you really. Ranking prospects is tricky, because you have to factor in both ceiling and distance from ceiling and figure out how to balance them, and that balance is different for every guy. Who do you prefer? The guy with a 85% of becoming a big league regular and 5% chance of being a star – or the guy with a 25% chance of becoming a big league regular and a 20% chance of being a star? You want to put you money in savings bonds where it's guaranteed? Or tech stocks where you could lose it all or end up winning the lottery?
Do you believe that Mark Wagner is for real? Did the Sox grab a steal out of the 9th round in 2005?
For real? Sure, but that's pretty vague. I think he has a chance to get to the big leagues, as a spot starter/backup type. That's certainly better than most 9th round guys.
Could Zach Daeges be this years Youkilis or Wagner (mid round college bat that produces while going up the system)?
I don't think Wagner is anywhere near in Youkilis' category, and I don't think Daeges is in Wagner's category – so I guess no.
David Murphy - 4th OF or possble starter? If the latter, CF or corner OF? Is he a poor man's Trot Nixon? Or is he the second coming of same?
He's certainly not the next Nixon, but I do like him. I think he'll have a lengthy major league career as a 4 th outfielder/occasional starter who can hit a little and play all three outfield positions.
What has been the biggest philosophical change in your evaluation of prospects since moving to BP?
None. Nor was I asked to make any. That said, I try to get better at what I do constantly. Every time I talk to a scout or a scouting director or a PD guy or a GM or really anyone in this game, I learn not only something about specific players, but something about the bigger picture in general.
Who would you rather sign (money being equal) Lars Anderson or Matt LaPorta?
Anderson, by a slight margin.
Are you at all concerned about Ellsbury's lack of SLG % at this stage, I understand Wilmington isnt very condusive to XBH, but it still seems low for someone who should be getting more doubles and triples?
I'm pretty surprised by the lack of doubles, but I think his triples and home runs are in line with expectations. He also hit very few doubles last year at Lowell, so yes, there is a tiny concern there.
The baseballanalysts.com site recently compared Trevor Crowe, Jacoby Ellsbury and Brett Gardner and came to the conclusion that Crowe is the best of the three (without looking at defense). In your opinion how would you rank the 3, and does Gardner have a shot at being a MLB regular or is his K rate too high?
I would rank Crowe ahead of Ellsbury, and both of them ahead of Gardner. I don't think Gardner will hit enough to be an every day player.
Who are the top 10 pitching prospects currently in the minors?
I'm currently doing our positional rankings at BP. Third baseman is on Thursday, so it'll be a month or so before I get to arms.

Dustin Pedroia sparks intense debate, even around here. Where do you come down on him? Total bust, decent major leaguer, good major leaguer, perennial All-Star, or the man who will revolutionize baseball and bring peace to the Middle East? I think you called him something like a solid major league regular before ... what would be a ballpark projection during his peak years? And has his year this year (slow start, good after that) changed your view at all?
I see Pedroia pretty much exactly where I saw him going into the season, and a solid middle infielder, but not a star. I think he'll have a few seasons in the .290/.360/.420 range, and that's pretty damn good. If he could bring peace to the Middle East I'd like him so much more, last time I was at the Middle East it was in the early 1990s for a Mighty Mighty Bosstones show and it was anything but peaceful. Woohoo! Boston joke! Playing to the crowd!
Chad Spann has put together a very nice half-season in AA after a couple of disappointing years. Should he be on the radar as a prospect? Overall impressions?
He should be on the radar, but it's not a very bright blip. He can definitely hit, but I'd like to see some sort of step forward in his secondary numbers.
Thoughts on Caleb Clay and Kris Johnson, stuff and future?
It's funny, I was shocked that Johnson lasted to 40, and then I was surprised to see Clay go as high as 44. I really like Johnson's chances – he's much more than a control/lefty – his low 90s velocity could make a huge difference. I thought he was a great pick. Clay might be a little TOO raw for me, but I understand the chance. Why isn't anybody asking about Justin Masterson – I really like him as a reliever.
The pre-season BP Lester ranking/non-ranking …what happened? What was the honest reasoning for not ranking Lester and then ranking him 50th? Do you stand behind the decision making that lead to this or do you think this was an error? How will your methods for ranking prospects in 2007 change?
The BP methods for ranking prospects will change in that I'll be doing them.
Zach Daeges was one of my favorite players going into the draft, but do you think his power will translate as well in the pros as it did when he won the triple crown in the Northwoods league? Does his age and college competition worry you, or is his power + plate discipline package legit?
He's a solid hitter, but he doesn't really have a defensive home, and he doesn't really have much projection. That's why he lasted until the 9th round.
Is Luis Soto penciled in as a top 5 prospect in this system now that the big arms have graduated to the majors?
No. Maybe bottom of Top 10, but I haven't done all the work yet.
Do you have enough confidence in Daniel Bard's secondary pitches for him to remain a starter? We've heard the rumors, but it certainly looks like he has the arm and motion to easily pump fastballs all day long.
Yes. He has enough stuff to be a starter, and he's also highly durable.
Ian Bladergroen - he's had flashes of good play, but has been largely inconsistent this year in a tough ballpark for lefties. Do you think he will continue to rebound or ever see the level of play he showed in 2004 again?
I talked earlier about how hard it is to make it as a first baseman, and now we're talking about one in the Carolina League with pretty pedestrian numbers. Not much to be excited about there.
Have you also been hearing anything about Manny Arambarris this year?
He's off to a nice start, but I've heard he's a little stiff both at the plate and in the field, and people are very mixed on his power projection.
What are your thoughts on Kason Gabbard? Ton of ground balls this year, good K/BB, but repeating AA for the 3rd time. Think he's a real prospect, or is the stuff just too much of a question mark?
He's certainly gone from org guy to at least some kind of prospect. I don't think he's got enough stuff to start in the big leagues, but his length and mechanics create a lot of deception, especially to left-handed batters, and he could end up to be a decent bullpen arm.
What is wrong with Mike Rozier? He signs for 1st round money, Gammons says he hits 95mph from the left side in instructionals in 2004, then he spends 1.5 years (thus far) in low A with unimpressive stats. Is he another guy like fellow Sox (non) prospect Luis Mendoza who has "great stuff", but can't seem to miss bats? Has he lost his stuff? Did he ever have "stuff"? Any potential to improve or is he a lost $1.5M? We've all heard about is "work habits", but if he learns his lesson from this off season, could he become a prospect?
Rozier still has plenty of time to turn things around, but yes, he's been a massive disappointment. The last person I talked to who had seen him pitch recently said he rarely touched 90, and that's obviously a significant concern. He's still just 21 – but it's definitely not gone as planned. I wouldn't write him off yet – but I might think about drafting up the paperwork.