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January 18, 2008 at 3:05 PM

Q&A with Deric McKamey

Deric McKamey of BaseballHQ recently took the time to answer some questions from the SoxProspects community. A long-time Bill James disciple and a graduate of Major League Baseball's scout school, Deric provides his unique brand of scouting and statistical analysis for over 1000 minor leaguers. He is the Minor League Director for BaseballHQ, where he has worked for thirteen years, and he also contributes to the Sporting News Baseball Annual. Deric’s annual publication, the 2008 Minor League Baseball Analyst, will be available for purchase early next week at this link. It’s a must read for all minor league followers. Thanks for taking our questions Deric!

DM: Thank you so much for the opportunity, it was a real pleasure answering these questions.

TheGoldenGreek33: It seems Lars Anderson's approach has been to go the other way a lot over the past couple seasons. As a power hitter, how hard do you think it will be for him to adjust and turn on inside pitches given his approach now? And do you think Lancaster will have any effect on this?

DM: Through my coaching experience, I’ve always been of the opinion that it is easier to teach a hitter to pull the ball than to go to the opposite field. Pulling the ball is more natural unless you possess an inside-out swing, and I wouldn’t classify Anderson (#5) as having that type of swing. In his brief career, Anderson has shown the willingness to embrace instruction and show a mature approach to hitting, so I have little doubt that he can easily be taught to pull the baseball. Though the ballpark at Lancaster doesn’t do much for hitters, other than give them confidence, I believe Anderson might actually be helped by playing in an extreme hitters park. Knowing that he has the opportunity to put-up monster numbers may give him the extra push to want to pull the ball and increase his home run totals.

PasadenaSox: How do you weight the "Lancaster Effect" in your projections for players who spent substantial time there? I'm especially curious about how you feel the numbers translate going forward for the likes of Zach Daeges.

DM: I do a couple of things to account for ballpark effects. One is to determine the actual ballpark factor and apply that to the home statistics. Finally, I look at the home/road splits and make a determination from those. Lancaster is one of the more extreme ballparks in the minor leagues, which most Red Sox fans know. Playing half of his games at Lancaster had a tremendous effect on Zach Daeges, who in my opinion is a marginal prospect. Daeges not only led the California League, but also the entire minor leagues in doubles, extra-base hits, and runs scored. His home stats (.396/.476/.702) were as different as night and day from his road stats (.260/.369/.448). Going forward, I would say it is safe to assume that his road splits would be in-line with what you could expect at the Double-A level, considering he’ll move to a neutral park and face better competition. Daeges certainly has good bat speed and has fair plate discipline, but has an extreme platoon split (.352 versus .256) which will limit his overall effectiveness. I don’t think his bat will carry him as a starter in the Majors, especially when he’ll be at the bottom of the defensive spectrum (1B or LF) due to his deficiencies on defense.

Steve of Charlotte: Do you think Will Middlebrooks will be able to stay at short? Where do you see him starting this year? Any ideas on how high he may projects an offensive player?

DM: Due to his size (6’4”/215#) and likelihood of him getting bigger and stronger, I doubt Middlebrooks (#13) will be able to stay at SS. His arm strength is very good (draftable as a pitcher) and possesses soft hands, but he is a fringe-average runner (4.3 seconds to first base) right now, giving him below average range. His infield actions are good enough that he could probably be an above average fielder at 3B. Power is going to be the basis of Middlebrooks’ offensive game, with his excellent bat speed and natural strength. His swing doesn’t appear to be conducive to a high batting average and we’ll have to see how well he draws walks to get a grip on his OBP. Without any professional experience, it would be nothing more than a guess to project his batting average, but he has the potential to hit 30-40 homers. I see the Red Sox getting aggressive with him and let him begin the year in Greenville.

left coast bosox fan: Thanks for taking the time to do this again this year. I loved your book last year, nice approach, I especially like how you use scouting and hard data to rate the specific tools for both hitters and pitchers. I'd recommend it to anybody that follows minor league baseball. I find myself constantly looking up players to see how they stack up. Now the question, Masterson or Bowden, and why? A year has past since the last edition, how have they progressed/regressed in the past year?

DM: I ranked Masterson as the Red Sox’ #3 prospect and Bowden at #6. It was more of Masterson making a solid leap developmentally, whereas I believe Bowden pitched up to expectations. Masterson showed a real power sinker at 88-93 MPH and good downward plane to his delivery that helped him generate a ridiculously low G/F ratio. He gains deception to RH batters with his low ¾ slot and his slider is an above average pitch. His command and ability to miss bats were solid at both levels (AA and high Class-A), when adjusting for his home ballparks, and alleviated any stamina concerns by pitching 153.2 innings. I would like to see him repeat the arm speed on his change-up more frequently. Bowden pitched at the same levels as Masterson with similar success and is a year and half younger, but I just feel Masterson’s stuff is more conducive to getting outs at the Major League level and Bowden’s arm action isn’t nearly as smooth (recoil at finish). Bowden touches 94 MPH with his fastball and has a solid curveball, showing he could get outs with both. His circle-change improved, which gives him three pitches at his disposal, and he repeats his overhand delivery which attenuates his command. I think both have the upside of a #3 starting pitcher, with Masterson arriving slightly ahead of Bowden.

HiTek33: How important is Che-Hsuan Lin as a prospect to the Red Sox organization? Is his arm and speed alone enough to get him to the Majors?

DM: I assume you mean how the Red Sox view Lin as a prospect. The team is very high on Lin. He is highly athletic with excellent speed. His fluid swing and ability to use the whole field should allow him to hit for batting average and drives the ball well for his slender build. His range and arm strength are excellent, giving him the ability to play a solid CF. His speed and CF defense should get him to the Majors in a reserve outfield role if he doesn’t hit, but I think he’ll hit and be an eventual starter.

PrahaSMC: To what extent does Jason Place's erratic 2007 season at Greenville temper future expectations? Or, is it too early to be seriously concerned about his high strikeout totals and lack of strike zone judgment?

DM: Obviously, his mediocre performance negatively affects his prospect status, but with a player with Place’s physical tools, I’m more inclined to dismiss his stats at the low Class-A level. His wiry strength, short path to the baseball, and bat speed should allow him to hit for power, though there is some concern that he won’t hit for batting average due to his mediocre contact rate, plate discipline, and tendency to pull the ball. He has average speed (4.3 seconds to first base), but runs the bases intelligently and has enough range to play CF at the moment. Long-term, I see him as a corner outfielder who will be noted for his power. His numbers will certainly rebound playing at Lancaster in 2008, but I think the focus needs to be on his approach rather than his raw numbers.

left coast bosox fan: According to a poster here, Hansen was hitting 93-96 mph late in the year with good command. Could you confirm? How has his slider been?

DM: Hansen hitting 96 MPH is correct, and though his fastball command improved over the course of the season, it is still below average. The slider was inconsistent for much of the season and was the main culprit behind his 5.6 BB/9, but he broke-off a couple of nasty ones in the outing I witnessed in the AFL, so the potential is still there. He will need to learn to throw the slider for strikes instead of trying to get hitters to chase it out of the strike zone (a la Ryan Wagner).

TheGoldenGreek33: I know you touched over MLB's Scout School last year, but I have some more questions as someone who hopes and dreams to become one someday. What are the first steps you should take in becoming a scout? Since scouting obviously isn't a major in college, what would you recommend talking to someone wanting to break into a major/minor league team? How difficult would it be for someone who hasn't played professional ball to break into scouting compared to someone who has? Where are the scout schools currently and is it by invitation only? What is the pay range for pro scouts? Any additional information would be greatly appreciated.

DM: The key to getting a scout job is getting noticed and/or having contacts. A person with no professional or college baseball experience would have to get acquainted with a scout, which would be more easily accomplished at the amateur (high school/college) level. They’re not going to be real interested in what you know or think you know, but developing a relationship would be the primary step. I do know of scouts that began working for clubs in other capacities (sales, media relations, etc), that after several years of working and developing relationships, were given jobs as amateur scouts. There are others who have served as high school baseball coaches for a few years and then moved-on to scouting through their contacts as a coach. It is very difficult to break into scouting without having played professionally or at the college level. Those who played professionally have an advantage because their abilities (knowledge/work ethic) are better known and they have more contacts. I could name all the scouts that I know on one hand who did not have either professional or college baseball experience. The Major League Baseball Scouting Bureau runs the Scout Development Program twice during the fall (Phoenix and Dominican Republic) and you need to be sponsored, either by a Major League team or, in my case, a major media affiliation. Starting salaries for scouts range between $25,000-55,000, depending on level (amateur or pro), coverage area, and experience. Some scouts who have been with a club for a long period of time and some of the advance (Major League) scouts can earn six figures.

TheGoldenGreek33: David Pauley is a guy who has been pretty over-looked in the organization particularly because of his low K rates and really no dominating pitch. He has two pitches that could potentially become above-average pitches, the sinker and the curve. What are your thoughts on Pauley and could you see him as an innings eater for a major league team as a 4 or 5 starter?

DM: You pretty much nailed Pauley; marginal stuff, low strikeout rate, solid curveball. I project Pauley as a middle reliever/spot starter. He has average velocity (86-92 MPH),changes speeds, and does the little things well (fielding position, holding runners), however, he lacks command within the strike zone, doesn’t have a repeatable delivery, and is prone to the long-ball (1.1 HR/9). His sinker isn’t good enough to miss bats and I just don’t think he has the consistency or the ability to get Major League hitters out the second/third time through a lineup as a starting pitcher.

norbit14: How good do you think Ryan Kalish and Oscar Tejeda can be?

DM: I project their upsides as elite players. Kalish (#7) is an incredible athlete with plus speed and the ability to hit for batting average. His plate discipline is very solid for his experience level and should be able to hit for power as he matures. He ranges well in CF with above average arm strength. Tejeda (#9) is wiry strong and makes good contact at the plate, but hasn’t shown much from a power perspective. As he matures, the power is likely to come, as he possesses good bat speed. His speed isn’t great, but good enough to steal the occasional base. He has soft/quick hands and solid arm strength, but his range is just average, which may present problems at SS as he develops physically.

TNS: What are your thoughts on Anthony Rizzo? Did he fall to the 6th round because of signability issues or are there any red flags? What does he need to work on? How does Rizzo compare to Lars Anderson?

DM: Rizzo has very strong wrists and has excellent bat speed, which should allow him to hit for power, but scouts I’ve talked to like his approach at the plate, and think he’ll hit for average too. His swing can get lengthy and will have to make adjustments as he gets promoted. He offers nothing from a speed or defensive standpoint. He has a chance to be a starter based on his bat, but I’m going to be pessimistic and say he’ll be a platoon 1B/DH. There were some signability issues with Rizzo, but he wasn’t projected to go much more than round 5 or 6 anyway. His swing needs to get shorter in order to handle inside fastballs and will need to work on his defense. Anderson has a more athletic frame, is more prone to use the whole field, and his swing is a little more fluid. He also gains a significant defensive advantage.

TNS: What do the Red Sox have in Jon Still? What does he need to improve to remain at catcher and is it realistic to believe that he can?

DM: Still has a very intriguing bat, with moderate bat speed and strike zone judgment. His power is more to the pull field, but makes good contact and can hit for average. I don’t believe he can catch on a full-time basis due to a lack of agility and mediocre receiving skills, but the latter is something he can improve upon with hard work. His arm strength is above average, but isn’t always accurate and his footwork needs to be cleaned-up. I could see him make the Majors as a reserve 1B/C.

PrahaSMC: Which prospect has a greater chance to stick at their assumed position, Ty Weeden as a catcher, or Will Middlebrooks as a SS?

DM: I don’t think either will stay at the position they are playing now, at least not on a full-time basis, but I’m going to give the greater chance to Weeden because of the position (catcher) and the fact that Middlebrooks is the better prospect and will likely be given some preference when that decision needs to be made. Weeden has enough arm strength and his footwork isn’t too bad despite below average speed, but he has a long way to go with his receiving and game-calling skills. I think he ends-up as a reserve DH/1B/C.

left coast bosox fan: Down the road, George Kottaras or Mark Wagner and why? Who has the highest upside? How are you rating these two, or will I have to wait to see the book?

DM: Wagner, as he is better defensively and offensively, though Kottaras is two levels higher and they are both roughly the same age. Both catchers are adept at hitting for average and are disciplined hitters, but Wagner has more power, even accounting for playing in Lancaster last season. Defense is where the big difference is for me. Wagner possesses solid receiving skills and arm strength, with his only negative being his agility. Kottaras is more of an athletic type, but I’m not sold on his defense. His receiving skills are marginal, has just average arm strength, and has a slow release (2.05 seconds), which contributed to his 20% CS%. Using the ratings in my book, I gave Wagner an 8D (nearly made my top 15) and Kottaras a 6B.

Jantl: What can you tell us about David Mailman? I've heard that he has a pretty swing from the left side, but haven't heard much else about him. Is there any significant upside here?

DM: Mailman is a tall, lean player with fluid swing mechanics and good extension. Because his swing is so fluid and has all of his body parts working together, it doesn’t appear that he has a lot of bat speed, but he is capable of moderate power. His defense is above average, showing soft hands and the ability to scoop low throws, but lacks speed/agility. A good comp for him might be Adam LaRoche, but he is several years away.

Jantl: What did the Red Sox see in Chris Province to have taken him in the 4th round? What's his ceiling?

DM: Province’s arm strength and fastball velocity (90-97 MPH) were as good as any collegiate reliever, and his strong frame helps his arm retain some resiliency. Serving as the closer at Southeastern Louisiana, he showed solid command and ability to induce groundball outs, though his strikeout rate wasn’t that high considering his plus velocity. He adds an 85-87 MPH slider which is tough on RH batters, but is pretty much a one-trick pony to LH batters, which makes him hittable. If he could bring the slider to the average level, he has enough ability to be a setup reliever.

Duffman545: 2007 9th rounder Kade Keowen was one of the more interesting prospects for me, mostly because he is listed as a 6-6 centerfielder with great speed and 5-tool potential. With a body like his, it seems like the sky is the limit, but is there really much hope for a 21 year old 6'6" player who already has trouble making contact in Short Season A?

DM: You hit the nail on the head. Keowen possesses excellent tools, though I’d stop short on calling him a 5-tool player as he lacks the ability to hit for average and is just an average defender. His bat speed and natural strength are tremendous, but his poor contact rate, tendency to pull the ball, and plate discipline won’t allow his power to be game-usable. RH pitchers just chewed him up (.195 AVG and a 0.10 BB/K). He runs well with long strides, but his instincts aren’t there to allow him to steal bases. He would have to improve in several facets to realize his potential, but I’d like to wait to see what he does in a full-season league before making a definitive judgment.