Over a Beer and Peanuts: The Friarhood

‘Over a Beer and Peanuts’ is a section on The Baseball Opinion where I have a frank question and answer session with a fellow blogger to get their opinion on issues related to the area of baseball that they cover.  Steve Adler, over at The Friarhood, has accepted our most recent installment of this posting.  His well designed (and written) blog goes into depth on numerous issues related to the San Diego Padres.

1.  What are your thoughts on outfielder Kyle Blanks?

This guy is a monster! The issues with Blanks are, if will able to hit anything other than a fast ball and if manager Bud Black will put him in a position in the line up to see fastballs. If Black hits Blanks in front of Adrian Gonzalez, you can bet that Blanks will see plenty of fast balls, if Blanks is buried (protected) in the six or seven spot if could be a rough year for the youngster.

2.  How about prospect Matt Latos?

Latos is an ace waiting to happen, but not yet. It sounds more and more like the Latos is going to have to blow everyone else out of the water to earn the #5 spot. I think that the Padres start Mat in AAA because of factors outside of his ability.

3.  In limited time at the hot corner last season, Chase Headley posted a nice 4.4 UZR. With Chase likely heading back to his natural position at the hot corner full time next season, do you see him settling in and taking off offensively?  This is a make or break year for Headley. The Padres have a lot of organizational depth at 3B, and it’s time to see if Headley can be the savior as he was advertised to fans. I do think that Headleywill hit better this season, but he won’t remind anyone of Ken Caminitti at the plate. Expect Kouzmanoff type numbers with a slightly higher average and OBP.

4.  How do you see the starting rotation filling out?

Jon Garland
Chris Young
Kevin Correia
Clayton Richard
Gallagher or Stauffer (both are out of options)

5.  This past year has been tough for Padre faithful. The Padres have decided not to bring back Trevor Hoffman, to trade Jake Peavy, and to replace storied GM Kevin Towers. How do you like new GM Jed Hoyer and his moves so far?

It has been rough on Padres fans, any time you send away players that the fans identify with it hurts. With that said, I think the “Jedi” is doing a great job. The only move that I question is the Yorvit Torrealba move, I would have preferred he went after a better defensive option such as a Rod Barajas. I think I’m nit picking about a back up catcher, otherwise I think Hoyer has done an outstanding job.

6.  We can’t have a discussion about the Padres without bringing up Adrian Gonzalez. Do you see him signed long-term or traded? If you see him traded, what team do you believe matches up best with the Padres on such a blockbuster?

This is a question that only Adrian himself can answer. If he is willing to take less than $15M a year, then I do believe something could be worked out, but that’s not what non Padres fans want to hear. How the Padres play will determine if/when AGON is moved, if this team keeps it interesting, which could happen, Adrian will stay the entire season. If not, then he will be moved the team willing to give up the farm, literally! We hear all the chatter from Red Sox fans about how they feel they are entitled to AGON, but sign-ability will not be an issue when the trade happens, I also feel that minor league players from large markets tend to be over hyped. I see the Red Sox, Orioles and Mariners as the strongest candidates at this point. The Padres will be looking for high end arms and major league ready every day players, specifically at Catcher, Shortstop and Center Field.

Thanks to Steve for taking the time to answer some Padres questions today.

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Over a Beer and Peanuts: The Nats Blog – Part 2

‘Over a Beer and Peanuts’ is a relatively new section on The Baseball Opinion where I have a frank question and answer session with a fellow blogger to get their opinion on issues related to the area of baseball that they cover.  Willy Yoder, over at The Nats Blog, has graciously accepted the most recent installment of this posting.  His blog goes into depth on numerous issues related to the Washington Nationals.

Willy provided so much good content, I decided to break it up into two posts.  Here’s Part 2:

4.  I’ve never been a real fan of Jim Bowden, especially for his seemingly lack of respect for pitching compared to hitters in many of his deals. What do you think of his tenure in Washington?

My reaction to Jim Bowden ‘resigning’ was akin to the munchkins response to the death of the Wicked Witch. For years I sat by and watched as Bowden butchered great possibilities when he could have traded Livan Hernandez, Dimitri Young, or Alfonso Soriano. I watched as he traded for the entire 2003 Cincinnati Reds squad, and I suffered as my team was held hostage for its first four years in Washington by a man who has never gotten the job done anywhere. The only good things to come out of his tenure are the drafting of Ryan and Jordan Zimmerman(n).

5.  Assistant GM Mike Rizzo has come in and made quite a few changes in a relatively short time. What do you think of his work so far, and do you believe he should be the full-time GM? If not, then who?

I think for the most part Rizzo has done an excellent job considering what he has been given. However it seems as if there is an uncertainty over who is really in charge, Rizzo or the Nationals acting president Stan Kasten. This has led to some awkward decisions without a lot of explanation. For example I feel the demotions of Saul Rivera and Lastings Milledge were incredibly premature considering the two’s past success and the youth of the season. Also one has to wonder how long either of the two aforementioned executives will allow Manny Acta to run this ball club. I don’t know if Rizzo is the right man for the job, I’d like to see the Nationals go after current San Diego front office executive, and former Dodgers general manager Paul DePodesta. He is from the D.C area, young, money-ball saavy, and probably got fired for all the wrong reasons in L.A

6.  Except for a handful of prospects, many believe that the Nationals’ minor league system is relatively thin? Do you echo these thoughts? Are there any specific prospects that aren’t talked about much that pique your interest?

I do agree that the system is pretty thin, especially for a club that has done so poorly for essentially the last decade. There are some hidden Gems in there however. Personally I am most excited about 20 year old catching prospect Derek Norris. Last year in short season ball he batted .278/.444/.463 in 70 games at the age of 19. He’s got a very good glove but his plate patience and ability to drive the ball (22/63 hits were for extra bases) is what has me most excited.

Thanks for all the great input!

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Over a Beer and Peanuts: The Nats Blog – Part 1

‘Over a Beer and Peanuts’ is a relatively new section on The Baseball Opinion where I have a frank question and answer session with a fellow blogger to get their opinion on issues related to the area of baseball that they cover.  Willy Yoder, over at The Nats Blog, has graciously accepted the most recent installment of this posting.  His blog goes into depth on numerous issues related to the Washington Nationals.

Willy provided so much good content, I decided to break it up into two posts.  Here’s Part 1:

1.  Much has been made of the Washington Nationals bullpen remake. Do you think we’ll see plenty of more changes on the way, or will they likely lean on Julian Tavarez and Joe Beimel for much of their late-inning work anymore?

The Nats have no reason to deal for anyone as they are not competing for anything more than pride this season. This means that barring some sort of meltdown; Tavarez and Beimel are going to be closing out games for the rest of the year. Eventually we will likely see Beimel take over as the full time closer as the Nats will probably want to establish a permanent closer-type going into next year where they hope to be more competitive.

2.  What are your first impressions of Jordan Zimmerman and his transition to the majors?

Jordan Zimmermann has surprised everyone at every level he has been at. No one expected him to have so much success so fast in the minors, no one expected him to make the Majors out of camp this season, and no one thought he had the stuff to be this effective this soon. I can understand the doubt. I got to see Zimmermann pitch for the first time in person this spring down in Florida and everything about him is unimpressive; that is, until you see him pitch. What makes him so successful is that he approaches the game like a veteran, but pitches with the pop of the 22 year old he is. The only problem’s he has gotten into all year are a few fastballs that he probably would have gotten away with in the minors that turned into bombs. He will have a few ups and downs, but expect Zimmermann to be a staple in the Nationals rotation for the next several years.

3.  It looks like Scott Boras is setting the price pretty high on Stephen Strasburg. Do you believe that the Nationals will give in and sign the pitcher to a record-breaking contract? Also, just how excited are you about landing this supposed future ace?

After the embarrassment of losing Aaron Crow last season, I think the Nationals will almost certainly draft and pay up for Strasburg. It’s risky, and probably setting a poor precedent, but the Nationals are so desperate for not only talent, but something to show the fans an effort towards substantial growth. That being said, Strasburg is exciting and if he is as good as they say, he will be up in the majors probably by September. You can read more about my thoughts on this here.

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Over a Beer and Peanuts: Pat Lackey – Where Have You Gone Andy Van Slyke

‘Over a Beer and Peanuts’ is a relatively new section on The Baseball Opinion where I have a frank question and answer session with a fellow blogger to get their opinion on issues related to the area of baseball that they cover.  It would be cool to say that we are doing this while downing a beer and popping some peanuts while watching a game, but that’s relatively impossible.  Pat Lackey, over at Where Have You Gone Andy Van Slyke, has taken time out during one of his busiest periods of the year to answer a few questions.  WHYGAVS is a very good Pirates blog for those Bucs fans out there.  His recent Learning from the past article is a good read.

1.  Although it’s doubtful that the Pirates’ new prospects from India will reach the majors, shortstop Gift Ngoepe is still very young, giving him more of a chance to make it to Pittsburgh. What do you think of the 16-year old South African’s chances?

I honestly don’t know what to make of Ngoepe or any 16-year old’s chances because of how young they are, but I like what the signings of Singh, Patel, and especially Ngoepe represent. Under Dave Littlefield, the Pirates barely scouted Latin America while under Huntington, they had someone at the showcase in Italy that Ngoepe played in over the summer and saw enough to offer him a contract. I suppose we’ll know more about him after he plays in the World Baseball Classic this spring, but whether he makes it to the big leagues or not, conducting a global talent search is a huge step forward for the Pirates.

2.  We’ve only seen one year of Neal Huntington’s reign as the Bucs’ GM, what are your thoughts of him so far?

The best way to judge Huntington’s first year with a team like the Pirates is to look at their minor league system. A year ago, they had Andrew McCutchen as their only true elite prospect, with Neil Walker and Steve Pearce behind him, and Pearce was highly rated after one good minor league season in which he was mostly old for the levels he played at. Huntington already added Pedro Alvarez and Jose Tabata to McCutchen as elite prospects in the system, but he also spent a lot of money on the draft signing players like Robbie Grossman, Wesley Freeman, Quinton Miller, Jordy Mercer, Chase D’Arnaud, and others who haven’t played much yet, but have the potential to develop into real prospects. Fans are upset with how Andy LaRoche has turned out so far in Pittsburgh, but Huntington’s true work right now is in the minor leagues, building a base of talent that will eventually supply the big league club, and I think he’s done good work there.

 

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Over a Beer and Peanuts: Tim Dierkes – MLB Trade Rumors

‘Over a Beer and Peanuts’ is a relatively new section on The Baseball Opinion where I have a frank question and answer session with a fellow blogger to get their opinion on issues related to the area of baseball that they cover.  It would be cool to say that we are doing this while downing a beer and popping some peanuts while watching a game, but that’s relatively impossible.  Tim Dierkes, over at MLB Trade Rumors, has taken time out during one of his busiest periods of the year to answer a few questions.  MLBTR is like crack to me.  I have to restrain myself to visiting the site only every 30 minutes while at work, especially during this busy time of the off-season.

1.    What’s the main thing you attribute the success of your website to?  The great content, constant updates, or great marketing that includes significant word-of-mouth and a shout out from the Dalai Lama of Baseball, Peter Gammons?

Thanks for the kind words.  I am going to cheat and give two answers, luck and perseverance.  Luck because I stumbled upon a niche that had perhaps not been filled in 2005, yet interests tons of baseball fans.  That was not a calculated move.  Perseverance in that I made sure to write daily regardless of the traffic or how busy I was at work or home.

2.    Name five other top names you believe will be traded this off-season.

Matt Holliday, Gerald Laird, Aaron Heilman, Scott Olsen, Kevin Gregg.  Not sure if they all qualify as top names but I do think all five will be traded.

3.    In your feature Off-Season Outlooks, you name the L.A. Dodgers as the team with the most cash to spend this winter.  I assume that you believe that they will be big movers in the off-season.  What other teams do you think we’ll see major  changes from?

The Yankees and Braves should be able to give the Dodgers competition for “most cash to spend.”  The Mets, Cardinals, and Angels also figure to make many moves.

4.    Do you think that we’ll see any more of the Johan Santana-like trades (contingent on extension agreement) happening?

Now that you mention it that was odd that Santana insisted on forgoing free agency, but he did demand a record deal.  I suppose we could see Brandon Webb take this approach in a few years, but I don’t think it will become commonplace.

5.    As a fan and analyst of trades, what benchmark trades (i.e. – the Haren deal when discussing Peavy) or trends do you feel have had, or will have, a significant impact on the trade market?

For offseason trades it’s best to compare to other trades made in the offseason.  So with starting pitchers you have Haren, Bedard, Santana to consider.  Perhaps the Miguel Cabrera trade would be another benchmark.

6.       Finally, how does it feel for your addictive website to be the main reason for the reduction in my at-work productivity and of many others as well?

It feels great!  Everyone deserves to break up the work day by catching up on the latest rumors.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Over a Beer and Peanuts: Bay City Ball – Part 2

‘Over a Beer and Peanuts’ is a new section on The Baseball Opinion where I have a frank question and answer session with a fellow blogger to get their opinion on issues related to the area of baseball that they cover.  Chris, over at Bay City Ball, has graciously accepted to be my ginuea pig for my first post of this section.  His blog goes into depth on numerous issues related to the San Francisco Giants, including some masterful PITCHfx analysis.

Here’s Part 2:

There’s been a rumor running around of a trade that would center around Matt Cain for Prince Fielder (with others leveling the field on either side). Are you for a trade of this stature?

I’ve heard the rumors and I know I wouldn’t personally do the deal. Fielder’s production has been down this year and his defense at first base is horrid. Some are concerned about his weight, but those concerns don’t bother me too much. I think people often do two things with the Giants and Cain.

1) They don’t realize how young Cain is (he’ll be 24-years-old next year) and how well he’s performed at such a young age. His career ERA+ with the Giants is 117. Jason Schmidt’s career ERA+ with the Giants was 126.

2) Overstate our rotational depth. The Giants are usually advertised as a club with a strong rotation, but I think it’s often overstated. Removing Cain from our rotation leaves us with Lincecum, Sanchez, and Zito with the last two spots being filled by guys like Brad Hennessey, Kevin Correia, or Pat Misch. Not pretty. I don’t think the Giants have the depth to trade Cain away right now.

Most fans look at our terrible offense and want to improve it at any cost. Make no mistake, Fielder would instantly be the best hitter on the team but Cain contributes more than Fielder. When you factor in defense, Fielder is worth about 1 win less than Matt Cain. Cain is also signed to a pretty favorable contract and Fielder should start getting expensive in arbitration. The “Trade Cain” phenomenon on the Internet is a really weird thing. Giants fans don’t seem to understand how good Cain has been and while he might have been overshadowed by Lincecum lately, he’s still a darn good pitcher. Keep ‘em.

“If you were GM”, what would be your top five goals for the off-season?

1. Trade Dave Roberts. He doesn’t have a place on the team. Eat some salary if you have to.
2. Trade Randy Winn if you can get a decent return, if not, hang onto him.
3. Not sign Joe Crede.
4. Keep Matt Cain.
5. Try to figure out 3B. The Giants need help at 3B more than any other position right now. Maybe pick up some high reward, low risk-type players to fill that position. Players like Russell Branyan would be a good start. Maybe even check on failed prospects like Andy Marte or anyone that once had upside that can still play third base. Entertain trades for guys like Adrian Beltre if the price is right.

Date that Tim Lincecum’s arm will fall off?  Tommy John or shoulder?

No comment! I can’t say that I’ve liked the way that the Giants have handled Lincecum this year and the thought of losing him for any stretch of time horrifies me. So, I’ll pretend I didn’t see this question.

In all honestly, Lincecum could be a different beast but the Giants have pushed him hard this year and for little reason. When you’re still throwing 130+ pitches in September for a .400 team, I question your judgement making abilities. I hope Lincecum stays healthy for a long time, even when he eventually leaves the Giants. He’s just that fun to watch.

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Over a Beer and Peanuts: Bay City Ball – Part 1

‘Over a Beer and Peanuts’ is a new section on The Baseball Opinion where I have a frank question and answer session with a fellow blogger to get their opinion on issues related to the area of baseball that they cover.  Chris, over at Bay City Ball, has graciously accepted to be my ginuea pig for my first post of this section.  His blog goes into depth on numerous issues related to the San Francisco Giants, including some masterful PITCHfx analysis.

Chris provided so much good content, I decided to break it up into two posts, one centered on the up and coming and rookies to look for, the other on the mangement of the team.  Here’s Part 1:

Do you think that Nate Schierholtz will pan out as a regular outfielder for the Giants?  Will he get the chance?

Great question. The Giants’ OF is really overcrowded. Think crowded elevator stuck on the 14th floor bad. The team has Aaron Rowand, Fred Lewis, Randy Winn, Dave Roberts, Nate Schierholtz, John Bowker, and maybe a few other players who could see time in the OF.

I do think Nate can pan out as a regular outfielder for the Giants. He might not be able to start for some teams but on a 2nd tiered team like the Giants, Nate could fit in and most likely be the starter in RF. Nate is a hot-topic among a lot of Giants fans. Some see him as a hacker that doesn’t take enough walks and others see him as the next Garret Anderson; a player that should hit around .300 every year with 25 walks and 25 HR’s. I think Nate has increased his stock some this season. In ’07 he grabbed 112 AB’s with the Giants but didn’t hit for power at all. This year in a small sample, he’s been hitting for power, so the Giants might be higher on him right now than ever.

Ultimately, what happens with Schierholtz is going to depend on what happens with Dave Roberts and Randy Winn. Winn’s 2008 has been spectacular, he’s been an above-average hitter (an OPS+ of 107) and he really shines defensively in right field. John Dewan’s +/- system has rated Winn very highly over the past couple of years. And playing a defensively strong RF is important at AT&T Park. With the emergence of Fred Lewis, Dave Roberts has no place on the current team. If the Giants can trade Randy Winn or Dave Roberts in the offseason, I think you’ll see Nate getting a lot of playing time in ’09. It just depends on which player is traded (if either are traded at all). If Roberts is traded, Nate will become the 4th OF and play the corners. If Winn is traded, I think Nate is the starter in RF.

Can you please name the five most underrated prospects in the team’s farm system?

I’m a big fan of RHP Adam Cowart. He’s a side-armer that was drafted in the 35th round in the ’06 player draft out of Kansas State. He doesn’t break 86mph on his fastball and all his pitches grade out as average, at best. But, Cowart’s motion is tough to pick up on and he gets his share of groundballs. He’s been a starter for most of his minor league career but the Giants have flipped him back and forth this year in AA, letting him relieve also. His upside is a Chad Bradford-lite but I’ve always had a soft spot for pitchers with weird deliveries. He might end up in the bullpen by the end of next year.

RHP Joe Martinez quietly put together a nice season in AA this year. He’s 25-years-old and projects as a back of the rotation starter, but he did a lot of things right this year. Getting groundballs and keeping the ball in the park. Because the Giants farm system is so rich in pitching, guys like Martinez often get over looked.

LHP Clayton Tanner is also someone to keep an eye on. He dominated in Augusta in ’07 but hit a few rough patches this year in A+ ball. He’s a lefty that doesn’t overpower hitters, but gets groundballs. He’s only 20-years-old so there could be some development left in him. The middle portion of his year was rough, but he finished strong in August. Much like with Martinez, with the ascension of Bumgarner and Alderson, guys like Tanner can get over looked.

I’ll wrap things up with INF Matt Downs and 1B Michael Ambort. Downs is a player that could make it as a bench-bat or utility player. He’s played 2B, 3B, SS, and RF in the minors and has flashed moderate power a few times. He was old for the level at 24-years-old, but he did well in the California League this year. He hit .304/.357/.494 with 17 HR’s before being promoted to AAA and struggling in just 86 AB’s.

Ambort is your typical baseball player with some real upside who has battled injuries. He put up impressive numbers at Lamar University as a catcher in ’05 but missed his ’06 season after undergoing TJ surgery. He came back in ’07 and had a nice year. Before his injury he was a potential 1-2 round draft talent, but his injury dropped his stock and the Giants popped him in the 6th round of the ’07 player draft. He’s a switch-hitter and his days at catcher are probably over. Ambort has motly played DH this year for the Giants A- team, the S-K Volcanoes. He was banged up at times in ’08 with S-K but he still hit when he played, posting an overall line of: .328/.395/.664 with 9 HR’s in 34 games. If Ambort can get healthy, he could be an interesting prospect real fast.

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