: what kind of things should an awful rebuilding team like the Pirates be doing over the next 6 months? Maybe you learned lessons from good and bad things from your early Astros days that they should apply.
: Hi everyone! Welcome to the chat and happy Opening Day Week (is that a thing?). I look forward to your questions. The Pirates have some decent arms and they should be looking to deal them this summer to improve their long-term outlook. Pretty simple, really.
: You’re building a dynasty team and can start with either Wander Franco or Bobby Witt. Who do you choose?
: Franco is the No. 1 prospect in baseball, no question. So it’s Franco. That’s not an insult to Bobby Witt, who is really damn good.
: Hi Kevin! What is your outlook for Cristian Javier and Jose Urquidy this season and for the future?
: I don’t see any reason they can’t be soild middle of the rotation starters now and for years to come.
: Should we be treating Akil Badoo as a 2021 potential breakout prospect that should be picked up today?!?
: I think he’s exceeded expectations merely by looking like a big leaguer, but I’d temper expectations beyond a nice fourth outfielder.
: Eric seems to be the high man on Quinn Priester among the prospect community. Do you agree with him in that Priester fits into that 55 tier with Lacy, Meyer, etc.? Or is he more of a 50 for you? Trying to compare him with Abel and a lot of other seem to have Abel higher.
: He’s more of a 50 for me. I wasn’t a huge fan after seeing him in high school but he’s exceeded expectations.
: Which baseball player would have the best sumo wrestling nickname and why is the answer Jumbo Diaz?
: It’s Jumbo, but Vogelbach and Alejando Kirk come to mind as well.
: (I know it’ll never happen) Every year that passes I can’t help but feel more and more strongly that two divisions with relegation and promotion between would fix so many of baseballs problems. Most teams can’t deliberately tank, the season remain exciting at both ends of the division, teams will actually pay to stay up and pay to get back up.
: I think there are ways to address this that don’t include relagation.
: As a plus hit tool guy with a good frame, what do you think the odds are that Robert Hassell develops above average pop?
: Average? Pretty good. You’re talking 14-18 HR. Above-average is a maybe.
: has the ship sailed on gary sanchez getting back to an all-star level catcher?
: No. It’s possible. I wouldn’t bet hard on it, but it’s certainly within the realm.
: How much of a residual rooting interest do you have/expect to have for the Astros this season?
: It’s weird. I have friends who work there who I am rooting for individually because I want them to do well in their careers. As for the team, I’m neutral. I don’t have a rooting interest. I think watching some Houston games in spring training and seeing players for whom I had nothing to do with acquiring helped.
: any clint frazier thoughts?
: I don’t think I have any groundbreaking thoughts on him. I think he’ll be pretty good. Like .800 OPS good.
: Taillon or C Javier in a monthly transaction league?
: Very important to note that I have NO IDEA what a monthly transaction league is. That said, I’d take Javier because I feel way better about him pitching the whole year.
: ST stats obviously need to be taken with a huge grain of salt, but how much would you read into a pitcher having a huge uptick in Ks over that kind of sample? Without the underlying data, I guess it’s hard to say if they were earned, right?
: Right. The K rate catches your eye, and then you have to go to the data and video to see how real it is due to the small sample.
: Is it possible that a hitter has higher game power than raw power due to an elite hit tool? Thinking small guys like: Mookie Betts, Jose Altuve and Jose Ramirez.
: No. It’s not possible, and those guys might have WAY more raw than you think.
: Mets fan wondering if the team can extend all its best young talent (Lindor, Conforto, Thor, potentially McNeil/Nimmo/Alonso/Smith) and still manage to fill in holes in the roster, as they’re going to need starters unless Allen & Ginn develop in a hurry and a real everyday CF while we wait for Pete Crow-Armstrong. Obviously any owner can blow past the luxury tax cap, and Cohen has the money to do it. But so few teams have decided to just go for it, penalties be damned. Your thoughts?
: You can’t extend all of them, you have to make your decisions on which ones you want to extend. Also, not all players WANT to sign an extension. There are tons of players out there who want to bet on themselves and/or really want to go through the free agent process.
: What do you make of hitters who see a drastic increase in K% once they reach the majors? Specifically interested in your thoughts on Keston Hiura, who’s k rate in minors was 21% but jumped to 32% in the majors. What do you attribute to this increase – Does facing better pitchers really make for that large of an uptick?
: It’s very player to player. In Hiura’s case I think it’s an approach issue in that he now sees himself as more of a slugger and has to go back to being a hitter and just letting the strength play more naturally rather than trying to force it.
: What is your proposed solution to the ‘sticky substance issue’?
: Fix the damn ball.
: Curious, when veterans are considering taking a deal to play in AAA, how much do the conditions of the facility and general quality of life (i.e. easy travel, nice place to live) factor in when they decide where to sign? Or is the prime motivation what opportunities exist at the big league level? If facility is a consideration, which teams are well regarded and which are not?
: Facilities are often a consideration, and geography often is as well, but more than anything, it’s opportunity to accrue MLB service time.
: Kevin, do you have any insider insight to MLB’s reorg of the Minor? From the outside, it looked really bungled. I would have really expected MLB to have announced a mostly complete plan the day after the agreement expired.
: I just think the entire thing was incredibly short-sighted. No, teams don’t need that many affiliates for development purposes, but the damages to baseball as a cultural institution are too great to do what they did. I really don’t have any insider insight to it, that all happened way above my pay grade.
: Hey Kevin – looking back at your time with the Astros, what did the team miss on Ramon Laureano? Was it just a numbers crunch or did he develop as a player in ways that HOU didn’t believe was likely to happen?
: There was a numbers crunch, and he was coming off an ugly year in which a lot of things went backwards. It was definitely a mistake. Huge credit to Ramon for working hard and bouncing back to become the player he has. The makeup on the guy is just off the charts and those are the kind of players who can do what he did.
: Are we all sort of sleeping on Luis Garcia (the pitcher)’s upside?
: As long as that upside is a nice back-of-the-rotation piece, no.
: Hello Kevin this is my first time in your chat
: Hello Morbo this is my first time typing Morbo in my chat.
: Joc Pederson has my attention in spring training. 8 home runs so far! At what point do we have to consider this a potential skill increase?
: When he does it when games count.
: Burl Carraway recently posted a video on twitter of a very nasty breaker and I may be in love. Any chance we see him in Chicago this year? After they trade Kimbrel?
: If he comes out throwing strikes, his time in the minors will be a very short one.
: I recall you saying a few weeks ago that you leaned Kumar over Leiter but there was plenty of time for that to change. Have Leiter’s performances the past two weekends moved that needle for you?
: Probably, but we still have three months to go, so draft rankings at this date aren’t very important.
: With the season just days away and you being a JRPG fan, how does your video game time change in season with baseball back? Will you chip away at a 60+ hour game or play some small stuff between all the baseball. Thanks!
: Fun question. I’m currently in between games. I started Final Fantasy 7 remake and I’m having trouble getting into it. Tried Subnautica and not for me. Kinda in a holding pattern playing some small, short indie stuff (primarily Murder By Numbers on the Switch) until I see what PS Plus and PS Now have in store for April. And yes, I tend to save the giant JRPGs for the off-season.
: Were you guys able to quantify game calling ability for a catcher to somewhat acceptable range in your time in Houston? or was it still a black box and you relied on what scouts and pitchers thought about them.
: I think things like game calling, and game management in general are INCREDIBLY important and something that it’s hard to just put some kind of number on in terms of war. It’s why I was always such a massive fan of Martin Maldanado.
: What is your favorite baseball movie? Does it provide as much joy as watching a playoff-deciding baseball game?
: Is there a great narrative baseball movie? I think Bull Durham is very good, but more of a 60 than elite. I don’t really watch a lot of fictionalized sports entertainment, but I started Ted Lasso on a whim and I’m really liking it.
: Speaking of contract extensions… I know the Astros and Carlos Correa are way off the mark (according to Carlos himself) at 6 years/$120M. What’s a range where you see a deal being made?
: I would predict that Carlos’ next deal is of the free agent variety.
: Should MLB teams be allowed to trade draft picks? If allowed, how big of a component would that become in future trades?
: I think teams should be allowed to trade Day1 and Day 2 picks (first ten rounds), and yes, it would become a huge component of trade talks.
: what do you make of Andre Scrubb? The eye test and his 5+ xFIP don’t scream “high leverage reliever” but his performance last year was surprisingly solid.
: It’s really good stuff and VERY scattered command. That combination screams inconsistency. He might whiff the side, and he might quickly have the bases loaded with one out.
: What should we take away from spring training stats? Is K% predictive?
: The underlying data and video is mostly available. Lean on that.
: Can you explain teams’ decision-making about when to add a player to the IL in preseason? For instance Schmidt is on the IL, while Voit, or Framber, is not. Is it a matter of not wanting to commit to it until absolutely necessary when games start?
: Yeah, it’s usually some kind of domino effect where to do this, you gotta do that. All will be clear by Thursday.
: What’s your take on Drew Waters? Do you share concerns that his approach will someday catch up with him?
: I do. I have concerns about any players with approach issues unless he’s a 65+ bat.
: India’s ST performance doing anything for you? Do you expect a bit of a power uptick with him getting further away from some of these injuries from 2019?
: I loved him out of college, but the performances so far as a pro disappointed until this spring. Kind of a jury is still out situation, but I hope he’s figured something out and can turn into the .275 w/ 18 HR guy he looked like at Florida.
: Do orgs rank catchers differently than is public?
: How many years away are we from discussing whether fWAR should include Statcast metrics?
: WAR is measure what happened on the field in terms of results, so I don’t think it’s a big deal. The more pertinent question is how to accurately use those kind of metrics in projection models.
: What is your favorite pitch as a fan of the game? For example, mine is a big loopy curve that buckles the hitters knees.
: Knuckleball. I like weird. They’re rare, so in terms of more common pieces, I love power breakers, like 85+ mph breakers.
: What did you learn from doing Positional Power Rankings for the first time? Thoughts on that format vs. more standard season-preview content?
: I learned that 9,000 words is a lot. I learned that I don’t envy Meg’s job that week (or ever, really). I learned a lot about those players, and I learned a lot about how to use publicly available tools and data, which are actually quite excellent!
: What’s stopping a team (hello Mets) from blowing thru their draft pool by 10x and re-load their system in one shot, other than forfeiting two firsts?
: Nothing, and teams have talked about such a strategy. It’s a real challenge to get that many big players after the third or so.
: Are there any areas in which publicly available baseball tools/data are behind what teams have available to them?
: I think many of the private tools are better, but I’ve been pleasantly surprised at how small the gap is in working with the public ones.
: What factors do orgs consider when evaluating catchers? Was completely intrigued when I heard Chandler Rome say the Astros consider Maldonado their MVP… He is a great catcher but it doesn’t show up in the numbers, seems almost unfair to compare a catcher to say, a left fielder
: Like I said earlier, things like game management, pitch calling, working with pitchers, all of that stuff is INSANELY important and nearly impossible to measure without being close to the team.
: Regarding the blow your draft budget by 10x strategy…do you think that other teams would interfere with your picks after a certain round in the draft as well? Like, if I see a competitor practicing this strategy, after round 10, maybe I’d purposely make picks (like Leiter a few years back) so that my competitor could not.
: Also an issue!
: Mark Appel is back, baby. Have you heard anything about how he looks so far? Does he have any chance of at least making a MLB bullpen in the next couple of years?
P.S. Sugar is imvho a great baseball movie.
: Sugar is quite good. I’ve seen nothing other than he’s attempting a come back. I have no idea how good (or not good) he looks.
: You’ve dropped some very positive hints about Jairo Solis. Any details or more recent reports? Where do you think he’ll rank on your eventual Astros’ prospect list?
: The stuff is VERY good and I’m excited to see what a healthy Solis can do over a full season. It’s a shame we didn’t get to see that last year, but pandemics have to pandemic I guess.
: What do you see as realistic to expect from Alutve this year? He’s on a two year decline, especially last year, but he’s only 30. Any reason to worry or does he rebound?
: .291/.359/.487. Book it.
: From your time with the Astros and now after, how did/does the industry view the Pirates organization?
: The Ben Cherington administration is a short one and they are just at the beginning of trying to get that ship unstuck from the Suez canal. So it’s really all very much TBD.
: For all the great player related moves that Rick Hahn has made as GM of the White Sox, will his legacy be anything beyond being the guy who traded Fernando Tatis Jr for James Shields?
: It certainly SHOULD be. I think he’s a very good GM. He made a mistake. They all do. Do you define Theo Epstein’s legacy by some of his big FA contract mistakes?
: Can torkelson stick at 3B?
: I think he can end up a 40-45 defender at the hot corner.
: How will most teams handle pitching prospects in this extended spring training?
: VERY carefully. Injuries and attrition and depth issues are going to define the 2021 MLB season in my opinion.
: Why don’t more random minor leaguers develop a knuckle ball?
: Because it’s insanely hard to throw good ones consistently.
: What’s the FO industry opinion of Brian Cashman? Would he be successful as the Pirates’ GM, for instance?
: He’s one of the most respected GMs in baseball, and with good reason and yes, I think he’d be one of the best GMs in baseball anywhere.
: Do you see Hunter Brown holding up under a starter’s workload?
: I see no reason to be concerned in that regard.
: Is throwing a knuckle ball consistently more difficult than other types of pitches?
: It’s more the effect of inconsistency. If you miss a knuckleball, it’s an absolute meatball of a pitch. You miss a slider and it might just not be as good as your usual slider but still decent enough.
: Is there hope for Francis Martes to ever be more than a pen arm?
: No, but he still might end up a decent pen arm.
: Is there any hope left for Brady Aiken? Obviously his stats are grim and he’s hurt constantly, but is there any potential left in the arm? (Not trying to fixate on former top Astros picks, just top picks in general whose careers went wrong)
: Almost certainly not. It makes me sad. He was absolutely electric in high school. I thought it was Kershaw-esque upside.
: Thoughts on Jasson Dominguez? How have scouts gotten insight into his skills without any pro competition yet? How would you handle his development being so young and having missed a year of ball.
: Based on what I know about the tools and the makeup, I’d throw him to the wolves and start him this year in Low-A.
: Do you have any thoughts on Aquino now that he’s stuck in no options purgatory in Cincinati? There’s one hot month and a lot of strikeouts. But there’s also an .850+ OPS in AAA/MLB games (~600PAs all together). And yes I know AAA is different but seems to point to some level of “performance” no? 4th OF and nothing more, middle order corner guy with a real chance? Something in between? Thanks!
: Pure power goof. Wily Mo Pena esque.
: Where do you see Austin Martin setting in defensively? Is he passable at 3B/2B for you?
: Passable? Probably, but would still be he ends up in the outfield.
: It’s just spring training yada yada yada but Logan Webb looks like a legit frontline guy. Buy in?
: It’s just spring training . . .
: Carlos Gomez’s career would be a __th percentile outcome for Luis Robert?
: How much swing and miss risk is there with Julio Rodriguez?
: It’s definitely there, but he’s not, to repeat an earlier term, some kind of power goof. There’s hit-ability on display.
: Crazy to think Sal Frelick reads like Corbin Carroll/Benintendi? same level of prospect?
: I’m growing to really like him.
: CAn Bobby DAlbac be better than Joey Gallo?
: I miss Willy Mo Pena
: I miss Chris Carter.
: Correa to Miami? Or is he too costly for them?
: A healthy season probably prices him out of Miami unless something weird happens.
: I miss ‘I love Lucy”
: It’s on Hulu. It’s still very good.
: I miss Roberto Petagine
I miss Kila Kaʻaihue:
: Since someone brought up Carlos Gomez, do you have any thoughts/regrets on his time in Houston?
: You think about mistakes more than successes and I think about that trade A LOT.
: How much more growth do you see in Leody Taveras? As a dopey baseball fan (not scout), I like lots of his game but it seems like he hasn’t consolidated everything yet. It would be a bummer if what you see is what you get and there’s no next level for him.
: I struggle to see him ever becoming a real offensive contributor. It’s a shame because man oh man can he play CF with the best of them.
: Do you buy Spring Training velocity upticks/declines?
: I don’t think it’s a binary yes or no. I think you definitely put a checkmark next to them and see if it carries into the season.
: Correa to Detroit. Not a prediction , that’s a SPOILER!
: If you are taking wagers on that, lemme know. I’d like to make some easy money.
: Does jazz Chisholm become a star?
: Not with that much swing and miss.
: What should we expect from Myles Straw?
: .350 OBP VERY low power, really good defense. 1.5-2 win player.
: I Love Lucy is very good, but it has reached maximum physicality and therefore lacks future growth.
: What about the Dick Van Dyke show?
: Mark Appel is trying again with the Phillies, can you talk about the Ken Giles deal at all? Were this Phillies focused on quantity over quality or did the Astros pitch that?
: That was a fun one. LOTS of arguments in the suite during the winter meetings that year. It got HEATED.
: Are the Angels one of the worst run mlb franchises?
: I think if you are going to throw those kind of terms around, they have to be pointed at ownership and not the front office. I’m sure Perry would like to bring his area scouts back, and it’s Moreno who is preventing it.
: Considering the late bloom of his career, how dominant does Jacob DeGrom need to be for how long to make a serious Hall of Fame case for himself? Does one more Cy Young award get him there?
: The Jay Jaffe chat is later in the week. His answer on this would be 100x more insightful than mine.
: Do front office staff members generally play any fantasy baseball? Or would that be too much like work for it to be fun anymore?
: No. No time, and they’re already doing it in real life.
: best case scenario stat line for Gary Sanchez in 2021?
: How special is Yordan as a hitter? And how much should we worry that he’s a full time DH at 23? Even Country Breakfast himself, Billy Butler, was still playing the field at that age.
: Sure, but he shouldn’t have been. Alvarez is a special player in the box, but I worry about his ability to post up in order to get 600+ PA a year.
: If you were in the O’s front office, would you be having any second thoughts right now about picking Rutschman over Witt?
: Not yet.
: If Pedroia retired, why is he still being paid & included in luxury tax payroll?
: He did not walk away from his contract. He gets paid this year.
: Build the ideal pitcher
: Gerrit Cole’s fastball, Josh Hader’s slider, Devin Williams’ changeup, Kyle Hendricks’ command.
: Does Rob Manfred even like baseball?
: I’m quite sure he does.
: Saw the cardinals signed Luis Mario Pino, an OF. Is he any good?
: He certainly has tools. Interesting power/speed combo and now we’ll see if he can hit.
: On the RPG front- any experienced with/interest in Bravely Default II? I keep getting tempted to buy it but then decided I should wait for the inevitable price drop.
: The demo has been sitting on my Switch for months now and I’ve yet to try it. I liked the first one, but it got repetitive as hell in the second act.
: Hello Kevin. What kind of music do you listen to?
: Mostly dissonant stuff. Grew up in the Chicago punk scene of the 80s, so lot’s of that. Indie rock, weird stuff, some hip hop, some mellow stuff. Pretty wide ranging, but no jazz, country and very little pop.
: Does Luis Medina on the Yankees turn into a starter (a really good one) or will he be a reliever?
: If forced to bet, reliever, but I wouldn’t totally rule out starting.
: Well, it’s been 90 minutes, and I have to clear space for the Ben Clemens experience. Thanks for all the great questions and I’ll see you soon. Stay tuned for a special 2021 season preview edition of the podcast coming to your earholes on Opening Day.
Kevin Goldstein is a National Writer at FanGraphs.