Prospect Q/A with Keith Law

I recently got a chance to talk Phillies prospects with Keith Law, and he was kind enough to answer some questions for the blog here. For those who don’t know him, Keith is currently the Director of Baseball Scouting for ESPN Scouts, Inc. Prior to his work for ESPN, he served as Special Assistant to the GM for the Toronto Blue Jays, and before Toronto, he wrote for Baseball Prospectus. Keith knows his way around the scouting circle, and he offered his no nonsense opinions on some of the Phillies best prospects as well as the organization as a whole. Thanks again Keith for taking the time, we appreciate it. Check below the fold for all the action

1. If you had to put the Phillies into the Top 3rd, Middle 3rd, or Bottom 3rd in terms of farm systems, right now, where would they rank? Do you see them trending upward, downward, or kind of in a holding pattern?

Bottom third, pretty solidly, and holding. I wasn’t wowed by their draft this year, and there wasn’t much talent in the system to start the year, with the situation made much worse by the injury to Kyle Drabek. It’s not that he’s no longer a prospect per se, but the delay in his development and the 15% or so chance that he doesn’t regain his stuff mean a significant reduction in the value of that asset. Their best prospect is Carlos Carrasco, who’d be #2 or #3 in a lot of farm systems, and behind him it’s a huge dropoff depending on how much faith you have in Savery.

I’d probably go Carrasco, Savery, Drabek, Outman, d’Arnaud as their top five prospects.

2. As someone who worked in a Major League Front Office, can you briefly talk about the discussions that take place leading up to selecting a player? The Phillies took Brandon Workman, knowing he’d require over slot, then they didn’t sign him. Is this type of thing common? At the end of the day, the GM has the final say, correct? How much influence does each person down the chain of command have?

I can only speak to the process in Toronto, and I know that each team has its own process.

We would get together as a scouting staff – first just the national guys, the scouting director (Jon Lalonde), his boss (Tony Lacava), and myself; then the entire staff – and pref all the players on whom we had reports. So we’d rank the top 100 or so guys, and then would create lists by position for the rest of the country. As a smaller group we’d rank everyone that someone in the room had seen, and then we’d bring the area guys in to rank everyone else, also making adjustments to the top-five-rounds section if warranted but mostly dealing with the positional lists and moving guys on and off of separate lists like the “unsignables” section. (Under the previous scouting director we had a term for those guys – USW, or “unsignable for worth,” which has always stuck with me, but it may not be standard.)

Anyway, I bring those USW guys up because that was the only type of player who wasn’t ranked in pref order due to his bonus demands. Players who wanted over-slot bonuses but were good enough to warrant them were pref’d in the proper order. In other words, we deferred those discussions until after we’d ranked the players on ability. Then Ricciardi would come into the discussion room and Tony and Jon would walk him through the board, highlighting players we really liked, players who might cost extra, and letting Ricciardi move players he’d seen himself.

That covers the first 8-10 rounds of the draft, so I’m guessing with Workman, it was a calculated gamble that he’d sign for slot or close enough to it that they had him pref’d where they took him. With a guy like Julian Sampson, on the other hand, in the Toronto draft room that pick would have come about something like this: We’d have him pref’d, but by the time he was the next guy on our list, it was too late in the draft to take and sign him, so he’d be moved to the USW pile. By the 12th round, though, the Phillies must have decided they were open to taking a signability guy who fell. Whether Gillick himself had to sign off on the selection depends on their process, but he or the club president would have to agree to the signing bonus because it was over the recommended figure for that round, and one of them would have fielded the admonishing phone call from Frank Coonelly.

I think I failed the “briefly” part of that question.

3. Do you feel that teams like the Phillies are doing themselves a disservice by not taking elite talent simply based on the desire to not pay over slot and anger the Commissioner? Is it simply a budgetary problem? Do teams have self imposed hard caps allotted to the draft that would require trimming money from the Major League roster?

I think teams with the resources to do so should take the best players on the board as long as the signing bonus meets some objective measure of worth that they use to evaluate such decisions. The Commissioner’s Office is actually doing a good thing for the member teams by trying to prevent a negative externality, where a team overpays for a player and raises the cost for other teams to sign similar players – but if you’re a team with a lot of resources, don’t you want to make it more expensive for your less-fortunate competitors? And at the end of the day, don’t you want to acquire the best players possible?

To put it another way, if I was a GM, my first responsibility would be to my employer, not to MLB, and unless my boss told me to toe the MLB line, I’d focus on getting the best players possible.

4. What are your thoughts on Carlos Carrasco and Adrian Cardenas, our two top prospects? Both seem to be doing well, age and level considered. The front office has already expressed concerns about Cardenas not having a true position. With Carrasco having some control issues at AA, what do you see as his ETA at this point?

I thought Carrasco’s promotion to AA was unwarranted, and it fits with a pet theory I’ve long had that organizations with few good prospects get so excited when they find one that they rush him. (Cf. McCutchen, Andrew.) Carrasco is a live arm, and he’s got easy velocity, working in the low 90s, touching 95, commanding it OK, but everything else is a ways off. His secondary stuff isn’t that strong – his changeup is below-average, and he doesn’t sell it well with his arm speed – and his approach is not advanced. I can project three average or better pitches from him, but he’s not there right now, and the Phils need to slow things down with him to give him a chance to develop on his own schedule, not on their schedule.

Cardenas does some things I like at the plate, but I agree with that assessment about his position. He’s fringy at best at second, he can’t play short, and you don’t put a guy with that arm at third. So where does he go? I think you have to leave him at second for now and see if he can improve to the point where he can stay there, because other than possibly centerfield, I don’t see a position for him. It really limits his value, both to the Phillies and as a tradable asset.

5. The Joe Savery pick has drawn reactions on both sides, positive and negative. Is the potential upside/value enough to call this a great pick in this spot when it was obvious they wouldn’t take a guy like Porcello? How fast do you see Savery moving?

I didn’t mind the Savery pick from a general point of view. He was a clear top-10 guy right after his freshman year, but that summer with Team USA, his stuff was already down, and it hasn’t really come back, with labrum surgery in between then and now (June of 2006). Now, the idea of getting a top-10 talent after the tenth pick is a great idea when you’re comfortable with the reason he fell; that’s how the Yankees ended up with Joba Chamberlain, who didn’t get top-10 money but got more than slot. It’s an upside play, and I think when the upside is top-10 talent, you do it.

But I’m not sold on Savery ever becoming that top 10 guy again. I will not write him off until I see what he looks like in the spring, after a full offseason on the Phillies’ conditioning program, so I think there’s still reason to hope. But if Savery is an average-fastball (maybe a 55, one grade above average) guy with a somewhat restricted arm action, which is what he was this year, then he’s a back-of-the-rotation starter and not a good pick at 20. I figure he’ll start the year in Clearwater, and he should do well there even with his current stuff, but guys with that kind of repertoire don’t rip through AA.

So I liked the fact that Wolever et al were willing to think out of the box; I’m just not sure they got the right guy in this particular instance. It bodes well for future drafts, though.

6. Josh Outman is a phuturephilles favorite. Thoughts on him as a prospect? His brief AA numbers aren’t pretty, but he pitched very well in Clearwater and lowered his walk rate in every month after April. How do you see things shaking out for him?

Outman has some arm strength, but otherwise he’s pretty raw. His secondary stuff is inconsistent and his control is below-average. (I’d be careful with monthly splits. They’re small sample sizes, but they’re also very subject to park and competition effects. Nothing like a month where you face the Connecticut Defenders’ lineup three times to make it look like you’ve turned the corner.) Outman’s the sort of guy you love to have in the organization because he’s left-handed, has a good arm, and if everything clicks he’s a mid-rotation starter, but you’d like to have a couple of higher-probability guys ahead of him

7. Another guy who has certainly raised his stock this year is Jason Donald. He tore the cover off the ball at Lakewood and has been even better at Clearwater. The power aspect is probably the most surprising development, and he’s showing decent plate discipline as well. The book on his was “average tools across the board except his plus arm”….is that still the case or are scouts warming up to him a bit? Any chance he can possibly be shifted to 3B next season?

As a rule, I ignore anything that a player who went to a four-year college does at low-A ball. Not only is such a player old for that level, if he played in a major conference (as Donald did) then he’s faced a lot of better competition than the organization players he’ll see in low-A. It’s more true for hitters than for pitchers, but either way, low-A stats for 21-year-old players tell us nothing – well, unless the stats suck, in which case, they tell us everything.

I saw Donald on the Cape in 2005 and haven’t seen him since; I saw him as a capable defensive shortstop with a chance to be plus at the position who would hit for some average but who would be a reach as an everyday player in the big leagues. If the power surge is real – I’d be surprised, as he’s not a big guy and doesn’t have a power-oriented swing – then he’s an everyday player at short, although I still wouldn’t see the bat as playable at third. But I’d like to see him show that power at AA, given his age and college experience, before I buy into it.

8. What can you tell us about Travis d’Arnaud? Will he hit enough to be a quality every day catcher, or is he more of a tweener/backup?

He’s an everyday catcher – he can catch and throw, he’s got a simple swing, he uses the whole field, and he has a chance to be a 20-homer guy as he fills out. I thought he was a mild bargain where they got him in the draft. My one concern on him was his pitch selection, since my best look at him was in the Area Codes, a showcase event where hitters often aren’t that selective because the game results don’t matter. That’s definitely something that can be taught, and I like his chances to make adjustments because his swing is uncomplicated.

9. Who will have the better career in the majors, Greg Golson or Mike Costanzo? Golson is still young and has shown flashes, but seems to have strikezone issues, while Costanzo has been inconsistent and struggles against lefties. Thoughts on the future for both guys?

I don’t see either as much of a big leaguer; Costanzo probably makes it but doesn’t stick, while Golson in all likelihood doesn’t make it at all. Costanzo’s a classic minor league slugger – big, complex swing, lousy weight transfer, just looking for fastballs and hanging breaking pitches he can crush. He’s pretty rough at third base as well – doesn’t look like he could play there in the majors, although defense is one thing that can really improve through instruction – and you’re looking at Klesko/Giambi defense if you put him in left.

Golson’s got great tools, but has no baseball instincts at all. There’s no physical reason why he shouldn’t be a good player, but he doesn’t do anything well – his swing is very long, his hands are a mess, he can’t adjust to breaking balls at all, and he gets bad reads in the outfield. The things that a ballplayer does on ability, like running and throwing, he does well, and he does have quick wrists, which is something you see in a lot of great hitters (Gary Sheffield being the obvious example). But until at the very least he learns to tell a fastball from an offspeed pitch, he’s not going to hit.

10 Any sleeper prospects in the Phillies system you’ve had a chance to see or have gotten good reports on?

Haven’t seen Lou Marson myself, but it sounds like he’s got a chance to be a big-league regular who can catch, hit a little, and definitely get on base. At worst, he’s a backup, and those guys have a lot of value given the paucity of catching today. And I haven’t given up on Brad Harman – I’ve always felt that we give too much credit to Australian prospects, thinking they’re more advanced than Latin American prospects because they speak English, but the caliber of Australian amateur baseball is very low, so their learning curve is quite steep. Harman’s struggles aren’t that surprising if you consider him as an inexperienced 21-year-old.

Thanks again Keith.

Update > If you have a question about something above, or something else, post it in the comments. Keith may check in on this and be able to answer it, if not I might be able to get an answer at some point over the next few weeks.

49 thoughts on “Prospect Q/A with Keith Law

  1. I’m probably being too optimistic, but wasn’t Costanzo’s description mainly what was being said about Howard when he was in the minors? Classic minor league slugger, can’t hit anything other than a fastball, can’t play defense? I know that expecting lighting to strike twice would be stupid, but who knows?

  2. Interesting that he seems to love D’Arnaud as a prospect. Law is definitely a pessimist regarding the system, but his observations on people he has seen ring true. Whatever we think of Carrasco, his scouting report here seems honest. Great potential stuff but needs lots of work. I love the comment about Donald’s performance in low A ball. This is why prospects like Berry should be downgraded until they show us something at a higher level. With Cardenas he was also a little harsh, but the criticisms do ring true. If Cardenas cannot stay at 2B he is not a top prospect. His bat would not be a plus at a corner outfield position. That being said, he should have listed Cardenas among his top prospects and probably forgot.

  3. I think he’s definitely right that we are a bottom third minor league talent organization. Don’t know on some of the players he comments on, but of the guys I’ve seen at Reading, his comments ring very, very true.

    First, no Costanzo is not Howard. Howard had more power and progressed more against the breaking ball during the course of his AA season than Costanzo did. Costanzo did improve though. Both hitting and fielding were just brutal at start of season and both improved significantly.

    His comments on Golson, Carrasco, Outman are all dead on. Golson seemed lost. Carrasco and Outman do need better control, do need to develop their off-speed stuff more, and likely were rushed a tad.

    And the current year Phillies draft (and last year’s) were very cheap drafts as were our international bonuses. I think we got good value for the draft $ spent and would have ranked the draft higher than Keith did, but it was a good, possibly pushing very good, not a great draft. Probably a tad above MLB average.

  4. I think deep down most of us that do follow the Phillies minors system know that a lot of what he said is true, and that things don’t look great. We might be a bit more optimistic on guys like Bastardo, but he is correct in saying that A ball performances do need to be taken with a grain of salt, and we’ll certainly know more about guys like Donald, Bastardo, Carpenter and the like when they make it to AA. I like Keith, I really respect his opinion, and none of his comments here strike me as unfair. He likes Cardenas’ approach, but just questions where he’ll play defensively, and if he doesn’t stick at 2B, it will limit his value.

  5. Sobering. We will see in a year if this group has progressed. I see that they have more ability, but this was a wonderful interview. Thanks.

  6. The mighty Keith Law has spoken…..has anyone ever heard of this guy before???? If he is such a great evaulator of talent, why is he working for ESPN and not 1 of the 30 Major League organizations…. Hey Keith…ya gotta see the players actually play before you pass judgement.

    I’m editing out the tasteless end to your comment there Emmitt. There’s no place for that garbage here.

  7. Thanks to those of you who offered kind words on the interview. It was a pleasure to do it.

    Emmitt, I have a tip for you: I’ve seen nearly all the players discussed here – Carrasco, Golson, Costanzo, Savery, Cardenas, d’Arnaud, etc. It’s kind of what I do for a living. And it’s a lot more fun to go out, see players, write about them, and go on TV once or twice a week than to do my old job with Toronto.

    andyb, I didn’t forget Cardenas in my top five. I believe that d’Arnaud is an everyday player in the majors; I can’t say that for sure about Cardenas because I’m not sure about his position, and if he can’t play 2b or cf, he’s not an everyday player.

    allentown nailed the Howard/Costanzo comparison and I have nothing to add there.

  8. Great stuff, getting a national correspondent on here. Adds loads of credibility.

    I can’t say there is anything too surprising about the write-up and we can probably write off getting any contributions from the minors for the next 18 months. Even if Carrasco/Outman see some time next year, they seem to need time adjusting to new levels, and will probably not be ready in the sense that they help the phillies win.

    Even more depressing that what we have going for us position wise are at best a few non-impact potential major leaguers. Cardenas/Marson/Costanzo/Golson… even are they to make it to the bigs, they don’t project as difference makers. There’s value in having solid supporting players, but its the Utleys of the world who win you championships. And we don’t have a single one coming through right now. Good thing we already have a few of those in the bigs locked up for the foreseeable future.

    I would be curious to know if Happ has anything left to offer. He clearly struggled this year, but there are some pretty good indicators that it was injury related, but apparently not of the catastrophic variety (or else why would he still have been pitching in August). Last off-season plenty of people were on him as an innings eater. God knows we could use more of those. Has that changed a year later? He passed the AA test in 06 with honors. It’s unusual to nail AA and fail in AAA. I still have have some hope for him.

  9. Law’s comments made a whole lot of sense to me and, in
    general, conformed to my own. I’ve taken little part in
    this discussion since the first few weeks of following it
    because I have found too much unjustified optimism about
    our system and prospects here.

    I genuinely appreciate James’ bringing in people like Law
    to inject some realism to this discussion. Thanks, James, and keep it up.

  10. I welcome unjustified optimism to a degree- I am a fan after all

    Thanks Keith for your time and opinions, and while I didn’t expect you gush over the Phillies lower level prospects I guess I thought they were better than what you say. Of course, you have the advantage in seeing them in person, so I will yield to your expertise. A bit disheartening, I suppose, but I’m a Phillies fan so I should be used to that.

  11. Great work James (is that “PhuturePhillies”?). It was a great interview, very frank assessments – and some follow-up from Keith.

    I really appreciated his frank assessmets of the farm system – I am now going to bang my head on the table for a few hours. There goes my “glass is half full” thing!

  12. Very, very interesting read. I like Law but I don’t think its as gloomy as his analysis would indicate. Scouts in general tend to focus only on the guys who might be superstars but might flame out. Last year this time, no scout looking at the system would have even discussed Kendrick, Ruiz and Zagurski. All three made contributions and I expect bigger contributions next year.

  13. Excellent interview. Nice to see what the outside perspective is on the Phillies. People should not look at this as gloom and doom either. Our organization is still better than what it has been. I mean in the 90’s Wayne Gomes was our BIG prospect at one point as was Tyler Green.

    I have faith in the Phills.

  14. thanks james and keith. great analysis and first hand accountability.

    another reason to love this blog. steady comes through.

  15. Thanks Keith for taking the time, and well done James on a professionally conducted interview. While the view is bleak, i dont think its too far from the truth. While the system is better than it was a year ago, i still dont think its to the level we all project in our minds. One curious tidbit however. I thought i remembered reading that Carrasco has a plus plus changup? maybe im mistaken, but for some reason i remembered that he had a good fastball that was innaccurate, a very very good changeup, but lacked the curveball that he needed to be dangerous. Keith made it sound like he had no off speed stuff at all which confused me a bit. Either way, great job and thank you very much. I look forward to a little optimism from Joe Savery’s interview soon.

  16. dcwildcat and others —
    Is the farm really stronger than it was a year ago. For that to be true, the new talent added through draft/international and rediscovered through breakout years, has to exceed the talent traded, plus the talent promoted, plus the talent injured, plus the supposed talent that bombed out through bad performance.

    We traded Gio, Maloney, Dubee. We promoted Kendrick and Ruiz. We had at least temporary injury setbacks to Drabek and Mathieson. Iffy talents like Henry, Baez who made last year’s top 30 have shuffled off and hyped prospective talent like Sanchez and Mitchell have not stepped forward and are likely fading away. Have we added new talent to replace these losses/declines?

    I would say we have not quite replaced the losses. Your views?

  17. Squire —
    I disagree with your comments on scouts and Kendrick, Ruiz, Zagursky. BA had Ruiz as our #13 prospect coming into the year, Kendrick as #15. Zagursky was a bolt from the blue. Kendall came up a lot quicker than expected and certainly performed better than expected. Ruiz did just about exactly as expected. I’m not sure what the future careers of Kendrick and Zagursky will be. Hopefully bright, but the annals of baseball are littered with pitchers who were partial year wonders. The Phillies seem to have had more than their share.

  18. Law’s comments closely parallel those in Baseball America, with the exception of Golson about whom the just published an interesting article.

    The problem with the Phillies’ player development system is obviously one of perennial underfunding, especially when compared to their marketing size. This is likely Giles’ legacy for phillies fans.

  19. Nice read. Kind of what I expected to hear. Let’s face it, Golson does seem a mess. We’ve been waiting for him to adjust and learn pitch selection and try to take walks, but he just isn’t adjusting. I saw Costanzo at Reading, and he seemed completely incapable/unmotivated in moving to his right to make a tough defensive play. Granted, Phills were getting killed at the moment, but the guy just looked real lazy. And he does have a lot of flaws in his swing and pitch selection as well. Definitely not a fan of either.

  20. Its fair to say you don’t like a player like Golson or Costanzo, but you can’t question their heart and desire to play. I have seen both play a few dozen times, in Reading and nobody works harder on their game then those two players. Keith Law, and Bobby Boucher and everyone else is totally right to have their own opinions, but I totally disagree. I have been reading Keith Law for a while and in my opinion he always rips Phillie minor leaguers.
    Here are some facts from the 2007 Phillies Media Guide
    Chase Utley-28 errors at Scranton in 2002 and only had a batting average of .257 in Clearwater in 2001 and .263 in Scranton in 2002…Rollins committed over 123 errors in the minors between 1996-2000, and hit .244 in and hit .244 in Clearwater in 1998 and .273 in Reading in 1999, .274 in Scranton in 2000…Howards 425 K’s from 2002-2004 in the minors. Makes them all look pretty bad….Look where they are know…
    Let’s let the players develop before we leave them for dead.

  21. Excellent interview, thanks.

    Authoritative. Fair. Disappointing. But in some ways a relief in the sense of purging inflated hopes that Costanzo is the answer at third or that Carrasco is ready now.

    Best news was that Carrasco would be ranked 2 or 3 in a lot of organizations, followed by his praise of D’Arnaud. If the Phillies are going to make a blockbuster trade, it helps to be flush with catchers.

  22. I’ll add my voice to the chorus: this was an excellent interview, very well done by both James and Keith. That it was depressing, or that we aren’t happy with what Keith has to say, is obviously irrelevant to the quality and value of the piece.

    That said–and I think Keith would be among the first to admit this–sometimes these guys surprise you. The BP crew were not particularly high on either Ryan Howard (see the player comment in the 2005 annual) or Chase Utley, of whom I remember someone (it might not have been BP, as I can’t find it in the archives) writing that he was well-named based on his total lack of selectivity in the AFL. I don’t think either ever got above the lower reaches of their annual top prospect lists, if they made it at all.

    I’m not holding past mistakes against them–I don’t think the comment parameters are big enough, on this site or any others, to list all the dumb things I’ve written–just noting that “sure things” aren’t, and dark horses sometimes emerge.

    The two prospects I see as current dark horses are Marson and Harman, and Keith seems to think well of both–though I’m not sure if he’s aware that Harman’s “struggles” were done by June or so; he tore up the FSL from then onwards.

  23. I thought Law’s response on Donald was a little strange. He repeatedly talked about ignoring “low-A” stats for college players– but Donald excelled in high-A this year (admittedly at age 22).

  24. Thanks to Joey, I can now add the Phillies to my list of “organizations against which I’m biased.” I believe that makes eight in the last month (Boston, St. Louis, Oakland, SF, San Diego, Arizona, Colorado), at least.

    dajafi, I do agree that guys can “surprise” you – players do develop by honing current skills or sometimes acquiring new ones. (Defensive skill is the most common one, in my opinion.) Maybe Jason Donald really does have power now, for example. As for Harman, I do get a little nervous about time splits in the minor leagues – the pitching you face in the first half of a minor league season includes a lot of guys who will be promoted out by the midway point, and in the second half you’ll face a lot of guys who started the year a level lower. I’m not saying Harman’s improvement isn’t real, but that I’m a little more cautious in my optimism.

  25. Thanks for a great interview. This site is terrific, and Law’s opinions seemed fair although sobering.

  26. Any chance we can get Keith’s opinion on the chances of JA Happ and Scott Mathieson being able to help the Phillies next year?

  27. Thanks Keith. I am mindful of the diminution of pitching quality over the course of a minor-league season, though in the case of Harman the fact that he had such a tough time all through ’06 moves me at least to consider the possibility that his in-season improvement this past season was real. Next year at AA could tell the tale.

    Something I’m curious about, from your Toronto experience: what’s the dynamic of discussion when a team is considering trading for prospects? In the case of the Phils, how much value would you estimate a Carrasco, or a Harman, or even a Golson, to have?

    Thanks again for your insights.

  28. Mr. Law should keep an eye on the guys that ended the season in Williamsport. Pitching wise Naylor was impressive and led the NY-Penn in K’s with that Brett Myers like curve ball and Chance Chapman, though 23, allowed three earned runs or or less in all 14 starts and is a ground ball pitcher. Of the lefties Jacob Diekman in his three starts outpitched Joe Savery in his seven starts and both pitched well. Savery has yet to give up an earned run in the AFL. CF D’Arby Myers was set back with a broken wrist and SS Freddy Galvis suffered with a shoulder separation. But Dominic Brown, compared to Daryl Strawberry by the Hudson Valley manager, will only get better in right. OF Matt Spencer said he had to get use to the wood bat and shortened his swing to go from .143 in his first 12 games but wound up leading the team with 9 homers playing in cavernous Bowman field and RBI’s to hit .263. Hard to beleive but off of this team the Phils may have 6 or 7 legitimate major league prospects ready over the next several years.

  29. Mathieson was originally listed on an AFL roster, but didn’t come. I liked him quite a bit before he blew out his elbow, but the first year back from TJ surgery often includes some ups and downs and command one to two full grades below where the pitcher’s command is at full strength.

    Happ … I’m not a fan, with one caveat. In college, he had the same marginal stuff, but he had outstanding deception in his delivery – the ball looked like it was coming out of his ribs. So I wouldn’t rule him out entirely, but deception guys often take a while to figure it out at the ML level.

    Back in a bit to respond to the Mahatma…

  30. Thx for the interview guys, Keith and James. I’m not too surprised with Keith’s assessment. d’Arnaud’s inclusion in the top five I didn’t see coming. If Cardena’s biggest problem is finding a position then I think he’ll be all right. A lot of things could change between now and when he’s ready for MLB. He could be traded, 2b could become available for him, or he might move to the outfield. I still still see him at a top 3 talent in our system. Our system is in the bottom third and until the ownership puts more emphasis on it I think it will stay there.

  31. Rickey B – I’ve only seen one of the players you mentioned, Spencer, who has very big raw power but one of the longest swings I’ve ever seen in a college hitting prospect. Let’s see what some of these 20- and 21-year-olds do against better competition next year before we tab them as future big leaguers.

  32. Agreed somewhat on the request to watch the guys who finished at williamsport- Myers was stinking before the broken wrist, Naylor with a ‘brett myers like curveball’? because it breaks 12-6 hardly puts it in a class of Brett Myers. The results at williamsport speak for itself- we have hope, but anyone putting their profession on the line to gauge it wouldn’t.

    I do have some to add to the Harmen/aussie comments. More or less it looks like developing baseball in Australia is going to be something of a 10 year process. First off, the best player they have to sell is still Dave Nilson. which just makes what Dave Nilson accomplished that much more impressive- even though it wasn’t that impressive. The reality is the best baseball these kids seem to see is when they get to the baseball academy. Unlike Latin kids- who’ve been playing baseball all their lives against other kids (who want to play baseball all their lives), you get kids who are incredibly raw, but are more developed physically. Australia as a country is alot like the states- almost ‘canada-esk’- at least in the city areas, i’m sure the country as a whole would be offended by the remark. But what that equates to is kids who are developed at a young age- as compared to the undeveloped world. In baseball terms- you really can’t count on much from them yet. Its hard for an american to understand their most popular sports are Rugby, ‘football’, cricket, tennis, and swimming. but those are the realities. Even from what I can tell there isn’t nearly the interest in fishing and hunting- I mean, thats an american staple we couldn’t understand (but again, i’m talking city areas- I don’t know that much to gauge the entire country- but the citie are where the advertising is). There is no one baseball wise for a kid to look up to- and baseball development has been going on there for a long time now. Every kid like Snelling or the Rockies fireballer (forget his name) seems to flame out. The base is getting close, but still the best major leaguer is a middle reliever (Moylan)- and that ain’t something to sell. But more and more- guys they sign play, and go back, and more and more there is a base- if nothing more guys who can teach kids to play. So development-wise, at least looking at the phillies players, it takes 4 years for a kid whos even a good athlete to perform well at the minor league level (harman, Mitchinson, Naylor) to get to the point where they can compete- but that also leaves them at an early 20’s age in A ball when an american or latin player would have defined themselves by now. So, all you can do is keep signing these kids, and keep funding leagues outside the baseball academy to get more talent. but its not wasted money even if the first 5 years of talent don’t amount to anything- but maybe thats an american viewpoint (swimming, tennis, and cricket??). But I like these kids, and I’m a little bit wondering if MLB has grown frustrated – because as baseball developes (and it is predominantly white), the agents have come early-driving up prices for guys who aren’t worth their bonuses compared to latins, the value for the signing seems limited. the aussie signing page only listed one player we didn’t know about when the signing period began getting signed (Jason Smitt= though it must be recognized that aussie signings increase in the winter time). so, for the phillies phan, Angus Roeger looks like a top 10 prospect of the baseball academy, though his size seemed to suggest he was a stronger teenage prospect- he was up there in doubles, triples, and steals. Most every category really- i think the lead leader in homers had 2. but also the most recent signing before him- Dave Schmidt -I believe his name was (a lefty), did’t play (suggesting injury) and the kid before him, alan schoenberger, a SS, failed big time early in the GCL and didn’t impress much in the academy either. So to reitterate- we have to keep signing these kids a couple years (even if its money lost), and baseball has to keep investing, and grow competitive baseball at the amaeture level beyond the academy, and sooner or later there will be something to sell- but for now, there has been no such return on investment (even Moylan was released I think before the braves got him)

  33. I’m pretty amazed that Keith Law not only did the Q and A, but actually continued to read on an respond to comments that were made about his analysis.

    I will say this about the Phillies and their prospects. It’s something worth nothing and considering. Yes, if I’m Keith Law, I go around and see a ton of prospects – so I see them, get a feel for them and rank or grade them. As hopeless Phillies fans, unless you’re even more of a junkie than I am, you are focusing mainly on the team’s system and probably not spending nearly as much time focusing on the prospects of other teams. This has its drawbacks, but one of the benefits is that you tend to see trends within your own system much better.

    There are some interesting trends with the Phils. I think it’s safe to say (with performing a formal study) that they really do not develop a lot of high level talent. Theirs is not like the old Marlins’ system or now the Devil Rays’ system where every year four or five top prospects were brought up. Also, with extremely minor exceptions over the last 7-10 years (Hamels, Rolen and Burrell are the main exceptions), the Phillies’ prospects are not particularly heralded.

    However, it cannot go without notice that the Phillies have developed some amazing talent over the last 7 years or so. Players with true Hall of Fame ability. Many of those players were okay to good prospects to start, but came on strong late in the minors or in the majors. Howard was a fifth rounder, Rollins was considered a good, but not great, prospect, and Utley spent two years at AAA, never batting so much as .270. What I am trying to say is that it appears that the Phillies sometimes see things that the rest of us, including the experts, do not necessarily see.

    Perhaps it is wishful thinking, but I believe that a few of our prospects are going to surprise us in a very big way and become outstanding major leaguers. I am not sure who they will be, but I feel confident this will happen. Among the suspects are those in the top thirty list that is being developed.

  34. Re dajafi’s comments, maybe one of the “benefits” to the Phillies’ relative lack of emphasis on quality minor league instruction is that an inordinate number of guys suddenly take a leap forward when they receive instruction at the major league level. Just speculation, but it’s possible.

    One thing about the Phillies over the last ten years or so is that while they haven’t had a lot of prospects, they also haven’t had a lot of busts. Some draftees fail to develop of course, but it seems like a fairly large percentage of those who have achieved success in the minors have gone on to succeed in the majors as well. The only busts I can think of off the top of my head are Gavin Floyd and Marlon Byrd, and Byrd was only a partial bust.

  35. The farm system has been criticized for lack of talent and bottom rankings but since the middle of Aug. 06 other ML organizations have traded major league talent for the following Phillies farm hands: Barb, Baldwin, Gio, Floyd, Maloney, and Dubee. Wonder how many other organizations have traded six of its minor league pitching prospects to other ML organizations over the last 12 months or so in return for major league talent?

  36. Nice interview. I think it is important to remember that this is one man’s opinion and while he is very knowledgable, the best of them are wrong as much as they are right.

    I appreciate the information

  37. taco pal —
    Too narrow a concentration of bust. I think a primo draft pick or big $ international signee who fails to develop in the minors is also a bust. So, guys like CRod, Jacobson are busts in my books.

    Branch Rickey —
    that and the draft picks lost by Wade are two big reasons the farm rans near the bottom.

  38. Great interview and information. Keith’s credentials and body of work show that he knows what he’s doing. It’s great you can get stuff like this.

    I wonder how much better the good farm systems are. So I took a quick look at players who were still rookies in ML farm systems in 2002. Anyway, 39 of them became All-Stars. The Dbacks had 4, the Phils, Mets, and Angels had 3 each. (The Phils would have had 4 except Estrada lost his rookie status filling in for Lieberthal the previous year.) 6 teams had 2, 14 teams had 1, and 6 had none. (Obviously, there are likely several future All-Stars in there, too.) Small numbers, and so it may not mean much, but the Dbacks’ system had to be better than the six that had no All-Stars, right?

    I looked at 5 teams in terms of the number of ML regulars they produced. That definition is arbitrary, but I found the Phils with 11, Dbacks 14, Angels 12, Twins 9, and Pirates 12. Note that the Pirates, of course, had more openings for regulars than most teams (Arizona maybe as well).

    I didn’t have time to do more, but this seems to indicate that maybe the Phils had an above average farm system 5 years ago. Was it considered such then? I remember Byrd being touted, and Myers. Utley and Howard were probably on the radar screen. Hamels had just signed. Ruiz didn’t seem to be in sight yet. Madson had a good year. It’s hard to remember exactly when people were considered prospects, but I don’t remember the Phils being considered loaded at the time. I would hear about “great” farm systems like the Twins’, but they produced fewer regulars and All-Stars than the Phils.

    I guess it means that maybe there will be some current Phils’ farmhands who will surprise us. But maybe not!

  39. Yes, the Phillies were regarded as an above average farm 5 years ago. You bring up a great point in that independent analysts can only be pooh-poohed for being knee jerk anti-Phillies farm if they failed to credit the farm when it was good. As an example, BA rated the Phillies farm #12 in 2001, #11 in 2002, #7 in 2003.

    I think many are way too quick to come to defense of the current Phillies farm and ignore the tremendous extent to which management has shifted resources away from the farm through FA signings that lost draft picks, trading away mid-level (or in the case of Gio and Floyd, high level) prospects for help now, and most seriously drastically decreasing the budget for signing draftees and international amateurs. You can’t do all of these things and maintain a strong farm.

    As you suggest, it is a logical fallacy to defend the current farm by proving how strong it was 5 or 6 years ago. The state of farm systems is very dynamic and totally dependent on the resources devoted to them and the extent to which they are raided in trades.

    Due to the importance of resourcing, knocking the current state of the farm is very different from knocking the talent of Arby. Wolever, and the scouts, which seems to remain very high.

  40. That’s a valid point. I think it’s also important to remember how quickly things can change for individual prospects, and the farm in general. Last year, Myers tore up the GCL at age 17 and was looking like the next big thing. He stared strong, then slumped, then broke his hand, and now he’s being looked at as a Top 20 prospect, not a Top 5 prospect. Carrasco rolled through the SAL, everyone was really pumped, then he struggled with his command and his K rate dropped, and now people are a bit more apprehensive.

    Much of our promising talent is in the low minors, and as Keith pointed out, it’s tough to really evaluate guys in A ball or short season ball. Some of these guys might turn into dynamos over the next 2 seasons, and if they do, it will be reflected in the strength of our system. If they don’t, we’ll remain where we are.

  41. I think that Keith was pretty much dead on with most of his comments. Everything he said was backed up by solid analysis and statistics. Until any of those prospects can prove they are MLB caliber, we should be somewhat wary of their projected ceilings.

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