Q/A with Kevin Goldstein

KG with the lightning fast turnaround on this one, and some definite gems. For those of you who don’t know, Kevin is the minor league guru at Baseball Prospectus, writing multiple times a week on prospects across the majors. You can read his columns here. Onto the goodness…

Phuturephillies: Antonio Bastardo is all the rage these days. He’s gone from obscure 20 year old in the GCL 2 years ago to a much talked about guy. Can you give us a brief scouting report? I’ve seen reports on his fastball range from 87-92, his changeup considered real good to only average, and not much talk of his 3rd pitch. He’s still walking about 3 per 9, but thats an improvement over last season. The one red flag seems to be the high number of fly balls allowed. Whats your take on him? Do you see him remaining a starter or eventually being forced into relief?

Kevin Goldstein: Yeah, the numbers are just killer, but nobody is ready to anoint him as the next big thing. Scouts I’ve talked to see what you are seeing, but they definitely all see the change as a very good pitch. Still, he’s a 5-11 lefty with average velocity who works up in the zone. He’s getting High-A hitters out with a trick pitch, and while it’s one helluva trick, it remains to be seen if better hitters will be fooled. His stock is definitely up, but I still see him as more of a bullpen type.

PP: Jason Donald is another guy who’s stock seems to be rising. Is he starting to realize the potential everyone saw in him coming out of high school, before a somewhat disappointing college career? Does he have a shot to stick at SS full time? If not SS, 2B maybe? Do you think he has the arm for 3B? What type of hitter would you say he can become at the big league level?

KG: Yeah, you’ve pretty much nailed this one James. I had a couple guys actually single him out during spring training as a guy they really liked, and now he’s off to a nice start at Double-A – although his secondary numbers beyond the .340 average are a bit disappointing. The shortstop thing is a whole other argument. Most don’t think he can stay there – he just doesn’t have that first step quickness or arm for the position at the big league level. That said, he has soft hands and fantastic defensive fundamentals and should fit in at second just fine. I think he’s kind of a .280 hitter with 6-10 home runs a year and 70 walks. That’s good enough to start at second for a second-divison club.

PP: A guy I liked to have a big year was Matt Spencer, and it seems his results have been generally solid. Is he a potential 20 HR corner outfielder in the bigs? Does he have the arm for right field?

KG: He does. He was a very good pitches in high school and got into the 90s at times, so I’m confused as to why he’s playing left at Clearwater. That said, I’m not too high on him. He’s a good athlete with some juice in his bat, but at the same time, if you’re going to be a corner outfielder in the big leagues, you don’t have to be solid, you have to be spectacular. Could he hit 20 home runs with a full year of at-bats in the big leagues? Sure. Will he hit for enough average or reach base enough for it to be worth it? I doubt it. I see him as a bit of a long shot, frankly.

PP: With CJ Henry now back with the Yankees, Matt Smith recovering from Tommy John surgery and Jesus Sanchez struggling to hit his weight again this year, Carlos Monasterios seems like the last hope from the Abreu trade. He seems to be generating lots of groundball outs at Clearwater, with decent peripherals, except for the number of home runs allowed. Does he figure to be a decent innings eating number 5, or more of a middle reliever?

KG: I think that’s yet to be determined. A back-of-the-rotation guy is probably his ceiling. His sinker is really, really good, and he changes speeds well and throws strikes. But man oh man, reading that question is a pretty ugly reminder of how awful that Abreu trade was. Just a nightmare.

PP: How are the reports on Joe Savery so far? He really struggled with his control last year in his debut, as well as in the Arizona Fall League, and so far this season he’s walked 12 in 32 innings, while striking out 25. Is his stuff coming back to his Freshman year level?

KG: They’ve been absolutely outstanding. He’s not to freshman level velocity yet, but that might not be a realistic expectation even. There are plenty of players out there who have never again thrown as hard as they did in high school, or when they were 19 – it’s actually quite common. That said, again, people are walking away really impressed on Savery, and I even had one scout down in Florida who liked him more than Carrasco as the Phillies top prospect. I don’t completely agree, but I had them 1-2 and think you could at least make the argument.

PP: Carlos Carrasco had been pitching well prior to his last start and has a 3:1 K to BB ratio in the early going. Is his stock on the rise again after a somewhat disappointing AA stint to end last season? Does he still profile as a middle of the rotation guy? Realistic timetable? September callup? Mid 2009?

KG: I don’t think last year’s performance really dinged him too much. I still had him as the top prospect in the Phillies system, and I think most other had him there as well. The thing was, even when he scuffled a bit last year, you still saw really good stuff in every start – he just had a tendency to fall apart – so if anything has changed this year, it’s consistency. So at least there’s something to build on there and he seems to be doing it so far. That said, yes, he’s still profiles as a middle of the rotation guy, and seeing him in Philly this September wouldn’t shock me in the least.

PP: Sticking with the pitching theme, which seems to be our clear organizational strength, what is the scoop on Edgar Garcia? He’s pitched reasonably well, despite always being young for his league. Last season it was reported by one outlet that he had “attitude problems”, and that possibly poor conditioning had led to his velocity dropping off before bouncing back in Instructs. He’s holding his own
this year at Clearwater, showing very good control despite giving up a hit per inning. How does he look going forward? Possible #4 starter or more of a reliever?

KG: You know, he COULD be even more than that, but that’s only a ‘could be.’ Speaking of consistency, Garcia is anything but that. I know scouts who have seen him multiple times and say he’s not even the same pitcher from start to start. His velocity, the effectiveness of his breaking stuff, his command . . . it all comes and goes. When he’s on he’s really good, when he’s not, he’s pretty average. The good news here is that youth is on his side – there’s not a lot of 20-year-olds in High A, and as you point out, he’s certainly holding his own there.

PP: One guy who hasn’t lived up to expectations is Jason Jaramillo. While none of us really saw a star catcher, it was thought that he’d at least be an adequate starter, or at worst, a solid backup, but he’s something like 2 for 20 catching base stealers this year, and he’s not really hitting at all. He’s already 25, so there probably isn’t much projection there. Does he end up as at least a big league backup, or is he a 4A type player now?

KG: MLBAM has him as throwing out 10 of 31 (32.3%) base stealers, which is pretty much on par for his career, so the defense seems fine. But yes, the bat is a concern. I’m with you in that I always saw him as a solid second-division starter/backup in the big leagues, but he’s never really developed much power and his walk rate has suddenly plummeted this year, which could be for a number of reasons – pressing, getting challenged more, etc. Clearly some adjustments need to be made.

PP: On a brighter catching note, what are your thoughts on Lou Marson? He’s backstopped two straight league winners at Lakewood and Clearwater, and he’s now handling a prospect laden rotation at Reading. Is he the Phillies starting catcher in 2 years? What kind of offensive/defensive profile does he have at the highest level? Where would you put him among all catching prospects, generally speaking?

KG: Two years? Sounds about right to me, if not a little conservative. I’m a big Marson fan —but I have a bias for athletic catchers, and Marson is certainly that. I think he profiles as an average/slightly above defender who is a bit of a weird one offensively – he might be a good No. 2 hitter, which sounds strange for a catcher, but much of his value is as an AVG/OBP guy as opposed to a slugging guy. Still, any starting catcher who hits higher than seventh in a lineup is a nice find. He’s not an elite catching prospect, but he’s near the top of that group right below it.

PP: I was hoping you could give us a quick update on Kyle Drabek and Scott Mathieson, if you have any info. Drabek was rehabbing and on schedule for a possible late season appearance the last I’d heard, and Mathieson is still having trouble with his surgically repaired elbow. Any new health updates?

KG: Last I heard, Drabek was on-course with his rehab and the current timetable had him taking the mound somewhere in August to get a few innings in. The news isn’t so good for Mathieson, who is still feeling discomfort in his elbow and I think is seeing another specialist this week.

PP: Adrian Cardenas was tearing the cover off the ball before his minor injury setback. Is the back problem something to be concerned with? What do scouts think of his ultimate landing spot defensively? Is he adequate at 2B? Does he have the arm and footwork for 3B? Will the bat play in LF if needed?

KG: Back problems are always a concern, but not significantly until they start repeating themselves. For now, it’s just a blip. He’s adequate at second base, but that’s about it, and don’t expect a ton of improvement. He has the arm for third, but none of the other defensive tools, so if second base doesn’t work out, he’s going to go to the outfield, which really hurts his projection. A .290 hitter with 12-15 home runs is a real nice second baseman, but a below average corner outfielder.

PP: Three young, toolsy guys I was really high on, Travis Mattair, D’Arby Myers and Freddy Galvis, have gotten off to rough starts at Lakewood. All three are real young, so there’s obviously plenty of time for them, do you have any thoughts on their struggles, or anything encouraging to tell us on that front?

KG: Well, Mattair and Myers are both raw toolsy guys who are going to click, or not click, and so far, they’re not clicking. It’s way too early to make any conclusions on either. They could explode next week, or struggle all year. They could explode next year, or never explode. That’s the thing with guys like this. If we could predict which ones DO explode, we could become very rich. Galvis is a bit of a different story. He’s always been an incredible glove man with a questionable bat. So I don’t think anyone was expecting much from him offensively this year, but obviously a .151 batting average is really not good.

PP: The Phillies system consistently ranks near the bottom in terms of talent, and many of us believed one of the big reasons was the lack of upper level talent in the system prior to this season, as well as a fairly strict adherence to MLB’s farcical slot recommendations. Now that they have a number of legit guys in AA, as well as a number of good prospects at Clearwater, do you see the Phillies jumping up the talent rankings next year? Is there any indication you’ve gotten that the Phillies plan to be more aggressive with this draft to add more talent to a marginal system?

KG: I had them ranked 26th going into the year, so nowhere to go but up pretty much, right? That said, I do think they’ll be up next year – closer to the middle of the pack. They have a ton of picks, but at this point it’s been hard to get a good read on how they’re going to deal with them.

PP: I guess no Q/A would be complete without a discussion of Greg Golson. You recently referred to him as a “toolshed” in a chat, which frankly, is brilliant, even though you meant it in a complimentary way. We’ve all heard about his marvelous tool set since he was drafted (instead of Phil Hughes) way back when, and now he appears to be putting some of those tools to use and actually putting up numbers.Most impressively, his walk rate is at a career high 7% . Has the light really come on, or is this simply the case of a 100 plate appearance sample, and something that will “correct” itself over the next 3-4 months?

KG: To be fair, that was a scout who called him a toolshed, and I stole it. He is a total toolshed – I had this exercise with a few other experts and it was fun. How many players can you name who have 70+ arms and 70+ speed (on the scouting scale). I came up with Golson and Ichiro . . . that’s it. Only other possibility is Jose Reyes, but that’s probably more of a 60-65 arm. Still, will he hit enough? He absolutely hammers anything down the middle, but big league pitchers aren’t going to give him anything down the middle. I think there’s clearly and definitely progress here – but I’m not sure it’s enough yet.

PP: One final question, and this is a more general question. As the draft approaches, it seems that more teams are gearing up to potentially go over the arbitrary slot recommendations set by the Commish. The Phillies lost Brandon Workman last year because his bonus demands weren’t met, and the Phillies picked a few guys (Tyler Mach) who they signed for significantly less than slot. How much of a
disservice are teams doing by paying slot to try and keep the average bonus down? I’ve seen it argued that teams not breaking slot is good for the game, because it keeps bonuses down across the board, and then you only have a few exceptions, and that if the Mets and Braves, the Phillies two closest competitors in the division, aren’t breaking slot, its not advantageous for the Phillies to do so. Where do you come down on this, and how much of a team’s decision not to go over slot is because of the team’s bottom line, and how much is related to pressure from the Commish?

KG: I don’t think Workman is good evidence that the Phillies tow the line. It’s not that they weren’t willing to go over for Workman, as much as it was that they simply didn’t think Workman was worth what he was asking for. There’s a difference there. I come down on the side of going over – simply taking the best player available. If you look at the guys who get over-slot money, they tend to be well worth it. Mets could break slot this year, and the Braves just scout as good as anyone, so they don’t necessarily have to. I do think you’ll see fewer teams tow the line this year, but at the same time, we’re not sure what the line is yet. A lot of the problems last year stemmed from the fact that MLB tried to lower the slots by 10%, so many players who just wanted to get paid like the ’06 picks did were suddenly over slot.

Thanks again Kevin. You’re definitely a 5 tool prospect evaluator as far as this author is concerned.

30 thoughts on “Q/A with Kevin Goldstein

  1. “He’s getting High-A hitters out with a trick pitch, and while it’s one helluva trick, it remains to be seen if better hitters will be fooled. ”

    I’ve seen changeups referred to as a “trick pitch” before, and I’m never sure why. Is it just changeups, or are other off-speed and/or breaking pitches considered trick pitches as well? Is there any reason to expect a FB/CU guy with a less-than-overpowering fastball to experience less success at higher levels than a guy with the same fastball who throws a curve instead of a change?

  2. same velocity guy, you’ll take the plus breaking ball and poor changeup over the plus changeup and poor breaking ball. Maybe even more so for a guy like Bastardo who is short and need to definitely change hitter’s eye-level more.

  3. What about JA Happ? After two great performances in Pig-ville, does it look like everything’s finally coming together for him to become a #3-4 starter in the bigs, or is he destined to shovel Iron Pigs slop in Lehigh Valley?

  4. I’m hurt by a lack of Fabio Castro questions…I’m curious on Kevin’s opinion on him…is he still a prospect or what? Otherwise, I tend to agree with his opinions of our “elite” prospects. Still its nice to have pitchers like Carrasco, Savery, and Outman in the offing as we NEED pitching at the MLB level.

  5. Thanks to KG for responding so quickly, and so thoroughly. On the whole, this sounds like good news. I’m excited to hear that people are excited by Savery’s progress so far. And I understand better why people are leery of Bastardo’s potential in the bigs.

  6. I think Bastardo is a bullpen guy. Moving to the bullpen should add a little giddyup to his heater. A lefty with a good fastball and a plus change. That sounds like a pretty good combination. Regardless of how tall (or short) he is.

  7. Great insight, nothing like an unbiased view on our prospects. I’m surprised Savery can be considered a better prospect than Carrasco. I hope KG is right about our system moving up but thats going to depend on our drafts, who we can sign, and the progression of our current prospects.

  8. I really love these Q&A’s and as always KG was top notch and honest. The fact that he comes and comments afterwards is an added bonus.

    On that note, I hope he comes back because as Jeff N. asked, I too am curious as to how he views JA Happ and if he thinks he can show up/be effective in Philly this season.

  9. Glad to read about the positive report on Lou Marson. He had a good April. After last night’s game Lou now has a .420 OBP and has been on base in 15 straight games. He has thrown out 8 of 23 steal attempts. Hitting .303 overall but .450 against lefthanded pitching. Can see the day when Marson and Joel Naughton are the Phils catching duo. Liked what I saw of Naughton catching in the televised Lexingtion Legend series over last weekend
    and both will turn only 22 this summer.

  10. RB: I too am interested in Naughton.

    A lefty hitting catcher. Aussie.

    So…have you seen him play? Your overall impression?

    Thanks in advance.

  11. Agree on Naughton. There is a huge difference between 22 in Low A and 22 in AA. Marson is also hitting better. Hitting lefty and being a good defensive catcher is a plus that could allow Naughton to possibly be a major league backup, though.

  12. Yes. The Lakewood series over the weekend was on the Milb-TV webcast where he and Jesus Sanchez look good behind the plate . I was impressed with Naughton’s defensive ability. He hit .281 in April for the Blue Claws. Has a build now 6′ 1″ 180 that will fill out similar to Darren Daulton and hits from the left side. He is the highest rated young catcher in Australia catching for Queensland in the Aussies national tournament and caught for the Aussies in their unsuccessful attempt to quality for the Olympics in Taiwan before reporting to minor league camp.

  13. Golson finished off the month strong. His line for the month was: 32 for 100, .320/.370/.850 AVG/OBP/OPS, 17 R, 15 RBI, 2 HRs, 8 BBs, 8 SBs but with 30 SOs. He’s kept his walk rate up and his average as well. He has 10 extra base hits on the month which means he’s not just spraying singles everywhere. All in all a very good start for 08 for him. I’d lov e for him to “click” and take advantage of his amazing ability.

  14. Goslon’s surge is a pleasant surprise. One month is a good start but it’s not nearly enough. Consistency is the key to improving BB/K rate. He can’t regress and have a month with 1 or 2 BB if he expects to contend for a 4th OF spot in 2009. Sure, he’ll make the bigs at some point on tools but if his OBP remains below .300 while notching 180+K, he’d have to slug 30 HR and steal 30 bases to make up for it. That’s a tall order.

    It comes down to recognizing pitches and Golson still isn’t good at it. Then again I never thought Pat Burrell would learn to stop lunging at slop outside or that J Roll would ever learn to lay of the eye-high heat, but they did.

    Golson still has major adjustments to make. It won’t come easy and it won’t come fast, but I’m hopeful he’s ready when he gets the call because he could become a serious drain on the Phillies offense.

  15. I still don’t understand why people are so ready to write the Bastard o off. I don’t like his fly ball tendencies and I wish he was 6’4″, but we cannot argue with results. I’ve been following the Phillies minor leagues since 1997 or so and the only left handed pitchers I can remember putting up numbers like Bastardo are Randy Wolf and Cole Hamels. I hope he’s promoted to Reading soon so I can see him when the Reading Phillies come to town and take on the Senators.

  16. It looks like Tyson Brummett has been promoted to Clearwater; he is on their roster today on MiLB.com.

  17. I am not all the concerned about Golson. Here’s what’s likely to happen. Golson will spend at least another month or two in Reading – he may even be there through July. In any event, if it looks like he’s holding his own in the high minors, he’s almost sure to make the club at some point next year as a 4th/5th outfielder, pinch runner and occasional pinch hittter. He’s going to be the new Michael Bourn, but with more power. They will put very little pressure on him and he will basically live with Milt Thompson in the batting cage. I think they are going to be realistic – unless something changes, it’s going to be a 2, 3, or 4 year process of him becoming a good ballplayer. If he doesn’t develop, he’ll be trade fodder (someone will want him).

  18. And another thing. . . . Something that has been lost in the Stuck Pigs fall into oblivion has been a few very fine, recent outings by J.A. Happ. The last one he threw was a one-hit gem (not a complete game, however). If he keeps it up, he’ll be in Philly before long.

  19. FYI – I just double-checked the Phils’ roster and contract situation. Expect Golson to take Taguchi’s place next year – and, I’m okay with that.

  20. Golson is almost certainly not going to be on big Phillies as a 4th/5th OF and pinch runner in the Bourn mode for 2009. The Phillies see Golson as a solid prospect, he is very young, and he hasn’t had sustained success yet. Wherever he is in 2009, he will be an every day player in order to not retard his development. Serving in the Bourn role will hurt his development and cost the Phillies a year of major league service time for little return.

  21. Agree that Golson needs to play whereever he is. It is possible the Phillies could go with Jenkins, Victorino, and Werth as the starting OF next year and give Golson a chance to earn his way into a starting spot with a good AAA performance. I need to see another 500 AB before I believe this improvement is real, however. Golson seems to be the type of guy that needs an adjestment period at each level. I’d love to see him earn a mid-season promotion to AAA this year, but he is probably the type of player that will need to succeed at AAA before the Phillies will promote him (unlike some of the pitchers who could jump straight from AA).

  22. most golson gets is a cup of coffee this year in september. unless there is a rash of injuries.

  23. Was that a live chat or via email? If a guy can pull that information off the top of his head he is quite the savant.

    Either way mostly good news. I’m glad to read it.

  24. ****It is possible the Phillies could go with Jenkins, Victorino, and Werth****

    That is a terrifying possibility…I like all 3 players but I don’t like them as a starting OF on a contender. 2 of them have injury issues and one is aging. Hopefully Golson has a monster year and turns the corner but I still would guess 2010 if hes gonna be a regular at the MLB level…he’s still very rough.

  25. “most golson gets is a cup of coffee this year in september. unless there is a rash of injuries.”

    Goslon could get a September call-up, I don’t think it could stunt his development just to be exposed temporarily to ML pitching.

  26. ****Goslon could get a September call-up, I don’t think it could stunt his development just to be exposed temporarily to ML pitching.****

    They are referring to him serving as a 4th/5th OF next year like Bourn was last year when they mean stunting his growth…not being a Sept. call-up. The AA season is over the first week of Sept anyway so all a call-up would do is give him some MLB experience to cap off his year.

  27. but he would be a great september call up. a great guy to put on the base path at the end of the game as a substitute runner.

  28. but remember we thought the same of bourne, then realized there is growing pains that go with baserunning too…. raw speed only gets you so far, getting picked off in september is not a good thing….. we went through that with bourne, im sure Golson will experience some of the same problems….

  29. Another thing to remember: Bourne was a MUCH BETTER basestealer in the minors than Golson has ever been. Bourn hovered around the 90% success rate in more attempts while Golson is usually in the 80% area. Something to consider.

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