Prospect Q/A with Kevin Goldstein

As many of you frequent readers know, Kevin Goldstein, prospect guru at Baseball Prospectus, has always been extremely generous to this site, contributing lots of insight whenever I’ve asked, and I was fortunate enough to crank out another lengthy set of questions, to which he replied with excellent (per usual) responses. You’ll find his answers below the fold.

phuturephillies: I guess I have to start with the hottest topic in the Phillies prospect circle; Michael Taylor. His breakout last year was viewed with skepticism, scouts said they wanted to see him do it at AA this year. He has a .351/.411/.600 line in 265 AB’s at AA. What are scouts saying at this point? Do they see just a good player or a star? If scouts are still skeptical, what are the issues the are seeing? Is it his swing? His plate discipline?

Kevin Goldstein: He is still kind of weird. It’s hard to find any non-believers at this point, but there are still some varied scouting reports on him as there are those that like him, and those that really like him. He is a bit weird, almost in a Kyle Blanks kind of way, where it’s this massive human being with an intensely contact-oriented approach. He doesn’t really take a big hack and mash balls, hit hits home runs because he’s so strong and hits the ball so hard. It’s hard to know what to make of those guys. I’m certainly sold on him as at least a quality regular, and possibly more.

PP: I’d like to also ask about one of our other major breakout guys in Kyle Drabek. You were bullish on him back in January when we did a Q/A, and he’s been a monster this year, both at Clearwater and now at AA Reading. Are the scouts supporting the positive numbers with positive reviews?

KG: Yes they are. I wrote about him in today’s piece over at BP with scout quotes. Low 90s heat, often up to 95-96, curveball is a real hammer and his delivery is just so much smoother, it’s rare to see a guy get re-done like that mechanically and maintain his stuff. The size is still a minor concern and I’m not sure if he’s a starter or reliever in the end, but I’m pretty sure it’s going to be good either way.

PP: I also wanted to re-visit a note from our January Q/A, where you were more bullish on Travis D’Arnaud than Lou Marson. Both got off to slow starts, though Marson has started to come around a little bit in AAA. Where do you stand on these two guys right now. Has anything changed on either?

KG: You know, Travis is starting to come around a bit too of late, going 16-for-45 (.356) in his last 12 games. I think one has to be a bit down on both no matter how you look at it, but Marson was always a guy I saw as a bit underrated. D’Arnaud has obviously had a bad year, but I still have some faith there. I talked to a scout who saw Lakewood a couple of weeks ago and he said to me about D’Arnaud, “How is a guy that talented struggling to hit .200?,” which makes me think there is still something there.

PP: On the flip side, you weren’t as high on Jason Donald as others, and he got off to a real slow start in AAA before going down with an injury. Were scouts voicing any big concerns on him prior to the injury, or was it just a small sample size?

KG: Well, if anything, Donald was also more of a stats favorite than a scouting favorite, which is why I was never that high on him. Most saw him as more of a utility player, or maybe a second division starter, and his slow start certainly didn’t help him. I think one of the big indicators for his poor start is a sudden dramatic drop in plate discipline, which is a frequent indicator of a guy pressing.

PP: With all of the attention on Taylor in AA, I almost feel like Dominic Brown has kind of flown under the radar, especially with his recent injury. But before getting hurt, he had a line of .299/.379/.540 in the pitcher friendly FSL with 9 HR and 14 SB. You ranked him 7th this past winter, but I have to assume he’s moving up. What are the reports on his progress, and how do you ultimately compare him to Taylor in terms of prospect status?

KG: Sure, definitely moving up and doing an outstanding job of beginning to transform what are outstanding tools into real baseball skills. He’s definitely more power focused this year, which has led to a much higher strikeout rate, but you’ll take it for what he’s doing overall. It’s hard to find power/speed packages, especially with this kind of size and upside. People think I’m down on him just because I talked about how stupid a Darryl Strawberry comp is – which it is, it’s a lazy comp based on the fact that he’s tall, long, left-handed and African-American. He’s not Darryl, but that doesn’t mean I don’t like him – I do, and much more even than I did going into the year.

PP: What’s the story on Carlos Carrasco? His peripherals indicate he’s pitched better than his ERA, and it looks like he might get the call this week for his Major League debut, but has anything changed here one way or another? Has he made any strides with his curveball and changeup? Has his mental approach improved at all?

KG: The phrase that stuck with me here is “peripherals indicate he’s pitched better than his ERA.” That’s related to what’s been the rap against him for years. “Firestarter” by Prodigy should be the guy’s theme song, as he has a real tendency to turn bad situations into much worse ones. Check this out, this is 2009 at AAA.

Situation AVG OBP SLG
Bases Empty .247 .308 .366
Runners On .302 .358 .456
RISP .333 .396 .383

That’s related to a lot of things, getting too cute with his pitches, not trusting his stuff, not trusting his defense, all kinds of things. I still love the arm and the stuff that comes out of it, but at the same time, this has been something on his scouting reports for years now, and there’s been no change.

PP: I just wanted to briefly touch on two 2008 draft picks, Anthony Gose and Jason Knapp. Both have made some loud noises this season, Gose for his gaudy stolen base totals, and Knapp for his gaudy strikeout totals and radar gun readings. Gose looks raw at the plate, but has improved as the season has progressed, while Knapp has hit a few bumps in the road after a blistering start. What are the scouts saying about these guys?

KG: Knapp has really been great. I really thought, because he was so raw, that he would start the year in extended and then go to the New York-Penn League, but he’s not only held his own, he’s been outstanding. Big guys who throw hard are my favorite pitching profile, and he certainly fits the bill. He’s sitting 94-96 and he has the potential for two very good secondary pitches, he’s really an excellent prospect, and a scout I know who saw him last week put a pretty big number on him. Gose is really just a guy getting by almost on speed alone. Bad approach, doesn’t really play the speed game very well by hitting way too many balls in the air, and just has a ton of swing-and-miss in him. I realize that the numbers aren’t good at ALL, but scouts are walking away with a higher upside number on Collier.

PP: One of my favorites heading into this year was Julian Sampson. He seems to have quality raw arm strength and generates tons of groundballs, but the numbers at Clearwater have been downright ugly. He’s still rolling up the groundballs, but everything else looks rough, and it seems he’s also not lasting deep into his starts. Is there something wrong here? Is he just not developing like he was expected to? Is it mechanical? Any insight here would be great.

KG: He’s generally not going deep into starts because he’s getting hit around so much. I liked Sampson as a sleeper as well, but right now he’s a guy with one good pitch, and hitters know what’s coming. His slider is sweepy and erratic, while his changeup is still a distant third offering. I wouldn’t mind seeing if he could bump up the velo and be more effective out of the pen at this point.

PP: Two more guys that I’ve had a soft spot for (from opposite ends of the draft hype spectrum) are Joe Savery and Justin De Fratus. Savery, a former first rounder, seems to be holding his own at AA, but the peripherals don’t look that impressive. The scouting reports on him weren’t flattering last year, have they improved this year? And De Fratus hasn’t gotten any hype at all, and though he’s moved slowly through the system, he’s always put up promising peripheral numbers. Is he a fast track reliever type guy going forward?

KG: The reports on Savery have definitely been better this year. Velocity is back up to 88-92, and he’s added a sinker that he was messing around with in the bullpen for awhile but has finally unleashed in games, and it’s a really nice pitch and a new, effective weapon. I’m not projecting stardom or anything, but I’m far more optimistic than I was a year ago. I don’t know if De Fratus is a fast track guy, but he’s a nice choice for a sleeper. We’re back to “big guy, throws hard,” and his fastball has outstanding late life, and he pounds the strike zone with it. He’s throwing a slider right now, and that pitch is going to still need refinement for him to repeat this success at the upper levels.

PP: What do you attribute the slow start of Zach Collier to? He had a nice debut last year, but his numbers indicate that he may be overmatched in Low A this year. Is he just more raw than he originally looked? Any red flags here that might explain the poor start?

KG: He’s definitely very, very raw, but when you see him play, you get it – you know why the Phillies were so excited about it. He has huge problems with the breaking ball, in terms of both identifying and chasing it, and that’s an adjustment that I’m sure the Phillies are going to work on. He’s a tools player, and they’re always risky. One day it’s just going to click and he’ll figure it out, or that day will never come.

PP: The Phillies seemed to stay the course in the draft this year, taking lots of toolsheds (this term has really taken off since you used it last year, kudos) and lots of college seniors, as well as a few intriguing arms. The main focus right now for Phillies prospects nuts seems to be on Brody Colvin, Jake Stewart and Andrew Susac. How would you handicap the Phillies chances of signing these 3 guys? Do you think Colvin would merit a seven figure bonus?

KG: I wish I could take credit for toolshed, but a scout said it to me, and while I won’t give the scout’s name, I will say that the scout who said it has some Phillies roots, so be proud of it. Whether or not Colvin actually MERITS a seven-figure bonus is really only one side of the story, as the Phillies know it’s going to take something around there for him to sign. He’s a big, very athletic, highly projectable arm, and I think they’ll get it done. Stewart and Susac are much more likely to go to school, especially Stewart, whose commitment to Stanford is among the strongest in this year’s draft. I’m not sure what kind of dollars Susac threw out to drop as far as he did, but one has to assume it was well over where his talent lies. I would say they have a decent-at-best shot at signing ONE of them, but I would also wager that they were taken philosophically as a single player, where Philly will throw X dollars to sign one of them, and then forget about the other.

PP: As a quick parting question, your current Top 5 Phillies prospects list would be…..?

KG: I don’t know. I realize that comes off as a crappy answer, so let me explain myself. I’m never comfortable with off-the-cuff rankings because they kind of lessen the value of the real ones I do. When I do the Phillies Top 11 in the offseason, it’s going to involve pages and pages of notes, statistical analysis, as well as somewhere between five and ten phone calls to scouts. It’s important to me to put that much work into them because I really want to get them right, so to just throw five names out right now would be incomplete and sloppy, not to mention six months from now I’d get, “you have this dude here, but now you’ve moved him there, what changed?” when nothing actually changed with the player as much as I did the work to try to rank him properly. Wow, that’s way too long and probably made me sound like an ass, but it won’t be the first time I’ve been long-winded (or thought of as an ass, for that matter).

40 thoughts on “Prospect Q/A with Kevin Goldstein

  1. Great interview.

    I actually like his answer to his last question, because it shows how dedicated he is to putting out a good list.

  2. JAmes you the man…It shows just how huge your site is now getting the like of KG for such a detailed one on one…You did an awesome job touching on the prospects we want to hear about, and kevin really gives you detailed answers…And i have to say i come away feeling even better about our system after hearing his responses…Especially Knapp! thanks again James that piece was awesome!

  3. Awesome, thanks KG, it’s great that you do stuff like this for us, and as always I appreciate the honesty.

  4. Awesome interview. Great insight. I LOVE reading entries like this.

    Nice job, PP.

  5. Good stuff today. I like KG’s fundamental approach to his scouting reports. This is the information I crave. Statistical analysis has its place but give me more reports on the skills these guys have or need to acquire.

  6. Carrasco just induced a 6-4-3 double play with the bases loaded and the tieing run at the plate to end the inning in the top of the sixth. A six inning, one run quality start for Carlos tonight.

  7. That’s a terrific Q&A phuturephillies. Thanks for the effort and thanks to Kevin for his participation.

  8. Great interview, PP, and a thanks to Goldstein for the insight.

    He did seem a little harsh on Gose, though. I realize he’s very raw and none of his stats are great outside of steals, but I would like to point out that his average is now up to .280, and he’s got 6 walks to 6 strikeouts in his last 10 games. It’s a small sample size, so it may not mean much, but the improved plate discipline is a good sign. It seems like he’s learning and getting better as the season goes on.

  9. Very interesting interview, but I must say that I disagree with him regarding Gose. If you look at Gose’s most recent numbers, he has significantly reduced his strikeout rate and increased his walk rate. Those are signs of a developing hitter.

  10. Great questions and answers. Thanks to you Kevin. Question what do you read into the Knapp comment that a scout put a big number on him??? Or should I say what does it mean???

  11. This is a completely different KG chat than the last time. I would say his opinion of our farm system is much improved.

    Jeez, I remember last time everyone thought he was a Phillie hater.

    Great interview. Way to sneak that one in there. Normally you give us a heads up. I like how up on D’arnaud he was. True professional.

  12. Both are actually realistic on our prospects and that’s a good thing to have occasionally. Both also (like every other talent evaluator) have their own methods of evaluating which may or may not differ from your own. I don’t think any scout or commentator has an inborne hatred or biased against our system specifically. Some focus on tools and projectability, some focus on production…its all a matter of taste on their part.

    I liked the KG comments on Gose in that he (if I read it right, feel free to correct me) is surviving off his pure talent right now as opposed to working counts, etc. He never said he wasn’t doing really well for an 18 year old in Lakewood but he’s also using his superior natural talent to take advantage of a Low A league. I.E. he needs to change his approach a bit if he wants to succeed higher in the minors. I’m sure its not a motivation thing and its something that the Phillies are working with him on…just as its tough to get a guy that has one awesome pitch to not throw that pitch and work on his weaker secondary stuff. Overall, and he seemed to say this, Gose is doing great as he is way ahead of the power curve right now.

    On Knapp, it seems like he might be the steal of the draft so far and that we simply had a fantastic draft last year across the board. I cannot recall being this excited about a draft class in recent history. We (the Phillies, not me personally obviously) did a fantastic job of nabbing guys like Gose, Knapp, Shreve, etc in those early rounds.

    Saying that, any word on Shreve yet?

  13. You’re right. That was Keith Law. Sorry, Kevin.

    I’m not saying he IS a Phillie Hater, just that the comment was made, haha.

  14. Thanks James for the great interview and also thanks to Kevin Goldstein for taking the time to talk baseball with us.

  15. Hey PP i do not know if you read these posts but i have to say,yesterday was a banner day,lots of good info,thanks

  16. Taylor is unique in that he realizes that for him the ability to square up the ball with a very controlled effort gives him a shot at producing a great average. It seems he also has an understanding that consistancy is the key to longevity and so the effort is being placed on solid controlled swing repeating accurately attacking the ball. A more strenuous attack at the pitch allows for less acurracy at repeating a good swing and consistant squared up contact. He is strong enough.
    His average and clutch average(over .400 with runners on and in scoring position) produces many more offensive opportunities for the team.
    I don’t think he is wierd as much as rare. He accepts the notion that the gift is in the skill not the herculean power. He puts together a plan to improve the skill element knowing that he already delivers immense power.
    With a man his size brute strength is a given and to often unsuccessfully over emphasized.
    He stands a very good chance of being good due to the approach he is implementing.

  17. First, a pre-season chat with KG and now an in-season chat as well… Very good stuff…thank you…

  18. That was a fantastic read. Thanks James and thanks KG- I’ll be anxiously awaiting your top 11.

  19. He must have gotten sick of me asking questions in his daily Minor League Updates on BP about Michael Taylor.

  20. He said this about 2 weeks ago:
    J.A. Happ is a fringe 5th starter-type. I think those guys may have more value to other clubs, particularly, say, the Padres, who value performance highly. — Keith Law

  21. Great work here, James, and thanks to Kevin for answering the questions.

    I’m pleasantly surprised to hear that a couple of the guys I’ve been down on since the beginning of the year — Savery and Collier — are nonetheless well-liked by scouts. It certainly gives me hope that Savery can turn around his medicore peripherals, and Collier can figure out his issues with pitch recognition.

  22. I just hope one of these prospects makes it. The phillies havent had prospect turn into a legit player since Hamels. We are due and will need to to refuel by 2012 when all the contracts are up.

    Hopefully Happ continues his Quality Starts, those RISP and runners on base peripherals for Carrasco are downright scary. Just imagine those numbers in the SHOW.

    Lets Go Rodrigo tonight! Do it for the IRONPIGS!

  23. great post. maybe the best one ever. kudo’s.

    the answers were well thought out and helped us understand why he says what he says. the one or two liners from scouts without the explanation leave us thinking some guys are “haters.” but the back up explains it all.

    to that end, a few thoughts i had reading this:
    1. i was encouraged to hear his thoughts on taylor, but still a bit perplexed. i genuinely don’t understand what a kid has to do to show star potential. it seems that the only knock on him is that he doesn’t swing for the fences more. but don’t we teach our kids to focus on solid contact. to not try to hit homeruns. i mean his stats are like video game numbers. every day i look forward to seeing how many hits or xbh he has. i think that bill conlin has it right on taylor with the 2 pieces that he has written recently. to me, this guy has star written all over him and is a true 5-tooler.
    2. i was surprised to hear him say “Marson was always a guy I saw as a bit underrated.” i mean, i agree with him, but i didn’t know he was so high on him. personally, i think that marson is probably the #2 prospect that other teams would want (drabek #1). a catcher that is young, athletic and can hit is so rare. my bet is by the end of the season marson is hitting near .300 with an ob% north of .400. his numbers are really climbing. another 2 hits and a walk last night. hitting .419 over his last 10 games with 5 more walks.
    3. i pretty much agree with him on everything else he said. i am pretty down on carrasco and would gladly trade him to land a pitcher. i don’t think that he has the head to make it in the bigs and i don’t know why he hasn’t developed that over the years. he is dead on that we have been talking about the same thing with CC for years now. it is long past time he steps up and becomes a man. he might end up like gavin floyd. it takes a trade and a lot of failure at the mlb level before he toughens up. and we don’t have the time to deal with that right now.

    great get James!

  24. I think what he’s saying about Gose is that he’s getting his hits by beating out the throws. He doesn’t make frequent contact, but when he does put it in play he’s able to use his legs to get on base.

    A very fair and balanced QA. It’s good to hear from people that are a little more objective than we are as Phillies fans. KG is not a hater, he’s just trying to be fair. Same thing for K Law.

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