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Chat: Zachary Levine

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Welcome to Baseball Prospectus' Thursday January 31, 2013 1:00 PM ET chat session with Zachary Levine.

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Join "Skewed Left" author Zachary Levine for his inaugural BP chat.

Zachary Levine: Live from the campus of the State University of New York at Albany, let's have a chat.

Alex (Anaheim): What's your favorite Spring Training venue?

Zachary Levine: We'll start with an easy one. I've only done the Florida side, so I'd say Joker Marchant Stadium in Lakeland, home of the Tigers. Good old school feel but not run down. Clearwater (Phillies) second.

William (Pensacola, FL): Any teams that look good on paper going into Spring Training that might be terrible this year after 162 games ?

Zachary Levine: The Dodgers will probably be the popular answer, but what if it's the Giants? What if the champs spent all this money to keep the band together and the band doesn't have much left. Zito, Lincecum and to some extent Vogelsong don't excite me, and they had a couple of position guys playing over their heads to get the West title and then again in the playoffs. I don't actually think they'll be bad, but if I have to pick a presumed good team, I'll go with them in a division that got tougher.

John (Boston): Hey Mr.Levine,can you put thes guys in order??Jose Fernandez...Salvador Perez...Albert Almora..Jorge Solar...Kyle Zimmer...Noah Syndergaaud...Allen Webster...Alen Hanson...Gregory Palanco..Aaron Sanchez...Andrew Heaney...Kevin Gausman..Addison Russell....Kyle Crick...Sean Manaea...Clint Frazier...Ryne Stanek... Thanks John

Zachary Levine: I sort of feel like this is a riddle to see if I can figure out what this list even is. What is this list? I'll go with Salvador (Sal(vy)) Perez and then the rest just for the present.

Paul (DC): My saber oriented Philly friend is howling at Rueben Amaro's off-season moves: Mike Young, Delmon Young, John Lannan, Chad Durbin, and the artist formely known as Yuniesky. In your humble opinion, are the Phillies actually moving forward, slamming on the accelator while in reverse, or simply stuck in neutral?

Zachary Levine: They're not moving forward, far from it. They're not slamming on the accelerator either. I think they're trying to push it out of a ditch, if I had to pick any one automotive analogy. This is what happens when you extend Ryan Howard so far before free agency and only notice the skills you want to notice. Of the moves mentioned, the Lannan move bothers me the least. Or the Yuni NRI just because it's an NRI.

Lane (Washington, DC): How much does a 50 game suspension of Gio Gonazalez affect the Nationals?

Zachary Levine: (Combining this with your question of should they go with Garcia/Duke or consider FA rental). I'd also add Maya to that list, probably before Duke, who is the one bullpen lefty. But I don't think that 50 games is a killer, 1-2 wins from the strictest definition of WARP, since we're probably dealing with close to a true replacement player. But the Nationals don't have a ton of depth, so there's a chance that even when Gio would come back that extra arm would be needed, so I wouldn't just brush it off.

Alex (Anaheim): Would Hafner be a good fit for the Yankees?

Zachary Levine: Yeah, I think so. When Alex Rodriguez's situation didn't look so grim and Jeter's seemed to have more uncertainty, the DH spot was needed for whichever of Rodriguez or Jeter was too gimpy to field that day. Now I'm not so against having a real DH on the team. I like lefty power for a team that plays 81 games at Yankee Stadium.

jlarsen (Chicago): 12 days before Pitchers & Catchers report and there's still a nice handful of players left in free agency. Are agents/players going to drop their asking prices or will there be a surprising number of retirements to come(with the older relievers and bat-only players)?

Zachary Levine: I'd find 2012 Roy Oswalt situations more likely than retirements for players who still have something left. But yes, the usual things will happen. Prices will meet the market, and then the market will rise again with injuries in spring.

etrain (belfast): What are your thoughts on Lester ... bounce-back candidate with a little luck or do the warning signs spell continued decline?

Zachary Levine: Bounceback candidate. Not ready to give up despite the drop in K rate.

Bill (Katy): Do the Astros win more than 60 games this year?

Zachary Levine: Man, that's right around the number I would pick. I'll say under but really close.

Noah Braun (SD): Thanks for the chat Zach, I was wondering what your feeling is on the Padres over the next couple years. How far away are they from contending?

Zachary Levine: They don't strike me as a contender in the next couple years to challenge the Dodgers, who seem capable of fixing every weakness outside of third base. The division helps, though, in that Arizona is selling off the long-run for the present and San Francisco doesn't appear to be improving. Challenging for a wild card may come within 3 years.

dev1astros (Houston): I'm surprised that Michael Bourn hasn't been signed yet. I'm assuming Boras is to blame. Do you think there's a chance that the Astros might try to pick him up or do you think they'll stick with their young players (not that Bourn is old)?

Zachary Levine: I can't see the Astros committing that % of payroll to one player. He'd probably cost more than half of their current 2013 payroll.

Mike (Chi-town): Would you view Scherzer/Freeman or D.Jennings/Altuve more valuable in a 20-team fantasy league

Zachary Levine: I'm seven years clean from fantasy (best decision I ever made, cold turkey) so I'm not even all that familiar with the categories anymore, but the first couple look better if strikeouts and RBIs are categories. I'm a big Scherzer fan.

stros (Houston): Favorite and least favorite memory from your time with the Astros?

Zachary Levine: Favorite memory from covering the Astros is being lucky enough to cover a perfect game. Least favorite memory is all the times they made news (firing a GM, hiring a GM, firing a manager, hiring a manager) after 10 or 11 p.m.

Tampa Tim (The Ocean): What's your projection for Desmond Jennings in 2013?

Zachary Levine: Not overly optimistic, nor am I about their entire outfield/DH situation. I still think Tampa Bay is a piece away from replacing their pitching losses, and I absolutely loved that team last year. Still amazed they didn't make the playoffs. Maybe a .750-.770 OPS from Jennings just to throw some lazy numbers out there. I definitely think he'll be better than last year.

Demanding Joe (Possumjaw, AR): Hey you, rank every active MLB player and prospect in one list. And do it quickly, I haven't got all day here!

Zachary Levine: I'm almost done with the list but need a judgment. Does Jamie Moyer count as active?

andtinez (Houston): How do you handle the Jonathan Singleton situation if you're the Astros? Can they move him to the 40-man to avoid the suspension?

Zachary Levine: I don't think they can do that. Somebody please correctly if your JDA knowledge is better than mine. You can move him to the 40-man if you're worried he'll smoke again and then he can avoid the next suspension, but he's stuck with this one. What do I do? Just make sure he's ready to play on day 51. I figure Oklahoma City this year and Houston either September or next April.

Billy (Ocean): Let's say you're shrunk down to the size of a quarter along with Felix Escalona and then placed in a blender. You have five minutes to escape. How do you do it?

Zachary Levine: Fill the 5-gallon jug and pour that into the 3 gallon jug, so you have only 2 gallons left in the 5 gallon jug. Then empty the 3 gallon jug and transfer the 2 gallons there. Then refill the 5 gallon jug and pour one gallon into the 3 gallon jug, filling that to the top. Your 4 gallons will be what's left in the larger one.

JayKay (H-Town): Obviously still too early to tell, but as of now, it seems the Astros did very well in the Pence trade but got hosed in the Bourn trade. Thoughts?

Zachary Levine: Yes and yes. I'm really surprised they got so much more for Pence because I thought Bourn was a better player, though I guess it was the one-year difference in the amount of team control.

whales are awesome (san diego): Outside of the Oakland/San Jose situation, what's the next team you see moving and what are the most realistic destinations?

Zachary Levine: If Tampa Bay moving to Tampa counts the same as Oakland moving to San Jose, then I say Tampa Bay or Anaheim to somewhere else in the LA area. If that doesn't count, then I probably still say Tampa Bay.

mmcd (ottawa): How much will the KC defence impact James Shields? Is it all that bad?

Zachary Levine: No, Shields is a high strikeout pitcher. I don't think the impact will be all that much.

carter (Houston): Should we expect a little bit of a drop in Jose Altuve's numbers this year?

Zachary Levine: Yes, a little bit. He's still a very viable starting second baseman.

Theo Backer (Chicago): What's your take on the new Theo-Hoyer regime along with all the other baseball minds they've brought into the organization? It's sucks continuing to wait, but I feel like the Cubs are finally doing it the right way.

Zachary Levine: Impressed so far. I like what they've done with some of the one-year stuff to make the rotation relevant in what shouldn't be an overwhelming division this year. Bats need a lot of work, though. Disappointing crop of rookies on-the-verge guys and young MLers they inherited outside of Castro.

Steve C (Houston): Five years from now ... Is Jeff Luhnow getting the keys to the city of Houston, or an ex-Astros GM?

Zachary Levine: Neither.

Beaton100 (Houston): Do you think it would be worth it for the Astros to tank for Rodon in 2014? And who do you think they should take with the 1st pick this year?

Zachary Levine: I expect their approach will be similar to their 2013 approach, not taking the consensus best guy, but the guy they can "get a feel for demands" on and sign for below slot. Then use the money later on. So tanking would be for more bonus pool money, not any one specific player, and no they won't tank.

Steve N (Delaware): ZL, my son is riht across the river from you at RPI. Anyway, is there any hope for Frank Francisco? Will he ever be a successful closer? Will he ever be a workable reliever?

Zachary Levine: Let's go Red. Clarkson still sucks. Anyway, no I don't think Frank Francisco has much closing left in his future. That's not his career trajectory heading into his age 32 season. But there's value there if his 2012 walk rate was a one-year problem. The stuff is still there into his 30s. Still a legitimate option.

Paul (DC): Any guess on the kind of numbers Korean import Hyun-Jin Ryu will put up this year with the Dodgers?

Zachary Levine: Haven't seen him or heard much on him. Sorry to avoid the question, but I imagine his leash will be pretty short considering the eight starting pitchers they have now and the expectations. If he doesn't start well, you might not get a full season out of him until some of the starting jam is cleared out.

JayKay (H-Town): Lets say you're an athlete and you've been accused of steroids/tested positive/whatever. But you actually are innocent. Is there anything that can be said that would get people to actually believe you?

Zachary Levine: No. I can't think of anything other than telling SportsCenter I'll take a polygraph test on live television. (They'd never turn that down, by the way. Christmas morning for Roger Cossack.)

It's a scenario I've actually imagined in my own head before, but usually involving a crime that I did not commit and have been arrested for. It doesn't usually end well. There's nothing I can think of to say, especially in the steroids case, where there are no alibis.

So good luck if you are so accused and so innocent.

Traffic Jam (Houston): How many wins above or below replacement-level city (USA) would you rate Houston, Texas, and what are its best skills, if any?

Zachary Levine: It's above replacement level and trending upward as it should be, young city headed into its prime with still a little way to go. Best skills are unlimited chips and salsa.

Pedro (KY): When all's said and done, what ends up happening with A-Rod and the Yankees? Please answer in the form of a Hunt for Red October reference.

Zachary Levine: They don't void his contract. He takes a long time to heal. He plays again when healed. I really don't imagine much has changed in the last two days; I was more concerned about Cashman's quotes recently about the hip. I can't see how he retires or how insurance is involved unless he gives a complete effort (probably multiple efforts) to come back and really can't.

And I never saw the movie. I haven't seen many movies.

Jordan (Friend Zone): You think Luhnow would pass on Rodon next year, just because he could demand over-slot? He may be the best chance they have at an ace.

Zachary Levine: I certainly don't see them going over the value of the pick. They were really happy with what happened last year going under. Now that said, if the top of this year's class works out with an obvious No. 1 and an enormous talent drop even to No. 2, then there could be an issue, but we're a long way from that point.

andtinez (Houston): You're the commish for a day and any move you make regarding instant replay is permanent for the full coming season. What do you do with your new found powers?

Zachary Levine: First of all, no umpires leave the field. That's all for show and sort of nonsense. That can be handled without the delay from elsewhere though the miracle of telecommunications. It's a fifth umpire in the stadium or in the central office who reviews the play and announces the decision for call and runner placement voice of God style at the stadium. The manager wouldn't be able to argue because the person wouldn't be anywhere near them.

Use it for fair/foul, safe/out, homer/in-play, caught/trapped whenever the closest ump to the play dictates.

JayKay (H-Town): How long until you get your Hall of Fame vote? I'm counting on you in case Biggio and Bagwell still need the help.

Zachary Levine: This will be year 6 for me in the BBWAA. I expect not to have a chance to vote for either one. I'd be voting for former Astros Clemens and Schilling, though. Disappointed I won't be able to even consider former Astro Lofton, who I think was much closer to a reasonable HOF standard than the 2% of the vote would indicate.

dianagram (VORGville): Who plays A-Rod in the inevitable biopic?

Zachary Levine: I'm out. My righthanded swing is terrible. So is my lefthanded swing, but whatever.

Ignition (Remix): What's the word on BP doing another gathering in Houston?

Zachary Levine: Heard rumors on just that. Not allowed to say the tentative date but it rhymes with May Feleventh.

Adam (Cleveland): What are your thoughts on Rays' Willie Argo? What is his projection?

Zachary Levine: Do not know him. Probably a question for our prospects guys.

Chris (KC): On Singleton, no, adding him to the 40-man will not allow him to avoid suspension: "J. Completion of Minor League Discipline A Player suspended under Major League Baseball’s Minor League Drug Prevention and Treatment Program (the “Minor League Program”) who is selected to or otherwise placed on a 40-man roster before such suspension is complete shall be suspended at the Major League level for the lesser of: (a) the remainder of the suspension imposed under the Minor League Program or (b) the difference between the maximum penalty that could have been imposed under this Program (had each of the Player’s violations occurred while he was on a 40-man roster) and the number of games already served by the Player at the Minor League level. A Player who tests positive under the Minor League Program, or who has otherwise violated the Minor League Program, and who is not notified of that positive test result or of the violation until after his promotion to a 40-man roster shall be treated as if the Player tested positive under or violated this Program."

Zachary Levine: Thank you for verifying. So yes, the move they could make would only be to prevent future suspensions if they thought he was likely to keep smoking. But the baseball impact of this strikes me as fairly minimal. Next year was his reasonable year to become a significant player anyway.

andtinez (Houston): Have you ever thought about taking anti-aging treatments to improve your performance as a writer?

Zachary Levine: Au contraire, I hope to age into being a good writer. The only age-related concern I have is on the top of my head and if that's the worst I'm doing, then I'm doing OK.

webberoo11 (Las Vegas): Zach....Things in Houston aren't the same without you!! Come back!!! Also, do you think Houston makes anymore deals before opening day?

Zachary Levine: Thank you, and no, nothing of significance. If they can find a team with a spring training injury to overpay for a guy like a Norris or an Altuve or a Lowrie, then they should go for it.

Zachary Levine: Thank you all very much for chatting. I had a good time. Hope to do this again before or during spring training. -Z


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