"Out of Left Field" author Matthew Kory stops by to talk baseball from the westernmost outpost of BP: Portland, Oregon.
Matthew Kory: Hello BPers and welcome to my second chat here at the venerable institution that is Baseball Prospectus. Iíve got coffee, Iíve got the worldís messiest breakfast sandwich, Iíve got cold, rainy, Pacific Northwest weather, and Iím ready to talk some baseball. Letís get to it!
Tim (Seattle): You rule! Please critique Seattle's catcher situation.
Matthew Kory: That depends on what you mean by catcher. I say that to start off the chat on a mean note because, hey, why not? But the truth seems to be the Mariners are doubling down, at least for the moment, on Jesus Montero behind the plate. Upon first glance that would seem to be a bad idea, no a terrible idea, but that's what they're doing. If you think Montero can crush the ball, no sure thing considering what he did last year, then at least it's understandable. With the abundance of 1B/DH guys the M's have assembled this off-season there's no other place to play Montero. Personally, I still think he can hit and hit very well, but I've yet to hear anyone say anything remotely positive about his defense behind the plate. It'll be interesting to watch what happens, that's for sure.
Jim (Californa): Hey Mr Kory, What are the top 2013 HS prospects coming through Vegas this year ?
Matthew Kory: I appreciate the question, Jim, but I'm not sure there's a question you could have asked me that I'd be less able to answer. Maybe something about the geography of volcanoes, or the finer points of baking a souffle.
squirrelmetrix (Seattle): Matthew,
You can only drink one beer by only one brewery the rest of your life and it has to be an Oregon beer: what beer do you choose?
Matthew Kory: Ah, now here's a question I'm sadly overqualified to answer. One beer is tough, which I guess is the point of the question. I've been digging Hair of the Dog brews recently but they're so strong it would be hard to drink that forever. I think I'd go with Deschutes IPA. It's excellent, but not so strong that you can't drink a few and still stand up. I like standing up. It's fun.
Brian (Orlando): Would you prefer Profar or Machado to build a team around ?
Matthew Kory: Good questions today! I'll go with Profar but they're both so young (20 and 21, respectively) and play the same position (I'm assuming that the Orioles will move Machado back to SS at some point in the next few years). I don't think there's a wrong answer here, which makes this the best question of the day. I award you 10 points!
Nick (Michigan): Happy Fat Tuesday! Which MLB player do you think is most likely to be shoving his face with Paczkis and booze today?
Matthew Kory: Can I say David Wells?
John (Florida): Thoughts on 2014 SS/P Nicholas Gordon from Olympia High School ? Where do you see his future ?
Matthew Kory: He's a Hall of Famer. I don't mean in the future though. Right now. This very minute. In fact, I think he's getting short shrift from the BBWAA. Gotta talk to Ben and Sam about that.
Mike (Cubdom): I'm drinking the Cub Kool-Aid and trusting Theo/Jed to get in done in building the farm system. However, what potential free agent splashes do you potentially seeing the Cubs make next offseason to speed up the major league team on-field success as well?
Matthew Kory: I'm a believer in the Theo/Jed biumvirate (like a triumvirate but less) as well, but I'm not sure I can predict who will hit the free agent market next off-season. The thing I can say is that the Cubs will need pitching and outfielders. I guess, to answer your question though, I would love to see them make a real run at Robinson Cano. If the Yankees let him reach free agency I think they'll be surprised by how much money he'd command and I think if the Cubs can show some adequacy on the field this year they might be in on him.
Brett (NY): Matt, thanks for the chat! What do you expect from Starlin Castro this year? Does he have the potential to hit 20 bombs and steal 20 bases? And maybe eventually hit 25 in his prime?
Matthew Kory: Hey Brett, thanks for the question. I love doing these chats. This is the best.
It's hard to believe Castro will be just 23 this season. It seems like he's been around longer. It's tough to say a guy who hit 14 homers last year at age 22 can't hit 20 in the majors at some point, so yeah, I'd say I'm sure he can at some point in the future. He's the real deal and the Cubs won't need to look for a shortstop likely through his option year in 2020.
Free_AEC (New Jersey): Chooch was overheard telling Cliff Lee today that this is his last year with the Phillies. Apparently they won't pay him either. Utley must also be gone. Josh Hamilton was clearly the answer for the Phillies this winter, but instead it appears they cut about $25 million from the payroll (baseball-reference) despite being number one in attendance in MLB in 2012.
Should I be locked up in prison for calling them the SCAMMIES and suggesting a boycott is in order?
Matthew Kory: Prison is a bit strong. But I wouldn't criticize the Phillies for spending money. I'd criticize who they've spent money on. Utley has been excellent but if health is a skill (and I think at least some large portion of it is) then it's one of the few skills he doesn't possess. I could run down the Phils contracts, but the point is they've spent a ton on old players and old players' performance drops as they age and that's mostly what's happening to the Phillies. That and an inability to stay on the field. I think signing Hamilton would have been throwing lots and lots and lots of good money after bad. They need young healthy players. In two years you'll be ecstatic Hamilton isn't in Philadelphia.
Nick (Michigan): How bad are the Astros going to be this year?
Matthew Kory: Bad. I was talking to Jason Wojciechowski about that on a podcast the other week and, well, if you have some spare time just look at their roster. They don't have anything that looks like a star player. I'm a believer in their management team (any team that hires KG is going places) but the talent simply doesn't exist at the major league level right now. Not in the rotation, not on defense, not at the plate. And now they're in the American League? I'll put it to you this way: if the over/under was placed at 62.5 wins, I'd take the under.
Tyler (Ohio): What mode are the Indians in ? Rebuilding, Playoff Push or somewhere in between? They sell arguably their best player for a unproven Bauer yet go out and sign Bourn
Matthew Kory: I think Bourn was more a case of, hey, look what just fell into our laps than the execution of any kind of plan. The Indians outfield all of a sudden doesn't look so bad, but unless Bourn can pitch then I don't see how this team plans on competing. Which is fine because I don't think they do plan on competing. They have Bourn and Swisher for four seasons, Chisenhall and Kipnis and Santana are all still young so they should have time to supplement the roster over the next few seasons. They're going to need starting pitching though. Very badly. They don't have anything like a number one or two in that rotation yet. Maybe Bauer is that guy but if he is, why did the Diamondbacks just dump him?
Mark (Omaha): If you had to start a MLB franchise right now what 5 minor leaguers would you pick for your farm team?
Matthew Kory: I'd definitely go with Profar, Xander Bogaerts, and a couple other guys that Jason Parks and his team of experts have up top, but I'll tell you who I wouldn't pick: pitchers. None. Stay far far away from minor league pitchers. If I'm starting a team I need certainty. Star power is nice too, but what I can't have is one of my five picks blowing his arm out or finding out that, wait, he's not a starter but a 7th inning guy, or hey, where'd my velocity go? I just had it right here!
Love me some Xander Bogaerts though.
Justin (New York): Do you see any potential for a break-out season from any of the Twins' retread SPs?
Matthew Kory: Any potential? I'd be silly to say no because the chance exists that someone gets lucky. But as far as talent goes, I don't see a ton of that on the entire Twins major league roster. It was pretty ugly last season and it's tough to see anything more than more of the same this season.
Paul (DC): Battle of 2nd Division shortstop prospects with really cool, but slightly effeminate names. Who has the better career, Didi Gregorius or Adeiny Hechavarria ?
Matthew Kory: No idea, but I can tell you that Gregorius anagrams to Rigid Rod Guise and Adeiny Hechavarria is too long for the internet anagram server to handle.
dianagram (VORGville): Odds on Portland ever getting a major league team (baseball, that is) :-)?
Matthew Kory: I mean, ever? I imagine it could happen at some point. If you're willing to look far enough into the future I think the chances are even good. But not anytime in the next two decades. The economy is too rough out here, voters aren't keen on upkeep of a Triple-A stadium let alone buying a new Triple-A stadium let alone paying for a new Major League park. So for now, we Portlanders will have to drive up I-5 to Seattle to get our Major League fix.
Steve (Bay): First Base Fashion Sense: If I buy an Anthony Rizzo jersey today, will I be embarassed to wear it 3 years from now? I ask because I'm STILL waiting for my Hee Sop Choi jersey to become trendy and cool...
Matthew Kory: If you already have your Hee Sop Choi jersey and you're not afraid to admit that then I'd say go for it. I'm big fan of Rizzo. I don't know if he'll be Adrian Gonzalez but I think he'll be a solid to plus first baseman with patience and power for years to come. I'd take the plunge.
Corey (Chicago): Will the real Jason Heyward please stand up? Which Jason Heyward can we expect this year? Can he consistently hit 30 homers and steal 20 bases? Thanks, Matt!
Matthew Kory: Heyward is tough for two reasons. First his age. He'll be 23 this year so he's still young on the aging curve. He should have some progress left to make, but on the other hand, he's had two seasons that have been pretty similar and bookended his mediocre 2011. I think there's still growth potential there, but his numbers are going to be held back by left-handed pitchers until he figures out that riddle.
The song playing at this coffee shop has the following refrain: "Somebody put something in my drink." So that's weird.
Alex (Anaheim): What kind of impact would Billy Hamilton make in the majors?
Matthew Kory: A fast one!
I'm sorry. That was bad. Very very bad. We all know Hamilton is amazingly fast and that's a very valuable skill in that it can make up for weak contact. But the guy has just 213 plate-appearances above Single-A so I think, as fun as he is and can be, maybe we should all dial it back just a bit. If he were in the majors now I'd guess we'd see lots of weak contact and stolen bases but I'm not sure the player is best served by making that kind of jump. If he continues as he has so far though, I'm sure we'll all get the pleasure of watching Hamilton in the majors sometime in the next few seasons.
Shane (Miami): If you are the Marlins what's your starting point for Giancarlo Stanton?
Matthew Kory: I'm asking for a team's top four prospects, a major league outfielder, the keys to your car, your wallet, your health club membership, your netflix password, and the deeds to any and all vacation properties you own.
Derek (Georgia): Favorite player that is not a marquee name or highly regarded ? For me its Taylor Pastornicky, I like his approach and flare he plays with
Matthew Kory: I used to really like Mark Bellhorn for the same reasons. He seemed like a guy who was squeezing the most out of his meager (compared to other major leaguers) skills. Now? I'm a big Hit It Over The Wall guy so I'm really looking forward to seeing Mike Napoli in Fenway. Power and patience are my favorite skills and that's Napoli summed up.
Greg36 (Tacoma): Early AL/NL ROY, Cy Young, MVP and any darkhorses you think are really going to break out this year?
Matthew Kory: Is it darkhorse enough to say Max Scherzer could make a run at the AL Cy this year? He K/9'd 11.1 last season as a starter! That's crazy good. For the AL MVP I'll throw my inconsiderable weight behind Mike Trout. That's a pretty thick limb to step out on right there, but hey, he's the best player in the AL so it's one I don't mind standing on for a while. I'm thinking Bryce Harper is going to explode (in a good baseball-y way) this season. He's so talented I wonder if when he cuts himself shaving that talent drips down the drain. If so he probably doesn't care. More where that came from. That doesn't entirely answer your question but I must get more coffee so that's how that goes.
igoinsane67 (my office): Why is it that Toronto gets rave reviews for giving up a ton for Dickey, yet the Royals are blasted in the Shields/Davis for Myers trade? Wouldn't a small market team need to do something like this to compete? Isn't the AL Central a lot easier to build to compete than the mighty East?
Matthew Kory: Two reasons spring to mind: the first is the success spectrum and the other is knee-jerk anti-Royals bias. The first: the Blue Jays won 73 games with an inhuman number of injuries in a very tough division last season. They added Jose Reyes, Melky Cabrera, Mark Buehrle, Dickey, and Josh Johnson. That's a whole lot of guys and a whole lot of star power and big names. It's reasonable to expect a big jump in wins for a team that makes that many big additions. I've said in some other forums that I'm a bit skeptical of the Jays and don't see them running away with the division like some have said, but I think it's inarguable that they're much improved.
The other thing is that I do think there are some of us, and I've probably fallen victim to this myself at times, who see the names of the teams in a the deal and subconsciously include that to some extent in their analysis.
Free_AEC (New Jersey): I disagree about Hamilton. He is a Cooperstown talent who was derailed. Jeter was excellent at 37 years old and I believe Hamilton is capable of an MVP season at that age. He'll be a free agent again when he's 37. On the other hand, I would rather have a 12 pack of Charmin than a 28yr old B.J. Upton.
Matthew Kory: I'm not sure Jeter is a good comp for anyone. He's a 37-year-old Hall of Fame shortstop. Those are exceedingly rare. Hamilton isn't Jeter. He's an amazing talent, but clearly a flawed one, both personally and professionally. His defense has started to decline, his approach is as impatient as they come or at least close. In short, you don't have to go far to find his flaws. For this year and next I'd love to have Josh Hamilton on my team. Beyond that things get iffy. In any case, I don't think the problems with the Phillies can be solved by adding Josh Hamilton. He puts them past the Nationals or the Braves.
Trevor (Milwaukee): With the injury to Carpenter and the Cards saying they are not in on re-signing Lohse, presumably either Miller or Rosenthal will crack the rotation, but would be comfortable having both lock down rotation spots?
Matthew Kory: I know they say they won't re-sign Lohse but I'll believe that when he signs elsewhere. St. Louis is the only team that won't lose a draft pick by signing him so they have that built-in advantage (i.e. it costs them less than any other team to sign the player) and now they have a bigger need than they have before. It makes sense, which isn't to say it'll happen, but I think it's more likely than either party is letting on now.
Mike (Chi-town): Thoughts on David Dahl? When would you project him arriving to the bigs, and thoughts on production once he does arrive?
Matthew Kory: Dahl is an 19-year-old center fielder just out of high school with just over 300 professional plate appearances. I have no idea. Fortunately for the Rockies, they have Dexter Fowler (who just signed a two year extension) in center so they don't need Dahl right now.
I love the name Dahl though. It reminds me of one of my favorite authors as a kid, Roald Dahl, who's name I just spelled correctly. So now I'm a Dahl fan. Go Dahl!
Scott (LA): Do you agree with the huge downgrade Keith Law gave to Gary Brown by omitting him from his top 100 or do you see him becoming better than a league average CF? After a slow start in an advanced pitcher friendly league he seemed to turn things around and scouts liked the changes to his swing. Factor in a low BABIP of .318 for a burner, steady walk and strikeout rates and elite speed/defence and doesn't that make him somewhat close to the same guy who BP ranked at 18 last year?
Matthew Kory: Scott, thanks for the question. The short answer is, I don't know. Keith Law makes his living by knowing this kind of thing. If you asked my opinion on someone in the Red Sox minor league system I could probably give you a decent scouting report but I'm afraid Brown is out of my area of expertise. Looking at his minor league stats, I can see why Law downgraded him. He went from a .925 OPS to a .731 OPS. The first was in the California League which I think is a pretty big hitters league though so I'm assuming there must be more to it than just the drop off in stats.
Matthew Kory: Thanks everyone for all the questions. I'm sorry to those who submitted questions I didn't get to. Hopefully Ben will let me back out of my cage again soon so we can chat some more together. Thanks for spending part of your day with us at Baseball Prospectus and happy Spring Training to everyone.