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Chat: Tucker Blair

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Welcome to Baseball Prospectus' Wednesday August 13, 2014 1:00 PM ET chat session with Tucker Blair.

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Tucker Blair produces awesome handstitched belts and--wait, wrong Tucker Blair. Our Tucker Blair covers the Eastern and Carolina Leagues. Beg him for his prospect and craft beer insights.

Tucker Blair: Welcome all, I just finished eating a disappointing lunch. Help change my mood by asking some ridiculously good questions.

Matt (Michigan): What keeps Brian Johnson from being a top pitching prospect?

Tucker Blair: Johnson does not have the stuff. Here is my report from last week:

http://www.baseballprospectus.com/prospects/eyewitness_pit.php?reportid=40

Overall, I just fail to see any impact with Johnson. His numbers are ridiculous this season, but my in-person view painted a much better picture of his potential at the major league level. Plus command/control guy, but the stuff is really underwhelming and the FB lacks true movement - horizontally - and can become flat at times too.

DanDaMan (Sea Cliff): Best IPA kind of craft beer in the NY region?

Tucker Blair: Tough question,

But here are a few that will always be available in the NY Region and are terrific:

Heady Topper
Peekskill Eastern Standard
Dogfish Burton Baton (oak aged)
Brooklyn Blast was pretty good this year.

I could go on forever, but IPA's are slowly evolving on the east coast.

Pim Coxwell (Fabulous): Your name is supremely WASPy. Where were you raised?

Tucker Blair: I think this is a compliment? Maybe?

I was born and raised in Baltimore. I have a heavy Baltimore accent.
Half Scottish, half Italian.

Yoda (Brooklyn): Despite having some nice tools, Matt Hobgood has not played well recently. Any reasons why?

Tucker Blair: Hobgood has always struggled with injuries. Unfortunately, it really hinders his ability to consistently put together stretches of success. I have seen Hobgood multiple times this year, albeit not in a month or two now. He's touched 97 mph for me and his FB has explosion and arm-side run. I really like his potential, but he's a max-effort, injury-prone reliever at this point. I understand the disappointments involved.

It's just hard for him to stay healthy, which is a skill. Staying healthy is a huge deal to me.

NatsGM (Washington DC): Tucker, What's your favorite minor league park to visit? What's your favorite IPA?

Tucker Blair: Staten Island is phenomenal.
I love Aberdeen's park as well.

My favorite IPA is probably Raging Bitch from Flying Dog. Is it the best? Hell no. But old habits are hard to break.

Yanks (New York): Any updates on Gary Sanchez's work behind the plate and as an overall player?

Tucker Blair: I am seeing him this weekend at Bowie. I'll have a fresh, full scouting report then.

RatedRookie (Atlanta): What are Giolito's primary development goals? Has he done enough to warrant a promotion to AA before the year is up? Or does that happen next season? More generally, what does his promotion schedule look like?

Tucker Blair: Giolito's primary goals are the following (no particular order):

1. Stamina - he missed time, it needs to be regained.
2. Focus on developing CH - Easily his worst pitch, although it's still terrific.
3. FB command - His FB is downright nasty, showing movement and sitting in the high-velo bands. But command can become erratic at times, which is normal for a dude in Low-A.

I don't think the Nats should rush him, and I would keep him at Low-A for the time being. AA is out of the question, but High-A would be fine for a cup of coffee. He's pitched a lot of innings this year and there is no reason to push the gas pedal on him any more than they have. I have heard he is not even pitching at his top gear. That blows my mind, because his stuff is already asinine good.

Here's my report on him if you missed it:
http://www.baseballprospectus.com/prospects/eyewitness_pit.php?reportid=188

Bradley Anderson (Maryland): Have you tried the Flying Dog mint stout? It is the bomb!

Tucker Blair: It was ok.

I felt the mint was forced a bit, although it did have a nice blend of dark aromas and chocolate malts. I wouldn't buy a 6-pack again, but might drink one at a bar if it comes out again. 45 beer

Justin (Des Moines): How good can Josh Bell be? Also, where does he fit in, with Marte, McCutchen, and Polanco there? Same questions with Meadows.

Tucker Blair: Josh Bell can be a first division RF if it all goes well. 60 OFP guy that has the potential to hit for power from both sides of the plate and I think you are looking at a .250-.275 25 HR type if everything goes well.

Long way from that as of now, as the swing has way too much unnecessary noise and he is very inconsistent still. I genuinely have no clue what he is doing before the pitch is thrown. He's jerking around in the box and doing all these goofy things. The defense will never be good, which is not a huge deal because he is playing RF and does have a plus arm to make up for some of the silly routes he runs. I know Jeff Moore can attest to that as well.

Acid Pinocchio (Maryland): Can you speak about the legend of the Harry Grove Ballhawker?

Tucker Blair: The legend tells us of a man that loves to hawk. This man is dedicated to his profession, and will go to the greatest measure to increase his baseball collection. Are you a kid? You better get out of the way when the Ballhawker comes. Are you an elderly folk? You better get the hell out of the way, the Ballhawker OWNS that ball.

Buck Britton (Norfolk): Who would you take for now and ever more? Giolito or Bundy? (Dylan not Bobby)

Tucker Blair: I would take Giolito over any other pitcher in the minors.

Shawnykid23 (CT): How likely do you think it is Byron Buxton reaches his ceiling, and what do you personally think that ceiling is? Thoughts on Flying Dog's Dead Rise?

Tucker Blair: I think the odds of him reaching his ceiling are slim. Not because I am low on Buxton or anything, but most players simply never reaching their ceiling. Luckily, Buxton's floor is also ridiculous, so I think he will be a very productive player in the game for a while - if he can stay healthy (although I am going to try and stay away from that narrative)

Dead Rise is so overrated. It's a fringe beer and I just do not understand the fascination outside of it being a niche beer that markets VERY well on the East Coast.

RatedRookie (Atlanta): Have you been able to watch Carlos Rodon pitch for Winston-Salem yet? Any thoughts on the (developing) change-up? How soon might he be pitching for the Southsiders?

Tucker Blair: I have not seen him with WS yet, but I did see him against Maryland when he was back with NC State.

The CH is going to be fine. I probably saw his worst start of the year in college, when he lacked all FB command and had zero release points on his SL. His CH actually helped him off-set the disastrous results of the FB/SL that night, even though he still struggled.

Rodon is a monster; has a tremendous pitching frame (thick, muscular legs with a big butt). It would not shock me to see him in their pen this year, although realistically I think we see the full Rodon some point mid next season.

Inspector Gadget (Here ): How did you learn to scout players? Did you play the game yourself?

Tucker Blair: I played until College. I went to York College and didn't make it too far with the club. Jeff Moore will always have that against me.

After that, I was really depressed about my career being over. So I watched games. Every day, all day. I sacrificed a ton of friends and just became obsessed with watching baseball. I started going to Bowie/Aberdeen/Frederick frequently and just met a bunch of scouts/industry guys that really helped me understand the ins and outs of the game. I believe if you have any passion for the game, and I mean a deep obsessive passion, you can get into scouting. It's not for everyone though.

I watch baseball more than anything in my life. I watch the worst games all the way to the best games, and watching full series also help gain a better grasp of the differences between an org arm and a mlb caliber arm.

NatsGM (Washington DC): Tucker, What scouting grade would you give to the Ball-Hawker of Harry Grove Stadium?

Tucker Blair: 80. Elite Hawking Skills

vampires (roto-hell): Tucker, Curious as to why T. Milone is still at AAA and not up with twins?

Tucker Blair: Your guess is as good as mine. I liked the trade for both clubs and figured Milone would slot right in. It's not a huge issue anyways, he will be up with them in less than a month.

MRubio52 (Craig's Mom's Basement): What's the proper form for beer pong? Asking for a friend.

Tucker Blair: Good extension; balanced bottom half; keep shoulders in unison; slight arc but not too much.

I am awful at Beer Pong, I just want to put that on record.

SuperOriolesDude #1 (East coast): How is Michael Ohlman's defense progressing? Or is it?

Tucker Blair: Nope, not progressing much at all.

He's lagging behind the plate with his feet. They are just too slow and he's not getting down in time for blocking. The footwork has been a huge detriment to his arm as well. Plus raw arm strength, but he can't make the conversion to behind the plate. Constantly have him at 2.05+ pop times, which is not good enough for the majors.

jason (NY): I think the argument for Syndergaard as the top pitching prospect is a good one. Giolito may have a slightly higher ceiling, but Thor right now has the better fastball, change, and command and is way more advanced(AAA vs A). Don't see any other pitching prospects with the combination of stuff and command like Synder and Gio(will have). Thoughts?

Tucker Blair: It's really down to preference.

Thor is a dude. Been a while since I have seen him, and I have been driving the Giolito train this year, so I think it's important to illustrate my potential bias there. Giolito's ceiling is an ace, which most people would never never never say that for a prospect in Low-A. I think Giolito has the potential to show Thor-like stuff at the higher levels too, and he has the frame to do it.

I don't think a prospect's position (AAA vs A) should fluctuate where they are ranked as a prospect. At BP, we obviously love our ceilings, and I personally view Giolito with the highest ceiling. But Thor is really close. Close enough where I'm not going to argue if someone wants him higher. But I have been very adamant about Giolito. Who is to say that Giolito will not have a 8/8/6 across the board in two years? I doubt it, but it's not out of the questions with him.

gerrybraun (san diego): Would you rather have Josh Bell or Raimel Tapia, in real life and fantasy?

Tucker Blair: Raimel Tapia is the real deal at the plate, and I think he will be a more consistent option for both fantasy and real life.

I am very clueless on Fantasy Baseball though, so take the fantasy aspect with a grain of salt. But always give me the better hit tool in real life.

Frustrated Mets Fan (New Jersey): If you were the Mets, (assuming you legitimately thought you could contend in 2015, and Lageres and Granderson hold their spots in CF and RF) would you use the surplus of arms to trade for a upgrade in the outfield or wait on Nimmo or Conforto.

Tucker Blair: Interesting question. I would never make a trade just for the hell of it. If they can move one of their arms (usually a bad idea to trade away pitching depth)and upgrade the team right away, maybe they consider it. I probably would not.

Nimmo and Conforto are probably just worth waiting on, although I do not believe Conforto is the impact guy many believe. Nimmo has a great approach but lacks the crazy impact tools. Both are major leaguers, just not sure how much impact they end with.

Steve (Los Angeles): Will we ever see a hitter like Tony Gwynn again? Who draws the closest comp in the Eastern and Carolina Leagues?

Tucker Blair: Nope.

There is not one player in the Eastern and Carolina Leagues even remotely close to him. But for the sake of the question, here are the best hit tools I've seen in both leagues:

Carolina - Nick Williams
Eastern - Francisco Lindor

Side Note: Gwynn's tragedy allowed the light to go off in my head, and I have now quit dipping. I hope many others have decided to quit after we lost such a great man.

paul (Maryland): What makes you say Giolito over Syndergaard? Giolito has a slightly better curve, but Syndergaard has more velo, a better change, and better control/command right now in addition to being 3 levels ahead. I'll acknowledge Gio's ceiling, but that can't be everything can it?

Tucker Blair: I wouldn't say it's slightly better CB, it's the best CB in the minors.
Velo is not everything, and Thor can get a little straight and flat at times. Although, upper 90's is fierce heat and no joke. Believe me when I say that Thor is a monster too.

Giolito has his warts too. Some don't love the mechanics and the stab really irks them. I'm not quite on that, as I think he really has a fluid delivery and the frame is exceptionally capable of withholding many downfalls that are often thrown on pitchers. The CH also can be really firm at times. Thor has him definitely on that right now. Although Giolito is working heavily on the CH at the latter half of this season.

I love having this conversation, because both are ridiculous talents.

The Dude (Office): Some say don't trade away pitchers because you need pitching depth, while others say TINSTAAPP and note how volatile and fragile youg arms are. Which side do you lean more towards?

Tucker Blair: Depends on the club. I think it's silly to pick one side or the other. So many variables are tied into this. What type of pitchers do you have? what is their ability? How has your organization developed similar arms in the past? etc.

I love depth though, so for the sake of the question, give me depth.

Chris (Baltimore): How is it possible that Paul O'neill had a career high 22 SBs in his final age 38 season. 88% success rate?

Tucker Blair: I didn't even realize this.

I have no clue, but that is terrific. Learn something new every day.

nottes (work): What kind of ML players will Christian Walker and Chance Sisco be?

Tucker Blair: Walker - I view him as a 50 OFP, 45 Realistic

First base only type, not athletic, 4.50+ home to first times, lacks much range at first. Bat speed is a tick above average and he has always shown a good approach and hit tool. The power is deceiving, as most of the HR's at Bowie were off org guys chucking 88-92 mph meatballs to the plate. I was low on Walker, but he has at least shown me this year that he can potentially play second division baseball in the bigs, but I highly doubt this is an impact bat.

Full Chance Sisco report here:
http://www.baseballprospectus.com/prospects/eyewitness_bat.php?reportid=149

David (the basement): Hey tucker how do you talk to girls?

Tucker Blair: Open your mouth.

The internet seems like a good way to talk with people too. Right?

Bilbo (Brooklyn): Is Christian Walker the Orioles 2016 first baseman?

Tucker Blair: No he is not.

Call it a hunch, but Chris Davis will be their first basemen.

Peter (Toronto): Has Daniel Norris passed some of the other more notable pitching prospects, i.e. Crick, Owens, Stephenson and yes even Archie Bradley?

Tucker Blair: Norris destroyed High-A, but that was expected. He struggled some at AA initially, but he's just fine. Mellen has a great report on him here: http://www.baseballprospectus.com/prospects/eyewitness_pit.php?reportid=186

Crick is a reliever. Every scout and industry guy I have ever talked to has said that.

Stephenson
Bradley
Norris
Owens
Crick

JP (TX): Best IPA you have ever tried?

Tucker Blair: Honestly, IPA are not my style of beer. That being said, I will drink ANY style of beer.

I love Dogfish Burton's Baton. It's always been an easy-find and easy-going beer.

Hopslam from Bell's is amazing as well.

hotstatrat / John Carter (Toronto): I noticed Trader Joe's in Connecticut carries my favourite beer up here in Canada: Fin du Monde. What's yours? (Interestingly my favourite beer as a teenager many decades ago in craft beer starved Connecticut was the Canadian beer: Moosehead.)

Tucker Blair: Some of my favorite beers:

St Bernardus Abt 12
Left Hand Nitro Milk Stout
Brooklyn Double Chocolate Stout
Great Divide Yeti Stout (all of them)
Allagash Curiuex

A taco is a sandwich (Michigan): Many Tigers fans seem to think that Steven Moya is the answer to the team's offensive woes. You've seen him this season. The HR totals and SLG% are nice, but can you please explain how the scouting shows that he's not ready for MLB pitching? Thanks

Tucker Blair: Moya is a physical monster, towering over most other players.

His issue is the hit tool. He struggles with replicating his swing. His hands are too noisy at times, the shoulder flies open. Sometimes he has a load, sometimes he doesn't. Sometimes he is all hands and literally does not use his bottom half or hips for torque. It's just a lot of moving parts and I saw him go up against some MLB caliber arms. He's struggled deeply against legit arms. But the power is plus-plus and he can destroy baseballs when he makes contact. I just don't think he will hit them anywhere near enough.

Balance is important in all phases of the game, and Moya lacks balance at the plate.

Shawnykid23 (CT): Is anyone else in the Thor/Giolito discussion (Bradley, Gray, a healthy Bundy,etc)?

Tucker Blair: A healthy Bundy is a monster. Not there yet.

I don't have anyone else in the conversation currently.

Matt (Bluegrass State): Tucker, I know reports vary, but what are we to make of Rusney Castillo? Potential All-Star, First Division Regular, Second Division, or just not enough information yet?

Tucker Blair: Tough to say, haven't seen or heard anything different than you.
Just not enough info yet. Always hard to tell how a player transitions to the majors, unless you have the applicable information.

DJ (Dallas): Thanks for the chat! You guys are the best!! What's your analysis of Rougned Odor? I know his production isn't great, but most guys his age are in Lo A ball. Does he have any long term fantasy value??

Tucker Blair: Odor is going to be fine. He's going to hit, and hit a lot. Rangers probably rushed him just slightly (or did they really?) so I am not worried about a 20 year old going through his lumps in his rookie season.

Put this in perspective: Jonathan Schoop is two years older and struggling much more than Odor is.

xVitality (Toronto, Canada): Who are some good up and coming prospects that might blossom into fantasy superstars?

Tucker Blair: Tyler Glasnow is going to strike out the world.
Joey Gallo and Kris Bryant are going to hit home runs.

I am bad at fantasy, but I am pretty sure this is how it works.

Stu (Brooklyn): Does Mike Yastrzemski have a shot at the big leagues?

Tucker Blair: Yes he does. Yaz has been fun to watch. Full report here:
http://www.baseballprospectus.com/prospects/eyewitness_bat.php?reportid=159

norwun (NYC): Lindor has been struggling recently in Triple-A. Can we rule out a call up for this year?

Tucker Blair: Nope, he was born to play defense in the majors.
The bat is fine. Sure, he might struggle some, but the Indians clearly moved Asdrubal to open up the field for #Lindor. I don't think the initial AAA stint struggles terribly affect this, although I certainly have no inside info on that situation.

My passion for Lindor is not quite on the level of Parks, but it's damn close. I love him.
I watched him in Bowie this year and he hit four line drive singles for outs. 0-4 night in the books but 4 terrific AB.

Matt (Bluegrass State): What is the upside for Nomar Mazara? Higher than Lewis Brinson or Dalton Pompey?

Tucker Blair: I am not high on Pompey. I think he's a second division type. Just not that impressed with the hit tool.

Brinson has a high ceiling and low floor, so I think Mazara fits somewhere in between them for upside. I am pissed that Mazara skipped High-A, as I won't be able to see him with Myrtle Beach now.

Ryan (MTL): Ithaca's Flower Power is another very good IPA. Very good.

Tucker Blair: Ithaca is an underrated brewery. Been a while since I was up in that area, so I forgot about them

nick (Baltimore): Hi Tucker, where can I find the best craft beers here?

Tucker Blair: Total Wine.
They have a huge selection.

Shawn (Office): What are your thoughts on Manny Machado? Do you see the superstar others do, or do you think the bat comes up short?

Tucker Blair: Machado is a superstar, although the knee injuries are hindering his ability to show it.

My history with Machado is long, and I watched him speed through the minors. His defense is otherworldy, but the bat is really underrated. I think some forget how young he is. Barring anything unforeseen, Machado is going to have a few .300 25+ HR seasons in the works. He may never walk as much as some want, but who cares. Adam Jones is doing just fine not walking.

Alexander the Good (Grease 2): Fun time rank Orioles second tier pitching prospects! Wright, Berry, Bridwell, Davies

Tucker Blair: OFP:
Bridwell
Berry
Davies
Wright

What I actually think is realistic:
Berry
Davies
Wright
Bridwell


Bridwell has the best arm, but is so inconsistent. Wright is a mess this year, but he could be a decent RP option in the future. I might be selling him low right now honestly.

The Dude (Office): Favorite shitty beer? Of course it's not good, but Keystone Light will always have a place in my heart

Tucker Blair: I'm from Baltimore

Natty Boh

nottes (work): Does Bundy have the same high ceiling he had pre-surgery? What if the velo doesn't fully come back?

Tucker Blair: This has been a heavy discussion topic with me and a few other BP guys. CJ Wittmann and I have both seen him at Aberdeen, and here's the report from that night:
http://www.baseballprospectus.com/prospects/eyewitness_pit.php?reportid=174

The CH is just not enough of a difference maker at this time. The velo is not quite back yet, but he did tick it up to 96 a few times in his last start with Frederick. I am willing to be conservative with Bundy until next season. He's still going to be a major league arm without gaining the velo back, but it will definitely not be that supreme impact arm like it was before. Let's tap the brakes here for a little bit though.

Kevin (Texarcana): Who has the best butt you've seen in the minor leageues this year? I've heard that can be important for power ;) ;)

Tucker Blair: Carlos Rodon has the perfect pitching Butt.

Pim Coxwell (Fabulous): Bruce Springsteen is half Italian, half Irish. (My kids are half Italian and half British Isle ancestry.) I wasn't applying a value judgement to "supremely WASPy", but I consider uniqueness and flavourful good things which your name is.

Tucker Blair: Ha, alright. I was mostly messing with you.
My name is Tucker, you can only imagine what people called me throughout my life.

The Dude (Office): In your experience, how approachable are scouts or prospect writers to talk to at a game, obviously keeping in mind they are working.

Tucker Blair: They are very approachable. At the right times.

It's really rude to ask them a million questions throughout the game or during an inning. But scouts love sharing information and most that I have experiences with are very friendly. Writers too. I love when people ask me questions.

I think only two scouts have turned a cold shoulder to me this year. That's in 80+ games. One of them was Mort.

Shawnykid23 (CT): Do you see Alex Meyer as a solid rotation piece or as a bullpen guy?

Tucker Blair: Solid rotation piece, I think he will be more mid to backend though.

Luke (Fart, Md.): I read somewhere that Hector Veloz has a 70 hit tool. I went to a game at Aberdeen and I have to say, I agree with the assessment. Stays balanced, handsy swing, uses the whole field, tends to stay up the middle, covers every quadrant. I say he hits .320 in the bigs with a lot of walks. Agree?

Tucker Blair: Reverse everything you said.

Hector Veloz is the best. I've never seen a player have so little focus on the field. It's not bad makeup, but he's on his own planet at times. legit 70 raw power though.

Tucker Blair: All, it's time to run. Thanks for the chat, it was fun. I'll drink a few beers for y'all tonight.


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