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Chat: R.J. Anderson

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Welcome to Baseball Prospectus' Friday August 29, 2014 12:00 PM ET chat session with R.J. Anderson.

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Ask R.J. about all the month's transactions, about baseball's true trade deadline this weekend, and anything else about baseball or weird Twitter personalities.

R.J. Anderson: Hey folks, let's get started.

T (Philly): Do you think Papelbon gets traded?

R.J. Anderson: Sure doesn't seem like it. Ken Rosenthal wrote about how Papelbon wasn't drawing much interest earlier in the week. It's surprising, especially since the Phillies appear willing to include money. You look at the year Papelbon is having—good strikeout-to-walk rate, missing bats, potentially allowing a career-low amount of home runs, etc.—and you have to believe he could help a few contenders. Unless there's some character or medical flaw that we don't know about, the only other reason here is that maybe Amaro Jr. just wants too much for him. But sheesh, why dump him for nothing at this point?

JasonPennini (Denver): Will you see any AFL games? If so, are there any under the radar guys you are looking to see?

R.J. Anderson: No. Prospects aren't my beat, plus I stick to Florida. I'd throw Justin O'Conner, a backstop with a huge arm, out there. He's not a tremendous prospect or anything, but those are always fun to watch.

Jeff Moore had an AFL preview a few days ago you might find more useful.

Paul (DC): Which top 25 prospects have a better than 50-50 shot at getting called up to the Bigs come September?

R.J. Anderson: I'd say Archie Bradley and Alex Meyer are the obvious ones. Maybe Noah Syndergaard and/or Francisco Lindor.

Tim (TX): A lot of the Rangers' big names cleared waivers. I get how this is to some extent routine, but how much of a priority is it for Daniels to move players with big contracts?

R.J. Anderson: I'm not sure it's a priority for Daniels at all. Remember, that looked like a good team entering the year. Obviously they suffered a lot of injuries and didn't have enough depth to cover for all the missed time (then again, what team would?), but they have a lot of talent there. I don't know that dumping everyone and starting over is even a realistic possibility—guys are clearing waivers, as you said—and if it is, I'm not sure that's the route they should take.

Mikeleelop (Blue jay way): Will toronto try to sell at deadline?

R.J. Anderson: Maybe if Anthopoulos finds a taker for Buerhle, otherwise no. None of the pending free agents will bring back much of a return at this point, and there's no sense moving core pieces right now instead of waiting until the offseason.

Mikeleelop (Toronto): Miguel Castro is 19, throws 100 and is in high A. What does he project as for the bluejays?

R.J. Anderson: An interesting young arm. Prospects aren't my beat, but obviously there's a wide range of possibilities when we're talking about a teenager with big-time arm strength.

We're a ways off from the final product there (or even the near-final product), however, Jason Parks tabbed him as a potential top-10 prospect for next year back before the season started.

Nick (Chicago): Is there any interest in Adam Dunn or John Danks? If so, will the White Sox make a move? They did part with Gordon Beckham for next to nothing.

R.J. Anderson: I was surprised Dunn didn't get moved to a team wanting a bat off the bench or DH. I suppose he's not the easiest player to fit onto a roster. As for Danks, he was reportedly pursued by a few teams. I think his contract situation probably caused any potential deal to be benched until the winter.

bloodmoney (detroit): sean manaea will be a ........ ?

R.J. Anderson: A solid pitcher by most indications, though he still has to become more consistent with his stuff.

Rain Man (The Plains): Can you Explain the James Shields Lion Astronaut thing?

R.J. Anderson: Sure. It comes from Tommy Rancel. He likes to call good players who have a ferocious streak to their games lions. Shields not only embodies that, he takes it to another level. The natural progression from a lion is an astronaut lion. Ergo why Shields is called an astronaut lion.

Sky (The Roc, NY): Do you think there is anything wrong with WAR?

R.J. Anderson: I assume we're talking about the statistic itself and not theory. And yes. Even beyond the questions about defensive metrics and positional adjustments, I don't think we have a good pitching metric. We don't try to account for skills like holding runners, which can help explain some of the discrepancies between a pitcher's FIP and his ERA. Likewise, those two metrics are flawed. Everyone knows about the problems with ERA, but FIP underrates (among other types) extreme groundballers and overrates (among other types) guys who can't hold runners, or who are more hittable than the average pitcher.

balticwolf (Silver Spring MD): Hello RJ: LeBlanc looked awful in first start as replacement for Richards. Colon would probably be claimed by a number of teams if made available. Could you see Buehrle in an LAA uniform soon? Or Happ?

R.J. Anderson: Word is the Angels don't want to pay Colon $11 million next season. Maybe that has to do with non-performance reasons—like his medicals, or the possibility he fails another PED test—but that probably doesn't bode well for a Buehrle trade, either. My guess is Dipoto will try do something, it just might not be a huge upgrade.

Steve (Los Angeles): Carlos Rodon in September?

R.J. Anderson: Sure. Why not?

Dave (Boston): Pirates should be pretty good next year with Polanco, Taillon, Hanson, Bell and Kingham all in as depth, right? Aren't people being a bit premature with the cubs and not realizing that the NL Central isn't a cakewalk?

R.J. Anderson: The Pirates have a lot of questions to answer before next season: is Pedro Alvarez going to remain at third base; who catches; do they pursue a veteran starter; and so on. Of course, a lot of teams have holes like that when we're talking six months into the future, so the Pirates aren't alone in that regard. But yes, people are getting too hyped about the Cubs. This always happens. It happened with the Royals, it'll happen with the Twins, too. Miami is about the only team that's avoided it lately.

DanDaMan (Sea Cliff): Hardy sign with the Yanks next year? If he leaves, does Manny slide over to short?

R.J. Anderson: Tough to say on both fronts. Hardy would make sense for the Orioles, but I wonder if Machado's injury issues will give the O's pause before asking him to slide back to shortstop.

Eric (Baltimore): If the O's win the East with all their injuries (and Chris Davis sucking), Showalter is a shoe-in to win manager of the year, yes?

R.J. Anderson: Showalter should earn consideration, no doubt. I won't say he's the clear favorite, however, because I think Yost and McClendon will receive love for their clubs' turnarounds.

gerrybraun (San Diego): Thanks for chatting. Can you pick an NL and an AL team most likely to win 10 fewer games in 2015 than they will in 2014.

R.J. Anderson: That's a toughie for two reasons: 1) 10 fewer wins is a lot and 2) we're trying to project this in August.

Anyway, I think the obvious candidates in the NL are the Padres and Phillies. Both probably finish with 70ish wins and could strip their rosters over the winter. It's tougher in the AL. Maybe the A's, O's, or M's fall back a bit. Heck, possibly the Royals depending on how they fix a few holes.

MikeJordan23 (Brooklyn): Do you think next season the Cardinals should give Rosenthal an opportunity to start? He always said that's what he really wants to do.

R.J. Anderson: He's probably one of those guys who's too far removed from starting at this point to transition back. Plus the control issues don't help make his case. I'd be interested in seeing it for curiosity's sake, but I'm not sure it's likely.

Steve (Los Angeles): 1 more...thoughts on Yasmani Tomas, whether he signs with a club before next season, timetable to the bigs, and projected tools ceiling? Thanks!

R.J. Anderson: Steve, for obvious reasons I don't know much about him at this point. I'd recommend this Ben Badler piece.

Dave (Boston): Elias Diaz, anything there resembling a Major league regular?

R.J. Anderson: The Pirates seem to think there's a chance of that. Diaz has made progress at the plate the past two years, and has a strong defensive reputation. He's even nudged Tony Sanchez to first base lately, so that tells you how the org feels about those two these days.

Cal Guy (Cal): RJ, What do you see from Frazier in 2015... are the steals a one year spike?

R.J. Anderson: I'd have to go back and watch Frazier's stolen bases to tell you whether he's improved his skill there. I will say he's gotten better at taking the extra base, so perhaps he put in work to improve all facets of his baserunning.

Ryan (zona): Seems like the only truly bad performances among Orioles this season have come from players covering for Machado (Lombardozzi, Flaherty) or relievers that weren't given much rope anyway (Stinson, Meek). Is this just good luck, or do Buck Showalter and Dan Duquette deserve a lot of credit for making sure they don't fritter away wins at the margins of the roster?

R.J. Anderson: There's some good luck there, of course, but Duquette knows how to find useful pieces and Showalter knows how to use them. Good pair.

Jeffrey dahmer (hell): Carlos carrasco for real or just a hot stretch?

R.J. Anderson: Probably more of the latter. He's always had impressive raw talent, so some legit improvement wouldn't be surprising.

Matt (Chicago): Much has been made recently about the swiftly rebuilding Cub organization. How aggressive do you see the front office being this offseason to vault them into playoff contention for next season?

R.J. Anderson: I'd like to see them pursue at least one starting pitcher. Shields came up earlier, and he's proven to be a good fit for young rosters before. Lester's name is obviously going to surface with the Epstein/Hoyer/McLeod ties, too. Would either (or both) of those guys push them into contention? Maybe not, but I don't see any reason to do nothing this winter.

Matt (Chicago): Which, if any , of the Cubs young positional players do you sense they may be inclined to move? Everybody mentions Castro but I'm inclined to think Baez- doesn't fit the Epstoyer mold so much.

R.J. Anderson: I think Castro gets mentioned a lot because he's no longer a shiny new toy; we've seen him fail repeatedly, which is something we can't say for Russell, Bryant, etc. He probably is the most likely to go though, in part because of the contracts, and in part because MLB shortstops—even ones with shaky defense—are hard to come by.

Dave (Chicago): What's wrong with Brandon Moss? Hitting .179/.304/.255 since the All Star break.

R.J. Anderson: Haven't seen enough of him over the past couple of weeks to say. Possible it's just a normal slump.

Sparky (Garage): Would the Astros really fire Bo Porter after showing progress in '14?

R.J. Anderson: If the relationship is souring then probably.

The funny thing about the Astros is many of their supporters said marginal wins don't matter, so there's no sense in spending money to win 65 games instead of 55. Now that they're winning a few more games, the same people are pointing to that as proof of progress. I guess marginal wins matter after all.

Kevin (NJ): What top prospects do you see getting called up during the remainder of the season?

R.J. Anderson: We covered this a little earlier—at least as far as the top-25 guys are concerned. My guesses are Bradley and Meyer. Rodon seems possible, too.

IAMCHRISTOPHER (philly): So Jason Vargas is not the human garbage monster that some KC faithful painted him to be afterall. Weird, huh?

R.J. Anderson: Correct. Upside and velocity are sexy and Vargas doesn't have either. He does know how to pitch and he's fairly reliable. Those are good qualities to have from a guy who needn't be your best or second-best starter.

Kevin (NJ): Do you see Jesus Montero grabbing a starting spot in the majors? If so what kind of numbers do you see him putting up?

R.J. Anderson: I don't see Seattle allowing him the chance to start. He seems close to persona non grata territory there.

Ken Tuckee (wilshire): Drew Smyly. Rays magic?

R.J. Anderson: Smyly is a solid pitcher, but he's probably just on a hot run. Tommy Rancel noted over the weekend that he's using his cutter more to his arm side, which is lifted from the Jon Lester playbook (and something I wanted to see from him). He's got three quality pitches, control, brains, and guts. You don't need a whole lot more to find success in the majors. Let's just give it a little more time before we buy into him as a monster.

Kevin (NJ): Who do you like for the long term: nick franklin or jedd gyorko?

R.J. Anderson: I'm leaning Gyorko. He's already had a solid year in the majors, and he's played better since returning from the disabled list. At worst, I don't see his ceiling being much (if any) lower than Franklin's is.

On a related note, I don't like or agree with the Ben Zobrist comparisons for Franklin. They're both switch hitters, but it falls apart for me beyond that.

mitch egan (stankonia): Who has been the flo rida of mlb this year? Aka the guy who looks like a star but is just a cheap rip off of a better player

R.J. Anderson: I don't have an answer, I just love the name and the question.

Jax (Outworld): Greg Bird has shown a lot more power in Eastern League than he did in the Florida, but the average and on-base stats are lower (albeit in a small sample). What do you think of him as a prospect and what kind of player does he project to be at the next level? Thanks.

R.J. Anderson: I'm not a prospect guy, but Jeff Moore wrote that he thinks he ought to fall somewhere between platoon bat and regular.

Jon (BC): Dynasty league question. Which young Red Sox pitcher has a better chance of decent fantasy value going forward Allen Webster or Anthony Ranaudo? I've been a little underwhelmed with Ranaudo's stuff in the games I've seen him pitch, but his command is at least marginally better than Webster, who has the better overall stuff.

R.J. Anderson: Webster, but I say that as someone who isn't high on Ranaudo.

jimmy (gettin shmoney, usa): What editor turned a young rj anderson into a god?

R.J. Anderson: None. But Sam Miller keeps me above replacement level.

Kevin (DC): Are we going to see Ryan Zimmerman back in September or will the org decide just to let him heal up for next season?

R.J. Anderson: Everything I've seen indicates Zimmerman will return sometime in September.

Bill (Dallas): Thanks for the insights. Is Rougned Odor a lock for the 2B job next year with texas?

R.J. Anderson: I wouldn't say lock. Not unless they do something with Elvis Andrus, Jurickson Profar, or someone else that would allow all three to be on the roster at once.

Kyle (Ohio): I really like catcher Roberto Perez of the Indians. He seems like a pretty decent player (good defense, pitch framing, underrated at the plate). Obviously he's not going to unseat Gomes as the starter, but can you see a team possibly trading for him and giving him some playing time? I ask this as a fantasy owner of course, not as an Indians fan.

R.J. Anderson: I think he might be the most anonymous backup catcher in the league. You're right that he's done decently when called upon, but he's also a tough player to peg; he struggled during his initial exposures at Double- and Triple-A and never earned much prospect consideration. In a sense, it kinda reminds me of how Martin Maldonado popped up out of nowhere and became a solid backup.

Anyway, my guess is that Perez won't get traded. At least not anytime soon.

Shaun (KC): Any news on the future of the prospect team due out soon?

R.J. Anderson: That's over my head. I know Sam, etc. are working on it, but I don't know what the timetable is on that stuff. Sorry.

Cal Guy (Cal): RJ, Any news about what is ailing Darvish besides just elbow pain? No mention of possible TJS yet?

R.J. Anderson: Not that I'm aware of.

Jacob (Ga.): What was your opinion of Kennys Vargas prior to his call-up, and has it changed now that you've been able to see him on a more consistent basis (on TV or live), with the obvious caveat that it's a small sample size?

R.J. Anderson: I saw a little of Vargas over the winter. Hadn't heard much of him before, but the size and switch-hitting intrigued me. My concern is with the approach and the hit tool. Obviously his stats are pretty right now, particularly from the left side, but he'll need to hit for power and average to sustain those strikeout and walk rates. I know he has it in him to hit the snot out of the ball, I just want to see if he can consistently hit .250-plus. If not, I'm not sure there's enough there to start.

Cal Guy (Cal): RJ, There have been some grumblings about OT being overrated. What is your feeling about him and how would you rank him among ML outfielders for next year?

R.J. Anderson: It feels like we're going through these "this prospect is overrated" phases with almost every top hitting prospect these days. At some point that's not on the prospects, but on us for expecting too much too soon.

Based on what I saw I think he should hit. The fielding was sketchy, but I saw the ability to barrel MLB pitching and that's where he's going to earn his keep. I'm not sure where I'd rank him among outfielders for next year, but I wouldn't give up on him yet.

Lucas (MA): In my dynasty league people seem to undervalue pitching compared to hitting? The mindset seems to be that pitching is too risky because of the always present threat of injury. One guy put Kershaw on the block looking for a top 20 hitter and got no takers? What is your philosophy in valuing hitting versus pitching in fantasy baseball? Thanks.

R.J. Anderson: Disclaimer: I'm not good at fantasy baseball. That said, I think you should try to exploit that mindset. It's almost like how prospects feel overvalued these days. I mean, if a guy isn't willing to trade a top-20 hitter—not a top-10, not a top-five, but a top-20—for arguably the best pitcher in baseball then we've gone too far. It's like when folks said they wouldn't trade Taijuan Walker for David Price last winter. It just doesn't make sense to me.

So yes, go get Kershaw for a non-elite hitter if you can. He might be riskier, but he's likely better, too.

Sparky (Garage): Biggest hit/miss for you this yr?

R.J. Anderson: I don't think anyone cares about the hit (and I don't know what it would be anyway), but I considered Jose Altuve a mediocre starter entering the year. He's made me look dumb on that one. I probably underrated Tanaka and Abreu early on, too. I'm intentionally conservative in evaluations though, so that's normal.

RatedRookie (Atlanta): Have you watched any of Gerrit Cole's starts since he returned from the DL? Perhaps he has righted the ship?

R.J. Anderson: Haven't seen either of them. Might have to check them out. I will say Cole's obviously a big-time talent and Ray Searage is a good pitching coach, so it wouldn't shock me if he's headed the right way.

RatedRookie (Atlanta): Can we start believing in Danny Salazar again?

R.J. Anderson: Maybe a little. The preseason hype was probably too much, but I suppose that's true for most youngsters.

Sparky (Garage): What's the significance if Smyly's cutter usage?

R.J. Anderson: Basically it widens the plate and gives him another look. Not only can he elevate the fastball, throw the curve for strikes and bury it, or place the cutter inside, but he can freeze you with a cutter outside or—if you're swinging because you think it's a fastball—get you to roll over it/mishit it.

andygamer (Boston): You wrote: "The funny thing about the Astros is many of their supporters said marginal wins don't matter, so there's no sense in spending money to win 65 games instead of 55. Now that they're winning a few more games, the same people are pointing to that as proof of progress. I guess marginal wins matter after all." My only comment is that the distance between a 65 win team and a 90 win team is still narrower than that between a 55 win team and a 90 win team. There is probably a 2-3 year transition from the extremes regarding the value of marginal wins.

R.J. Anderson: You're correct about the gap being narrower. I still find it amusing how some people went from saying it made no difference how many wins a team had if they weren't in contention to saying this record improvement is a sign of progress. There's some cognitive dissonance there. At least to me.

Cal Guy (Cal): RJ, Am I riding alone on the "Carlos Correa will be the best prospect in the game" bandwagon?

R.J. Anderson: I don't think you're alone. Parks and company had Correa up to no. 2 midseason, and that was after the ankle injury. Obviously that might've impacted how some people feel about him over the next year, but if he comes back healthy he'll probably slot in at no. 1 sometime before he reaches the majors.

RatedRookie (Atlanta): The Nats shut Lucas Giolito down after 98IP this season (similar to their handling of Strasburg et al.) How many innings and at what level will he conclude his 2015 season?

R.J. Anderson: I know some teams like to use the 10 percent rule. I don't know offhand if the Nats are one of those teams, but ~110 innings between Potomac/Harrisburg?

RatedRookie (Atlanta): Riding in the next car on Carlos Correa's bandwagon: is a 2015 late-season appearance possible? The lost year of development hurts, but do the Astros have *anyone* standing in his way?

R.J. Anderson: I think it depends on how he returns from injury. Also, I'm not sure the Astros have jumped any position player from Double-A to the majors within a year. Springer didn't do it in 2013, Singleton didn't do it, etc. so 2016 might be more likely.

John (CT): Do the O's re-sign J.J. Hardy?

R.J. Anderson: Wouldn't surprise me if they did, but I don't have any inside information here.

RatedRookie (Atlanta): Will a solid start from Taijuan Walker this weekend (plus the roster expansion and Erasmo implosion) be enough to get young Walker back into the Seattle rotation plans?

R.J. Anderson: Wouldn't shock me. At the very least, you have to think he's higher on the pecking order than Ramirez.

John (CT): Please review Roughned Odor's rookie season. After a somewhat fast start, he seems to have taken a step back. That said, he's very young and has shown glimpses of his upside potential. Where do you see him in two years?

R.J. Anderson: You outlined the season well. The thing to remember is he's only 20 years old. The numbers aren't pretty across the board—the walk rate is concerning given the strikeouts and power production—but he was only in the majors due to injuries, so between that and his age I'm willing to cut him some slack. He should still have a chance to develop into a good player.

Cal Guy (Cal): RJ, With Giolito, he needs to build up his innings but he did not really seem challenged against low A hitters this year. Do you think the Nats get more aggressive with him in 2015 or are they more of a conservative level per year organization?

R.J. Anderson: They've shown a willingness to promote guys multiple levels before. For instance: A.J. Cole split the year between Double- and Triple-A. I don't see any reason to think they wouldn't do the same with Giolito moving forward.

Cal Guy (Cal): RJ, Rodon has some nasty stuff for sure, but I'm not confident he can bring to the bump consistently. Do you see him developing into a #1, 2, 3 or otherwise?

R.J. Anderson: I haven't seen him since he was drafted. I'd guess he falls in somewhere around no. 2 status. I don't like to say a guy is a no. 1 until he has at least one 200-inning season under his belt, though, so take that for what it's worth.

Todd (MN): Danny Santana: not a great profile with the Ks and lack of power, but do you think there might be a league average-ish bat and versatile defender in there?

R.J. Anderson: He's been rough in the field at times, and I doubt he's quite this good with the bat. I do think he has a future as a utility type thanks to his speed and versatility, so I suppose it boils down to how much average you think he can hit for. If it's a good amount then yeah league-average hitter is within sight.

andygamer (Boston): Joe Sheehan has made the point that demonstrated value in catcher framing proves the strike zone should be automated. What is your opinion on this take?

R.J. Anderson: Smoldering hot. I think we all agree that framing is a skill, no matter how you value it, and it's a skill that's been around for a long time. By removing framing, you're effectively devaluing, if not outright eliminating a class of player. (Of course us quanty types have spent the past decade-plus shouting down the value of defensive-first catchers anyway, because we couldn't put a number on their value.) not only that, but you're punishing the batters and pitchers who make quick in-game adjustments to the zone.

Obviously I can sympathize with anyone who finds strike zones too ambiguous at times, but the longer I'm around the game the less I like the idea of automating the zone and robbing us of those skills.

R.J. Anderson: All righty folks, that'll do it for today. Thanks for the great questions and continued support. I hope everyone enjoys the three-day weekend.


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