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Chat: Tucker Blair

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Welcome to Baseball Prospectus' Friday October 31, 2014 1:00 PM ET chat session with Tucker Blair.

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The offseason is hot stove season, but it's prospect ranking season, too. Tucker Blair can answer anything.

Tucker Blair: Happy Halloween! I just returned from the AFL and it was a great time. Let's talk about it.

vegetto712 (Orlando): Who is the best fit right now for the Cubs in terms of pitching? They have young hitters coming up, but do they go for a young pitcher already doing well via trade or do they go after an older Free Agent ala No Game James Shields?

Tucker Blair: Jon Lester.

It's an easy name to throw out there because of the Theo connection, but once you step back and think about it, there are multiple reasons Lester should be a good fit. He is a pitcher in the heart of his prime, a rather good one, and he also does have that connection with Theo. It just makes sense.
Also, Jeff wrote a nice report on him:
http://www.baseballprospectus.com/article.php?articleid=24930

mdotmorris22 (Minnesota): Mark Appel was good in AA and has been really good in the AFL, can we chalk the train wreck at Lancaster up as a fulk thing with him missing Spring training and and the ungodly wind that seem to blow out ever time he pitched?

Tucker Blair: You mean to say that Mark Appel is not a bust?

Yes, I think we need to overlook a half-year stint that did not go as planned. Appel went 1-1 in the draft for a reason, and it's because of his talent. The development path of a prospect is rarely linear, and all the reports I have received on Appel have been much better since he was moved along out of the missile launching pad of Lancaster. Sometimes we just need to step back and take a breath.

Scott (AZ): Saw Texas ss Michael De Leon play a couple of time in the AFL and it looks like he is going to be a pretty good defensive ss, what is the knock on him and why doesn't he get more attention?

Tucker Blair: I just wrote up De Leon the other day:
http://www.baseballprospectus.com/article.php?articleid=24960

I like him, but the profile is underwhelming in a sense that there is minimal projection left. Is he any different at age 20-24 than he is at age 17? I doubt it in terms of his body frame and growth. I do like the barrel skills and he's a nice ballplayer with a great glove. Certainly valuable.

Tiger (Roseville, MN): Casey Gillaspie I really liked him coming out of the draft, but does he have anything more then mlb regular upside?

Tucker Blair: My initial reaction when watching Gillaspie this season was "This was a first round selection?". I was underwhelmed. However, Gillaspie did show me a little bit with the bat as I watched him longer. He does not look like an impact guy for me, more of a first-base only type that will need to crush for him to have any value. I think the bat is merely average, so it's a tough profile to get behind.
Here was my full report on him, and I still stand by it:
http://www.baseballprospectus.com/prospects/eyewitness_bat.php?reportid=179

Gotribe31 (VA): I've heard that the nicest thing that someone can do if they see you at a bar is buy you a tall, cold, bud light. True?

Tucker Blair: I guess it's the thought that counts.

NatsGM (Bethesda MD): Tucker, thanks for doing this chat. Few questions: 1) Who has been the best prospect you've seen in the AFL? 2) Has there been a surprise or breakout prospect you've seen? 3) Can you give us a good off-the-field story from AZ? 4) Favorite non-BP podcast? 5) Best beer to drink on Halloween, doesn't have to be a Pumpkin beer. Thanks!

Tucker Blair: 1) Best viewing at the AFL game on Wednesday was easily Jimmy Sherfy. One of the best relief appearances I have seen all season. 95-98 with movement and then a 83-85 SL with swing-and-miss. That's a closer profile right there, and he was commanding the ball in his first inning.
2) You just want me to talk about Reynaldo Lopez more, don't you?
3) What happens at the BP house, stays at the BP house.
4) Rogue Dead Guy!

Festivus313 (Pittsburgh): What is the ceiling for Glynn Davis and Trey Mancini? Any shot of being average regulars?

Tucker Blair: Both look like role 4 to me.

Davis has terrific athleticism, but the bat is inconsistent and he has multiple mechanical issues that have bugged him for a few seasons. I like his profile, but he lacks power and unless he's a high contact guy, the profile diminishes for me into a 4th OF type.

Mancini has raw power, but I haven't seen it much in-game. Swing can become elongated. Should be an interesting guy to watch this season. He cut back his swing from the ND days, so I actually think there is some growth left. Regardless, it's a first-base only type that really needs to hit, and how many of them do we see hit their 80% projection mark? Not many.

Potvin63 (New Jersey): Tucker, Jesse Winker seems to be showing no ill effects from the wrist injury that cost him the end of the minor league season so far in the AFL. When do you think he will reach the majors and how long until he is an impact hitter?

Tucker Blair: Winker looked fine to me, although I only saw him hit BP. The swing has easy power, and he doesn't have much effort behind it. I was impressed. I could envision him in the majors in the next year, I don't believe he is too far off. Impact hitter? Well, that's an entirely different question. Some players take 3-6 years to become an impact guy, if ever.

Ya Boy (Phoenix): Sup bruh, thanks for the chat. In n Out or Five Guys? Also, why does Five Guys give you so many fries? Do you eat all the fries at Five Guys? I would but that seems like it'd be a bad idea long term health wise. Also, what type of deli sandwich would you comp Enrique Burgos to?

Tucker Blair: Yo,

In n Out because Five Guy is too greasy. I feel like keeling over and staying in a fetal position for hours after Five Guys. The fries (agreed on the overload) are the worst when it comes to grease.

Enrique Burgos is a fat sandwich. The initial idea is terrific, and the first impact bite is a blessing. However, you feel very underwhelmed and wishing that it could be refined some once you get through half of the sandwich. I'm terrible at Sandwich comps, so this is the best I can offer

Frank (Minneapolis): Most evaluators have kept Byron Buxton at the top of prospect lists despite the injuries, but shouldn't he be falling soon just based on developmental time considering this was largely a lost season? Do you believe in the "injury-prone" label in general?

Tucker Blair: This is a tough question, but a good one:

I view Buxton as the most talented player in the minors, and that has not changed regardless of the injuries. However, I do think at some point health becomes an issue. I don't think it affects his value on the field necessarily, but staying healthy is largely a skill. Some players cannot keep themselves on the field for the grind of the season. I am not ready to say Buxton is an injury-prone player, but the trend is obviously going in the wrong direction.

Buxton is amazing to watch, and it's why we all cannot help but drool over the potential.

The Dude (Office): When does "Real World: BP AZ house" start airing?

Tucker Blair: This would be a terrifying show and might be the beginning of the end for society.

Chris (Baltimore): What are your thoughts on Rafael Devers? What is his ceiling? Does he have the tools/talent to become a top 10 prospect?

Tucker Blair: One guy I haven't seen yet, but it's hard to talk to anyone within the industry down in FL that isn't gushing over him. The ceiling is very high, and the bat could make him a serious candidate for a top prospect. Some people are not sold on him defensively, but if he hits, I wouldn't worry about that. I am hoping the Sox jump him to Greensboro next season so I can watch him.

Chris (Phoenix): Does Aaron Judge look the part of the middle of the order hitter in the Yankee lineup or too many questions still?

Tucker Blair: I had to leave the AFL for a wedding, so I did not get a chance to watch him. However, judging by the texts I received from the rest of our guys at the AFL, he looked terrific. The power is asinine. There are always going to be questions about a guy of that size being able to shorten his swing enough, but Judge has proven many wrong so far. Wouldn't shock me to see him becoming the Yankees' next dude.

oldbopper (New Britain, CT): Deven Marrero's defense has received quite a few very positive comments recently. Bogaerts looks like he can't cut it defensively but Marrero could barely hit his weight in Triple-A. In your opinion, does Marrero have a chance to hit enough to be a regular?

Tucker Blair: Marrero can pick it. Love the glove. He just can't hit. Just watched his BP and the bat is light. Average tools for me offensively. Looks like a role 4 guy right now.

Ryan (MTL): Reynaldo Lopez. Now that the season has ended, and everyone has had a chance to calm down a bit, what can you tell us about him?

Tucker Blair: Lopez has an elite arm in terms of velocity, arm speed and plane. I think he showed ability to command in my viewing, and the body profiles similar to a Wily Peralta. The secondary pitches have a ways to go, but he replicates the arm speed and action and flashed at least average. We need to see if the velocity can hold long-term, and whether he can stay healthy for an entire season. He has plenty of risk involved, but the arm is extremely talented. By the way, Lopez is absolutely taller and heavier than his listed size, which I keep seeing people throwing around. His measurements are outdated.

Mario66 (Pittsburgh): Were people too down on Trea Turner's hitting ability before the draft? Or can he be a 55/hit 45-50 power type in MLB which, together with his speed and ability to stick at short, would be quite valuable?

Tucker Blair: I am higher on Turner than most, because I think his athleticism and glove help significantly play up the value. Turner's swing is long and the bat speed is not great, but I only think he needs to have a 4 hit at the major league level to provide value. I didn't see average power from him in my viewings at NC State or in the AFL. I do not blame any evaluator for not falling in love with Turner though. There is more risk involved with his bat than your typical college guy.

Brett (Pawtucket): Trey Ball finished with a decent second half. Have you heard many positive reports on him?

Tucker Blair: I did not.

Ball is an interesting player with some raw athleticism and a decent FB. That's about it right now. I know the development curve could be different with him due to his length of time actually pitching being smaller, but I am hesitant on the overall potential.

Shawnykid23 (CT): Who were some players that impressed you the most/least out in Arizona?

Tucker Blair: - Mallex Smith has a plus glove in the OF and plus speed. Not sure if he ever hits, but that's a 4th OF type at the very worst.
- Brandon Drury looked the part
- Hunter Renfroe shows serious power and his BP was the best. The hip torque and drive he gets while demonstrating plus bat speed and whipping the bat head through the zone, it's just so impressive. We shall see if he hits enough to allow the power to play up.

- Sam Wolff looked the same as when I saw him early in the year. I can't trust the secondary arsenal (CB,CH). Had a hard time finding a release point or arm slot for both. Reliever all the way for me, but could see issues if he can't consistently piece it together with at least one of those pitches. The CB is much further along.
- Chad Wallach had pop times over 2.00 and has below-average tools across the board. Nothing different from when I saw him with Greensboro (where he hit .321/.430/.476)

Jon (Philly): JP Crawford's potential? Number 1 SS prospect in 2016?

Tucker Blair: First Division SS. Could be a good one.

Not the number one prospect in 2016, because Addison Russell, Carlos Correa, Francisco Lindor and Corey Seager exist (assuming none of them are in the bigs by then, which would be annoying)

DJ (Dallas): Given the success of mediocre starters turned stud relievers (Zachary Britton, Wade Davis) combined with the KC approach of using three relievers to close out the game, do you expect more teams to attempt to take such an approach?? Thanks for the chat, I always appreciate the insights of the BP team!!

Tucker Blair: I think this approach has always existed. History tends to repeat itself. That being said, in a day where pitchers are getting injured at high rates and can also wing it 95+ on a consistent basis, I think we will see more pitchers being moved into RP roles sooner rather than later.

It's a great idea to shift a player over if that is where you ultimately think they end up. I use Jake Arrieta as the example as to why you DON'T move them. Imagine if the Orioles or Cubs had moved him to the pen and given up on starting. 2014 would have never happened, and he was nasty this year.

ace (PA): Any Orioles prospects worth following next year, either than Bundy?

Tucker Blair: Jonah Heim is my sleeper. Plus defense, plus arm with pop times around 1.90. Wiry frame and shows tremendous feel behind the plate in terms of gamecalling, blocking and pitch framing. The hit tools is questionable at this stage of his career, but I think he's one of their sleeper guys at this point.

Jomar Reyes is the other to keep an eye on. Legitimate power, big framed player. I saw in ST and the swing was a tad too long for my liking, but he bat speed is also there to alleviate some of that issue. I have a hard time seeing him stick at 3B long-term.

Chris (Phoenix): Mondesi continues to underwhelm, when will the shine rub off and time to declare him not what he could have been?

Tucker Blair: Look, he was an 18 year old at Hi-A. The fact that he was at the level is tremendous.
He's still one of the youngest players in the AFL, especially if it were not for Michael De Leon and Deomingo Leyba.

I've watched him over 10 games this year, and the tools are very good. I think he is a no-shit SS that has bat speed and barrel skills. He has plenty of refinement left and was overmatched often in the Carolina league, but he also has never seen competition of that caliber.. Mondesi is still learning about himself, not just the game. We really need to relax on damning him as a player when he could still be in short season or rookie ball and no one would say anything.

Nathan (Nevada ): What pitcher(s) is the Cubs farm do you see having the highest ceiling? highest floor? Most underrated?

Tucker Blair: Big fan of Jake Stinnett. I believe he can stick as a SP, but will be a good RP if not. Plus FB and flashed the SL and CH when I saw him at UMD. CH needs work but he does what every evaluator looks for; replicates the arm speed and shows some feel.

Scott (AZ): Tyler Kolek or Aaron Nola

Tucker Blair: Aaron Nola. Give me the guy that is close to the majors and has a mid-rotation ceiling that is easy to envision him obtaining it. Kolek is a good talent, but that's a long way from forming.

Gotribe31 (VA): Hi Tucker. What are you dressing as for Halloween?

Tucker Blair: Mike Ferrin

Ryan (Denver): What is Trevor Story's upside?

Tucker Blair: Just watched Story this week, and he sure does look like he is trying to replicate Troy Tulowitzki with that swing. Still has that little hitch and the hands/elbow move around too much. But damn did he have a good game when I saw him. Gets good extension and the bat speed is evident. I think the risk is still high, but Story is a major leaguer for me. It's easy to see the intrigue.

Ghostface (In your closet): Do you like scary movies? What's your favorite scary movie?

Tucker Blair: Love them, although they are usually very bad.

Not sure of my favorite scary movie. Last good one I watched was Oculus.
My favorite Halloween movie of all time is Murder Party. GO WATCH IT.

jamesmcevoy (San Diego): What's your take on Wil Myers? Do you think he makes the required adjustments to fulfill on his promise?

Tucker Blair: Wil is still a good player. Not worried, yet. I think we often underestimate the difficulty of making an adjustment. The Rays and Royals don't exactly have similar a philosophy either.

Luke (Route 3 on the way to Bowie during rush hour): First time commenter, long time reader. Please grade the Harry Grove ball hawker on the 20-80 scale. Thank you and god bless.

Tucker Blair: 80 grade
I wonder if he can break is own ball-hawking numbers next season.

chopper (indy): Tucker, how productive do you think Nick Williams can be at the MLB level, and is Jorge Alfaro the real McCoy behind the dish? Thanks!

Tucker Blair: Nick Williams is likely not hitting .300, because he swings at basically everything. I am a known advocate of Williams, but that does not mean that I endorse his complete lack of approach at the plate. However, it's been a long year and I've seen him plenty this season. I'm not worried about the AFL mess he has currently. I think Williams can be a .260-270 20HR type in his peak, but the risk is still evident. Can he cut back on the swing-and-miss enough? Swinging at a ball in the dirt or 2 feet outside will cause issues.

Jorge Alfaro is an enigma. Athletic for a catcher and runs like a bulldozer, but his game is often too violent. I remain pessimistic about his chances to consistently player behind the plate, but what if he is a Mike Napoli type? I think the bat is fine, and he will need to just lessen the aggressiveness and violence in his swing. He gets those hips turning and sometimes he flies all over the place and loses his swing mechanics.

Ben (Manhattan): Is bat speed a double-edged sword, so to speak? Obviously you need some degree of it to succeed in the majors. But it also occurred to me, at least theoretically, that the quicker you whip the bat through the zone, the harder it is to make contact (think Baez). What separates guys like Hanley, who have elite bat speed but still make good-enough contact, from guys like Baez? Thanks for your thoughts in advance!

Tucker Blair: Can you control the bat speed? The violence and noise in the swing often dictate whether you'll be able to utilize the bat speed. Baez has amazing bat speed but the hands are not always clean through the zone (not that this is really a detriment, more of a nitpick).

vegetto712 (Orlando): Be honest: Will Julio Urias be a starter in the majors by the time he's 20? 19?

Tucker Blair: Yes, probably. Urias is not a highly projectable prospect. He's advanced for his age. It's the same aspect that we talk about with Michael De Leon. There is not a lot of growth left, so why waste bullets at the lower levels? Sure, you can always learn on the mental side, but that can also be learned anywhere if the tools are ready.

Jim (NY): Has Greg Bird's performance in the AFL changed our outlook for him?

Tucker Blair: Not mine. I still view him as a guy with legit raw power but a passive approach and a swing that is more muscled than toolsy. Not a fast twitch swing and I don't love the bat speed. He's not athletic enough to play anywhere outside of 1B. I guess you could move him to the corner OF, but that doesn't mean a team should. Could be a second division type, but I don't envision anything more.

Mario66 (Pittsburgh): How much, if at all, did last year's struggles dampen Xander Bogaerts' prospects? Still a future role 6 type guy?

Tucker Blair: Adjusting to MLB pitching is difficult. I do think he is still a top guy, but it didn't piece together this season. Might not next season, but he has the ability. I watched him take an AB against Chris Tillman this season and it was the most impressed I had been all year. Tillman worked two inside FB for a strike and then a foul tip. Then he tried to 12-6 CB on the outside and Xander fouled it off. Tillman wasted 2 FB up and outside and then tried the CB down in the dirt, and Xander kept his hands back after initially cocking them. Next pitch he belted a FB inside off the monster. I watched him grow up in that AB

Scott (AZ): Who is a prospects outside a top 100 who we should start paying more attention too?

Tucker Blair: Brandon Drury. He is better than I think we are giving him credit.

Paul (Buffalo): What do you think of Nick Tropeano ? He has the inverted W motion ala Strasburg so do you foresee arm trouble coming ?

Tucker Blair: The easy answer is yes, but we just do not know. So many other factors involved. Does his arm decelerate enough? Is the frame susceptible to injury? What are his genetics? It's hard to guess this stuff, which is why I usually just note what I see instead of trying to guess "this guy will be hurt in 2-3 years".

Kacey (San Antonio): Any pitchers you see surprising next year and taking a huge step forward like Kluber, or to lesser extent Carrasco and DeGrom?

Tucker Blair: I think the teammate of Carrasco and Kluber could take a step next year. Danny Salazar.

The Rolling Goat (Uptown): Enjoy your chats... How would you rank some of the college OF's from the last draft's early returns? Bradley Zimmer, Michael Conforte, and Derek Fisher

Tucker Blair: I think the ceiling of these guys is likely all Role 5 types. So it comes down to preference, and I think Conforto is probably the safest bet.

Mario66 (Pittsburgh): Will Brandon Finnegan be given a chance to develop as a starter now?

Tucker Blair: I'm sure he will. Honestly, I think he fits best in a bullpen, but I understand why they would move him back to the rotation.

This will sound crazy, but I think an argument can be made that the Royals have already made their value with that selection. Finnegan helped them get to a WS. While they did not bring the trophy home, he still played an integral part in the process. That's what the draft is for, right? It would be nice if he could now shift to the rotation, but we at least know for certain he can be a legitimate MLB RP.

Dave (Des Moines): Did Jordan Paroubeck excite anyone this year?

Tucker Blair: Big swing and miss right now but there is power and he has athleticism. One to keep an eye on certainly.

oldbopper (New Britain, CT): My home team Rock Cats have just changed affiliation from the Twins, after about 20 years, to the Rockies. I checked the rosters of the Modesto Nuts and Tulsa Drillers and did not see many names I recognize. Is there any hope for a decent roster here next year or is another year of older, non-prospect roster fillers on the horizon. This year was frightful.

Tucker Blair: Might be a little light next season, but at least Tapia, Dahl, McMahon and the rest of the Asheville squad is heading that way eventually.

Festivus313 (Pittsburgh): Do you see Jake Lamb and Dilson Herrea as MLB ready? Can they be above average regulars?

Tucker Blair: Lamb could end up the Dbacks starting 3B at this point. I think both can be regulars, although I wouldn't say above average. Dilson has a better shot at that than Lamb for me.

TheKernel (Pasadena, CA): Can Steven Moya overcome his bb/k rate and become a good major league hitter?

Tucker Blair: I don't envision that happening. I love the raw power that Moya has, but it's hard for me to see him performing better when the swing is so inconsistent. I recommend reading the debate between Mark and I about this:
http://www.baseballprospectus.com/article.php?articleid=24580

Tucker Blair: I wish that there was time for me to answer more but I need to get going. Thanks for everyone joining me today! Happy Halloween and don't be that person handing out nutrigrain bars.


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