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Chat: Doug Thorburn

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Welcome to Baseball Prospectus' Thursday September 17, 2015 2:00 PM ET chat session with Doug Thorburn.

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Doug Thorburn: Two weeks to go and the baseball world is constantly changing. (Insert metaphor for autumn leaves here) Who has the momentum now, who will in two weeks, and does it matter? My Baseballholism is at full throttle. Let's talk some baseball.

Frank (Colorado): It seems pitchers hardly ever incur wrist injuries, at least nothing like they do elbow and shoulder injuries. Why is that?

Doug Thorburn: Good question, Frank. There are multiple reasons for this, but a few that come to mind are:
1) The wrist doesn't endure the same level of joint load that does the elbow, and does not require the acceleration involved in the complex anatomy of the shoulder.
2) The structural integrity of the wrist is more sound than the hinge of the elbow or the ball-and-socket of the shoulder.
3) The wrist comes into play at the end of the kinetic chain, and is not really part of the load-heavy process of accelerating the baseball.

gpessin (New York City): What do you think is the cause of Greg Holland's dramatic dip in velocity? Do you think it's fixable this year? At any time in the future?

Doug Thorburn: Velocity drops happen to most pitchers over time, but they tend to happen to extreme over-the-top pitchers more often than most. This is mostly anecdotal, mind you, but it's something that I've noticed in my " Under the Gun" series each year. Holland is one of the most extreme examples of spine-tilting over-the-top that you're going to see, and given the possible link to poor posture and shoulder injuries and the shoulder's role in generating velocity, it makes sense that these spine-tilting pitchers would lose velocity more rapidly. I do worry that there is damage to his shoulder. Stay tuned.

Just a side note: I have daddy duty today, so there might be some pauses in the action as I tend to baby Halle. Apologies in advance.

Vic (Baltimore): If you could choose between deGrom for the years 2016-2019 or Buxton in a 5 x 5 league, who would you choose? Is it a mistake to lean Buxton? Since choosing Buxton means you have to forego the 200 Ks and likely sub 3 ERA deGrom could deliver for the next 4 years. Or is Buxton's 15 hr 50 SB potential too much to gamble on?

Doug Thorburn: That's a great question. You're weighing the age 22-25 seasons of Buxton vs. the next four of deGrom (age matters less with pitchers in this scenario). I would go deGrom, as I think that Buxton will take some time to adjust offensively but his defense is ready now. I'm not sure that the power develops until late in your window (if at all), and speed-first players always scare me (they're a hammy injury away from losing all value). Then again, deGrom is a pitcher, so the injury risk is already packed in. Gimme deGrom for now, if only because there are so many other young players in MLB right now that I would rather have than Buxton for the next four years, but there aren't a whole lot of SP's I'd rather have than deGrom.

BC (Urbandale): what kind of return could the cubs get for vogelbach? AL team of course. Or would he be better suited in a package deal?

Doug Thorburn: Hate to give you the cop out answer here, but what they could get is all over the place. The defensive limitations obviously limit his market, and the Cubs will want pitching back so that will further narrow their scope. The Mariners love all-bat types, and they are relatively loaded with arms, so maybe there's a match there.

Silverback38 (VA): Is Rich Hill back with authority?

Doug Thorburn: That would be so awesome if he was. I'm not so sure about authority, but the hammer was legit and the velocity was decent. He definitely benefited from the novelty factor, judging from the looks that he got from opposing hitters.

DJ (Dallas ): Doug, Thanks for the chat!! Help me understand the lack of buzz about Rougned Odor. He's only 21 and has hit 15 homers and he's batted over 300 since being recalled from Round Rock. How many second basemen have ever hit 15 homers in the majors at age 21?? Am I missing something?? Thanks for sharing your thoughts!!

Doug Thorburn: His 15 minutes felt like 15 seconds, but I'm a big fan of his long-term potential. If the Rangers win the west then he'll go from underrated to overrated in short order.

Mike (TX): Hey Doug, I wanted to ask your take on the Astros young arms. If I recall you were optimistic about Velazquez, and in addition to McCullers, Feliz, Martes, and Paulino had great years. Are they all SPs? And who's more likely to be rotation fixtures sooner than later? Thank you

Doug Thorburn: I do like Velasquez and have been on McCullers since before he was drafted. Tons of upside here, and I think those two definitely have the staying power to be SP's, especially in the modern age where SP = 6 IP.

I like Feliz's delivery - very stable - but havent seen much of Martes or Paulino. It's a good problem to have, and one that I think shakes itself out for Houston.

Paul (DC): Toronto has 17 games left and Mark Buehrle sits at 179 innings pitched, what are the odds he will throw 21 more innings to give him his 15th consecutive season of 200 or more innings pitched?

Doug Thorburn: He's currently penciled in for 3 more starts, so he needs to average 7 innings per turn. The Jays also have a bit of a buffer in the schedule and he might be a 'pen guy in the ALDS, so we might just see a bullpen appearance in the final days to push him over the hump. I say he gets there.

Mike (Minneapolis ): Doug, What's a good MLB comp for Miguel Sano? Thanks for the chat.

Doug Thorburn: Huge fan of Sano. I think a good MLB comp might be David Ortiz, even though he hits from the other side. Sano will slide quickly down the defensive spectrum, and I could see him as a 1B/DH in the long term, but the bat will more than hold water at any position.

cracker73 (Florida): Did you see Aroldis Chapman's last appearance, on Tuesday night? He was was throwing slow stuff and blew the save. The announcers speculated on him being hurt. Have you heard anything?

Doug Thorburn: I haven't heard anything yet but will certainly keep an eye on it. Brooks has his average velo at 98.9 mph, so that's in line with his average. It will be interesting to see how his outing unfolded.

Eric (Boston): Yoan Moncada a top 5 prospect next season?

Doug Thorburn: He'll be close. He misses my personal top 5 - Seager, Giolito, Urias, Crawford, Berrios.

But I'm a Berrios homer.

Tom (Philly): JP Crawford a better version of Lindor hitting wise?

Doug Thorburn: Lindor has really impressed with the bat this season, and though Crawford fits that projection, he has a lot of development before we see it in reality. Give me the guy who's doing it in the majors now over the guy that might do it in the majors some day.

Cal Guy (Cal): Hi Doug, Has Giolito been surpassed as the top pitching prospect? Do you eventually see him as a top 10, 20, or otherwise ranked SP in the majors?

Doug Thorburn: I think the upside will keep him in the top spot. He's still a ways away so the performance is merely an anecdote. Pitchers with multiple 70-grade pitches don't grow on trees. I wasn't the biggest fan of his delivery in the past but he has been making adjustments in the right direction. I consider myself relatively low on Giolito overall but he's still number-one on my board.

Rotoman (LA): How would you rank AL shortstops in a keeper league? Thanks.

Doug Thorburn: I tend not to value positional scarcity very highly, at least not in the early rounds, as I'm hunting for numbers at that point. But in an AL keeper with the youth movement that we are seeing, I think that they could have tremendous value. In an AL keeper I would rank them:
1. Correa
2. Tulo
3. Lindor
4. Bogaerts

It gets ugly after the top four, so the top two have unique value because they can hang at any position offensively but offer the positional scarcity on top.

Kreg (NJ): Have you scouted Anderson Espinoza? He has a ton of hype but what are your professional scouting opinions?

Doug Thorburn: I haven't personally scouted Espinoza yet, so I would toss that question to the BP Prospect crew to get more thoughts.

Ben (Washington DC): What are your thoughts on Victor Robles' potential? How good can he be?

Doug Thorburn: There are several different iterations of the Robles question, so I'll try to tackle them all here. His upside might be stratospheric, but as an 18-year old with less than 500 pro PA under his belt at the lowest levels, I have to temper expectations. He has the tools to contribute on multiple levels and could accelerate quickly, but he has a long ways to go pitchers to face. I'm not big on comps (despite the Sano-Papi comp earlier), but a player who makes a lot of contact, gets on base, steals bags and covers ground in the OF has tons of value, whether or not the power comes around.

Dale Sveum (Gainesville): In a 10 team H2H ESPN keeper league, I can keep either Addison Russell or Corey Seager. What do I do???

Doug Thorburn: It depends a little bit on keeper parameters (length of contract, inflation, etc), but at this point I would go with Seager. I think that he'll have the job next year, and Russell hasn't hit well enough to climb out of the nine-hole in Joe Maddon's lineup.

Paul (DC): What are the odds Starlin Castro is still a Cub at the start of the 2016 season?

Doug Thorburn: The odds have to be low. I'll say 1-in-3.

Blake (Ohio): Correct that Rasiel Iglesias was improving at holding velo and vs left handers as the season went on? Where I'm going is what to expect from him next year ...

Doug Thorburn: His velo has bounced around a little bit but the trend is relatively flat. I'd have to check on the LHB stuff. Iglesias is very interesting because of his advanced feel for pitching - I hate that cliche, but he has an approach and an apparent understanding of his delivery that are well beyond his years - so it will be interesting to see how he develops. The range of outcomes is all over the map, but there is solid upside with Iglesias.

steelydanu (Los Angeles): Hello, Has there been any latest word on James Taillion return from surgery and if he's back to majors playing level. Is he still being looked at as a top prospect?

Doug Thorburn: I haven't looked into Taillon's case yet but will be sure to investigate over the off-season. He had all of the tools for a legit top prospect, but not everyone comes back 100% from TJS, and it's probably fair to say that most pitchers return at something less than previous function. The whole "pitches better after TJS" thing is a fallacy, unless of course the pitcher in question was throwing while hurt to begin with.

Paul (DC): What sort of stat line would a full season of healthy Travis D'arnaud put up?

Doug Thorburn: The truth is that I have no idea. I didn't know that he could slug .550, even over 220 PA. The guy is older than some might think, playing in his age-26 season but with 755 PA at the highest level due to myriad injuries throughout his career. He's never OPS'd higher than 800 at the MLB level before, let alone 900, so I'll take the conservative approach here and say .275/.340/.470 with something like 20-23 HR if he got 600 PA.

majortom (Reds): Is Mella (who the Reds acquired) a starter? He seems to have RP chatter on account of his throwing motion and secondaries

Doug Thorburn: It's all about the CH development for me. He has some herky-jerk to his delivery but nothing egregious that should keep him out of the starter's role, but the lack of effective weapon to combat lefties will hurt him at the highest level. It also works the other way, in that his fastball-curve combo is so effective that it should be used at the back end of a bullpen. The good news is that he has time to figure it out, and Double-A (where he'll likely start next year) is a good place to work on one's changeup.

Michael (chicago): I had great such great judgement that I went into this year with a fantasy SP staff including Latos, Tillman, and Danny Duffy ... Can any of these guys be ... Average starters next year?

Doug Thorburn: Any one of the three could be average to above, but this season has caused a lot of turmoil with their values. Latos has the best pedigree, Duffy has youth on his side, and Tillman has always been vulnerable to contact, this year it just all went south. So there's reason for optimism with each, but neither should be counted on by an MLB club as more than a number-four starter (a three if desperate) next year.

Mikey (FL): Am I right to think Brent Honeywell has a potentially really good secondary pitch (screwball), an average third secondary, and an average fastball? What does that add up to ... Back end starter with mid rotation potential?

Doug Thorburn: Hoeywell is sort in the same camp as Mella but for different reasons. With that screwball being an effective weapon against lefties, the onus is on Honeywell's development of the breaking ball to approach ceiling. He currently has a curveball with 11-to-5 shape that complements the screwball, but the pitch is inconsistent at present.

baseballjunkie (SF Bay Area): Hi Doug, AJ Reed has had some pretty conflicting assessments since college...bat only 1B, yet athletic enough to be a very good pitcher; Golden Spikes Award winner who dropped in the draft; fairly high rank on some prospect lists but completely left off others. What is your take on Reed?

Doug Thorburn: Always great to hear from a fellow Bay Area Baseballholic!

I haven't had a chance to scout Reed myself, but players who do a lot of things pretty well (as opposed to one thing really well) tend to sink among the sea of prospects. So much of his future value comes down to tool development, which is where "makeup" enters the equation. We may not be able to quantify it (yet), but that doesn't mean that it doesn't exist.

Doug Thorburn: Thanks to everyone for the excellent questions! I'll be back around during the postseason, but in the meantime feel free to hit me up on Twitter: @doug_thorburn Cheers!


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