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Chat: Wilson Karaman

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Welcome to Baseball Prospectus' Friday December 11, 2015 1:00 PM ET chat session with Wilson Karaman.

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Wilson Karaman: I'll try to be quick. In case you haven't noticed, we have a motorcycle convention moving in and let's face it, you didn't come here to listen to me talk. Heeeeere we go!

Berndog (Dusty Baker's basement): How good is Anderson Espinoza?

Wilson Karaman: Well he's 17, so the correct answer right now is somewhere along the "not very" to shruggy-emoticon-guy spectrum. But all the raw ingredients you want out of a top flight pitching prospect are all evident already, and that is rare in any minor league arm, let alone a 17 year-old one. Put another way, based on the early reports he's a guy who can shoot to the upper echelons of prospect lists with a successful stateside debut, and there are only so many guys with that kind of upside.

Victor Robles (Victor Robles): Victor Robles Victor Robles Victor Robles Victor Robles Victor Robles Victor Robles Victor Robles Victor Robles Victor Robles Victor Robles Victor Robles Victor Robles Victor Robles Victor Robles Victor Robles Victor Robles Victor Robles Victor Robles??

Wilson Karaman: Yeah, Mark Anderson submitted a positively giddy report on the kid after a look in late July, highly encouraged reading. He's been the subject of much gushing in our early BP101 conversations as well (yes, they're happening already): http://www.baseballprospectus.com/prospects/eyewitness_bat.php?reportid=291

Kingpin (Grinnell, IA): Does Philly send Velazquez to Triple A to start the 2016 season? Does Velazquez remain a starter or do the Phils use him to replace Giles at closer?

Wilson Karaman: Entirely speculation on my part until we hear from the team, but I see no reason why they wouldn't give him a crack at the rotation next year. They're still not going anywhere, might as well let him work on his deuces for 150+ innings against big league hitters and see where the experience takes him. If it ends up being to the bullpen, so be it. I wrote him up yesterday here: http://www.baseballprospectus.com/article.php?articleid=28037

JoeRandom (San Jose): were you able to see Alex Verdugo? what were your thoughts?

Wilson Karaman: I only caught Verdugo for a few games, but liked what I saw. One of those rhythmic/momentum-generated swings I have a soft spot for. Can be a solid across-the-board type player. Wrote up a Ten Pack on him here, and I'd imagine I'll get a bunch more looks at him next spring assuming he starts back at Rancho: http://www.baseballprospectus.com/article.php?articleid=27355

JoeRandom (San Jose): have you seen any of the 2015 draftees that make you think they were either considerably over or under drafted?

Wilson Karaman: Had mixed feelings about Tate. The slider's filthy, but while he's a physical monster it's a very high-effort delivery and I worry about the starting potential. I saw him early in his transition from the pen, so I'll discount the velocity slide as his start progressed, but I thought he was one of the weaker 1st pitchers off the board in recent memory. Ponce ended up going right around where I thought he should after some rumblings about a first round future, so thought the Brewers did okay there. Thought the Bucs did very well snagging Kevin Kramer 62nd overall. Don't think he's a SS, but all he did all spring was spray line drives around the yard every time I saw him play. I'm looking forward to putting eyes on Taylor Ward, who was a pick that got roundly mocked/criticized at the time but seems to have solid defensive chops and at least a puncher's chance at developing his bat based on early pro reports I've gotten. Should see him next year at IE.

padremurph (Los Angeles): With the Padres trading for Christian Bethancourt, who do you ultimately like most out of Hedges, Norris, and Bethancourt? Who has the most trade value?

Wilson Karaman: Worth noting they grabbed Josmil Pinto off waivers from Minnesota right before Thanksgiving as well, so clearly they are pursuing an all-of-the-catchers strategy this winter. I have no idea how that shakes out, honestly. Norris is just now entering arbitration, so he's going to escalate quickly. I'd guess barring a trade that the current plan is to work him a little at first this year and have the other three work out reps in the bigs/at AAA to see which two emerge as the top two going forward, then look to spin Norris at the deadline/next off-season? That's pure speculation on my part, though. Hedges' glove remains dreamy enough to give him some value as a trade chip, though if I'm the Padres I'd just as soon keep him around. And I think R.J. nailed Bethancourt's question marks this morning: http://www.baseballprospectus.com/article.php?articleid=28046

Cal Guy (Cal): Hi Wilson, For my last SP in a standard keeper league should I keep Price (who is just about a lock to be elite) at 30, Tanaka (hoping the thread holding his elbow together doesn't snap) at 12, or Gausman (sans goggles but still with upside) at 5? I barely finished in the upper third of my league in pitching last year. Thanks!

Wilson Karaman: All three of those guys have plenty of value at their current price tags. I'd say keep Price if you have the budget flexibility and intentions of competing this year, but aggressively shop both Tanaka & Gausman, both of whom you should be able to snag solid return value for in the form of picks or prospects. If you're not competing, keep Gausman and grab a haul for Price/Tanaka.

Zonk (Chicago): What is a fair deal, in your opinion, for Jayson Heyward? We may find out pretty soon, but your take. Assume he has an opt-out in year 4 or 5, and some no-trade protection.

Wilson Karaman: I have no problem paying Jason Heyward gobs of money, I've always been a big fan of his package of skills and I like seeing him explode old timey heads with talk of $200 million deals. Wouldn't bat an eye if he got that over 8-9 years.

CubFan (Chi Town): Heyward to the Cubs! Twitter is exploding.

Wilson Karaman: Oh...well then! Haha. BREAKING NEWS YOU HEARD IT HERE FIRST! (maybe...probably not)

Chopper (Indy): I have heard rumblings that Inciarte may be flipped for more prospects. Any idea of a landing spot?

Wilson Karaman: Curious to see what they do with him, yeah. He just turned 25, so it's not unreasonable for him to be a core part of the rebuild, and he doesn't even cost $200 million! Pretty much any team in baseball would be more than happy to have his services given the skillset and control though, so your guess is probably as good as mine.

awethy (Chicago): Hey Wilson - Are Willson Contreras and Jeimer Candelario breaking out in national prospect circles post AFL? What should we expect from them in 2016 and beyond? Thanks, awethy

Wilson Karaman: Only Cubs questions from now on, haha. Think the AFL introduced Contreras' breakout to some additional eyes, but he had a really, really good year translating tools into on-field talent. He'll rate highly on our Cubs list, I'm sure. Candelario's been overshadowed in the system for a long time, but has just kept doing what he does, and now that he's done it at AA he's in line for some just-deserved additional attention. Excellent defender, solid-avg power...obviously blocked in the org by Bryant, but he's a valuable prospect to have in your system.

JoeRandom (San Jose): when do you think we'll see Francis Martes? he seems to be a guy everyone enjoys talking about as a fun guy to watch pitch.

Wilson Karaman: I've been effusive in my praise of him for a reason, up there with De Leon & Newcomb in some order as the best arms I saw in the Cal last year. I thought the FB/CB combo was good enough that he ostensibly could've contributed in the 'pen down the stretch last year if the 'stros had wanted to go that route, but he'd already jumped his innings pretty significantly by the time AA closed up shop and had all of 14 innings above High-A. He's a September candidate next year at the earliest I think, as I'd imagine they'll want to see how he responds to a full season's worth of starting in the high minors. He *just* turned 20, after all.

Joe (Cincy): Overall thoughts on the Chapman situation ??

Wilson Karaman: It's a very, very bad situation. If the allegations prove true I wouldn't want him anywhere near my team or any other.

Kevin (Ohio): What kind of prospect package do you the Reds can get from Indians re: Todd Frazier trade ?? Bradley Zimmer + ??

Wilson Karaman: If I'm the Reds that's where the conversation begins, yeah.

Mike (Texas): I feel like I've read mixed reviews of Derek Fisher's hit tool and OBP skills. (I know his arm and defense may not cut it outside of LF, which puts more pressure on the bat). I'm curious for your take - can Fisher hit enough join N Williams in the Phil's future OF?

Wilson Karaman: Fisher's power/speed combo is enough to get him to the big leagues, but I did have a healthy dose of skepticism about how the hit tool will ultimately work. He handles velocity well but has some mechanical unpleasantness that may be tough to work around. I've written extensively about him:
Scouting report: http://www.baseballprospectus.com/prospects/eyewitness_bat.php?reportid=284
Transaction write-up: http://www.baseballprospectus.com/article.php?articleid=28037

Q-Ball (Chicago): I need help understanding the Brett Lawrie trade. While he is no Josh Donadlson (cough), he is a 2-3 WAR 3B with some upside, and pretty cheap. Beane traded him off for 2 middling prospects, in order to clear space for.....Jed Lowrie and Danny Valencia?

Wilson Karaman: I'm not sure I'm the one to help you, as I found that move puzzling to say the least as well. The team touched on it a little in the TA yesterday, but given the prospect return Oakland got it's tough to not see the Donaldson trade as anything but an unmitigated disaster at this point. Looooot of pressure on Franklin Barreto, who I like a good bit but...doesn't look like Josh Donaldson 2.0. http://www.baseballprospectus.com/article.php?articleid=28038

Majortom (IL): Do you see Jean Segura playing SS full time with the Brewers this year? Seems like he hit badly last year without enough defense to make up the slack ...

Wilson Karaman: He was an okay, not great player last year. His 1.8 WARP was 18th among shortstops. He's still young and cheap enough to warrant a gamble that he plays well enough in the first half to bump his trade value north before they move him - and make no mistake, his days in Brewer blue are numbered with Arcia rapidly bearing down on him.

Grandma (Grandma's House): Rank these holiday pies by projected FAR (Flavor Above Replacement): Pumpkin, Apple, Cherry, Pecan, Chocolate Cream. What is your vote for MVP? (Most Valuable Pie?)

Wilson Karaman: This is a more appropriate Craig question, but as an accredited member of the American Pie Council I feel empowered to answer: Pecan, pumpkin, apple, cherry, chocolate cream. Cherry has the most volatility in its profile, while pumpkin has the highest upside. I'll take pecan's high upside and very high floor all day, though.

Q-Ball (Chicago): Cubs fans seem to think Dan Vogelbach is a great prospect. While the plate discipline is nice, I see a bat-only guy who hasn't shown enough game power to be relevant. Thoughts?

Wilson Karaman: You have asked the wrong man, for I am an unabashed lover of girth-ed players. He's a poor fit in the NL, as his reaching-for-a-chicken-wing range is not appropriate to display for paying customers at big league games. But he can HIT, man. I always want to see a player with power potential establish his hitting chops before his playable power, and Vogelbach's shown me that. He'll hit for power, don't you worry. Meantime appreciate that he's shown he'll hit, too.

Theo Epstein (Clark and Addison): I am a boss!

Wilson Karaman: Confirmed. As a Red Sox fan by trade I was already well aware of this.

Q-Ball (Chicago): If the 2014 draft were re-drafted today, what would the first 5 picks look like? Schwarber, Rodon, Turner, Conforto, Newcomb? Would Schwarber be the first pick?

Wilson Karaman: That's not a bad guess. I'd throw Nola in that mix too, I'm a big fan. Zimmer'd likely have gone in the top 10 as well. We actually did this exercise this past summer, with Rodon going 1-1:http://www.baseballprospectus.com/article.php?articleid=26655

GoTribe06 (Lynchburg): Thoughts on Dylan Bundy and what are the Orioles' plans for him.

Wilson Karaman: I have a hard time maintaining any confidence in his potential as a starter at this point. That's an awful lot of exploded arm syndrome for one young career. Have to believe they start seriously considering an outright shit to the 'pen if and when he's ever cleared to throw again off a mound for more than a week's time.

Rob (Houston): Thoughts on the Giles trade?

Wilson Karaman: On balance I'm fine with it for Houston, like it a lot for Philly. I don't agree at all with the "elite relievers come out of nowhere, Velasquez could've been one himself!" trope. Ken Giles-level dominance doesn't grow on trees, and the 5 years of control (and perhaps more importantly 1-2 at rock bottom prices) is a big deal for a volatile/risky asset. I like Velasquez for Philly, and the rest of the pieces make for a nice haul on a reliever they were smart to move now.

Zonk (Chicago): With Heyward going to Chicago, and Braves reported interest in Soler, I wonder if a Soler/Inciarte trade is in order?

Wilson Karaman: I don't know that that makes a ton of sense for either team, since you'd essentially be swapping extremely like assets in total value/projection terms.

JoeRandom (San Jose): Benintendi seems to be climbing up the prospect ranks. who would you rather have in a dynasty league, Benintendi or Swanson?

Wilson Karaman: Tough call. In an OBP league I'd take Benintendi, standard probably narrowly lean Swanson on the positional adjustment. Both excellent dynasty prospects regardless.

Royal Dutch of Dukes (Chicago): So what do the Cubs do now? Trade either Soler or Baez for pitching? If they trade Soler they could put Bryant in right and Baez at third...

Wilson Karaman: It certainly opens up a lot of flexibility for this type of scenario, yeah. Baez seems to make more sense from an organizational need standpoint, though his value is depressed relative to what it theoretically could be. It's an embarrassment of riches.

Dan (Philly): JP Crawford the next Francisco Lindor?

Wilson Karaman: Not an unreasonable comp. Lindor hit better than I thought he would, certainly right off the bat. Crawford's very much in the conversation for our top 5 in early #BP101 discussion, which is Lindor territory.

CubFan (Chi Town): Jon Heyman reporting it is UNDER $200 mil; he accepted less to go to Cubs. Me likey more! How about you?

Wilson Karaman: Impressive if true

Q-Ball (Chicago): Getting Lawrie fills a gaping hole, but don't you get the sense the White Sox are in a quandary? They have awesome talent (Sale, Quintana, Abreu, Eaton), and huge holes (SS, Corner OF) with deadwieght they can ill afford. If you are Rick Hahn, do you go all-out, re-tool, or re-build? I feel like they will split the middle and be doomed to mediocrity

Wilson Karaman: I liked what the White Sox did last winter, and the Lawrie trade is another solid step. I don't know they're that far away from contending - certainly for the wild card - so re-building would seem to be a curious step. I've liked the incremental approach Hahn has taken to addressing needs.

Wilson Karaman: Alright, and with that it's time to say so long. Apologies to the 1.4 million Cub-related questions/pronouncements remaining in the queue, you'll have to take to Twitter for your victory dances. Safe and happy holiday season, y'all.


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